Prey 14.2

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Amy Dallon ran for her life.  It wasn’t the kind of run one saw in marathons or anything like that.  It was mindless, panicked, like a herd animal in a stampede.  She took the easiest and most obvious paths available to her, stumbling as often as not, her sole and all-consuming purpose being to put distance between herself and her pursuer.  Her left hand was cradled against her chest, the very ends of her pinky, ring and middle fingers missing.  Was that intentional?  Harming the healing hands?

Siberian didn’t even have to run to keep up.  The chase was something she’d honed into an art.  Amy had to run around buildings, hurdle over piles of debris, and climb fences.  Siberian anticipated her movements, pushed through walls of stone, brick, wood and plaster as though they were tissue paper and ultimately took the shortest, most direct paths.  If Amy happened to get a little too far away, Siberian would use a short hop to cross half a city block, often crashing through a wall or the side of a truck in the process.

She could have closed the gap and gotten her hands on Amy at any moment, but she didn’t.  She was a cat with its prey, and Amy didn’t have anything that could help her get away.  Amy ran and created some distance, getting just far enough that she might think she’d escaped, then Siberian would appear in front of her, or to one side.  It happened once, twice, then three times.  Each time, Siberian drew closer.

The fourth time she closed the distance, she leaped up to a spot behind Amy and caught hold of Amy’s wrist.  Amy jerked as the hold interrupted her forward momentum.  She screamed, her legs buckling under her.

Siberian took her time, grabbing at Amy’s other wrist, then prying at her fingers.  Three were already missing segments, and Siberian seized the index finger.  Slowly, inexorably, she guided the finger to her mouth, her lips parting.  Amy thrashed, but couldn’t free herself from Siberian’s grip.

“Shouldn’t we do something?”  Sundancer asked.  Her hand trembled as she lowered the binoculars.  I wasn’t sure how useful Sundancer was going to be, on several levels.  Our group consisted of Trickster, Grue, Tattletale, Sundancer and myself, with two of Bitch’s dogs to get us from A to B.  The seven of us were gathered behind the wall of a ruined building, a considerable distance from Siberian.

I glanced at Grue.  He was tense, rigid enough that I could see his stillness through the darkness.  Anything I’d say to him would hurt more than it helped.  I turned my attention back to Amy and Siberian, looking through the binoculars.  Instead of addressing Grue, I told Sundancer, “Nothing we can do.  But I think Siberian is going to-”

As if she’d heard, Siberian closed her mouth.  Amy recoiled with her whole body, pulling away, and Siberian let her go, giving her a little push.  As her quarry stumbled and started to run, Siberian simply stood there, waiting.

She wanted to give Amy a head start.

Amy wasn’t bleeding as much as she should have been.  I knew she couldn’t use her power to affect herself, or this fight would be playing out much differently.  But maybe she was using her power to affect microbes on her hands?  Changing them into something that could breed, coagulate, and staunch the wounds?

It was what I’d be doing.

But I’d also be trying to use microbes to form some kind of defense.  I’d be reaching out for algae or other plant life I could use to obscure my retreat.  Something to produce an opaque gas, to block line of sight or give me hiding places.  Amy had far, far more versatility than I did, and I had little doubt she’d be able to mimic my power with a little time for preparation.  With some forethought, preparation and strategic thinking, she was capable of holding her own, getting away.  She had so much potential.

But Amy Dallon wasn’t that sort of person.  She hadn’t gravitated toward front-line combat, nor had she gotten in any real fights, to the best of my knowledge.  When Leviathan had hit the city, she’d stayed behind to give medical care instead of using her power against him.  Now she was panicking, up against an unstoppable enemy and an inevitable fate, and she didn’t have the tools, mental or otherwise, to hold her own.  Siberian would catch her and release her over and over, taking her apart piece by piece.  Eventually the blood loss would mean Amy couldn’t run any more.

Or maybe Siberian was waiting for Amy to break, mentally.  How long could she put up with this before she lost all hope and surrendered herself to a fate of being eaten alive?

Using my power, I began to gather a swarm around Amy.  Her initial reaction was to freak out.  She thrashed, stumbled, and fell.  She landed in the shallow water with her good hand thrust out to prevent herself from landing face first.

Her second reaction, beyond the knee-jerk fear, was to use her power to start shutting mine down.

Idiot,” I hissed the word.

“What?”  Tattletale asked.

“I’m trying to save her life, and she’s turning my power against me.”

Two ways this would go.  Either she clued in that I was trying to help, or she died.  I was really hoping it wouldn’t be the latter.  I didn’t like her, but she didn’t deserve to die.  There were very few people in the world who deserved to die like this.

I could feel a not-unfamiliar headache building as I leveraged my power to draw more of a swarm around her.  Siberian was watching, uncaring.  As was so often the case, my timing had to be specific.  She wouldn’t let Amy go as a matter of principle, but she’d let hope dangle in front of both of us.  That penchant for offering hope and then dashing it was a weapon she and virtually every other member of the Nine had at their disposal, but it was also a tendency we could exploit.  A weakness, if you could call it that.

This would have been easier if we’d had another mannequin like we used in our first victory against the Nine, using Trickster’s power to evacuate Amy, but we hadn’t been near my lair and we’d used every mannequin we had in that fight.  We could have kludged something together, something vaguely Amy-sized and Amy-shaped, but time had been tight, and we hadn’t found anything that would serve that would also fit on the dogs.  Deploying on the one job with the explosives, mannequins and two or three people riding each dog had been our limit, before.

Siberian took hold of a length of her long hair and combed her fingers slowly through it, her back twisting and arching a little as she reached behind her head, the flank of her body exposed to the diffuse light of the overcast sky above.  If Cherish wasn’t fucking with us, the real Siberian was a middle-aged man.  What, then, was the projection?  Why was it female, when Brian’s had been male and so very similar to him?  I would have asked Grue something to try to shed light on the subject, but I didn’t want to get him thinking about what had happened back then.

