Parasite 10.3

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We burst into action the moment Weld called out his warning.

Bitch drove her shoulder into the PRT uniform that held her back, then backed towards the front desk.  Weld had already changed his hand into what looked like a baseball bat with four sides to it, long enough to reach from his wrist to the ground.  Studs the size of golf balls ran down each of the four faces, with a blunted spike on the end.

Weld and Flechette were variables we hadn’t planned for.  It was unfortunate, but Weld in particular was also very well equipped for the task of keeping us from retreating back to the front door.

Weld swung at Shadow Stalker, but his club passed through her.  Fearless, she stepped close and punched the metal arrowhead of one of her crossbows into his right eye.  He stepped back a few steps, one hand going to his eye, and she threw herself at him, bringing her knees to her chest and then kicking out.  Her feet slammed into his chest, and pushed him further back.  Weld only staggered back a short distance, and it was Shadow Stalker who landed hard on her back.  Kicking a five-foot-nine-inch block of metal had to hurt, but Regent doesn’t exactly have to be careful with Shadow Stalker’s body.

Bitch slipped past the pair of them, reaching the front door.  I could hear her whistle at a volume that I doubted I could scream.

Grue and Regent were already free of their cuffs, the three PRT uniforms closest to them lying down on the ground.  Tattletale was grinning at the four wards at the end of the hall closest to the elevator – Kid Win, Clockblocker, Flechette and Vista.  The laughter didn’t belong to Tattletale, however.  It was cackling, sounding like someone having way too much fun.

Flechette shouted, “They’ve got someone with the Stranger classification!”

We did?

The Wards recovered fast enough.  Vista was working to distort the ends of the hallway, the front doors, and the elevator at the end of the hall into impassable terrain.  Flechette fired a shot at Grue, pinning him to the ground, quickly loaded and fired a second, rooting his feet to the ground.

Flechette was loading for a third shot when a girl in black clothing with a horned demon mask and black scarf struck her weapon with a fire axe, splitting the metallic string and knocking it from her hand.

The girl with the horns was on our side, wait- I could almost remember her.  Some relation to Grue.

Then it slipped from my recollection, and I was distracted by the fact that Flechette was disarmed, her weapon broken.  How had that happened?

I couldn’t afford to worry about it.  I had to focus on contributing.

I released the bugs from beneath my costume, drawing them out from beneath the panels of my armor and the compartment at my back where I kept my equipment and weapons.

I’d known I wouldn’t be able to bring many bugs, and that it would be difficult to get more on site with a clean, sturdily built structure like this one.  I could gather a swarm, but it would be a few minutes before the bugs arrived en-masse.  I might have started sooner if I hadn’t been so concerned about alerting someone and giving us away.

The nine hundred and seventy bugs that poured forth were roughly equal numbers of bees, wasps, spiders, mosquitoes and cockroaches.  It was a smaller number than it sounded like, and their deployment was slower because of the way I had them arranged, stingers and abdomens carefully kept out of contact with one another.

I hadn’t come without a plan.

The bugs found their way to Vista, Flechette, and Kid Win, the only young heroes with exposed skin, at roughly the same time as they managed to get beneath the masks and protective clothing of the two PRT uniforms that were holding me.

At first the teenaged heroes swatted at themselves and backed away, as was usual.  The ‘fun house mirror’ distortion at the exits stopped spreading as Vista’s concentration broke, and Flechette dropped one of the small lengths of pointed metal that she’d been withdrawing from her belt.

Then Kid Win cried out, his words raw and barely intelligible because he was also screaming as he shouted them, “It burns!”

Capsaicin was the chemical that made hot peppers burn your tongue.  It was also the active ingredient in pepper spray.  I’d used pepper spray a few times, myself, and I’d had it accidentally used on me when I’d been out in costume, rather recently.  At the time, I’d stepped in to help fight back a crew of the Merchants up near the old Boardwalk.  They’d been aiming to loot the stores, and a contingent of people who’d created an armed force in the ruins of the upscale shopping district had stepped up to fight them off.  One of the defenders had sprayed a looter, and caught me in the effect as well, maybe intentionally.

I’d stepped back and let my bugs do the work while I recovered.  After the fight had wrapped up and I’d headed back to a shelter in my civilian guise, I’d been left to consider the fact that my bugs were vulnerable to the pepper spray.  By all rights, I should have been alerted to that fact the night I sprayed Velocity at the fundraiser, but I hadn’t been able to keep that many bugs on him, then, and I’d had many, many other distractions at the time.  It had escaped my attention.

While sitting up all night at the shelter, with kids crying and wailing and assholes making noise to intentionally piss off the other hundred people in the room, I’d had time to think.  The next morning, I’d woken up, donned my costume and started experimenting to see if I could protect my bugs somehow.  Pepper spray was only one thing.  I was bound, sooner or later, to go up against someone who used some kind of bug spray or gas on my tiny minions.

Had I found a solution?  Not so much.

