Snare 13.7

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“Where is he?” I growled.

“As if I’m going to tell you.  To think Jack called you the clever worm.”

“Don’t call me that.”  I felt a flare of irritation that bordered on anger.  Was that me, or was it her power at work?

Tattletale put a hand on my shoulder.  I shut my mouth.  She asked Cherish, “What do you want in exchange for your help?  You want us to let you go?”

Cherish laughed a little, and it reminded me of Alec’s own dry chuckle.  “No.  Definitely not.  In exchange for the information about what the Imp is up to, you’re going to give me medical treatment, you’re going to keep me here, and you’re going to keep me safe.”

“And for the info on Grue?”  Tattletale asked.

“I’m thinking a billion-”  Cherish winced as she moved mid-sentence and pulled at the wound.

“A billion dollars so you can scamper off to the other side of the world and live the good life while you hide from those bastards,” Tattletale finished.

“Right.  Or are you going to tell me that’s too much?  Is your teammate’s life worth a smaller amount?  Where do you draw the line, Ms. Frowny-face?”

Tattletale glanced at me.  I looked, in turn, to Coil.  He gave me a barely perceptible shake of his head.  He wouldn’t fork over the amount.

“You’re not really in a position to be making demands,” Trickster said.  “You’re bleeding to death, and we do have the ability to hurry the process along.”

Cherish shrugged.  “Bonesaw gave me the works.  Mesh sheaths for every major artery and organ, wire reinforcement for my skeleton.  It’s not going to kill me anytime soon.”

I made a mental note of that.  Chances were good that Jack, Bonesaw and the other more vulnerable members of the Nine had some similar protection.  How differently would things have played out if Ballistic had used his power and blown them up?

I could,” Trickster threatened.  “Or we could wait and see which happens first: Either you agree to share the information we want or you slowly bleed out.”

“A game of chicken?  I’m down.”  Cherish prodded her injury with a fingertip.  It was clear it hurt, but she still stuck a finger into the hole and investigated some.  “The auto-injection pump is dosing me with painkillers and antibiotics now.  First time feeling this stuff work.”

“Letting that… lunatic perform surgery like that?” Sundancer asked, shivering a little.  “How?  Why?”

“Not much choice in the matter, but I was awake for the entire thing, and I read her emotions as she did it.  No hint of any traps or dirty tricks.”

Tattletale glanced at the bullet hole in Cherish’s chest.  “I’m suspicious it’s so routine for her that there wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar if she did try something.”

Cherish leaned forward, “Are we going to do this?  Test your perceptive abilities against mine?  Some intellectual jousting?”

Tattletale shook her head.  “She’s stalling.  She knows time’s on her side, because we need to rescue Grue sooner than later.  Longer we wait, the worse our position.”

“I admit I’m at something of a loss.” Coil sounded pensive, as he looked at our captive.  “Where do we put her?”

“Jack did research on you assholes,” Cherish cut in, still trying to distract us, “I know your schtick, Tattletale.  Pick at people’s weaknesses, tell them stuff they don’t want to know.  I can do the same thing.  I’m better at it than you are.”

“It’s a bit of a crazy idea,” I said, ignoring her.  “But what if we didn’t stash her in this base?  Or any of the others?  We put her anywhere in the city, there’s the risk that some unwitting John, Dick or Harry will come by, and she’ll get them to help her somehow.  Can’t station guards on her, so… why not the water?”

“A boat?” Ballistic asked.

“I could tell you a story,” Cherish said, “Little girl grows up with money.  Daddy pulls in six figures, maybe seven.  Massive house, I expect.  Maybe horses, a mercedes, indoor and outdoor pools…”

“I was thinking about a buoy,” I replied, speaking over her.  “Could even rig things so she’s out of sight.  Cuff her to it, we can be pretty damn sure she won’t be getting free.”

“But what about boats coming by?” Sundancer asked.

“Almost no boats on the water,” I replied.  “Coastline is a mess, thanks to Leviathan.  Ships can’t dock here.”

“Good,” Coil said.  “Then as soon as she is given some basic medical care, I’ll have my men take her out there.  I’ll need to work out measures to ensure she doesn’t escape.”

“So the little girl who wanted for nothing still found a reason to run away from home.  Spent life homeless on the streets.  Stealing and dealing for petty cash so she could eat.  What would make someone leave home like that, Tattletale?”

Coil turned to the soldier next to him, “Can you go find Pitter and bring him here?  I want her sedated sooner than later.”

The soldier nodded and headed off to find the medic.  He winked at Tattletale as he jogged by.  I’d met him.  Not one of Tattletale’s soldiers, but I’d crossed paths with him.  Fish?  Seemed like he and Tattletale were getting along.

“That’s a mistake,” Cherish smiled.  “Without my cooperation, you won’t find them.  You won’t be able to contact Imp or know where to look for her brother.”

