Colony 15.10

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I passed the invisible boundary between the neatly manicured lawn of the mayor’s expansive backyard to the tall grass at the glade’s edge.  My hands were shaking and my breathing was heavy.  I hadn’t done anything more strenuous in the past few minutes than talking to the mayor and walking at a good pace, but my body was reacting like I’d just sprinted halfway across the mayor’s property.

I put a hand on a tree as I walked, as if it could steady me and keep me from falling.  I wasn’t in any danger of falling that I was aware of, but it was reassuring nonetheless.

Damn him.  How big was his property?  And he could still afford to hire someone to cut his grass?  Eat a nice dinner on a huge wooden table, complete with courses?  Blithely ignoring what was going on in the rest of the city with his superhero son and superheroine date?

No, try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to get angry.  Couldn’t blame him for what I’d done.

I’d deliberately let someone come within seconds of dying, and he hadn’t been a monster, like Lung or the Slaughterhouse Nine.  He hadn’t even necessarily been a bad person.  If I’d waited just ten or twenty seconds longer, he might have stopped breathing.  CPR would be that much more difficult with a closed airway, and he could have died or suffered brain damage while they attempted to revive him.

Of course, my first aid knowledge wasn’t all that recent or complete.

I let go of the tree, adjusted my sling and moved on.  Drawing my cell phone from the armor at my back, I made a call.  “Cranston?”

“What can I do for you, Skitter?”

My voice sounded too calm for how my body seemed to be reacting.  “Need an ambulance to the mayor’s residence, backyard.  There’s a young man having breathing difficulties.  Can you use untraceable channels to get in touch with emergency services?”

“I’ll do that.  Anything else?”

“Tell Coil the job’s done.”

“The second this phone call is over.”

I hung up.

Triumph’s family would probably do that anyways, but it made me feel a little better.

I couldn’t afford to dwell.  I headed for Genesis, stalling her movements by signaling her with my bugs.  I wrote out a message: ‘Job done.  Trickster hurt.  Need help taking him to Coil.’

I directed her to me with my bugs, drawing arrows in the air.  A minute or two passed before she caught up.

Genesis had decided on a form that was an overlarge woman’s face carved out of bone, surrounded by long, thin, branching tentacles.  She would have come up with that as a counter for Triumph and either Prism or Ursa Aurora; something that could take a heavy hit, either from a bear made of forcefields or Triumph’s shouts and punches.  It would also be pretty effective against Prism for the same reasons I was: Multitasking and the ability to handle multiple foes at once.

“Where’s Trickster?” she asked.

I brought him down from above the treeline, unconscious and strapped to Atlas’ back.  “I can’t carry him all the way back.  It’s too far, and it’ll be too slow.  Atlas is leashed to me by my maximum range.”

And as long as I’m on foot, I’m vulnerable to any attacks from Coil or Prism’s reinforcements.

“You want me to carry you?”

I shook my head.  “I want you to carry him.  Flying Atlas is hard enough as it is without an uneven weight on top of him, and if Trickster wakes up and starts moving, he’s going to fall.”

“Fine.  Damn it.  Making a new body’s slow when I’m this far from myself.”

“Can you make it at the far end of this glade?  I can jog there by the time you’re done, and I’ll bring Trickster.”

She didn’t respond.  Instead, she began breaking down into a gelatinous, blurry mess.  Her power was like mine, I supposed.  It took time to prepare.  I had to get my bugs to the battlefield, she had to put herself together.

I checked Trickster was securely in place, adjusted my sling so my arm wouldn’t bounce too much and then hurried for the meeting place.  Atlas followed, flying just above the treeline.

It was times like this that I felt less normal, less human.  It was dark, the foliage overhead dense, branches blocked my way and the ground was riddled with roots, stones and uneven footing.  It barely mattered.  My bugs flowed ahead of me to check surfaces, clinging to branches and carpeting the ground.  I passed through the trees as though I’d spent my life among them, memorizing where everything was.  I extended my foot just a bit further to accommodate the slope ahead of me, ducked a branch with wickedly pointed tips and found a handhold on another branch to help myself hop over a spot where water had pooled.

I liked running.  For months, I’d used running as a way to forget about whatever was plaguing me.  Before, it had been the bullying.  Then it had been the pressures of dealing with the Undersiders, my undercover ruse.  Separating from my dad.  Dinah.  The fallout from the Endbringer attack.  Coil.

The times I hadn’t run, I’d felt like I was losing my mind.  Did correlation equal causation, there?  Or was it just that the moments I was unable to run were the same moments I was  under the most stress?  When the Slaughterhouse Nine had been in town, when I’d been living in the shelters after Leviathan hit the city, before I rejoined the Undersiders?

Either way, it was good to break free of my thoughts on Triumph and what I’d done to him. I could focus on breathing, on putting each foot exactly where it needed to be, keeping my balance and letting my subconscious guide me through the woods.

I felt vaguely disappointed when I reached the point where the small forest ended and the roads began.  One of the busiest streets in Brockton Bay was desolate, a lone car cutting a path through the shallow water as it headed away from the city.  I stayed in the shadow of the trees until it was well out of sight.  I didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to step back into the city and face everything that waited for me there.  The threats on my life from an employer who divided and pruned realities was only a small part of that.

I would have left, if I could afford to.  If Dinah and my people could afford for me to.

My bugs found Genesis, and even with the indirect route I’d taken, I reached her before she was fully formed.  She looked like a bison with wings, but her back had a bowl-shaped depression, and she had stubby little legs and antennae.  Since she didn’t have the means, I was left to try to ease Trickster into the basin.  I could see why she did it, cradling him and ensuring he couldn’t fall, but it was still dangerous and tricky to move him with just the one arm.  I wondered if she’d seen the sling.

We took off, and Atlas proved faster than she was.  She had to ride the air currents and she was heavier overall.  I scouted forward some in case we crossed paths with Legend or any other heroes.

I paused on one rooftop while I waited for her to catch up again.  I drew my cell phone and called Tattletale this time.

“Skitter?” She answered on the first ring.

“Job’s done.  Already told Coil.  Triumph was there, along with Prism.  They hurt Trickster, took Genesis out of action.  I stopped them and finished the job, got the mayor to agree to the terms we wanted.”

“Are you still there?  At the mayor’s place?”

“No.  Just left.”

There was a pause.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she told me.

“What doesn’t?”

“We’re clear to talk, no bugs, I’m ninety-nine percent sure.  So listen, if Coil wanted to assassinate you, that’d be his chance.  Once you leave the mayor’s property, that’s it.  He doesn’t know where you’re going.”

“Trickster got hurt,” I told her.  “Maybe he was supposed to do it?”

“Maybe,” she admitted, “But that still feels wrong.  Why wouldn’t Coil have a backup plan?”

“Or maybe Dinah’s power is working, and he’s got some bigger plan in mind?”

“I’m at his base right now.  It doesn’t fit with his movements.  He’s not really visiting her.”

I shivered.  Visiting her, dosing her with drugs, interrogating her for answers about his grand plan… I hated the images that popped into my mind when I thought about Dinah in captivity.

“Listen,” she said, “I’m going to try to find out more.  I’ll call you back.”

“I don’t like that you’re there without backup.  You said he might want to get rid of you too.”

“I’ll know if he does.”

“Like you knew he’d try to kill me?”

Another pause.

“I’ll call you later,” she said.

The line went dead.

I reluctantly put my phone away.  I had a hollow feeling in the center of my chest.  A huge part of me wanted to call Grue, but I couldn’t convince myself that it was really what I was aching for.  I might have anyways, but I wasn’t sure what I would have said.  Would I have asked for a hug, another cuddle?  For advice, tactical suggestions?  For reassurances?

I wouldn’t have said the thought had ever explicitly crossed my mind, but somehow I’d always assumed that I’d know what to do when I got into a relationship.  I didn’t want this thing to be designated the nice memory that we avoided mentioning until things had returned to the old status quo.

But I wasn’t sure he was the person I wanted to reach out to.  The people in my territory?  Was I seeking some validation there, some cheers, smiles, hugs and other assurances that I was really on the right track, doing the right things?

I couldn’t be sure.

I met with Genesis in the air, flying just beneath her so our heads were as close to one another as possible.  “Is he okay?”

“He was awake a second, then went under again,” she said, “Might be a good thing.  He’s hurting.”

“Probably.  Why?  Why did he pick a fight like that?”

“It’s how he operates.  I’m not saying this is usual, or that this wasn’t an extreme case, but… it’s always how he dealt with things, big or small.  The worse things get, the more stubborn and cocky he gets in going up against them.  It worked when we were just messing around together, just playing around.  But we were never suited to be… I dunno, a family?”

“A family?”

“We’ve spent two years together, with just each other.  I don’t know what you could call us, if not that.”

“Why don’t you quit?  Split up?  Is it Noelle?”

“She’s only half of it,” Genesis said.  She didn’t volunteer anything more.

We flew in silence for a few long seconds.

“Don’t blame him, okay?  He has his way of handling stuff, but those methods don’t scale up so well when we’re dealing with stuff this screwed up.”

“Things are getting better.  The Nine are gone, we’re cleaning up the city, our enemies are getting driven out of Brockton Bay.”

“Better for you, maybe, but those are your priorities.”

I didn’t respond, wasn’t sure how to.

“Just… don’t blame him.  I’m sorry things got so bad tonight.”

“Okay,” I said.  I hadn’t meant to get caught up in a conversation.  I saw a chance to say what I wanted to, “Are you good with going to Coil’s on your own?”

She looked surprised.

It was too dangerous to meet with Coil right now.  I wasn’t thinking straight, and I wasn’t willing to walk into the lion’s den.  Another day, under different circumstances, with backup?  Maybe.  But not now.

“I’m going to head back to my territory,” I lied.

“Yeah.  Sure.”

“Okay.  Good luck?  Coil can call me if he needs anything.”


I veered off to head north, leaving Genesis to continue in the direction of Coil’s headquarters.

As Tattletale had suggested, the window of opportunity had passed.  If I returned to my territory, would I be walking into a trap?  The same could be true if I went to any familiar place.  Coil had enough soldiers to have one lying in wait in any given area.

On the other hand, if I broke pattern and stayed somewhere off his radar, I’d be letting him know I was suspicious.  That might be all he needed to decide to step up his plans and go all-out.

I came to a decision, all my disparate thoughts and concerns snapping together into one simple, inelegant solution.

Too dangerous to go to my territory.  I set Atlas down on top of the tallest building in the area, climbed off and sent my bugs into my territory instead.  They flowed into my lair as a mass.  I left some in the appropriate terrariums to restock my supply of some of the rarer spiders and larger beetles.  The rest passed through the upper floors of my lair and retrieved the necessities.  They returned, surrounding Atlas as a cloud.

