Monarch 16.1

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Just because I was miserable wasn’t any reason I should inflict that on my followers.

A solid sixty or so people were gathered in a loose circle.  The roads were impassable, so we’d set up in the middle of an intersection, piling concrete blocks onto one another with a metal rack at the midway point.  A hole in the bottom let us feed the fire, and the pots we’d placed inside contained pork shoulders in baths of beer, carrots, onions and garlic cloves.

The smell had drawn people here from across my territory.  The temptation offered by the block of beer, soda and candy that was wrapped in plastic and sitting on a nearby pallet didn’t hurt either.

Charlotte and the group of older kids I’d assigned to keep people from pestering her were handling the food.  Sierra sat on top of the pallet of supplies, making sure that everyone got one beer at a maximum.  I’d assigned two people to guard her, but it was almost unnecessary.  Anyone here was either aware that I would stop them if they tried or they would have friends to warn them.

On another day, I might have made people get back to work.  The pork shoulders would take four or five hours to cook, and I didn’t want to give up a whole day of good weather while people hung around, waiting for the moment things were served.  I left them be.

Coil knew what we were up to, and he’d shut down Tattletale.  Dinah felt out of reach, and my hopes of regaining some connection with my dad had ended less than perfectly.  Not badly, but not as well as I’d hoped.

Hope wasn’t lost on either count, but I felt pretty low.

This, right here, was the one thing that I could feel good about.  My people, my territory, doing something to rebuild.  Maybe I could have cracked the whip, but I’d rather they were happy.  It would do more in the long run, even if it meant less work got done.  They’d be dicking around waiting for the food to finish, and wouldn’t get anything done tonight, after I gave them less restricted access to the beer and wine I’d had Cranston deliver.  Probably less in the morning, too, now that I thought about it.

Which was fine.  Coil had ordered us to expand our territory and deal with threats.  The people in my territory had cleared enough space for people to sleep, to store necessities and tools, enough that if twenty or thirty new people decided to work for me in the next twenty-four hours, I had space for them.  Expanding my control beyond this point would be a staggered process with phases of clearing followed by phases of settling.  There was no point to going the extra mile to clear more space if neither I nor my enemies would be occupying it before his deadline.

He’d specified three days.  We’d taken one to deal with the Chosen, I’d used the next to talk things over with Parian and visit the mayor.  We were officially done tonight or early tomorrow.

My swarm informed me of a visitor.  I stepped away from the pallet that Sierra was sitting on.  It was a bit disconcerting to see how the crowd parted to give me a path.  In my first night out in costume, I’d seen the ABB do it for Lung.  How much of that was respect, and how much was fear?

Maybe they weren’t so distinct when it came to supervillains.

We met in the middle of the street.  Grue was wearing his new costume, complete with mask, and the semiliquid darkness rolled off him to spread out over the ground, hiding much of his body.

I folded my arms.  Speaking quietly enough that the others wouldn’t hear me, I murmured, “Any problems?”

His voice was hollow with the effects of his power, “Just checking in.  I expected a call after your job.  I had to get the update on how you were doing from Tattletale.”


“I also heard about what the boss was planning.”

“Going to give me a hard time for going?”

“No.  I don’t like it, but I understand you didn’t have a choice.  Or you did have a choice, but you weren’t about to take option B.”

“Yeah.  Which turned out to be the right choice.  He was playing us, trying to send us a message without rocking the boat.”

“You’ve got a lot of stake in this.  You holding up?”

I should be asking if you’re holding up, I thought.  “I’m dealing.”

“And dealing involves a barbecue?”

I glanced over my shoulder at the crowd that was watching us.  “Building loyalty.”

“You don’t think you’re going over the top?  Being too nice?”

“They’re working hard.”

“That’s all?”

I almost shrugged, but decided to maintain my composure, look confident in front of my people.  I needed a better term for referring to them.  They were sort of employees, but that was vague.  Should I take the same approach Parian did, identify my territory somehow?  The residents of Spiderville?  The Bugwalk?  The Hive?

“No, not all.  I figured I’d go all out, as much for me as for them.  This is the only thing that I’ve got going on that I can really feel good about right now.”

“The only thing?”

I looked up at him.  Oh.

“No, not the only thing, you’re right.  Though I’m not sure exactly what we’re doing or what we are.  Not like we’re in a position to go out to dinner and a movie.”

My heart was pounding so hard I worried he’d notice.  This would be the moment he’d tell me he was having second thoughts, that it was a mistake, he’d been in a bad place.  Or would he go one step further and accuse me of taking advantage of him, get angry?

“I’ve wondered about that myself,” he said.

“It’s okay, though?  Us?”

“Yeah.  Definitely okay.”

What would my people think if they could overhear?

“I know we can’t exactly go out, but if you’re okay with it, you maybe want to come by tonight?  We’ll let my people celebrate a week of hard work and head into my lair, eat, watch a movie on the couch?”

“Okay.  Not sure if I can get away before dark, if I’m doing a serious check of my territory.  Imp’s doing more than her fair share.”

“It’s fine.  I- I’m not sure how to put it, so I’ll be upfront about this,” I told him.  Which is easier said than done.  It took me a second to organize my thoughts.  “I don’t expect to be priority number one.  We have a job here.  I’m not sure what the boss is planning, or if we’re still going to be doing this a few months from now, or even a week from now.  But I totally get it if the territory comes first.  Or if Imp comes first, or we have a job that interferes with our schedules.  We fit each other into the breaks.”

I caught a glimpse of his arms through the darkness as he folded them.  “You can say that, but I’m not sure it’ll be true when it happens for the third time, or the tenth.”

“It’s not set in stone.  If it doesn’t work, we talk about it.  Maybe it’s best we say whatever’s on our minds, given who we are.  We’re not the best at the social thing, you know?”

“I know.”  He paused, glancing away.  “In the spirit of saying what’s on my mind, I’m kind of wondering how your people would react if I kissed you right now.”

So glad I have the mask.  I felt my face heat up in what would have been an embarrassing flush if anyone could see it.

I swallowed.  “No.  Don’t.  It’s not that I don’t want you to, but it would mess up their image of me.”

“I know.  That’s the only reason I didn’t do it.  That, and the masks would be hard to manage.  Can’t really be spontaneous when fumbling to find a way to lift the mask up.  And the stuff on this mask kind of makes it hard to lift it up.”  He tapped one finger on the criss-crossing fangs I’d designed into the face of his mask.  It would make it rigid, hard to remove without taking the entire thing off.

“Something to fix for a future version.  You want to grab something for lunch?”

“I should be getting back.  There’s some stragglers to deal with, and Imp’s been going full-tilt long enough I think I should relieve her.”

“She’s taking this seriously, huh?”

“Yeah.  I’d be happy about it if it wasn’t so dangerous.”

“With luck, the danger will pass soon.”

“Yeah.  See you later?”

I opened my mouth to respond, then stopped as I felt a tremor.  “You feel that?” I asked.


No, I hadn’t felt it with my own body.  My swarm had sensed it.  A vibration through the area.

My bugs could scent exhaust.  The acrid taste of ozone, for the lack of a better explanation.  I honed in on it, and realized that one of the buildings near the edge of my range had a new addition on the roof.  It was big, like two eighteen wheelers parked side-by-side, with two more stacked on top, but all one piece.

“Shit,” I said, as the general shape took form in my mind.  I wheeled around to look in the direction it had settled.  “Trouble.”

Darkness billowed out around Grue, making him look larger.

My first thought was Squealer, but she was supposedly dead.  The other alternative… Shit.

“Listen up!”  I called out, augmenting my voice with my swarm.  Most of the crowd was already paying some attention to me, but my shout got everyone else to turn my way.  “Threat incoming.  Stop what you’re doing and clear out of here, that way!”  I pointed.

Some people started hesitantly heading the way I’d indicated.

“Now!”  I shouted.  The crowd began to move.  Sierra and Charlotte were among them, abandoning the food and the makeshift oven.  Sierra looked my way for confirmation and I gave her a tight nod.

I doubted that my people were in any danger like they’d faced with Mannequin or Burnscar, but I wasn’t taking chances.

“Who?”  Grue asked.

“Pretty sure it’s Dragon.”

She wasn’t moving.  She’d settled on the tallest building in the area, not too far from where I’d started my costumed career, fought Lung and met the others.  She was large enough that her mechanical forelimbs could grip two corners of the building.  She lay there like a resting jungle cat or sphinx, head raised, slowly rotating to take in her surroundings.

“The timing couldn’t be worse for this,” he said.  He settled one hand on my shoulder and pulled me in the direction my people were running.  “Coil wanted us to be done today.  Now the heroes are making a move?”

“Retaliation for the mayor,” I said.  “We pushed things, now they’re bringing in the big guns.  Maybe literally.”


“No clue.”  I got my phone out and dialed Tattletale.  She picked up on the first ring, as I was clicking through the menu to put it on speaker phone.

“Dragon’s here-” she started.  There was a flare of static, not unlike the noise from an out-of-tune radio station, “-don’t fight.”

“Why?” I asked, but the static flared up again as I spoke, and I couldn’t be sure Tattletale heard me.  “She’s here.  How is she there?”

“Hitting multiple territories at once-” Whatever she said next was obscured.  It was getting worse, fast.  “-fight and heroes come to back her up.  Run, hide.  Meet-”

Then she was gone, lost in the sea of static.  I waited for several tense seconds, hoping she would come back on the line.

“Skitter.”  It was Dragon who spoke over the phone.  “I’m cutting off communications.  I look forward to talking to you once you’ve been brought into custody.”

The phone died.  There wasn’t even a dial tone.

“Oh hell,” Grue said.

“Let’s go.”

We’d been retreating, but we broke out into a full-on run as the phone cut out.

Dragon, for her part, made a move.  Metal objects the size of a beachball were filing out of the sides of her suit.  They floated in the air, spreading out in formations.  Dozens of them.

“She’s trying to beat me at my own game,” I said, panting, “Minions.  Hate tinkers.  Hate tinkers so fucking much.”

A collection of my bugs died all at once, the sphere dropping to the pavement below with a thud that the bugs could feel.

I’d encountered this before.  Armsmaster’s electric pulse, the one he’d used with his halberd.

“And I really hate tinkers who share their work.

As I glanced over my shoulder, I could see the drones flowing into the sky in waves.  I ordered Atlas back to my lair to keep him safe.  I didn’t want to risk him, didn’t want to get shot out of the air while flying and I wasn’t able to bring Grue along, wasn’t willing to leave him behind.