My head was starting to pound, my power getting more sluggish.  Where possible, I used my bugs to find, catch and kill the bugs Amy had altered with her power.  It wasn’t enough; my power was still getting steadily weaker.  Amy fell again, climbed to her feet and swatted her good hand through the swarm, disabling those bugs who stayed on her skin for any longer than a second.

It was also making it harder to sweep the area for Siberian’s real body.  There were pockets of people here and there.  I needed to keep tabs on the ones who fit Cherish’s description; middle-aged, male, probably unkempt, thin.  What made it trickier was that I had to find him without him catching on and sending Siberian after us.  There was one man nearby, but he was fit.  Another there: fat, startling and trembling at the distant sounds of Siberian tearing through the landscape in her pursuit of Amy.  I found another, but he was clutching a small child to him, and she clutched him back.  Father and daughter, no doubt.  The little girl wasn’t Bonesaw, either.  Too small.  In the next cluster of people-  I had to stop and press my fingers to my temples.  It hurt.  Damn that girl.

I had to cover her, though, so having my bugs near her was unavoidable.  Amy needed to be one-hundred percent out of Siberian’s sight before we acted.  As if she was actively seeking to make things harder on us, she took a route that carried her out of sight of our binoculars, behind a building.  Not that she knew we were there.  It was bad luck.

I focused my binoculars on Siberian, instead.  Her hair drifted in the wind.  The length she wasn’t holding in her hand fanned out, briefly.

“If the wind moves her hair like that, is that a clue?” I asked, looking at Tattletale.  “Like the dust on Glory Girl’s clothes hinting that she wasn’t covered by her forcefield?”

“Ninety-five percent sure I’m right on this score, but her power probably copies her real body’s physiology to some degree, molding all the internal organs and whatever else with whatever reality-scrambling-stuff she’s made of.  Her call about what parts of her are affected by what, so I don’t-”  She stopped, “Heads up.”

Siberian was letting her hair fall from her hands.  She flicked the last strand back over her shoulder.

I collected the swarm into a dozen decoys in the same instant Siberian started striding forward, then scattered them.

Siberian stopped, pivoting on the spot, then lunged for one side of the street.  She threw herself through the side of a parked pickup truck, shearing through the fiberglass and metal, and landed in a crouch on the far side of it.  She gripped the two sections of the vehicle, tearing where they were still connected on the underside, and then spun in place, holding each half out to one side.

I couldn’t be sure, but as I looked through the binoculars, I was pretty sure that I caught a glimpse of her holding one half of the truck by a glass pane of a side window, index and middle finger on either side of the broken glass.

In most cases, a cape trying to pick up a car by anything but the undercarriage would find it falling apart, the weight of the vehicle pulling it free of whatever section the cape was holding.  Siberian didn’t have that problem.  She simply extended her power through whatever she was holding to keep it intact.

With a throwing motion, she whipped one section of the truck over her head, hurling it forward so it crashed through no less than five of my decoy swarms.  She did a tight spin as she stepped forward and made the second throw into a smooth continuation of the first.

Her accuracy wasn’t quite so good for the second hit.  It crashed through the water and hit the ground before it rolled out of my line of sight.  It was only through my swarm that I felt it hit Amy and my decoy swarms.  Most of the momentum was lost in the initial impact, and it didn’t pulverize her.  She was in one piece, at least.

In retrospect, that might have been intentional on Siberian’s part.

“She’s advancing,” Tattletale reported.

“Yeah,” I replied, absently.  I was focusing on getting my bugs on site.  The bugs that had surrounded Amy and formed the decoys in her immediate vicinity were still there, and I gathered them into humanoid shapes again.  I didn’t have line of sight to her, but I could feel them rising in what must have looked like a very human way.

I’d known that using the decoys would provoke Siberian.  She wanted to drive home that inevitability of her target’s fate, and that meant she would stop playing around the second she thought Amy might really escape.  That was the bad.

The good side of things caught me by surprise.  As though a switch was flicked, my power suddenly surged back to its normal strength.  Amy was killing the bugs she’d fucked up, so they weren’t scrambling my power anymore.  She’d realized I was trying to help.

“Should I attack?”  Sundancer asked.

“No,” Grue almost barked the word.  “You’ll give away our location.”

“Let me,” Trickster said.

While Trickster unclipped grenades from the belt of his costume, I focused on Amy.  She was standing, slowly, masked by a swarm.  If I sent a decoy running in one direction, I was almost positive it would get Amy killed.  She couldn’t run faster than Siberian, and however much I scattered the decoys, Siberian could dispatch them all and get her hands on the real Amy in a matter of seconds.  If I moved a decoy too fast, it would be a dead giveaway as a fake.

“Really need a distraction,” I said.

“Are you still looking for the real Siberian?”  Tattletale asked.

“Of course I am!”  I snapped.  I might have gone on to point out how we were also here to save her.  To save Amy Dallon.  I kept my mouth shut: pointless to waste my breath or dedicate any focus to arguing when I could be trying to deal with Siberian.

Trickster was looking through his binoculars, holding one grenade.  I saw him pull the pin a second before the grenade in his hand was replaced by a fragment of building.

An explosion erupted a matter of feet from Siberian.  The smoke cleared quickly enough, and I saw her turning her head, looking for the unseen attacker.  I ducked my head low to get more cover from the ruined wall we all lurked behind.

“Grue?” I asked.

He hesitated.


“Right.”  His darkness began to flow from his hands.  I climbed up onto Sirius’s back, and Grue was a step behind, taking a seat in front of me.

“Any luck?” Tattletale asked.  She’d seated herself on Bentley, her hands on the chain around his neck, and both Trickster and Sundancer were behind her.

My bugs were still searching for the real Siberian.  Or her creator, depending on how one wanted to look at it.  I was reaching the edges of my range and I hadn’t found anyone suitable.  I did find two adult men that were together.  Could she have made a friend in her real identity?

