Colony 15.5

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We fell silent as Regent stepped out of the cell with Victor in tow.

“How’s he handle?” Tattletale asked.

“Like a Mercedes with an invisible, sticky gear shift,” Regent said.

“Care to explain?”

Victor stretched, and said, “Everything moves well, peak condition, but his power doesn’t work so hot with him as a puppet.  Can’t tell what I’m borrowing or who I’m stealing from.  I think I’d need his cooperation-”

Our captive sneered a little.

“-And I don’t think he’s willing to give it,” Regent said.

“So the question is whether we want to take the time to try to convince him or take an indirect route,” Grue said.

“Skitter’s going to have to go in a few minutes, so let’s see what you can do in the here and now?”

“Sure.”  Grue extended a hand and smothered Victor in darkness.  A second later, he said, “I’m getting something.  Anyone here speak another language? Sug puppene til horemammaen din?”

“No,” Tattletale said.  “You’re getting that from Victor.”

“Can’t really use it.  Now how do I change what I’m stealing?”

Tattletale shrugged.  “It could be you’re only picking up the surface stuff.  Here, Regent, try some martial arts forms.”

“Like what?  I don’t know this stuff.”

“Victor does.  You fight using your puppets’ muscle memory, right?  Try moving around, see what clicks and Grue will let you know if we’re accomplishing anything.”

There was a pause.  Victor’s hand briefly flashed out of the cloud of darkness as he shifted positions.

Grue rolled his shoulders some.  “Yeah.  There’s a martial art in there somewhere.  I’m picking something up, but it’s slow.”

Tattletale smiled.  “Take everything you can.  We’ll see what sticks.”

“It’s kind of depressing,” Grue said, settling onto a stool, “I always took some pride in honing my body, training, all that.  This feels like cheating.  Skipping the hard work.”

“You said you never had the time or interest to dedicate yourself to investing in a martial art,” Tattletale pointed out.

“I didn’t.  But that’s not to say I wouldn’t eventually.  A few years down the line, when things are quieter, I can see myself doing that, earning belts and learning to fight.”

“If you don’t want to do this,” Regent said, “I could do something else with my day.”

Grue shook his head.  “No.  It’s fine.  Doesn’t feel quite right, but I’ll be able to do more to help you guys if I can fight better, if I’m more versatile.  And I’m getting another language, again.  Latin, I think.  Get him doing the forms again?”

Regent sighed.

Tattletale frowned, “He’s trying to drag you off course.  Using his brain to bring other stuff to the surface.  Listen, I’m going to see Skitter off, and then I’ll talk to Coil, see if he has anyone who could drug Victor and mess with his mental functions without incapacitating him.”

Drugs, like the ones Coil’s using on Dinah, I thought.  And this would give Tattletale and me a chance to have some words about the hit Coil had put on my head.

I had to wonder why?  I was arguably doing the best among his underlings.  Why was it so hard for him to simply let Dinah go, maybe take countermeasures to ensure she didn’t betray him, and leave things alone?

I wouldn’t be any threat to him if he wasn’t doing something morally reprehensible.

We left Regent and Grue to their task and stepped out of the wing with the cells, venturing onto the metal walkway that overlooked the lower level.  I could see the Travelers at the vault door that kept Noelle contained, as well as the soldiers going about their business.

Which struck me as odd, when I thought about it.

“What’s with the soldiers?” I asked.  “He’s got, what, fifty or sixty here?”

“A little under that, but some are elsewhere.”

“Why?  I get that he was using them before, fighting Empire Eighty-Eight, but what’s he using them for now?  He didn’t send them against the Endbringer, he didn’t use them against the Nine.  I get that he maybe fought off the Merchants and the Chosen when they were thriving, kept them from gaining too much steam, but it seems like a lot of money to spend on soldiers he doesn’t intend to use.”

“Well,” Tattletale said, leaning on the railing.  “One, keeping them employed here means they won’t be hired by someone else.”


“And I think they factor into his plan.  Either as a contingency or a greater aspect of it.”

I nodded.  I would have asked what that plan was, but I didn’t want to say anything that would be too suspicious if overheard.  Not while we were on Coil’s turf, especially.

Tattletale didn’t seem to have those same concerns.  She leaned closer and murmured, “You’ve got two jobs back to back.  That means you’ve got a few things to do.  Number one, if we’ve got a mole in our group and our communications are compromised, that means we need a mole in Coil’s group.  Someone that can inform us about any of Coil’s movements he’s wanting to keep concealed from us.”

“Ballistic?” I asked.

“Mm,” she murmured a response.  “Sound him out.  Be careful about it, but try to get a sense of how tight he is with the rest of the Travelers.  Like Cherish said, Trickster isn’t tight with his team.  See just how un-tight Ballistic is with his boss, and maybe we can make some inroads.”


“That won’t be easy, because I get the sense he doesn’t like you, and he’s upset you’ve stepped on his toes here.”

I frowned.

“The second thing?  About the possible murder attempt?”  She asked.

“Just a little worried about that.”

“He only decided it as recently as this morning, so anything he’s set up is going to happen later.”

“And you don’t know how he’s going to approach this, or what he’ll do?”

She shook her head.  “All I know is that Coil’s intending for it to happen tonight, probably related to your job with the mayor.”

“And you’re positive on this?”

“It’s one of those things where everything clicks into place perfectly if we acknowledge this one fact: he wants to kill you.  For example, he has more reasons to send Imp than to send Trickster.”

“How’s that work?”

“I’ve already filled Imp in on this, but Coil’s concerned about Grue’s emotional state and what it means for our team as a whole.”

I nodded.  Which means he wants to remove Imp from the picture to see how Grue handles himself.

“So we’re keeping that on the down-low.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to do it, but I’ve talked with Imp and Regent, and sort of hinted on the subject with Bitch, and we might be looking at making you our team leader.  At least for a little while.”

I snapped my head around to look at her.

“It makes the most sense.  You have the best grip on who’s in play and how to use our abilities.  You think tactically,” she murmured.

“Why not you?”  I asked.  “You have seniority, you have more experience, you can apparently keep track of Imp, and you can identify our enemy’s weaknesses.”

“I’m not sure I have more experience,” Tattletale admitted, “Or at least, my experience doesn’t count for much.  Robbing software companies and casinos doesn’t really compare to going toe to toe with Mannequin.”

“My other points stand.”

“Just because we’re putting you in charge doesn’t mean I can’t still handle that stuff.  If you want to delegate to me at any point, that’s fine.  It’s just a question of who we turn to when we need a spur of the moment decision.”

“I’m not good at those.  I’m only good when I can plan, consider everything that’s at play.”

“I don’t think you give yourself credit.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, you’re good at improvising.”

“With just me, maybe.  Just my own abilities.  I’m not sure I can do that if I’m also worrying about the four of you.”

“We’ll have to see in the field.  Unless you’re really going to argue Grue’s going to be able to hold his own in a high pressure situation?”

I frowned behind my mask and shook my head.

“Of course, discussing this means nothing if you get killed.  Don’t.”

“Easy as that?  Don’t get killed?”

“You’re going into a tricky situation with the most amoral member and the most versatile member of their group.  Keep an eye on everything and try to be unpredictable so they can’t get you in a trap.”

I just had to figure out how to do that with a job this cut and dry.

“Ballistic’s coming,” Tattletale said.  I looked and saw Ballistic ascending the staircase at the far end of the walkway.  It would take him a minute or three to join us.

“Any final tips before I’m left with him?”

“He’s angry.  Coil’s roped in the Travelers by promising to help them with Noelle, but there’s two snags in that which we may be able to use.  For one thing, I don’t know if Coil seriously intends to offer any fix he does find.  For another, Ballistic cares less about that than anyone else.  Or maybe it would be better to say he almost doesn’t want to help with that because Trickster wants it so badly.”

“That sounds like it’s less about team friction and more about sheer enmity.”

“I think they were really good friends once and now they’re distant.”

Well, it wasn’t like I wasn’t unfamiliar with that idea.

“And,” she said, her voice low, “I can tell you the Noelle thing isn’t the only crisis they’re working on handling.  The focus on Noelle is something of a sore point with Ballistic.”

“Vague.  And I can’t really say anything about that without admitting the info came from you.”

“Yeah,” she said.  Then she straightened, turning toward Ballistic.

