Gestation 1.6: Armsmaster

Source material: Worm, Gestation 1.6
Originally blogged: January 31 – February 4, 2017


Let’s do this thing!

I think I mostly covered my expectations for this in the End of Gestation 1.5 post – we’re probably sticking around to see Taylor (Worm?) meet a member of the Protectorate, but it’s also a possibility that she heeds Tattletale’s advice and runs off, in which case this chapter will probably be Taylor dealing with the gravity of what she just went through.

All I can do is what the late Robert Jordan would tell his fans to do: Read and find out!


I heard the cape arrive on his souped up motorcycle.

Pfft, why did I assume he’d be flying?

I didn’t want to be seen fleeing the scene of a fight, and risk being labeled one of the bad guys by yet anotherperson, but I wasn’t about to get closer to the street either, in case Lung was feeling better. Since there was nowhere to go, I just stayed put. Just resting felt good.

Yeah, I kind of figured staying put would be the safer option too. You’ll be more likely to be taken for a villain if you actlike a villain.

Plus, if this encounter goes well and the Protectorate learns about her now, including that she’s a good guy, it might help her in later situations.

If you’d asked me just a few hours ago about how I thought I would feel meeting a big name superhero, I would have used words like excited and giddy. The reality was that I was almost too exhausted to care.

Yeah, it’s been a hard night.


It looked as though he flew up onto the roof, but the six-foot long weapon the man held kind of jerked as he landed.

…I guess that was good timing for a joke about a pole-vaulting superhuman with a Pinocchio nose. [WordPress version; bottom]

I was pretty sure I saw the tines of a grappling hook retreating back into the end of the weapon.

Uh, never mind?

So this was what Armsmaster looked like in person, I thought.

> Armsmaster: Retrieve arms from disaster stone.

Multifandom references aside, it sounds like this guy has control over a large variety of weapons? Perhaps a many-in-one kind of deal, seeing as I’m not sure why else a grappling hook launcher would need to be six feet long and described as a “weapon”.


The largest superhero organization in the world was the Protectorate, spanning Canada and the States, with ongoing talks about including Mexico in the deal.

Oh wow, that’s a lot wider an area of influence than I’d gotten the impression of. I thought they were just the largest superhero team in Brockton Bay.

But here we are, with the headquarters of the largest superhero organization in the world in the city.

It was a government sponsored league of superheroes with a base in each ‘cape city’.

Hm, maybe not the main headquarters, then.

That is, they had a team set up in each city with a sizable population of heroes and villains. Brockton Bay’s team was officially ‘The Protectorate East-North-East’, and were headquartered in the floating, forcefield-shrouded island that you could see from the Boardwalk.

Hm, I knew Brockton Bay was in the northeast, but “east-north-east”? I guess “west-north-east” would be further inland.

This guy, Armsmaster, was the guy in charge of the local team.

Oh man, Taylor isn’t just meeting a local member, she’s meeting the local boss!

Here’s to not getting mistaken for a villain.

When the core group of the top Protectorate members from around Canada and the States assembled in that classic ‘v’ formation for the photo shoots, Armsmaster was one of the guys in the wings. This was a guy who had his own action figures. Poseable Armsmaster with interchangeable Halberd parts.

What are the odds that Taylor owns one of those? Pretty damn high, I’d say.

“Halberd” is capitalized and has interchangeable parts. I think I was on to something with the multiweapon theory.


He really did look like a superhero, not like some guy in a costume. It was an important distinction.

Yes, it is. I wouldn’t be able to say exactly what makes the difference so obvious, but there is an obvious difference.

He wore body armor, dark blue with silver highlights, had a sharply angled v-shaped visor covering his eyes and nose. With only the lower half of his face exposed, I could see a beard trimmed to trace the edges of his jaw. If I had to judge, with only the lower half of his face to go by, I’d guess he was in his late twenties or early thirties.

Armor this cool is one of those things that make the difference.


His trademark and weapon was his Halberd, which was basically a spear with an axe head on the end, souped up with gadgets and the kind of technology you generally only saw in science fiction.

Called it!

He was the kind of guy who appeared on magazine covers and did interviews on TV, so you could find almost anything about Armsmaster through various media, short of his secret identity.

Honestly, at that point it’s a wonder fans and/or villains (the difference is minuscule) haven’t crashed through his civilian front door yet.