Once Atlas had landed beside me, I began getting everything in order.  Atlas held my rain boots in his front claws and carried my backpack and some of the clothes I’d had him pack on his back.  Using my hand, I swatted other items through the backpack’s opening as my bugs brought them into position – underwear, socks, wallet.

I ran one hand over Atlas’ rough exterior.  “What am I going to do with you?”

Atlas didn’t have the instincts to operate on his own.  He was an entirely unique creation, designed from scratch with no real blueprint or model for behavior.  He couldn’t move, couldn’t eat and couldn’t defend himself if I wasn’t in range to control him.

I’d have to figure something out.  Some place I could stick him so I could keep him close.

I picked out what I wanted to wear, checked there wasn’t anyone nearby and changed on the rooftop.  I had to take off the sling to free my arm, which maybe wasn’t the best idea, but I was gentle with my shoulder as I worked my way into a tank top.

When I was changed, I fixed my sling, I packed my stuff in my bag and bound my costume loosely in silk to keep it compact and tied that package loosely to Atlas’ back.  I wouldn’t be going anywhere without him, and wherever I was, he could probably bring my costume to me faster than I could access whatever hiding place I’d chosen.

I double-checked there wasn’t anyone watching, stepped up onto Atlas’ back and stayed standing as he lowered us to the street.  I skipped down with a bit of a splash, slung the backpack over my good shoulder and started walking.

Things were getting better.  The flooding was more under control, and less streets were sitting beneath inches of water.  The work my people had done in our district had helped, here.  We were downhill, and the efforts in clearing out the storm drains and dismantling the trash and rubble that was trapping water in certain areas had freed the water to flow down towards the beaches.

Still, that wasn’t saying a whole lot.  There were too many areas where it was dangerous to walk without proper boots, due to the glass and the wooden boards with nails in them. Piles of trash sat everywhere, with nobody to clear them away.  When people had run out of plastic bags, they began throwing the trash in cardboard boxes or plastic totes.  When those had proved too short in supply, they’d started throwing debris and litter wherever they pleased; out windows and into alleyways.  I could see rats in the spaces between some houses, not even shy about being out in plain view while I walked by with my oversized rain boots.

Plant life was alternately dying and flourishing, with trees and lawns drowned and algae and moss blooming.  Weeds were cautiously emerging wherever there was ground to take root.

It was funny how nature reclaimed this world in its own way.  It was silly to say humans were destroying the environment; we were simply changing it.  Nature would persevere until the world was a barren wasteland.  Whatever apocalypse Jack was supposed to set in motion, I suspected Jack was right in what he’d said to Bonesaw.  Something would undoubtedly survive, and this sort of thing would likely happen across the world, starting in the cracks, spreading out, only to overwhelm and bury the ruins of civilization.

A weird direction for my train of thought, but this was one circumstance where I didn’t want to think too much on things beforehand.

I stopped, not out of hesitation, but nostalgia.  The wooden staircase in front of me had rotted out on the bottom-most step.  Not recent, not a fault of Leviathan or the city’s conditions.  Older.  I skipped past it and headed up to the front door and rang the bell.

My heart pounded.  I tried not to think about anything particular.  Didn’t want to chicken out.

The door opened, and I found myself face to face with my dad.

It took all the courage I had not to turn around and run.  I was such a coward.  I’d been like this with school; I’d stopped going to classes for reasons that were more or less reasonable in the moments I’d made the decision, and somewhere along the line, I’d continued to avoid school because I didn’t have the courage to own up to my previous absences.

Only this wasn’t school.  It was my dad.  He still had marks all over his body where the glass had cut him, dried scabs in lines and circles all over his face and arms.  He had one large bandage on his shoulder.  Shouldn’t he have healed by now?  Or had it been that bad?

“It’s good to see you,” he said.  His forehead was creased in concern.  “You’re hurt.”

I looked down at the sling.  “It’s not major.”

“Is it why you-” he said, stopping himself as if he didn’t want to jinx things and scare me off with a poor choice of words.

“No,” I said.  I found myself searching for an explanation, opening my mouth to respond and then closing it when that explanation didn’t readily come.

He’s my boy, I could imagine the mayor’s voice, the pain and raw emotion I’d heard.  I only ever wanted what was best for him.

I just had to look my dad in the eyes, and I could see that same expression in my dad’s eyes.

“No,” I said, again.  “I just saw someone nearly lose her daughter.  It made me think of you and mom.”  I’d changed the genders on the spur of the moment to be safe.

As if I’d prodded a wound, I could feel that deep-seated ache from earlier come alive.  I wanted to look away, but I forced myself to meet my dad’s eyes.

“Do you,” he said, pausing, “Want to come in?”

I nodded.  He stepped out of the doorway and I stepped into the house for the first time since Shatterbird had attacked.  That had been the start of June, or thereabouts.  I hadn’t exactly had time to look around, nor had I really been in a stable state of mind.  The last time I’d really been able to look around the house had been the start of May.  Nearly two months ago.

I looked at the mantlepiece above the fireplace.  Things had been rearranged.  There was a small clock with a broken face, a family picture of Dad, Mom and me that had survived Shatterbird’s attack and a little statue/candlestick featuring a woman with a flowing dress.

I touched the statuette.  There were memories there.  Too many things in the house had them.  The statuette was part of a pair.  My mom had bought them at the market.  The overly tall, skinny, exaggerated figures had seemed to match my mom and dad, in a way.

“Where’s the husband statue?  Were you robbed?”

I looked at him, and he looked embarrassed.  “I traded it away.  More than a few things.”

“Why?  For what?”

“Selling and bartering for food,” he answered.

“But there’s supplies.  Did you not get enough, or…” I trailed off.  Why was I attacking him? Accusing him?  Was it guilt, failing to look after my dad and make sure he got the supplies he needed?

“The explosion with the glass.  I suffered some minor kidney damage.  The doctor advised me to up my iron and protein intake while we wait to see if it’ll scar.  Not nutrients you find in good supply in supply kits.”

Kidney damage.

“Is that the worst injury?  You’re otherwise okay?”

“I’m mostly okay.  Better than most, thanks to the warning you gave me about the Slaughterhouse Nine being in town.  Some of my coworkers owe you thanks as well.”

I nodded.  I was glad people were okay, but the fact that word was spreading, it put me in a dangerous spot.

“But I should be the one asking how you’re doing.  What happened to your arm?”

“Foreign body got trapped in there at some point,” I said, “Needed minor surgery.”

I could see the alarm crossing over his face.  Had he heard something?  Flechette passing on a message that people with injured shoulders-

Surgery?” he asked.

“It was only local anesthetic.  Really.  Not that big a deal.”

I looked over the bookshelves.  One of the better pictures of mom and me had been destroyed by the explosion of glass, ripped to shreds.  He had to have picked up that frame and stood it up on its own, sometime after Shatterbird’s attack.  I prodded at the picture, as if I could push the tattered remains back together.

“You’re so different,” he said.  “You’re standing straighter, dressing like you aren’t trying to hide in your clothes, moving with more purpose.  I think you’ve grown, too.  So many people, they seem like they’ve been burdened by what’s going on, they’ve given up a little, lost important things.  That just makes the contrast between you and them that much stronger.”

I turned around.  Was I?  “I don’t feel that much stronger.”

“I spent fifteen years raising you.  Two and a half of those years I spent raising you alone.  I can see a difference.”

“I’m not saying there isn’t a change.  There probably is.  I just- I dunno if I’m better because of it.”


A silence stretched out.  Neither of us were adept conversationalists, and any familiarity we’d had was gone.

“Do you want to sit?” he asked.

I nodded and seated myself.  There were papers on the coffee table.  Two loose stacks, headed with the title ‘Know where you are’.  They looked as though they had been printed using a fifteen year old photocopier.  I picked one up.

‘Know where you are:

The area extending east of Captain’s hill is believed to be under claim by the supervillains Grue and Imp.  Both are members of a group known as the Undersiders, who have joined with the Travelers in an unnamed alliance.  These villains will not attack civilians unless provoked, and clean-up is tentatively progressing throughout the area with no objections from either villain.

Grue has the ability to create clouds of darkness.  Should you find yourself in one of these clouds, retreat to the nearest cover you remember seeing and assume there is immediate and present danger from vehicles, gunfire, moving pedestrians and fighting between capes…’

I put it down.  There was more, noting a lack of information about Imp as well as the gangs and possible rivals that Grue and Imp might be fighting with, but it was over a week out of date.

The second paper:

‘Know where you are:

The area extending west of the ferry station north, including the factories and the remains of the Boardwalk, is believed to be under claim by the supervillain Skitter.  Skitter is a member of the Undersiders, who are allied with the Travelers in an as-of-yet unnamed alliance.  Skitter is an unpredictable young woman tending towards acts of apparent kindness to those she deems her subjects and bursts of sudden and extreme violence towards those she sees as her enemies.  The city is not funding work in her territory, as Skitter is handling matters there.

Skitter controls insects and senses what they do.  Anyone with allergies to stings or insect bites would be advised to leave this area.  She offers food, shelter and care to anyone who agrees to work under her, but the Dockworkers Association cannot suggest that anyone accept her offers, as her ulterior motives are unknown.

This area is not currently the site of any ongoing disputes between capes.  There is limited power in this area.  There is limited cell service in this area.  There is not water service in this area.’

Again, a little out of date.  Our water was running.  Still, it was startling to see this here.  From the beginning, I’d wanted to keep that part of my life and this part of my life separate. It had been a fierce enough desire that I’d avoided taking revenge on the bullies because of it, at least a little, and it might have had something to do with my running away from home.

“Your DAU has been putting these up?”

“Yes.  Making sure people are informed.  Too many stories of people taking the wrong path through the city and getting cornered by a mutant dog the size of a small tank.”


“You said you were staying outside the city, with Lisa’s family?  At the North end?  How did you get here?”

“I walked across the market, down to the Boardwalk and crossed through Skitter’s territory.”

I was pretty sure I wasn’t acting strange as I said the name.

“They didn’t give you any trouble?”

“They stopped me at the border and I asked permission.  They were nice about it.”


Lie after lie.

Another uncomfortable pause.

“Have you eaten?  I have some liver and mashed potato in the fridge.”

“I’ve eaten,” I lied.  No use taking some of my dad’s money when he was having to sell stuff to get food.

“Would you like some tea?”

“Please,” I said, grateful for an offer I could accept in good conscience.  He retreated into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

I looked around.  It didn’t feel like my house anymore.  I’d only been gone two months, but things were different.  Things in the house had moved, or been sold, or they’d been damaged by Shatterbird’s attack.