“Tattletale?” Coil spoke.

“You already informed us on most of that,” Tattletale told Cherish.  She leaned against the wall.  “Your method of communication with Imp.  You’re planning on meeting her.  Afternoon?  Evening?”

“As if I’m-”

“Late afternoon. Thanks.”

“What?”  Cherish frowned.

“What time in the afternoon?  Four… five… six.  Six o’clock.  There we go.  Where?  Upper end of town or downtown?”

“I’m not saying anything!”

“You’re telling me everything.”  Tattletale must be reading Cherish’s tells.  Her body language, eye movements, her tone and word choice.  “Let’s see, you’re meeting Imp downtown around six.  You would have made it a place where you could talk with her for a minute while you were out of sight of the others.  Bathroom?”

Cherish didn’t move a muscle.  Maybe she realized what Tattletale was doing.

“Bathroom, then.  Same building as the rest of the Nine?  Now we just need to dig up where they are, and you’ve got no cards left.  Unless you want to share that information in good faith.”

There was no response from our prisoner.

“Hmmm,” Tattletale said.  “She’s cornered, and she’s probably contemplating something like suicide by cop.  Or whatever the term is when the other group aren’t cops.  She’d rather die than have us turn her over to her teammates, so she’ll try a gambit like using her powers, knowing we’ll probably gun her down.”

“Got any ideas?” Trickster asked her.

“She liked the dead man’s switch for her suicide collar.  Why don’t we set up something similar?  Put a soldier on guard somewhere nearby.  We schedule it so he receives a note  from us every fifteen minutes.  If he doesn’t get it, he passes a message to the Nine telling them exactly where to find Cherish?”

I could see Cherish tense.

“How do we get a message to them without them killing the messenger?”

“We can work it out.”  Tattletale shrugged.  She looked at Trickster, “You think Oliver could handle it?”

Trickster nodded. “I’ll get him on thinking up some way to arrange this.”

“Tattletale.” Coil spoke, “Can you gather the rest of the details from her before we secure her offshore?”

“So long as she doesn’t get stupid and try to do something more than talk.”

Cherish decided to speak up.  “Who’s next?  Who should I dish the dirt on?  Feeling homesick, Trickster?  Scared little boy pretending to be a leader.  It’s your fault, you know.  She blames you.  Everyone does. They’re even starting to hate you.”

“Can we talk without her in earshot?” I asked.

Coil nodded and gestured for us to leave.  His soldiers moved to Cherish’s side and gripped her arms.

“No point!”  Cherish grinned, “I’ll know what you’re talking about.  Can’t keep secrets from me!”

“But you won’t be sidetracking us,” I replied.

“You failed, you know,” Cherish said, changing tacks.  “When someone has an obsession like you do, it’s like a giant neon sign to an empath like me.  All it takes is for me to peek into Coil’s head, peek into the hearts of everyone else in this base, and I know you’ll never get what you want.  You won’t save her.  You can’t.  Window of opportunity is long gone.”

I jabbed her where the bullet hole was.  The strength went out of her legs and she fell to her hands and knees.  I stepped back, drew in a slow breath and then kicked her in the face.  She fell to the ground.

“Skitter.” Coil’s word was without inflection.  There was no admonishment or warning to it.  I took it as a reminder of where I was, which might have been his intent.

“We can talk about that later,” I told him, “My priority right now is Grue.”

Coil nodded.

I glanced down at Cherish.  “Hope Bonesaw reinforced your teeth while she was fixing you up.”

“She did,” Cherish muttered, one hand to her mouth.

I kicked her in the head once more for good measure, and then turned away, my hands raised to assure the others I was done.

“That’s enough,” Coil said.  He signaled his men.  “Take the prisoner to the coastline and find a spot to depart.”

Cherish was dragged off to a point further down the catwalk.  Her shouts reached us well after she was out of sight, “Your boss is screwing you!  All of you!  You have no idea how badly!  You’re cogs in his machine, and he’s only steps away from pulling it all together.  Get rid of the Nine, stage the final play with everyone in their proper spots, but then he doesn’t need you anymore!”

“Sowing dissension in the ranks,” Coil said.  He sounded remarkably calm given what Cherish had been saying.  “Nothing more.”

“Right.  She could be lying,” Trickster ventured.

“She is.  Mostly,” Tattletale said.

I doubted anyone believed what the three were saying.  At the same time, nobody here was in a position to walk away in response to this unconfirmed information.

“Tattletale, see to the interrogation,”  Coil ordered.


“That leaves the remainder of us to decide on a way of rescuing the others.”

I fidgeted.  The idea of Brian in the hands of the Nine was… daunting.  Was Siberian eating him alive, literally?  Was he at the mercies of Mannequin?  Jack could be torturing him for details on us.  Or he could be in Bonesaw’s clutches.