Was this what my enemies experienced?  A vague feeling of dread as an unreachable opponent massed her forces?  I couldn’t necessarily fight back against them and even taking down one drone was useless.  Five or ten more would be ready to take its place.

They were overtaking us.  Any time I gathered more than a handful of bugs together, a drone would obliterate them with a point-blank electrical charge.  That was the only thing slowing them down; they would spend their charge, fall to the ground and then rise again a few seconds later as they rebooted.

I got a better look at the drones as they approached.  Each was an identical black sphere with two wings like the blades of a battleaxe, the tips of one blade connecting with the other.  A camera with a red lens was mounted on a plate that roved across the sphere’s outer surface, while another plate glowed in the same way Kid Win’s antigravity skateboard had, always pointing toward the ground.

One passed over my head, then stopped, hovering in place a few feet above me as I ran.  I turned on my heel and shifted left, and it followed me unerringly.  I zig-zagged and failed to shake it.

Attention citizen,” it blared, in the same voice that I’d heard from the armbands during the Endbringer fight, “For your own safety, drop to the ground and place your hands on your head.  You have ten seconds to comply.”


“Here!”  Grue called out.  He was turned toward me, bent to one knee, his fingers interlaced, nearly touching the ground.

“Five seconds.”

I ran towards him, setting my feet in the cup of his hands, while drawing my knife.  He straightened, heaving me up.  My timing was off, and I didn’t manage to jump in time with the push, but I did manage to stay balanced.  As he lifted me, I raised one foot and placed it on his shoulder, using it as a foothold to lunge for the drone.  I stabbed my knife at the antigravity panel.

It raised higher into the air.  I missed by a hair.

Failure to comply.”

I felt the hairs all over my body stand to attention a second before it hit us.  It felt more like getting a truck dropped on me than I would have expected an electrical charge to feel like, but I could feel the not-unfamiliar sensation of snakes writhing across my body.

It had knocked the wind out of me, leaving me lying flat on top of Grue.  The weight of the drone had followed soon after, no less than a hundred pounds landing on top of the two of us.

Grue made a guttural sound.

“On your feet,” I gasped the words as I tried to haul air back into my lungs.  “Hurry.”

“We’re not unconscious?”  He gave me a hand as we climbed to our feet.

“Spider silk’s partially insulated against el-” I stopped to cough.  “Electrical charges.”

Attention Citizen.  For your own safety, drop to the ground and place your hands on your head.  You have ten seconds to comply.”  The broadcasts overlapped, two voices a half-step apart in timing.

I looked up.  Sure enough, there were another two drones in place over me and Grue.

Grue drenched us in darkness, seizing my wrist and hauling me away with enough force that I could barely keep my feet under me.

“Won’t work,” I gasped out the words, “She’s not reliant on conventional senses.  Saw Imp.”

I couldn’t hear a response, of course.  I focused my attention on the drones, getting bugs onto them to track their movements, and getting some onto Dragon to see what she was doing.

The drones were falling.  Grue’s darkness spread throughout the area, and drones were descending slowly from the air to touch ground.  They weren’t discharging their electrical loads either.

Whatever signal Dragon was using to command them, Grue’s darkness was cutting it off.

He banished the darkness in a small clearing around us, “The drones are down.  We could double back, hit her main body.”

I turned my attention to Dragon.  She was rising, planting her claws at the roof’s edge, and turning her head to face us.  Her mouth opened.

“Incoming!”  I shouted.  This time it was my turn to grab Grue and pull him away.  We headed for the side of a series of stone stairs.  Crouching so our heads weren’t sticking out, we pressed our backs against the side of the stairwell that was closest to Dragon.

The attack was silent, but that was par for the course when Grue’s darkness was involved.  It speared down the length of the street like a tightly focused gust of wind.  It scattered Grue’s darkness and made the drones skid hundreds of feet along the road’s surface.  My hair whipped across the face of my mask in the wake of the attack.

We moved in sync, rushing out of the doorway and rounding the first corner to our right.

With the darkness cleared, the drones were rising again.

“She’s prepared for me,” Grue said.

“Maybe planned to come after you when she was done here,” I said.  I glanced nervously at the drones that were turning their red eyes to every surface and object, searching for ‘citizens’ to detain.  “Or it’s part of a more complicated setup.  This way.  There’s a path through the building and out the other side.”

We were halfway through when a trio of drones moved to cut us off, another drone moving to block our retreat.  It was a precise enough maneuver that I knew Dragon had to have some kind of thermal vision at play, or another means of tracking us.

Grue hit the drones with his darkness, shutting off the connection to Dragon.  We pushed our way past as they settled to the ground.  Dragon was orienting herself for another shot. We had cover, but she had to know that.

The blast of hot wind ripped past us.  The building obstructed the worst of it, but it was less focused than the former.  Again, it stripped away much of Grue’s darkness.  He covered them in a fresh layer and we continued running.

Dragon didn’t give chase.

We arrived at Coil’s base and I knew from a single glance at Regent’s posture that we hadn’t all made it.  It was as though we were afraid enough of the answer that we weren’t willing to ask; Nobody spoke as Regent and Shatterbird led the way into the underground base.

Imp was just past the last door.  Grue hugged her, and for once she didn’t fight or complain.

Coil’s soldiers were armed and at the ready, guns resting on knees or from the straps at their shoulders, each man and woman with their specialized body armor strapped on.  Thirty or forty sets of eyes watching us, each of them utterly still.  Coil stood on the walkway opposite us, Trickster to his left, Sundancer and Oliver to his right.

“You made it,” Tattletale called out.  I’d nearly missed spotting her in the midst of the soldiers.  She was in the company of Fish and Minor, two of the squad captains.

“Who are we missing?” Grue called out.

“Ballistic, Genesis and Bitch.”

Damn.  I didn’t particularly like or dislike Genesis, but I didn’t want her to suffer.  Ballistic… I couldn’t bring myself to care that much.

Bitch, though?  That was bad.

We waited while Coil and the Travelers traveled across the walkway and Tattletale crossed the bottom floor to the staircase.

“This is not ideal,” Coil spoke.

“No,” Grue responded.

“Seven of those things,” Tattletale said.  “They hit Sundancer, Genesis, Ballistic, me, Bitch and Skitter.  Tried to hit Trickster, but he was recuperating here.  My gut says Dragon’s controlling these things with an A.I..  Smart A.I., but they didn’t seem quite as sharp as she was in our last run-in with her.  Or her attention’s divided too many ways.  Can’t say.  Her objective seems to be disrupting our control over the city rather than stopping us outright.”

“I think the pair of us only slipped away because she wasn’t expecting me to be there,” Grue said.  “Did she use the drone-deployer against you guys?”

“No,” Tattletale replied.  “She was piloting an updated version on the thing she used against Leviathan.  Spewed containment foam everywhere.  My guys hammered it with rocket launchers and bought me time to run.  Maybe lost half my squad, depending on how things went.  Only Minor and Brooks have returned so far.”

“Came after me with a bloated floating ship, kept drawing forcefields around me,” Sundancer said.  She was hugging her arms to her body.  “My power couldn’t even knock them down.  I burned myself an escape route through the ground.  Nearly got trapped in the molten sludge.  It was stupid, I could have died.”

Oliver put a hand on her shoulder.

“Seven different ships,” Grue said.

“This is well-timed enough that I’d suspect a traitor in our midst,” Coil spoke, pausing for a moment while his head turned fractionally to take us all in, “But I haven’t spoken of my overall plans to anyone, and there is nobody capable of reading minds to figure out my overall strategy, much less in Brockton Bay.”

“Just bad luck and good planning,” Tattletale said.  “Communications are down, no camera feeds, no radio.  Phones too.  No cell or satellite signals are making it out there.”

“So we’re going to have to stick together instead of coordinating attacks,” Grue responded.

“Trouble is,” Tattletale said, “They’ve already laid out their game plan, and it’s a toughie.  Seven suits babysitting our territories and keeping us from settling back in.  If we pick a fight like Ballistic did, then they deploy the Protectorate, the Wards and probably any unoccupied suits as reinforcements.”

Nobody had a response to that.  Dealing with just the one Dragon had been hard enough.  Dealing with Dragon plus a contingent of heroes would be next to impossible.

“Can Grue borrow her power?”  Trickster asked.

Grue shook his head, and the darkness around him seemed to expand a fraction.  “No.  Don’t get much from tinkers.”

“Then there’s Regent,” Trickster said.  “Or, more specifically, Shatterbird.”

“Sure,” Regent said.

“She might have a countermeasure in mind,” I said.  “She knows Shatterbird’s here.  It could be as simple as the long ranged wind cannon thing she used to clear away Grue’s darkness.  She could shoot Shatterbird out of the air the second she shows herself.  Or any number of things.”

“Try a larger scale detonation?”  Trickster asked.  “See if you can’t wipe out a couple of suits at once, without revealing yourself?”

“No,” Regent said.  “Don’t know if I can control the area of it if I push out too hard.  It’s slippery… I’m not good at explaining this stuff.  I can turn the dial to anywhere from one to ten, but for each number you go up, it goes maybe twice as far, maybe five times as far.  The effect… I dunno.”

“It gets exponentially more powerful, as you put more effort in,” I suggested.

“Sure.  Don’t know what that means, but sure.”

Coil cleared his throat, “I’ve invested a great deal of time and money into establishing your two groups here in Brockton Bay, and I did it for precisely this sort of scenario.  Again, the timing is unfortunate, but I still expect you to address this situation.  You’ll want to verify whether Bitch, Ballistic and Genesis are captured or simply pinned down somewhere, rescue them if need be and dispatch Dragon.”

There go my plans with Brian.

“This may be just a smidge above and beyond the call of duty, bossman,” Regent said.

“You’ll have access to all of my resources,” Coil responded.  “But the previous orders about clearing out and establishing your territories by noon tomorrow stand.”


Every set of eyes moved to Imp.

“Beg pardon?” Coil asked.

“Hey, I’m in this for fun, for fame and money.  Getting beat down and arrested isn’t any of those things.”

“I see.  I thought you would be more professional.”

“Me?”  Imp shrugged, “Hell no.”

I could feel the tension in the air.  There were fifty trained soldiers here.  Men and women who could shoot and hit their target.  If Coil gave the order, I wasn’t sure we’d walk away in one piece.  Intentionally or not, Imp was pulling the chair out from under Coil at a time when he was already vulnerable and unsteady on his feet.


“Do the rest of you feel this way?”