Just to be safe, I set my bugs on the pair of them.  I didn’t use anything deadly, but I had bugs biting and stinging without flexing their abdomens to inject the accompanying venom.  Siberian didn’t react to my assault of the men.  I put each of them down as a ‘maybe’, planting bugs in the folds of their clothes to mark them.

“Can’t find her maker,” I said.

“My power’s not detecting him either,” Grue replied, “But my coverage is bad.  Give me a second and I’ll let you know the second my darkness connects with him.”

Siberian had noticed the darkness, and I could see her contemplating coming after us, striking at the source of the darkness.  Instead, she turned and began making her way toward Amy.  The darkness continued to flow, low to the ground, tendrils rising to bind together and fill in gaps, and my view of Siberian was soon blocked.  There was another explosion as Trickster deployed another grenade, but it wouldn’t serve as anything but a split-second distraction.

I could feel Siberian.  Through my bugs, I could tell the darkness hadn’t reached around that corner to where Amy, my newly reformed decoys and the two sections of truck were.

It was as good a time as any.  We needed to delay, so I wrote the words ‘run in 3’ in front of Amy, along with an arrow.  The three transformed into a two.  Then a one.

I sent the decoys off in different directions.

Siberian lunged just as I’d expected her to, crashing through the decoy that was moving fastest.  She plunged her hands into the nearby wall and ripped out a chunk of brick and mortar, flinging it.  It broke apart as it left her hands, forming a scattershot spray.

More than one fragment of brick hit Amy, judging from the way she stumbled.  None of the hits had been too serious, at least, because she managed to keep moving.

Using my swarm-sense, I formed a mental map of the area.  Buildings, cover, features of the terrain.  What was a good option?  Should I drive her to keep running or to find cover?  Would Siberian be able to second-guess my suggestions?

She was experienced in this sort of thing, and would be an experienced tracker.  The water that layered the street was something of a blessing, I suspected.  Even as it slowed Amy down, it meant there weren’t tracks of mud or anything for Siberian to follow.  At worst, there would be clouds of muck stirred up by Amy’s footfalls, and there was little enough sunlight that I wasn’t sure how much of it Siberian would be able to see.

I waited, tense, as Amy ran.  I felt the darkness roll over the bugs I’d gathered on and around her, and crossed my fingers that Siberian didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve.

Needed a way to communicate with her.  Shifting a small group of bugs onto Amy’s right hand, I felt her shake them off.  I tried again, and she left them there.  I moved them gradually, until they were gathered on the tips of her ring and pinky fingers.  She moved her hand to the right, and I shifted the bugs to her middle and index fingers.

Would she figure it out?

She moved her hand again, and I adjusted the placement of the bugs.  From the way she picked up speed, I could tell she was taking my directions.  The bugs would serve her as a compass.  She wasn’t running as fast as she might, otherwise, but she seemed willing to trust that I wouldn’t direct her straight into a wall.

That left the problem of Siberian and whether she would come after us when she lost Amy’s trail.

“Let’s go,” I spoke.  “Let’s check the twelve o’clock position from Siberian to see if we can’t find her creator further on.  Loop around.”

Grue and Tattletale kicked the dogs into action.

I judged that Amy and Siberian were far enough apart, now.  I used my bugs to direct her to a door that was ajar, leading her into a small shopping mall.

I tapped hard on Grue’s shoulder, and the darkness immediately around us began to fade.  I asked, “You can tell where Amy is?”

“I have a bit of her power.  Don’t trust myself to use it,” he grunted.  “Missing something in the interpretation and analysis part of it.”

“Clear the darkness around her so she can find a spot to hide.”

He grunted a response, and the darkness folded around us a second time.

I was focusing on four things at once: staying seated behind Grue, guiding Amy, tracking Siberian’s location and trying to find Siberian’s real body.  I could sense her as she made her way up the side of a building.

Grue’s darkness was heavier, now.  It sat lower on the streets.  From her vantage point, Siberian couldn’t see us, couldn’t see Amy, but she could see the tops of taller buildings.

What was she looking at?

Through my swarm-sense, I could feel her dropping back down to ground level.  I expected a splash or shattered pavement, but there was nothing.  She was snapping her invulnerability out to affect the surface she was landing on.

She was heading in Amy’s general direction.

I reached up and pulled on Grue’s right arm.  He veered in that direction.

Couldn’t find Siberian’s real body.  Was it really close, like Cherish had said?  I noted one man who fit the general description, but he was barricaded in his room, surrounded by cans of food.  There was no reason for Siberian’s real persona to situate himself here.  Even so, I tested him, attacking him with bugs to see if it got a response.

Not that I was sure that there was a link connecting his real self and her projected form.  It was an assumption, and maybe a dangerous one.  I wasn’t sure exactly how much control Brian had managed with his own projection when he’d borrowed that fragment of Siberian’s powers.

No.  My gut told me Siberian wouldn’t operate like this if there wasn’t some link.  There had to be some kind of range limit on the projection, or he wouldn’t have any reason to follow Siberian from city to city.  The fact that he was supposedly in this area meant it might even be a fairly short range.  If he was an unwilling participant, a recipient of a power with unfortunate side effects, like Labyrinth, then she’d have to direct him from one place to another with threats.  It would require more interactions between her selves, and that would mean something would have been given away.

Along similar lines, if she depended on him to keep her going, then she had to keep him safe from the other members of the Nine.  There was infighting in the group, apparently, though I’d seen no sign of it with the team thus far.  Keeping the ordinary man safe wouldn’t be a problem if he shared Siberian’s senses like I shared those of my bugs.  She could keep an eye out for trouble and he could slip away or hide if a member of the Nine came around.

Until Cherish joined the group.  I wonder how that had played out.  Some sort of deal?  Threats, overt or implied?

Siberian was on the far side of the two-lane road that stood beside Amy’s hideout.  She didn’t walk straight for Amy, but walked down the street with an almost casual slowness.  She had one arm out, a hand tracing the side of the building she was walking by, as if to guide her through the effects Grue’s lightless world.