Chances were good that they were pissed.  Jack excepted, maybe.  He’d seemed to like our ambush.  In any event, any anger or sadistic tendencies were likely to be taken out on Brian.

Fuck.  I kept imagining uglier and uglier possibilities.

“They’re going to be waiting and ready.  We’ll need help, I think,” I said.

“Help?” Trickster turned my way.  “You’re forgetting that the rest of the factions in the city have made a pact against us.”

“Not everybody there agreed,” I said.  “There was one group at the meeting that didn’t agree to the pact.”

“Am I remembering wrong?”  Trickster asked.  “Coil, Merchants, Chosen, Faultline’s group…”

“That’s right,” I said.

“What are you thinking, then?”  Sundancer asked.

“Coil,” I said, “You got some surveillance gear for Tattletale, right?  Can I see it?”

Trickster accompanied me.  We didn’t get the benefit of Bitch’s dogs.  She’d wanted to check on her territory and take care of her dogs.  I’d grudgingly agreed that she should take care of that, and Trickster and I had set off alone.

I gave him a sidelong glance as we ascended the stairs of the empty apartment building.  What had Cherish said?  Scared little boy?  She blames you.  They all do.  I could remember Sundancer’s remarks on the drama in the group and how lonely it was to be around them.  I recalled Genesis seeming less than thrilled when her team arrived last night.  Was Trickster at the center of it?  He was more ruthless than his comrades, which was interesting because his power was the least lethal.  It might have been a point of contention.  But what would he have done that the others would blame him for?

Could I comment on that?  Should I?

I remained silent.  We exited the stairwell at the fifth floor and entered a dark hallway.  I clicked on a flashlight, and we made our way down the hall.  Trash was piled everywhere, and I was all too aware of the maggots that were crawling on the floor, barely visible in the dim light.

“Which way?” he asked.

I pointed.  A side benefit of my power was that it made it pretty damn easy to maintain my sense of direction.

We tried the doors for the two apartments that led in the right direction.  Both were locked.

Trickster touched the doorknob, then looked across the floor at the trash in the hallway.  The doorknob disappeared, and a chunk of wood fell to the ground.  He repeated the process with the internal mechanisms, and the lock was effectively transported away.  He opened the door and walked inside, going straight for the windows.

“Done this before?” he asked.

I shook my head.  I was gathering my bugs, the stronger fliers, and drawing out lines of silk.  Trickster handed me the individual components.  A small spy camera, no larger than a tube of lipstick, and a similar microphone.  My bugs bound them together with silk and then stretched out more to distribute the lifting among the dragonflies, bumblebees and wasps.

“Okay, let’s see,” I muttered.

Testing, testing, one, two, three…  My swarm managed some semblance of the words I wanted, a mix of buzzing, chirps and clicks to form the right pitch.  Some sounds were hard or impossible to make.  The ‘puh’, ‘buh’ and ‘muh’ sounds didn’t form, and I struggled to form something that sounded like a ‘t’ in the middle of a word.  It was intelligible, but only barely.

It would have to do.

I ensured the rigging around the camera was more or less steady and then sent the swarm out the window.  I relied on my power to keep track of it while I opened the laptop Coil had provided and turned on the video feed.  When it had arrived outside the PHQ headquarters, I drew it together into a densely packed human form.

It took six and a half minutes for the Protectorate to react to the figure.  That bothered me, on a level.  Were they disorganized?  Or was it difficulty in communicating and marshaling their forces when they didn’t have phones or other means of passing on alerts?  They gathered in the lobby.  I adjusted the camera the insects were carrying and made out Weld, Kid Win, Clockblocker, Miss Militia, Battery and Legend.  There were three more capes I didn’t recognize.  Members of Legend’s team?

Seeing them gave me pause.

As Miss Militia stepped outside, I pulled on the headphones, and Trickster did the same.

“Skitter?” Miss Militia asked.

Something like that,” I replied using my swarm.  “I wanted to talk.

“Given what happened the last time you were here, I’m not sure we’re on speaking terms.”

We have two of the Slaughterhouse Nine in custody.  We are prepared to turn one over into your custody.”

“What?  I didn’t hear that.”

Damn.  It sounded natural in my head, as I got them to make the noise, but I wasn’t quite there yet.  Maybe it would have been better to just pass a phone to her.  I’d gone this route for the dramatic touch, and because I hadn’t wanted them to trace us.

I rephrased, “Shatterbird and Cherish have been captured.  We will deliver Cherish to you if you wish.  We are done interrogating her.”

“Interrogation.  You mean torture, don’t you?” Legend asked from where he stood in the doorway.


“Why?”  Miss Militia asked.  “Why the offer?”

You can put her in secure custody, and we need your help.