“The Travelers aren’t in a position to walk away.  You know that,” Trickster said, “And we have to rescue Genesis and Ballistic if they need it.  So no.  We’re definitely in.”

Tattletale, Grue and I exchanged glances.  Tattletale’s eyes lingered on me for a long second.  Was it up to me?

“Honestly?” I said.  “I don’t know what call I’d make.  This is pretty dangerous, as stuff goes, and we didn’t exactly sign up for this.  I’d go in just to make sure Bitch comes out of it okay, but doing that and cleaning up this mess in the kind of timeframe you’re talking about?  That’s asking a lot.”

“You’ll be adequately compensated for the risk you face,” Coil said.

“I figured as much.  But I don’t want money.”

“Ah.  What do you want, Skitter?”

“You know that already.”

“I’ve already told you I’ll consider your request.”

“I want a promise.”

He didn’t reply.  Instead, he stared at me, his mask opaque, no holes for the eyes, nose or mouth.  I had to read the little details, the movements in the raised portion of his brow, the set of his chin, the movements and tension of his fingers where he had his hands clasped in front of him.  If I had to venture a guess, I’d think he was offended.

“Then you have it, Skitter.  Provided you deal with this situation in the next twenty-one hours and your team has reclaimed their territory, I will consider your end of the bargain filled.  I’m hoping I have the rest of the Undersiders as well?”

“I’m not promising anything until I get something too,” Imp said.

“What would you require?”

“My own territory.”

“That can be arranged.  Given how critical this situation is, are you content to discuss the matter after the situation is resolved?”

“Come again?”

“He wants to know if you’re okay with deciding what territory you get after the job is done,” Grue said.


“Grue, Tattletale, Regent?”

“I’m with her,” Tattletale jerked a thumb my way.  Grue nodded, glancing at Imp.

“I’m not about to be left out,” Regent said.  “But maybe you could pony up a nice cash bonus?”

I could hear the slightest of sighs from Coil.  “That can be arranged.”


“Then that’s settled.  I’ve been made aware that Dragon is also making a bid to claim, seize and lock out digital goods within the city.  Victor has agreed to work with my teams and do what he can to minimize the damage.  If there’s nothing else-“

“There is something,” Tattletale said.

“Do tell.”

“That data we grabbed from the PRT offices.  You crack it yet?”

“Some.  It’s badly degraded.”

“I need it.  As much as you can give.”

“Done,” Coil said.  “I can show you the way.”

“One other thing.  You said we had access to all of your resources?”


“Just how much money are you able to spare?”

“We can discuss that on our way to the room where the databases are stored,” he said, firm.  “Undersiders, Travelers, I wish you luck.”

He strode off with Tattletale following.

Too easy, I thought.  He made that promise too easily.

But it was something.

“Let’s go,” I said.

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213 thoughts on “Monarch 16.1

  1. In the red corner, Dragon. Greatest Tinker in the world, secretly an AI, and can now make less sophisticated AI’s that control seven dragon suits. In the Blue Corner, The Undersides/Travelers minus Bitch, Genesis, and Ballistic. Let’s get ready to RUMMMMMBBBBBBLLLLLLEEEEEE!

    • You forgot all the local heroes in the red corner. Compared to the seven dragon suits they don’t seem like much, but they do provide a nice screen of people that no one really wants dead. If it was just the suits people could toss around their best stuff at will, but if you accidently melt a capes face off things suddenly get very nasty.

  2. Huh. From the chapter name, I was expecting it to be about Skitter ruling over her territory, but retaking it is also a monarchic thing to do. Nice fakeout.

    I am amused by Regent going “hey, while you’re giving in to demands, can I have some cash?”

    Speaking of cash, I wonder what Tattletale means to do with money and the data.

    • I have said in previous chapters that Tattle could potentially do the most damage to the heroes just by finding out the skeletons in their closet. I mean look at what she could potentially broadcast to the world. Dragon is an AI, Shadow stalker has killed before/bullied a girl who then disappeared, Armsmaster broke the truce during an Endbringer attack, they didn’t help citizens who were at the mercy of the 9, they bombed the city with Tinker bombs, Assault used to be a villain, and knowing this setting, who knows what else they’re hiding. Imagine if she outs Dragon to be an AI, people might not be so comfortable at seeing self aware combat drones locking up powered people.

      • The big problem with all this is that once Tattletale starts spreading all this news someone is going to kill her. One of the big benefits for the villains is that most of the heroes aren’t out there to murder you unless you push them across that line. The kind of secrets that Tattletale would be tossing around would cause plenty of problems long after she was dead, but she would still be dead.

        • But she is a villain. She has the birdcage to look forward to with no chance of parole/release if captured. Hell, I might set it up to blackmail dragon/Piggot to call of the dogs, er… dragons. They say no, then release the info out of spite. Of course she still has to figure out what the data says.

          • Which is a big issue with the birdcage, and why I think the Undersiders might still be up for the three strikes laws instead. Some of them at least…however they’re close enough that this is enough to escalate.

      • She’s a villain and she doesn’t have proof for any of her information. If she just released the info to the public, why would anyone believe her?

        • Paraphrasing from Sherlock: “You idiot, I’m in media. I don’t need to prove a thing, I just need to print it.”

    • What does she do with the money and Data ? she hires that mercenary group that has bested Dragon twice and made off with her armor🙂 thats what id do !

  3. “head into my lair, eat, watch a movie on the couch?” I love that. As long as she doesn’t call it her parlor!
    I noticed that Taylor is getting more used to using the sense of smell from the insects. A big step in the long run, if subtle now!
    I find it interesting that Dragon would choose ‘Citizen’ to address people, being a Canadian on foreign soil herself. I wonder if she is familiar with Paranoia(and if Paranoia even exists in the Wormverse).

    I am surprised that nobody else raised specific requests for resources, given the immediacy of the situation; I’d have expected Taylor at least to. I am very excited for this, even if the thought of such a nice block party ruined is pretty sad. It will, at least, not encourage Skitter’s people to welcome Dragon. Coil’s reaction… might be the best part of the whole thing if he wasn’t faking it. I could entirely imagine someone like him being honestly offended at that.

    “bad place. or” Or needs capitalization.

    • Arrrgh, there are so many mysteries about him. Why is his plan important to the world’s survival? Why the timeframe? Does he honestly not need Dinah anymore?

      • Even if Coil goes through with it and gives Dinah to Taylor so long as Dinah’s parents are dead then everything is fine. If Dinah has nowhere else to go she will probably stay with Taylor and be available to answer questions. Having her off drugs and willingly helping one of his subordinates could be very helpful in the long term. It would make her less likely to lie or not mention things that might matter to Coil.

        • What you don’t remember is that Dinah “needs” the drugs to stay sane from the crippling pain of using her powers, which she can’t shut off.

    • Fair warning, I suck and my poetry sucks even more, apologies to the original.

      “Will you walk into my lair?” said the Skitter to the Grue,
      “‘I wove a costume there, the better to protect you;
      If you care to come inside I’ll make you happy enough to stay,
      And we can do something fun, in the dark and through the day.”
      “Uh, Taylor?” said the Grue, “Are you feeling alright?
      This seems a bit sudden, we’ve only been together five nights.”

      “You must be feeling tired, tense, your mood is blue;
      Will you let me relieve you?” said the Skitter to her Grue
      “I’ve been reading about massage, and some…other stuff;
      If you’d let me show you, just strip down to the buff.”
      “…” said the Grue, “I’m getting Lisa, and Amy as well
      ‘Cause when I last brushed your waist, you nearly rang my bell.”

      Purred the Skitter to the Grue, “I am sorry for that and more besides;
      Will you let me prove it? From my lips to my thighs?
      I have always loved you, now come inside and feel it;
      I promise I’ll repeat those words- but the context will have changed a bit.”
      “Th-That’s enough,” spluttered the Grue, “this isn’t you at all,
      you blushed at holding hands, in the ruins of that mall.”

      “I love you too,” said the Grue, and caught her by her arm.
      “I swore I would protect you, I’d keep you safe from harm.
      You’re strong and brave, you struggle to speak your mind;
      So much I fell for. You’re utterly one-of-a-kind.
      Don’t force yourself,” he said, “I mean everything I say;
      This will happen when we’re ready, and that’s another day.”

      His words impacted deeply, the Skitter was struck dumb.
      But before he could relax and speak, she jabbed his elbow with her thumb.
      Then ducking from his grip, she pressed him to the alley wall.
      Masks and armour clacked together, then the clothes began to fall.
      His will was close to breaking, hands roamed of their own accord;
      If he hadn’t felt amidst her hair, he’d surely have been floored.
      The dart he found in her locks, had his intentions back forthright;
      The Grue read its markings amidst a cloud as black as night.

      “P-S-Y-C-H-O B-R-A-N-D L-O-V-E D-A-R-T” read the Grue, his mood About to snap
      Then he gently held his Skitter as she now collapsed.
      Which kind of screws this poem’s flow,
      You see it’s meant to lead to a moral.
      And rhyme along the way.
      Sorry about that, but the rating had to stay low.

      P.S. Skitter was too embarrassed to come to the armoured car robbery they had planned for the next day.

  4. No one noticed that Coil has everything planed already?
    The big question is WHY the timeframe, why is so important. What is going to happen there.
    I think we are going to have a big event, outside everyone influence.
    Also, Inb4 “the birdcage rescue”😄

    • Well, I can’t imagine him NOT preparing for an all out hero offensive- the exact form and timing might be unexpected, but he had to know that once abandoning Brockton Bay was off the table, eventually there’d be a major bid from the capes.

      • I don’t think he could have expected how major that bid would be though. Short of the entire protectorate showing up I don’t think the heroes actually have anything more deadly than seven dragon suits. One dragon suit is a top tier hero, only outpowered by the likes of Legend and Alexandria, seven is an utter disaster. The only thing that makes all this manageable at all imo is that dragon hasn’t been ordered to kill any of these people.

        • Well, Coil’s power will come in very handy for this situation. I think their best bet is to divide and conquer with the bots. Skitter can scout them out from far away, and then they hit them has hard as they can. She could really use those kamikaze bug bombs someone mentioned.

          • Divine and conquer is going to be extremely hard without electronic communications. It also doesn’t work so well when the same consciousness is in seven different places at once, and able to react and call in reinforcements from any of them.

          • They have used Skitters bugs to communicate before, I believe she made a bug keyboard for regent when they were chasing Siberian. I also don’t think they have a shared consciousness, I think they are either new AI’s or copies of Dragon. Before she didn’t know what her other self knew until it was destroyed and uploaded to the original. It really depends if she closed off her own/the heroes comms. If she didn’t, that is a potential weakpoint to jam or use to communicate.