The atmosphere was different too.  I wasn’t sure how much of that was the humidity, the lack of upkeep and the fact that the family of two had been just a family of one for nearly two months and how much of it was me.  It was all too possible that I was viewing my surroundings in a different light, tinting things with my paranoia about my dad making the connection between me and Skitter, viewing things more negatively because of my guilt over leaving him.

My dad rejoined me.  “If you give me a minute, I can make your bed-”

“I’m not staying,” I blurted the words.

“Oh.”  I could see the pain on his face.

In the mutual awkwardness that followed, the vibration of my cell phone was a mercy.  I picked it up and checked the display.  Heart-c-c-apostrophe-square.  Tattletale.

“I’ll be right back,” I said, hopping off the couch and hurrying out the door as I hit the button to pick up.

Please be okay, I thought, shutting the door behind me.

“Hey,” she replied.

“You’re okay?  Cactus-B.”

“Sun-Y.  Or Sun-N.  Whichever you prefer.”

“I’m not sure what color that’s supposed to be.”

“Neither am I.  Um.  So I talked to Coil.  Things have been clarified some.”

“Okay.  Should we-”

“It’s fine, pretty much, even if he’s listening in.  You’re not in danger.  No threat on your life at this present moment.”

“Okay,” I said, not sure how to expand on that.  She hadn’t precisely said it was Coil that was the threat, so maybe she was hedging her words to be safe.

“Which scares me,” she confessed.

“Scares you?”

“Um,” she said.  It wasn’t like her to be lost for words.  “I told Coil that Trickster got injured. I wasn’t sure if you’d told him.  He didn’t seem concerned.  There was zero indication that his plan had been disrupted.  Told him you were on your way back, again, no concern.  Everything that had been telling me he was harboring plans to assassinate you was telling me he wasn’t and hadn’t ever been, this time around.”

“Your power lied to you?”

“Um.  That’s what I thought.  I was thinking maybe I was working under a mistaken impression, tried adding and removing the elements to see if I could get a different result, interpret his earlier behavior differently.  No go.  And I was doing all this while having a perfectly normal conversation with Coil, until he says something like ‘Very dangerous.  You want to be careful who you’re picking a fight with.'”

I felt my blood run cold.  I had to sit down on the stair.  “He meant-”

“Oh, he totally meant.  If I was one-hundred percent sure he was planning on killing you before, I’m five-hundred percent sure he was telling me he knows what we’re up to.”

“What should I do?  What should we do?”

“I don’t know.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  I was still processing what he’d just said when he stepped toward the door to leave.  He put one hand on my shoulder, leaned close, and he spoke in this very quiet voice.  He said, ‘Be careful, Tattletale.  I value your service, but you should know your power isn’t as reliable as you like to think.'”

Sounding civil and caring while expressing a very clear threat.  “So the fact that it lied before-”

“It didn’t lie, Skitter.  I said he was testing me, before.  He was, just not like I thought.  He’s found a way to confuse my power, to counteract it.  This thing with the hit on your head.  It was just to scare us.  To let us know that any security my power afforded us, it doesn’t apply to him.  He can make us think you’re going to be killed when you aren’t, and-”

“And the opposite is true.  He can make us think we’re safe when we aren’t,” I finished.


“What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” she said, again.  “Listen, I’ve got to call the others.  Are you with Grue?”

“No.  Maybe I’ll head that way before the end of the night.”

“We’ll figure something out,” she said.

Figure something out?  Coil was on to us, he’d effectively taken Tattletale out of the equation, and by all accounts, he seemed confident enough to continue letting us work for him, despite our intended mutiny.

I couldn’t bring myself to agree.  “Bye,” I said.


I hung up.

Before I could convince myself to head back to my territory and start plotting some counteroffensive, I stood from the stair and walked back inside.

Seeing my dad’s face, I was reminded of the dream I’d had, where my dad had turned out to be Coil, where I’d taken too long and Dinah had died.  I looked away, made my way back to the couch.  My dad set a cup of tea down in front of me, then sat beside me.

I wasn’t religious.  Didn’t believe in a higher power.  Mundane government was crappy enough, the idea of a divine one simultaneously scared me and made me want to laugh.  As a consequence, when I thought of a soul, I was thinking more about some collection of the abstract parts of the mind that covered a person’s mental and emotional well-being, their psyche and the defining aspects of their personality.  A more religious view of the soul would probably add up to a rough equivalent.

Whatever my overall motives might be, some part of what drove me was some desire to patch up the damage, fix that part of myself that had been taking a beating ever since I’d gotten that call about my mom’s death.

Only it wasn’t working.

Try to help the city, help the heroes, shore up my sense of self worth, find myself fumbling, tearing and discovering fresh holes in my subconscious makeup, with Dinah and my betrayal of the people who’d become my friends, betraying myself by failing to keep to that overall goal.  And there were other moments, moments where I’d been brutal and violent, accidental or otherwise.  Moments I’d made sacrifices, or where I’d been callous.  It wasn’t subtle, either.  The stack of papers in front of me said it, clear as day.  Sudden and extreme violence.

Even coming here, it had been at least partially motivated by my desire to fill that hole deep inside, that spot where family was supposed to fit.

I sipped on the tea.  My dad had made it with sugar, not honey.

This… sitting here and drinking tea with my dad, my head someplace else entirely?  It wasn’t fixing anything.  Wasn’t mending or filling anything.

I sipped again, then drank it in big gulps.  It burned going down, and I pounded my collarbone, as if I could banish that sensation.


I stood and picked up my backpack and shrugged it over the one shoulder.  “I’ve got to go.”

He stood too.

“I’m sorry.  We’re- we’re heading back, and it’s dark, so we’re going with a group.”

“I’ll come.”

“No.  You’d be alone going back.  It’s okay.”

He looked hurt.  “A hug?”

I hesitated, then stepped close and hugged him with the one arm.  He gingerly wrapped his arms around my shoulders and squeezed.

“I’ll be back,” I mumbled into his shirt.

“No vague promises.  You’re going to promise,” he said.

“Day after tomorrow?”

“Okay.  I don’t have work then, with the mayoral elections.  We can eat lunch here and then go to the town hall.”

Oh shit.  If Coil had something for us to do-

I stepped away, thinking of a way to formulate an excuse.  I saw his forehead creased with worry.  As thin as he’d been before, he looked thinner now.  Looked years older, wounded, tired, lonely.

“I’ll see you then, then,” I told him.

“See you,” he said, smiling sadly.  No pressure to stay.  He had no idea what was going on, I hoped, but he was still letting me do what I needed to.

I felt the need to reward him, to express some kind of gratitude, but I had only one thing to offer that he really wanted.  “I-  don’t know when.  But maybe I’ll come home?”

Vague, again.  Just like with what I’d said before, there was no set date.  I’d said the exact same thing when I’d left in the first place.  It was almost an insult.

But I saw him smile.  “Anytime, any day.  But we can talk about that over lunch, day after tomorrow.”

I nodded and turned to leave.  I wasn’t half a block away from the house before I felt the tears welling up, running down my face.

I couldn’t say whether they were because of my love for my dad or my despair for Dinah.

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154 thoughts on “Colony 15.10

  1. Taylor finally met her dad, and couldn’t tell him. So sad. But this chapter confirms it for me, Coil HAS to die. He is too dangerous to the Undersiders if they let him live. His threat proves he can get rid of them when he feels like it.

    • “Coil HAS to die.”

      I now disagree completely. At least for the moment.

      By doing this, Coil has put the plotting, counter-plotting, and investing in contingencies to a screeching halt. And more importantly, he *knows* it.

      Coil is an extreme pragmatist who does not seem to hold grudges. Sure, he has a sadistic side, but he keeps it in the pocket dimensions, so to speak.

      He has no reason to feel threatened by the actions of Skitter and Tattletale, and he’s made it clear to them that they can’t win this way. He could have chosen to end both of them; he did not. He has not decreased Skitter or Tattletale’s authority. They are not exiled. They have just been reminded, gently, to not make him an enemy.

      Hell, if I were in his position I’d have done the same thing.

      So the end result is this: Skitter and company continue to build a power base. They recharge, regroup and run PR campaigns so that the civilians don’t riot. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be in a position to handle things when the other shoe drops – which would most certainly not be the case if the king villain were not able to say, “Do not, do NOT, fuck with me” and make it stick.

      • That is a very good point, one that I had not considered. They quite possibly could just leave Coil alone, especially if he did end up giving up Dinah.

        • The main problem here really is that Coil is not going to let Dinah go simply because he is a pragmatist. If he did, Taylor could deal with the rest. To him, Dinah is a better deal.

          With the amount of other things she has compromised on though I am starting to lose track of just why Dinah is so important. I completely get that Taylor is sticking to her basically as the last vestige of who she wants/wanted to be but she should acknowledge that rather than simply holding Dinah up on a pedestal as everything that is wrong with the world.

            • Sadly I do have to totally agree on that front. She is far too good at it for it to not be a power low level power.

          • I’ve posted my theory/analysis on this a few times before, but it’s been a while so I may as well post it again. Symbols are powerful things, and that’s just what Dinah has become to Taylor. To her, Dinah has come to represent atonement for her sins, balancing the scales for her failures, and proof that Taylor is still capable of doing the right thing; in a word, redemption. Will she be able to accept that redemption if and when she achieves it? No way. She’s too self-critical, too self-sacrificing. But until then, she can tell herself “it will all be worth it if I can just save this one girl, right this one wrong.” Grue worries about her self-destructive tendencies; she’s like a martyr without a cause. But Dinah gives her something to pin all that on, something to struggle for. Dinah gives her a cause.

      • On the other hand, he’s also made their relationship more rocky. Yes, he’s shown he’s the big man and he’s not to be fucked with, but he’s also shown that they can’t even trust their seer to tell them if he’s got ill intent.

        When Tattletale wanted to stop Skitter from plotting, she didn’t show that she knew, she built more trust between them. Coil’s gone the other way, but from what we know of Skitter, he’s likely shooting himself in the foot by making himself an unknown variable in her plans. Whether that manifests as her openly turning on him or just missions being complicated by her mistrust remains to be seen, but thanks to this I doubt Skitter’s going to be the massive asset she could’ve been if he’d handled it differently.

        Plus, now the Travelers are involved in their feud, and I doubt they’d be happy to hear that their leader got injured because Coil wanted to show Tattletale and Skitter a new trick…

  2. Woah. Talk about a major chapter. Skitter returns home finally and Tattletale’s power tricked! I’ve been wondering when Taylor was finally going to go home again. Seems like the whole thing with the mayor really shocked her.

    I find it pretty interesting that Coil hasn’t taken Skitter out yet though. He knows a betrayal is planned, but I guess he still finds Skitter valuable enough to keep around.