The Nine have captured Grue.  We mounted one successful attack this morning, we got two of theirs for one of ours.  They will be ready for a rescue attempt.  They know our powers.  Help us attack.  Help us catch them off guard a second time and stop them for good.

“You’re not only asking us to fight the Nine, but you want us to fight alongside notorious villains.”

So I was notorious now?  Huh.  Couldn’t let that distract me.  “I’m offering you Cherish.

I could make out Miss Militia shaking her head.  “I’ll be blunt, Skitter.  I’m not Armsmaster.  I don’t have a stake in personal glory or renown.  I’m not going to pussyfoot around, either.  Put a bullet in her skull and be done with it.  There’s a kill order on them, nobody’s going to charge you for murder.”

Then work with us because it’s the best way to stop the Nine.”

“I refused Hookwolf when he made the same offer, and I’m going to refuse you.  The capes on my teams are good people.  I won’t throw away their lives with a reckless attack.  We’re going to develop our own strategies, plan, and find a safe way to target them.”

And civilians die in the meantime.”  I retorted.  Grue dies in the meantime, if he wasn’t dead already.

“We’ve tried the same strategies we use against Endbringers.  Multiple teams, allying with locals.  Sometimes we get one of them.  Sometimes we get three or four.  But we lose people, lots of people, in the process.  The remaining members of their group always find some way of escaping. The fact that we tried and failed in going all-out gives them notoriety.  They bounce back after an attack like that, and they bounce back hard, with creeps, lunatics and killers flocking to them for the chance at that same sort of glory.”

The difference between us and Hookwolf is that we’ve succeeded.  We have two of them in our custody.  You can’t bide your time, organize, and wait for an opportune moment.  They have years of experience fighting people who do that.  Anything you try, they’ve probably dealt with.  We win by catching them off guard with powers they don’t know about, powers they can’t expect and interactions between powers.  Calculated recklessness.

“We can handle that on our own, with more calculation and less recklessness.”

He’s studied you.  For any member of your team with more than three months of experience, he already knows everything they can do, their tricks and individual talents.  You have powers we need.  We have knowledge on their location, firepower of our own and two captives.  We’ll only pull this off if we work together.”

“Putting our lives in your hands,” Miss Militia replied.

Only as far as we’d be relying on you,” I answered her.

“Who are you, Skitter?”  Legend asked.  He floated closer to my swarm-decoy.  “I can’t get a read on your personality or motivations, and that’s without touching on what came up at the close of the Endbringer event.”

My teammate is in the hands of the Nine, they could be murdering more people right this second, and you’re talking about me, of all people?”

“If we’re going to offer you help, we should know who we’re interacting with,” he said.

I glanced at Trickster, then back at the image on the screen.  “What do you want to know?

“We’ve talked with the people in your territory.  Between what they say and what came out at the hospital, I can’t help but wonder at your motives.”

There’s someone specific I want to help.  If I can improve the lives of others at the same time, then all the better.

“So where do you stand, then?  Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?”

I almost laughed, and some of my humor must have translated in a mental direction to my bugs, because they started making a noise that wasn’t speech.  I stopped them.  It wouldn’t have sounded much like laughter anyways.  “All of the above?  None of the above?  Does it matter?  Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it’s a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a ‘hero’ often means so very little.  But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear.  I’ve done things I regret, I’ve done things I’m proud of, and I’ve walked the roads in between.  The sliding scale is a fantasy.  There’s no simple answers.

“There can be.  You could do what’s right.”

I was getting an inkling of what Bitch referred to as ‘words’.  Prattle that meant so very little in the face of what was happening in the present.  Was this the kind of irritation, impatience and anger she felt with so many social interactions?  I clenched my fist.  “Speak for yourself.  You want to hide here while my group and Hookwolf deal with the brunt of the Nine’s attention.  Just like you did with the ABB.

“That happened under Armsmaster’s leadership.  You can’t blame us for being intelligent about how we go about this.”

I was disappointed my swarm couldn’t convey my anger.  “I can blame you for being cowards.  I’m going.  If you want to talk about morality, start by talking to Armsmaster.”

“Can’t.  He’s gone.”

I paused.  Did the Nine get him?  “Dead?

“Escaped from his hospital room.  With our attention on the Nine, we don’t have the resources to track him down.”

Does he know about the Nine’s threat to hit the city with a plague if he leaves?

“I hope so.”

Fuck.  Not only was that one more uncertainty stacked onto everything, but Armsmaster was the closest thing I had to a nemesis.  Having him running around the city was not a good thing.

For a brief moment, I contemplated having Trickster teleport me to ground level, so it was me talking to the local heroes, and not just my swarm.  I could tell them that I was putting my well-being in their hands, risking them arresting me, as a gesture of good faith.