          • Skitter has severe range limitations though. If you can only communicate within the local battlefield you can’t divide and conquer that well. Especially when your enemy is almost certain to still have actual electronic communication going on.

            Even if they are seven different minidragons I would be shocked if they didn’t have some sort of constant communication going on.

          • It is definitely going to be a challenge if Parian’s relay bugs are dead. The only other option is to identify exactly what each bot uses and use a power they are weak against. Dragon can’t pull Armmaster’s trick of bringing tech to deal with almost any type of power. As big as the bloody things are, she can only fit in so much tech. Grue’s power was a good short term counter against minion bot. Sundancer would probably be great against the containment foam model, and Trickster will be hard to deal with from forcefield model.

          • She is already using Armsmaster’s tech. So is Kid Win, for that matter. Soon all the Protectorate will be using his old stuff, and Dragon will always have the latest and greatest.

          • I think it was mentioned that his trick only works in his presence, but he and Dragon have become a lot closer. They are up shit creek with out a paddle, if Dragon can actually take at least partial advantage of his miniaturization.

          • From Tangle 6.6 “Only works in your immediate presence, but still, you can stick way more technology in a space than has a right to be there… like your Halberd.””

            • But then… how was Mannequin able to use the stolen disintegration knife? Or, for that matter, Skitter using his disintegration halberd on Leviathan.

          • You’re right Anzer’ke. It’s also why they can’t send him to prison. There’s no telling how much he could sneak in via his ass.

  5. I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen now, but I do know that it’s going to be awesome.

    So let’s see… Tattletale obviously thinks she’s going to find a weakness in that data. Do they know yet that Dragon’s an AI? If I remember correctly, then not yet, but should she find out, perhaps they can work something out with her.
    Also, she needs a lot of money… for what? Are the Dragonslayers for hire?

    Coil sure has tough luck. Just when he pretty much stopped the revolt in it’s tracks, circumstances conspire against him. Now, wether he actually keeps the promise remains to be seen, but if he shows his Underlings that he can’t be trusted, they might think twice about continuing their working relationship. Question is, of course, wether he actually needs them after this…

    Talking Strategy: The obvious approach is to take on one suit after the other with massed strength. Two Problems with that. First, since Bitch and the others are in danger, they might not be able to choose their engagements. Second, as I said, it is the ovious approach, and Dragon might expect them to do it and be prepared accordingly. On the other hand, I can’t quite think of any advantage in splitting up firepower, beyond perhaps forbidding Dragon to concentrate on one of her bots. I sure don’t expect her to not pack a loadout on each of the suits able to counter them all, especially not if she’s working with the Miniaturization Man.
    Now, how to counter Dragon’s suits:
    The containment foam might be edible for bugs, but that would propably take time. Trickster should be able to counter the forcefields, and possibly the foam, if it doesn’t count as connected to the victim. The Drones can evidently be shut down by Grue, but for the Airblast I got nothing right now.
    As for destroying them, the Blimp’s going to require flight and massed firepower, Sundancer is the obvious choice, provided she can bypass the inevitable defensive forcefield, and should fare nicely against the other suits too. Can Trickster switch her sun? Skitter could possibly bind them up in silk, and maybe also could weigh down the blimp enough to ground it, too. Apart from that, the only ones really capable of harming Suits are Bitch, Ballistic, and Genesis, all of which are unaccounted for at the moment, and Shatterbird, who is unreliable as said above.
    Imp’s power evidently doesn’t work on Dragon, therefore she might want to sit this one out, unless they have to infiltrate something to get someone out. Even then, the inevitable digital overwatch of Dragon complicates things for her immensely.
    Add in the disrupted comms, and things will not be easy for our Villains.

    Anything I forgot? Thoughts?

    • Very well thought out. I actually think that Skitter could actually take down a suit, IF she can get the bugs inside. A mass of chewing insects will play merry hell on electronics, her tech isn’t insulated like Mannequin’s was. It will all come down to intelligence they can pull on the suits. I mentioned above that she can’t pull off Armsmaster’s trick of bringing tech to deal with every situation, she has space limits on what she bring. So I don’t think every suit has a counter for shatterbird, or sundancer. If they can figure out what each suit does and attack it’s weakpoints, they might have a chance. They are going to have relay heavily on Tattletale and Skitter to figure out what they each Dragon brings to the table.

      • Yeah, I hadn’t thought of invading the suits and chewing up the insides, good catch.
        On the other hand, as evident by the drones, Dragon and Armsmaster have been working together, at least a bit; It depends on how much work he could get in on the suits. If it was enough, well every good Tinker has his Bat Belt loaded out at all times.
        Intelligence and Scouting is definitely going to be decisive factor, especially in finding and regrouping with their Heavies

        • It think it was stated that Armsmaster’s mini tech only works in his vicinity, but he and dragon are much “closer” now, so I can see it either way. On the bright side, I imagine that the suits are going after Purity’s group too.

          • The enemy of my enemy… is still not necessarily my friend, but he’s my enemy’s enemy. That’s something.
            On the other hand, the Pure are not publicly staging a takeover on the city, so they might only be second in line. They might be persuaded to do a preemptive strike though.

          • The trouble is getting in touch with the pure. If they moved when the city was taken over no one has a convenient way to find them quickly.

          • I just thought a bit more, and realized that the Pure might not be that willing to help after all. I mean, The Travele/Undersider Alliance are trying to take over the town, and booting out everyone else, and are succesfull enough at it to be a major threat, and propably inspire more than a little ill-will. Along comes Dragon, and takes them all out. Problem solved, at least for the Pure.

            The enemy of my enemy cuts both ways here.

          • I believe Schlock Mercenary puts it as “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.”

            I don’t see anything against saying that the enema of my enemy is my friend.

          • That was a lie that Tattletale told to test Armsmaster’s lie detection (in other words find out if he could tell when she was lying). Pretty sure about that, so his small tech will work with whatever he’s built it into regardless of distance.

        • That’s why they’re called computer bugs. An early computer stopped working so they took it apart to check it and found a roach lodged somewhere that messed it up.

    • Holy crap, where did all the comments come from? They sure weren’t there when I started tipping.

      Also, I second “the Hive”.

    • The real problem is that they aren’t just fighting one suit, not for long anyways. They might be able to blitz a single suit, but then all the others will know where you are, and I doubt they can kill the suit and escape in the presumably short period of time it takes for the other suits and heroes to arrive on site.

      If they could try to pick the suits off one by one I am pretty sure they could do it. They are a very diverse group of pretty powerful villains after all.

      • Mobility and Information are going to be key here, and that they can’t be pinned down is also a given. However, with Tattletale in tow, they should be forewarned in time to at least break up the engagement before reinforcements arrive. It depends, of course, how mobile all those suits are; The Dronebot for example seemed rather unwieldy to me. As I said, Information.

        • Well I would assume they would be forewarned that the other suits are incoming in any fight they get in. If anyone went into that fight assuming the other suits wouldn’t be incoming I would call them a fool. Also, they don’t have the mobility advantage at this point. They don’t have Bitch and her dogs, and I expect most of the suits could chase down vehicles without much trouble.

          Now I’m not saying it is impossible for them to pick the suits off, I honestly think they could probably take them out if the suits have bad response times. I just think it would strain my suspension of disbelief if they were able to strike at each suit and then fade into the city afterwards.

          • Getting hit by the heroes might be to there advantage, as soon as that happens Grue gets to pull the card that none of the heroes know about yet and copy all their delicious powers.

            Now that’ll be an ‘oh shit!’ moment.😄

          • Yes, not having Bitch’s dogs around for Taxi service is a problem, as well as not having most of their heavy hitters. Therefore, one of their first moves might be to try to find them and consolidate. But again, it’s what Dragon expects and is most likely prepared for.
            Apart from that though; They already escaped the suits once, didn’t they?

      • Well, taking past examples into account, the heroes response time ain’t that great. The flying dragon suits are another story though. Depends on what they are using to communicate. Dragon has to be using some seriously powerful jammers to block out ALL communication. It has to be a challenge, even for her, to create a signal that works through that kind of interference. So maybe they’ll have some good luck for a change, and they can’t communicate too well/ their programming still has some flaws. The suit didn’t pursue Grue/Skitter for example. It will be tough, but just imagine if they can actually do it. They will be considered top tier having beaten the BEST tinker in the world, Dinah will have been rescued, and the city will be theirs.

    • Dragonslayers were called mercenaries, but a) They pretty much raped Dragon, or at least there Black-Hat leader did, calling them in would be unlikely for Tattletale since she’d know that they were scum and untrustworthy. b) They’re probably already reeling badly from Dragon and Colin going for them once she was unshackled.

    • What makes you think Coil hasn’t already factored this attack into his plans? He was very insistent on everyone having their territories ready by today, no?

      Re: benefits of splitting up: As I understand this, Dragon has developed a customised suit to deal with each member of the Undersiders+Travellers. The one she sent after Skitter wasn’t configured to deal with Grue. Splitting up may well be worthwhile if they can swap dance partners. Throw Sundancer at the suit menacing Skitter’s territory. Trickster could teleport explosives inside the forcefield of the one menacing Sundancer’s territory etc.

      And don’t forget Dragon’s Protectorate backup. There’s a lot to be said for keeping their forces divided, too.

    • I think they have a more difficult fight here than they did with most of the members of the nine, but the stakes aren’t quite as high. Noone needs to be worried about dragon casually murdering a teammate, but short of crawler and siberian none of the nine could take a hit like the suits probably can.

  6. I’m kind of disappointed with Dragon here for trying to capture Skitter for their chat instead of parleying or talking to her in her civilian identity or something. Especially since the phrasing of her declaration of intent was kind of rapey.

    • If Skitter was still active at all in her civilian identity then talking to her that way might have made sense, but when was the last time anyone other than her father saw Taylor?

      • There was still the option of showing up less insanely well-armed and asking for a private conversation. Possibly with one of those bug-avatars, if Skitter was feeling skittish.

        • Exactly how do you think that would play out? Dragon doesn’t have any discrete suits for private conversations. She has giant war machines. If one of those shows up in Skitter’s territory that leads to questions from Coil, dangerous questions. “Why were you talking to Dragon and should I rethink killing you” type of questions.

          Until Dragon can get her alone and in private any attempt to contact Taylor could lead to a potentially deadly situation, especially with such a strong thinker around her at all times. Remember, the last time Dragon saw Taylor personally one of her teammate’s betrayed her. Increasing the chances of another teammate pulling the same stunt would be a real dick move.