My swarm felt dust shower onto them in her wake.  It was unexpected, and it demanded investigation.  I moved them across the wall, and felt a gap.  She wasn’t just putting her hand on the wall, but her hand and forearm through it.  What did that mean?

My bugs felt more dust fall from above.  A moth was bludgeoned by a rock that fell from above.

I felt realization hit me like a bucket of cold water.

Her hand was punching through the exterior wall of the building, but it was also tearing through the supports and load bearing areas.  She’d made her way halfway through the ground floor.  By the time she finished, part of the building was going to collapse and fall.

If the building tipped in the direction of the shattered area, it could easily fall on the mall where Amy was hiding.

My bugs formed a picture on a wall near Amy.  A rectangle to represent the skyscraper Siberian intended to bring down, a squatter rectangle to represent the mall, a ladybug for Amy and a moth to represent Siberian.  I demonstrated what was about to happen.

Faster and easier than explaining with words.

Still, I included one word for good measure:  ‘RUN’.

I could feel Amy making a break for it.  She headed in the wrong direction at first, northwest instead of northeast, and I used a giant arrow to direct her.

The building began to collapse only ten or fifteen seconds after I’d transmitted the message.  Grue’s power didn’t do anything to stop the rumble from reaching us.  From what my bugs could gather in the chaos that followed, the building seemed to slump, the lower levels buckling and crackling.  Just when I thought it had settled, the upper portion tipped over, crashing into the small parking lot and the entrance of the mall.

Amy wasn’t in the impact site, and she probably wouldn’t have been even if I hadn’t warned her.  Still, it was a demonstration of power, it was intended to scare an already terrified Amy, and it served both purposes.  She was running directly away from the site of the devastation, ignoring the bugs I had on her hand.  In her pell-mell run , Amy stumbled into a post meant to keep carts from being taken out of the mall and fell hard.

“Right,” I spoke into Grue’s darkness.  He obeyed.

Siberian was giving chase, entering one end of the mall at the same time Amy made her way out of the opposite side.  Siberian had guessed the most likely hiding spot and then used the falling building to dash Amy’s hopes of safety and get her out of hiding and running.  With the way the roads funneled together into one four-lane road, Amy would either have to take a left, take a right, or go straight.  Chances were good she would take the latter, because it put her the furthest from Siberian.

With my directions, we looped around the mall and made a beeline for Amy.  Siberian was advancing too, but while she was in the right general area, she didn’t have a means of finding Amy, specifically.  Instead, she leaped from one area to another, pausing for a second or two at a time.

What was she doing?

I swept the area with my power, but I couldn’t find anyone resembling Cherish’s description of Siberian’s real self.

Was I missing something?  If Cherish had been lying outright, I was under the impression that Lisa would have caught some tell.  There had to be something else to it.  Something I could use to identify the man behind the monster.

What was she?  Unstoppable, a deceptively strong, deceptively tough juggernaut of a woman.

Something caught her attention.  A vibration in the road?  Or had she used her power to protect the ground, and sensed some impact as the dogs walked on it?

Either way, she started to chase us.  We could have turned at a right angle, to hopefully throw her off, but both Grue and I knew that if we did, and she continued straight, she’d run straight into Amy.

Fast.  She was fast.  Not as much as Battery or Velocity might have been on a good day, but highly mobile.

The thought clicked into the blank I was looking to fill.  How was her alter ego getting around?  I’d assumed he was traveling on foot because that was how ninety-percent of the city was getting by.  Very few cars on the road had access to gas and the ability to traverse the broken, flooded streets.  But if there was a range limit to the projection, how was he keeping up with the woman who could ignore air resistance and leap across a city block in a single bound?

I shouldn’t have been looking for people.  I should have been looking for vehicles.  Had I overlooked anything like a truck or a van interior he could be hiding inside?  Or was he still in a location outside of my range?  Or -I wasn’t ignoring the possibility- had Cherish lied or misled us?

Damn it!  The extra possibility threw my hopes of finding the man totally out of whack.

My respect for Grue grew a hundredfold as he veered straight for Amy without my asking him to.  We swept past her, and I caught her around the shoulder.  Grue offered one hand, and we lifted her together, kicking and struggling, onto my lap.  I wrapped one arm around her chest, to keep her securely in place.  She was breathing hard, almost hyperventilating.

It took her a few seconds to realize we weren’t Siberian.  She might have calmed down at that realization, but she didn’t get a chance.

Siberian closed the gap in a single bound, crashing into Bentley, Lisa, Trickster and Sundancer and shoving them forward into the rest of us.  We sprawled, and I felt my leg bend painfully as Sirius rolled over it.

Grue banished his darkness.  I could see the six of us and the two dogs, lying on the road. Nobody dead.

And there was Siberian.  Faintly glowing eyes, black and white striped skin, straight hair in similar variations of black and white, trailing to her tailbone.

“Thank you, Grue,” Tattletale said.  Had she asked him to cancel out his power?  It wasn’t like he was borrowing any power that would work on Siberian, and as for the concealment effects, they wouldn’t do much.

And, as it turned out, she wanted to talk.  She pulled herself up to a standing position and raised one hand, palm facing Siberian.  “Hold on.”

Siberian stopped.

“I think you should know,” Tattletale smiled, “We’re here for three reasons.”

Siberian’s eyes narrowed.

“Reason number one, we’re trying to save that girl.  I mean, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know if I would have risked it, but we do have some more compassionate people on our team.”  She glanced at me.  “For better or worse.”

I could see Siberian flex her fingers.  Her nails were long, and they were sharp.  There wasn’t anything special about them, on an aesthetic level, but they did have the benefit of her power.  If she raked those across a surface, they would leave gouges.  Didn’t matter how hard or dense the material was.

“Reason number two, we’re aiming to kill you.  See, we know about your… other self.”

There wasn’t the slightest reaction from Siberian.