“That huddle looked like a conspiracy at work,” he commented.  He looked like he’d based his costume off of the capes of a different era, with only some concessions made to fitting in with his team’s color scheme; a costume in black with red patterns on the fabric, heavy on the armor panels and padding, making a big guy look even bigger.  His mask was square, with holes only for the eyes.  Belts and pouches were strapped across his entire body.

“Conspiracy?  Us?”  Tattletale grinned.

“You were whispering about something.”

“Boys,” she said, winking.

“Hm,” he didn’t look impressed.

“No, we really were talking about boys.  About Grue, specifically, and maybe replacing him as leader.”

“Hey,” I said, before I’d processed why she was saying that.  She wanted to earn some measure of trust by volunteering a secret.

She shrugged.  “They’re going to find out eventually.  We’ll have to trust Ballistic to not go running to Coil to tell on us.”

He folded his arms.  “Putting me in a compromising spot?”

“Sure.  You can handle it,” she told him.  She gave me a pat on the shoulder, “I’m going to see about those drugs for Victor.  Good luck to you two.”

“Tell me,” Ballistic said, as Tattletale strolled off, “Do you ever get past that point where you feel painfully uncomfortable around her?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “You get over that with time.”

I didn’t add that the discomfort he was describing was largely linked to the number of secrets one was trying to keep from her.  It almost went without saying.

“You’re still insisting on coming along?” he asked.  “You know I can handle this on my own.”

“I don’t doubt that.  But I’m kind of wanting to see this place.”


“I’m running my own territory.  Maybe there are ideas I can use.  And I want to see how people are coping in other districts.”

“I’d ask ‘why’ again, but I’m not sure I’d get it.”

“If this city doesn’t get condemned, you’re going to have people moving into your district.  Even after the city’s infrastructure is up and running again, those people are going to put pressure on you for certain things.”

“See, you’re approaching this like a medieval lord, managing her serfs and servants and I see this more as being a watchdog.”

I gestured toward the exit, and he sighed.  We began making our way out of the base.

“Do you really want to limit yourself to being a watchdog?”

“When I’m making this much cash?  When even the top guys in this town would run scared from me?  Sure.”  He held the door open for me.

“And that’s all it comes down to?  Cash and being feared?”

“I’m a living gun and my surroundings are nothing but piles of ammunition.  What do you expect?  You don’t think you’re scary?”

“I think you can have money and power, you can be fearsome where necessary, but you can still make a difference at the same time.”

“Doesn’t seem worth it, working your ass off to make some people a little happier and more comfortable before the world ends.”

“You’re one of the people that’s fixated on that, huh?”

“The world’s gonna end.  How can you shrug that off?”

“It might not.”

“Right,” he said, clearly humoring me.

This wasn’t working.  Tattletale had said Ballistic was angry, but I’d taken that to be the same sort of anger that Bitch harbored.  Whatever was going on with Noelle and the group dynamics that had Sundancer so unhappy, it had made Ballistic angry at the world, angry at circumstance.  A different sort of anger, really: he didn’t really care about anything or anyone.

How was I supposed to get through to him if that was the case?

I decided to call him on it.

“Okay, so your only priorities are money and power?  Then why are you so annoyed that I’m coming along?  What does it matter?”

“It’s my business, my territory, and I’m capable of handling her on my own.  It’s insulting that Coil thinks I’d need any help, and it’s rude that you’d volunteer yourself without checking with me first.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Hypothetically, just going by what you were saying earlier, why should I give a damn?  The world’s going to end in a few years anyways.  What does it matter if I get on your bad side?”

“That’s different,” he said, sounding annoyed.

“Why?  Because it’s you that’s getting shortchanged?”

“Because we’re basically coworkers.  If we’re going to have to fight alongside one another, we can’t be worried about this sort of thing.”

“Okay, first of all?  I have a closer working relationship with the people in my territory than I do with any of the Travelers.  If and when you get more people in your territory, you might find that’s the same with you, too.  So I’m not sure I buy that coworker thing.”

“You’re talking apples and oranges.  Capes and non-capes.”

“Fine.”  He’d left an opening for me to target.  “Then I’ll just point to your other ‘coworkers’.  The other Travelers.  There’s obvious friction.  There’s resentment.  Cherish said as much.  So I don’t think you buy the coworker thing either.”

“Again, that’s different.”

“You say that a lot.  Maybe this principle you’re living by isn’t that strong if it can’t hold up to the most basic arguments.  Unless you care to explain why that’s different?”

“You’re grilling me for info on my team.”

“I’m curious what’s going on there, yeah.  But I’m also trying to figure you out.  As you said, we’re coworkers.”

“Weren’t you just debating the coworker thing?”

“Decide if you really believe it, let me know, and I’ll change my argument accordingly,” I said.

He sighed.

“I’m not trying to get on your bad side,” I said.  “Really.  But I’ve dealt with some interesting personalities like Bitch, Regent and Imp for a little while now, and I know I won’t be able to communicate with you until I understand where you’re coming from.  So I’m willing to go the extra mile to figure you out now so I can understand you in the future…”

I trailed off, but I kept one eye on him to see if there was any hint that he knew about Coil’s plans to terminate my future.  There was nothing.  I couldn’t see his face, but nothing had changed in his posture, his stride or overall body language.

“You’re not going to stop digging and get off my case here, huh?”  He asked.

I was mentally categorizing him as very similar to Bitch in many respects.  He was smarter, though, and the weapons he wielded in a discussion were less about threatening imminent harm than, what?  Setting himself further apart from me?  Breaking ties, categorizing me as an enemy in his head and making dealing with him harder in the future?

It would explain why there was a schism between him and the other members of his group.

“If you ask me to?  I’ll back off.  But…” I made the call on the spur of the moment, as I might with Bitch if I were positive she wasn’t about to hit me.  “I think you and I would both agree that you’d be admitting I’m right if you did.”

“That’s dirty.”


“So what do you want to know, then?  Shall I divulge my deepest, darkest secrets?”

“I’ll settle for knowing why you’re all so angry at Trickster, why you specifically are angry at him.”

“Nope.  Can’t say.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Won’t.  We made a deal, and that deal means we’ve kept some stuff from Coil, even.  I’m not about to tell you.”

“I don’t need to know specifics.”

“You don’t need to know the general details, either.”

“Not really.  But maybe you need to tell me?  One of your teammates said they were awfully lonely, and they’re closer with the rest of the team than you are.  Maybe you’re lonely too, nobody to vent to?”

“I’m a guy.  We don’t do the whole emotional sharing thing.  You trying to channel Tattletale here?  Why are you so intent on getting the details, here?  This isn’t just curiosity or wanting to know your coworkers.”

Because so much hinges on my ability to get you on board against Coil.

I didn’t have a good response, so I fell silent.  We continued walking down the streets towards the crater-lake, our footsteps sloshing in the shallow water.

“He took everything from us,” Ballistic said, breaking the silence.


“Trickster.  When everything started falling apart, he stepped up to make the calls.  Bad ones.  And now the group is all we have left.  No friends, no family, no home to go back to, no goals beyond fixing Trickster’s fuckups.”

I was thinking of how it had come out that Sundancer was reluctant to use her powers because of the damage she’d done in the past.  Civilian deaths?  Had they included their own families?  Had Noelle been included in that?

It might explain why they were so gun-shy about using their powers to their fullest potential and why they’d been so insistent on keeping Noelle locked up when we were up against the Nine.

He went on, “The others might hate Trickster but they still respect him.  Or they don’t respect him but they don’t hate him either.  Probably more the former than the latter.  But I don’t have any love for the guy, I don’t have any respect for him either, and I seem to be alone in that.”

“So where do you go from there?”

“Now we’re back to square one.  I already explained.  Money, being feared, respect and living in comfort as a badass watchdog.”

“All that stuff about hating him, blaming him for ruining your life, and you don’t want any revenge on him?” I asked, as casually as I could manage.

“No.  I’m with the group for one reason.  I stick with shit.  Not going to turn on the guy.  I agreed to this thing with Coil because I thought it’d be a way to get back some of what we’ve lost, maybe.  But all I see is my teammates getting all starry-eyed with hope while Coil feeds us empty promises.  Saying Tattletale will find an answer, or he’ll make a request to some major scientists in parahuman study.  And of course there’s no answers.”

“There could be.”