I had discovered that I could use hair spray to coat the abdomens and stingers of my bugs, and then dip said abdomens and stings into some of the capsaicin. With a bowl of each in liquid form and two single file lines of bugs, I could dose a fair number before I went out in costume.  It did wind up killing some of the less durable ones eventually, either through the hairspray obstructing breathing or the capsaicin getting on the bug, but the end result was that I’d stumbled onto a weapon while trying to experiment with defenses.  I had figured out how to use my bugs as a delivery mechanism, smearing pepper spray onto fresh stings and bites.  I could jam their abdomens into people’s noses, mouths and eyes to cause intense burning and pain to the point that it made them nauseous.

Flechette screamed, falling to her knees, her hands to her face.  One of the PRT uniforms that was holding me let me go to stagger blindly toward the front desk.  I struggled to get away from the other one, but he held me tight even as he bent over, threatening to topple to the ground with me beneath him.

So yeah.  It worked.

Clockblocker had been in the lead of the group as we’d all headed toward the elevator, and had been delayed by the fallen PRT uniforms and his collapsing teammates.  His costume covered his entire body, preventing the bugs from getting to him, so once he got past his allies, there wasn’t much to get in his way.  He charged straight for Grue, and Grue responded by shrouding his immediate vicinity in darkness, though he couldn’t do much else.  One of Flechette’s bolts had nailed the sides of one of his boots to the ground – the other shot had missed, maybe because she couldn’t see his foot and hadn’t wanted to put a spike through his actual flesh.

Clockblocker closed the distance and plunged into the darkness after Grue.  He emerged out the other side, and the darkness dissipated behind him, revealing Grue, frozen in time.  Even the shadows smouldering around Grue’s body faded, revealing his motorcycle leathers and the helmet with the skull-face molded into it.

Which was bad.  It could be up to ten minutes until Grue was back in action, and we couldn’t necessarily afford to babysit his body until he reanimated.

The other PRT officer that was holding me broke away when a girl with a horned mask drove the wooden end of a fire axe into his shoulder.  Regent made Clockblocker stumble, and the horned girl shoved the PRT officer into the boy.  They both fell in a heap.

“Hey!” A girl shouted.  I looked and saw a horned girl crouched by one of the fallen PRT officers, holding the foam sprayer.  Imp.  Right, it was Imp.  She looked at Tattletale, “It won’t fire!”

Tattletale hurried over, grabbed the fallen officer’s arm, and lifted it over to the handle of the gun.  She put his finger on the trigger and aimed the gun at Clockblocker, unloading spray on top of his upper body just as he managed to heave the fallen officer off of himself.

Flechette threw a dart into the foam canister, and both Imp and Tattletale backed away as foam began spilling out of the hole, rapidly expanding to partially cover the uniformed officer.  After a moment’s pause, she threw a spike of metal into every other canister on the other fallen guards.  One even erupted into a pressurized spray, jetting up at an angle to hit the wall, creating a growing barrier a few feet in front of me, partially blocking me from reaching the rest of the combatants.

Before Flechette could turn her darts on us, Regent reached out, causing her to fumble and drop it.  A second later, he grunted and fell to all fours.  Nothing I could see had touched him.

A backfire?  So easily?

I was already turning to check when a primal scream tore its way from Shadow Stalker’s throat.

She’d been fighting with Weld, and Weld almost fell over when he swung and she didn’t enter her shadow state.  He couldn’t stop all of his momentum, but he stepped close and let his upper arm hit her instead.  They stumbled together, Shadow Stalker continuing to scream like she was trying to empty her lungs of every last trace of oxygen.

She raised her crossbow in my general direction, then moved, almost staggered, one step to the side.  From her new vantage point, she targeted Regent; her movements weren’t fluid, and her shot flew past him.  It hit Tattletale instead with a glancing blow, raking across her collarbone to penetrate her shoulder at a shallow angle.  Tattletale was spun off-balance and fell.

Shadow Stalker moved to load her crossbows, but her movements were jittery and jerky to an even greater extent than they had been a second ago.  She stopped midway through the motion, her head turning as she looked from one hand to the other, and then looked up at Weld, who was in close proximity to her.

“H-h-help.”  She stuttered.

A fraction of a second later, Regent was in control again, and Shadow Stalker was attempting to repeat her maneuver from earlier, driving an arrowhead into Weld’s other eye, moving quickly and with as much grace as ever.  He swatted her hand aside, and she entered her shadow state to avoid his follow-up swing with his club.

A series of crashes and the sound of breaking glass showering onto tile announced the arrival of Bitch’s dogs.  They had barreled their way through the bulletproof glass that led into the lobby.  Weld spun to face them, and Shadow Stalker abandoned her fight with him, using the opportunity to finish reloading her crossbows and fire one at Vista, who was hunkered down on the floor, my swarm all over her.  At least the girl wouldn’t be in further pain from what my bugs had done.  I could inflict pain if it meant getting a job done properly.  That didn’t mean I liked doing it.