Except I couldn’t help but see myself from their perspective.  Warlord of the Boardwalk.  I’d rotted off Lung’s manhood and carved out his eyes.  I’d played an undefined role in Armsmaster’s downward slide.  I’d robbed a bank, terrorized hostages with poisonous spiders, attacked their headquarters and used insects dipped in capsaicin to cripple their junior heroes with incapacitating pain.  All the while, I’d acted with a seemingly ambiguous morality.  Was I a good guy doing all the wrong things?  Or did they see me as dangerous and unhinged?

There was no way I could put myself in their hands without knowing what they thought about me, and frankly, I wasn’t sure how to think about myself.  How the hell were they supposed to make a call?

So.  You in?”  I tried, instead.

I could see him look back at Miss Militia, who shook her head.  “Miss Militia runs the local team, so it’s ultimately her call, but… we’ve talked about it, and I agree with her.  No.  The risks outweigh the potential benefits.”

My heart sank.  “Then one final tip.  You should know that Bonesaw’s done some surgery on all of her people.  Implanted protection for the more vulnerable parts of their bodies.  They’re tougher than they look.

“Thank you,” Legend said.  “You might not believe me, but I wish you the best of luck.”

I snarled as I shut the laptop and turned away from the scene, calling my swarm back to me.

“That didn’t work,” Trickster said.

“No.  And we just wasted a lot of time.”

“We’ll have Shatterbird working with us, thanks to Regent, and we’ve got Imp as our man on the inside, maybe.  We’re going to outnumber the remaining five or six of them, right?  It’s not hopeless.”

“They’ll be ready for us.  They’re entrenched, they have a hostage, and we’re totally unable to fight two of them.  How long is it going to take to extricate Grue from whatever cage they have him in?”

“It’s not hopeless,” he repeated.  “Whatever they’re doing to keep Grue prisoner, if I can see him, I can free him.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

“Would it reassure you to know that your conversation with the local heroes gave me an idea of my own?”

My head snapped in Trickster’s direction.

“Come on.  We should hurry,” he said.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

72 thoughts on “Snare 13.7

  1. Nobody thought about a bomb inside Grue? Mind control in Bonesaw`s stile or something similar?
    The talk with the heroes was very interesting.
    Once he is entrenched Coil will need the two groups to help keep the territory, this talk about not needing them anymore does not make sense in this context.
    Nice work windblow.

  2. I’ve been wondering when Taylor would get around to doing this! Maybe next time she could use a cheap speaker to augment the bugs.
    ““Skitter,” Coil’s” Maybe a period instead of a comma?

  3. I like how Skitter’s powers are shown to be improving, not through becoming ‘more powerful”, but through increased skill and clever application of what she has. Her “worm that walks” routine is getting better and better. The next step will probably be somehow using her bugs senses so she will no longer rely on the eavesdropping equipment for two-way communication.

    Another improvement is that she has given some thought on the whole good/bad thing her motivation and the way she is perceived by others. I like the title of “Warlord of Broadwalk” or should that be ‘Warlady’?

    My bet on the thing that she said that gave Trickster an idea is the “interaction between powers” bit. It sounds promising.

    It seems that even when our heroes win the fight against the nine the stage has already been set for the next set of problems involving Coil’s ultimate agenda and further confrontations with the heroes. Things will only get worse from now on it seems. I can’t wait.

  4. A sockpuppet elephant and fox run across a stage to stand in front of you, their audience. The elephant uses its trunk as a horn as the fox holds up a lighter. The light rises up from the lighter, floating into the air, illuminating just enough of the stage to see something large, and dark, and fangy in the back shadows…for a brief second as the light goes out. Then lines of sparks trail of from where it disappeared, simultaneously causing blue, green, and red neon screens to light up. Whatever monstrosity lurked in the dark is gone as smaller dark, hair creatures with white-out eyes and mouths full of sharp fangs stalk out wearing leisure suits and gold necklaces, each posing with one hand on the hip and the other hand pointing into the sky. These Boogiemen then form up to present…a T-rex bursting in through the back of the stage. Said T-Rex blinks through its monocle, checks the book of synonyms in its little arms, then bays, bellows, blusters, booms, brays, clamors, hollers, reechos, sepercusses, resounds, reverberates, routs, rumbles, shouts, sounds, thunders, trumpets, vociferates, yells, and otherwise Roars for the crowd. At this point, Psycho Gecko appears on its head and leaps to the stage below. Standing with a cough, he opens his arms wide. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to start off thanking my friend, The Saurus, as well as the Boogiemen. And so, after a brief but annoying illness that isn’t actually over yet, I’m back!”

    Only the sounds of crickets applaud.

    “Well, after Wildbow violently shooting down my thoughts on Siberian last update, screw you crickets too.”

    Now, on to what passes as substance for me. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
    “Or are you going to tell me that’s tomo much?” No, but I’d tell you it’s too much.