    • I wonder if Coil had two timelines going here with nothing different at all until he suddenly calls off the hit at the very end in one timeline and collapses the other one. Boom. Suddenly he always planned to call it off so Tattletale would’ve gotten that he never meant to actually kill her while up until that point he fully intended to go through with it. Hence while he can trick her powers it’s risky for him because it cuts out other options.

  3. “She looked like a bison with wings, but her back had a bowl-shaped depression, and she had stubby little legs and antennae”

    Anyone else hungry for buffalo wings all of a sudden?

    I do like increased interaction with her dad. Better to see her in social interactions that don’t concern her dayjob. It’s good to get back around to those loose ends we have about her civilian life, like the bullies. Emma said SOMETHING to make people not interfere with her treatment of Taylor. I know we’re dealing with the end of the world, endbringers, massive superhero conspiracies, a transdimensional superpower organization, the Slaughterhouse 9, Manton, the mystery of the Travelers, Grue nookie, Dinah, Coil, Noelle, Armsmaster and Dragon, the Birdcage, and so on and so forth, but I’m still hoping for some sweet revenge on Emma and her dad and some sort of resolution with her dad.

    There still seems to be a LOT left of this story, so I hope it wraps up a lot of things. Not all of them. May not be much importance that Armsmaster and Dragon are together (save for the fact that he’s not a Cauldron super and neither is she) for Skitter’s story, but the main things affecting at least.

  4. I really thought that she might tell him she was Skitter when she thought about how her visit wasn’t fixing things. I was hoping for it, and when she walked out without telling him I felt both bad for her and dissapointed in her at the same time.

    • I felt bad for her too, but I can understand why she did it. She still has very low self esteem, and my guess is that she doesn’t want to hurt her dad. But she should still warn him at least.

  5. Why do they say she is unpredictable? She doesn’t like to hurt anyone if she can help it, and only attacks people that attack her/her people. Even from an outside perspective, that much can be figured out. Granted things will change after the mayor episode, but the hero’s intelligence network isn’t that great. The dockworkers have to warn people in the city about the villains. That can’t be helping people’s perceptions of the heroes. I wonder what her dad’s perception of Skitter is?

    • I don’t think so. Wildbow is a pretty savvy writer. If Taylor’s dad dies I’m guessing it is gonna be far off-screen and Skitter won’t find out about it for a while. The goodbye is probably significant, but I doubt anything will happen next chapter.

      • She may be betrayed by her father. He can do the very stupid thing of trying to keep her in some kind of juvenile rehabilitation unit.
        If he does it, Skitter will become a nightmare creature.

        • Skitter becoming a nightmarish monster villain would be simultaneously an awesome ending and a terrible one. I am certain that Wildbow’s skill would make it into a glorious mixture of rage and awesome revenge and so on.

          Still, if Skitter turned out like the Nine or Nilbog (whatever that is, Tattletale’s dad maybe?) it would be the last nail in the coffin for Wormverse. Even without another trigger she’d likely kill millions.

        • If he was going to try something like this I think he would have already. Also, what kind of juvenile rehabilitation center would be available anymore? The city has fallen too far for me to believe they have the resources for that on site.

  6. I’m thinking he either plotted to kill her and had everything ready and just chose not to at the last minute when Tattletale wasn’t around, or he somehow combined the plan with his splitting powers to fool her.

    Alternatively, and one to consider given the setting, Tattletale could have had some long lasting effects from the red mist (not the time she was all kick-assed) that left her with increased paranoia that affects her interpretations. Or something to that nature. The ambiguity of Coil’s statements is interesting like that. Being careful who you fight=Triump and Prism being there. Power not being reliable=either the info he got from her relating to the job was flawed in a split universe, or he is just reminding her that all predictive powers can be inaccurate and lead to mistakes like Trickster’s injury.

    And, to add a little more paranoia out there…all we have to go on is the word of Tattletale, a very good manipulator whose power lets her know just which buttons to touch…

    More good, old-fashioned Wild Mass Guessing from everyone’s least favorite commentator. All I’m saying is that they’re possibilities. Can any of us honestly say the story isn’t dark enough that Tattletale might be Coil’s traitorous younger lover working to kill the greatest threat to his takeover because she’s in on Cauldron’s evil plot? Or that she’s not Alexandria after extensive surgery and leaving capable doubles behind, using her enhanced learning ability in coordination with statistics, psychology, psychiatry, and other ways of reading people to mimic what we think of as Tattletale’s ability? It’s even possible that Noelle’s ability is to involuntarily turn things around her into gold at random. Or that Coil has a tapeworm that’s going to kill him before the plot can no matter what.

    • Skitter would know if there was a tapeworm and would probably considered taking advantage of it.

      Nice point about Tattletale being a manipulator. I really want to know her origin story. It seems increasingly important.

    • If she has side effects, then everyone else should too. I think it is just that they have bee relying on TT’s power for too long and forgot that she doesn’t know everything and can make mistakes. Well there are still 2 big mysteries that can explain things . We don’t anything about Noelle or her power, and we have no idea about Tattletale’s background. My guess? Tattletale’s father is a big name “hero” and did something to cause her to run away.

      • It is so simple.
        Plot to kill Taylor, separate the universes.
        In one universe you ga ahead and try it.
        In the other you do not.
        Stick with the universe that proves better to you.
        Make a crazy statement to Tatletale to scare her.

        • That… makes a great deal of sense. So much so that I wonder if perhaps we’re misunderstanding Coil’s power, because that makes so much sense to me that I think these two girls who know the most about Coil’s power would have figured it out too.

        • Agreed. This kind of thing can get around Tattle’s power however it’s risky for him because he has to set it up like he fully intends to kill her in both lines then only stop at the end in one of them so it pretty much prevents him from doing other stuff in the splits if he only intends it to trick Tattle.

        • THANK YOU.

          I mean my first and only prior comment was immediately proven wrong, but that’s so obvious it’s driving me crazy people aren’t reading it that way.

          This is exactly what it must look like / feel like when C is manipulating timelines specifically to mess with you. It’s a warning. Maybe next time he’ll decide, “maybe I’ll deal with her,” then split timelines, then have one attempt to kill her, one not, then retcon failed assassinations until she’s dead in one attempt.

          It’s frustrating how little the Undersiders are discussing the mechanics of his power; what it’d look like in practice when he split timelines or had just eliminated one…. the importance of not tipping one’s hand because Coil did something crazy – because there’s probably a parallel timeline where he bought you pumpkin-spice lattes instead.

      • I doubt it, remember one of the reasons that Tattletale dislikes Glory Girl is because of Glory Girl being a second gen cape and barely needing anything (a foul in basketball) to go through a trigger event. My bet is Tattletale is a first gen cape.

    • Wow, now I really do want her to be Alexandra in disguise, making sure that the Coil plan goes the way it should. That would be hilarious and awesome. Unfortunately it is only possible, not at all probable.

      • Nope,jokes aside,its impossible
        Alexandria has passive near invulnerability,jack slash slashed Tattletale,so there.

  7. Poor Taylor. This chapter had some strong personal resonance for me that I’d rather not go into, but it was very good.

    I loved the Know Where You Are posters. I’ve really wanted that sort of low level outsider view for a while and those are pretty much perfect.

    So does Taylor not believe in the Entities, or simply not consider them to be a higher power?
    Or has her awareness of them faded to the point that she can’t really recall them- it can be hard, with her narrating, to tell what she has in long term memory and what she doesn’t.

    “Triumph’s strikes” Should that be Prism’s strikes? And I think there should be a comma after strikes.
    “handhold on a branch” maybe ‘another branch’ or use a different word, to distinguish it from the pointy branch she’d just mentioned?
    “and less streets were” Fewer rather than less, maybe? Though the way it is might be suitable for Taylor to say.

    • I think it has been made pretty clear that people experiencing trigger events generally do remember their trippy spirit quest with the giant-worm things, with special exceptions for characters like Miss Militia and maybe Bonesaw. Even if she did remember, we have no indication at this point that those creatures are Gods. I believe Tattletale also compared them to viruses, or babies.

  8. Those fact sheets really make me curious about that website at the beginning of the story. For the next interlude, I would like to just see some random forum posters from in universe. What does the average person think of Skitter? She has to have some fans/groupies from people who don’t like the heroes. She helps people, took down the more dangerous villains, and there have to be people who don’t like/trust the heroes and the mayor after the whole 9 incident. Where are the blackmarket T-shirts with pictures of Bugs on them?

    • i want a new t-shirt now…

      also, second the interlude with civillians discussing Skitter. But I’d also like to hear Triumph’s and Prism’s debriefing and Piggot discussing the results with someone.

        • Triumph’s and Prism’s Second Debriefing:

          *a pair of leopard spot thong (Triumph’s) and pair of panties (Prism’s) are tossed out the window. Followed by a second and third pair of panties (also Prisms’).*

          Debriefing done.

  9. My theory: Coil was actually planning on assassinating Skitter that morning in the reality that got finalized. The day goes on, time to put the plan into motion comes. Coil splits realities. In the reality where he goes forward with the attack, Skitter survives and he is left in a bad position. He collapses to the timeline where he did not launch the attack.
    Being a clever bastard, he then adapts to screw with the Undersiders’ heads.

    • Makes perfect sense, explains him no longer trying to kill them (he realised that it would always end poorly for all involved) and how Tattletale “failed”. I don’t see why she’s so upset, we already knew his ability could add atop hers from when he knew about Skitter wanting to be a hero.

      Also he likely thinks of her as much more of an asset after she took out TWO A-class capes on her own, then extorted the mayor and got away clean.

        • Those are more or less the same thing for a man like Coil. However I wonder if he is now weighing the amount of heat he’s soon to be facing and the worth of the Undersiders if this is what Skitter alone can now bring to the table, bearing in mind that her powers act as a force mulitplier for the rest of them.

          If Grue had been there as well then it likely wouldn’t have even been much of a fight.

          Dinah is useful for sneaky stuff and cautious planning. But once he takes over a city he’ll be up against a hell of a lot more raw power, he can’t overuse his mercenaries without risking being classified as a killer threat and blitzed out of existence. So it may be that losing Dinah for some time would be worth it.

          Any plan to kill Skitter is now going to be far nastier, that much is certain. However I really don;t see him having much hope without the Undersiders. Remember that Skitter didn’t just win, two of the Travellers got stomped. If his other team is not suited for direct play in the big leagues, he’s not got much choice. Which I’m thinking is why he merely threatened Tattletale.

