Parasite 10.1

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Creepy crawlies riddled the building’s interior, and I hadn’t even used my powers to bring them here.

No power meant the building was dark.  The city, and consequently the building, were flooded, which meant it was moist.  With exceptions for some of the luckier areas, pretty much every service was suspended, which meant no mail and no trash pickup.  Trash bags were accumulating anywhere that people lived, here included, and when they had run out of trash bags, people had started littering, throwing their trash out the windows or leaving it in hallways instead.  To top it off, the weather was getting warmer.

For bugs, all of these converging details made the city into a paradise.

I walked in the lead of the group, with Imp a step behind me and to my right.  The two of us held flashlights, but Imp was barely paying attention to hers.  She held a knife much like mine, and she dragged the point against the wall as we walked down the hallway, carving a groove into the paint.  Her flashlight spent more time pointed at her feet than in front of us, leaving me the burden of lighting our way.

I stopped, turned the flashlight on an open apartment door.  “Here, maybe?”

Grue grunted, adjusted the position of the unconscious body he had draped over one shoulder, “Scout it.”

Bitch nodded, letting Angelica off the chain, pointing at the door.  Of the four dogs she had with her, only Angelica was still under the influence of her power, standing three times her usual size.  Despite the invigorating effects of Bitch’s attentions, the dog moved slowly as she loped into the apartment.  It was painful to look at her – she was moving as though she were ten years older than she was.

The other dogs pulled at their chains, wanting to follow.  Bitch made angry clucking noises, then ordered them to sit.  They were slow to obey, but I think something about the look in Bitch’s eyes told them they’d better listen.  One of them reared back as I sent more bugs into the interior to investigate.

Bitch had been short-tempered lately.  The loss of two of the dogs she was closest to?  It played a large part in that.  She’d lost eight dogs in total, and Angelica had only lived because she had been too hurt to be brought along.  Problem was, Angelica wasn’t recovering from those injuries, and from what I gathered, she might not ever recover completely.  Bitch was forced to rely on a single crippled, obedient dog and three dogs that were in the peak of health, but impatient and untrained.

Of course, I couldn’t deny that a big part of her attitude was me and the fact that I was here.

Angelica returned to the doorway, looked up at her owner, and then returned to the apartment.

“No problems,” Bitch spoke, translating Angelica’s body language for everyone present.  Grue looked at me, and I nodded confirmation.

I led the way inside, using my flashlight to scan the area.

The apartment had been ransacked, but it wasn’t the kind of ransacking that suggested the looters had gotten to it.  No, it was the very thorough removal of everything valuable that could be carried away by a family of three or four.  There were two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with room for a small table and accompanying chairs.  There was a smaller bed in one room and a king sized bed in the other.  Dresser drawers, cabinets and bedside tables were all open, clothes strewn around the rooms.  The occupants had left in a hurry, and I was guessing they probably hadn’t expected to come back or find much of their stuff here when they did.

Tattletale grunted as she dropped one box beside the couch, where it landed on something with a crunch. “City’s trying to restore order one area at a time.  May be doing more harm than good.  This building’s been declared uninhabitable, which isn’t exactly doing anyone any favors, because most places in the city are just as bad or worse, and a lot of people don’t have anywhere else to go.  Anyways, they’re kicking everyone out, trying to clean up as best they can, get rid of that trash, do what they can about the infestation of rats and bugs.  Might still be a few people around, but I doubt anyone’s going to be poking around enough to find us before eleven or so tomorrow morning.”

“Then we have time to do what we need to do,” Grue spoke.  He used one foot to drag one of the dining room chairs out from beneath the table, placing it in the center of the kitchen.  I hurried to his side to hold the seat in place as he hefted the limp body from over his shoulder and set it down.  Shadow Stalker nearly tipped over, but together we caught her and leaned her back.  Her head lolled.

Regent put down a second, smaller box next to the one Tattletale had brought.  I switched positions with Tattletale – she began searching Shadow Stalker, removing crossbows, cartridges of ammunition and two small knives.  She found a phone with a touch screen, then reached beneath the unconscious girl’s hood to pluck a wireless earbud from the girl’s ear.  After rubbing it on Shadow Stalker’s cloak to clean it, she put it in her own ear and started fiddling with the smart phone.  After a few seconds she pronounced, “GPS hasn’t been activated.  They probably won’t turn it on to look for her until she fails to return from patrol.”

“Can you stop them from activating it?”  Grue asked.  “Or maybe we could have Skitter’s bugs or a dog carry that piece somewhere else?”

Tattletale shook her head, “I can turn it off.  Give me a minute.”

Regent and I had already started hauling extension cords out of the box Regent had been carrying, untangling them and feeding them over to Grue.  He began winding a cord around our captive, starting with loops around her wrists and arms, going up her arms to her chest, then back down to bind her body to the chair.  We handed him the next cord, and he did much the same thing with Shadow Stalker’s legs.  As he worked the bindings up her extremities, he kept his index and middle fingers on her, wrapping the cord over top of them.  When he was done with the loops at one spot, he moved his hand up further, then repeated the process.

“Copping a feel, Grue?” Imp mocked, as she let herself half-spin and collapse lengthwise on the couch.

“Making sure it isn’t tight enough to cut off her circulation.”

“Ah.  You an expert on that stuff?  I didn’t take you for a bondage freak,” she stretched.

He sighed, “Just get the generator.”

“I just lay down.”

“So stand up and then get the generator,” he ordered.

She made a show of slowly standing and, with exaggerated motions, dragging herself over to the box Tattletale had brought.  She retrieved a black plastic portable generator that wasn’t much bigger than a microwave oven.  She acted like it was ten times heavier than it was as she hauled it over toward the spot where Sophia sat.

Grue, for his part, ignored her.

Once the wires were in place, he used duct tape to secure them, then he got two more chairs, laid them on their sides and taped them to her chair.  He was almost done when Imp finally concluded her charade with the portable generator.  The LEDs at the ends of the extension cords lit up as we plugged each cord in to the generator, glowing a dim orange.  Grue stood, then pushed the refrigerator away from the wall so he could unplug it and plug the appliance into the generator.  I couldn’t be sure if it was to ensure a steady current  through the wire or because he wanted a working fridge.

I’d finished unpacking the wires, so I picked up the empty box and entered the living room to put one box inside the other to minimize the mess.

Bitch had claimed the sofa for herself, reclining with two dogs up beside her.  She was rubbing her forearms, which were probably strained from controlling the more unruly dogs with the chains.  She glared up at me, and there was something ugly in her expression.

I couldn’t blame her for being angry.  Her dogs, some of her closest friends in the world, had died because she had been saving me, only for her to find out shortly afterward that I had been a traitor.  Maybe saving me hadn’t been her primary motivation, but it seemed she’d used the past week and an unhealthy dose of simmering anger to revise her perception of things so I was to blame for what had happened.  It wasn’t getting better, either.  She seemed to get angrier with every hour spent in my company, and I was worried I’d have to face the brunt of it very soon.