    Also, you’ll notice how Legend’s talk of it being simple and just doing what’s right is completely negated by the situation he’s in. After all, he’s having to say that a bunch of superheroes should just let this group of murderous supervillains rampage all they like because it has failed in the past. They’re superheroes! What’s right is to go after the rampaging lunatics! Hell, even if you want divide up and have people argue in support of the Protectorate’s course of inaction or against it, the fact that there’s an argument at all shows at least two different courses of action deemed to be “right” by someone. Right is in the eyes of the beholder. Unless you mean the opposite of left. In which case, Skitter’s still correct. They left Grue behind. The opposite of this is not leaving Grue behind. Therefore, they must do what is right, which is not left! Ta da, simple.

    I’d prefer for Grue to live, but at the same time I don’t think I’ve seen a guy get stuffed into a fridge in quite this manner. They’ll probably have to toss that frozen chicken out to fit him in. And the salad, they’ll have to toss the salad. Ew, egg salad. I’ve never tossed anyone’s egg salad, but I hope to find out what that means before I get roped into it. I’ve got a theory about tuna salad though.

    I’ll tell you some interaction of powers to try. Land a bug on Jack’s face, then have Trickster look him right in the eye. Then, after Jack’s eye is nothing more than brown recluse (NOT a spider you want biting you…their venom takes out chunks of human) you can deliver the hurt. Might pay to keep some big worms around so Jack can’t wrap his fingers around a knife.

    Speaking of which, I know where to get some big worms. Anyone else here ever been to Saturn?

    • Everybody runs from the man with a gun.
      Except the police officer.
      Nobody said it was easy.
      But they forgot this.

      • *ties Frozen chicken to his own shoulder, then puts an eyepatch on and a costume pirate hat* Yar! We be joinin’ the crew of the Quantum Anne’s Revenge! Watch yer tongue, matey, or they’ll make you walk the Planck.

        • ‘Quantum Anne’? Was she exceedingly short, highly unpredictable and infuriatingly indecipherable?

          …Hmmm. That does sound pretty fearsome. Alright, I’m in!

          *Pulls out a scale and begins weighing the anchor.*
          “10 kilos! Is that a good weight for an anchor?”

  5. Cherish had some pretty interesting things to say, wonder how they’ll pan out. And Trickster’s plan might just back up his name.

  6. hi thanks for the chapter

    typo (2*can)
    Coil spoke, “Can you can gather the rest of the details from her before we secure her offshore?”

  7. Good chapter! I liked Skitter’s idea and how it worked. The interaction between everybody was very good! I liked Cherish, and how they just talked over her. And the part talking to the Heroes was well done. I like how the Heroes just don’t know who Skitter is or what she’s about. I liked the self analysis, Warlord of the Boardwalk etc.

    Also, I’m a little surprised at how Skitter just went off on Cherish! Like it was nothing! She’s getting more casual about violence for sure. It’s kind of like when she hit Bitch way early on, except here it was just a few sentences cause it was like nothing to her. Jabbed her finger in the bullet hole without a second thought.

    • To be fair to Taylor, Cherish was poking at her amidst making fun of her inability to save the man she loves, telling her she also cannot save an innocent girl. And Cherish is a complete asshole.

      Seems a reasonable cause for some violence to me.

      • Eh, so Cherish fell off the back of a truck a little bit, so what? And maybe she tripped in the shower, or punched herself shaving, something like that? Rolled over and fell out of bed in the middle of the night, you know what I’m saying? Sleepwalked into a room full of boxing kangaroos. Tripped going down the stairs. Then she tried the elevator and tripped on that too. Tried to eat a giant bowl of jello and nearly drowned.

        These are all perfectly reasonable ways she might have gotten hurt that are in no way suspicious or show malicious forethought in them.

  8. Skitter needs some lessons from Lord Ilpalazzo on justifying crime.

    I think the biggest effect of Skitter’s little show will be to make her a target for Battery.

  9. First comment on this site.

    Love this work, though I only found it about two months ago, it has become one of my two favourite webfictions.
    But I have to say, you are going almost a bit overboard with making the ‘heroes’ unsympathetic – at least the older ones. We should have SOME reason to root for the good guys, but especially after this chapter, I just want to kick Legend’s hypocritical ass right into Behemoth’s jaws (if he/she/it has any).
    I mean, there he stands saying Skitter should do the right thing, while also refusing to take a risk to stop several mass murderers, one of whom is supposed to set the END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT in motion! Wow. I like him even less than Purity right now. And I hate her more than any member of the S9.

    I’m anxious to see what Trickster’s idea will be.

    Finally, I wanted to ask if there is a way to get this story in .pdf-form, or as an ebook (even if that would cost money). I’d love to be able to read it anytime without having to download and archive every single page.