          Now some basic diplomacy to bring Skitter back to heel, which would cool off the Undersiders in general. Use her to get them all the way back in control (I still say that chucking Dinah onto Skitter as a responsibility would be a smart move, he still has access to her abilities, Skitter has less time to plot, they either bond and give him a longer term piece or they don’t and he has chipped away at Skitter’s resolve therein. The drugs would cause withdrawal and thus increase likelihood of bonding, while if she picked up Skitter’s views then he wouldn’t even need to use leverage to ensure she works for him) and keep them that way while he secures power and starts reaching out to other cities. If he decides differently after he has the leverage to obtain new villains to work for him and fake them betraying him first, then he can still get rid of them later.

          Least that’s what I’d do.

          But then I find the drug addiction to be far too blunt a strategy. Even if it boosts Dinah’s powers it’s evil for evil’s sake. She’s young and impressionable. I’d have seen him doing something more like kidnap her, tell her he was helping her control her powers (honest), use his ability to ensure his conversations always went as planned with her (she’d see the changes but have no way to know what they were), then alienate her from her family (by the time she got good enough to be able to see what he was doing via future sight, she’d already be his)and brainwash her to his cause. Then let her buck the reigns enough to feel like she was her own person, and find a goal that he could help her with (maintaining the underlying sense of dependence from before) and so have her loyalty as firmly as any other underling. Subtly nudging her into an addiction of some form would be a good move if he could manage it.

          • I should add. Recently:

            Travellers’ loyalty is shaky with Noelle and so on not improving.

            Ballistic narrowly avoided a trap that would have taken him out completely.

            Skitter may well have gotten them a new ally, a useful one for all Coil likes to downplay his people’s achievements to keep them off balance.

            The Undersiders absolutely annihilated the Chosen. So badly it was embarrassing.

            Imp (and Grue) have also shown insane amounts of skill.

            Grue has gained an incredibly potent ability.

          • Coil would need something to prevent Skitter from deciding to get everyone out of town and screw him over if he gave her Dinah to take care of. Like, say, her father in a more secure location… visitation permitted, most likely.

          • I don’t see how they could pull that off without Coil finding out, in any case no need for anything as blatant as taking her father.

            All he’d have to do is make clear that he has monitoring in place over much of the city, perhaps mention the (honest) fact that this lets him keep an eye on those they care about and watch for any threats to their person.

            Put trackers on Dinah to make sure no-one else takes her given that her powers make her a worthwhile target to anyone who hears of them. This would also let him know of any such plan.

            Ultimately though, he’s gonna have to trust his underlings to some degree, giving them a little works a lot better than trying to force loyalty. Showing that he will follow through on his word even in something as extreme as that would be a good thing. Skitter would still want his resources but would be put on the back foot.

            Not to mention that he’d at least be safe through the withdrawal timeframe since running away during that would be downright impossible.

          • I agree with most of what you have written here Anzer. Coil almost certainly would be better off following through on his deal with Taylor, but only if Dinah’s parents are dead. If Taylor is just going to pass off Dinah to her parents and then they are going to run, then he can’t access her anymore.

          • Dinah’s parents are hardly going to be able to deal with her as she is right now. Coil could certainly make Taylor getting Dinah conditional on her not contacting her parents until she’s recovered.

            If it meant she could eventually see them I don’t doubt Dinah would go along with lying to them about Coil.

          • “Remember that Skitter didn’t just win, two of the Travellers got stomped. ”

            Because Triumph underestimated her and attacked Trickster first. If Triumph had targeted Skitter first, she’d be the one in the hospital. At some point her opponents will start figuring out what a total badass she is before she kicks their butts.

          • The main problem with that plan is that Coil likes to push Dinah pretty hard. And if you put Dinah in Skitter’s care, Skitter is going to see that up close. Again and again and again.

            If anything it’s just going to push Taylor into stepping up the timetable on her desire to free Dinah…

    • So, I know the story goes on and though I haven’t read it, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to say isn’t what happened. But if I were Taylor, I would conclude from that conversation that Coil had a gun to Lisa’s head as she was talking.

      Line of reasoning:

      1)Your theory is an immediately obvious possibility. It occurred to me as I was reading, and certainly Tattletale would have no trouble thinking of it. Whether or not it’s actually what he did, it’s an obvious way around her powers that–given her power–she’d have to be phenomenally dumb not to think of. Even if it were incorrect, she would have thought of it.

      2)Coil is in on the color code. She can’t use it to signal that she’s in trouble.

      3)If Lisa has thought of this possibility and isn’t saying anything to Taylor, then she’s either trying to fool someone in her hearing, or acting on orders.

      4)Given her reveals on the subject, she would either have to be sure that Coil already knew they were plotting against him, or sure that he wasn’t listening.
      a)The latter seems implausible, for one, but if that’s true then she’d have to be betraying Taylor.
      bIf Coil is eavesdropping, it makes little sense to go out of her way to tell Taylor that he’s not, unless she’s betraying her.
      c)On the other hand, if Coil were holding a gun to her head and telling her she had to tell Taylor that things were hunky dory, it would be both good to keep Coil from knowing that she knew how he got around her power, but also the only way she could signal to Taylor that she was in trouble was by making daft failures of intuition that she would never make normally, and trust that Taylor would catch on.

      Occam’s razor says Tattletale is just being written by someone who doesn’t have her power, but if it were real, I’d assume she was in trouble.

      • If I understand correctly, what’s alarming to Tattletale, and presumably why they don’t just go “Oh in one universe he tried to assassinate me and then collapsed it” is that he was able to completely fool her power. She didn’t register “He’s testing whether this will fool my power”, or “He’s not sure whether he wants to go through with assassinating her”, or even “He’s going to take a stab at assassinating Skitter but isn’t too invested in it and will just collapse the reality if it fails”. She registered that he was definitely killing Skitter, followed by registering that he does not and never did have any intention of killing her today. Those two are mutually incompatible and can’t merely be explained by collapsing the reality where the hit took place because the Coils in each reality share knowledge and intentions.

        Now I’m sure that that was part of how he did it, but I don’t think that’s the whole trick. Perhaps careful word choice and posture (etc.) to trick her power into focusing on the wrong things.

  10. ‘Know where you are:

    The area extending east of Captain’s hill is believed to be under claim by the supervillains Grue and Imp. Both are members of a group known as the Undersiders, who have joined with the Travelers in an unnamed alliance. This villain will not attack civilians unless provoked, and clean-up is tentatively progressing throughout the area with no objections from the villain.

    Grue has the ability to create clouds of darkness. Should you find yourself in one of these clouds, retreat to the nearest cover you remember seeing and assume there is immediate and present danger from vehicles, gunfire, moving pedestrians and fighting between capes, mimes, men in trenchcoats, women in petticoats, and roaming packs of feral chihuahuas.

    Imp on the other hand…who was I talking about again? For some reason, it seems like there should be two villains in this territory, but I can only remember one. Since we have the extra space, we might as well throw in a recipe.

    Chocolate No Bake Cookies
    1 stick margarine or butter
    1/2 cup of cocoa
    1/2 cup of milk
    2 cups of sugar

    Mix together and bring to boil. Remove from heat, then add:
    3 cups quick oatmeal
    1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
    1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

    Mix well.
    Drop by spoonfuls on wax paper.

    • ‘Know where you are:

      The area extending west of the ferry station north, including the factories and the remains of the Boardwalk, is believed to be under claim by the supervillain Skitter. Skitter is a member of the Undersiders, who are allied with the Travelers in an as-of-yet unnamed alliance. Skitter is an unpredictable young woman tending towards acts of apparent kindness to those she deems her subjects and bursts of sudden and extreme violence towards those she sees as her enemies. That means you, Hogan. This Sunday, Skitter Versus Hogan, no holds barred, no disqualification match for the World Heavyweight Title! The city is not funding work in her territory, as Skitter is handling matters there. That is, of course, the only reason and has nothing to do with the rapid restoration of power, water, cell, police, and fire service to the parts of the city where he lives.

      Skitter controls insects and senses what they do. Anyone with allergies to stings or insect bites would be advised to leave this area. She offers food, shelter and care to anyone who agrees to work under her, but the Dockworkers Association cannot suggest that anyone accept her offers, as her ulterior motives are unknown. She bugs us to no end.

      This area is not currently the site of any ongoing disputes between capes. There is limited power in this area. There is limited cell service in this area. There is not water service in this area.

      And now, another handy recipe:

      Banana Surprise

      Taking a banana in one hand, peel away the banana peel from the top end with the other hand. Eat the banana until it is roughly 3/4 gone. Take remaining portion of banana, pull it out of the peel, and remove the bottom seed portion. Eat the remaining portion of the banana. Leave peel lying on the floor near a doorway, preferably at the top of a set of stairs, with the interior of the peel on the floor. Hide.

      • This just in: The previously unnamed alliance has been dubbed “Going Down.” Kid Win coined the name after releasing scandalous photos of two villainesses kissing. More recipes to follow.

        • News at eight: Kid Win was found hanging from the roof of town hall this morning. The young hero was bound in a coccoon, covered in fleas and lightly chewed. A note at the scene read; “That was out of context, nothing like that was going on!”

          Next up we have noted parahuman psychoanalyist Dr Fro I. Delingham to discuss the difficulties seen here with coming out of the closet as a supervillain in today’s harshly bigoted culture of evilness.

          • “Now Dr. Delingham, you believe you have some insight into the behavior of homosexual supervillains such as Skitter.”

            That’s correct. I’ve been studying superhuman psychology for some time. It’s an interesting subject. People acquire powers due to severe psychological trauma on a level most people don’t have to face, and there was a great deal of interest early on to find out if any certain trauma was responsible for any particular powers.

            “But that isn’t the case.”

            Correct, it is not. We’re lucky we figured that out before the government’s “Tuskegee Supermen” project went underway, but you still see cases in places like Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of South America where governments or non-governmental organizations use tactics such as torture to attempt to induce superpowers. Needless to say, the person who was just being tortured feels no loyalty towards the person inflicting punishment on them. That is, after all, why Cuba is in the shape it is now after the breakout at Guantanamo Bay.

            “That’s more generally, but what can you tell us about homosexual supervillains.”

            First off, it’s long been noted that homosexuals have faced a great deal of discrimination by society. For a long time society considered it a mental illness worth treating with drugs and electroshock. Even after it was removed from the DSM, there was a great deal of social stigma attached to it that led to increased rates of depression and suicide. Those who were not supportive often then cited the depression and suicide as supposed further evidence that homosexuals were a result of some mental illness or something else they deemed unnatural.

            Then Scion appeared and people began to gain powers. Suddenly, gay men and women who were the victims of shunning and bullying and beatings would sometimes find themselves empowered because of this. Some of these have gone on to be some of society’s greatest defenders, though I’ve been asked to not name any names by the heroes I’ve interviewed on the subject.