“Shadow Stalker is conscious in there!?” Weld shouted, his back to us, attention on the three advancing dogs.  None of the dogs were as big as they could get, Bitch couldn’t manage them if they were too large, but it was still the equivalent of three rather agile bears or three unnecessarily burly jungle cats joining the fight, each with some added natural protection in the horned growths of bone and calcified muscle.

“Since a little while ago,” Regent answered.

That was disturbing.  I didn’t have a better way of putting it.  I’d almost been paralyzed by Leviathan in the Endbringer attack, but even before that, the idea of being left conscious but unable to move of my own volition had always spooked me.

I’d never had a relative in the hospital suffering from anything like that, and I couldn’t remember seeing any movies or shows on television that might have put the idea in my head at an impressionable age.  Still, it was one of the first places my mind went when I thought about worst case scenarios and horrific fates.  It had been in my thoughts more over the past two or three years, and the idea had been showcased in more than one nightmare over the past two weeks.

Maybe it was more general than that.  Not a fear of paralysis, specifically, but of helplessness.

The dogs started fighting with Weld, and it didn’t seem to be a fight they would win.  They were faster, they had the advantages of numbers, I even suspected they were stronger.  Despite that, when it came down to it, Weld was a walking, talking statue.  They could hit him hard enough to knock him down, but they couldn’t set their teeth into his flesh or deal any lasting damage.  When Weld hit them, by contrast, the hits were most definitely felt.

Still, their intervention did allow us to turn our focus to the others.  Vista was out of action, as was Clockblocker.

“Help Skitter!” Tattletale ordered, sounding urgent as she turned her attention to the remaining Wards that stood between us and the elevator.  Who was she talking to?

Then I felt hands at my back.  I flinched, but they held firm.  A second later I felt my cuffs come undone.  Imp.  Right.

I was getting the distinct impression that it was easier to recall her and react as if she were present if I hadn’t been actively trying to pay attention to her.  It was almost as if actively trying to commit her presence to memory had the opposite effect.  Except how was I supposed to put that knowledge into practice, if acting on that knowledge counted as recognizing her presence?

I didn’t get a chance to work it out, because Imp was gone from behind me a moment later, and we were faced with the issue of dealing with Flechette and Kid Win and the fact that our movements were getting more and more limited by the growing piles of adhesive, nigh-indestructible foam.

Kid Win had pulled himself together enough to draw a small blue pistol from his waist.  I tensed, bending my knees and shifting my weight to the balls of my feet so I could move the instant he aimed at me.

He didn’t fire it, though.  Instead, he slapped his chest, and the armor there opened up, revealing a circular depression.  He slammed the little blue gun there, where the weapon stuck like it was glued in, or maybe because of a magnet.  The chest portion of his armor closed up.

He staggered to his feet, swatted at his face, then looked like he immediately regretted doing that, judging by his pained grunt and gritted teeth.  His costume started to light up, glowing with a silvery light where it had been gold, before.  Two pear-shaped pieces of metal that had been attached to the armor on his shoulders raised into the air, floating.

Abruptly the pieces of metal jerked so the smaller ends pointed at us, and they each belched out blue sparks the size of softballs.

Imp appeared as she ducked out of the way of one, while Regent avoided the other.  Tattletale was still on the ground, one hand to her shoulder, and the shots passed well over her.

I didn’t see the need to dodge – the shots weren’t fast moving, and both seemed ready to collide with the walls on either side of me.  What I didn’t expect was for their trajectory to slow, then stop altogether, before they hit the wall.  Picking up speed, they headed back toward Kid Win.

“Heads up!” I shouted.  Imp and Regent turned just in time to avoid the boomeranging projectiles, but the distraction nearly cost them as the guns above Kid Win’s shoulders blasted off another two ‘sparks’.

“What the hell!?” Imp shouted.  The returning sparks had fallen into a lazy orbit around Kid Win.  Two, then four, then six sparks orbited him, with more joining the mass.  As the seventh and eighth sparks joined the ring that spiraled around Kid Win, arcs and flashes of electricity began to dance between them, making it into a loose ring that encircled him.  He advanced a few steps.

My bugs were dying in droves with the residual electricity, but Kid Win, at least, was largely incapacitated, his eyes swollen nearly shut, with some bugs gathered over and around his eyes to further obscure his vision.

I’d read up on the Wards, when I first got my powers, I knew they weren’t allowed to use lethal weapons.  Shadow Stalker had to use tranquilizer darts instead of real arrows, though she violated that rule often enough, and this device of Kid Win’s, no matter how intimidating, wouldn’t be allowed to do any sort of serious injury.

“Shadow Stalker!” I shouted, “Charge Kid Win!”  Expendable assets.

“Can’t!” she and Regent shouted in unison, “It’ll disrupt my control!”