    • I’d hope that if the story were told from Legend’s perspective, his unwillingness to take the risk would be sympathetic enough.

      I do have plans to release Worm as an ebook after the story draws to a close. That’s a little ways off, admittedly. But the convenience aspect, the fact that it’d get a pretty comprehensive edit (possibly paid for in part with the payments you guy have made/will make before then) and possible bonus content, is hopefully going to be a selling point for the book for any previous fans.

    • I think that from Legend’s point of view, his options are to either not fight as the Nine kill a bunch of people or to fight and have the Nine kill a bunch of people plus lose all of his group. Of course, that doesn’t make him good per se- He’s on the same path as Saruman.

  10. Are you serious? They KNOW they should be looking out for emotional manipulation, the moment Ballistic started backing out they should have realised Cherish noticed but hadn’t warned the others. I don’t know what their move would have been from there but it was stupid of them not to realise.

    • I’ve forgotten, did Cherish give Refent any clues that she might want to retire from the Nine? If not, her response to the ambush would be pretty unpredictable and subtle.

      “That’s enough,” Coil said.  He signaled his men.  ”Take the prisoner to the coastline and find a spot to depart.”

      Am I being stupid, or is the only possible departure spot the spot where their boat is? So “Take the prisoner to the boat” or “take e prisoner to the coastline and find a boat to steal.”

      • Presumably they’re taking a boat with them, and need to find a good launch point. Any boats actually on the shore are likely to be locked up (not much a problem for Coil’s men’s talents) and totally destroyed by Leviathan’s tidal waves (bigger problem).

  11. Edit: I may be wrong, but I believe the phrase is “Tom, Dick, or Harry”, not “John, Dick, or Harry”.

    Also btw I am in love with this webfic. Keep writing. Forever. And ever. and ever andeverandever…

  12. Hey guys, I’m pretty sure I missed something crucial, but could someone explain to me why Cherish wasnt using her powers to manipulate her captors. I mean, I wouldve just left it if her powers were entirely non-operational, but she still seems to be able to read/hear the emotions of the people around, just not play them the way she did when she made her entrance.

    • Also time delay and sheer number of people. Even ignoring Regent, the odds that someone would act to kill her in spite of (or because of) their new flood of emotions are pretty bad for Cherish.

  13. I´m reading this webserial for the first time cause a lot of friends says it´s i awesome… and wooow man, this is fucking addictive, i love the story and the characters. Great job Wildbow ! you´re my personal hero.

    On a side note… is Taylor keep doing that´s amazing thing the nine should select HER as a candidate and rule the world 😀

  14. Knowing Miss Militia’s ulterior motives, this was quite painful to watch. Sometimes dramatic irony hurts.

    • oh wait a minute, i’ve confused her with Battery. I guess I’m not sure what either of their motives are.

  15. I really dont like any of these so called heroes. Especially the ones who see things to much in terms of black and white. that sort of thinking gravely narrows perspective. Skitter is much more realistic in her vision. Seeing the world in the shades of gray it is.

    • To be fair, Skitter also just described how very similar the Undersiders were to the S9 not too long ago.

      Shades of grey, yes, but heroes might be a bit justified in being cautious about just what shade Skitter falls under

  16. “I could tell you a story,” Cherish said, “Little girl grows up with money. Daddy pulls in six figures, maybe seven. Massive house, I expect. Maybe horses, a mercedes, indoor and outdoor pools…”

    Get Lisa out of this room. NOW. If she gets compromised there’s literally no telling what she’s capable of.

  17. “Not everybody there agreed,” I said. “There was one group at the meeting that didn’t agree to the pact.”
    “Am I remembering wrong?” Trickster asked. “Coil, Merchants, Chosen, Faultline’s group…”
    “That’s right,” I said.

    Hint: they have to respond to calls for help. 😛

  18. Oh my god. The best heroes available, offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch or contain the worst villains anyone can find… and they sound just like Taylor’s principal and teachers. “Why should we believe anything you say?”

  19. It’s true that the enemy of my enemy isn’t always my friend- but that doesn’t mean xe isn’t a very useful resource. Skitter recognized that. Why couldn’t Legend or Miss Militia?

  20. These so-called ‘heroes’ piss me off. I keep imagining what I’d have said to them, if I were her.

    “You bunch need to find a dictionary and look up the word ‘hero’ and judge yourselves how you rate. I’m proud to be labeled ‘villain’, just to distance myself from your version of what a ‘hero’ is.

    • I am not even sure that the author realized that Miss Militia and Legend are reprehensible jackass. Have been since the hospital scene.

  21. I would have shamed them. Post the video on the internet, having two members of the team openly state they will not move in a decisive strike against the protectorate.