“She’s awake,” Tattletale called out.  I hurried to the kitchen, leaving Bitch where she was.

Our captive hadn’t budged an inch.

“She’s sitting there, pretending to sleep in the hopes that we’ll say something.  It would be clever, might even work, if I wasn’t here,” Tattletale said, with a bit of a wry tone.

Shadow Stalker’s head rose and swiveled as she surveyed the full extent of her bindings.  Then she glanced at us.

After a long pause, she spoke, “Electrical cords.”

“Strongly advise you to avoid using your power to pass through them,” Tattletale answered, “And in case you’re thinking of dropping straight down through the floor, don’t.  We’ve got extra lying under the chair.”

The heroine leaned hard to one side, looked down.  “Hm.”

“You’ll be a little groggy,” Tattletale grabbed the last remaining chair from beside the kitchen table to sit down opposite the vigilante ‘heroine’.  “The fight took a lot out of you, and we tased you, and I took the liberty of sticking you with one of your own tranquilizer bolts.”

“You don’t hold back,” Shadow Stalker commented, seemingly unfazed by her circumstances.  She tested the strength of her bonds, experimentally.

“Says the person who tried to slit my teammate’s throat,” Regent spoke.

Shadow Stalker looked at me, the eyes behind her mask moving to my throat.  “Tough costume.”

She doesn’t even deny it.  I can’t believe I’ve gone to high school with this lunatic.  I resisted the urge to respond, shrugged instead.  Too easy to get into an argument, too easy to let something slip and reveal who I was.

“Well, you fuckers got me,” she cocked her head to one side, “What’s next?”

We all turned to look at Regent.  Regent, in turn, gave Shadow Stalker a serious look.  He ran his fingers through his dark hair.  Tattletale stood from the chair, and Regent sat, putting himself four feet away from the heroine.  His mask was a plain white, a half-smile perpetually frozen on the smooth, unadorned face.

Her eyes went wide behind the eyeholes of her mask, and she pulled hard against her bonds, “No!  Fuck!  Have you seen his files?  You don’t know-”

“We have an idea,” Tattletale interrupted.

“Fuck you!”  Shadow Stalker shouted.

“Guys, do me a favor?” Regent asked, not taking his eyes off Shadow Stalker.  He smacked his scepter into the palm of one hand, “Gag her, then give us some privacy?”

“You sure?” Grue asked, as Tattletale moved over to Sophia’s side, bent down to get some excess cord, and lifted up her mask just enough to wind the cord into her mouth.  The duct tape made a tearing noise as she freed a length from the roll.  I could still make out the swearing on Shadow Stalker’s part as she tugged at her bonds and rocked her seat.  The setup Grue had created by duct taping the other two chairs to her helped ensure she couldn’t throw herself to the ground and maybe break the chair in the process.

“I’m cool.”  Regent shifted the position of his stool a half-foot to his left, so he could lean back against the corner of the refrigerator.  He brought one of his feet up onto the seat of the stool and rested his chin on his knee.

“Just as long as you’re sure,” Grue spoke.  “How long?”

Regent glanced at Grue, then looked to Shadow Stalker, “Depends on her.  Could be fifteen minutes, could be three hours.”

Shadow Stalker grunted, long and loud.

Grue began ushering us out of the room, and we obeyed, except for Imp, who seemed to need a little bit of an extra nudge – Grue blocked her view of Regent and our captive with his body and put a hand on her shoulder to push her toward the door.  Following, I cast a backward look over my shoulder, saw Shadow Stalker’s arm twitch.  She winced, mumbled a swear word around her gag.

Grue shut the kitchen door behind us, and for a moment, all was dark, quiet and still.

Bitch and her dogs were all lying together on and around the couch, Bitch’s hand on Angelica’s head, where the dog lay just below her.  Only Angelica’s eye was open – Bitch and the other three dogs had their eyes closed.  Angelica’s excess flesh had been shed and deposited on the floor as she shrunk down to her natural size.  It looked like Bitch had kicked most of it one corner of the living room; blood and other fluids streaked the carpet between the base of the couch and the corner.

“Can we watch TV?” Imp asked Grue, “We could get one of the extension cords and-”


“Or plug in one of the lamps so we can-”

“No,” he repeated.  “We’re here for another few hours.  We do nothing that could draw attention.  That includes having lights, flickering or otherwise, shining through the window of an apartment that’s supposed to have no power.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Sleep,” he glanced at Bitch, who was trying to do just that, “While the rest of us stand watch.  Or go looking for a candle or flashlight and read somewhere the light won’t show through a window.”

“Fuck reading.  We could find a movie and watch-”

“No movies, I just told you why we can’t turn on the TV.  Why would a movie be any better?”

“We could cover one of the windows!”

“I want everyone keeping an ear out for trouble.  You agreed to follow my orders, didn’t you?  No TV, no lights.”

They glared at one another, Imp’s chin defiantly raised so she could meet Grue’s ‘eyes’ – the dark sockets of his skull-faced helmet.

“One of the people who lived here was a teenager, a little younger than you, Imp,” Tattletale cut in, “Go find the bedroom, see if there’s anything interesting.  Anything left behind will probably get stolen before the family gets back, so you could keep some stuff for yourself, if you find anything good.”

“Yes!” Imp spun on her heel and strode off to the other end of the apartment.  Bitch opened her eyes and furrowed her brow in irritation at Imp’s outcry, or maybe at the recent argument, but she just shut her eyes and made a deliberate attempt at returning to sleep.

Grue waited until Imp disappeared from sight before groaning, “It’s tiring, dealing with her.”

“All of us irritated each other when we first joined the team.  Give it time.  We’ll find a rhythm.” Tattletale reassured him.

Grue turned his head my way, but he didn’t say anything.  I wondered if he had been about to say I was the exception, then changed his mind.

Instead, he spoke, “I’m going to lie down for a bit in the master bedroom.  Tattletale, Skitter, you keep an eye on things.  Wake me when you need a relief.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Tattletale answered him.  I couldn’t bring myself to reply, and stayed quiet instead.

As Grue was leaving, Shadow Stalker screamed from the kitchen, a strangled, muffled noise.  Grue paused, waited a moment, and then continued in the direction Imp had gone, opening and closing the door at the end of the short hallway.

I hugged my arms against my body.  Glancing toward the balcony showed that none of the windows were broken or open.  It wasn’t because I was cold.

“You okay with this?” Tattletale asked.

“All-in,” was all I could say.

She smiled a little, almost apologetic. “All-in.”

We were doing this to Sophia, I told myself.  The same girl who had abused, insulted and tormented me almost every school day since I’d started high school.  She’d punched, kicked and shoved me.  Had ruined my belongings, insulted me, thrown food at me, humiliated me, and had goaded others into doing much the same things.  She was the one who had pushed me to that do-or-die point where my powers manifested.  If that wasn’t enough, she had tried to kill me less than an hour ago, not because I was a criminal that deserved the death penalty, but because I had seen her unmasked.  I was inconvenient.