          • Hm. Tiny robot sneaks into her bedroom or somewhere else that has privacy? It’s just that if Skitter gets captured, she’ll be expecting Birdcaging or worse, which is a really non-optimal way to start a conversation. I suppose it could go, “please don’t throw me in the Birdcage, Lung’s in there, and Shadow Striker will be soon” “okay” “wait, what?”, but that’s only one of the ways Taylor could jump.

          • Up until very recently tiny wasn’t a thing that Dragon could do. It is only possible because of Armsmaster’s help.

            I don’t see any way for their conversation to go smoothly that doesn’t include Taylor in confinement. If she is free and they are talking on the battlefield then Taylor will be a bit busy fighting and trying to escape. If she just cold calls the girl then you can bet your ass Taylor is going to be hanging up and running to keep herself from being ambushed by a dragon suit homing in on her signal.

      • I could see that happening, but only in Taylor’s civilian identity. Even then it risks giving Taylor away to her father. It also opens the door for Tattletale to figure out Taylor has been talking to Dragon. Dragon doesn’t know that the team is getting along now, and risking letting your potential new recruit get murdered by her teammates over a possible betrayal isn’t a great opening move.

          • Yeah, it wouldn’t be like the heroes to break the rules and threaten someone’s civilian identity and mess with their family!

            (I hope that video gets approved on here)

          • Hm. That’s all true… maybe this was the best way for Dragon to try and contact Skitter after all. I was just disappointed because I’d seen no evidence of Dragon even considering alternative approaches, but we’ve already had her and Armsmaster’s interludes, so such evidence would be hidden from us.

            • I would suggest that it’s against the rules for a hero to privately contact a known villian for a private conversation. Which, by her restrictions, Dragon can’t violate.

    • I agree, it would be nice to have Dragon actually have a civil conversation not in the middle of a fight. She is probably one of the few heroes that Taylor would listen to.

  7. Getting Coil to promise to release Dinah seems like it was definitely the wrong move. Either he won’t follow through with it, he doesn’t think he’ll need her in the next stage of his plan, or he thinks she’ll come back. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt him to promise it. I don’t fault Taylor for making that demand, as she’s not exactly a master negotiator, but Lisa surely saw that it wasn’t a strong play.

    Despite the fact that he’s making concessions, I feel like he has them even further over a barrel than before. The heroes have them in a tough spot, and working for Coil is even more of an “only game in town” situation than when they were building up. Their best bet is to rescue Bitch, Genesis, and Ballistic, grab Dinah, then cut and run. I really doubt it’ll happen, given all they have invested here, but feels like the odds are worse now than they ever have been.

    I suppose it’s odd that seven knock-off Dragons and the same handful of heroes they’ve always had around seem like more of a problem than the Slaughterhouse Nine. The “truce” with the heroes that they had when the Nine were around is gone, as is any real possibility of support from the other villains (thanks to the consolidation of their territories), which leaves them “on their own.” “They” are approximately 8 resourceful supervillains in their own right (depending on how you want to count and going up by as many as 3 when/if they rescue their comrades), but they’re outnumbered by about 3 to 1 (again, depending on how you count and who you include) when you consider the Dragons, the Protectorate, the Wards, New Wave, and the Pure.

    Recruiting the Dragonslayers would be an amazingly good move. Even if they’re unsuccessful, they’ll tie up at least some of the Dragon suits and heroes. They can even rely on the Dragonslayers to be fairly trustworthy allies, since their desire to grab more Dragon tech can be assumed to outweigh considerations such as bribes and such. I suppose Dragon herself could bribe them by offering them some of her tech, but I doubt she would.

    I *really* want to find out more about what happened/is happening/will happen with Dragon and Armsmaster. She seduced/recruited/befriended him with the ulterior motive of having him “fix” the limitations in her programming that were limiting her. That involves an incredible level of trust and could have disastrous consequences. Fiddling with a living AI is doubtless very uncertain ground, regardless of how Tinkery one is. Even if Armsmaster is entirely honest and faithful in his changes, he may inadvertently make Dragon more like him or simply less stable. A ruthless, fame-hungry Dragon would be frightening, especially now that she can deploy a potentially unlimited number of units. She could set out to throw every villain in the world into the Birdcage and stand a reasonable chance of success, given enough time. She’d be like the Sentinels, only competent. And if she helps take down the remainder of the Nine, she’ll probably have enough popularity to have the government/hero support to get away with it regardless of the potential to rob the world of strength necessary for fighting Endbringers.

    Of course, Dragon can likewise fiddle with Armsmaster. I really doubt he performed brain surgery on himself, so he allowed her to implant things inside his brain. She could have done all manner of things in there while staying inside the limits of her programming. This sort of reciprocal mind fuckery could be, once you get past the creepiness of it, a really deep, meaningful sort of relationship and intercourse. Each time one screws with the other’s mind, they become a bit more alike. Eventually, they become indistinguishably entwined, creating a new entity that is a hybrid of their two original personalities. It’s like having a child, only both parents give up everything of themselves in the process. It’s rather like the original Ghost In The Shell movie in that sense. A human and a computer becoming more the same until they are one entity. Honestly, I could see a whole (short) spinoff about that topic alone.

    • I honestly think calling in the dragon slayers would be a wonderful thing…. for Dragon. They beat her before because she could only be in one place at a time and they exploited that and gaps in her code to take her shit while she was locked in her reboot cycle. If they tried the same thing now they would be absolutely creamed. I am willing to bet that once they find out about Dragon’s new abilities they will go into hiding for awhile until they figure out some new avenue of attack.

      • They could tie up a few suits at the very least, and if Tattletale promised to pay after they beat dragon, they can keep the money after they get creamed. Best case scenario, they take at least one suit down.

        • Think about what you just said, and put yourself in the Dragon Slayers shoes. Your arch enemy, the foe that despises you for all you have done to her, suddenly breaks one of the most fundamental rules of her existence, the rule that let you beat her before. Are you going to take money to go fight her before you figure out a new plan? Remember that if you lose you will probably end up in the birdcage and all that money won’t help you at all.

          • Good point. Well, Tattletale can neglect to mention it. They have also won quite a few times, so maybe arrogance will win out. We won’t know till we find out his character. Maybe he is the evil version of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and simply can’t accept anyone is better than him.

    • This sort of reciprocal mind fuckery could be, once you get past the creepiness of it, a really deep, meaningful sort of relationship and intercourse.

      While I agree I doubt either of them altered the other, the trust aspect is still awesome.

      I found it pretty interesting that we have Dragon & Armsmaster occuring at the same time as Skitter & Grue. The tabloids will be having a dozen field-days.

    • Getting Coil to release Dinah is a long shot. But if that’s your goal, you could do a lot worse than having him promise to do so in front of all his lieutenants where he’ll lose a ton of face if he backs down…

  8. Random note: Taylor HATES tinkers so F&*(#ING MUCH . If she ever has a second trigger event, I now vote for her to gain a tinker classification. Maybe something like organic compounds like spidersilk, venoms, and chemicals. Just for the random irony where she fights someone using tech, and they shout the same thing.

  9. I dont think Saint/Evilsheldon would turn the offer down. He knows her secret and what shes capable of now richters safegaurds have been removed.
    She poses a threat to all villians everywhere, and the slayers are pretty high up on her hitlist. Better to fight alongside the travelsiders now and get paid handsomely.
    Even with her newfound awsomeness hes still her achilles heel. She’s the world greatest tinker, he specializes in fucking with other tinkers.

    Plus, we havent met him yet but he strikes me as the kind of guy who enjoys the challenge of going up against dragon.

      • He probably did, but that’s a bit silly. There’s a saint associated with pretty much everything under the sun and ‘Saint’ is hardly specific.

        It’s a bit like calling yourself “Mister” ‘cos you’re nice like Mister Rogers.:/

        • “Saint” and “Dragon” in connection narrow it down a lot. “Saint” is a much better cape name than “George”, and it suggests he is the good guy in the conflict.

    • He has to come up with new strategies for dealing with dragon though. At least one of the exploits he took advantage of before is gone, what if the others are to? Going in without a plan would be sheer folly, and I doubt he has had time to come up with one yet. Just because someone enjoys going against dragon doesn’t mean they want to do it without a plan, noone likes jail.

  10. Alrighty then, warfare against seven deployable specialized suits of armor all with flight capability and reinforcements available on short notice , say 15 to 30 minutes away or even longer during certain odd hours. Communications are down. 21 hours on the clock. Unlike against the Slaughterhouse 9 or Leviathan, there are no reinforcements available to the protagonist side aside from their own group.

    It seems Coil knew this would happen. It doesn’t appear that the Mayor is in close contact with the hero groups, though it could just be with Piggot. In order to justify his stance of keeping the city, he would need a show of strength. This could be the show of strength, the part where Coil knew his supervillains would be tied down or captured and allow himself to slip into the gap.

    Strategy One: Operation Horserace
    Now, there’s something I read once. I want to say it was Sun Tzu, but it doesn’t quite sound like his style. Basically, these two guys agreed to race their first, second, and third fastest horses against the other person’s, which was usually competitive since they were evenly matched. They bet on the outcome too, each race having the same amount bet on it. Either Sun Tzu or some other strategist was helping out one of these guys and had him race his third fastest against the other man’s fastest, his fastest against the other man’s second fastest, and his second fastest against the other man’s third fastest, which made sure the man he worked for one some gold off the whole ordeal.

    Dragon selected these suits for each area for a purpose. They best fit what they were dealing with, such as Skitter being outminioned (papoy? ooooh, papoy!). I believe someone else mentioned some of them were a better choice to face others’ suits and that’s a good idea.

    The Counter: Dragon may anticipate this and rotate the suits around. You may not get the suit you think you’re getting and be less effective. You may even get the one first sent after you. Also, the suits seem to share a few abilities.

    • I think 15 to 30 minutes between reinforcements is severely underestimating dragon. She got her fastest suit from Canada to brockton bay in less time than that when the Undersiders attacked the PRT headquarters. Assuming her lighter suits take that time to move around one city is the kind of mistake that leads to jail.

      • Ward and Protectorate reinforcements. If she’s holding onto the various territories then she can’t afford to move her suits away from them for too long at a time.

        • She can afford to move the suits to capture villains though. Once the fight ends she just sends the suits back and locks your territory down again.