“Nah.  Why would he give us what we want if it means losing our services?  But I don’t really care anymore.  I made a deal with Coil and I’ll stick that through until I have a good reason not to.  Way I figure it, fuck my team, fuck Coil, but it’s not worth confronting anyone over if it means I’m wasting the remaining two years of my life trying to get another gig this cushy.”

“That seems kind of claustrophobic, setting those restrictions on yourself, letting things with your team drop by the wayside.  Being all alone?”

“Won’t be alone.  Figure I’ve got enough cash and respect I can get groupies.  That’ll do for the next couple of years.  Unless you’re going to argue there’s some point to a committed, long term relationship when there’s no long term?”

I sighed.  There was no point in continuing this.  I could tell that Ballistic wasn’t going to budge, and I didn’t have a ‘good reason’ to convince him to join us.

We crossed several city blocks in silence.  When we’d reached the lake Leviathan had created downtown, we began to walk around to the north end to Dolltown.

“So how are we doing this?  Attack strategy?”  Ballistic asked.

“Any chance you’ll let me make the first move?”

“And take all the credit?”  His voice hardened.

“I’ll let you take half the credit if I’m successful.  You can take all the credit if I fail.”



“I get what you’re doing.  You want to make us Travelers look bad.  Get yourself a bigger slice of the pie somewhere down the road.  More respect, more power, and you’re doing that by wedging yourself into everything, getting hyperinvolved.  Gotta be in first place.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Right.  Then explain why you’re going overboard with your territory.”

“I’m getting the job done, taking care of my people.”

“Nah.  It’s more than that.  There’s something driving you to work that hard.  You’re looking to supplant us.”

He’d stopped walking.  I paused and turned to face him.

He chuckled lightly, “I don’t blame you for it.  I mean, it’s pretty scummy, when we’re supposed to be working together, but I get that you want to be on top.”

“We are working together.”

“I may be taller and in better shape than average, but I’m not dumb.  You think I didn’t catch the wedge you were trying to drive into our team?  Sounding me out for any hard feelings I might have for the others?”

Shit.  This sort of thing was Tattletale’s field, not mine.  Now it was going south fast, and I could imagine how this would explode in my face.

I cleared my throat a little and clarified, “I was sounding you out because it was clear you did have hard feelings for the other members of your team, and I wanted to give you a chance to talk about it.”

“Ah, so the creepy bug girl is really a softie in the end,” his voice was laced with sarcasm.  “No ulterior motives at all.”

“Whatever,” I said.  “Nevermind.”

“So fuck you,” he said.  “No, I’m not giving you first dibs on this doll woman.  Second I see her, I’m taking her out of action and making it a hundred percent clear it was all my doing.  You’ll get what you wanted, which you said was to see the territory, and I get what I want, which is to finish up my territory so I can kick back.”

This wasn’t how I wanted things to go on any level.  I could have groaned in frustration.  Instead, I sent out a command to my bugs and took a deep breath.

“Okay,” I told him.


“But I think I’ll stay out of the line of fire.  I get the impression I offended you, so maybe we give each other some breathing room?  Avoid getting shot?”

“I wouldn’t jeopardize the setup I’ve got with Coil for that.  But maybe it’s best you do stay out of the way.”

I nodded and turned to go.

Okay, so no mole inside the Travelers.

I could still hope to achieve something here.

Using my bugs, I tracked Parian’s movements within Dolltown.  She was moving quickly, joined by a small collection of people.  Many were shrouded in cloth, leaving me to guess if they were real people or something new she’d done with her creations.

I drew out directions with my bugs, guiding her away from Ballistic.  She didn’t listen at first, but that changed when Ballistic fired off his first attack, creating a deafening crash.  From the sound of it, he’d done something to send a car flying into a building.  A moment later, he did it again.  I walked faster.  I could call Atlas to me, but I didn’t want to get spotted in the air.

Dolltown was ugly.  It had been hit hard by the Nine and the fight between them and Hookwolf’s army.  There were scars on the buildings where Hookwolf had struck, holes and marks in the wall where Purity had fired her beams.  Menja had done some damage here and there, with some handprints marking various pieces of architecture where her gauntlets had bit into stone and metal.

I pushed open a doorway and stepped into a ruined building.  Parian faced me.  Her mask had a crack in it, and there was blood staining her worn frock.  She was surrounded by a half-dozen of her remaining people, each of whom wore masks and costumes.  A life-size doll, a man who was wrapped in fabric to the point that he looked something like a mummy, a little girl in a skintight suit of flannel with holes cut out for the eyes, one blue and one green.

Did Parian have capes working for her?  Or-


They were the people Bonesaw had done surgery on.  The ones she’d altered to look like members of the Nine.  They were covering the faces and bodies Bonesaw had given them.

“What do you want?”  Parian asked.

“To negotiate,” I said.

“Your buddy isn’t too interested in negotiating, by the sounds of it,” she said.  She flinched as another crash sounded somewhere nearby.

“I took a gamble here, warning you about him.  He wanted to hurt you, make you into an example.  I don’t operate that way.”

“Don’t think I can trust you on that.”

“You’ll have to.  Because I’ve gone around Ballistic’s back, I’m kind of counting on you hearing me out, because if I fail here, it’s going to fuck up things with this alliance my team has with the Travelers.”  And with Coil.

She glanced around.  I could sense someone moving nearby.  One of her people, sneaking up behind me.  No gun, a light search with my bugs told me, and more of the same cloth costume the other Dolltown residents were wearing.  I ignored my potential assailant.  I could handle an attack from a knife.  I’d just need to be on guard in case they aimed to club me over the head.

“I know about the person that’s circling around to ambush me,” I said.  “Can we just talk, without someone trying to hurt me?”

“What are you wanting to talk about, then?”

“You got dealt a raw hand.  The Nine targeted you, like they targeted some people I care about.  People I love.  That’s not fair.  So I was thinking, I’ve got a lot of money.  I have access to resources.  I know it’s not much, it’s not really enough, but maybe we could get doctors for your friends and family.  Fix what’s been done to them.”

“And what would you want in exchange?”

“Join my team,” I said.  “I-”


Listen,” I hissed the word, “It’s the best way to guarantee safety for everyone here.  It gets Ballistic off your back.  Even if you avoid him today, he’s going to level half of Dolltown, and he’ll come back tomorrow to level the other half.  Everything else would stay the same, you’d have the same freedoms, only we’d supply you with everything you need.  Not just rice and fresh water, but good food.  Medical care.  Proper shelter.  All you need to offer is lip service and we can fix so many of the things that have gone wrong here.”

The person behind me stepped closer.  I turned to keep an eye on her and she lunged in that same instant.

Three spikes of metal were sticking out from between her fingers, like improvised brass knuckles.  When she punched them into my shoulder, they went straight through my costume, piercing through the bone as though they were hot knives and I were nothing but soft butter.  She swept my feet from under me and pushed me to the ground.

“The lady said no,” Flechette told me, one hand holding me down, the other hand raised to strike me again.

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121 thoughts on “Colony 15.5

  1. Could handle an attack from a knife, yes. How about supercharged arrows? Oof. Looks like being too used to having protection from her costume got her a bit too cozy.

  2. Oh, now she is ready to defend her friend and innocent people. Where the hell was she when the 9 were attacking her? I really hated the “heroes” when they left innocents to the 9. So I hope Taylor F@$ks her up good and proper, though Taylor is in trouble now. She got careless and got hurt pretty badly. She hasn’t got access to a healer anymore. I guess that means she will be fighting with one arm from now on.

    • One of the problems with worker for the Protectorate is not being allowed to go and help people and your friends because your bosses might think it would be a suicide mission.

  3. Either Flechette has changed a LOT or those needles came straight back out before she turned off her power.

    In any case, I have no idea what either of them hopes to accomplish by going up against Skitter in close combat, they do not have anything to defend against her inevitable swarm attack. Not to mention that Flechette literally just attacked someone for offering her needy friend food and water and safety. That’s a little much.

    • They do have cloth. Lots and lots of cloth. And possibly mosquito nets. And they’re being rather foolish. If it wasn’t me saying so, I might even be offended.

      My card,
      *hands Anzer’ke the 0 tarot card*

      NEVER underestimate a fool. The only difference between a hero and a fool is success.

  4. Poor Flechette. Doesn’t realize she’s about to get her ass kicked. Odd that she’s dressed the same as the other Dollies.