            “Gay superheroes have asked you to not reveal who they are?”

            There is still a great deal of discrimination out there. Remember, they couldn’t even serve openly in a military capacity until just last year and there are few states that recognize them as having the equal right to marry who they love.

            “I’m sorry for interrupting you. You were getting to gay supervillains?”

            Yes. Uh, others obviously thought of revenge or of taking advantage of the power imbalance being in their favor. It is hard to argue that one should serve people who have been making your life a living hell to such an extent that you gained superpowers. Naturally, a lot of the people who claim the label of “Family Values” believe most supervillains to be homosexuals or most homosexuals to be supervillains and try to further their argument that they are inherently immoral and unnatural. There is a clear hypocrisy there that-

            “Doctor, we don’t want to make this show about politics or religion. Now, not a lot of supervillains have actually come out of the closet. Some, like Skitter, are outed without their say so, but few do so voluntarily. Can you tell the people watching at home why that is?”

            You have to remember that supervillains are a diverse bunch. You have homosexuals and other victims of bullying and harassment. You also have women who were beaten and pushed around by their husbands. You have veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

            White supremacist groups, those that believe in racial purity, often gather together and enact breeding programs. With what we’ve seen, second generation superhumans gain their powers much more easily. It has even been considered that any exposure to supers on a regular basis may make it easier to acquire powers.

            The mentally ill, who are sometimes given unethical treatment. Homeless people, who often overlap with mental illness or veterans. The poor in general, due to the conditions they are likely to be exposed to, are incredibly well-represented among supervillains. That’s because of the loss of human dignity, that’s because of drug culture, that’s because of gang culture, that’s because of women who have to decide between keeping a baby or being able to feed the ones they already have, that’s because of racial and sexist prejudice.

            None of these groups are guaranteed to be supportive of gay rights. White supremacists often feature a very religious Christian aspect to them and are conservative. Veterans come from a conservative military culture as well where they weren’t openly accepted for a long time. And once again there’s the Christian aspect. The military has these spiritual fitness centers, religious concerts, and it is not unusual for soldiers to be forced to participate in Christian prayer. And that is usually top down as well, with the recently disgraced General Petraeus leading prayers at reenlistment ceremonies and singing hymns to some of the troops.

            On top of this is a racial divide. African Americans are disproportionally represented amongst the lower classes.

            “Careful you don’t stir up trouble for my show here, doc.”

            Whatever the causes are, I just mean that police, white society, and lawmakers tend to view things in an unknowingly privileged way that leads to certain treatment, coupled with some more militant individuals who enthusiastically say things like, and I can’t really say this on air, so “darn the police.”

            “I really wish you’d move on from that. It’s a complex and controversial subject that would take its own show to handle and we’re trying to look at how it ties in to gay supervillains.”

            The militant nature of some parts of black culture and gang culture, as well as the emphasis on being what some would call a “real man” has an effect on how they view homosexuals. They also tend to be very religious, and once again religion is often very conservative about gay people.

            African Americans are thus disproportionately disapproving of gays and gay rights, as you can see in when gay marriage is put on the ballot and they tend to vote against it.

            Aside from that, there’s just no guarantee that a homeless man with bipolar disorder and superpowers is going to be particularly supportive of a lesbian supervillain.

            “Well, that’s certainly a lot to think over. People often want on overly simplified answer that tends that, in being pared down, often leaves out a lot of the complexity. Is there anything you would say surprised you, Doctor, about this line of inquiry?”

            Actually, yes. Law-abiding homosexuals also put pressure on supervillains in the closet to stay in the closet, whether they know it or not. They recognize it isn’t good for their image and their movements to be associated with someone who can turn into a giant purple-headed one-eyed snake that then tries to destroy Salt Lake City.

            “Thank you, Doctor. Ladies and gentlemen, Doctor Fro I. Delingham from the Parahuman Institute of Medicine and Psychology.”

          • An hour later on a certain ‘news’ channel:

            Dr Delingham went on to reveal a growing conspiracy among homosexuals to keep their supervillainous numbers under wraps. Could your children be at risk from the evil, gay menace?

            More after these messages.

          • The next day, across the pond at an infamous rightwing tabloid that Daily probably gets Mail (oh yeah, like most of the readers here are familiar with UK tabloids…ah what the hell, let’s make some people with sexy accents laugh too):

            “Lesbian Supervillain are among us. Is Suri Cruise one of them?

            Underneath a picture of Suri Cruise crying reads the caption, “Could this fashionable young lady’s angst lead to a career of superpowered lesbian world domination? We’ll keep you apprised when she and her mother go to buy a new swimsuit next week. My, isn’t Suri Cruise all grown up now?”

          • Psycho, alot of your stuff is humorous, but then you write a ridiculously long piece and I try to read it and just…. can’t. It goes on and on and on and on and lacks the humor of most of your shorter stuff. So, I guess my point is, be funnier! NOW!

          • *dedicated to mc2rpg*

            Welcome back to the O’Really Divisor. Remember, the revolution stops here.

            For this segment of our show we’re going to look at what was said in the House of Representatives today by the distinguised and effervescent gentleman from south Florida, Representative East, a member of the majority party of the House who served our country so valiantly in war:

            *Representative East speaks, shown with majority party affiliation*
            “We have a communist conspiracy in Congress. I believe in it. These communists, the other party, they vote consistently to help gays. And what do gay people do? They go out and become supervillains and hurt hardworking real Americans. And I for one won’t rest until I have strangled the minority leader to death with Joe McCarthy’s hipbone.”

            We have here on the Divisor a top lobbyist for NAMBLA- GLAAD, I mean GLAAD, sorry, excuse me, that was uncalled for. Miss Gay Person, can you coherently form enough of a sentence to give us what you see as your side to this brave patriot’s facts, cogentically?

            “Well I think it’s deplorable that he would lump-”

            That’s it, cut her mic. I’m sick and tired of you jackanapes attacking the 1st Amendment rights of people like the brave and well-hung Representative East of Florida. We’re going to commercial.


            Breaking news, in a shocking twist documents have been released that show Representative East *minority party affiliation shown* of the minority party to have been engaged in an affair with a donkey from Argentina for the last 7 years, possibly even pimping the donkey out to fellow members of his despicable party. Opinion of the man varies from “brave patriot who speaks facts”, “con man who cheated me out of $250 and gave me herpes”, and “deplorable bigot who wants to strangle someone with the remains of a brave patriot’s body.” This man undubitably needs to retire, being as he is a disgraceful human being and a shining light of the minority party.

            This has been the O’Realy Divisor. Remember, freeloading moochers, the revolution stops here.

          • Thank you for the hilarious thought of far right news sources covering superheroes.

            Skitter is like their greatest nightmare. Anti-authoritarian. Doesn’t follow rules. And worst of all, she helps people for free!

          • I honestly can’t think of someone who would have an easier time coming out of the closet than a supervillain. Who is going to give Skitter shit when she admits that curing Tattletale was the highlight of her young life? Try to make something of it, she dares you. You won’t like the response.

      • And here I was hoping ‘do not accept her food, shelter, etc. to include ‘Do not accept any candy she offers you, or a nice ride in her military van.’

  11. There seems to be some confusion when she gets back to her lair. It says she lands in an alley, but then suddenly she’s changing clothes on a rooftop? It’s also not quite clear that when she says she’s sending her bugs instead of herself, she includes Atlas. It becomes obvious afterward, but it threw me off a bit.

  12. Those Territory posters were awesome, kind of want to see the full set.

    Also Skitter’s section further cemented my thoughts that she has an insect queen’s psychology at this point (either directly from her powers or just due to them making her into exactly that) in the story. She’s built up a hive, continues to build within it, and shows extreme violence when it’s threatened.

    The Docks and Boardwalk are now basiacally a massive beehive or anthill or termite mound…just with much worse bugs and a mind that knows how to use fire 😉

    Still if she’s still in control when the city gets better it’ll probably be a popular tourist spot. Safe and probably filled with cool and pretty bugs (if she figures out the sense then butterfly spies would be epic, actually just general butterflies. Making them come out of her swarm clones hands to impress kids…she’d have done well if Trickster hadn’t messed that one up…anyway) of all kinds. If nothing else, every etymologist on the planet would be on their way.

    • Second the posters.

      Remember the costumes she makes for her minions? The workers will propably get workers of various insect species. And then someone will point out to the male workers that they’re essentially crossdressing.
      And why not go one step further with the tourist attractions and build an actual insect house? Zoos do it and charge entry fees, and she could make it into pretty much an insect circus. And at the gift shop she can sell silk t-shirts, snack grasshoppers, wax products, etc. Combine tourism with the industrial-scale production of silk cloth, wax, pearls, and food, as well as herself as rent-an-insect-exterminator/pest control and she’d be an economical powerhouse.
      And instead of just handing out butterflies, she should make her clones out of them. Much better for PR than all the creepy insects.

      Only I really doubt she’ll attract all that much etymologists unless words suddenly begin behaving like bugs. Entomologist on the other hand should be rather more interested.

      • “Only I really doubt she’ll attract all that much etymologists unless words suddenly begin behaving like bugs. Entomologist on the other hand should be rather more interested.”

        …uh…woops. Thanks for pointing that one out, that was dumb of me.

        I agree that Skitter could very easily make herself into a much more friendly face for her territory. Heck she would have been a hell of a rogue for those who didn’t think too deeply on how scary her power was. Though I still find it interesting that she was essentially forced into the villainous role (initially) by her powers looking creepy. Superhuman discrimination?

        Make the outer shell out of loose clouds of butterflies, hide the nasty stuff inside. So if someone does something naughty they are overcome by a swarm of butterflies, then it recedes to let medical help get through.

        Hopefully the kids giggling about being amidst a cloud of pretty bugs (dragonflies, butterflies etc) don’t make a connection.

        • In a way, superhuman discrimination based on their powers is in effect in real life as well. Look up “good powers, good people” and “bad powers, bad people” on tvtropes. Surely the super surgeon must be a complete saint, while the one with the creepy insects could not possibly be a decent person, right?

      • I third the posters! I really want to see what it says about Regent and Bitch with Tattletale as secondary!

        The tourism gift shop for Visit Skitter Land would be awesome!

    • To elaborate on the costumes as I imagine them:
      Workers are ants
      Security personnel are bees or wasps or something
      Tourist guides/PR-workers are butterflies
      Seargeants are spiders

      Anything I forgot?

        • It was long ago confirmed that there is an existing tabloid culture for prominent heroes and I’m betting that the more well known and less monstrous and insane villains get the same.