“And the third reason, I think you should know, is sort of tied into the first.  We’re making you waste time.  Longer you take to kill Panacea, here, the better off we are.  Awfully arrogant of you to leave your team and go off to pick off candidates like Amy.  The rest of your team?  Crawler, Jack, Mannequin and Bonesaw?  Right this second, they’re getting a surprise visit from the rest of our team.  What do you think-”

Siberian flickered and disappeared.  Tattletale’s jaw dropped.

Shit,” Trickster cursed, “She-”

“Just get a phone!  Warn them!”

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78 thoughts on “Prey 14.2

  1. Was wondering why there were 500+ views and no comments, checked main site. Apparently post didn’t go up at the date/time I set it to. Has happened once before, but that was only 15 minutes, not 2 hours.

    Opened it in dashboard to see if I put in the date wrong, no problems on that front. Went back to main site, and find just opening/updating the entry seems to have fixed it.

    Blah. Sorry to everyone who checked in, refreshing for update. Do let me know in the future, via email or comments if it’s not up at the scheduled 1 minute after midnight, Eastern Standard Time.

    • Will do. I figured it was just typical variation, or a server hiccup- I saw that the ‘next chapter’ link had been updated, so wasn’t too worried(since last time there was a problem the link was to the wrong page).

      Curious about the Leviathan comment, about powers with unfortunate consequences- is there some known person with a link to Leviathan?

      The ending probably puts paid to the ‘her real body is hiding inside Siberian’ theory, but damned if it wasn’t a great cliffhanger, and an excellent resolution to ‘how do they not get creamed?’

      I enjoyed this a lot, and glad to see that Tattletale is healed up(due to Grue I suppose) enough to drop her jaw(though with Amy on board that might not be as significant)- I’d been wondering about how much he’d done to fix her.

      A few things-
      “binoculars. I wasn’t” Extra space there.
      “recipient of an a power” extra ‘an’.
      “northwest instead of northeast” Should be capitalized.
      “collapsed down, first,” While this is correct, I think it’d read better without the comma between down and first. It seems very formal or technical the way she describes it, rather than a blow by blow announcement.
      “hiding spot and scared” A comma might fit there, not sure.

      • Regarding leviathan, I assume Lisa didn’t think to tell the rest of her team that Leviathan had never been a human. It doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable for Taylor to think Leviathan used to be some guy that just went absolutely batshit crazy when he turned into a gigantic monster.

  2. It was interesting to hear Taylor considering how she would have used a power like Amy’s. It says a lot about her general mindset. The relative ruthlessness she exhibits when excluding possible candidates for Siberian’s real body is another telling thing.

    As for Amy, somehow I don’t think she will be too grateful for the rescue, even if Grue can figure out how to correctly use her own power her to get around the limitation of healing herself.

    With Siberian it is hard to tell whether she left because her real body is with her team, or whether she is just worried about Bonesaw. At least we no know that her real body is not inside the projection, since it did not magically appear when the projection disappeared. On the other hand Amy’s fingers didn’t seem to appear either, so we have to wonder what happened to them. Can the projection ‘digest’ food and convert it to energy or something?

    • Incidentally, that had me considering what happens to Amy’s fingers now- the easy answer is having Grue use her powers to heal her, but they might not trust doing that, given just how dangerous such a power is while undirected; it isn’t a healing power, but a general ‘do whatever to biology’ power that happens to have been used for healing… Not safe to dabble with, especially if he doesn’t get her innate control over it.

      The scary answer involves these isopods that crawl into the mouth of a fish and chew the tongue off, then latch on and replace the tongue. Google it if you have a strong stomach. Then imagine some pillbugs repurposed as fingertips.

      Anyway, Amy and Skitter is a pretty amazing combo if Amy can create some more creative bugs, and Taylor can beat some sense into her.

      • I can’t say I had thought about the possibility for Amy to create a… home-made biological prosthesis… to replace her missing fingers. It’s pretty crazy what you can find in the comments section of a superhero story.😛

        Next step: take a page out of Mannequin’s book and replace every parts of her body except the most essential with organisms created to live in symbiosis with her. Manipulate said organisms freely with her powers, since they’re not technically part of her body.

          • Where would she possibly get enough beetlejuice for that? I mean, do you know how hard it is to get beetlejuice? I swear, you can’t just use prawns like that without some beetle- *is shut up as a metal plate covers his mouth*

        • That’s exactly what I was worried about happening before.

          Amy, desperate, wounded, avoiding anywhere that might help out of fear of being found and using some random biomass to repair herself.

          I mean, it’s still a great application of her power – just not suited to a desperate mindset. And she’s already having trouble holding back the neural manipulation.

  3. It took Skitter long enough to realize that the creator would have to cover a lot of distance either with his body or with his power. As for the feminine projection, it could be due to the fellow being a lady in a guy’s body, if you smell what I’m cookin’. There’s also the possibility that the projection is influence by what the person wants to imagine as a projection. I’m guessing Grue didn’t want to put a lot of effort into making his ShadowGrue as he had more pressing issues on his mind at the time.

    Taylor’s idea that she might be a fully separate entity with her own thoughts who might be keeping her creator around just because he is the only way she exists, now that is certainly an interesting take on it, but I don’t think it holds up since she was unprojected so soon after hearing that to presumable be projected closer to base.

    Given Bonesaw’s relationship with Siberian, perhaps we ought to sic the To Catch a Predator Crew on the dude version of Siberian. Hey Bambina, two more shots over here!

    Mentioning the reality of super strength when used to pick up a car is interesting as well and reminiscent of Superman and Gladiator. Both actually have some sort of form of telekinesis that affects what they touch only, explaining how they can lift things in ways that defies physics. In Gladiator’s case, it’s actually tied into his confidence. I doubt that’s the case here. That, or they’re screwed anyway because the projection has enough confidence to run around naked.

