Sentinel 9.2

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Flechette spoke, “You’re a hard person to fin-”

Shadow Stalker, transparent and wispy, whirled on the spot, not even pausing as she fired her crossbows.  The first bolt went wide.  Flechette caught the second out of the air, staggered back a step as she was caught off balance.  Her right foot skidded to the edge of the rooftop.

“What the hell!?”

Shadow Stalker rose from a crouch, becoming opaque in the process, “Oh.  You shouldn’t sneak up on people when they’re on patrol.”

WhatI nearly get shot and she blames me?

“You nearly killed me!”

“It’s a tranquilizer shot, and you have the fire escape behind you.”

Flechette turned to see Shadow Stalker was right about the fire escape.  The bolt in her hand had a glass shaft, filled with fluid, a three-pronged head with a wider cross-shaped flare at the base of it to prevent it from stabbing too deep.  Tinker made?  “Geez.  You shaved a year off my life, doing that.”

“Sorry.  A little twitchy.  Good to see you,”  Shadow Stalker crossed the roof, offered a hand.  Flechette shook it.

“I suppose being twitchy is excusable,” Flechette excused Shadow Stalker, looking out beyond the rooftop to the dark streets.  Some of the buildings looked ready to fall over, and the main street below the pair had a two-foot crack running down the middle.  Water covered everything at the ground level, a half-foot deep.  “And the apology is accepted.”

“So.  You joining the team?”

“No.  Temporary stay, until you guys fill out your ranks again.  Maybe a few weeks, maybe as much as a month or two.  Weld told me you were out on patrol, that you might need backup.”

“I don’t do backup, and I don’t do the team thing unless someone makes me, but I’m willing to hang with another crossbow aficionado.  Is that the right word?  Aficionado?”

Flechette smiled, “It is.  The brown haired guy at the computer told me you’d be around here.  Took me almost two hours to spot you, though I did get sidetracked by some kids taking clothing from a broken display window.  We’ll patrol?”

“Sure,” Shadow Stalker agreed, lowering her eyes to her crossbows as she picked bolts out of one of the three cartridges mounted on her forearm and loaded them into her crossbows.  “You look like a rooftop type.  Fly?  Glide?  Grappling hook?”

“Grappling hook,” she patted her weapon, touched the chain that ran along her arm to the automatic-firing crossbow, her arbalest.

“If you can’t keep up, don’t worry about it.  Keep moving in a straight line, I’m mostly untouchable, hard to spot, so I’ll scout ahead for trouble, double back every minute or so to check on you.”

“Got it.”

Shadow Stalker swept her cloak over one shoulder, simultaneously shifting into her shadow state.  She turned and leaped twenty feet to the side of a neighboring building.  Grabbing a windowsill, she vaulted herself another fifteen or so feet straight up the face of the building, caught another windowsill, and then heaved herself up once more to reach the rooftop.  Her cloak billowed out around her, and Flechette saw how Shadow Stalker’s costume clung to her body.  One of the surprisingly few people who could wear a skintight costume without armor pads or features to mask minor physical imperfections and emphasize or suggest certain features.

When Shadow Stalker had disappeared from view, Flechette remembered she was supposed to follow.  She cocked her arbalest, flipped a switch beneath the trigger while sending a burst of her power through her weapon to connect the chain to the ammunition, and then fired a needle with an attached chain to the edge of the rooftop.

The needle bit deep, and the chain went taut.  A second later, she was reeling in.  The pull of the chain wasn’t quite enough to carry her straight to the rooftop, but the pull of the chain coupled with her ability to plant her cleats into the face of the building and run up the building face let her reach the edge of the roof.  A bit of momentum, one hand and her cleats gave her what she needed to hop over the roof’s edge.

Running across the rooftop, she used her index finger to flip the switch, severing the chain, then reconnected the chain to the next piece of ammunition as her free hand loaded it into place.  It took her a second to spot the vague blur that was Shadow Stalker, almost three buildings ahead of her.  The girl was practically gliding as she fell, moving more horizontally than vertically.

It was a drop to the next rooftop, Flechette noted.  She touched the front end of the needle that was mounted in her arbalest, used her power on it.

Capes with the ‘breaker’ classification were generally those who had some ability to ‘break’ the natural laws of the universe as far as those laws applied to them.  Shadow Stalker was one.  Scion was apparently another.  There were others who could slow or stop time in relation to themselves, change their effective orientation in respect to gravity or make themselves effectively larger without the exponentially increasing the stresses that the increased size and mass would normally place on their body.  Almost always, such powers came with some physiological changes that let them manage despite the altered environment they were effectively operating in, allowing them to breathe and walk at the very least.

Flechette wasn’t a breaker, though her power came close.  Technically, she was a striker, a cape with the ability to apply some effect by touch or at point-blank range.  The striker classification could include certain breaker effects as they were applied to things other than the cape themselves, but not always.  Other strikers included those who used energy weapons, those who had certain kinds of superstrength that weren’t accompanied by durability and those with pyrokinesis or such that didn’t extend more than a foot around them.  The way she used her ability, coupled with the intuitive understanding of angles, trajectories and timing she got from her secondary powers, gave her a low rating as a ‘blaster’.  A cape with a ranged attack.

She infused the three-foot length of sharpened metal that was mounted in her arbalest with her power.  The more power there was in it, the less it was affected by the natural laws of the universe.  Focusing more power into an object meant gravity, air resistance and general physics held less and less sway over it.  She could tune it, make the effect longer lived, shorter lived or bias the effects to allow for more of one element or less of another.

She could do other things, but the primary benefit, the easiest thing to do, was making her ammunition punch through anything.  It would glue itself in place on impact, if she had the effect wear off at the right time, and she was very good at timing things.  She could charge the metal of her cleats so they bit into any surface, and though it was too slow to be used defensively unless her foe telegraphed their attacks, she could make her costume frictionless.

She fired the needle through the corner of the roof just in front of her, and it passed through without resistance.  It continued on to strike the rooftop below and in front of her, nestling in deep as the effect wore off, bonding on a molecular level to the material around it.  The chain stretched down at a fifty degree angle, taut.

Flechette stepped forward, onto the chain.  The space between the spikes of her cleats made for a groove the chain could run through.  She slid down, one foot behind the other, arbalest held behind her with the chain reeling out, a safety measure in the event she slipped or was pushed off, with the added advantage that it allowed her to control the speed of her descent.

When she was close to the rooftop below, she cut the chain, let herself drop down.  She was running the second her feet met the surface, using the momentum from her slide.

It was tiring, constantly running, but she didn’t want to look bad in front of Shadow Stalker.  She was going to spend weeks with this team, and Shadow Stalker was the only other girl present that was close to her own age.  Doing double shifts of patrols, eating, showering, relaxing with her teammates, day in and day out, it would drain the life out of her if she had no friends to do it with, if she had no conversation and camaraderie.

At least this wasn’t so different from the exercise she got on her nightly patrol back in New York.  The problem was that this city was unfamiliar ground.  The buildings didn’t match together well, the skyline was jarring, didn’t flow.  Back home, traveling from rooftop to rooftop wasn’t much harder than running, with the use of her grappling hook to move her every minute or two.  Here, it was a jerky, stilted exercise, slow, awkward, demanding use of the grappling hook for nearly every building.

It wasn’t something she did often, but after too many steep ascents followed by steep descents, she bridged a gap to a more distant building with her chain, forming a horizontal tightrope, and ran along it.

Shadow Stalker was waiting for her when she got to the other end.  She did her best not to pant for breath.

“Don’t you run out of chain?”