And with all that in mind, I couldn’t be sure that she deserved this.

Tattletale got her MP3 player and put an earbud in the ear that didn’t have Sophia’s device in it.  The other earbud dangled from the cord, faint music playing from it.  Grabbing a blanket from the arm of the couch, she curled up in one of the armchairs.

I took her cue, pushing one chair across the carpet so it was by the sliding glass door leading to the balcony.  I didn’t settle in right away.  First, I exercised my power.

There were definitely enough bugs in the building for me to use.  I found the spiders in the building, and set them to preparing webs, stringing strands across every doorway, hallway and stairwell for every floor in the building.  I directed buzzing houseflies and mosquitoes into every apartment, including the one we were in, and placed at least one bug on every person I found still inside the building – a trio of unwashed men in the basement, among the storage area where residents kept the stuff they couldn’t have in their apartments, a pair of teenagers that lay on the roof, holding hands, an older man near the top floor, alone, and one family of five on the second floor.

After a moment’s consideration, I set spiders to stringing webs around the balconies as well.  When capes were in the cards, I couldn’t afford to ignore the possibility of grappling hooks, rappelling, teleportation or flight.  The spiders would sense any movement of the webs, and I could sense what the spiders did, in turn.

I found a book on a shelf that looked readable, then sat down sideways in the chair, so my back was against one armrest and my legs hung over the other, the kitchen door in front of me, the balcony behind.  There were no lights in the apartment or out on the street, but the heavy clouds weren’t blocking the moonlight for the time being, which afforded me the opportunity to read, looking up after every page or two to double-check that things were quiet and still.  It might have been peaceful, if not for Shadow Stalker’s occasional grunt or scream from the direction of the kitchen.  On occasion, she went into her shadow state for a fraction of a second, then reverted back before the wires passed through her.  Regent hadn’t called out, so I assumed all was well.

Bitch’s bulldog, Bentley, was lying on the couch with his head nestled in Bitch’s armpit.  I was on chapter three of my book when he began snoring, surprising me with how steady and loud the noise was.  Sirius, the lab I’d met on a prior occasion, lay between Bitch’s legs, his head lying across her belt buckle.  A setter was curled up at the base of the sofa with Angelica – I couldn’t remember its name.

Bitch looked so peaceful, here.  It was strange seeing her relax and rest so easily when, day-to-day, even before recent events, she seemed to be on edge to a degree that would drive most people to insanity.  It wasn’t aggression or anxiety, exactly, but some combination of the two.

Tattletale was playing some game on her mp3 player, I saw.  The mosquitoes I’d placed discreetly on Brian’s back told me he was turning over constantly.  He was as restless and agitated in relaxation as Bitch was when awake.

Imp, I could sense, was taking apart the teenager’s room, finding CDs and DVDs and holding them up by the window, maybe to see them in the light, as I was with my book.  I hadn’t known her to rest in the three days I’d known her.  I could almost believe she was one of the capes that didn’t need to sleep, but the theory would have felt a lot more tidy if I could connect it better to one of her powers.

I turned my attention back to my book, looked up again when I heard a bang from the kitchen, a grunt and a scream.  The bugs I’d placed on Regent didn’t show anything amiss, but I couldn’t really get anything from the contact with Shadow Stalker.  She was violently flickering in and out of her shadow state, now, and the slow speed with which she was returning to normal seemed to suggest she was fighting the urge to use her power.  Regent was standing, but he hadn’t called for help, so I started to read again.

When I’d read the same page four more times and realized I hadn’t actually taken in any information, I dog-eared the page and closed my book.  I focused on each person in the building in turn, followed by a double checking of the spider webs, the others here in the apartment-

I stopped short.  Regent was sitting, unmoving, and in the last ten seconds or so, Shadow Stalker had disappeared from the chair.

“Fuck!” I shouted, standing.  How?

Bitch climbed up off the couch, and Tattletale stood, looking to me, eyes wide.

When I realized why her eyes were wide, I let the bugs flow from beneath the panels of my costume.  I knew in an instant that Shadow Stalker was behind me.

Deftly, she grasped my wrist, knocked me to the ground, and then pointed her crossbow straight at my eye, the arrowhead clinking against the lens of my mask.  Which definitely wasn’t bulletproof or arrowproof.

For several long seconds, we remained there, unmoving.  Brian and Imp appeared in my peripheral vision, but they stopped when they saw Shadow Stalker.

Shadow Stalker started laughing, then stood, holstering her crossbow.  I felt Regent stand in the other room.  When the kitchen door opened, he was laughing as well – the exact same cadence as Shadow Stalker.

He ran his fingers through his hair, and Shadow Stalker moved one hand, as if to do the same thing, but the hood she wore stopped her.  She stepped away, and her movement seemed uncannily out of character; maybe a bit of a slouch, a bit of swagger, that hadn’t been there before.  Her eyes met mine.

“Totally got you, Dork,” she chuckled.

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110 thoughts on “Parasite 10.1

  1. Ok if memory serves then I believe there are very few people who are actually telepaths or body snatchers in the worm universe. If Regent has been able to to take over Shadow Stalkers body then that would be a really impressive power set. Do I see a trojan horse or unwilling double agent in the future for I wonder?

    • I was under the assumption that “Regent” was referring to the fact that he could essentially make anyone bow and kneel in his presence.

      It actually makes more sense to me that way than full body puppetry…

      • His old one, from when he was with Heartbreaker, was Hijack. It makes sense, since he avoided using this aspect of his power as Regent in hopes of changing his MO and getting anyone snooping around off his back.

  2. i wouldn’t say body-snatching so much as extensive body control. Likely Regent’s powers involve activating specific parts of a person’s brain, but he has to figure out what controls what, and that’d be different for each person. Thus the hour-long twitching session. Also explains why he’s called ‘Regent’ which never totally made sense until now. Not to mention how his power relates to his dad, and suggesting a theory as to how he killed someone in a way that might not have been so morally unacceptable as to stop Skitter from working with him (he was the other killer on the team wasn’t he?).

    That said, when I was first looking at the final scene, I skimmed slightly, missed the paragraph implying Sophia was under control and assumed “Got you, Dork.” meant she’d figured out who Skitter was. The best part was that it managed to fit with the usual cliffhanger/dramatic ending that’s so common here.

    • Assuming my theory is correct, screwing up the left-brain/right-brain connection would be a really obvious universal effect, which explains why he uses that as his main power.

      • Actually, his power is pretty strictly related to the nervous system – this is said once or twice earlier in the story. Yes, the brain is part of such, obviously, but yeah. More on this later.

  3. Ok, I know, despite our little conversation about Carmilla that I should be somewhat more sympathetic. Maybe it’s just because I hate Sophia. At least it’s not the same thing. It’s not bullying her. And the case could easily be made that she was unsure but went along with it as a part of her being back on the team, which means her life could have depended on it.