Hearing that, Kid Win turned and fired a pair of sparks in their general direction.  The sparks flew further and faster, and they reached far enough that I actually had to dodge those.  One slammed into the spray of foam that the canister was blasting into the wall, while the other sailed toward Shadow Stalker, but stopped a few feet short and then looped back toward Kid Win.

That left one option.

Bitch wasn’t around, which left it to me.  I whistled, hard, getting the attention of the dogs.  When the dog with the squarish, almost snoutless head turned my way.  He’d be the bulldog puppy, Bentley.  I took a step toward Kid Win, pointed at the young hero, then shouted, “Get him!”

A ragged, horn encrusted tongue lolling out one side of his mouth, Bentley eagerly tromped past Weld, who lashed out with his club but only grazed Bentley’s rear flank.  Recklessly, the dog charged Kid Win, slamming into him, taking the full brunt of the ring of vibrantly blue electricity.

The dog and the boy crashed to the ground together, and skidded far enough toward the elevator that they collided with Flechette, who had retreated from the storm of blue sparks, her back to the elevator.    Bentley stood, flashes of brilliant blue light crackling at the chain that was rigged around his muzzle.  He limped strangely, but it wasn’t due to any injury.  From what I could tell, he’d stepped in some of the foam as he ran, and his foot was sticking to the floor.  More foam had splashed his shoulder.  In any event, the two teenage heroes were down, and it looked like the sparks had done more to incapacitate them than it had the puppy.

“Good boy!” I called out, “Good Bentley!”  His tail, shorter than any of the other dogs, wagged at the attention.

Shadow Stalker, Imp and the two remaining dogs had Weld on his heels, Imp doing her best to smack him in the face with the fire axe and have the metal obscure his vision.  Bitch slipped past the melee.  I looked away, tried to figure out a simple way to get by the spout of foam that was still sputtering out of the hole Flechette’s dart had made in the tank while still avoiding the flailing PRT uniform that was kneeling a short distance from me.

The next thing I knew, I was being slammed into a wall, hard.  For one moment I thought it was Weld, but I heard the snarling of the dogs and the noise of impacts.  I knew Weld would have hit me harder.

No, it was Bitch.

“You do not give orders to my dogs!” she growled in my ear.  “You do not get a say in whether they are good or bad!  Do that again and I will order them to chew you up and spit you out!”

“Bitch!” Tattletale shouted, I could almost see her out of the corner of my eye, cringing at the pain shouting caused her.  She still had the crossbow bolt sticking out of her shoulder, “Not the time!”

Bitch made a feral noise as she broke away from me, releasing me from my position against the wall.  I turned around to see her grabbing the flailing soldier and throwing him on top of the foam canister that was still spraying in fizzing spurts.  She walked on him to head toward the elevator.  Reluctantly, I followed.

Tattletale got Imp’s help in dragging Vista to the elevator door.  Regent took over and helped Imp hold Vista there, their fingers prying her eyes open until the retinal scan finished, then dragged her inside.

“Come on!” Tattletale urged us.

I looked back at Grue.

“Bitch, the dogs and Shadow Stalker will be here to protect him!” she called out.

I considered a moment, then nodded.  I joined the rest of the group in the elevator, and we headed down to the lowest floors.

“Cameras,” Tattletale spoke.  I nodded, and sent bugs into the room, found the surveillance cameras that were spaced at regular intervals around the room, and covered the lenses with bugs.

We exited the elevator, stepping into the Ward’s headquarters.  The room was vast, with a high domed ceiling that probably made this floor three stories deep.  A computer console with a dozen monitors sat to our right, and the far end seemed to be walled off into several smaller rooms.  The signs at the doors to the left implied they led off to the bathrooms.

To think that, if things had gone a little differently, I might have wound up here.

Tattletale was at the computer in an instant, reaching into her belt pockets to retrieve a series of USB thumb drives, which she slid into the available ports of the computer.  The monitors went to a blue screen.  As she typed, the word ‘JPIGGOT’ appeared on each monitor.  When that word disappeared from the screen, she typed a password, a row of asterisks appearing on the screens, twelve or thirteen characters long.

Then gibberish filled the screen.  Some looked like code, much looked like random numbers, letters and symbols, even hearts, spades and smiley faces.  Some of the snippets of code appeared to be file names.

“This should be every document the PRT has on file for their teams, barring the most secure documents, which wouldn’t be kept accessible, even in this isolated network.”  She handed me a pad of gauze from her belt.

“How long?” I asked.  I snapped the feathered end off the crossbow bolt, then pushed it out the other side.  The arrowhead wouldn’t take to being pulled out backward.

“Two minutes.”

“But we may have to wait up to ten, depending on when Clockblocker’s power wears off.”  While I talked, I held the gauze to her shoulder with one hand and took the offered tape with the other.  There was a rip in her costume, and I opted to tear it a little wider and put the gauze beneath before taping it on, to let the skintight fabric hold it firm.

“Bad luck he got one of us, yeah.”  Tattletale made a face, “Regent, let us know if there’s movement from Grue up there, through Shadow Stalker.”