    By the way, are the dolled up lookalikes supposed to be a shout out to 9, which featured doll-like things with souls? The commercial of that introduced me to Coheed & Cambria’s “Welcome Home” which has a great opening.

    Sounds like Coil is setting up Skitter, Imp, and Genesis. Or whoever’s going to see the mayor, if it isn’t Genesis with them. Skitter’s a moral threat, Imp has to do with Grue. Not sure why Genesis, but maybe he wants to turn the Travelers against the Undersiders. Make it look like Skitter made a mistake and got that group killed.

    There’s also the possibility that Coil and his mercs bust in to save the mayor, introducing himself as a new behind-the-scenes power capable of helping the city maintain order and fighting back against these runaway villains. With money and influence to help the mayor keep the city. Wouldn’t be too much of a leap if he was already some influential person part of the Washington delegation like someone else mentioned.

    Kinda reminds me now of Chess, from the short-lived series The Cape. A wealthy businessman with a private security/mercenary force adopts a supervillainous persona to unbalance a city and assassinate the chief of police. Even has cool contact lenses that make his eyes look like chess pieces. No powers though. The police, deemed ineffective, are replaced by his private sector security. First order of business to make them look good involves framing a cop getting too close by stapling the Chess mask to his face and releasing him for his guards to hunt down. It goes from there, since the cop is our protagonist and he does survive to fight crime as a mysterious vigilante. Good series for the season it was on, but they canned it so hard that they only released the finale episode online.

    • As an additional note, the series includes Summer Glau. It has a character named Orwell. It has the most…unending finish that I have ever seen. Worth watching if you lover superheroes. 🙂

  5. It’s time for Gecko Tales from the Tube. Tis the season for horror, ghouls and boils, and so I shall present to you some videos to alleviate your grave moods. But first, let’s get some sort of opening music going to start off the Halloween horror extravaganza. Serj Tankian’s “Lie Lie Lie” It’s got such bright colors, and it’s not the first time it’s been used to open up someone’s attempt at horror.

    First up is one that I think is dead-on given the nature of heroism in Worm, Judged. “What kind of cosmic events do we trigger when we mete out our own justice?”

    Wasn’t that video a killer? Or maybe you’d prefer you hadn’t seen that, like you were living Five Minutes Earlier?

    Afraid to sleep at night? Let me show you a little magic trick, works like abra cadaver to get you to feel better about the night. Here, let me sing you a lullaby, like in our next tale called…Mockingbird:

    Getting a bit upset now? Oh, sorry. You know I’m a scareing individual. Maybe we’ll just settle on a deadtime story, like your mummy used to tell you to keep you from worrying about the boogeyman. You’ve long since outgrown that fear, though, because you know There’s No Such Thing…

    Alright, alright, let’s end on a good musical note to calm y’all down. It’s a pleasant little song, and the lyrics actually have meaning if you pay attention. Here’s some Coheed and Cambria to play us off.

    Maybe I’ll focus on the more fun aspects in a day. For now…sweet dreams.


  6. Flechette is being a moron. Frankly, so was Taylor. She could have shut that down with a capsaicin bug or fifty. She was tracking her assailant; why not add a few more bugs with actual offensive ability? Why not react?

    • I think she became overconfident! After mixing it up with Lung & his gang, then young protectorate, Endbringer, then the nine, she felt she could handle a lone civilian with a knife. Too bad it turned out to be a super, tough luck.

  7. I have a question for Wildbow. I was just at Top Fiction casting my vote for your serial and I always wanted to know when are you gonna create a banner ad for Worm?

    • Wildbow has addressed banner ads several times. He’s offered money towards the next update for a banner, but hasn’t had any takers yet. This could be your chance!

  8. Hmm, Ballistic doesn’t strike me as a male Bitch, even though he does have that dogged determination. If he really were like her, the solution would be fairly simple: convince him that Coil is going to assassinate Skitter. Bitch hates treachery and betrayal; she would’ve only needed to be convinced that it’s true.
    Ballistic, on the other hand, is more like a samurai: amoral except when it comes to his loyalty. He seems like the kind who would rather die than fail and he’s not particularly picky about what he has to do to succeed.
    Quite a different image than what I got of him before, especially compared to that scene with the Nine.

  9. Nooo, I’ve finally caught up and now I have to wait to read more. This is a great story and I’ve enjoyed reading it a lot.

    Also, wtf Flechette? Skitter was offering to help your friend, something you are obviously not in a position to do, and you stab her in the arm for it. I could see that from Shadow Stalker, but I thought Flechette was better than that?

    • She wasn’t just offering to help her friend. She was offering to turn her into a villain, with the carrot of aid and the stick of ballistic bashing her skull in with a rock.

      • Yeah, we know Skitter is a good person, but Flechette knows her as a member of the gang that robbed a bank and raided the Protectorate office, doing major damage to the Wards each time. Skitter’s heroism against the Endbringer and the Nine is largely unknown.
        Poor Taylor, not having much luck at persuading people today.

      • It did have kind of a ‘join me and we can rule Brockton as Woobie and Iron Woobie’ vibe to it.

        Plus it’s not like Flechette has a lot of versatility with her powers. At least she chose to stab Taylor somewhere nonvital.

      • Exactly. If I were in her shoes, I’d think that they were playing good cop, bad cop.

        “Sure Skitter. You are willing to betray your side so that we can make beautiful clothes together. Of course, it all makes perfect sense. There’s no way that this is a setup. No sirree.”

  10. I am the only one that thinks that the other dolls are wards in disguise?
    I hope that Taylor has a fast escape plan. She can`t be seen by ballistic where she is now.

  11. Hey wildbow, this is kind of a random question but how much damage have the endbringers already done to the world? I was watching the news with Sandy having hit New York hard and pretty much destroying the New Jersey Shore and was reminded about Leviathan. The endbringers attack points of weakness right? Does this mean weak to flood, alot of fighting, things like that? So are parts of Africa, cities prone to flooding like Venice, already destroyed in this world. Where else have the Endbringers hit in the US?

    • Fantastic question, and one I’m not sure I can give a fantastic answer to.

      Why is that? Well, primarily, there’s the issue of trying to quantify ‘damage’. As stated in Legend’s pre-battle speech (early in arc 8) there’s almost always grievous losses but they aren’t always the same sort of losses.

      You have the events that left the world reeling: Lausanne, Hawaii, Kyushu, Newfoundland, Moscow, Sydney. The attacks that left major areas uninhabitable or unrecoverable, with wide-reaching effects on the rest of the country/region/world. In this setting, for example, Japan isn’t a world power and it’s still dependent on international assistance 12 years after Leviathan’s visit to Kyushu.

      But even there, where do you say, “Ok, that’s the sum total of the damage done”? The disaster at Kyushu, the number of refugees seeking living space/work and the pressures on the rest of Asia’s pacific border might have led to some more unrest and tension. Some friction, some ‘small’ wars, infighting and intermingling. Refugees and immigrants. Many settle in major cities across America because President Bradley’s Preservation Act gives them a hand in getting on their feet.

      Do you factor that last point into the damage as well? Lung comes to Brockton Bay in part because of the booming population of Asian immigrants (which hasn’t yet set down roots). Bakuda was born to a Westerner mother and Immigrant father. Do you count the damage they’ve done? Ditto for Mannequin and the Simurgh.

      But that’s only the major hits, the broad strokes of the brush and all the repercussions/spatter that follows from that. Attacks end in other ways, for example. Legend mentions mass loss of life. There’s economic damage that follows from that, disease and explosions in the population of vermin when a quarter million people die in a concentrated area.

      There’s the deaths of countless heroes, and how that biases things further towards the general villain population. If the selfless throw their lives away for the greater good and it’s primarily the selfish (or the very powerful) who are left, how does that skew things?

      And I should stress that weak points aren’t necessarily just areas which are geographically vulnerable. There’s places where there’s ongoing conflict (like we might point to the middle east over the past decade), places where it takes little effort on the part of the Endbringer to deal maximum devastation (ie. a nuclear power plant, military bases) and spots where a great many resources are invested (be they great minds collected in one place or major projects like Dr. Gramme’s major projects in trying to save the world). Did anyone else catch the mention of the water crisis? Leviathan isn’t always attacking cities, and the world has only so much accessible freshwater.

      I digress.