    It’s hard to balance that issue of the moral high ground versus giving someone who really deserves it a bad time. My main consolation at the moment is remembering that Sophia is supposed to be the hero and instead kills people for no other reason than she can. Villains don’t really need the moral highground, after all. Though, Skitter may not have ever had powers and been a villain if not for Sophia. There is something to be said for letting winged Nemesis go to town on someone. Now there’s an interesting thought in itself. Sophia, our little Greek hero, with her hubris. I suppose it could have been worse. Deities are known for their interesting punishments. Like tying her up in a cave underground using the entrails of a family member while a snake drips poison onto her eyes. Too low key? How about being chained to a rock for eternity with an eagle stopping by everyday to eat out your liver. Prometheus, eat your heart out. Fine, fine, let’s go biblical. Golden hemorrhoids!

    Also, I must say that in light of what Sophia talked about last chapter with blood on her hands and being a predator, there was an extremely funny section in this chapter:
    Her eyes went wide behind the eyeholes of her mask, and she pulled hard against her bonds, “No! Fuck! Have you seen his files? You don’t know-”


      • Alright, if you insist, let’s get medieval on her ass!

        *splashes himself with dirt and puts on an old tunic* Ok, first lets dump the witch in water. If she sinks and dies, we know she’s innocent. If she floats, we know she’s a witch and since the Bible says very clearly to not shed blood, we’ll burn her. Or maybe we’ll just force her into a nunnery. Or if she’s Jewish, we’ll kill her and take her kid to raise it Christian. We have no problem with her being black, but if she’s a Muslim she’ll never see the light of day!

    • What do you mean, you should be more sympathetic? Sophia was a bitch before we knew she was Shadow Stalker. Shadow Stalker was a bitch before we knew she was Sophia. Sophia / Shadow Stalker was a bitch before we got an interlude from her point of view. And now? She’s still a bitch! If anything, she’s even more of a bitch!

      I am not, when it comes down to it, a hateful person. I have some anger-management issues, but I don’t like hurting people. Even when I dislike someone in the moment of interaction, I can almost always find sympathy for them on further reflection. For example, my “Hitler Time-Travel Solution” is not “let’s go back in time and kill him” but more “let’s go back in time and help him get into art school like he wanted”. I can find it within me to feel sorry for the very worst of humanity. It even extends to fiction — I have trouble enjoying Superman comics because I see Lex Luthor as someone who missed a career as a brilliant scientist and humanitarian by one lesson on tolerance and ethics. My “villainous scheme”, such as it is, is to abolish disease and hunger and war and unhappiness in general and make everyone immortal and turn the entire visible universe into a utopia and yes, that will involve some degree of screwing over the established order of things but it would be for a good cause. And even I hate this bitch! Even on reflection, I cannot find a single redeeming quality for which I have sympathy.

      Bravo, Wildbow. Bravo. You have created someone I actually hate. Keep up the good work. If you manage to redeem her from this (with a psychologically plausible chain of events, not just a blatant ass pull), I just may have to establish a religion in your name.

      • I suspect part of the reason Sophia is hard to emphasise with is that we still don’t really know her story. We don’t know why she’s how she is.

        And if she just *is* that way? That’s a mental disorder and Vista’s right, she deserves our pity…

        • I know it isn’t intended, but that’s extremely offensive to people who actually suffer from mental illness. We are responsible for our choices, and someone who gets a kick out of hurting others and chooses to indulge that does NOT automatically get the excuse of being mentally ill.

          The fact is, most, if not all of us have the ability to choose to be exactly like Sophia (provided we are ever in a position of relative power over others, as most of us are at one time or another) and while traumatic events might lead us down that path, we are not less responsible for it.

        • I honestly don’t care what her story is. I know a lot of people who have had absolutely horrible horrible lives, literally grew up living in a dumpster yet while they have a few issues they are not bad people and they don’t take every opportunity to go out of their way to hurt someone. “Oh boo hoo, I’m Sophia, my life sucks so I’m going to make certain that every single person around me who doesn’t live up to my ideal has a worse time than I had and then I’m going to go further and drive them more and then just for shits and giggles I’m going to go and fuck over the people who are supposed to watch my back just to prove how beneath me they are.” She may have had an absolutely awful life, maybe the E88 gang raped her or her stepfather abused her or her friend left her in the woods. It doesn’t matter. It would be an excuse for a few of her actions but not for everything taken together. After being in her head that is even more obvious. As Willy Wonka would say, “she’s a bad nut.”

  4. Wildbow, was “All of us irritated each other when we first joined the team. Give it time. We’ll find a rhythm.” Tattletale or Taylor? Puts a pretty big slant on the tone, depending.

  5. I’d rather wondered why people would care whether Regent had powers when a good taser would be /more/ effective than his trick more often than not. Answered.

    & Shadow Stalker/Sophia has been dehumanised enough that I wasn’t bothered by the account of what was happening to her. Which is spooky in itself if you think about it.

    • Other reasons why his power is superior to a taser:
      1) He doesn’t seem to miss with it
      2) Any sort of non-conductive armour stops a taser
      3) He can’t drop his power or have it’s battery run dry
      4) He can probably use his power when in water
      5) Superior control. With his power he can choose which part he makes twitch, and in what direction.

      Even without the full-control trick here, Regent’s power was about as much made pointless by tasers as flight powers are made pointless by airplanes.

      • Just to add to this, conductive armor will stop the taser as well. In fact, while non-conductive armor will be ineffective if penetrated, conductive armor might protect one even even if the trident’s tines pierce it, for reasons similar to why a bird can sit on a high-voltage power line and not be electrocuted. In fact, I suspect that in her fight with Armsmaster, Skitter was wrong that her electrocution would have been worse if her costume were conductive, since the current would then flow through the conductive costume rather than through the much-less-conductive Skitter. (I think it would have killed the bugs, then, though. I’d have to think about it more, even under the assumption that Armsmaster’s bug zapper followed conventional physics, and I don’t have the time.

        Also, we still don’t know if Regent can induce controlled cardiac arrhythmia to render unconscious anyone who has a heart and needs it (i.e., not Aegis) in a few seconds of his attention.

      • True enough. One reason not to have used it before is that it’s too easy to accidentally kill someone this way, and, as sociopathic as he is, it is in his enlightened self-interest not to do that, especially with others around, like Taylor, our first-person limited narrator. In the fight against Bakuda, nobody would have blamed him if he had, but she did claim to have her bombs rigged fail-deadly, so it would have been a bad idea there as well.

        Of course, I am debating with the author, which is like wagering against Tattletale over a matter of facts. So, all I can really say is that the textual evidence does not clearly disconfirm Regent being able to use cardiac arrhythmia as a weapon. (I wonder if he can only affect the somatic nervous system, and he cannot affect the autonomic nervous system. Hence a lot of twitches and the gag reflex, but no heart stopping.)

      • @Pahan: Even if he has no control over the autonomic system, that would still give him the ability to stop someone’s breathing. Maybe not to the point of killing them, but it should be fairly easy for him to induce a serious case of hyperventilation — which would debilitate anyone. I’m guessing he’s either never thought of it, or prefers his usual limb-based attacks because he likes watching people react so physically. More of a power-trip pay-off that way.