“We’re going to have to fight our way through their reinforcements if we wait too long,” Regent said.

“Probably.  But not the Protectorate.  The only one who could get here fast enough to matter would be Velocity, and he’s dead.”

“They could have new members like the Wards did,” I said.

Tattletale frowned, “True.  They recruited those guys fast.  Especially since they’ve been here a few days.”

“Either way, we should make a quick exit,” I advised.  “Fast as we can manage, anyways, with Grue being stuck like he is.”

As the screen filled with more gibberish, reaching the point where there was more white text than blue background, we prepared to make our exit.

“Elevator’s down.”

“Of course it is,” Tattletale sighed, “There are stairs, through the door by the little window, where the tourists look in,” Tattletale said.  She waited with one hand poised over the USB drive.

A half second before the last blue dot on the screen disappeared, the entire room plunged into darkness.  The computer screens went black.

Silence reigned for a few heartbeats.  It wasn’t Grue’s power, though.  I could hear my own breathing.

“Someone cut the power?” Imp asked.

“No,” I heard Tattletale, “Separate power source, buried deeper beneath the building.  Same with the computers, there’s nothing upstairs or even in the city that could turn them off.  They’re hooked up to that power source, they’ve got internal batteries, and the only external connection is by satellite linkup.  They might terminate our connection to the computer database via the satellite feed, but not the lights.”

“So this is bad?” Imp asked.

A computer generated face appeared on the computer screens, illuminating us and our immediate surroundings with the pale glow the image cast.  I didn’t recognize the face, but I could guess.

Dragon.  She was onto us.  Yeah, that was pretty bad, as these things went.

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67 thoughts on “Parasite 10.3

  1. “hallway, the front doors and the elevator” could use a serial comma to make it a bit clearer.
    typo- “let us k now”

    I absolutely love Imp there. I wonder what sort of feedback she and Tattletale generate when their powers interact. I also wonder whether her effect goes being the perceptions of people in close range- if not, it might be the deciding factor in dealing with Dragon…

    I’m very glad to see Taylor still experimenting. For the bugs, one solution might be to use some sort of material that melts at human body temperature that the drug or chemical can be suspended in.

  2. Dragon seems to be the last character who still makes me say “oh shit” when she appears. I am especially looking forward to the next conversation.

  3. A few more thoughts…

    It’s funny how Clockblocker has come to dislike his codename, while I find myself thinking it more and more appropriate every time he shows up.

    I thought Bitch’s grilling Taylor was fantastic. I wonder if her super whistling is power or practice(as someone who is incapable of whistling, I tend to think of it as a superpower everybody BUT me has sometimes…).

    I’m kinda surprised that Weld took them so entirely by surprise, with the Travelers working for Coil- Where along the chain is the information bottleneck?

    I wonder what would happen if Weld was hit with, say, Gallium, which is solid at normal room temperature but melts at body temperature… If he absorbed it, might that cause a temporary structural weakness? What about being sprayed with Mercury? Would it act as a solvent as his surface bonded and lost cohesion? Or would he develop a nonreactive layer in such a case…

    And of course, as Gecko brought up, the effects of temperature on him and his presumably inorganic brain.

    I wonder if Weld has a particularly notable magnetic field, and what it would look like to see him swimming in ferrofluid.

    • I wonder if he’ll ever be able to find an appropriate FEmale before he gets too rusty at socializing.

      • I’m sure he can be quite attractive even to his opposite if he cultivates a magnetic personality, but what we really should worry about is if he turns out all wishy washy with a mercurial personality instead. Still, he makes a good copper, even if he’s at times boring and a moron, or a boron.

      • Well, he’s best stay away from the ladies in law enforcement. He wouldn’t want to erode from the galvanic effect of a relationship with a copper.

      • Maybe, but he can give them all kinds of tips, and I don’t mean just a nickel. Keep up the zinc in their diet, perhaps. I’m sure he has a source of it they could ingest. Guy like that knows where to find some heavy metal. Just hope he doesn’t run into a racist cop who thinks he’s manganese.

        • …Okay, out of all of these puns which you probably steeled from some halfnium-asatine source, that last one was the only one I didn’t get.

          ((Everyone else stole the good ones.))

          • “manganese”, misunderstood as “from the country or island of Mangani, where the natives all [blah blah blah]”.

            –Dave, hey, if you’ve never heard the word spoken…

      • I just think it would be ironic if Weld finally found a friend and alloy, someone who could test his mettle, buff him up when he’s feeling worn down, a girl with a heart of gold, and then discovered he was inert.


  4. Just a heads up, guys. I’m going on a nine day trip starting tomorrow. My responses may be limited. More to the point, if I miss an update this year, chances are good it’ll be this coming week (or in the wake of this week), as I’m not sure on the amount of free time I’ll have to write or the reliability/amount of internet access. Am going to do everything in my power to get the chapters out in good condition, even if it means finding an internet cafe or public library, but just wanted to let you know what was up.