          • Then a new part of the strategy can be to quickly determine which territory or territories a suit was stripped from and bring in some light firepower for whenever Dragon returns. Light machineguns, recoilless rifles, that kind of stuff on the back of pickup trucks. Spring for RPGs if you think you can hit with them, but something specialized for low flying aircraft would be better.

          • Might have not been ones to be used against aircraft, but a valid enough point. Even explosives meant for jets probably wouldn’t have the armor-piercing capability to take down a Dragon suit, while those meant for tanks would have difficulty hitting a Dragon suit in flight. It is harder to get bigger guns than that on short notice with just a shitload of cash, even in the U.S. Might help if they could get something bad for Dragon suit maintenance. Like if you released a bunch of whatever (would glass and pebbles work?) too close to whatever jets it uses so that it damages them. Might just make it where it needs maintenance more often, but that could help.

            Unfortunately, that’s more suited to a drawn out battle, but at least it would keep the Tinker or AI from having enough time to design a workaround.

          • Yeah I could see bursts of shrapnel or flechette fire doing damage to the sensitive parts of the robot. If they had more time to wear Dragon down or order in heavier equipment they might have a chance with conventional weapons. Setting up to snipe with heavy weapons platforms could probably deal with the lighter dragon suits. The downside of that is that will bring down military heat along with heroes.

          • A good anti-material rifle (or twelve) might do the trick. Maybe I’m underestimating the NRA, but I’m just not sure Tattletale can get them there within 21 hours.

          • With regards to foreign objects in jet intakes, usually a duck or a seagull will be more than enough (see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, or countless real life examples). Even if Dragon’s propulsion systems are hardened, I’m thinking a crapload of beetles or cockroaches would seriously screw up any kind of jet turbine.


  11. Strategy Two: Thwomp
    Specifically for dealing with the Dragon suit sent after Skitter.

    Lure the Dragonballs to either bug decoys or other people who can move out of the way quickly or survive 100 lbs. falling on them. Seriously, Dragon? What if there’s a little kid running around? How about a deaf person? You want to pull that shit?

    Have the decoys move out of the way (or keep them in the way if you don’t care about their survival) when the ball goes to taze them. Then, once Dragon’s balls have dropped, they are vulnerable. There should be conventional weapons capable of breaching and destroying them. If Tattletale can crack Dragon’s encryption, she might be capable of coming up with malware that can subvert her systems and find a way to infect them with that upon reboot. Another alternative is to have the bugs hide explosives within them. Have them move out of the way and the balls fall on something pressure sensitive.

    If Trickster is involved in this attack, his services can be used to replace potential ballzap victims with an appropriately sized and weighted amount of explosives. Recommendations allowed, as I focus less on explosives and more on chemical weapons that are useless here. Dragon can’t be taken out of action with an LSD dartgun.

  12. Strategy Three: Saudi Standoff
    Specifically for dealing with the suit Dragon sent after Skitter

    Spread a lot of gasoline vapor, tear gas, or some other ignitable gas around the area, some inside buildings, and try to give Dragon a call. Make it clear that an air burst won’t solve the problem and is in fact likely to concentrate said gasses, usually harmful to humans, indoors where all the humans are currently hiding. Also make sure she knows that gasoline vapor and tear gas can ignite with the equivalent of a taser charge.

    At this point, Dragon will most likely withdraw the suit and get her balls out of your face. However, reinforcments and another suit will be on the way. The superheroes should have suits equipped to handle that kind of environment. When they show up and come after you, duck down a sewer and ignite the gasses behind you. Another likely reinforcement is the goo suit of Dragon’s. Now that you’ve licked Dragon’s balls, she wants to spray you with her sticky goo. If one has a strategy for dealing with that suit, this is a strategy that could allow you to draw it (or other suits) in.

    Cons: Dragon may not be reachable. Balls might zap and set off the gasses. Requires heavy use of chemicals and a relatively quick spread. Does not insure destruction of Dragon suit involved.

    • Further Cons: It hinges on threatening civilans, her own people nonetheless, and is therefore pretty much anathema to Skitter. She might try bluffing, but as someone pointed out a few chapters back, one of these days someone smart enough will figure her out and see that she would’t really risk lives. Dragon already was partway to figure her out quite some time back, and I’m pretty certain, she counts as “someone smart enough”.

      Now, on the other hand Skitter already has some hints that Dragon doesn’t kill, from when they stole the data. Taking themselves hostage with fuel-air-explosives might therefore be a possible move, or might blow up in their face (pun not intended) now that she has her restrictions lifted. Though, didn’t she say something in her interlude about not going to kill anyways?

  13. Strategy Four: The Martyr Initiative
    A general strategy for dealing with Dragon’s capture attempts.

    Once again, explosives are on the table. No no, leave them there. They can be used for either a suicide bomber-style vest or belt, or to rig up to captured civilians. It can use a timer with a password setup, like Cherish used, or some method of detonation that can’t be jammed by Dragon.

    Make it clear that if captured in one of the nonlethal ways that Dragon uses, such as by ballshock or goo, then the explosives will be activated. This will force either a retreat or reinforcements to be called in who then have to try and disable said explosives before taking you down. Bonus points for making them think you have to push or release a switch to set it off, but it secretly be on a timer that goes off shortly after they’re able to get it off you and well away.

    The alternative should perhaps be a separate strategy, but y’all are probably getting tired of this by now. Make it clear that you have civilians nearby with such a timed bomb rigged up on them that only you know the password to. To circumvent Dragon analyzing and guessing, choose a strong password that you can remember easily. Only an idiot uses 12345 for anything other than their luggage or planetary defense shield.

    Get the message to Dragon that she can’t take you down and get to this interior location before the bombs go off, meaning she has to leave you be. If difficult to get a message to her, let her figure it out by trial and error with multiple groups of hostages.

    • The problem with this is that threatening hostages could dangerously up the stakes. Right now you have only Dragon, employing nonlethal means. Start slinging around Suicide Bombers, and you might have the entire Protectorate on your ass, shooting to kill.

  14. Strategy Five: The Psychopomp Special
    How to defeat enemy reinforcements

    Carry through on the threat if needed, except for the final hostages. If you get down to two hostages, leave them behind and escape.

    When the heroes or PRT assault REDACTED and book it for the sewer exit, sealing it behind you. At the very least, a portion of the enemy’s strength has been diminished. Survivors or non-responders will be less likely to reinforce Dragon’s attacks from here on out. Rinse and repeat as needed to achieve desired effect.

    Examples of chemicals to use: REDACTED by order of Psycho Gecko.

    (Due to the real world potential of this strategy, I am not putting most of it up there. I took a step back there at the end and realized someone could actually use this, especially since I referred to parts of the city as “occupied territories”.)

  15. Strategy Six: The Middle Finger

    Have a someone attack or fake an attack on a territory Dragon has occupied. Try to align this to look like Operation Horserace so that the other Dragon suits stay ready to defend. Make sure the heroes are drawn in on that attack.

    While they’re busy, attack high importance targets in the city. The PRT building isn’t a bad idea. Attacks need not be overly violent. Graffiti or other methods of humiliating or frustrating heroes are preferable. Make sure they get the message that the longer they attempt to hold onto the villains’ territories, the longer the rest of the city is more vulnerable.

    Optional: Investigate if the mayor was in on the plans. If the evidence is strong that he did, pay his house another visit in a non-violent way.

    • I really like this one, and think that it should be combined with virtually every other plan they have. If nothing else, it’s a great distraction with a lot less risk than a strike against a dragon.

      Incidentally, we had Skitter thinking of various ways to “mark her territory” already in this chapter. I vote for giving the city hall some fancy new cobwebs.

  16. Well, not the best plan Dragon could have gone with, approaching the camp fire and talking peacefully first would have been my intial tactic. Anyhoo, this kicked all kinds of butt even if yet again my wish to see Skitter captured was foiled.

    This does seem like a risky ploy by the heroes, this could either work or just escalate things even further. If they lose this one then they’ll have little choice but to cede the territory.

    I doubt those at the cookout are feeling fond of heroes anymore. They did nothing for them after Leviathan (things like when Battery turned up then left immediately likely didn;t help with that) did nothing for them when the nine were killing them, now that they’ve adapted to being independent and found a decent boss to work under in that situation, the heroes are now taking to screwing with their meals. I mean come on guys, they’s a limit to how much you can piss on people.

    I would laugh my ass off if someone in Skitter’s terriotry ended up with powers. Heck I still hope for Sierra going chem-tinker and Charlotte finding a vial of plant-powers. It’s a long shot but I’m placing all my chips on it anyway. They were burnt, so I couldn’t eat them.

    I doubt Saint and his merry band of AI rapists are available after Colin got the full details about what that was like for Dragon. Likely they are still pulling Halberds out their collective ass…ets. Overall this looks to be exactly the kind of situation in which Skitter thrives, not as nasty as against the Nine (finally a less high stakes bunch of fights, it has been a while) and with a boyfriend posessing powers unknown to the heroes yet.

    The powder keg has been lit, now it’s just a game of who’s holding it when it blows.

  17. Step 1: get Skitter to build communications. I.e. have an array of bugs on people that overhear what’s going on for Skitter, then she transmits it via Morse code to other arrays. Impossible to detect, overhear or interdict. Kinda slow though.

    Step 2: Unleash the dogs of war. I.e. have a certain nigh-uncontrollable Traveler cause some chaos.

    Step 3: move explosives through sewers in non-flooded areas. Bomb the Protectorate/Wards headquarters from the foundation up. (Coil should have enough resources to buy tinker-made bombs or atomic demolition charges, right?)

      • Yeah I am seriously interested in just what the hell Noelle is. Her Godzilla Threshold is so damn high that it might as well be in orbit apparently but I am having serious trouble imagining something worse than the Nine or Leviathan. She has at least SOME reasoning so even if she goes on a rampage how horribly bad can it be? I see her as either the next thing they have to put down or being releashed to screw with whatever tries to kill the world.

    • Releasing Noelle involves a bunch of murdered people. Once they do that Dragon won’t play nice anymore, and there only real chance is that Dragon keeps playing nice.

  18. Dragon is waaay more dangerous than Leviathan. She was personally responsible for holding several dozen of the world’s worst supervillains captive for years entirely through her personal abilities and resources. And that was before she got the full extent of her capabilities unlocked…

    • I think you are forgetting just how many capes were massacred by Leviathan. Or how quickly it managed to rip through the combat suit that did show up.

    • She isn’t malicious, doesn’t kill, and even if she did become willing and able to kill villains she wouldn’t harm civilians.