Flechette turned, reached over her shoulder to tap her back. “Tinker teammate back home specializes in replication and cloning.  Small pack back here consumes energy from a small fusion battery to create a steady supply.  I’ve also got a kit back at the base that makes me a fresh stock of bolts.”

“I could use one of those.”

“Why’d you stop?  You see something?”


Shadow Stalker led Flechette to the edge of the roof.  Looking down, they could see a group of men in a loose half-circle around a middle-aged woman.  The woman was backing away from the men, who were gradually closing in.

“Why haven’t you done anything yet?!”  Flechette gasped.

“These things go smoother if the culprits are clearly committing a crime when you step in-”

A man grabbed the woman’s wrist, and she pulled back, struggled.  She screamed, attacked the man, only to get punched and knocked back on her ass, landing in the shallow water.

“-And there we go.”  Shadow Stalker leaped from the rooftop, falling at a normal speed, slowing to an almost gentle floating descent when she was partway down.

You only need to wait like that if you’re going to be violent, Flechette thought to herself.  Why?  When she has the tranquilizer bolts?

And Shadow Stalker had neglected to inform command.  Flechette reached for her ear, where an earbud was nestled in the canal. She squeezed it twice.  “Console, woman under attack by twelve or so ordinaries.  Shadow Stalker and Flechette stepping in.”

“Acknowledged,” a voice in her ear responded, “Good luck.”

She fired a bolt into the corner of the rooftop, then jumped, rappelling down.

Shadow Stalker was already engaged by the time Flechette arrived at the fight.  In a matter of heartbeats, Shadow Stalker answered Flechette’s unspoken questions.

The other heroine didn’t flinch as one of the men swung a baseball bat at her – the weapon passed harmlessly through her head.  In response, she stepped back, materialized from her shadow state, raised a crossbow and shot him in the side of the neck.  A fraction of a second after the glass arrow stuck in her target’s neck, Shadow Stalker stepped forward again, driving her armored elbow up at an angle at the spot where the bolt had struck home.  Glass shattered and the combination needle-arrowhead was violently dislodged.  The man went tumbled with a splash, going limp before he hit the water.  The side of his neck and the corner of his jaw were a bloody mess of cuts and embedded broken glass.

Shadow Stalker wheeled around, then simultaneously slammed the top of her right crossbow into her left forearm and her left crossbow into her right arm.  There was a barely audible click as cartridges loaded into the top of each crossbow.  She extended her arms to fire at the two of the men closest to the woman.  They dropped on their backs in the water, splashing.

Realizing what they were up against, the group began to scatter.  Flechette raised her arbalest, shot one bolt so it struck a wall just in front of one man’s throat.  Still running, he ran headlong into it, clotheslined himself, and fell over, gasping and gurgling.

She spared a glance to double check he wasn’t in a position to drown, which very nearly cost her.  One of the thugs turned to attack her, drawing a gun, but she had a bolt loaded and fired off before he could aim it, spearing through the gun’s barrel and out the back, to strike a wall.  She loaded another bolt even as she was already pulling the trigger to fire it, so it was sent out an eye-blink after it was in place.  The shaft of metal struck the thug through the crotch of his sagging jeans, pinning them to the wall he was backing up to.  He didn’t scream, so he clearly wasn’t well endowed enough to get hit anywhere important.  Flechette wasn’t exactly an expert -or even a novice- in that sort of thing, but she was ninety-nine percent sure that men didn’t dangle nearly to their knees.

Made lightweight by her power, Shadow Stalker leaped to the nearest wall, then vaulted herself off, careening directly toward three of the retreating men.  As she landed atop the one in the front, she dropped out of her shadow form, returning to her normal weight.  Planting her feet on his shoulder blades, she combined the force of her weight and her momentum with a downward kick of both feet, driving him into the water, hard.  She went shadowy a half second later, becoming almost invisible in the gloom of the empty lot, effortlessly reorienting her now lightweight body to land on her feet.

Both of the men behind Shadow Stalker attacked her, one swiping a knife at her, the other kicking for the small of her back.  Smoky, dark flickers appeared where limbs and weapons passed through her.

Almost casually, she holstered her crossbows, then straightened up.  A flurry of other attacks passed through her.

One man hesitated, seeing the futility of what they were doing, and Shadow Stalker took the opportunity to drop the shadow state.  She leaned out of the way of one desperate punch from the other man, then grabbed him.  She seized him by the shirt-front, pulled him forward with a hard tug on his collar and a counterclockwise turn of her body, then brought her right knee into his ribs.  He fell with a splash.

Metal kneepad, Flechette noted.  That’s going to hurt.

The other man attacked, but Shadow Stalker went shadowy just long enough for his knife to pass through her, then slammed her metal mask into his face.

While he swayed back, stunned, blood streaming from his nose, she reached out and grabbed him by the lower jaw, her fingers digging into the bottom of his mouth.  Instinctively, desperately, he bit down, hard, but the construction of the girl’s gauntlets was good enough to safeguard her fingers.  She used her grip to pull him to one side as she’d just done with his compatriot, helped by a swift kick to the side of one leg.  Rather than use her knee to deliver the telling blow, she brought the heel of her free hand against the gap between the man’s skull and his jaw.  He screamed, crumpled toward the ground, his hands moving to where the strike had hit.

Shadow Stalker waited a moment before letting go, forcing him to twist and squeal in agony before she let him finish collapsing.

After watching him a moment, perhaps to be sure he wouldn’t retaliate, Shadow Stalker glanced at Flechette.  “Your man there is getting loose.”

Flechette had been caught up in the spectacle of watching Shadow Stalker fight.  A kind of horrified fascination.  She saw the thug she’d shot in the crotch, on his back in the water, his pants still fixed to the wall.  He was struggling to work his legs out of the jeans.  She loaded a shot and fired a bolt just beneath his armpit, nailing his sweatshirt to the ground.  Another just above his opposite shoulder and behind his neck secured him.

Shadow Stalker was chasing one of the stragglers.  Going shadow-light, she closed the distance in two long paces, leaving ripples and small disturbances in the foot-deep water, rather than splashes.  As she reached the man’s side, she dropped the shadow state, gripped his ear and used one leg to trip him.  With the grip his ear afforded her, she thrust him face first into the ground with enough force that he couldn’t absorb the impact with his arms.  Water sprayed around them in the wake of the hit.

Flechette reached into her belt and withdrew a handful of darts, each nine inches long.  She channeled her power into each, and then flung them at the feet of the two remaining thugs, catching the edges of their shoes.  Their shoes fixed firmly to the ground and they fell awkwardly.  Two tranquilizer bolts appeared in the rear end of one and the upper thigh of the other.  Shadow Stalker.

Which finished the fight.  None of the men were left in any state to run.

Flechette palmed one of her throwing darts, glanced at it.  She’d been with the Wards a year before she had been given the arbalest and the chain reel.  Her darts had been her weapon of choice for a long time, alongside a rapier she’d eventually retired after too many fights using it had turned out badly.  She hadn’t had the heart to change her codename, even if it didn’t quite apply anymore.  Maybe when she graduated to the Protectorate.

“Hey,” Shadow Stalker called out, disturbing her from her thoughts.  “Here!”

Tired, she thought, mind’s wandering.

Flechette caught the device Shadow Stalker threw to her.  Investigation revealed it to be a small, thin, round device with a single button on top.  “Haven’t seen one of these since training.”

“Times like this call for ’em.  City wants us on patrol, not sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, waiting for the cops to cart these fuckers off,” Shadow Stalker kicked one man in the side, so he flopped over onto his back, no longer face down in the water.  He grunted.

Flechette winced.  That girl is a little too comfortable with violence for my tastes.