    • I hope that means you have the power (of the computer) in your lap. I think McDonald’s tends to have wifi these days. It would be sad to see you miss an update, but I’m sure someone here could try to be especially entertaining in the comments to make up for no story from you.

      Also, I hope you get to see The Avengers. Good movie, seems like. Robert Downey Jr. as himself except a genius with power armor. Thor, who’th really good in thpandexth. Captain America, the greatest hero to have ever punched Hitler in the face in his first comic, and not too badly done so far in these. Hulk, who would just like to be left alone, but is such a smash at parties. And, last and least, Black Widow and Hawkeye, who are replacing Antman and the Wasp for this because the alternative is having Antman and the Wasp for this.

      Also, good trailers attached to it. Dark Knight Rises and Spider-man.

      It would just stink if your trip to Disney World or Disneyland messed with your ability to sit down in a dark room and watch something. Trust me, if you stop by Florida, you’ll be wishing for a dark, air conditioned room.

  5. Taylor’s probably thinking about something like Locked In syndrome, where someone appears to be comatose, but is really just paralyzed and concious. Also, it’s funny that she should mention someone coming up with anti-bug measures as I was just thinking about a potential nemesis for her: The Orkin Man.

    Now we’ve got to learn more about Stranger types. Something about affecting people’s knowledge of them, perhaps? It seems to be something she can turn on and off, and helps to explain why it is that Taylor didn’t flat out mention it was Grue’s sister the first time around. It seems she can’t designate who it affects when her power is on, though. She could have called herself the Game too.

    Man, the team seems more like a group that should be in a series of horror stories. You have the guy with the metal skull mask who generates deafening darkness. The girl who knows things about you when she shouldn’t. The guy who can control you, leaving you to watch helplessly as he uses your body to assault your friends (teammates instead in Shadow Stalker’s case). The girl who runs around with an axe who you don’t even remember unless you choose not to think about her. The girl with the dogs…who turns them into giant, boney, super-muscled killing machines. And finally, the girl who controls bugs. All the bugs. Any bugs. And can use them to make you burn when they swam all over you.

    “Dragon. She was onto us. Yeah, that was pretty bad, as these things went.

    I reached into my utility belt and pulled out a pair of shades, calling out to my roaches. They formed up behind me in the shape of a giant hand giving the middle finger. As I pulled on my sunglasses, I told Dragon. “This…is a raid.”

    *Cue opening to CSI: Brockton Bay*

  6. Any story that involves something like the ‘Stranger’ category can get delightfully postmodern. With Taylor proving to be an even more unreliable narrator than usual where Imp is involved, I begin to wonder whether any past events might have potentially occured and been forgotten about. I doubt such will be the case, but the potential is there.

  7. Was the following a typo? “Her feet slammed into his chest, and pushed him further back, and she landed hard on her back.” I’m guessing that Weld is the one who fell, not Shadow Stalker.

    Yay about Skitter getting a weapon that people actually react to. So far, most capes have shown a dismaying resistance to her biological weapon. I mean, it’s more or less a nuisance and distraction so far.

    Lastly, I hope that you have a good trip, Wildbow 🙂

  8. Just curious if shadow stalker could have just ghosted in and got the Intel if the undersiders had drawn everyone else off?

    • Or if she’d just gone in alone without drawing any suspicion. If keeping Alec close by was required they could have waited until visitor hours and had him stand in the lobby…

      • During the current crisis, there’s no visiting hours. I believe one of the Wards notes this in their entry, commenting on the portraits in the lobby (Clockblocker? If not him, then Vista).

        As far as ghosting in, doing so in a building with wiring in the walls is sorta dangerous for her.

        Some details will be raised in the coming chapters (prob. the next interlude) that’ll perhaps shed some light on why this might not have worked.

      • I imagine it’d not have been a very good idea in any event… But then again, for a mission like this there probably isn’t ANY good way to do it.

  9. Hi to every one. First i have to say that i’m spaniard and don’t have to express myself in english very often, so i apologize in advance for the grammatic an orthografic mistakes i will surely do.

    I love this web serial and think that by now it is good and complex enought to deserve a wiki, so one week ago i start one in The address is .

    I was going to wait a little longer before i say anything about it, but apparently i have been discover cause last night someone made minor changes(mostly grammatical ones) in some pages. So i think the time have come to go out the closet.

    I’m no expert in wiki edition, so any edit in the pages and any sugestion about the look and naviagtion are welcome.

    If Wildbow is, for any reason, oppose to the mere existence of this wiki they only have to say so and i will delete it inmediatly.

    The first page i created was were you can see the 12 clasiffications (Mover, Shaker, Brute, Breaker,Master, Tinker,Blaster, Thinker, Striker, Changer, Trump and Stranger), a description of what that category mean and a list of all the characters that are known to have that power. So i sugest that if you want to make an edit begin editing that page.

    Thank you, I await your feedback.

      • Thank you. I’m curious too about what the people will do with it.