      More versatile? Certainly. More formidable? Perhaps, depending on how many of her previous constraints she’s been able to remove. More dangerous? No, not even close.

  19. I wonder what happened to the Fautline crew. What are they up to? Did they leave town? I don’t think we’ve heard a peep from them since Burnscar tried to recruit Labyrinth.

    • I think I remember Wildbow writing that faultline’s crew was a part of the story he/she/it (sorry, I still don’t know if your a guy or a gal. My money is on gal, though) had been tempted to drop, since it was hard to write them/ they do not really fit in. So they are probably his/her/its least used characters.

      Could be I remember it completely wrong though.

      Also: I get a boner from this chapter. Dragon is pure gadgeteer-porn. We finally get to see how dangerous a real gadgeteer could be (as opposed to, say, a narcisstic idiot who builts only one suit of armor that he has to pilot into battle personally, with only one or two other suits for reinforcements somewhere down the line).

      • Thing is, I’m pretty sure that it’s not just Tinker ego, it would seem to be that Tinker tech is outright reality bending and thus requires their presence or input in order to function. See Armsmaster, whose miniturisation thing only works in his presence.

        Dragon is either a)not a Tinker, just super smart, or b) Has an advantage in that she can be in several places at once.

        • Dragon is an AI. not a tinker.
          besides, remember that bakuda’s bombs or those light crystals that kid win said a tinker in the south builds all work without input from their creators. only some like armsmaster need to be close to it, since they actually bend the laws of reality (personally, I think armsmaster may be a tinker/breaker with the ability to manipulate space to a limited degree)

          also, my comment was aimed at Iron Man^^ and his tech is definitely not reality bending, at least not in the marvel universe.

          • Armsmaster’s tech works outside of his immediate presence, that was just tattletale lying to see how he’d react.

  20. If I were Tattletale, I would hire the Dragonslayers, but not to fight Dragon–just for information.

    “How did you beat Dragon and steal all of those suits?”
    “Oh, well, she’s actually an AI” [or Tattletale figures this out with her power as she talks with Saint]
    “So, what’s the flaw in her programming that let you beat her?”
    “[Saint explains], but it looks like she’s fixed that.”

    Tattletale’s power fills in the gaps, and Skitter points out that Dragon is using some of Armsmaster’s tech.Tattletale connects more dots, and then all you have to do is get a message out and the the house of cards Dragon has built comes crashing down. The “Citizen, do this” things is a lot more creepy when you know the person addressing you isn’t a person at all, on any level.

    • The “Citizen, you have 15 seconds to comply” kept remindind me of the walker mech from Robocop. Instead of failing to recognize that you’ve surrendered and shooting you, these just taze you and drop 100 lbs. of hard metal on your vulnerable body.

  21. I’m amused that Dragon and Defiant Armsmaster lied about their intended target to the other heroes. Or did I misread that they said that they were going to go after the remains of the Nine?

  22. A big thank-you goes out to Anthony for his donation.

    Don’t have access to my main computer so an apology (and reminder to self) to update the counter on the front page after. The number is right, just the bar showing progress that isn’t.

    • I might be able to donate sometime, once I get paid the ransom for this 18 tons of chocolate. Mwahaha, how will you get fat now, Austria, eh?

      Storage was a bitch too. I had to steal an entire island to hide the stuff, and I’m not even getting paid for that one. Thought the job was going to take place near Australia, found out it was Austria, so suddenly I gotta relocate the damn Sandy Island.

      Ha, those guys at Shivering Sands and Fort Roughs laughed at me. Well now they can suck my sandy beaches and go choke on their tetanus!

  23. Reading back through the interlude where they get together, Brian definitely has a spot of the sadist going on in him. In the minor characteristic sense, not the “I enjoy your pain” sense.

    What I mean is that he seems fascinated by screwing with Taylor. The big first step is him thinking how he would like to ‘crack her veneer’, shake her confidence and now here we have him quite blatantly messing with her by doing just that (because her body language would totally have given away her embarrassment) and kind of glorying in it.

    Given how reactive Taylor is when caught off guard and without her usual exhaustive social planning, this fills me with thoughts of hilarity.

    • There there, it’s ok. Now you just have to lurk in the comments with the rest of us. That might be more difficult than it used to be. These past few updates have been setting some records. It might be because new people like yourself have finally caught up.

      Get off my lawn, you young’uns! Or I’ll blow up Sandy Island and 18 tons of Austrian chocolate with it!

      • You…you /monster/! Won’t anyone think of the chocolate?
        You’ve gone too far this time, Gecko! You’ll never get away with this!

        • I’m thinking of the chocolate. I’m thinking of it right now. Mmmm…so good…maybe I’ll only sell off 17 tons of chocolate.

          Mwahaha…this chocolate is mine now, Slamu. No one can stop me! This week, Austria. Next week, the world’s chocolate!

  24. Things it took me an embarrassingly long time to put together #37696

    The Undersiders are bound by the common theme of having been failed by “the system”.

    Bitch-She was a foster child who was never given the enviroment she needed nor the attention. Eventually she was lumped with a downright insane woman who triggered her, then the authorities had her on the run and that was that.

    Regent-Grew up outside the system, no-one ever rescued him from that enviroment. He was a child left in heartbreaker’s clutches and unsurprisingly this ended poorly.

    Grue and Aisha-That one’s obvious


    Tattletale-Going by how she went from apparent riches to street life, I’m betting that her dad (or mum) did something to her but the authorities would never take her side due to that person being too powerful and influential.

  25. Hey, has it occurred to anyone else that Monarch could also refer to a butterfly? As in, currently in worm stage, and soon to pupate and then become her adult form?

    I wonder what that could mean?!?


        • i’ll take the pain, if only skitter can finally give EVERYONE an ‘Oh Crap!’. I mean, how awesome would it be if she suddenly got the power to transform into a giant bug-monster (by absorbing the bugs she controls?) or got fullblown telepathy (drool)!

          • I still like a combination of transformation and creating super-powered bugs.

            Armsmaster deploys his bloody electric system, and then discovers that she has electro bugs spread through the swarm that absorb the charge, then land on him and ground themselves. Or flamethrower only for her to have already turned them fireproof. And best of all, her making a bunch of bugs that can chew through the reinforced armour of her opponents.

            Indeed the transforming part would mainly hold her back (if it was only her own body that could make super bugs) from taking over the entire planet.

            Though Skitter gaining Shifter ranks would also give her flight and increased resistance to focused attacks. Meaning the Undersiders would finally have some bullet immunity. Though Sundancer still kicks everyone’s ass with her: “I have a sun on top of me, take your attacks elsewhere because they’re not redeemable here.” move.

          • yeah, i was thinking about a kind of shapeshifting where she absorbs bugs for mass, so the more bugs she absorbs, the bigger and meaner she gets and the more abilities she has. and if she is hurt, only bugs are harmed.

            also, to go with that, maybe she could also be able to go the opposite way: split up into bugs to reform somewhere else.
            the combination would make her one of the big players, without making her overpowered, since she would need to concentrate her bugs in one place in order to grow big and mean, plus if she got reckless, she would loose too many bugs and not be able to use her power at all.

            but no transforming individual bugs like panacea. that would make her basically invincible

          • also, it would kinda make her the opposite of bitch: the latter gets stronger by spreading her power among several dogs, skitter would get stronger by concentrating her power in one point, though she would also get more vulnerable that way (in a way)

          • Yeah, the power to change large numbers of her bugs without investing something as serious as her actual body would be utterly ridiculous.

            I’d figure that as long as she is limited by something like what is suggested here (though likely far more awesome because that’s a general rule for this series) it would simply make her more versatile. The issue Skitter has is that eventually there’s simply no way for her to hope to win. Most of the nine could go through her like paper unless she had time to plan and pulled her usual jammy moves. Same for almost all the bigs heroes. Honestly even Triumph and Prism lost mostly to their own overconfidence. If they’d not been trying to save civilians that fight would have had a good chance of going differently.

            Against anything like Dragon, Skitter simply cannot do anything. We saw it with Leviathan as well. As incredible as she is, she still requires a soft enough targt to get going. And even then they need to be dumb enough not to just immediately find and kill her, which is going to change if she gets better known.

            Ignoring Skitter the amateur is one thing, but we just saw exactly how the heroes will react to Skitter the serious threat.

          • that’s just my point. I think skitter’s biggest problem is that her reputation is quickly outpacing her capabilities. as you have noticed, her powers quickly hit a glass ceiling once she goes up against someone powerful enough to break resist stings and bites and tear spidersilk apart.
            if she is to take part in the larger events that are about to unfold in the wormverse, she will, sooner than later, need a serious power-up, or she simply won’t be able to compete.

          • Maybe she’s going to kidnap Dr. Venture and his two sons?

            Well, if we’re moving away from the Monarch as ruler motif and people have already talked about a transformation, I think it’s time for something almost completely different.

            Monarch butterflies are quite distinct, with the black and yellow and white coloring. Which is actually an advertisement. Of death. Cardenolide glycosides and cardiac glycosides that they consume from their favorite larval food: milkweed. Both of those chemicals do things to your heart. Bright colors are often used by animals to indicate that they are poisonous or that they want other animals to think they are poisonous. Blue-ringed octopi and poison arrow frogs are good examples as well.

            For those who like to eat the occasional peacock, you might be wondering why you’re still alive. That’s because there are lots of species where the males only look flamboyant. This is done to show how healthy they are and to attract a mate. As a result, the females don’t have to get dressed up fancy to find a mate.

            Skitter might be taken into Dragon’s custody, consumed by the heroes if you will. Or she may survive and Coil may try to finally chomp on her some since she’s forcing his hand on the Dinah issue. With her information about some of the heroes or her resistance to Coil, she should be a bitter pill(bug) to swallow for either side.