      To answer your question in the general sense? Relatively few places have been hit as hard as the major examples listed above. But figure this has been going on for 20ish years. Behemoth shows up in the early 90’s, attacking once a year, roughly (twice in 1994), Leviathan shows up in the mid 90’s (now we’re up to 2-3 Endbringer attacks a year), and Simurgh comes in just after the turn of the century (now 3-4).

      I mentioned in a comment during the Endbringer arc, but I said something like ‘Behemoth is the cape-killer and Leviathan levels cities’. Figure each Endbringer has attacked 16 to 20 times so far, account for the bias towards killing capes (Behemoth) vs. wiping out landscapes (Leviathan) and that Brockton Bay is pretty middle-of-the-road for the kind of aftermath you see, and maybe you can make an estimate.

      Ballparking it? 8 or 9 Endbringer attacks in America over 20 years.

      • Holy hell, no wonder Cauldron thinks they factor into the End of the World. 9 attacks in the US alone. Well now there is one way for Tyler to become a hero again. If she ever managed to kill one, they’d accept her with open arms. But considering that Leviathan is the weakest, I think Tyler has a better chance of winning the lottery, being struck by lightning, and having a second trigger event all at the same time. Considering the damage they can ultimately do, I wonder why no one has tried to hit them with a nuclear shell. But congrats Wildbow, you’ve created some monsters that make the Hulk look weak.

      • The tendency for more casualties among heroes and weaker parahumans would go a long way towards explaining why the “good guys” accept scum like Shadow Stalker or cooperate with Cauldron.

      • I’m interested how the “Simurgh might be a telepath” thing came about. Does it simply anticipate the moves of heroes consistently? Is it the only Endbringer who can speak? Or is it just damn sneaky?

        • Considering their are mentions that it’s the ‘aftermath’ rather than the actual attack that is the main concern after a Simurgh attack, I’d wager their’s some Lovecraft blood cult shenanigans going on.

      • That’s … interesting. In the sense of the old curse.
        And I wonder – if Skitter gets a power boost or second trigger event, she’ll be in the same category of the Endbringers because she can destroy entire ecosystems. For an idea of what she could do, read Dust by Charles Pellegrino. Hint: Bugs start dying off in vast numbers with subsequent knock on effects.

        • Reading speculation about how Worm would go from back in the middle of the story* is absolutely fascinating.

          *Sorry for spoiling that this chapter is roughly halfway through the story.

    • Does tie in nicely, about ideals, the crapsaccharine nature of the world and the jerkass heroes, and as a comment on how the general public view heroes versus what they’re really like.

      Personally, my favorite word is ineffable since it’s a word that invalidates its own existence. Maybe my problem is I just need to get effed.

  12. Heh. They actually tried a nuclear strike against something as armored, fast and unpredictable as Leviathan? Even high-yield nukes wouldn’t do much against something about as resistant as a subterranean bunker. Who thought that tactic anyway?
    If the governments of the world had 20 years and they didn’t stop the Endbringers with the technology we got in real life, let alone what tinkers can build, they deserve to have their world ended.
    I mean, would it have been THAT hard to pool resources of multiple countries into launching some self-contained reactors into geosynchronous orbit and the other materials required to build a big-@$$ pulse laser a mile long? Station the thing 32 thousand kilometers over a hemisphere and wait for an Endbringer attack. Then hit the Endbringer in question with an exajoule-range laser pulse and watch as the beam is absorbed and converted in matter and antimatter inside the Endbringer through the pair production effect. And then how said matter and antimatter suffers annihilation and you get a gigaton-range explosion in the Endbringer’s insides.

    Technology can do awfully powerful stuff with enough money and preparation.

    • I love how you think. But considering the damage they do, there has to be a UN Manhattan project or something in existence whose only purpose is to figure out ways to kill the bastards. I wonder what the story of the nuke was. Did a country decide to nuke their own city or did a neighbor do it and start a war between them? Well thanks to Dragon and Armsmaster they can predict where they’ll attack next. If they really are dangerous enough to end the world, then I say more nukes! Hit the area again and again till they’re is nothing left of them. The damage and fallout would probably be unbelievable but eventually things would recover and at least one endbringer would be gone.

    • I suspect that it really would be hard. Not easy to get a lot of cooperation out of the world’s leaders, especially when the threat is one that can let them push more authoritarian measures and increase military spending. One of the best things for someone in power who is overstepping their bounds is an external threat, real or imagined. Like the U.S. to Cuba, or the U.S. to North Korea, or the U.S. and USSR to the USSR and U.S., or some Jewish worldwide conspiracy to Nazi Germany, or the U.S. to Iran, or the U.S. to Iraq, or the U.S. to Pakistan, or the terrorists to the U.S., or WCW to WWF.

      I also think there might be some sort of weapons treaty concerning space.

      Besides, let’s take a look at climate change. The excuses are that the scientists aren’t certain it’s happening, or that it’s man made, or that it would lead to catastrophe. The scientists actually say otherwise, but what’s a little thing like reality when it means a great sacrifice to your current industry that you’re losing money in to China and a potential push of new technologies and industry that take advantage of a widely-educated, computer-using populace.

      So anyway, they could either do nothing about it and if they’re wrong all they have to worry about is global disaster. If they do something about it and are wrong, it just means no global disaster, but new useful technologies that make people less dependent on fossil fuels. So far, most nations seem to go with the “Do nothing” choice.

      • But global warming is something out of sight and easily ignored by most people. It is hard for the world to ignore giant monster destroying cities, killing millions, and shrinking the fresh water supply. I agree that governments can be pigheaded but surely the governments of the world have done the math and realize that the world is doomed if they endbringers rampage continues for not too much longer. If they do nothing, they’re done for. An external enemy has been great to unite fractured peoples. It maybe a tad too optimistic, but maybe the endbringers have helped to unite the world in opposition to them.

      • You’re forgetting Mannequin. Simurgh is the most dangerous (I’m guessing) because she just flies around and around and chooses the worst possible targets.

        Just like with him, any such project would likely be targetted by Endbringers or at least by Simurgh.

    • Consider that, at first, there was only one Endbringer, who attacked around once per year. The threat was somewhat manageable, too, considering new capes were arriving on the scene all the time.

      Before the governments knew it, though, there were four Endbringer attacks per year. That’s once every three months, and we know that they focus on places where there are a lot of resources. That means you have to assume that the Endbringers will attack wherever the weapon or parts of the weapon is being built.

      So, the governments of the world would have three months at four attacks/year before an Endbringer put an end to the affair. Also–station the thing in the atmosphere?

      The Simurgh can fly, and possibly read minds. And also lives in the atmosphere. So uh…yeah. I don’t think that would work.

      • Actually, I’m pretty sure Belial/ereshkigala was talking above the atmosphere, not in it. Phrases like “geosynchronous orbit” and “32 thousand kilometers over a hemisphere” (that’s 20 thousand miles, for you Americans who didn’t pay attention in science class) are pretty good clues in that regard. Which is not to say that the Simurgh can’t fly into space, but given the fact that she/it seems to fly with wings, it’s less likely that the big S could reach something that far out of the atmosphere.

        Also, the fact that there are so many Tinkers floating about, and that many supers are seriously big-ass power sources, given a reasonably short period of time they should be able to generate an energy attack with the kind of power Belial is talking about, ad hoc.


        • I think assuming it actually uses those wings to fly is extremely iffy. Leviathan is basically capable of teleportation when in the water, and physically that makes no sense. I assume Simurgh is running on its own physics.

    • Would it have been THAT hard to build an enormous weapon in space that has never been built before, and then fire an exajoule-range pulse at either the speedster, precognitive, or dynakinetic giant hyper-durable monster…?

      you know, i think it just might.

  13. Well, Dragon seems to have built a hollowed-out mountain and several thousand automated remotes just fine. She’d only have to put a few hundred of them into shifting Tantalum, Palladium and Uranium out of ore veins normally inaccessible to humans. The byproducts of the mining, being minerals of various types, could be used to mass-produce more drones. Once you can have drones building drones that can build more drones, your numbers are going to advance exponentially. Let’s say it takes Dragon a week to build a drone that can build another drone in another week. She’ll have 1 drone in week one, 2 in week 2, 4 in week 3, 1024 in less than three months, 1048576 in less than five months.
    With a million workers a lot stronger and tougher than humans, who don’t sleep, don’t get paid, never complain and never make human errors you have a very, very large building ability. You build the mile-long lasing rod in a month or two provided you mined the materials. Then you take a few hundred self-contained already built reactors out of the various nuclear fleets around the world to power the lasing rod and launch the whole thing into geosynchronous orbit with an Orion drive. You could build your own reactors of course but that would add a few more months.
    And then you got an orbital, nuclear-powered energy weapon, Justice-League style.