While Shadow Stalker ensured that the man with the cuts on his neck wasn’t bleeding out, Flechette  loaded another bolt into her arbalest and fired it into a spot on the wall, two floors up.

She walked briskly to the two men that had just been darted.  She bent down and used her left hand to wind the coil of the restraint device around his left foot, then did the same for the next man’s right foot.

She tossed the restraint device over the bolt she’d embedded in the wall, a metal thread trailing behind it.  She caught it as it fell, then connected it back to the cord, forming a loose loop that encircled the bolt in the wall.  She pressed the button, and the cord retracted, pulled tight around the pole, then continued retracting.  The two thugs were pulled off the ground, so that each hung from the wall by one ankle.

The device would signal nearby police and PRT officers and direct them here.  They’d use their own equipment to make the restraint device lower the men so the thugs could be brought into custody.  The cord was difficult to cut with conventional knives and saws, and those caught wouldn’t want to cut it either, given how they faced a long drop face first onto pavement.  Any buddies of theirs would have a hell of a time getting to them and cutting them free, as well.

She walked over to the man she’d clotheslined, who still hadn’t finished gasping, nor had he collected himself enough to run.  She grabbed his wrist and forced it behind his back.

As she hauled him to his feet, a collision made her stagger back.  It hadn’t been directed at her.  No, it was the man she held that slumped, almost insensate.  He hung his head, a trail of blood dribbling from his lip.

Seeing a movement just outside her blind spot, opposite the man, Flechette pushed her captive down and away.  She had to evade the weapon as it swung towards her head.

It was the middle-aged woman that the men had been attacking.  She held a metal trash can lid in two hands.  Oblivious to Flechette, she swung the lid down at the man’s head.

“Hey!” Flechette shouted, “Stop!”

She reached out to grab for the lid, but a hand on her wrist stopped her.

“Let her,” Shadow Stalker spoke.

The woman kicked the man in the ribs, hard, then struck him with the flat of the metal lid.

“You fuckers!” the woman screamed.

Stunned, Flechette spoke to Shadow Stalker, “The hell?  He’s not in a position to defend himself!”

“Doesn’t deserve to.”

“She’s going to kill him!”

“Better that we give her another few swings than render her powerless for the second time tonight,” Shadow Stalker spoke.  “Or she won’t get over it for a long time.  We’ll stop her before she goes too far.”

“No, this isn’t right.” Flechette pulled her arm free of Shadow Stalker’s grasp, then grabbed the woman’s wrist, stopping her as the lid was brought back behind her head.  Not entirely to the woman, she spoke, “You’re better than this.  You have to be.”

The woman resisted, tried to pull free to make another swing.  When Flechette maintained her grip, the woman used her free hand to throw the lid down on top of the man.

“Stop,” Flechette spoke.  As the woman struggled, she turned to bark a command to Shadow Stalker, “Help!”

“I’m on her side, to be honest,” Shadow Stalker didn’t move.

“So am I,” Flechette grunted as the woman shifted her weight towards her, knocking her off balance.  “Which means stopping her from doing anything she’ll regret!”

“Let me go!” the woman shouted at her, “Fuckers like this hurt my daughter!”

“Is she here?  Your daughter?”  Flechette asked.

“She’s home, it- it happened last week!  Let me at him!  Fuckers!”

“Stop attacking him and I will!”

The woman didn’t have a response, beyond continued struggles.  Though Flechette kept to an exercise regimen, spent four nights a week in the gym, she was still only seventeen, and the woman had a good fifty or more pounds of weight advantage.  The woman pulled free and staggered back, gave her an angry look.

When the lady stepped forward, toward the fallen, bloodied man, Flechette stepped in her way.  The woman didn’t back off, so Flechette raised her arbalest a fraction.

That was apparently enough.  The woman scowled further, then turned and fled the scene, half-running, half-limping.

“Thanks for the backup,” Flechette spat the words to Shadow Stalker.

“Told you, I don’t do the backup thing,” Shadow Stalker bent over the unconscious man, turning his head to investigate his injuries.  “He’ll live.  Him and his buddies deserve what they got.”

“That’s not your call to make.”

“Sure it is,” Shadow Stalker retrieved another restraint device and quickly strung the man up beneath a metal frame meant for an air conditioning unit.  “Times like this, we’re cop, judge, jury and if it really comes down to it, executioner.  We’re the ones with the power.”

“No.  That’s wrong.”

“Suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree,” Shadow Stalker turned her back, preparing another restraint device.

Flechette huffed, angry.  She didn’t want to get into a shouting match, wasn’t sure what to say to convince the girl.  “You can finish your patrol alone.”

“Whatever,” Shadow Stalker replied without looking back, “If you want to be like that.  I’m only on the team because I have to be, so you’re doing me a favor.  Prefer to fly solo.”

Three strikes, Flechette thought, as she strode away.  Nearly being shot for saying hello, the way Shadow Stalker had delayed helping the woman, and now this.

She’d give the other girl the benefit of a doubt.  Maybe Shadow Stalker had some unresolved issues, maybe it had been a rough week.  But for now, she needed to calm down and wait long enough to think more objectively about what had happened.  Then she’d decide whether to deal or to tell her new team leader.

Fuck.  She felt profoundly disappointed.  She wanted to like the other heroine, but this was too much.

She had one other thing she had wanted to do tonight, before she finished her patrol, went back, showered, ate and unpacked.

She squeezed the bud in her ear twice, “Console?”

A brief pause, then a voice in her ear, “Kid Win on the console.  Hi, Flechette.  Deal with those guys okay?”

“Guys are dealt with but… I’m going to do the rest of my night’s patrol alone.”

“Sorry.  I should’ve warned you.  Tends to be easier to work around her.”

So she’s always like that.

“This is unfamiliar territory for me. I might need you to brief me if I run into a cape, so I know what I’m potentially running into.”

“Of course, I’m not going anywhere.”

“And on that subject, I remember meeting someone when I was in town for the attack.  What can you tell me about the cape with the stuffed animals?  Pariah, par-”

“Parian,” Kid Win replied.  “A parian doll was a kind of doll about a hundred and fifty years ago.  Though Parian’s costume is actually closer to a more classical Victorian style porcelain doll, from the same era.”

“Oh.”  That was random.  What kind of guy knew that much about dolls?

He went on, “She’s a rogue.  Fashion student with the costume and stuffed animals as a gimmick to help her build for a professional reputation and stand out.  Tentative rating of Master-6, but we haven’t really seen her fight, outside of the Leviathan encounter.”

“Student.  So she’ll be near a college?”

“College is gone.  Kaput.  Um, let me see.  Last we heard, she was situated between the spot where the college was and the lake downtown.  If I remember right, there’s going to be a fairly thin strip of places there that are intact enough to live in.  Vista ran into her the other night, but she’s asleep right now and we’re behind on paperwork so…”

“So you don’t know exactly what happened, and I’d be going in blind.  She’s harmless though?  This Parian?”

“Nobody’s harmless at a time like this, Flechette,” Kid Win replied.

“Right.”  Flechette thought of the middle-aged woman beating her attacker bloody.

“Listen, easiest way to get to that area, you’ll find the lake to the northwest, walk the perimeter of it to reach the north end.  The area she could be staying at should only be a block or two wide.  If she’s even awake.  I’ve got Clockblocker buzzing in, probably to check in for the night and give me the cliff notes on his nightly patrol, so I’m going silent until you need me, k?”


Flechette gauged the direction of the ocean, deemed that east, and then headed northwest as Kid Win had suggested.  She traveled at ground level, wading through the water, to make faster progress.  Nothing to prove, now that she had stopped patrolling with Shadow Stalker.