      • To effectively mess with someone’s breathing, wouldn’t he need to continuously apply his ability for something like half a minute, though, with little effect in the first few seconds? It seems like it would be much less useful on the battlefield.

    • Ordinarily I would think that Wildbow had made Sophia into the unsympathetic uberbitch just so Skitter can be forgiven for accepting this mindfuck. But he claims he doesn’t plan stuff out that far in advance. So he is an evil genius? Or maybe this is an exception, and he knew SS was destined to be ruled by Regent at some point.

    • Given Imp’s way of acting, it’s what I’d think except there still seems to be the distance there with Taylor not outright saying it’s her. And Taylor should know, she’s met her. That, and the whole thing about what it’s like to have a new person join the team makes it seem like that’s Grue’s main interaction with her, as opposed to being use to how his sister acts.

      • Imps have been a part of various mythologies, in many different forms. Few games or stories use grues, but many use imps. Because of the masks, I even wondered if there was some relation to Regent, though I think we’re pretty sure that’s unlikely at this point. Tricky little demon-like critters.

      • Well yeah, but still Even if it’s loose, it still fits. The age just barely fits for Aisha, too.

        As for Regent, of course, he has lots of siblings, several of whom had superpowers. But they are, as far as we know, all strictly in Heatbreaker’s camp.

  6. Very intriguing. I seriously wonder what they’re going to do with her… ultimately, I don’t see how they can ever let her go, unless they can get her bird-caged. That rather means that Regent’s range, once he’s taken somebody over, needs to be pretty far.

    A couple of grammatical errors:

    “Bitch and her dogs were all laying together on and around the couch…” and

    “his head laying across her belt buckle…”

    Should by “lying” in both cases (unless they are laying eggs or something)

    • Well, his using the abilities to this extent weakens the blackmail argument, probably- since apparently the wards know what Regent can potentially do, she could make at least an argument for anything that happens being staged- even the attempt to murder Skitter.

      • Yes, but the plot is so complex that I imagine some kind of blackmail or similar is in order.
        Again, I agree, depends on the range.
        And imps powers.

      • The plot isn’t particularly complex, in my opinion. But the depth of detail (physical, emotional, circumstantial) makes it seem that nothing is simple.

        I think this is one of the story’s strengths, actually. If you try to think over any particular day in your life, and to describe it in such a way that you could convey with any accuracy not only the events of the day but also what it felt like to be yourself, living that day, you’d end up having to say quite a lot. Worm manages this density in communication without the excess verbiage that follows most such attempts.

        This sort of “high-bandwidth” storytelling can come across as complexity in plot, although if you went back and tried to summarize the plot thus far in say, fifty words, you could probably still do it.

      • I doubt it was blackmail at this point. They have themselves a reason why those Shadow Stalker, and not just because of how Taylor knows her. I’m not sure how they build giant bunkers, but would they put the wiring actually inside the walls when those walls are real thick and difficult to break into should a problem occur?

        My knowledge of supervillain base design is somewhat limited save for making sure to include no airducts a person could fit through, no alcoves to give heroes easy cover, and to make sure that shooting the locking mechanism forces the door open. No telling if Coil ever read the Evil Overlord List. Maybe he did. After all, he’s a guy who can crap in one hand and hope in the other and see which one turns out better.

      • Sorry, when I meant plot I was talking about the plot devised by Taylor and/or Tatletale to “deal” with Shadowstalker not the overall plot of the whole setting.
        As stated above, it is not simply killing her, certainly it is not a simple kidnaping and it is unlikely (although possible) to be an idea to frame her. May be espionage, but it is also unlikely. So, in my present opinion, it is more complicated than the usual cliché.

    • Blackmail is highly unlikely, with framing coming slightly more likely if done in a sufficiently plausible way. Very much doubt they’d deliberately do anything to get her killed, though they might go with a plan that puts her in enough danger for her to end up dead. Most likely though, this is going to be a straight plan of subterfuge: Infiltrating the Wards or using her as a distraction against Coil (possibly drawing the rest of the Wards in against him too).

    • It seems to me that Regent/Shadow Stalker could just walk in to the Protectorate HQ and immediately find out everyone’s secret identity. He could also read or steal every bit of information the Protectorate has on relevant heroes/villains. Valuable information to have, especially considering Tattletale’s power.

      • I think Tattletale had mentioned that she had hacked into the Protectorate HQ and even tapped their surveillance cameras.

        Wait, actually, does that mean that she has known that, say, Shadow Stalker = Sophia Hess since the beginning?

        I would guess not; perhaps the records linking identities were stored in an air-gapped system, and the only areas where Wards were allowed to be out-of-costume deliberately lacked surveillance cameras.

        Or, maybe, she just chose not to research the question, since deliberately acting to unmask a cape is against the unwritten rules, so doing so would have made her an enemy of every cape, hero or villain, around.

        • Tattletale is Tattletale, if she knew SS’s secret identity she would probably have made the Taylor connection. Maybe she knew everything, but saw no reason to break the unwritten rules? If she did know, should we have expected her to say to Taylor at some point “Hey, Shadow Stalker is Sophia Hess, let’s kick her ass!” Taylor explicitly asked Tt to steer clear of her school issues, and until now Shadow Stalker has not been as much of an issue as Glory Hole or Painassea.

  7. Yeah I would say Regent is manipulating the muscles including the vocal cords in the same way he makes people twitch and fall down. He isn’t controlling or reading thoughts like a telepath.

    It’s probably a lot easier to do with a restrained prisoner and hours versus in the heat of battle with seconds. That would explain why we haven’t seen this level of control until now, they tend to have fast capers. Regent is only slightly useful during fights, but clearly his power has more depth in the right circumstances.

    Imp is clearly young so it’s not a bad bet that it’s Grue’s sister, especially given her dramatic slow obedience walk. That seems like sibling teasing more than group dynamics.

    I like the suspense of wondering what Taylor and Tattletale discussed at the end of the last arc to get us here. The tactics they are using on Shadow Stalker are more rebel than hero, underdogs against a corrupt system. I don’t think Taylor has gone villain though so have to wait and see about the gap…

    • “You okay with this?” Tattletale asked.

      “All-in,” was all I could say.

      She smiled a little, almost apologetic. “All-in.”

      those lines, coupled with something similar back in 8.8, make me pretty worried she might have in fact gone villain. which would disappoint me, but hey, the story’s not being written for my sake, so…

      • It’s funny. I took away more or less the opposite from those lines.

        In 8.8, Tattletale argued that if Taylor wanted to be rejoin, she would have to eat crow and be “all-in” from there on out. Shortly after that, Taylor decided that she wanted to change things for the better.

        If she wanted to work against Coil, she’d have to rejoin the group to do it from the inside, and it sounded a lot like she’d have told Tattletale what she was planning from how things ended…

        To me, the main question right now is how much of the group is in on it.

        Of course, I could be wrong.