        I was thinking that if you want you can put a link to the wiki in the menu “Read & Participe”.

        Also, i have a question: in the update 9.1 it said that “Purity” have a Shifter 8, Stranger 3 and a Breaker 9 in her group. I have asume that the Shifter/Stranger is Night and that the Breaker is Fog and i have put it like that in the wiki. am i right?

        Thank you.

        • You’re on track as far as Night/Fog. In 9.1 they say something like “A Breaker 9, A Shifter X with Stranger Y and a…”

          So yeah, Fog is Shifter/Stranger.

          Added the link.

    • I was actually going to create a wiki later today. I was actually specifically going to make a power classification page as one of the first things I did. This is going to be a fun project for the next week or so.

      I’ll second my dislike of wikia, though. I much prefer wikidot. It’s not that big of a deal, and it’s not too hard to switch if it ever becomes an issue.

      Crap. Now I’m considering setting up my own server.

      • I didn’t know about wikidot. Did you say that is possible to transfer all the wiki from wikia to wikidot or even to a dedicated server? good to know. Maybe in the future, but for now i think is better to stay in wikia until we have a working community.

        Look like you are familiar with wikis, and as i have said before i’m no expert, so your help will be really appreciated. I think it possible to send messages between acounts in wikia, so send me a message there if you want.

  10. i’m thinking that Trump is a category for powers that interact with other powers ( like othala who can give powers or eidolon who has all the powers but only a few at a time) and that shaker covers powers that aren’t necessarily offensive but can aid teamates or hinder enemies and at a range too since point blank powers are covered by striker ( both vista and labyrinth, the two known shakers, have something along these lines).

    seeing as we now know that Stranger happens to be sneaky stealth powers and the like, if i’m right about these two we’ll have all the categories covered on the wiki.

      • i’m not sure what the thinker category implies, but in the scene in the hospital, after the Leviathan attack, it’s mention that the protectorate have clasified Lisa as a Thinker 7… but they don’t really know what her powers are, so maybe they are wrong.

        Anyway, probably all the especulation will be better discused at the wiki forum…which i’m not sure how work…i will try to figure it out… sooner than later i hope, i can see great discusions about that kind of things in the future and a working forum should keep the mess under control.

      • Discussions are perfectly fine happening here. I don’t mind in the least. Splitting discussions across too many areas can hurt things in the long run. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t, but I don’t mind here.

      • Thinker sounds more like super-intelligence than omniscience — not so much knowing things that you have no way of knowing, but rather being so smart that you have many more ways of knowing many more things, or being able to analyze your opponent well enough to know what they’re going to do in advance (like in the new Sherlock Holmes movies). Also, I suspect that Shaker involves the ability to mess with really fundamental aspects of reality — like Vista’s space-warping, Clockblocker’s time freeze, Labyrinth turning the manhole into a spiral staircase, etc. — things that you just should not be able to do, even in a world where people can fly and shoot lasers that turn corners. I don’t know what Stranger applies to — maybe powers so weird and alien that people just don’t notice them, or things that people who originally set this up were too afraid of to classify. I suppose Brute would be Melee Tank, Striker would be Melee DPS, and Blaster would be Ranged DPS. I wonder what Breaker is?

        Also, please make a Trump called Last. Just for pun.

        • Breaker is a lot like Shaker, but Shakers change the rules of the environment while Breakers change the rules of how they interact with the environment if I remember correctly.

          For example, Shadowstalker is a Breaker primarily, altering how she interacts with solidity. Labyrinth is pretty much the penultimate example of a Shaper.

    • Yeah, I found that jarring too.
      Also: mispunctuation at “the Ward’s headquarters.” – There’s more than one Ward at the HQ.

      Really exciting chapter though 🙂

  11. “Probably. But not the Protectorate. The only one who could get here fast enough to matter would be Velocity, and he’s out of action for a bit. Injuries.”


    Continuity flub — Velocity was killed by Leviathan. His name was on the monument.

  12. ”Shadow Stalker, Imp and the two remaining dogs had Weld on his heels, Imp doing her best to smack him in the face with the fire axe and have the metal obscure his vision.”

    Does this mean that Weld has a minor trump classification, since he can see Imp?

    • Anyone can see Imp. It’s remembering her / knowing who she is that’s a problem. Weirdness Censors don’t make you invisible, just unnoticed, and they can be overridden (at least temporarily) if you do something noticeable enough — like hit someone’s face with an axe. If someone hits you in the face with an axe and then disappears, you have still been hit with an axe. Similar to the thing with Flechette’s crossbow — Imp broke it, but it stayed broken after she went back under the Weirdness Censor.

  13. So why isnt how long on AVERAGE someone stays immobile sith clock tickers schtick ever mentioned?

    Not like Tattletale couldnt figure it out.

    • I think back when ClockBlocker was involved with trying to immobilize Leviathan, Skitter had a thought along the lines of
      “it lasts 2 seconds up to 10 minutes, but no known pattern”. I’m sure I’m misquoting, but that’s the concept I remember.