  26. I don’t think we started out so cynical. Our mindset changed as Taylor’s did. In the beginning we sympathized with her and held out hope she would take down the Undersiders and become a hero. Then we started to see more of the world, we slowly started to have a LOW opinion of the heroes, the government, and the system just like Taylor did. We, like Taylor, held out hope for them to step up and help people, and they didn’t. They disappointed us too many times. That isn’t to say there are a few genuinely good people in this world, like the Wards. I actually wonder what Taylor’s life would have been like if she has taken up Armsmaster’s offer and actually met the Wards. I’ve said before that Taylor has the means to try and recreate her Trigger event. Put herself in a small enclosed place, drug herself to give into paranoia, and watch what happens. I worry a bit about her possible mental state, but I think she could at least try. The question is of course what power could she get. We want something versatile, but not too powerful. I actually love how you show her winning with her smarts and not from simply relying on a gamebreakering power. That is why most prefer Batman to Superman.
    Choices, Choices. Transforming I could see working, she has always been a bit insecure with looks, but the question is what can she transform into? I don’t like the turning into a bug swarm, because it really doesn’t give her any new means of attack and would make Atlas irrelevant. Maybe she can take on aspects of a bug she is in contact with, sort of like animal man, but she can only copy one ability at a time, and she gets huge physical deformities to go along with it. I can also see her getting a powerup that showcases her abilities as a Master. Maybe she can empower bugs in some way like Bitch, or empower people with Bug traits like Othala. That way we can see more her as a leader, empowering her team and minions and leading them to victory. I don’t really see Telepathy working to be honest. It doesn’t really work with the rules of the setting, and can be a bit too powerful depending on what limits she has. I vote for her to be a Tinker of some kind. It would cover a weakness of the team, show alot of variety/uses depending on her particular expertise, and wouldn’t be too powerful.

    • So, at the sake of diving into an odd area, the ‘Manton Effect’ basically posits that one can influence either living material or unliving materiel but not both at the same time?

      One might imagine that perhaps instead of the things suggested so far that Skitter’s hypothetical ‘power-up’ comes with a way to transcend that limitation in a dramatic fashion. After all, she did flitter along the edges of it with Mannequin’s ‘sealed’ systems and now she’s dealing with even more tech-y sort of things.

      How that would implement would be anyone’s guess, just a random thought.

    • This is an aside, but recently I’ve come to suspect that a lot of readers prefer Batman to Superman because most writers don’t know how to use Superman to tell a good story.

      As you say, Batman’s interesting because he doesn’t have power to fall back on and has to use smarts.

      Superman is interesting for the opposite reason – he has vast power and could do almost anything with it. He’s also an idealist faced with a morally grey world. Where Batman has to fight his hardest just to get by, Superman has to deal with the temptations and possibilities of too much power. He can change the world in a moment. Should he? How? Every moment he spends as Clark Kent means people dying somewhere – but if he tries to save everyone it all becomes a blur. Where’s the balance?

      Superman has the same “with great power comes great responsibility” thing that Spiderman does – only with orders of magnitude more power.

      If that’s not interesting, that’s the fault of the stories, not the character, IMO…

      • I appreciate this.

        I’ve never cared for Superman, but now that you point it out, I think I agree.

        While Super Ventriloquism doesn’t really do it for me, I love things that delve into hypotheticals and morals.

        Irrevenant, hats off to you!

  27. Monarch can refer to:

    the absolute, singular ruler of a state (monos archondas, greek for only ruler)
    -> applies to Skitter in her territory

    monarch flycatcher: a type of bird, found mostly in the old world. has a LOT of different subtypes with subtle differences among each. most of them feed primarily on insects
    -> dragon is currently hunting down Skitter (insect). also, her general hunt of villains can be described as flycatching. also, there are several different models of suits she uses, all different but all belong to the same supertype

    monarch butterfly:

    called ‘The Wanderer’ in Australia -> refers to how Skitter is still seeking her place, her way

    as all Butterflys, symbolizes rebirth, change -> Skitter’s evolution throughout the story.
    -> also, hope for another trigger event
    -> related to the above: larvas transform into butterflys by encasing themselves into a chrysallis. taylor got her powers by being imprisoned into a confined space -> she would need another such experience of imprisonment to have a second trigger event: another chrysallis to turn into a butterfly

    the monarch butterfly is poisonous to most predators that feed on it.
    -> skitter has information that could hurt both Coil and the heroes if she released them – like if she was captured by Dragon

    due to the uneven distribution of poison in their bodies, monarch butterflies CAN be eaten by many animels if those eat only certain parts of them
    -> most enemies who went against Skitter without thinking, simply trying to ‘swallow her whole’, have been beaten quite heavily (Lung, Triumph, Prism, Crawler, Mannequin). the ones with the most success (barring OPs like Leviathan) being those who used their heads to figure out how to fight her (Armsmaster, Bonesaw, Mannequin Round 2, Dragon)

    the monarch butterfly has various subtypes, having adapted repeatedly to changing conditions (an example would be a white morph of the monarch butterfly on oahu which developed after two new bird species were introduced that could feed on it)
    -> skitter has repeatedly adapted her techniques to react to changing (and superior) foes

    I’m probably reading way too much into this

  28. 21 hours to organize a superpowered breakout, evade or disable every hero in the city, and outmaneuver seven Dragons. And that’s if “Defiant” has already left town, instead of sticking around for a few extra hours.
    I think that pulling this off just might convince Coil to keep a promise. It’d be one hell of an example of why you do not fuck around with Taylor.

  29. Okay, Dragon being an AGI wasn’t that bad when she was restrained. but if she can now make other AIs and also maybe improve her code? Everyone she dislikes had best kiss their rears goodbye. Self-replicating self-improving AGI is pretty much either “God” or “gimme a week, then I’ll be God.”

  30. Hmm. I fear Skitter may have just set herself up for problems with her rescue-Dinah plan, because dealing with seven Dragon suits is a kinda ridiculously tall order, and if she doesn’t meet the criteria in full then Coil will be able to back out of his half of the deal…

  31. I don’t understand why the hell skitter counts that man’s word as being worth anything whatsoever. It is irritating she’s being so dumb. Of his promise was “worth” anything she’d have it already anyway, so why couldn’t she have at least asked for something useful?

    • Ok,if you do not understand the subleties of the situation,let me explain

      She didn’t forceCoil to promise…she forced Coil to promis IN FRONT OF HIS MEN AND THE TRAVELLERS.

      Going back in his promise under current circumstances will cost him manpower,and maybe travelerpower,if they decide he tricked them too and never planned to help solve their problems.So even if he breaks his promise,the action of making him promise has a good chance of weakening him enough to be taken out…assuming they succeed.

      • Yes in most organizations that logic works very well. The issue with Coil’s setup is that pretty much all his people are simple mercenaries. They don’t particularly care if he’s trustworthy or if his word means anything as long as he pays them. The Travelers are a bit different yes because they are actively seeking assistance from him so his word does have weight with them but for the mercs it’s really not that important.

        • Really?I’d say its doubly important for mercs,mercs,mind you,thatare employed in a semi permanent basis,some of whom have unconventional needs and kinda rely on Coil,to know he will not double cross you.Fair game goes a long way of creating a fuctioning empire,even if (or especially if)it is an illusion.After all,whats there to stop him from discarding them rather than paying them,when he no longer needs them and they can compromise him?They have to watch their backs.

          Coil does not have the kind of power that affords him to be dishonourable.I’d imagine,though,that he created 2 universes,one where he accepted the deal and one where he denied it,and ,later,will create 2 more,one where he will comply and 1 where he won’t.

          • I don’t know, if I was ever a merc especially a villain’s merc I’d always be expected the knife and just be pleasantly surprised when it didn’t come for a while. I would never trust any employers to think I that I’d be loyal so I’d never really expect them not to try and get rid of me at some point.

            I do agree that he’d be a freaking idiot not to follow his word though. I just don’t think that it matters to hired help who’d go for a better deal without much thought.

            • Keep in mind,you might call them mercs,but most of them are “permanently hired by a villain soldiers,who also get paid”,its just that we tend to callany non goverment army mercenary.

              Minions or henchmen might be a better term….and to these people,it matters…because as you said,it matters more if your boss backstabs youif you want him to be permanent.

  32. Did skitter’s shoulder make a quick recovery? I was expecting her to mention it when she was getting knocked around by Dragon.

  33. Just little typo/edit nits:
    “I left them be.” I think that would be ‘I let them be’ of possibly ‘I left them alone.’

    “… an updated version on the thing …” On should be ‘of’.

  34. Oh I like the Bugwalk! That’s a good one!

    I’m a little surprised that Grue is complaining. Skitter really has a massive following now and people are actively moving into her territory. She has without any effort convinced the city to leave her section alone since she already has things well in hand and people actively move out of the way for her as she walks just like with Lung. She’s become both figuratively and literally Queen of the Docks. Why is he complaining about her being nice? She got more accomplished than anyone else in either group in less time and is still massively more successful. Plus she her people have enough loyalty and autonomy that they continue to work while she is away performing actual villain jobs. They should be taking notes not criticizing. This is a girl that has read and taken to heart the Evil Overlord List. Pay attention Undersiders!

    Ah I forgot that Grue’s darkness inhibits some forms of radiation! Excellent Chekov’s Gun!

    Skitter I think made a serious tactical error with requiring Dinah set free. She just made herself more trouble than it’s worth even if they manage to take down the suits in a short time frame. Go Imp though! Only problem I see is how the heck are people supposed to realize they are in her territory when no one remembers she is even there including the readers beyond the Fourth Wall?

    Side question: is Dragon really a Tinker? Or does she just appear to be because she is so smart due to being an AI? If she is a Tinker then that opens up so many many more questions. How is it possible for a being with no body to acquire a Passenger? What exactly are these Passengers? Though it would pretty much cement the fact that Dragon is alive and has a verifiable soul so to speak.

    • On one of your side questions: Dragon has always had a body. She has more knowledge of how to modify it than humans do, and she can move herself out of it to another suitable one… but she can’t exist without a system to store herself on, and up until whatever happened offscreen with her and Colin/Armsmaster/Defiant, her creator’s restrictions prevented her from ever being in two places at once.
      If a single passenger can connect to Prism’s mind in all three of her bodies, or connect Taylor’s mind with thousands or millions of bugs, or connect Genesis’s mind to a body that didn’t exist five minutes ago, I think it’s plausible for one to follow Dragon’s mind when she moves from one system to another on her own.

  35. It’s rather too bad that Dragon has retaliated in this way, in my opinion. In past arks where she made an appearance, I liked her character and thought she might be a decent role model for Taylor. But I guess this makes any chances of that slimmer. I don’t know, I just really wanted to have the two of them just have a nice long talk and discuss their issues.

    In addition, I can’t believe Taylor asked about Dinah! Bad move there. What are the chances of Coil actually going through with it anyways, and besides, it makes him angry at Skitter which is hands down a bad thing. Around Coil, she maybe shouldn’t stick her neck out so much.

    Every time I think ‘Things can’t get any worse’, what do they do?
    Get a hell of a lot worse. UGH this book is so good!

  36. About time Coil stick with his bargain! If Taylor could have custody over Dinah, Coil wouldn’t even have to worry about her betrayed anymore.

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