    In a naked-off, you better bring your A game. Come on, Siberian, you and me, this Sunday, we’re running the Naked Mile. Just give me awhile to rig up the cameras…to prevent cheating, of course. Might even offer viewers an online PPV type deal to better officiate the proceedings. Really, that’s all it is. I swear to you, I’m an honest man or my name isn’t Psychpomp Benedict Ponzi Madoff Tammany Capone Simpson Pants-On-Fire Gecko the -2nd. Also, there’s a small entry fee for the event. I just need your credit card for a few minutes to get you set up.

    And here we also see a weakness in Tattletale’s powers. She has to talk, which means giving the person a reason to listen, which means sometimes giving out information to gauge reactions and keep people around to hear more.

  4. It’s been too long since I’ve read the part where Tattletale’s powers are explained. Does she have to go on like that, cause if not, then it must just be a habit, since likely it pays off often enough. Still, I think there are times and places for it, and Siberian was already known for being silent and such (perhaps because she’s a projection, and thus doesn’t have all of those necessary biological reactions to lying, being surprised, etc). I mean, Tattletale probably should have known that telling her (well, I’m thinking they are Taylor’s, actually, but same thing) plans to the super-fast member of the Nine whose whole job it is is to bail them out. If she’d kept her maw shut, then the other attack would have happened, and possibly it would have succeeded.

    Why do I think this? Because Jack all but said so. When Siberian went off in a huff or got bored, the Nine were often forced to retreat against the heaviest hitters of the superhero/villain world, enemies too dangerous for the clever Nine…retreat until Siberian returns from her jaunts and then strike back, to general mayhem. So this was the best chance for the team to attack them with only one of the Power Two (I need to think of a better name, but I mean Crawler and Siberian, both of which don’t seem very human, and seem to be the tanks of the group) in attendance.

    And then Tattletale talked…

    Though, on the fair side, if Siberian’s projector is in a car, Skitter might notice a car suddenly hightailing it at sixty miles per hour…unless Siberian is wise to it, thanks to Tattletale TELLING HER?!

    Jeez, maybe there is no silver lining. Wait, there is one…Amy’s alive. But the more I see of her, the less impressed I am. People an Arc or two ago were talking about them somehow teaming up, or working together for the good of Skitter’s district, or something.

    You’ll note that nobody’s said anything like that recently. There’s a reason, I think.

    • Because Amy’s young and kind of a pain, not neccessarily because she couldn’t contribute well. Even if she isn’t so smart, Skitter certainly is.

  5. Great post!😀 So Siberian DOES have a real body? Then I suppose he has ability to project it somewhat far, unless as stated before, the body is in a car, possibly guarded by something or someone(Because let’s face it, if YOU see a rather thin unkempt man in a working car I’d be taking it and getting out of there cos of Siberian.)

    My question is could Amy affect Siberian in any way or is she immune to Amy’s power because she has no real biology, and speaking of Siberians immunity I’m thinking that perhaps she’s made of dark matter, it would explain why she is simply so unstoppable. She’s made of the very stuff that hold Galaxies together. All in all very interesting……Though why on bloody Earth did Tattletale open her big freakin’ mouth!? There goes any element of surprise.

          • Oh, okay. Thanks for clearing that up. I really wish this was T.V. Series, I’d watch it religiously. Can’t wait till Tuesday.

          • What kind of TV station would allow this, though?

            George R. R. Martin, IIRC, wove gratuitous nudity and sex into Game of Thrones to deliberately block TV stations from being able to carry the show. HBO wound up selling him on it while being able to have said material.

            Here’s a fun question: Who would you cast?

            • Helena Bonham carter as Bitch.
              Sean Bean as Kaiser.
              Benedict Cumberbatch as Jack Slash.
              Aaron Paul as Regent.
              Robert Downey Junior as Kid Win.

              Much harder to think of actors for Parian and Vista type characters. Does that say something about our celebrity culture?

          • As far as American Television goes, I don’t see why this couldn’t be on TV. Just throw a few discretion shots in when the violence reaches ludicrous levels and you’re golden.

            As far as casting goes, I think Gillian Jacobs could make a good, adapted version of Tattletale.

          • New actors, not known faces but a bunch of small names who would be catapulted forever to geek fandom a la Firefly.

            But no cancellation because no one could ever be cruel enough to cancel Worm.

        • True. I forget how young the characters are at times to be honest. The only one’s I actually think of as not being full adults in my head are Alec, Aisha, Cherish, and Bonesaw. Wards excluded.

        • Dakota or Elle Fanning would be great for Vista or Parian (though obviously that takes away the Indian aspect of Parian…). Also I think Kiera Knightly would do wonders for Lisa or maybe Kirsten Dunst…maybe. I’m not sure who should play Taylor or Grue. The problem with RDJ for Kid Win is he is just too old to play a teenager. Knightly can at least look younger with the right make up and outfits. Same problem with HBC for Bitch. RDJ might work perfectly for Armsmaster though. He’s a bit too close to Iron Man to sit right with me but it fits. Or Bruce Willis would work for that character. Vin Diesel would make a great Hookwolf or Trickster. Perhaps Tom Cruise for Coil? Or maybe George Clooney?

      • If it weren’t for her reaction to Siberian dematerializing I’d have thought it was a fake, a ploy to get Siberian out of the way.

  6. Hey! Loving the story! Just letting ya know.

    With Amy running around like this I gotta wonder what Flashbang is up to right now. In the chapter the family had he seemed like a pretty selfless guy who actually cared about the well being of his adopted teenage daughter. Unlike *cough*everyone else*cough*. Got me wondering about New Wave’s (if they’re still operating) response to all this is.

    I’m anticipated some either very awesome or very horrible happening.

  7. thanks for the chapter

    “I don’t know I would have risked it”
    would propably sound better with a if
    –> I don’t know if I would have risked it

  8. And a thank you goes out to Cindi, for finishing up the tally for the bonus week.

    $200 goal reached. When the time comes, we’ll have a week of daily chapters. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and congrats. I hope you like it.