It didn’t take long to find the ‘lake’ Leviathan had made in the downtown area.  Given that the streets were flooded with water anyways, the crater itself was distinguishable only by the barrier around it, and a dark shadow beneath the water where there was nothing beneath to reflect light.  Hulks of fallen buildings sat in the center of the water.  The orange light of a fire on the top floor of one of the buildings suggested that someone had swum to one of the buildings and was staying there.  Maybe one of the safer places to be.

The crater was surrounded by orange striped barriers with flashing lights and portable chain link fences that were chained together.   The fencing formed a solid barrier around the hole.  She walked with the fence to her left, which roughly halved the area she had to keep an eye on, in case of approaching trouble.  Her right index finger was just below the trigger of her arbalest, and her left hand clutched a handful of darts.

The massive sinkhole Leviathan had made was roughly circular, but it was large enough that she couldn’t say for sure when she had turned and started moving more west than north.

Fresh graffiti stained buildings, some warning people to stay away, others were the crude pictographs of hobo signs.  One neighborhood had used the debris of fallen buildings to form makeshift barricades in alleys and in front of doorways.  There wasn’t much intact housing here – the sinkhole sat to her left, and two blocks to her right, from what she could make out in the moonlight, the buildings were too damaged to serve as living accommodations.

At one intersection there were two parallel, vertical lines spray painted in yellow on opposite walls.  Traffic cones, some broken, an orange striped barrier and the remains of one yellow raincoat sat in the water, much of it weighed down by rubble.  Together, the organized debris formed a brightly colored line joining the marks that had been spray painted on the wall.

She stepped over the line, and immediately felt a resistance.  It took her a second to figure out what it was – a thread caught the moonlight.

There was a muffled splashing sound, and a twelve-foot tall gorilla leaped from the nearest rooftop to land directly in front of her.  It swung its arms wildly in front of it, missing her, then slammed both knuckles down in the water, crushing one side of the orange striped barrier.  Flechette raised her arbalest to shoot, then stopped.

It wasn’t real.  Damp cloth, stitched together.  And it was blind.  It wasn’t acting as though it could see her.

She dropped the arbalest, backed over the line, and then waited.

Parian arrived at a run, feet splashing in the water.  She spotted Flechette, and the gorilla moved to place itself between the two of them.

Her creations can only see what she seesThey’re puppets.

“Stay back,” Parian warned.  She peeked out from behind the gorilla.  Her mask, a doll’s face, was smudged, and a crack ran from the corner of one eye to the ear.  She wore a frock, different than the one she had worn for the Leviathan fight, but it was wet, dirty, and some of the lace had torn.  There was a wood chip in the damp golden curls that were otherwise too perfectly coiled to be real hair

“I’m staying back,” Flechette assured the girl.  “Remember me?”

“Yes.  You talked to me before the fight, pulled me away from that horrible little girl.”

“Yeah,” Flechette smiled, shrugging.  She stepped forward.

“Back!”  Parian called out.  The Gorilla slammed its knuckles against the ground again, then lurched forward, one fist raising as if to deliver a massive punch.

Flechette obeyed, backing up another two steps, hands raised.  The gorilla’s fist stayed where it was.

“I’m a hero.  Member of the Wards.  I’m in town for a little while.”

“Doesn’t matter.  I made a deal.  Me, my friends and my family get a place to stay here, a fair share of the food and water.  In exchange, I keep people from entering.”

“I’m a hero,” Flechette stressed the word.  “I’m not going to cause trouble.”

“I don’t know you’re telling the truth.  Nothing saying you couldn’t be lying.”

“I have ID.”

Parian shook her head.  “It doesn’t matter anyways.”

The frocked rogue climbed up to stand on top of the gorilla’s shoulders.  She added, “I made a deal.  I’m keeping to it.  One hundred percent neutrality.  You trespass, I fight you.”

And I’d almost definitely win, Flechette thought. You may even know that, but you’d fight me anyways.

“Okay,” Flechette replied, trying to sound reassuring, “I won’t step over the line.  I heard you were around here, you’re one of the only recognizable faces for me here, I thought I’d stop by, see how you were doing.”

“Coping,” Parian answered.

“Good, good,” Flechette sheathed her arbalest, hoping the rogue would feel safer.  “Look, I’m here if you need anything.  If people make trouble and you’re not strong enough to protect that neighborhood there, or if you need resources that you couldn’t get otherwise, like names or medical services, call me.  Can I give you my card?”

The gorilla lowered his raised fist, reached forward with palm upturned, and Flechette fished in her belt for her cards.  Slightly damp, but readable.  She placed it in the center of a sopping wet hand crafted out of black denim.  The gorilla’s palm was surprisingly firm.  Hard.  Its shape was a little too humanlike, in comparison to a real gorilla, maybe.  Not that it mattered.

“Okay,” Parian spoke, as the gorilla handed her the card.  Her voice was a little softer.  “Phone lines are down, but cell phones work around here.”

“You guys need anything here?  I don’t know what the situation is with supplies, just got into the city a few hours ago.  Don’t know how that stuff is being distributed, but I could see about making sure you guys have something.”

Parian sat down cross-legged on the gorilla’s shoulders.  “Yeah.  We’re low on fresh water.  This stuff we’re wading in has too much salt content, and you couldn’t even boil it clean if you wanted to, I don’t think.”

“Okay.  Fresh water.”

The doll girl shifted her weight to put the card in the front pocket of her lacy apron, fumbled with it.  Flechette spotted a tremor as the girl put the card away and moved to clasp her hands in her lap.

She’s shaking.

“Hey?” Flechette asked.


“Seriously, are you okay?  You holding up?”

Parian turned, looked behind her, as if checking anyone was listening.

“I hate fighting.  Hate confrontation.  Even this, being here, having just thought I might have to fight you, fight anyone, it makes me feel edgy.  My teeth are chattering and I’m not even cold.”

“You faced down Leviathan.  You did better than a lot of people.”

“Do you know how long it took me to get my head together?  To actually step up and help?”

“But you did.  You stepped up.  Give yourself credit.  You’re strong.”

“I want this to be over.  I’m so, so scared that someone’s going to come and try to loot this place and I won’t be able to do anything.”

“You’ve got my card.  I can’t promise I’ll arrive immediately, but I’ll be staying at the Wards headquarters, which isn’t too far.”

Parian nodded.  Quietly, she spoke, “That helps a lot.  More than you know.”

“And I can come by on my patrols, if you want.  Check everything is okay, give you an update on what I can do about supplies.”

Parian hesitated, “Please do.  If you pluck the strings twice, I’ll know it’s you.  I’m using my telekinesis on the strings, I’ll feel it.”

“Deal.  I’m Flechette, by the way, in case you didn’t know.”

“Oh.  Um.  I didn’t.  My name’s Sab-” Parian stopped, made a barely audible groan.

“It’s okay,” Flechette suppressed the urge to smile.  Sabrina?  Maybe.  Sable?  No, the b pronunciation was different.

“I’m an idiot,”  Parian spoke.

Flechette paused, then removed her visor.  “Lily.”

I need people I can trust, she tried to convince herself, even as she knew she had other reasons.  Stuff like this could get her in serious trouble with the Wards.

Parian hesitated, then reached up and removed her mask.  Though her clothing style was western, her wig all blonde curls, her face was dark, middle eastern.  There were bands of metal extending from the edges of her face to the middle of her cheekbones, her chin and her forehead.  Mounts to keep her mask in position?  She had full lips and large, dark eyes. “Sabah.”

Cute, the thought struck Flechette.  Funny to think she’s older than me.

“Nice to meet you, Sabah.”