I knew his weapon could cut through steel as though it was butter, that it had plasma injectors for stuff that the blade alone couldn’t cut and that he could fire off directed electromagnetic pulses to shut down forcefields and mechanical devices.

Sweet. The EMPs in particular.


“You gonna fight me?” He called out.“I’m a good guy,” I said.

Good, get that on the table as soon as possible. Bug armor or no bug armor, you don’t want that halberd swung at you.

Stepping closer to me, he tilted his head, “You don’t look like one.”

Why do so many bad guys in fiction insist on dark outfits, anyway? It’s like Dark Is Evil is ingrained into all of their minds, and even then that doesn’t cover the ones that think they’re good guys.

That stung, especially coming from him. It was like Michael Jordan saying you sucked at basketball.

Honestly, I think it would sting me less if the person saying I was bad at something was a known pro, because then it would be relative to their standards.

Then again, it would be said with more… authority behind the remark than if the one saying it was only a bit better than me. And if it’s someone I look up to and want approval from, then ow.

“That’s… not intentional,” I responded, not a little defensively, “I was more than halfway done putting the costume together when I realized it was already looking more edgy than I’d intended, and I couldn’t do anything about it by then.”

Heh. Can’t fight the Edge™, Taylor. Can’t fight the Edge™.


There was a long pause. Nervously, I turned my eyes from that opaque visor. I glanced at his chest emblem, a silhouette of his visor in blue against a silver background, and was struck with the ridiculous thought that I had once owned a pair of underpants with his emblem on the front.

Pffftahaha

now say that


“You’re telling the truth,” he said. It was a definitive statement, which startled me. I wanted to ask how he knew, but I wasn’t about to do or say anything that might change his mind.

When your job is to fight crime and supervillains, you gotta learn how to tell when someone is telling the truth or lying, even through a mask. Especially when it’s about whether they’re friend or foe.

He approached closer, looking me over as I sat there with my arms around my knees, he asked, “You need a hospital?”“No,” I said. “Don’t think so. I’m as surprised as you are.”

As I’ve said a couple times now, getting out alive from the fight against Lung was a success, even if she didn’t do it all on her own.

Getting out alive, mostly unharmed despite several flames to the chest and with Lung in a severely beaten state? That’s a triumph. I’m making a note here, huge success.

“You’re a new face,” he said.“I haven’t even come up with a name yet. You know how hard it is to come up with a bug-themed name that doesn’t make me sound like a supervillain or a complete dork?”

I like how Taylor has slipped into a slightly more banter-like tone with Armsmaster, whereas she barely said anything at all to the doggy squad. Wolf gang? Mozart?

She’s beginning to open up a bit, and I think she’s right to do so now that she’s talking to a known good guy who could annihilate her if he thought she were bad.

He chuckled, and it sounded warm, very normal, “I wouldn’t know. I got into the game early enough that I didn’t have to worry about missing out on all of the good names.”

Armsmaster is a pretty good name for someone with a lot of weapon-type gadgets. Certainly worse ones he could’ve picked.

Such as Weapons Guy.

(Although Armsmaster does make me think of Cucumber Quest’s “disaster masters”, which are usually quite goofy.)


There was a pause in the conversation. I suddenly felt awkward. I don’t know why, but I admitted to him, “I almost died.”

“we’re probably sticking around to see Taylor (Worm?) meet a member of the Protectorate, but it’s also a possibility that ((…)) this chapter will probably be Taylor dealing with the gravity of what she just went through.”

both


“That’s why we have the Ward program,” he said. There was no judgement in his tone, no pressure. Just a statement.

Um, what? Healthcare ward for superheroes? Psychiatrist arrangement for dealing with repeated near-death experiences?

I nodded, more to give a response than out of any agreement with the answer. The Wards were the under-eighteen subdivision of the Protectorate, and Brockton Bay did have its own team of Wards, with the same naming convention as the Protectorate; The Wards East-North-East.

A junior team! Is he inviting Taylor to consider joining?

I had considered applying to join, but the notion of escaping the stresses of high school by flinging myself into a mess of teenage drama, adult oversight and schedules seemed self-defeating.

Hm. Intradasting. I guess if you’re a Ward, you don’t have to go to school, but the Protectorate arranges something more heroism-compatible to make up for it?