      • Thanks Jessie.

        I was on the fence for a long time about thanking people in comments. Not mentioning it feels bad, but I do want to preserve anonymity (unless someone doesn’t care & identifies themselves, which is fine) – so I just refer to first names.

  9. As someone else also commented:
    “If he was an unwilling participant, a recipient of a power with unfortunate side effects, like Leviathan, then she’d have to direct him from one place to another with threats. ”
    So, Taylor thinks that Leviathan was human or another kind of projection?
    I thought that Tattletale would had talked to her about this by now.

  10. Siberian reminds me of a DnD wizard that’s using projected image to create an illusion of himself and also be capable of seeing through its eyes and affecting the world through it. There isn’t actually anything any enemy can do to harm the illusion – it could be sitting before a deity or a greater dragon (or an army of greater dragons) and unless they had the right spell to dispel it, the illusion could take dragonfire and divine blasts without being harmed – because there was nothing there to harm.

    Question: wouldn’t a power that disrupts the effects of other powers but not the powers themselves be able to harm Siberian? Sort of how you can’t energy-drain the power that creates it by hitting the illusion any more than you can damage it but you can dispel the illusion itself.
    Also, wouldn’t people and objects that are flat-out indestructible resist Siberian’s attacks – such as the Juggernaught from Marvel comics or a wall of force from DnD?
    Finally, how about powers that either are infinitely powerful or warp reality itself? Someone that can shoot singularities for example (both infinite gravitic shear and tearing a “hole” in spacetime), or someone that can unravel the portion of reality that contains Siberian or someone using actual magic (if such exists in this world)

      • A rather basic one; superpowers have a set effect (or a limited array of set effects) that either violate an aspect of natural laws or seem to violate them. Magic on the other hand has a set amount of power for each individual mage but what they can do with that power is usually limited only by their knowledge, creativity and imagination.

        I.e. when a blaster hero sees his blasts are having no effect against Siberian, he’s usually hosed. When a sorceress sees Siberian shrug off fireballs she’ll just roll her eyes and cast a microcosm spell on SIberian – a permanent glamer that projects images, sounds and other sensations on the supervillain that form a virtual but false world. Siberian can’t affect what she can’t see or hear and her invulnerability would have no effect on a spell projecting things around her instead of trying to alter her mind.

      • Fashion sense. Nobody pimps like Dr. Strange.

        Come to think of it, bonafide magic hasn’t really been ruled out in this universe has it? I mean, Taylor obviously doesn’t buy it, but superpowers in this setting clearly aren’t designed to have some well explained sciency basis. We have stuff like invincible rampaging monsters named after Christian mythology, the mystery of Scion and the craziness we get with trigger events.

        Finger’s crossed guys like Myrrdin and Pestilence get featured at some point. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.

    • Depends what you mean by harm. In any case, the closest analogy to what you’re talking about would be Flechette’s arrows. As for what would happen if she were to shoot Siberian, well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. 😉

      I don’t want to spoil anything, but when the story’s over or when Siberian is out of the picture, I could share thoughts on these questions.

      • Harm is harm. Since there doesn’t seem to be a limit to what powers can actually do, think of an effect that could trump other effects. For example, a sword that cuts ANYthing is something that has occasionally appears in fantasy. Not the “absurdly sharp edge” version but the “name the object of objection and it’s cut” version.
        Swing it at someone and you could cut off a limb. Or, you could cut off their will to fight. Or their strength. Or their ability to interact with the world. Or anything else of them you could name at all.

        • But if you’re talking in that respect, you might as well be asking what happens when the unstoppable force strikes the immovable object. You might be talking about exactly this if you’re referring to flechette’s arrows vs. Siberian.

          • Oh that’s easy! Their powers instantly cancel out leaving them as normal people, due to killing their “passengers” from over exertion.

    • Yes, Juggernaut is indestructible so long as the deity granting him those powers lets him keep them.

      Hulk threw him into space. Problem solved.

      And one general difference between superpowers and magic is a sense of balance. Superpowers don’t require them. Magic, generally treated as some underlying force of the universes in which it appears, does. That’s why you get all the contracts and rules of three and sacrifices and so on.

      Personally, the contract thing I think is rather inegenious. Why can dark mages, demons, or octopi witches get away with doing things to you just because you signed a contract? Because you signed and then failed to uphold your end of the balance by taking whatever magical boost you got and then not meeting conditions of the contract or not paying. They get to do stuff to you then to make up that balance.

      Or the rule of three, I’d say that’s more like killing a butterfly to cause a hurricane. Or a guy stopping suddenly in traffic to throw off the schedules of countless people behind them, causing them to be irritable to others, and thus spreading more evil in a mundane way. Those little things add up to big effects, like getting to an intersection just in time for a crash or just in time to avoid it. The difference is the Rule of Three keeps balance by directing similar effects back onto the person who put them in motion.

      *floats behind a red-haired mermaid’s back and uses finger quotes as an octopus witch refers to the pampered princess of a vast undersea kingdom who has no end of suitors or riches as a “Poor Unfortunate Soul” sarcastically.*

      And then there’s the illusions we see in the real world by magicians. Those are fun. You won’t believe how incredibly easy it is to fool the human mind using very simple tricks. Walking on water, walking throw a metal grate, having a bed of spikes dropped on you, stepping through a glass window without breaking it. Come to think of it, Criss Angel’s stuff really relies on having people working for him that are there as the so-called random audience. Those are a bit cheap, but many tricks are ingenious in their simplicity and effects.

  11. Unstoppable forces and immovable objects are always relative. For example, the planet is pretty much an immovable object even for people like Siberian or Behemoth or anyone else with powers we’ve seen so far – even those who supposedly stop time keep moving along with it. But Earth is a tiny, tiny speck when you consider forces in the interstellar scales – the sun is three hundred thousand times larger than it and Sol is one of the smaller stars out there; the forces that move such masses at several thousand kilometers per second around the center of the galaxy are inconceivable compared to anything most people can imagine.
    And then you have singularities whose own gravity is so powerful at short ranges that it does what Superman did when he punched through time; they bend space and time like a pretzel till the laws of the universe themselves break.