  8. It strikes me that Alec might just have outed Taylor, assuming Sophia is still inside watching every move. He got her to act like a bullied kid and use her real voice, all at the same time.

    Anyway, Shadow Stalker is lucky that they used Alec on her- when I saw the title of the arc I feared that Skitter was going to infect her with heartworm like Bitch’s dog, and use that to control/track her.

  9. So, basically, what we have is a sociopath controlling a sociopath. The emotionally blind leading the emotionally blind. (Well, not so much blind as just seriously impaired, but that’s more than a tad too verbose.)

    Also, it seems that Regent and Skitter have very similar powers, with different targets. Wildbow has made it clear that Taylor taps into her bugs’ nervous system, and has such great control primarily because their nervous systems are so rudimentary. Wildbow has also stated (in the comments for this chapter) that Alec also has control over nervous systems. The fact that he must take significantly more time to gain the same level of control is implied to be because of the complexity of such a task when dealing with humans. So, really, they both do pretty much the same thing, only on different types of nervous systems.


  10. I guess I spoke too soon when I said that I didn’t think that they could turn Shadow Stalker… in a matter of speaking. To echo the comments before mine, this explains Regent’s name. (I take it “Puppetmaster” was taken?) One interesting aspect of that name is that a regent is not the monarch, but a temporary ruler who rules in monarch’s name because the monarch is unable, all the while often trying to make the regency more permanent, which makes it an oddly precise description of Regent’s ability.

    All in all, another interesting chapter, with interesting character dynamics and attention to detail. (I love how you had them plug a high-wattage appliance into the other end of the extension cord to ensure current and to keep the generator running.) Now, it’s really unsafe to run a portable generator indoors (unless it’s some Tinker technology that doesn’t produce a lot of heat and carbon monoxide) and without grounding, but I guess you get to break rules like that when you are a supervillain. (Still a bad idea to run it indoors. I hope that they at least left the window open and put it close to that, and made sure that it wasn’t exhausting hot air towards anything too flammable.)

    Part of me is a little disappointed that Regent’s puppetmastery is, for all practical purposes, a new ability — to control the whole body continuously, given preparation — that’s just now revealed to us, rather than a clever application of an established power or combination of powers. One thing I don’t get is how Regent was able to have Shadow Stalker move in such a coordinated way despite her being out of his line of sight. Is there a sensory side to his powers?

    On the other hand, as others have already pointed out, there are some interesting ways they could screw this up. Regent might have just outed Taylor with his prank. And, if Shadow Stalker’s senses are still working while she is a puppet, it will be very easy for the Undersiders to forget that she can still hear and see, so the less disciplined members of the team might divulge something. (That said, Sophia, herself under significant stress, though psychopathy helps keep one calm, heard Skitter shout one word, possibly through a wall, in a tone she has probably not heard Taylor use, and the rest isn’t particularly Taylor-specific. Also, Taylor is probably not going back to school, so the worst that could happen is that they would involve her father, and that’s against the unwritten rules.)

    Editorish comments:

    “The fact that the city, and consequently the building, were flooded meant it was moist.” — “The fact” is unnecessary.

    “Regent and I had already started hauling extension cords out of the box Regent had been carrying, untangling them and feeding it over to Grue. He began winding it around our captive…”

    “Tattletale got her mp3 player…” — “MP3” is short for “MPEG-2 Audio Layer III”, so it should be all capitals.

      • And a high speed chase with machine guns and a shark with a motorized unicycle attached to the bottom of it.

      • Sorry to be persnickety, but the passage “Regent and I had already started hauling extension cords out of the box Regent had been carrying, untangling them and feeding them over to Grue. He began winding it around our captive, starting with loops around her wrists and arms, going up her arms to her chest, then back down to bind her body to the chair.” still has a pronoun mismatch. Maybe replace the italicized “it” with “one”, to emphasize that the story is now talking about what Grue is doing with one power cord at a time?

    • I disagree with it being a ‘new’ ability. It seems that Regent went a significant way towards it during the party crashing with Miss Militia. The pieces have been there- or perhaps more a hole that fits this new puzzle piece.

      And it explains why his codename isn’t ‘Charlie Horse.’ I wonder if his enemies ever call him that.

      It is kind of interesting, though, how a tinker can pull out what is functionally a new power every week and nobody bats an eye. Though I’d really put that more as an issue with the concept of Tinkers than with ‘everyone else’.

      On another note, I’m kinda interested what the superhuman websites say about the Undersiders and Skitter these days after so much has happened. I know Taylor was still reading them up to when she quit school entirely, but there was never any real update on public perception of them.

      • Good points. I guess it just felt like too big a jump, from small, crude movements for a fraction of a second to fine, continuous control of the whole body. (And, unless Regent just did something very stupid, as opposed to merely mildly stupid, his control cannot be broken by, say, a momentary distraction on his part. Considering his father’s ability (permanent emotional control), it’s not implausible.)

        Tinkers do invent new things, but they are all very specialized in what they can invent, and much of their real power comes from collaboration: Armsmaster’s copying and miniaturization talents would not be nearly as useful without other Tinkers to copy. Frankly, I suspect that most Tinkers, if motivated, would be much more effective creating force-multiplying equipment for other parahumans, and Badass Normals, to use; but I guess the cultural expectations of superhero-inventor leads to their risking their own skin for very little gain. (Well, you can’t spell “escapism” without “cape”, so there’s that, too.)

        Oh, and I want to second the question about what the websites are showing, though I am guessing that the Endbringer attack and subsequent lack of electricity in Brockton Bay, much less Internet access, would slow down the rate at which news would get out.

      • Well, it was mentioned by Tattletale that, at least, Armsmaster’s swiss army halberd and other ‘specialization’ stuff requires his presence to function to full potential, so there is *some* limit to what you can build for other people.

        As for Brockton Bay, look at the coverage from post Katrina New Orleans or post tsunami Japan for examples- there were a lot of voices on the ground.

        • Actually Tattletale was lying about that in order to test what Armsmaster knew or could find out about her. His miniaturization talent works permanently as soon as it’s installed.

    • I don’t really see Regent’s ability as new. I see this as the same ability under different conditions. With no preparation, he can cause minor mess ups (tripping, dropping things), and affect a person’s nervous system briefly.

      With preparation, he can take control of a person’s entire nervous system instead of a small part of it.

      • It’s not. Regent tall them he’s name was Hijack back in 7.01 and in the Bonus Interlude Tattletale ask about if he’s other power will work on Leviathan.

        • Well, it was in the cards from the time Regent was conceived of. The only reason it’s ‘new’ is that Taylor is only now getting to know the little & big details the Undersiders were keeping quiet on, because (even if they didn’t know she was undercover) they were aware she had more of a conscience than most.

  11. Being an emotionally cripped sociopath, much like fire, science, and death rays, is not inherently evil. It is what you do with it that counts. That said, most of them choose to do something extremely evil. I mean, I’m sure there’s got to be some way that a sociopath can control their impulses and channel them for good. Maybe there’s a positive way to manipulate the world to a good goal. And here’s how. One last note before we begin: the safe word in this discussion is marsupial.