    In other news, why isn’t Dragon stopping the effects of Endbringer attacks? As mentioned above, she can have a practically unlimited number of highly efficient workers. All it takes is a few steps;
    1) Provide enough workers to quickly rebuild damaged sites. A major city can have as many as 10.000 large buildings. With 1000 workers per building and using quickly-setting materials, you can set a building pace of 1 floor per few hours. Ten million robotic workers could probably rebuild a city in a couple of weeks.
    2) Provide an endless supply of free fresh water. My air conditioning system condenses a dozen liters of water out of air if it’s left on for 24 hours or so and it is not even designed as moisture farming system. Mass-produce a few billion custom-designed systems, preferably portable and solar-powered, and presto, no more water problem.
    3) Build cities that can stand up to damage. Carbon and Silicon are ridiculously abundant in the Earth’s crust. High-energy mining provides the building materials and then you turn them into carbon/silicon nanocomposites. Then go and build every building in a city out of them with ten-feet-thick walls. Such nanocomposites would potentially stand up to 100 gigapascals of applied stress and over 3000 degrees Celsius. They could stand up to point-blank nuclear explosions or deep sea pressure if you could find a sea ten thousand kilometers deep.

    • Ressources and Politics, I’d say.

      1. Dragon does not have endless Ressources, so building that number of Drones is very unlikely.
      2. I doubt the world’s governments all trust her enough to provide the Ressources and clearances to undertake such a project

      also, there might be some kind of limitation in her programming against obtaining that much power (a million drones capable of rebuilding a city would be just as easily able to destroy it), though that problem might vanish depending on what comes of the alliance with Armsmaster.

    • I suppose she may have been handicapped until VERY recently by her programming, somehow. Now that Armsmaster is (presumably) her master, we’ll be seeing a lot more ‘doing whatever it takes to get the job done’ actions from her now.

      • That depends on how the Endbringers figure out how to attack. Do they have some kind of ESP? Are they controlled by someone with access to an Information network (my favourite would be Cauldron – they clearly have the know-how and the motivation to create and unleash the Endbringers)? Do they read drudge report?
        If she did it covertly and also made sure to hide her location, she could probably avoid a direct confrontation with the Endbringers until after the project was ready.

        • I meant that Behemoth is also deep underground and may well have some kind of seismic sense that would draw him to these burrowing drones.

          Mining must be terrifying in this world.

    • … and then the Simurgh intercepts your giant nuclear laser ship as it leaves the atmosphere, and you end up with chunks of ship and radioactive material raining down on vast swathes of territory at incredible velocities, and that will surely improve the situation.

  14. Unrelated to this chapter, but:

    I have just started my own web serial. It doesn’t have an actual name yet, but I’ve already published the first chapter, a prologue, on my blog:

    It’s a story about metahumans, specifically a gadgeteer named Basil Blake who sets out to change the world.


    I wanted to thank you. You’re work is the single largest inspiration for mine, as well as the push I needed to finally sit down, write something and take steps to publish it. I wouldn’t be writing this without you, so, thank you. And I’d be honoured if you would read my work. I certainly am going to continue reading and supporting yours!



    • Best of luck with that. For now I’ve linked to you on Worm’s front page. Consider the referrals to be pressure to keep going.

      I highly recommend a fixed update schedule. Take it from me – it’s really really easy to convince yourself to put off that next chapter for just one more day.

      Also, if I could make a suggestion – the black text on dark brown is pretty hard to read. You might want to look into changing that.

      • Thanks a lot!

        I am looking to change the text, but I’m currently having trouble with wordpress. First time working with it, so I’m having a bit of trouble with it.

        As for the update schedule, I first have to find out just how much I can write now that the classes at the university have started again. Once I know, there will be one.

        • apparently, the only black text is the one that can be seen from the home page. if you open the chapter proper, the following text is white on dark brown. no idea how that works, but i’m looking into it

          • He starts out as a close combat guy. his armor gives him protection and enhanced strength (he can, with a lot of strain, lift 1 ton). it is made of a white ceramic compound. his weapons are a pair of electrical stun batons. plus, he wears a white cloak with a hood and wide sleeves that is also bulletproof.
            I envision him as a kind of casual hero, at least in the beginning (he calls the fight between heroes and villains a game) and a thrill-seeker, but he is supposed to grow over time into a more serious, visionary hero with an agenda for changing the world for the better.

            the general setting is desperate, but also hopeful. the sovjet union did not break down and the cold war went from a nuclear arms race to a metahuman arms race. there are numerous inofficial wars fought between the east and west.
            the world is being held in a stranglehold both by supervillains outnumbering the heroes 4-to-1, the only reason they are being held back is their tendency to fight among themselves as much if not more as against the heroes. Desolation-in-Light is a metahuman of unparalleled power who randomly appears across the world, spreading destruction.
            All the while, strange entities known as the Spiteborn appear wherever there is great concentration of negative emotions (as in the wake of another war or one of DiL’s attacks.

            but, the heroes are fighting back and they are making small, but noticeable progress. peace talks are being held between east and west and the world is slowly uniting against the threat posed both by DiL and the Spiteborn. all the while, the number of metahumans is increasing and more and more of them choose a civilian life instead of joining either the heroes or villains.

            that’s basically the setting in a nutshell.

          • So you probably want a name that isn’t campy. Not a celebrity, so nothing that’d be marketed as a brand. He isn’t grimdark right off the bat, so nothing too intimidating or imposing. But I get the impression you’d want something that can go that route, which can be painted as a badass.

            Digging deeper, I tend to like to pick names that make sense based on who the character is. As all I know about Basil is that he’s a bit egotistical and he’s apparently English (given last name) or of English descent. Perhaps he’d hint at his real identity in his chosen hero name.

            Hinting at William Blake, poet and painter, looking for names that tie into the image you paint, just for inspiration, I might look at the Prophet, Grave, Pilgrim, Tiriel or Zazel. Of those, I kind of like Pilgrim for the way it ties into the Jedi image, and Zazel is kind of interesting because he’s ‘the outcast genius’ in the poem ‘Tiriel’.

            It really depends on the image you’d want to paint and your conception of the character.

      • His parents immigrated from Britain, but he was born in america. he has a british accent (rp in his case), mostly because he thinks it sounds better than AE.
        he is egotistical and a bit of a hypocrit (he wants to fight on the side of the angels, but does not even consider bringing in his sister, an internationally wanted criminal), mostly because, again, he considers the whole thing a game – he doesn’t really have a problem with his sister being a supervillain but rather with how far she took it when she drove her former boyfriend and bff into suicide (that kind of ruins the game).
        he does have morals, and he will fight fiercly for them, they are just flexible in regards to his sister (which kind of defeats the purpose of morals…)

        he considers himself an Agnostic and generally doesn’t waste a second thinking about god or religion.

        As for referencing William Blake: awesome idea, unfortunately it doesn’t work. I’ve always thought that referencing yourself in your superhero name is kind of stupid, especially in a world with super-intelligent people. too many connections. just the possibility that Basil Blake may be connected to the guy ruining their schemes would be enough for a lot of supervillains to take ‘preemptive measures’. You’d need to be either really arrogant or truly untouchable for that, I think.
        Basil is at least not arrogant enough for that^^

        As for the others… Prophet is a bit too serious, at least for the beginning. he is a guy who likes living, so Grave is out, too. Even if it is meant to be taken as in ‘Engrave’, it still wouldn’t fit because the public would probably take it the wrong way. Pilgrim might fit, but there are too many religious connotations in it for me to be comfortable with it.

        maybe something more neutral? maybe something with colour (his being white)?
        whitecloak, whiteface, blank

        damn, did you have this much trouble with skitter? i’ve been wracking my brain for more than a week already and I can’t come up with anything!

        • I have a tech hero name I’ve kept around a little bit. My main character on Champions Online after the great CoH diaspora, but one who is supposed to be light power armor and makes his equipment himself (at least until I got the heat seeking shoulder mounted missiles and the laser killsat). Also a name I’ve used in one story.