“I’m still not letting you over the line,” Sabah warned.  She looked so small, up on the gorilla’s broad shoulders, the threat held little gravity.  Maybe, Flechette considered, it was intended more for Sabah than for her.

“Okay,” Flechette donned her visor once more, “But maybe you want to walk with me?  Do a patrol of the perimeter of your territory?  I’ll stay on this side.”

Sabah put her mask back on, and for a second, Flechette thought she would say no.

“Okay.  Thank you.”  Parian dropped her legs down to either side of the gorilla’s neck as it moved forward. To stay decent, the girl pressed her hands down on the lap of her dress, leaning forward a little.  It was a little thing, that bashful modesty, but Flechette felt as much of a rush watching that as she did running across her chain/tightrope with a five-story drop below her.

She didn’t let it show.  Instead, she smiled and started walking, hands clasped behind her back, darts clasped in one hand in case of trouble or ambush.  The gorilla crossed the yellow line and sort of half-ran, half-loped to catch up, move beside her.  It slowed to a plodding, gentle walk

Flechette was secretly relieved.  She knew she’d manage for the duration of her stay, now.  She’d made a connection, even if it wasn’t with someone on her team.  She wasn’t in this alone.

“So, you’re a fashion student?” she asked.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

101 thoughts on “Sentinel 9.2

    • I don’t think it’s rape. I’m guessing it’s also not the death of a family member. Of course it wasn’t bullying. A firm guess is that someone was physically beating her. A much weaker one is that it was possibly someone “below her station” like if she slummed for a boyfriend and he was abusive.

      I guess you could say it comes from similar themes as rape. This is about power and violence. At least until the author writes to let us know it was because #firstworldproblems “her cellphone service went down for 2 WHOLE hours.”

    • Also, on a personal level, I’m not the biggest fan of just throwing rape around. I think Wildbow could do it right in this, but so many things just like to toss in rape without the appropriate horror. Show some respect for the terror of it and don’t throw it around like candy corn like you’re some sort of CSI series.

      There are lots of other legitimate ways to traumatize a person besides rape.

      For example, you could threaten them with exact, but understandable, torture, like saying you’ll crush every bone in their hand, then grind it up.

      You could wait til a storm and sneak into their room to plant a bunch of dead cats all over the place, blood leaking everywhere.

      Take pictures of their mom and dad at a midget dominatrix donkey show. As part of the show.

      Dress up as a clown and sit outside their windo wall day and night, watching them, disappearing only when someone else shows up. Bonus points if it’s on the second story.

      Reveal that YOU are their father! Bonus points if female.

      Use hallucinogenic gas and suggestion to make them appear to relive the childhood attempted sacrifice of them to some eldritch abomination, only for their REAL parents to be killed and replaced with said abominations as doubles.

      Tie them upside down above a dark pool, dipping them into it occasionally, making sure they feel rough or slippery things moving past them. Make sure the water is clearly moving with all kinds of active, hidden things. Never turn on the lights, even afterwards. Never let them see what it was.

      Spread itching powder and Bengay all over the interior of the hero/heroine’s costume. Bonus points if they don’t wear anything under it.

      Wear a priest’s outfit with a hood and hold a bloody cross, then follow them, showing up in eyesight whenever something bad happens. Make sure you’re at the edge of her vision on a walk home at night in the dark, occasionally with faint laughter of little children accompanying your appearances.

      Cause her walls to appear to boil, then burst, revealing blood beneath the wallpaper.

      Grab their pet bunny and eat its heart out, raw right in front of them.

      Take their dog and drag it along behind your vehicle in front of them until its ground more than halfway away.

      I feel I lost the initial point I was going for here, which is that Wildbow can probably do one good, but I’m inclined away from rapes personally. It certainly could fit here, but people should really use their imagination more when it comes to breaking another person’s psyche.

      • Correction, break every bone in the hand, THEN grind it all up inside them. That’s more for a superstrength person.

      • I was trying to think of how to explain my thoughts on the subject, and I had intended to last night, only I got pulled away from the computer for an extended time, and just went straight to bed after.

        Thanks for giving me an in to broach the topic, PG.

        Long of it short, rape is serious enough a topic, and sensitive enough to many readers, that I don’t feel I have the necessary skill as a writer, breadth of knowledge or experience to directly get into the topic or the fallout of it. The obvious implications/end results of Heartbreaker’s powers are as close as I’m going to get to the subject.

        For other cases, where denying or ignoring that such things might happen when the city is thrown radically off balance would hurt verismilitude, I’m generally going to write things in a way that lets people draw their own conclusions.

        There’s also the fact that it’s too easy. A majority of my readers probably immediately assumed rape or molestation for any given character when the topic of trigger events came up. It doesn’t challenge me as a writer to say “Yeah, that character? That’s her horrible origin/background.” and let the atrociousness of the crime tell the story and fill in the blanks for me. There’s a lot of things that can affect people on that profound level necessary for a trigger event, and I’d much rather touch on those.

        For a character like Sophia or even Aisha (and I’ll note here that many people apparently jumped to the same conclusions for Brian’s sister, but the word ‘rape’ wasn’t thrown around as lightly, then), chances are it’s going to be a little more complicated than that.

        • “For other cases, where denying or ignoring that such things might happen when the city is thrown radically off balance”

          No need for a city to be thrown off balance for rape to be prevalent. That’s part of the horror of it – the everydayness.

        • Indeed. I’m guessing SS is a psychopath, but was not born as one, and fits the serial killer profile quite well. This would mean her Trigger was loneliness, and, in a amusing level of irony, probably tortures insects in her spare time.

          Is anyone else looking forward to the knife fight between her and Skitter atop a burning building?

          • According to paratextual sources, isolation tends to result in Master powers. Mover powers come from being trapped or restrained, while Stranger powers come from basically the opposite of Master powers. Breaker powers come from tricky-to-classify triggers, or sometimes altered states of consciousness.
            I’d guess that some kind of social tension was a contributing factor to Sophia’s trigger. Beyond that…I have other fanfic to write.

      • I think that people jumping to that conclusion is a somewhat sad testament to the prevalence of the Rape As Backstory trope; though since rape is more prevalent than most people think, a lot of people’s powers would, indeed, have been triggered this way in Wildbow’s setting, just as a consequence of the premise. (One can write this down more formally in terms of conditional probabilities, but, loosely, the fraction of capes with a traumatic origin A is approximately proportional to how many people get exposed to A and what fraction among people exposed to A develop powers, at least if we ignore hereditary and contagion effects.)

        That said, I wonder what chunk of non-hereditary capes were triggered by more mundane incidents that didn’t involve anybody’s malice. For example, Shadow Stalker’s superpower could have been triggered by something as mundane as a car accident. She might have seen a car careening towards her and became insubstantial to avoid it; or she could have been trapped inside a burning car, becoming insubstantial to escape. (That said, given her personality, it seems unlikely that that’s exactly what happened, since she would have probably preferred to deal with said car in a more aggressive way.)

        Lastly, and this is really speculating, I wonder if superpowers are at least slightly contagious. That would explain why capes first emerged after being touched by Scion; why children of capes tend to become capes without too much stress; and the highly improbable coincidence that one of Taylor’s three major bullies, and the last person with with whom Taylor had physical contact before her powers triggered, just happens to be a cape. (It could still be a coincidence, of course; the question is, if Sophia Hess were not a cape but an ordinary bully, would Taylor have gained her powers?) In-universe, is anybody trying to take a more rigorous look into “epidemiology” of capes, with Scion as Patient 0?