    I for one propose that a sociopath rise to the top not by killing people, stepping on innocent people, or otherwise screwing with nice people. No. The only proper way for a sociopath to act is by starting an ice cream franchise. Maybe it begins in the United States, using the desperate out of work labor force to create an All-American brand that evokes good will by virtue of succeeding by not being associated with oil spills, financial meltdowns, foreclosures, or lawyers. Also, because it’s an ice cream place. Seriously, people love ice cream. The only way it could get any better is if you served ice cream with hot fudge on top of a Krispy Kreme donut. Which is why, after a merger with Krispy Kreme, that will soon become America’s favorite.

    Obviously, this will only exacerbate America’s obesity epidemic, but that can be solved easily enough by providing major discounts for anyone that works out a certain amount. You know, burn this many calories a month or whatever. A few strategic deals with local gyms should accomplish. An ice cream sundae can be thrown in to sweeten the deal. The same strategy can be suggested to the government. Soon, schools all around the nation will begin to allow students some ice cream as soon as they do good at P.E., Math, Science, Art, Music, History, and all the rest.

    With students better educated, many will wish to continue on and learn more. Our friendly neighborhood ice cream sociopath can then undercut college’s efforts to work out the same kind of deal that the government did unless the college’s cut tuition in the process. The oncoming student loan debt bubble can be safely deflated instead by adding to this deal a provision allowing a portion of the students’ tuition to go towards the company in return for an icecream reward to the students’ lender that is proportional to the amount of debt forgiven by the lender. Thus it allows the student to pay relatively less, the lender gets ice cream, and the icecream franchise gets more business, especially as students and lenders get hooked on the product and then go tot he gym some more.

    Fewer people will be as upset all the time due to the icecream. More people will have broader experiences. Also, having to deal with more issues pertaining to their health, these newly enlightened, happy people will enact a universal healthcare in a movement that spurs a march on Washington D.C. where activists change the minds of those opposed to it with waffle cones and hugs. At first, things will be tense, as someone will surely attempt to bring the Army in to stop what some in the media (you know who) would call it a massive liberal anarchist uprising by communist fascists who hate America and job creators. But come on, the soldiers aren’t going to fire on anyone bringing them soft serve.

    There’ll be tensions, of course. Wars around the globe. That is why it’s time for an international expansion. Japan and South Korea are the first step. Japan, because it’ll be so easy to make money when they love novelty flavors of the week over there. Luckily, the flavors introduced can lean more towards traditionally good flavors of ice cream in an attempt to get the Japanese away from the same mindset that devised squid ink pizza or a pizza with hot dogs and hamburgers on it. It’d probably have to start with squid ink icecream or hotdog-flavored icecream, and icecream mania will sweep the small nation. Those flavors will be phased out eventually, the menu working its way towards introducing conventional flavors to the Japanese until soon only those are left. With it having been a national phenomenon that hooked everyone, and their unwillingness to lose face by admitting they no longer like it, we can finally curb at least one crazy aspect of foreign culinary culture. Let’s face, if they keep going on that route they’d eventually just start putting stuff on food that even a buzzard wouldn’t eat. Like squid ink.

    In South Korea, the soldiers at the DMZ will start eating lots of ice cream. In fact, it can begin to encroach on the time they use to parade around at the DMZ. Piquing the interest of their North Korean counterparts, dissidents can begin to introduce North Koreans to the joys of ice cream, a commodity available every day to free society should they wish it. In the resulting revolution, the dictatorship will attempt to nuke its own people using the silo hidden in the palace and other loyalist strongholds due to mistrust of Western powers, influence, and spies. In doing so, they will fail yet again with technology, destroying all such loyalist holdouts in the process as their rockets fail to launch or their nukes prematurely detonate at the sites.

    The sprinkled curtain will fall on Asia like delicious dominoes. Other countries, like China, will attempt to curtail the influence of American icecream with their own brands, but will be shooting themselves in the foot. First, because of the methods they use to manufacture cheaply in order to outcompete Americans, they will hurt themselves. Lead and other chemicals in ice cream will make it taste inferior to the American product. The workers will taste some of the delicious dessert despit themselves, sneaking some of it out and undercutting the companies in the process. Realizing they can’t afford to buy it on their own, they will unionize and strike, bringing capitalism with them, and also cutting into China’s ability to manufacture cheaply. Finally, because the Chinese are having to introduce a luxury foodstuff to so many people in order to protect themselves from foreign influence, they will still be pushing people towards wanting the dessert itself and making sure that people have some way to afford it, increasing wages little by little. The Communist Party’s last attempt to control their people will be by strictly regulating what flavors the people will eat, but this backfires, as knowledge of exotic American flavors like “Cookies N’ Cream” “Peanut butter” “Mint Chocolate Chip” and “Chocolate” will provide a call to resistance that even the most humble of Chinese citizens will be forced to answer.

    Russia will put up a bit of a fight, and the president of our little American brand will most likely need to employ a double for awhile in his negotions with Putin, at least until a new brand of vodka-flavored ice creams are introduced, soon followed by icecream that includes actual vodka in it.

    In the Middle East, negotiations are simple. Stop the attacks on the United States or no icecream. Stop attacking Israel and/or India, or you only get vanilla. Things will get dicey for awhile, with clerics preaching against the evils of American cold dairy products, but no suicide bomber’s faith will prove strong enough to withstand a bowl or a cone. No one wants to get to paradise by being the guy to leave icecream to melt in the hot Middle Eastern sun.

    Soon, similar negotiations on the basis of a tasty, creamy dessert concoction utilizing sprinkles, syrups, and occasionally even cherries or bananas will sweep the world, being used to leverage companies into supporting measures like the Geneva Conventions or Kyoto Protocols. The world will be saved, not threated, by MAD: Mutually Assured Dessert.

    That’s how a sociopath like Shadow Stalker or Regent can save the world using ice cream, because everybody loves it, except perhaps marsupials.

      • …the hard part is not using this scheme for nefarious purposes. It’d be all too easy to go evil with this scheme. For instance, by utilizing the North Korean army, updating their weaponry with all the icecream money, overwhelming South Korea (whose obsession with icecream mixed with their obsession for competitive gaming greatly expands the number of obese young men of military age), China (Whose leadership is in shambles), Japan (which has no real military after the destruction of Godzilla by catastrophic sugar rush in the great Sundae Peanut Allergy Gamble by the UN), and Mongolia (Goddamn Mongolians!). Subsequently they could begin to enact a program cleansing them all of their intolerance…for lactose…

        Evil possibilities aside, I suppose nondairy can fit in there too, and probably yogurt and gellato in some places. Not sure how the Hindus feel about cow milk anyway. Can probably work on goatmilk icecream, test it out on the Japanese. Hopefully the sugar rush will also help to end Japan’s problem of reproduction by giving all the young people a lot more energy.

      • The obvious unspoken assumption is that all lactose intolerant people will have been hauled away to the death camps before the plan starts.