          It can go with a lot of stuff, but an egotistical tech guy who doesn’t take the whole thing seriously?


          Or, if you feel like nod towards Marvel that is also pretty egotistical and is a name I used on a toon in CoH, you might go with The High Technolutionary

          • “The High Technolutionary”?! Dude, that’s beyond campy. With a name like that, you enter a state of being were even silver age mad scientists beat you up and steal your lunch money.

            Troubleshooter is nice, but he is more of a close combat type. he’ll develop long-range weaponry, but for the time being it just doesn’t fit. though I may include another character of that name. inspired by the stories you tend to post in the comments…

          • I actually think a little campy is good at the start of the story to show how he grows in the public’s eye. If you take the names of some of the famous heroes in our universe they are actually kind of campy and stupid. Super man? Why not marvelous man, stupendous man, ultimate man? Batman? Why not owlman, or the mongooseman? They sound just as campy to me and many other now, but their deeds have made the names synonymous with badassdom. Imagine if superman called himself stupendous man. They all probably laughed and smiled like they did, or least I would have, at the name superman. But then he helps the city, saves lives, and makes the world a better place. The public stops thinking of the name as campy and thinks of it in mythical terms. It sounds like your young hero isn’t really taking things seriously when he starts out. He just wants some thrills and fun. So a not so serious name is perfect. Let the criminals and public laugh. But as he keeps fighting crime, the perception will change. Criminals will be pissed and angry at the mention of his name. After he manages to do some real good, his name will start to be twinged with respect by those that once made fun of it. If he ever does something truly amazing like taking down the most powerful/evil of villains or really helping the world, then his name, no matter how campy, will be seen as badass. I picture another young hero years later, trying to think up a name that will be just as badass as The High Technolutionary.

          • @the ant: you are right, a campy name would probably be appropriate. but it would have to be a campy name that still fits the concept, plus it would have to be shorter. I really think the main character of a story should have a short, memorable name, since it’s going to be the single most used name in the entire story (that’s why I call him Basil Blake, not Basileus Blake)

            on that note, he also has some greek roots. maybe a mythological name? problem with that would be that most of those names come REALLY frontloaded (plus, they have been used to death by every comic book company in existence)

        • I’ve commented elsewhere, but there’s two ways to put a character together. Top-down and bottom-up.

          Top-down is coming up with the name/concept first and filling in the background. It’s certainly not bad, and some major characters have originated that way (Spider-Man), but it does tend to make for more two-dimensional characters.

          Then there’s bottom-up. Starting from the background and coming to the name/concept in a more natural, organic way. Skitter was developed that way, and it sounds like you’re going that way with Basil. The inherent problem is that the concept itself tends to be more nebulous or unclear, and it’s hard to conceptualize the whole character with just a name or icon.

          Yeah, I had trouble with Skitter. Read the comments in early arcs leading up through Insinuation/Agitation (there’s not many) – I asked readers for suggestions, didn’t get many. Even in 1.6, Taylor comments to Armsmaster that it’s hard to pick a name for a bug superhero without sounding painfully lame or geeky. In the end, I went with a name I (and Taylor) didn’t absolutely love, because it fit for Taylor’s circumstance and concept.

        • Well, when I read your description, at the start, the first name that popped into my head is Melee. However, as I read more, I thought you could go with the game theme and name him after a chess piece: Rook, Bishop, or White Knight.


          • Dangerous ground. Shooting yourself in the foot as those are all contested/trademarked by the comic book companies, so you would be limited in what you could do if the story took off. The major companies are pretty litigious.

          • can you even trademark names like Rook (which I wouldn’t take, simply because a tech-based supervillain in Legion of Nothing already uses it), Bishop or White Knight? I mean, they are nothing specific like, for example, Spider-Man or Superman.

          • Yeah, you can trademark ’em. I’m actually not sure on Rook or White Knight (both of which appear in comics), but Marvel and DC especially are known for fighting tooth and nail to the rights for certain names, even for side characters that appear in only a few issues. Bishop is most definitely trademarked (since 1992).

            • Protip: Do a google search for ‘(character name) comics’. If it’s on the front page, it’s a good bet it’s taken and you’d get in trouble if you achieved any sort of profile with your work & that name.

              And yes, I know that means I’ll need to rename Skitter before releasing Worm as an ebook.

              I do believe that Daedalus is trademarked, and Prometheus is almost definitely trademarked.

              • Some suggestions:


                I kinda’ like Swarmstress. I think it works on multiple levels. Firstly, Skitter’s power really is in the full swarm of insects at her command, not any individual one. Furthermore, the was she uses her bugs is very much like someone conducting a song (like a songstress), giving them commands and leaving them to decide the best way to execute them. Also, the fact that she’s designed her own costume (and later, her teams) would make her a literal seamstress if she were working with traditional materials. Finally, when she attacks, her swarm absolutely *does* cause stress in the ranks of her enemies.

                A cursory glance on Google (as you suggest) makes it look like none of these are really in use.

                I hope this helps!

          • what. skitter, taken? and by a character with a thematically related power? tough luck. well, luckily the name has never been heavily emphasized, so you’ll be able to change it once you find something better.

          • as for daedalus, i did find a comic book villain named daedalus (though he is not tech-based), but the only trademark I can find is a dental product…
            seriously, wtf?

          • As far as I’m aware, DC has a renewing trademark that protects any and all characters created under the DC license, minor or major. Marvel’s likely to have something similar. Doesn’t matter about resemblance, similar powers, similar costume, they’re protecting the name, and that means going to court if someone makes a character with said name. And they will (they have to).

            That’s my understanding of it.

          • so the only way to use names like daedalus or prometheus is if you write something where you actually have the mythological characters appear?

            well, I’m at my wits end. I’ve come up with nearly thirty names, but they are either too long, too out there or already trademarked. now I’m looking into more general names that are not necessarily tech-related

          • I found an interesting one: Brennus
            it means either ‘king, prince’ (which would fit his vanity and would be a very safe way of self-reference, since Basileus also means king, but from a completely different language) or ‘raven’. I could imagine turning his cloak and armor black and giving him a raven motif. only problem is, that would conflict with Rook from “Legion of Nothing”

          • The High Technolutionary was a reference to The High Evolutionary, a man who somehow “evolved” himself to being so far beyond humanity that he can’t die and has gone one on one with Galactus.

            As for Troubleshooter, doesn’t have to involve shooting at people. More like he’s the one that can solve your problem. Oh, well, the choice is yours.

            At least I didn’t suggest Ion Man.

            You might take a look at the Public Domain Super Heroes wiki. Good for concepts and to try a name. As long as you aren’t too close to another person’s interpretation of them, you should be fine. I think there is some sort of restriction on Bullet having to do with DC, and Daredevil has to be named something else due to Marvel.

            Another useful resource is a site called SeventhSanctum. It has various name generators, including ones for superheroes. It can get really repetitive at times, though.

            If you want emphasis on the Greek, someone else’s idea of Daedalus wasn’t too bad. Icarus has some negative connotations with it, though. A longer name is Antikythera. Good potential for humorous misunderstandings, as there is an antikythera device from 1st centure BC which was a cool contraption, but there is also a bronze statue called antikythera ephebe.

            Even though it’s not exactly Greek, you might also consider the simple arrogance of Alexander as a superhero name. If you’d prefer something a little ambiguous but symbolizing the journey that makes a man a hero, you might consider Ulysses. He was the cleverest of those who fought at Troy, but his hubris was a constant problem.

            Can’t use prometheus for one, though. DC had a villain by that name. Something about wearing armor and rigging up a football helmet with technology that let him know all the moves of his opponents. “Feared foe of the Justice League” and “football helmet that lets him predict his opponents’ moves” just don’t mesh well.

          • I know about the High Evolutionary. Still totally campy^^

            As for the seventh sanctum: know it, hate it. the name generator is almost completely useless, since it only produces generic and usually ridiculous names.

            the other ideas are all great (I already considered the greek ones), but I think I’ve found both a good name and a definite theme:
            Brennan (means ‘king, prince’ or ‘raven’)

            I’ll give him a general raven theme (black armor, black cloak). plus, he’ll build robotic ravens to act as spies/surveillance. the idea will be to contrast his easygoing attitude and his growing idealism to his rather grim looks and theme.