“You get Lung?” I asked, to change the subject from the Wards.

I wonder if she’s going to risk telling Armsmaster about the Mozart kids, now that he’s aware that she’s not a bad guy.

I was pretty sure that he was obligated to try and induct new heroes into either the Protectorate or the Wards, depending on their age, to promote the whole agenda of organized heroes who are accountable for their actions, and I really didn’t want him to get on my case about joining.

Sounds like the Protectorate is way less picky than I’d imagined.

“Lung was unconscious, beaten and battered when I arrived. I pumped him full of tranquilizers to be safe and temporarily restrained him under a steel cage I welded to the sidewalk. I’ll pick him up on my way back.”

Wow. Did he get the steel cage out of the Halberd somehow?

“Good,” I said, “With him in jail, I’ll feel like I accomplished something today. Only reason I started the fight was because I overheard him telling his men to shoot some kids. Only realized later that he was talking about some other villains.”

So she does tell him about that, but how about the fact that they came her to the rescue and thought she too was a villain?

Armsmaster turned to look at me. So I told him, walking him through the fight in general, the arrival of the teenage bad guys, and their general descriptions.

Huh. Yeah, she’s not holding back anything at this point, is she.


“These guys. They knew I was coming?”I nodded, once. As much respect as I had for Armsmaster, I wasn’t in much of a mood to repeat myself.

Fair enough.

“That explains a lot,” he said, staring off into the distance. After a few moments, he went on to explain, “They’re slippery. On those few occasions we do manage to get in a toe to toe fight with them, they either win, or they get away more or less unscathed, or both. We know so little about them. Grue and Hellhound were working on their own before they joined the group, so there’s some information there, but the other two? They’re nonentities. If the girl Tattletale has some way of detecting or tracking us, it would go a long way towards explaining why they’re doing as well as they are.”

Interesting. Sounds like they can really handle themselves in a fight, even against multiple capes.

I guess this calls Regent into question, too. So far, he’s the most mysterious one – basically all I really know is his name and outfit.

Grue is also a bit of a mystery to me. We’ve seen a bit of personality from him, but we know nothing about powers or anything like that.


It kind of surprised me to hear one of the top level heroes admitting to being anything less than perfectly on top of things.

Taylor is open and honest towards Arms, and now he’s open and honest towards her in return. I like this – they’re on the same side, no need to be overly secretive.

“It’s funny,” I said, after a few moment’s thought, “They didn’t seem that hardcore. Grue said they were kind of panicking when they heard Lung was coming after them, and they were casually joking around while the fight was going on. Grue was making fun of Regent.”

They may be villains, but they’re also kids.

Kids that ride around on hellhounds and have gang bosses demanding their murder.


“They said all this in front of you?” he asked.I shrugged, “I think they thought I was helping them out. The way Tattletale talked, I think she thought I was a bad guy too or something.” With a touch of bitterness, I said, “Dunno, I guess it was the costume that led them to that assumption.”

Y’know, I wonder if Lung thought so too.

Especially considering he fell victim to a typically villainous power combined with one of Taylor’s more sadistic streaks.

“Could you have taken them in a fight?” Armsmaster asked me.I started to shrug, and winced a little. I was feeling a little sore in the shoulder, where I’d tumbled on the roof after being blasted by Lung’s flames.

On one hand, she was just coming down from the emotional and physical rollercoaster that was the Lung battle. She was exhausted. Additionally, Grue, Regent and to some degree Tattletale are still wildcards power-wise.

On the other hand, she wasn’t actually seriously hurt, her power doesn’t actually require her body so much as her mind, and these guys don’t have as bug-proof armor as Lung did – to our knowledge, anyway.

I said, “Like you said, we don’t know a lot about them, but I think that girl with the dogs-”“Hellhound,” Armsmaster said.

or as she would have it, Bitch

“I think she could have kicked my ass on her own, so no. I probably couldn’t have fought them.”

Yeah, that’s the thing, her beasts went to town on Lung. They’d pose a serious risk.


“Then count it as a good thing that they got the wrong impression,” Armsmaster said.“I’ll try to look at it that way,” I said, struck by how he easily he was able to employ the whole ‘take a negative and turn it into a positive’ mindset I’d been trying to maintain. I envied that.

Heh, nice going.