    • You need to read more about Japan if you think that U.S. flavours are exotic. For one, I love matcha ice cream — that is green tea ice cream. And that is a tame one. Follow if you want more cases of interesting Japanese flavours.

  12. Can’t believe I didn’t think of this till now. When Regent uses the twitch-inducing aspect of his power too much, he does Bad Things to his own nervous system. Remember the Bakuda fight? What does this suggest about the mechanisms of his ability, and about what’s really going on here?

      • No, that usage is correct. “Laid” is the past tense for the transitive “lay [something down]”. “I lie down” is present tense for what Imp said. They’re commonly misused, which is why the correct usage might seem strange sometimes. The tricky bit is that “lay” is both present tense transitive (takes an object) and past tense intransitive (does not take an object). Hope this helps.

  13. Tattletale pulls a chair from the kitchen, but when she switches places with Regent, he’s suddenly on a stool.

  14. On a separate note, I liked seeing Skitter operate from SS’s perspective last chapter. When I started reading it, I’d hoped that she would be acting solo for a little while, and we’d get to see some of that activity. Then maybe catching SS for Regent and bringing some food supplies would be part of her getting back into the group. I’ll comment on my reaction to your take after reading the next chapter.

  15. … didn’t Regent mention that, given sufficient time, he might be able to do that to an Endbringer? That is not okay, that is terrifying.

    • He wasn’t sure, and rightly. Didn’t Tattletale say Leviathan doesn’t have much of a nervous system? And, also worth consideration: What Endbringer do you expect to stand still long enough for Regent to control it?

      • I can almost see the Simurgh doing it, it’d be just her style. Of course, it’d make everything worse in the end.

  16. Given Shadow Stalker’s reaction to Regent, does the PRT know about his full power, his father, both or neither and she’s reacting to something else?

  17. Wildbow, I was reading this through for the first time, and I’ll admit I’m loving every part of it so far. I did, however, notice a typo on the line with Imp: “I just lay down.”

    Even with that, it is an amazing story. Keep up the good work, my friend!

    • This is the reason we all struggle with the whole “lay vs. lie” thing. Lay is in fact the past tense of lie, as well as the present tense of “setting an object somewhere”.

      Imp may or may not be a grammarian, as Wildbow suggested earlier. Or just referring to herself in past tense.

      Grammar Girl winds up saying, “always look it up” to writers. Even tips can lead you astray!

      These kids just keep getting more and more complex — WAY COOL!

      • Pretty sure it should be “I’d just LAIN down”, actually. But speech marks, so grammar is besides the point, especially if the character is a criminal from a broken home.

        • If you were using past perfect (“I had just lain down”), sure. But this is just past tense, no “had” to be had.

          –Dave, it’s a red haddock

  18. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure out, but I know why Taylor has never known Imp to rest. Imp’s power works while she’s asleep, which makes sense considering how she describes it in her interlude.

    Something else I think I’ve caught onto. Taylor’s power also works while she’s unconscious, but it only started to do so after taking brain damage from Bakuda’s bomb. Which is a brilliant piece of foreshadowing.

    Good job Wildbow.

  19. “It looked like Bitch had kicked most of it one corner of the living room; blood and other fluids streaked the carpet between the base of the couch and the corner.”

    “most of it into”?

  20. >She acted like it was ten times heavier than it was

    Like it were. I may be wrong on this, but I’m something like 95% certain.

    Regent’s newfound(?) ability is interesting. I like Regent.

  21. Just, wow. I read this serial at my work when I’m closing the front desk since it rarely gets busy after 9PM. At first, I didn’t understand what had happened; I thought that SS had actually escaped from Regent somehow. But after re-reading the paragraph again and understanding what Regent just did, I let out a squeal loud enough that one of the clients in the lobby asked me what just happened.

    Obviously I had to fill him in on the background of this web serial, which I believe he too is going to start reading now.

    A few years late, but I must say, bravo Wildbow. You just know how to keep me coming back for more.

  22. I hadn’t known her to rest in the three days I’d known her. I could almost believe she was one of the capes that didn’t need to sleep, but the theory would have felt a lot more tidy if I could connect it better to one of her powers.

    This part becomes freaking hilarious once you know what Imp’s powers are. That is great.

  23. Now Taylor is OK with fucking TORTURE?!

    She’s gone from lawful good to maybe neutral good to neutral neutral to… what is she now, really? Chaotic evil?

    There had better be a good reason for this. Like a ticking bomb or something. Or using Shadow to rescue Dinah. And what was her excuse, “All-in”? She does this because she wants to fit into her old group? That’s disgusting. I’m reluctantly reading on just in case I’m wrong about this. Holy fucking shit.

    • I’d say it isn’t “torture”. The most likely scenario is simple. Regent needs prolonged use of his power to gain complete control. He wasn’t torturing her, just causing various nerves to fire. Like manipulating a doll. I’d say that Sophia’s screams and grunts were caused by Regent trying to make her vocal cords react…or, because constant twitches throughout the entire body would be extremely uncomfortable, although it wouldn’t actually hurt. Taylor is okay with…well, Regent simply messing around with the person RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HELL THAT SHE WENT THROUGH before triggering. The fact that Sophia’s a sociopathic bitch may have also contributed to her willingness to let Sophia be mildly uncomfortable for about an hour. Not torture. Not even close. Getting bear-hugged (or…wolf-hugged…) by Hookwolf…that’s torture. Regent fucking with nerves for an hour? Not torture.

      • I didn’t feel particularly judgmental toward Taylor back when I first read this, and I still don’t… but to be honest, this last description of it (nerves firing off randomly for an hour) pretty much convinces me that this *definitely* counts as torture. Which isn’t to say whether or not it’s justified, of course.

    • How… when… what in the… What blasted thought process somehow took you to think this action in anyway would put Taylor in the Chaotic Evil Category? It’s not torture, she’s not even the one inflicting it and she’s not very comfortable with it even. She doesn’t even fall under the self deluded or revenge crazed sorts that see no problem on their actions due to twisting them in their head like Sophia does, so how did you take that leap? Not to even add how, you somehow think the girl that decided _infiltrating a team of villains and participation into many of their high risk operations_ to be lawful in anyway. A lawful character wouldn’t even try such a move even if they thought it could perhaps serve a greater good(If they were good aligned too).

      And even more, we aren’t even clear on the meaning of all-in. We leave on a cliffhanger of her exactly refusing to enter back on the team under the terms Tattle posed for her, quite resolutely at that, but you somehow are that quickly convinced she just caved in now? Merely to fit into a group?

      I’d bloody pay someone to try and find the processes through which you’ve achieved these conclusions.

  24. So that’s the “secret weapon” Tattletale mentioned. Over load their bodies and mind with his initial power and then when their body gives up he takes over.

  25. meh, Taylor still seems quite weak minded.
    And unlike the others I would say Regents powr is to control all the nerves in ones body and with that is able to control the body. But first he has to get used to the nervous system of a person to do that.

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