          Thus I’m curious what the reaction (assuming they’ve become well known by now with their repeated high profile antics) will be to Grue and Skitter’s relationship getting out. Public image seems mostly of him as a cold, professional, terrifying hitman type and her as a somewhat insane, creepy-as-hell villain with delusions of heroism. Certainly unkind comments will occur.

          And some undeserved speculation about kinkiness levels.

          • Heh, yeah. Good catch, tieshaunn.

            As to the tabloids, i think there might just be nasty rumors equating Skitter to one of her Black Widows. Something about her exploiting him, then killing the villain because of aforementioned hero-complex.
            At least it would fit her previous history of being misunderstood by virtually everyone.

  13. The theory that this is Coil’s control universe for when Skitter survived his assassination attempt and wrecked his stuff seems correct to me. However, he most likely learned from the experience, as he could point out if someone in-story figures it out.

    • He wouldn’t have had to lose to decide that it was better to collapse the other timeline; it could be that he won, but the result was still worse somehow (lost too much in the process or didn’t gain as much as he’d hoped).

      Keep in mind that we don’t know how long it takes for Coil to use his power. Speaking of which, I should mention that Coil’s original demonstration of his power probably wasn’t real.

      Think about it: he flips a coin. It has a fifty-fifty chance of being the result he wants. If wrong, he flips again for another fifty-fifty chance. That means he still has a twenty-five percent chance of losing. He takes those kind of odds three more times and he’s almost guaranteed to get at least one tails. And that’s assuming he’s willing to put himself in danger just for this demonstration. I think that it’s more likely that he has learnt how to toss a coin the same way each time (you can learn to do this in real life with some practice. I’m not one hundred percent accurate, but I can definitely affact the outcome and I don’t have that much practice).

      • Uumm.his power works on real time,so he took advantage of people’s perception of gambler’s fallacy.Think it like that
        U1 throw coin:heads
        U2:stall a little,other universe heads,discard this one

        U11:throw coin,heads
        U12:stall a little,other universe heads,discard

        U111:throw coin,tails,discard universe
        U112:stall a little,tails on other universe,keep

        U1121:stop stalling ,throw coin,heads
        U1122:keep stalling,heads on other universe,discard
        All it takes to use your power like that is a little creativity

        • I think the mistake a lot of people are making is assuming he threw a coin in both universes. By stalling a bit, he can diverge the universes again. As long as he only throws in one universe he can pull the ‘new universe’ trick indefinitely, with the only risk being that he gets so many tails in a row in the discarded universes that people wonder why he’s stalling so long in the universe(s) he’s keeping.

          • You know, I’m getting the feeling the English language really isn’t designed for this subject. I don’t know if my explanation helped or clarified at all.

  14. hi
    first of thanks for the chapter

    i have been reading a bit TVtropes, and been wondering if any of the following fit

    realy any time the heroes fight, the endbringers, the sloughterhouse 9 or a “monster”

    regent&famely, taylor?


    Armsmarster? (together with “Villain with Good Publicity”)

    taylor is constantly breaking

    if the endbringers should be considered a race

    the sloughterhouse 9 and the endbringers

    armsmarsters first reaction to taylor
    and Alexandria and the doctor (if you considere them good)
    (not saying anything over wether she should still be considered good)

    hope i didn’t get anything that is already linked to.

    • Good Is Not Soft already has Worm listed – see under Web Originals.

      Bad Powers, Bad People? See under web originals.

      Artificial Human – Yeah.

      Bitch in Sheep’s Clothing – YMMV as far as whether Armsmaster is ‘cruel’ or just horribly tunnel visioned. Check out the related tropes (Enfant Terrible, Level in Jerkass) for more possibilities.

      Beware the Nice Ones? One of those ones I can’t comment on because I don’t have objectivity. I’m too intimately close with the story, and I don’t want to spoil if it’s majorly applicable and I don’t want to mislead if it isn’t.

      Are the Endbringers ‘Always Chaotic Evil’? Same. I don’t want to spoil if it’s majorly applicable and I don’t want to mislead if it isn’t. I leave it to readers to come to their own conclusions on the subject.

      Omnicidal Maniac? You could make a strong case for the Endbringers and the Nine, yeah.

      Dark is Not Evil? Worm is already listed under Web Original.

      Protip: If you check the ‘related‘ page, you can see the various pages that link to Worm’s entry on TV tropes. It’s included in the mess of buttons at the top of Worm’s entry.

      Wondering if Worm’s listed already on a given page, a quick check there will help verify. Thanks for considering this stuff – a lot of people will wiki walk across TV tropes to find Worm (many of my current readers are tropers) and the more times Worm is mentioned, the more routes they have to finding the story.

      • ok thanks
        (looked at the wrong places [the page of worm] since i was a little surpried that i didn’t find any of those above [seemed to unplausable] i added that with already linked^^)

        • It’s more valuable (for me, anyways) to have links on other pages pointing to Worm than to have links on Worm’s page pointing to the trope pages. Not that adding tropes to Worm’s page is bad. The former is how potential readers find Worm. The latter enhances the enjoyment of existing readers.

          If anyone wanted to help Worm out and wasn’t up to putting up a rating/review on Webfictionguide or donating, five or so minutes spent adding a mention or two of Worm to various (relevant!) trope pages would be very helpful.

          • dont have much experience with tvtropes, somehow expected that adding a link to worm would automaticly add a link from the page to worm, and the other way around (2 links per link made)

          • Careful, it’ll ruin your life. Worm has literature in its link, but shows up under web original for other pages of tropes. If I wasn’t on my phone, I’d add one or two on there. Someone said they were inspired to do crowning moments of awesome and funny, but haven’t seen those around.

            • For any new readers interested in updating TV Tropes, Worm is classified as literature, and they request any links be put in the Literature folder rather than the Web Original folder (and any existing links/descriptions be moved to Literature).

  15. I was tired the other day, and my first glance at a red package of candy told me I could buy some “Skitters”. {Double take} Wait. What? OH. Skittles.

    • All of my donations come when the count is within 25 bucks of being done, just so that things get finished and I don’t have to wait anymore for another interlude.

  16. Psychogecko – had to decilne to allow your last comment to post – was an embedded youtube video that distorted the comment section. I tried to post it as a link instead and it didn’t take.


  17. If she’s supposed to become “tough” enough, doing the shit that she has been doing, the desperation with which she wants to help Dinah makes ZERO sense.

    Her relationship with her father is fucked up, and she does nothing to ease his pain, when she could. FFS, I feel like slapping some sense into her.

  18. Hmm. Given the story structure so far and what we’ve been told, the direction I’m expecting this to go in is for Skitter’s dad to have been subverted or taken over somehow. If he has, then it seems likely that he just planted a bug on her during that last hug, presumably either at the behest of the heroes (who have convinced him it’s for Skitter’s own good) or in deference to whichever villain is pulling his strings.

  19. Damnit, Tattletale is dropping the ball here.
    Coil is trying to convey a false appearance of omnipotence, and Tattle isn’t seeing it!
    Coil plans a hit, and her power warns her. Then he splits realities and stops the hit, confusing Tattle. But just because he can make them feel threatened when they aren’t, that doesn’t mean he can make them feel safe when they aren’t. If Coil orders the hit again, nothing’s saying her power won’t warn her again. And if Coil wants the hit be carried out, he is forced to pick the reality where the hit exists. So really, he is no more dangerous than he always was.
    You’d think Tattletale would pick up on something like that, instead of playing right into it. The false appearance of omnipotence is kind of Coil’s schtick, so she has no excuse for being surprised.

    • The point isn’t that Coil is omnipotent. It’s that he can screw with her power, using his.
      Why wouldn’t this process work in reverse?

      And finally…what is to be gained by assuming Coil can’t? Or, what is to be lost by assuming he can? Do you really think Taylor is going to give up over this? She’s giving up over her own dead body…so to speak.

      • It isn’t so much what is gained by assuming Coil can’t work that way, it’s what is lost. Coil is making himself out to be a lot more powerful than he actually is. This is utterly within character for him, and it should surprise nobody, least of all genre-savvy Tattletale.

        The Undersiders constrain their plans much more than they need to, calling some of it off and regrouping, all because Coil fooled them into thinking that, if he can trigger Tattletale’s “danger alert” without actually doing anything, he can also act without triggering it at all. It’s a logical leap.

        Logical, but wrong.

        Tattletale’s power is predicting Coil’s actions just fine. When Coil splits realities, he is, at some point, forced to make a choice between them, and then collapse the one he doesn’t like (a weakness they later exploit). So, sooner or later, he has to decide whether he carries out the hit on Skitter or not. Tattletale’s alarms are blaring, and they are right to be – Coil is planning a hit.

        But then he splits realities and calls it off. Suddenly, Tattletale is left on high alert to a situation that isn’t going to happen. She gets spooked and Coil acts all smug, playing it up like he’s got them under his thumb. The false appearance of omnipotence.

        But think about it. If he had actually carried out the hit, there is no reason in the world why Tattletale’s power wouldn’t warn her. Setting up the hit is what alerted Tattletale in the first place, and he would have to do that again in the new reality where the hit never existed. He can’t carry over actual physical preparations between realities, so if he tried to pull this gambit the other way around, Tattletale would smell a rat, just like she did this time.

        But Tattletale isn’t seeing that – she is buying into Coil’s manipulation, which I think is unlike her. I would have expected Skitter to be fooled, but not Tattletale, surely. Or am I completely off the mark here?

        • Let me bring up four points.

          1. What makes you think that that’s how Coil did it? Wouldn’t his intention to split off the universes screw it up? And if not…why wouldn’t it work in reverse?

          2. They know Coil knows about their vague plans. They know Coil is going to retaliate. All they don’t know is the details, and if Coil can screw up things so majorly as he did for Tattletale’s power, he can screw up her perception of those details.

          3. Oh no, they can’t rely on Tattletale’s power to tell them stuff that comes from Coil. They’ll have to rely on their own brains (which are pretty good for Tattletale, Skitter, and Grue), plus use of Tattletale’s power on non-Coil targets, plus the firepower that Bitch’s dogs, Skitter’s bugs, powers Grue copies, Imp’s imperceptibility, Regent’s general mischief, and Shatterbird provide. How could they ever manage against Coil? The situation isn’t that much more dire than if they had access to what Tattletale gleaned from Coil.
          On the other hand, if Tattletale relied on what she said and was wrong…Coil’s advantage there, feeding them horribly wrong information, could prove the undoing of this conspiracy.

          4. By your logic, Coil’s ability to screw with Tattletale’s power is limited to relatively small-scale stuff. Therefore, Tattletale’s power shouldn’t be too impaired. Therefore, she should be able to determine that Coil’s power-screwery only works on a fairly small level. This contradicts what we see in the story. Therefore, somewhere in the set of assumptions is a falsehood, and the only assumptions not directly supported by the text are in your logic. Therefore, you have made an error in logic somewhere.