    • Well the average would be about five minutes, but then you have to account for a deviation of plus or minus zero to five minutes, so it’s not particularly meaningful for any one case.

  14. Yikes! Spoilers!
    Fairly non-specific spoilers, admittedly – almost into the realms of ominous foreboding, which I imagine wildbow is all for – but a bit more specific than I’d like to know as a first-time reader (admittedly one who reads the comments, but wildbow is usually pretty strict on keeping them free of spoilers).

  15. Having trouble suspending disbelief that:
    a) Regent can still control Shadow Stalker after going down in the elevator,
    b) The events upstairs haven’t alerted a CROWD of armed PRT & capes to be standing on the other side of the elevator door when it opens. Seriously, NOBODY in the HQ main room? (well, OK, DRAGON … but slow?!?!)

    Back! Disbelief! All will be justified — same WormTime, same WormChannel!

    Copy edits:
    “When the dog with the squarish, almost snoutless head turned my way.”
    Drop the ‘when’ to make it a sentence.

  16. >Kicking a five-foot-nine-inch block of metal had to hurt, but Regent doesn’t exactly have to be careful with Shadow Stalker’s body.


    >By all rights, I should have been alerted to that fact the night I sprayed Velocity at the fundraiser

    By all rights? This doesn’t communicate to me.

    >When the dog with the squarish, almost snoutless head turned my way.

    Um. What?

    >His tail, shorter than any of the other dogs, wagged at the attention.

    Shorter than any of the other dogs’. Unless you mean to say that the tail is shorter than yon common monster-dog, but that’s pretty obvious.

    I think Sophia will be pretty broken when she regains control of her body. Loss of control seems to me like it’s her greatest fear, with the way she always needs to be on the top of the social ‘food’ chain; probably ties in with her trigger event, as there’s been some discussion on. My money’s on her having observed a loved one being murdered and/or raped, hence her current icy demeanour.

  17. I find Dragon really interesting and want to see her fighting more often, but I was really rooting for the Undersiders to have success in this mission and now that she turned up that seems more unlikely.
    Although they have gotten out of impossible situations before. By now I expect them to get out of everywhere, probably even the Birdcage.

  18. I love how kid win’s armaments in this chapter are almost certainly designed to combat Trickster. Boomerang shots that start orbiting around him instead of hitting him? Yeah.

    • Yeah, that’s a really cool weapon’s array/trick. I hadn’t even thought about how it makes him immune to his own fire in the event of being Trickster-ed.

  19. The capsaicin and bugs thing doesn’t sound right. You know that capsaicin faking out the heat and pain receptors is an effect specific to mammals? If it has some effect on bugs (which may be simply as a toxen) it would not bother the chitin or the hair! Bugs don’t have much exposed “skin” to worry about. The hairspray should not be necessary.

  20. Hate to be “that guy,” but this honestly broke immersion for me: “The nine hundred and seventy bugs that poured forth were roughly equal numbers of bees, wasps, spiders, mosquitoes and cockroaches. It was a smaller number than it sounded like.”

    Just from what has happened until now, any number below ~5-10k already sounds low.

    Moreover, I automatically calculated the per-species quantity upon reading “roughly equal.” Less than 200 a piece has been shown to be nothing, with the bugs often being taken out wholesale.

    I could understand Taylor thinking such closer to the beginning. After Armsmaster took out all her bugs at the post-ABB celebration? It doesn’t fit to me.

    I’ve made similar comments on other things and had people assume I was being facetious, so I’m just going to end off by saying that I really am serious here. I have a habit of obsessing over minor details (and sometimes missing larger ones :P), and the fact that this is the *third* night in a row I have stayed up past midnight reading likely didn’t help (in the past 72 hours, I have gotten less than three hours of sleep. I apologise for any grammatical errors; I would normally catch them, sorry).

  21. “Capsaicin was the chemical that made hot peppers burn your tongue.”

    Hey wildbow? Even though the rest of the story is told in past tense, a statement of fact like this is usually worded as present (continuous? i dunno) tense: “Capsaicin is the chemical that makes hot peppers burn your tongue.”

  22. How comes that none of the security people in the security room turned off the elevator and the door to their quaters?

    • Another note: Why do they still have costumes without full body armor? Sure, they fight others too, but Skitter should be annoying enough to force them to an clothe change.

  23. Typos and such:

    > Tattletale was grinning at the four wards at the end of the hall closest to the elevator – Kid Win, Clockblocker, Flechette and Vista.

    ‘Wards’ needs to be capitalized in this sentence.

    > Bentley stood, flashes of brilliant blue light crackling at the chain that was rigged around his muzzle.

    Too many spaces before this sentence.

    > Flechette fired a shot at Grue, pinning him to the ground, quickly loaded and fired a second, rooting his feet to the ground.

    Maybe change one ‘ground’ to ‘floor’ or something like that to avoid repetition?

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