    I bet they would move fast then. 😛

  22. Oooo, I just realized a level of depth to the character creation of the team. Each one is a stereotypically marginalized minority of a sort, well, save for Regent, who is not a leader type nor getting absurd spotlight time. You have white brunette female for protagonist main character, male leader of color, butch nonsocial white brunette female foster child, smart white blonde female, and now the newest member, female of color from a broken home. The most priviledged positions on the team are that the main character os white and that the leader is still male.

    I’m surpised that a powerful mtf nonwhite transgendered character and another intersex character haven’t appeared somewhere yet. Also, no spoilers, but after all that’s happened, I’ll be disappointed to find that Skitter isn’t official leader over Grue by the end of the next arch

  23. Miss Militia’s levelheadedness is actually quite refreshing. Cops certainly would never work with local cartel members. She’s just trying her best to keep her team safe and efficient, and can’t trust a villain to do the same for them. Which unfortunately is bad for skitter.

  24. she’s probably contemplating something like suicide by cop. Or whatever the term is when the other group aren’t cops.

    Suicide by cape, obviously

  25. Trickster stepping up to the plate! Not that he hasn’t done it before, but if the bit about how powers interact with each other is what clued him into his plan, then I’m at a loss for figuring it out. I’m sure I’ll have a “duh” moment after I keep reading, but it still makes me a bit jealous to see these brilliant schemes by the characters and realize that I wouldn’t be able to think of them on the spot in the same situations.

    As a side note, I was thinking about Regent’s power, and the process to gain control. Seems to me like it’s pretty painful, but more in the sense that his victim is actively fighting against the control. I wonder if the process would be easier if he performed it on someone who was asleep, or otherwise unconscious/incapacitated.

    • … no, in English that f->v when pluralized is common. ‘lives’ is correct.

      –Dave, typo lives matter!

  26. Time and Time again, the “heroes” stand by and do nothing of any real import. I know we have a skewed perspective, but I can’t see how they are going to keep the trust of the people at this rate.

    Armmaster officially took out Lung, but it was reported that it was after a gang clash and Lung might have cleared at least a little of that up when he started gunning for Skitter.

    Villains crippled the ABB and Bakuda, which is the only reason the “heroes” were able to capture them and start sending them to prison.

    Villains crippled Empire Eighty-Eight, tearing it down right before the Endbringer attack.

    Many heroes fought Leviathan, but the two who were stopping him when he was closest to civilians attacking the shelter, Skitter and Bitch. And frankly, the only reason they were able to keep track of Leviathan and keep the pressure on him was because of Skitter.

    Skitter took control of a territory, only to start improving it much better and faster than the heroes were doing with the city.

    And now the Slaughterhouse Nine are again being thrashed by Villains, while the heroes sit in their ivory tower waiting for an “opportune time” which will translate into, after the villains have done enough of the groundwork that we can clean shop.

    The only thing I think that is preventing the heroes from dealing with a very unhappy populace is that they are controlling the flow of information very well, and they are spinning things to keep themselves looking better than they actually are, otherwise? Otherwise the people would see that the Villains are doing more good for their well being than the heroes, and that would be bad.

    Can’t last forever though, the facade is going to start cracking.

  27. “All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it’s a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a ‘hero’ often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear. I’ve done things I regret, I’ve done things I’m proud of, and I’ve walked the roads in between. The sliding scale is a fantasy. There’s no simple answers.“

    That was amazing. I am loving how Skitter is developing into a great personality and not just a character.

  28. God the “Heroes” in this universe are fucking useless. Oh, Civilians getting killed? Nah, not gonna do shit. “Oh powerful villain? Guess what, we are way to weak mimimimi”, meanwhile Skitter and freinds with her powers that are, for the most part, WAY worse than the Heroes manage to do something. And for fucks sake, the fact that they don’t get how easily they could completely annihilate the Nine if they let Trickster switch Clockblocker in and out of the vicinity of the “killable” ones (Burnscar, Bonesaw, Mannequin, Jack), freezing them and sticking a grenade on them and they go “BOOM” and done. Then “only” Siberian and Crawler are left, and they could find ways around those 2 aswell, and be it chaining Crawler up with the strongest and bigges amount of spider silk Taylor can manage and then throw him into the Mariana Trench. I doubt he can reassemble from the type of pressure down there. Or hell, have a flier throw him into a fucking active Volcano.

  29. Ooh, Cherish managed to tick Tattletale off with the “only I’m better at it than you are”. You can just see Tattletale going “Oh, it’s on.”

  30. Cherish, Cherish, Cherish. Your power might let you see deeper cracks sooner than Tattletale, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t deliver them effectively. You just threaten to ruin everything and blurt out the secrets when it looks like that’ll fail. And don’t get me started on your composure. It doesn’t matter how destructive your cannon is if it’s made of glass.
    I love seeing arrogance skewered like that, especially when skewering it ruins the prick so thoroughly.

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