          • But but but…

            1) How else would he have done it? Coil is a one trick pony that puts on airs, that’s his shtick.

            2 and 3) That’s my point. All they are looking at is THAT he screwed with her power. They aren’t focusing much on HOW exactly he pulled it off. Doing so could have saved them a lot of pain and planning. The fact that they got a better chance later doesn’t change that. At the time, it didn’t look like a good opportunity was going to come up. If they had rolled with their original plan, they might have done some damage. We’ll never know, because Coil scared them off.

            4) Just because Coil’s power is limited in terms of how he can screw with Tattletale’s, that doesn’t mean he’s detectable – or even negligible. There’s no reason he wouldn’t be able to screw with her in one area while leaving her otherwise unimpaired. And just because it says so in the story, that doesn’t mean it’s logically sound (no matter how many times you say ‘therefore’).

            • 1. Coil’s power is versatile. Not to mention, he is brilliant, knows how to manipulate people, and gives off very very few of the cues that most people do that Tattletale’s power relies on to determine what he means. Remember, Tattletale isn’t actually telepathic.
              I also note that you only answered a third of that one.

              2(-3). Well, how do you propose Tattletale try to pull it off without giving Coil reason to fire her (possibly involving a firing squad), or at least to cut contact with the Undersiders, especially since Coil obviously knows at least one way to screw with Tattletale’s powers and is even more obviously aware that Tattletale would be trying to figure out how he does it? It would also be a lot easier to deal with Coil if they brought a rocket launcher into his office and shot him, but that isn’t an option either.

              (2-)3. You missed my point. Assuming Coil can screw up any information his body language or whatever gives Tattletale’s power does not impede the Undersiders significantly.

              4. So, wait, Coil’s power can screw with Tattletale’s ability to tell how far it’s going, and it can turn his perceived intentions around 180 degrees, but it can’t screw Tattletale over in general?
              And we are discussing the story, more specifically how Coil’s and Tattletale’s power interact. If we trust your undefined “real-world logic” over what the story says happened, we should start by pointing out that both of those powers are
              impossible. Especially Coil’s. Not to mention that you never explain how your argument about the interaction of superpowers is “logically sound” while mine is not. Simply put: I took a number of facts and drew a number of logical deductions from each, before coming to a contradiction. Either your claims of arbitrary limitations on how much Coil can screw with Tattletale’s power are faulty or the information we get from the story is.

              • 1) I shall endeavor to please…
                Yeah, Coil is versatile, but his power isn’t complicated. That doesn’t mean it cannot be used to great effect (see also Skitter). I think his power is the only way he could have done it because that’s what he does. Suddenly changing gears mid-decision seems like his ability at work.
                And Tattletale isn’t reacting to his cues. That doesn’t make sense either. She must be reacting to his setting up a hit. Planning time, method, finding people, setup &c.
                Let us assume that Tattletale’s power is good enough to distinguish between a genuine and an empty threat: the danger wouldn’t ping her radar if Coil was only talking about it. So she had to be reacting to more than just his intentions. And that couldn’t work in reverse, because while he can decide to suddenly call off the hit without warning, he can’t decide to do all the preparations, setup, hiring &c out of the blue. So it only works one way.

                2) Coil obviously knows about the Undersiders’ plans, at least in broad strokes, but he doesn’t fire them at any point. That says the he thinks he can control them. And let’s face it, he’s right. He isn’t afraid of Tattletail, because he thinks he has the Undersiders outmaneuvered, so he keeps making use of them.

                3) It’s not a matter of whether it actually impedes them or not. It’s a matter of whether they think it impedes them. If they change their battleplan to allow for powers Coil doesn’t have, then he had an influence. And all he did was use headgames. (I’m not saying he isn’t smart)

                4) That’s exactly right. It can screw her one way, in a way she can’t detect or predict, but going the other would be impossible to do in the same way. And give me a little credit: I’m talking about the internal logic of the universe. I don’t think this particular bit makes sense in this internal logic. That’s why I wrote a comment in the first place.

              • 1a. Your point? You are specifying a very specific set of considerations, and not even considering that things can happen without use of powers.

                1b. And how does she determine all of this? Tattletale’s power needs information, Nemo. Coil gives almost no information, and I can see him learning to control the little bits of posture and such to screw with Tattletale’s power.

                1c. On the other hand, he can suddenly decide not to go through with it, just like he could suddenly decide to go through with it. Remember, he already has pretty much all of the preparations, setup, hiring, &c out of the way already; he just needs to order the soldiers to storm Skitter’s headquarters, or play on how she alienated certain Travelers to get them to attack, or send Circus (pyrokinesis will ruin Skitter’s day, doncha know), or any combination of the above, or something completely different. And all of these require nothing more than saying certain words to certain people.

                2a. You didn’t answer the question. How would Tattletale determine how Coil was screwing with her power, and what the limits are?

                3. So? Assuming Coil has a power he doesn’t, costing them a little sliver of one of their myriad resources, is much less costly than assuming he lacks a power that he has, especially given that Coil has a myriad of resources of his own.

                4. Again, you are assuming a method, then assuming that it wouldn’t work in the opposite direction, because deciding to tell someone to kill Skitter is so much different than deciding not to tell someone to kill Skitter. That is two assumptions, neither of which is substantiated.
                You left your comment pretty vague.

              • Oh, and you’re missing the big point.

                Taylor, Lisa, et all are playing a high-risk, high-stakes game. They had to gamble, and chose the option with lower losses if they guessed wrong. This is entirely logical, because the payoff for being right is the same, and they have no way to figure any of it out, especially given their short time frame. So instead of hoping that Tattletale doesn’t get screwed, they simply write off anything she picks up from Coil as questionable.

                Is it perfect? No. Is it the better bet? Absolutely.

  20. Should it be ‘fewer streets’ not ‘less streets’?
    “Things were getting better. The flooding was more under control, and less streets were sitting beneath inches of water.”

    “Things were getting better. The flooding was more under control, and fewer streets were sitting beneath inches of water.”

    It seems to read better to me that way.

    • Correct; “fewer” is for discrete things, objects that can be counted off one by one. “Less” is for continuous things, puddles or streams or clouds of things where you can cut off pieces or measure out whatever amount you want.

      So: fewer rabbits, less rabbit odor
      fewer marbles, less sanity
      fewer automobiles, less road rage

      Dave, fewer big words, less sesquipedalianism

  21. “Of course, my first aid knowledge wasn’t all that recent or complete.”
    Say WHAT!?! Didn’t she just do a course within the last few months?!?
    “I would have left, if I could afford to.” Weird and awkward tense shift; I think Taylor isn’t such a grammar-Nazi that she would say ” … if I could have afforded to”, though that would be technically correct. How about “I would leave, but couldn’t afford it”; then change the next sentence in parallel as well.
    I hate how the sense of time gets so warped with the intensity of stuff. How long since she left home, how long after that was Leviathan, etc.? Thanks for giving some anchors to that when she finally did go home and check on Dad!

    The stuff with Dad was great, too. You might want to add a line clarifying where she left Atlas while she was there. I’m guessing he didn’t just follow her home and wait on the porch :). The earlier interlude from a dog’s point of view was so cool — I wonder what one from Atlas’s would be like! Too nonverbal, I suppose …

  22. I’ve always kind of wanted Taylor to read her own “Know Where You Are” poster and out herself while correcting the things it gets wrong. Not as a goof she made, but just that she’s deliberately decided to tell the story and is so much more passionate about getting a fair hearing for her conduct that the actual bomb-drop of “I am Skitter!” is drowned out –in her mind, at least.

    Just for the look on Danny’s face as he tries to process it.

  23. >with his superhero son and superheroine date?

    Reads a bit awkwardly, since it seems to suggest that the superheroine date is the mayor’s, not the mayor’s son’s.

    Well, that was painful to read. But at least they can’t try to screw Coil over, anymore, so he can continue to be the second-best character after Bonesaw.

  24. T_T Taylor is in a really tight spot right now. She should really just change that deal with Coil: “Instead of freeing Dinah, how about you put her into my custody? That way we can still use her and I won’t feel the need to betray you!”

  25. I know this is a little late, and may get cleared up down the road. But I feel like we know enough about how Coil’s power works that the way to screw with TattleTale should be obvious. He is fully conscious of his alternate universes. Since TattleTale’s power reads information, all he has to do is have an alternate reality where he is planning on killing Skitter. Then, while talking to the group, he makes sure that he’s fully conscious of that reality. His mannerisms will clue TattleTale into the plan without it ever being the plan for this reality, so he doesn’t even need to do anything funny with collapsing the timelines to get it to work.

    In other words, the way he screws with TattleTale’s power is that she can read info from the other reality he is in at the time. I imagine he would have some control over it depending on which reality he focuses on, so TattleTale could see a very confusing, drastic shift if he wanted to screw with her more. This would also explain the “never planning on it bit”. This timeline never planned on it; she was just seeing the plan from the other timeline. Once it was collapsed, there is no indication of the plan.

  26. I know I’m a little late to the party, but HOLY SHIT I want Taylor to tell her dad. I know it’ll end poorly if she does, but it pains me to see her lie.

  27. This is my 2nd read through and I’m still confused by most of the passwords. Who is Cactus-B
    Sun-Y or Sun-N? I understand that green things are good and red things are bad. The first letter should be the first letter of a name and the second letter is supposed the be the last letter of the first name.

    • B-N is Brian, maybe B-Y is Battery (that doesn’t seem like it quite fits but I couldn’t think of any others). The code is the color of the object followed by the letter.

  28. Seriously, I’m starting to think you don’t have the slightest grasp on feelings. You know what people do in certain situations, but you’ve got no idea what feelings are except for physical sensations. That or you’re conciously deciding to avoid them in your writing. It’s super creepy.

  29. Good chapter, as per use. I was hoping Taylor would admit her supervillainy to her dad, or better yet that he’d realize it on his own. (That’s where my mind went when she saw those posters.) Now I’m kinda worried he’ll die before that happens. In other news, Coil is using his powers in about the way I thought he would. Nice job throwing off Lisa. Going halfsies on neutralizing Skitter is going to bite him the ass though. He should know better than to take her lightly. At this point, he should either kill her, otherwise neutralize her as a threat, or release Dinah and maintain her services. Anything else leads to the Undersiders getting an opportunity to end him.

  30. My interpretation: in one universe skitter died, but the mission failed, the mayor will argue for abandoning the city. In the second universe skitter lived and the mission succeded, so Coil collapsed the first universe and kept the second. The intent to kill was real, but it depended on the success or failure of the mission.

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