      • Pahan: Ooh, theory! Sophia was shoved inside a locker at her old school for being a rich priss, which ended up being her breaking point (powers and psychology) as she phased through the locker and pummeled her (male?) aggressor. She sees no irony whatsoever in what she did to Taylor, since unlike with her, Taylor is on the lower end of the totem pole, so the figurative feculence rolled downhill, [Sophia] AS IT SHOULD[ /Sophia].

        Gecko: *drops to knees* We are not worthy! But really, only a couple of those aren’t really doable (and even those can be done with the right superpowers, like hallucinations/teleportation/super-hypnotism), which is more than I can say for just about anyone else I’ve seen try to be that creative. I don’t agree with the use of dead cats, but that’s just an unpowered, feline version of Bitch’s issues (puppies would be even better).

        -Jen “Innocent Friendship Fires” Fluttershy

  1. …graffitied hobo signs? people still use hobo signs? i’ve never seen one, outside of pictures on wikipedia and such, and i’ve lived in some backwoods hicksvilles.

  2. I’ve never heard the term ‘choreographed their attacks’ in this context. Was it meant to be ‘telegraphed’?

  3. I can only remember a couple of examples, but at least some powers seem to have a form related to the triggering event. Taylor and her bugs in the locker, Rachel and her only friends on the street. Possibly Regent and his issues with his dad. Also possibly Hana and the situation she was in. It’s hard to imagine what Flechette’s might have been, but Shadow Stalker’s could be related to very badly wanting to escape from some restraints or a locked room.

    Abut Flechette, can anyone else imagine multimillion dollar lawsuits from various NY property magnates against her?

    • There is no need of a triggering event for people whose parents were supers, so Regent didn’t have to have a horrible day. But yeah, I was thinking the powers could be related to the situations of their One Bad Day. Like Taylor being made to be the lowest of the low, a bug, to the bullies and her own former friend.

      • If it is tied in to something I imagine it is more along tge lines of what you NEED, rather than how you feel. Taylor needed to be out of that locker, and suddenly she had a whole bunch of new senses outside of it. Miss Militia needed to kill the people that had her and the other children at gunpoint, so she became armed. That is part of why I think Shadow Stalker was raped. She needed to be untouchable, and suddenly she was.

        • Correction, doesn’t have to be *as* horrifically traumatic. Tattletale gives as an example Glory Girl getting her powers from being fouled in a sport game, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there was significantly more going on there.

      • And being untouchable works if someone beats you, thinks you should stay in your place, and and she feels with her power that her place is above those of normal people, which is why she’s allowed to beat them so brutally.

  4. Shadow Stalker’s origin story aside, I like how Wildbow is doing an equivalent of Break The Cutie with all the idealistic, privileged Wards being imported into the failed state of Brockton Bay, and how the theme of civilization being three missed meals from anarchy is being explored. (I still miss Taylor and the Undersiders, but I am enjoying this.)

    On a completely unrelated note, I has anything has been made of Skitter’s power being seasonal: the colder it gets, the less she has to work with. What month is it? (I can see her becoming migratory: going North in the summer, South in the winter. On the other hand, can you imagine what she could pull together in a tropical rainforest?)

    Also, a random question: why is Flechette jet lagged? If she is from New York, and Brockton Bay is near Cape Cod (or somewhere on US East Coast, anyway), then they are in the same time zone, and the flight would be on the order of an hour or two.

    • Good call on the jet lag. I should tweak that line, when I’m at my computer & not typing on my iPod.

      As for Skitter and the weather, it’s stated in 1.2 or 1.3, I think, that Brockton Bay has very mild winters/weather for the general area – perhaps part of the reason people in costume have congregated there.

  5. She’s been in town for a couplf of hours, and her first priority seems to be to establish a booty call… Gosh, my grasp of the vernacular fails me here, there’s probably a specific term for a female acting like this but I can’t come up with one right now.

    • “highly social” might fit. some people just really prefer to be working in groups than by themselves, and so focus on finding or forming a group before they start in on the actual job.

      yeah, i know, i think they’re weirdos too. but hey, these particular folks are already running around the streets wearing spandex at night, so…

      • I got the “into girls” kinda vibe too, but it could just be that she’s one of those people that needs other people. Some people just grasp for anyone they might know as a friendly face if they face being alone otherwise. I have family like that. It’s annoying when you have to learn how to do various things one-handed because a relative calls you up for no reason.

        On an unrelated note, what if Parian ever did an adult doll?

        • Man your insights are so usefull! I was thinking of the homosexual angle but it didn “feel” like it “fit” in a way. I couldn’t think of other possibilities before your help so cheers. Plus your theory on Shadow Stalker was pretty interesting as well. Plain ol rape wont explain her obsession with status. It has to be some form of abuse from a person that eventually turned be from a lower “social hierarchy level” ,etc.

          • The social status thing and even her tendency to bully and to enjoy violence do not necessarily have to be connected to her trigger event, though it. Maybe she just was a mean sadistic bully from the start. Having been raped or beaten up by thugs might give her an extra motivation to beat those people up and to emphatize with victims who do the same, but it is a little far fetched to try and explain her being a school bully by her own horrible experience, too.

      • I’m using it to mean a hook-up for casual sex. If that’s not a correct meaning, please do enlighten me as to what it truly means.

        • I really think Lily is reaching for a social/emotional connection, not a sexual connection here. Although Lily’s reactions when Sabah reveals her face and jumps down from the gorilla definitely makes it sound like she’s developing a crush on Sabah.

  6. I admit that I thought about rape based mostly in the usual cliche.
    But Shadow Stalker has a lot of anger and it is a kind of anger (the established order must be mantained, lower scum must be kept in their place) that makes me think in terms of child abuse, rape by a relative, robbery with resulting death of one loved family member (batman someone) or something similar.
    Of course human beings are not machines (at least, not simple machines), a given trigger event may result in different reactions for different people, but I imagine something that made her want to hurt those that break the rules of society, so, someone broke a rule of society to hurt her.
    Of course she is also extremely self centered and apparently has low empathy (the kind of bullying that she did show it clearly).
    Changing subject, I suffered some hate, more than a few insults and general disdain to the point of being surrounded by people trying to beat me because I am an arrogant nerd. And I know it.
    As far as I can tell Taylor is just average looking, quiet and nerdy, she is not arrogant or provocative, she does not give it back in the classroom by proving to the morons that they are morons. So, the kind of bullying that target her is different.
    I saw this kind of bullying once or twice. It looks like the bullying against the lower wolf, the desire to hurt someone just because there is no retribution.
    It is the most cruel kind of bullying because you are not hurting someone due to envy, some provocation (real or imaginary) or due to prejudice. It is even worst: you are hurting someone just because you can.
    Some psychologists theorized that this kind of bully needs to prove its superiority so much because they have a complex of inferiority. NO, many of them do it just because hurting people is fun.

    • Hurting some due to envy, provocation or prejudice… or simply because you’re a sadist who just likes to hurt people. Everybody’s trying to blame Shadow Stalker’s cruelty and violence on rape or other trauma, but would those also make her a school bully?

      Seriously, how about the alternative explanation that she’s just a sadistic sociopath and does what she does because she enjoys it?

      • She is a sadistic sociopath that does what she does because she enjoys it.
        But something bad happened to her, perhaps something that is bad only from her perspective, unless she inherited these powers.
        And this something may have made her more of a sadistic sociopath that …
        And, while planing or executing the bullying, the bully acts like a sadist sociopath.

      • I think that this might be throwing the diagnosis “sociopath” around too easily. It’s perfectly possible to be a rotten human being without having the antisocial personality disorder.