    In short, a force that may be unstoppable in the human scale of things may be easily surpassed in greater scales.

    • Hmmm, actually, I’m pretty sure the original “unstoppable force vs. immovable object” was a thought experiment, representing absolute, not relative concepts. Thus, in that framework, neither the unstoppable force nor the immovable object are relative: the force is absolutely unstoppable, and the object is absolutely immovable. Whether we have such things made real in Wildbow’s universe has yet to be determined, although we do have some fairly strong suggestions that range is always a limiting factor. If Siberian (the projection, not the person behind it) has a range limit or maximum volume of effect on her power (affecting the physics of a property, as she has done to both people and things she is touching), then of course she is nearly inconsequential against the mechanical forces of the universe. However, if she has no such range limit, then she is essentially unstoppable even in the grand scheme of things. (Of course, the limitation that the whole thing is controller by a frail, otherwise normal human means that the mechanism by which she exists is entirely stoppable.)


    • Or the lower scale of things. At the atomic scale, all you need is a sufficient transfer of energy to make Siberian less dense. She’s nothing but a few atoms most likely, and to a world on that scale of things, solid is a very relative term itself. And there are smaller things still that have large effects on us.

      Now, if only there were a way to shrink down equipment that could physically tear atoms apart at that level on a person who wasn’t too happy to be around for that experience…

      Then again, given Siberian’s disappearing act, it does make me wonder if she’s even the same stuff as the rest of us. Electrons, light, quantum entanglement. All kinds of fun possibilities.

      Almost makes you wonder if Siberian is something of an energy drainer. All that kinetic and potential energy that’s part of her ability to defy physics, plus shrugging off superpowers could possibly be repurposed to help power her, which could explain her own motivation for getting into such fights, especially if she’s a separate being.

      Ah, but as is usual of Psycho Gecko’s Mad Applications of Science, I don’t have much confidence that I’m hitting on the truth.

    • when we are talking about immovabel object it is always relativ, or related to a point on earth. otherwise the person would be in space somewhere in less than a second because the earth is moving an accelerating constantly

      • oh, my point saying, there is always something than doesn’t make sence, than cant make sence, that is inexplaynabel by “normal realworld sience”, don’t over think it, get used to it

  12. Has anyone thought to look UP for Siberian’s projector? Any blimps or balloons in the sky? There would be less clutter and less frequent conflict, though riskier when it happened.
    Or DOWN? Lots of insects in sewers. Either option would be relatively easily checked by Skitter.

    I’m loving your work, wildbow. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    • Hopefully, Cherish would’ve mentioned that detail. It’s one thing to hold something back in the hopes that somebody will suffer for it. It’s quite another to withhold information crucial to your survival.
      I could see him being in another building, though. The sewers would work, too, assuming that he’s fairly easy to spot once someone thinks of this in-story.
      People have mentioned his need to travel, but maybe Siberian can carry the projector.

  13. if siberian was a hero he would be the most powerful member of the PRT and nearly as good vs endbringers as scion. but if he was a hero this wouldnt be the wormverse, because in the wormverse nothing good can ever happen.

  14. “Amy was killing the bugs she’d fucked up.  She’d realized I was trying to help.”

    In context, the two sentences don’t make sense: why would she continue killing the bugs if she knows that Skitter is helping her out? As I read on, I get the impression that Amy stopped killing them. Was there an error?

    • She was killing them to get rid of the power-warping effect she’d put on them earlier, as in the bank robbery. So yeah, that was helping Skitter.

  15. Trivial editing thing: I’ve seen several sections of dialogue that begin with the wrong quotation mark, e.g. ”Missing something in the interpretation and analysis part of it.”
    I don’t know if it’s your fault or some glitch of the website’s, but it’s become somewhat of a pet peeve of mine and I thought I might point it out.

    Also Tattletale what the fuck were you thinking. You KNEW Siberian was a projection. It’s not that much of a mental leap to infer “teleportation” or dematerializing powers. Honestly why would you even do that. Survival, maybe, but really. Come on. You’re smarter than that. I would hope.

  16. I’m still not buying the whole Cherish aspect here. I’ve read uptil this point. If Cherish is telling the truth, why cant she just pinpoint the real siberian’s location? I know that Siberian is immune to Cherish’s powers, but the creator shouldnt be (ideally). So if Cherish knew about the creator, why didnt she just manipulate the creator? (This could be explained by Bonesaw putting some safeguards in place of course, but that would mean Bonesaw being aware of Siberian’s true self.)

    Also, Taylor’s deduction that the creator needs to be able to travel fast is a good guess and a brave attempt at deduction, but she is discounting the fact that Siberian’s creator may have control over the body from a very long range. Indeed, given that no one has ever seen him, that possibility is much more likely. Else, I would imagine that someone would pick up on the fact that a certain person has something to do with at least one member of the Nine.

    • Her projector doesn’t associate with the S9 though, he’s just some strung out, thin non-descript dude.

      Jack himself wondered how Cherish would get around Siberian’s immunity, easy answer being she just approached the projector and struck a deal or threatened him like Taylor speculated.

      Also it can be assumed that the range of the projection isn’t very far from Siberian’s behavior while in pursuit of the Undersiders. Remember the bit where Taylor wondered why Siberian was stopping every so often for a few seconds? She was probably just at the range limit and needed the projector to catch up.

  17. N I C E G O I N G L I S A

    A few edits:

    “That was the bad.” Bad thing?

    “She had one arm out, a hand tracing the side of the building she was walking by, as if to guide her through the effects Grue’s lightless world.” That should be “of Grue’s lightless world”.

  18. lil typo
    “In her pell-mell run , Amy” pesky double space
    also, odd question but is siberian nude like a normal woman or nude like a barbie doll
    i been wonderin

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