            I hope Jim isn’t going to sue me for having him be so similiar to Rook X-P

            Plus, I’ve finally come up with a powerset and name for his love interest!!!

            Anyway, thanks to everyone who contributed to this. I got a lot of inspiration from you guys!

  15. Man, Flechette is kinda jumping the gun there, even with the clear appearance of strongarm tactics… I presume that she is unaware of Skitter and Parian’s previous interactions during the Nine fighting…

    And she has indeed changed a bit from the one who was against Shadow Stalker doing such things against rapists caught in the act… I wonder if Shadow Stalker’s fate has influenced her in a direct way to follow her path in some ways…

    My net just came back on an hour or so ago, having gone out a few hours before the update with the storm. Was quite annoyed there. (The damage wasn’t too bad, mostly just a lot of cleanup, fallen trees, and waiting for the power to get repaired. You can believe I thought about the Leviathan arc quite a bit while listening to the news on the radio, though.)

  16. For your tech hero starting out, wouldn’t a suit of armor that can barely lift 1 ton (and, presumably, has comparable toughness) be barely above street level? Lots of people think that lifting 1 ton or being as tough as steel is a big deal but that isn’t the case in the modern world.
    For example, take the Challenger 2 main battle tank. Its armor is rated at 1105 mm – i.e. equivalent to over a meter of rolled, homogenous steel. Its main gun can penetrate that armor from a kilometer away 50% of the time and from a quarter that distance 80% of the time. Plus, the Challenger 2 weighs 62 tons and has a 890 kW motor – the power output of lifting 89 tons at 1 meter per second.
    And yet, modern soldiers with the right guns can take out one of those tanks with the right tactics. A bad guy that hits your hero with a modern 40mm anti-tank rifle will realistically open a foot-sized hole in him all the way through. Another bad guy hitting him with a high-end antitank rocket would probably scatter pieces of him across a couple of blocks. This is the reason heroes like Iron Man, who can take out tanks and other military vehicles, are on the same team as Thor and The Hulk.

    • Well, that doesn’t sound like a downside to me, from the standpoint of the story. Let it be dangerous to go out that way. The lower you start out, the more you can raise the power without hitting ridiculous levels.

    • Against your average criminal who maybe has a bullet proof vest, a 1 ton punch is something to worry about. That assumes he doesn’t use his ability to carry more things as a way to pack more firepower to use against criminals.

      Even Iron Man had to start off with a stupid-looking suit that couldn’t do much more than fight guerillas in Vietnam better than the U.S. army. And he made it in a cave. With scraps.

      The Hulk has also undergone upgrades to his power over time, usually in the form of him getting pissed off. I personally liked him coming back for some good revenge on the Illuminati in World War Hulk. By then, one major upgrade was that he was a thinking Hulk who had experience as a gladiator and leading soldiers into battle.

    • it’s kind of the idea that he starts out as a street-level hero. that’s the whole concept of a gadgeteer in my story: they start small, grow big. he is supposed to keep updating his gear as he goes along.

      also, his main weapons in the beginning will be his stun-batons, not his fists. his fighting style will be more about speed and accuracy than raw strength.

      as for the armor: it’s actually a ceramic compound (think Mannequin for example) to avoid the usual problems with metallic armor (weak versus magneto-style powers and electric powers). it’s harder and lighter than steel, which is more than enough for street-level fights. the super-strength is kind of a side-effect he hadn’t even factored in in the beginning.

  17. I don’t argue that someone’s abilities/powers/gadgets can be upgraded over time. Just pointing out that for a superhero that wants to make some changes in the world or at least fight threats more than your average crook, having 1/50 the power of a modern tank isn’t enough.

    After all, a villain of comparable power (against which he’d most likely fight in the beginning) should have already been taken out by police/swat/special teams if they were causing too much trouble; antitank rifles aren’t that expensive to begin with.

    • 1/50th of a tank, and several times the maneuverability. Presumably lower fuel requirements, and a smaller crew. And the ability to attack non-lethally.

      A challenger 2 battle tank doesn’t make a very good superhero, no matter how good it looks in spandex.

    • for one, the “change the world” stuff is supposed to come way later. right now, he just wants some fun.

      also, one ton of strength may not seem like much, but in my world, a five-ton telekine is considered to be an A-Lister. while a 1-ton strongman-type is further down the scale due to limited range and versatility, it is still quite superhuman.

    • *fires an RPG at a tank and kills it* I’ve finally defeated you, Challenger 2 Man! Muhaha, muhaha, muhahahahahaha!

        • If the name Brennan doesn’t work out for some reason, you might try looking up some old deities’ names. Sin, for instance, was an old mesapotamian deity. A god of Astronomy,the Moon, and Wisdom. He had some other, less likely to be copyrighted names. So you look around on Wikipedia, or other myth-related/centered sites.

  18. “Suge på spenene av din tispe mor?”

    Hahaha, as a norwegian I find that sentence utterly hilarious, google translate really screwed you over there. Aside from the grammatical errors, “spene” refers to the udder of a cow and “tispe” only means “female dog” without being an insult (you’d just get a dumbfounded look if you tried using it as one).

    I’d suggest replacing it with something along the lines of “sug puppene til mora di”, or maybe “sug puppene til horemammaen din” if you want to keep the insult.

    • No one else objected, but I have issues with the first line: “… with Victor in tow.”
      For me, it brought up too many random/ silly images of tow trucks and towboats, etc. He’s not on a physical leash anymore (is he?), so why chance triggering those images for readers? Personally, I like ‘in thrall’, but it does carry its own baggage. Still — it plays nicely to the issues of moral ambiguity surrounding Regent’s power. Most neutral would just be ‘following him’.

      Given the witty ‘who’s speaking for whom’ banter that follows, I think you should specify who spoke the line between Grue’s next 2 remarks in the discussion. For all we know, it could have been TT!
      I was eating take-out Chinese while reading this chapter. Got to the fortune cookie, which said “Writing is a craft not an art.” (Their punctuation, not mine.) I thought about all Wildbow has told us about his craft-work and thought, “Well, yes, but … something’s OFF. Hmmmm …. Oh. The practice, the craft, the words to record … fine. But Wildbow has the Art of Storytelling!” (that should be in a florid script, by the way.)

      He deserves his own version of Fulghum’s Storyteller’s License. I’ve Googled for a good online copy, but this was the best I could find:

  19. “Well, it wasn’t like I wasn’t unfamiliar with that idea.”

    Switch the second ‘wasn’t’ to ‘was’ or lose the un-, if you want to say that she is in fact familiar with the idea.

  20. “Sug puppene til horemammaen din?”

    “Go suck yo’ momma’s bitch-tits?” (freely translated for the same effect in English, of course)
    Haha, priceless. As a learner of Norwegian, that made me double-take, then smile.

    Seems Grue’s power really doesn’t give him enough context for the powers he borrows, and Regent’s ‘body control’ doesn’t limit the expression of mental skills.

  21. >Well, it wasn’t like I wasn’t unfamiliar with that idea.

    This double negative doesn’t parse well: –> “It wasn’t like I was familiar with that idea.”

    >Sug puppene til horemammaen din?

    Aaaand that’s the part where I broke down into high-pitched laughter. The first two words, I was like, “What the hell is this?” Then it dawned on me, “Oh, it’s my native language.”

    >I wouldn’t be any threat to him if he wasn’t doing something morally reprehensible.

    You wouldn’t be any threat to him, or vice versa, if you stopped arbitrarily defining things as “morally reprehensible.” Goddamnit, Taylor.

    That entire conversation between Taylor and Ballistic was cringeworthily bad. I wanted to skip it so much, but I can’t just go skipping bits. For the love of God, rewrite that entire passage and its set-up for the published version. People don’t have conversations like that.

    • Agreed. Ballistic is way out of character here, and Flechette isn’t much better. These are not the same characters we knew from a while ago! Did Coil somehow slip a Conflict Ball into one of the pockets of Skitter’s costume while she wasn’t looking?

  22. Oh, mother of fuck. And now Skitter doesn’t have plot armor, given that Panacea is gone and Othala’s hopefully evacuated the area. That shoulder puts a SERIOUS dent in things.

    I’ve been waiting so long to see more of Flechette and Parian!!!! I can’t wait to see how their relationship’s developed.

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