        From my armchair, Sophia Hess seems more likely to have an authoritarian personality (to the extent that the concept is valid): she believes in strict hierarchy and authority, and she is aggressive towards those she views as her out-group, but she is sympathetic and even loyal to those she views as her in-group. (If nothing else, a full-on sociopath or psychopath would have probably found a way to sit out the battle with the Endbringer.)

        On the other hand, I Am Not A Clinical Psychologist ™.

      • Pahan, if I remember correctly it’s been mentioned that Shadow Stalker got into the Wards through a choice between that or the Birdcage. Had she skipped the fight with Leviathan, I’m inclined to think that would have outright violated the deal made and landed her a one-way ticket to the big house. And the criminal past hardly speaks of respect for authority.

        Also about the loyalty and sympathy, well, this is just my perception but I haven’t seen any. She “likes to work alone” while the others find it “easiest to work around her”.

        Bottom line: Just because you’re crazy doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Even if people are nothing but ambulatory punching bags that have no value beyond what benefits you can extract from them, you can still stay in line out of fear of retaliation.

      • Mazzon, you are right about the “plea bargain”. I should have used more precise phrasing than “sit out”. In a nutshell, I think that there is a difference between doing the bare minimum to avoid jail and charging up to within 20 feet of the Leviathan, and paying the price. (Of course, lack of fear is one of the attributes of a full-blown psychopath, so I guess it might be a wash.)

        Regarding authoritarian personality (to the extent that it’s valid), from what I understand, having it doesn’t necessarily entail obeying the “lawful authorities”. What it entails is a very “tribal” and hierarchical outlook: submitting to the authority of one’s in-group; rejecting limits on authority that one likes (including one’s own); aggression towards the out-group, including a lack of empathy or mercy for the out-group; closing ranks with a member of the in-group against the out-group, even if the member of the in-group is in the wrong; etc.. (Of course, like all generalizations and “personality types”, it’s a very simplified picture, but that’s trying to name and classify something as complicated as people… Also, while it’s a convenient label (with Right Wing Authoritarian being a more recent “update”, I believe), it has been criticized, to say the least.)

        Shadow Stalker is, indeed, a loner, but Sophia Hess is most certainly not. This fits in with the in-group–out-group model quite well: she doesn’t consider Wards her “tribe”, having been forced into it, while Emma and Madison are with her in her hierarchy of choice. (Of course, fighting the Leviathan might change some of that: nothing overcomes division better than having to collaborate on a task, especially if one has to invest a lot into the task.) Notably, when she has authority (e.g., on patrol), she does not recognize limits to it, claiming the power of “cop, judge, jury and if it really comes down to it, executioner.”

        I think that the least pathological explanation that fits the facts should be preferred, so I am going with personality, at least for now. Also, a psychopath, a sociopath, or just an authoritarian, she is still a highly unpleasant and unsympathetic individual. In the end, only Wildbow knows, and we might find out tomorrow. 😉

        • Fair enough. Works better than my theory, although I still want to see a serial killer type who triggers from loneliness… unless the result is Heartbreaker.

        • I really like this discussion, but it would really like to point out that immorality is not insanity. It’s kind of a silly, tangential thing, I suppose, but let’s not throw the word “sociopath” around so much? Just a pet peeve, being a diagnosed sociopath and also a non-violent, non-aggressive, productive member of my community. Not saying I’m a great person, but my struggles in dealing with people have no causal relationship to my personal sins.

          Empathy is not sympathy, and the one does not require the other. Neither does the presence or lack of them prevent you from choosing to try to be a decent person.

          I found the revelation of just which of the Undersiders was actually a sociopath a ways back made some things click regarding that character, and made him a lot more interesting to me.

          Regarding her origin, I think it’s worth noting that traumatic events in one’s past do not necessarily define their personality years later, so while it might be related to her powers, it’s a bit of a gamble to try to extrapolate it from her character. Then again, any work of literature probably links things together in ways besides causality, I suppose.

          Really love this story, a pity I’m so late to the party. 🙂 (First time reader.) Wildbow does an incredible job making everything click into place. I hope this post came off more as the barely coherent rambling stream of consciousness it was than any impassioned rant.

  7. I really have to ask, is the fact that Parian ‘racelifts’ herself in her costume intentional on her part? Is it to make her disguise more effective, more authentic, or is it due to internalized beauty standards?

    • Primarily to make her disguise more effective, also to make a statement.

      She was working on the assumption that she’d reveal her identity at some point. It was common knowledge that she was a fashion student doing Rogue work and getting exposure as Parian to gain some prominence. Hiding her identity in that way was a way of doing such (because of her distinct appearance). Allowing some connection between her real race and her appearance would only make it blatantly obvious, with the clues that were already out there.

      Eventually revealing herself to be middle eastern, down the road, would give her room to open a dialogue on the subject and add some drama to what otherwiise be a ‘meh’ moment.

  8. “What can you tell me about the cape with the stuffed animals? Pariah, par-”

    Parian doesn’t sound like Pariah. It sounds like Pear, the fruit. So, you’d want a different guess word there.

    Also, the “hanging crooks by their ankles” thing would cut off circulation and kill their feet – and potentially the criminals, depending on what happens to their blood when they’re let down. One of those realities that comics gloss over. I don’t think Flechette would make that mistake, even if SS would be cool with that outcome.

    • Well, it’s possible that she never learned Parian’s codename until she was briefed on local capes, and that briefing might have just been a printout or mimeograph or something. Rereading the end part where they meet, I see Parian didn’t know Flechette’s name.

    • At least as I pronounce it (American English, grew up in southern California) the first two vowels are very similar — in both the first syllable rhymes with “pear” or “pair”, more or less. (“/ˈpɛəɹ/” if you know IPA — and the first syllable of “pariah” is more like “/pəɹ-/”). I could see pronouncing “Parian” with a first syllable like “par” (“/pɑɹ/”), but the vowels are similar enough that I could see myself mixing them up.

  9. “Tinker teammate back home specializes in replication and cloning. Small pack back here consumes energy from a small fusion battery to create a steady supply.”
    e = mc^2. The energy in an amount of matter is equivalent to that mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. Fission and Fusion produce energy by changing some of that mass into really, stupidly massive amounts of light, because of course that’s what you get when you convert from the most dense form of energy that exists, so dense that it warps space-time around itself creating what we refer to as gravity. The amount of energy to form mass in the first place will have that same warping effect, visible to us as weight.

    Or in short, that is a _really_ embarrassing screw-up in the techno-babble.

    • Nope. It’s all good. Keep in mind that it’s Flechette’s perspective/explanation, which is a repeat of something explained to her in layman’s terms.

  10. Think I caught a typo here: “without the exponentially increasing the stresses”

    Definitely digging your work so far. I’m excited to see what Taylor chooses.

    • Running across the rooftop, she used her index finger to flip the switch, severing the chain, then reconnected the chain to the next piece of ammunition as her free hand loaded it into place.

      I’m having some trouble understanding this. It seems to be saying that a chain was fired, severed, then reattached to the weapon. Not exactly possible, as the chain is still attached to the roof. If it means the chain inside the arbalest was severed and attached, some specification is needed.

      • She is detaching the chain from her bolt not the abalaste whatever too tired too care about spelling. In other words she attaches dart to chain throws dart uses chain detaches dart from chain reels in chain and repeat.

  11. Something grates about the first half of this chapter. The narration just telling us, in several paragraphs’ depth, what Flechette’s powers are… seems clumsy somehow. It only stands out because it’s unusual: almost all the rest of the large number of capes we’ve seen have had their powers either explained through dialogue between characters, or otherwise more organically than “She could do this, and this, but not this.” I mean, it’s interesting in its own right, but it’s not advancing the story, and it’s unusually clunky: Worm is generally characterised by extremely tight and impressive prose.

    I appreciate it’s a little bit tricky, narratively, to follow Flechette without explaining the details of her power, but… well, I’d suggest you give that section some attention when it comes to time to tidy it up for the book version.

    • I think it worked well in that the author was simultaneously explaining some of the classifications for capes. I imagine her powers would be hard to explain without including an explanation for “breakers” and how she fit into the category in a broad way.

  12. Aww, it almost read like Flechette has a crush on Patrian! That’s was cute! Considering the seemingly crappy world that they are living in it would be nice to see that take root. Also, it’s good to see that Shadow is still psycho so I can still hate her with impunity.

  13. Realizing what they were up against, the group began to scatter. Flechette raised her arbalest, shot one bolt so it struck a wall just in front of one man’s throat. Still running, he ran headlong into it, clotheslined himself, and fell over, gasping and gurgling.

    Damn. Six inches left or right making the difference between “hahahahaha” and “oh god so much blood”. That’s some Batman shit right there. Go Flechette.

    • Well, her power also includes improbable aiming, and at that range, she probably doesn’t even have to think about aiming.

  14. Lily/Sabah 4evah! Love in the time of Leviathan, huh.

    Slightly awkward sentence:

    “”I suppose being twitchy is ‘excusable’,” Flechette ‘excused’ Shadow Stalker, looking out beyond the rooftop to the dark streets.”

    Just ‘Flechette said’ may serve better.

  15. >There were others who could slow or stop time in relation to themselves, change their effective orientation in respect to gravity or make themselves effectively larger without the exponentially increasing the stresses that the increased size and mass would normally place on their body.

    The exponentialy increasing the stresses that the…?

    >There was a wood chip in the damp golden curls that were otherwise too perfectly coiled to be real hair

    Missing a full stop.

    >“Back!” Parian called out. The Gorilla slammed its knuckles against the ground again

    Gorilla is not a proper noun. What’s with all the random capitalisation in the last few chapters?

    I’m going to stop pointing out random double spaces, as there’s so many of them I’m starting to think they might be intentional.

    Also, Lily is so, so gay.

  16. No idea if this will be read, but is there a chance to get a better explanation of the classifications?
    I am certainly referring to the stranger and the trump classification, because I have no idea what they mean.

    • Stranger powers are all about not being noticed. Nice Guy made people see him as an innocent bystander. Imp’s power made people forget about her.
      Trumps interact directly with powers. Examples: Othala grants temporary powers, Eidolon switches between different powers, Hatchet Face nullifies powers.

  17. “Flechette wasn’t exactly an expert -or even a novice- in that sort of thing, but she was ninety-nine percent sure that men didn’t dangle nearly to their knees.”

    Also I really like Flechette being interested in Parian. Let’s see how that turns out.

  18. Not sure if this is still being read, but I found an editing error:

    Flechette reached into her belt and withdrew a handful of darts, each nine inches long. She channeled her power into each, and then flung them at the feet of the two remaining thugs, catching the edges of their shoes. Their shoes fixed firmly to the ground and they fell awkwardly. Two tranquilizer bolts appeared in the rear end of one and the upper thigh of the other. Shadow Stalker.

    Which finished the fight. None of the men were left in any state to run.

    There’s an unnecessary ‘Shadow Stalker’ at the end of the paragraph.

    • I haven’t moved on to their other works yet (I’m waiting for someone I know to finish reading Worm so we can follow the other two serials Wildbow has out together,) but as I understand it, they’re still active, writing, and answering questions about Worm, as of the past couple months. I think there’s been mention of more Worm material coming out, too? (I’ve been out of the loop, sorry.)

      I don’t think it’s an editing error. One sentence describes several scene elements that point to a particular conclusion. The next sentence (not exactly a sentence, rather, but a one-word answer is normal enough when answering a question or making a revelation) just names the character it points to.

  19. I’m very late to the party, and this is my first read through, but I’m growing to like SS. She has a batmanish view of crime, and to be honest she seems more like the “relatable” hero-someone that does the same things a normal person would do in a bad situation-take revenge of possible. It’s just a shame that s uperheros are meant to be paragons of virtue to the public….

    • Huh — that’s an interesting take on it. One I’m not sure I agree with, of course — as a reader, Batman gets away with it because even monstrous!Batman isn’t a horrible person _in general_ (he just uses terror to maximum effect). But now I want to see some things written from Shadow Stalkers’ perspective–try and get a read on her personality, see why she did some of the things she did. (Especially, of course, the more reprehensible ones.) Is it possible for her to be both recognizable (callous as seen here, a jerk towards Taylor) and sympathetic?

  20. I’m liking the change in perspective towards the hero side of things in the city, especially since they are the ones that are obligated to deal with the after effects of the Endbringer attack. With all the stresses of the situation, this seems like a great “make or break” moment for the heroes as far as us understanding their personalities and deciding whether or not we like them.

    I’m interested to see if any of the capes are suffering from anything resembling PTSD after their fight with Leviathan. The way I visualized that fight going down, it seemed like a traumatizing bloodbath coupled with all the sound and fury of a hurricane. Not something I would think a combat veteran would be able to shake off, let alone young teenagers/adults playing “cops and robbers” for kicks. Parian seems like she’s having a rough time of it, but that seems to be more of her life getting flipped upside-down rather than the fight itself.

  21. Oh dear. So Shadow Stalker thinks she’s Batman, when she’s Huntress or the Punisher at best. That’s not going to go down well.

    I like Flechette, though. She’s going to be interesting to see develop, little as I expect to see more of her.

    Funny how so far, friendship seems to be a theme running through this. Taylor, pushed to cape-ing by being trapped in a friendless hell, then falling in with some sympathetic villains and making friends with them. Sophia and Bitch, being so hard to be friends with, each in their own way. And now Flechette, knowing that she’ll make it with a friend to ground her.

    All this, and there hasn’t been a single hint of winning a fight with The Power Of Friendship. This is going to be fun.

  22. There was a wood chip in the damp golden curls that were otherwise too perfectly coiled to be real hair
    It slowed to a plodding, gentle walk
    Missing some periods.

  23. «… I’m going silent until you need me, k?”> you’ve spelled it “kay” up to this point. Best check some style guides and hit up english.stackexchange and standardize on the best spelling: I think it’s actually «’kay» with the apostrophe.

  24. «Given that the streets were flooded with water anyways,» *enough* with “anywayS” already! Even when used as a casual form, this is not a suitable case. The proper word is “anyway”.

  25. «The fencing formed a solid barrier around the hole.» chain link fenses don’t make for a “solid” barrier. I think a better word, guessing at what you mean to convey here, is “continuous” or “uninterrupted” in the context of the segments being chained together.

  26. “without the exponentially increasing the stresses that the increased size and mass…”
    should be:
    “without the quadratically increasing stresses that the increased size and mass…”

  27. The best way to deal with Shadow Stalker without having anything special prepared is to counterattack. What we’ve seen so far is that she is either all solid or all misty. No in between. If she is attacking she is solid which means attacks/counterattacks will work. Getting the jump on her would probably work or having something that interferes with her power or simply doesn’t care if she’s misty.

    • Think of it like this – we know what’s going on with Taylor from her perspective. We’ve seen it from Lisa’s as well, briefly.

      What do the Wards see when they look at her? That’s where a perspective switch can be useful

  28. Why does she need the hook to get down from buildings? She just can remove/lessen gravity and nothing will happen to her.
    And what is parian protecting? The lake? I don´t get it.
    And I love how Shadow Stalker tells her to leave the woman because otherwise she would feel weak. Let´s see what she will do with Taylor 🙂

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