“That a girl,” he said, “And while we’re looking forward, we need to decide where we go from here.”My heart sank. I knew he was going to bring up the Wards again.

“Who gets the credit for Lung?”

I like this guy.


I think I’ll call a pause, because multitasking the liveblog and watching Pirates of the Caribbean with my parents isn’t working.

When that’s done, I intend to play some Minecraft (Ender Dragon battle on a server I play on); then it’s bed time, so I probably won’t unpause tonight.

See you tomorrow!

[session end]


half-man-half-lime:

What’s up, Brockton Bay, what is UP?! It’s ya boy ARMSMASTER comin’ up on you LIVE from THE DOCKS!

tumblr_okpspzb9FA1w3ic6qo2_1280


mugasofer:

I think you’re picturing the location of the Docks wrong. [My understanding is that] they do border onto the bay, they’re just further away from the city center than the Boardwalk.

Hmm, maybe. The impression I got was that the Boardwalk ended up in-between the Docks and the sea, but this makes sense. Probably more so.


thats-rough-buddy:

What made you think the Wards don’t have to go to school?

I got that from the phrase “escaping the stresses of high school”, but I suppose that could also just mean it’d be like a spare time activity taking her mind of school drama. (Which I guess it kind of already is, in part?)


[session 2]

Alright, I’ve been a bit busy for a few days, but I’m still here. Let’s finish Gestation 1.6!


“Who gets the credit for Lung?”Caught off guard, I looked up at him. I started to speak, but he held up his hand.

“Hear me out. What you’ve done tonight is spectacular. You played a part in getting a major villain into custody. You just need to consider the consequences.”

If Taylor publicly takes credit for Lung, she’ll become a known figure, with all the dangers that involves. She has her secret identity to fall back on – for now – should she decide to quit the superhero gig, but that’s not going to stop villains from doing their best to kill her while she’s in costume.

“Consequences,” I muttered, even as the word spectacular rang in my ears.

Heh. I like how she manages to catch and pay attention to the point even while somewhat distracted by the high praise of a role model.


“Lung has an extensive gang throughout Brockton Bay and neighboring cities. More than that, he has two superpowered flunkies. Oni Lee and Bakuda.”

Ah right, there’s another consequence of taking public credit – she becomes the target of any revenge Lung’s goons may seek.

I shook my head, “I know about Oni Lee, and Grue mentioned fighting him. I’ve never heard of Bakuda.”

The name makes me think of “barracuda”, but I’m pretty sure that’s unrelated.

I’m guessing Bakuda is going to be a bit more fierce than Oni Lee.

Armsmaster nodded, “Not surprising. She’s new. What we know about her is limited.

A “she”, huh? It’s a little surprising to find a woman among the Azn Bad Boys, but I don’t think Lung would really mind it if she’s just strong and loyal enough.

She made her first appearance and demonstration of her powers by way of a drawn out terrorism campaign against Cornell University.

Hm, interesting. Perhaps this one really is in a Carrie-esque situation?

Lung apparently recruited her and brought her to Brockton Bay after her plans were foiled by the New York Protectorate. This is… something of a concern.”

It’s a good thing he mentions here that she’s from New York, because I can’t name five American universities and definitely wouldn’t have been able to place Cornell University as not being in Brockton Bay.

Question is, though, why? Why was Lung interested in hiring Ba(rra)kuda from out of town? Is it about her motivations, her powers, or both?


“What are her powers?”

Do you know?

I like the dynamic so far, where characters’ power sets aren’t automatically fully known to the public. Like how, even with all the research Taylor did, she wasn’t aware of Lung’s super hearing.

Or how, for all the fighting the Protectorate does against the Mozart band (seriously, I hope a group name for these pops up), they aren’t fully aware of how Tattletale is able to know they’re coming.

It adds a touch of realism and a lot of room for twists.

“Are you aware of the Tinker classification?”

Hm. Sounds like a tech-based hero, like Armsmaster himself, but there are a few different and/or more specific things it could mean too.

Maybe it’s specifically someone who builds contraptions in battle, like the Engineer in Team Fortress?


I started to shrug, but remembered my sore shoulder and nodded instead. It was probably more polite, too. I said, “Covers anyone with powers that give them an advanced grasp of science. Lets them make technology years ahead of its time. Ray guns, ice blasters, mechanized suits of armor, advanced computers.”

Ah, nice, super science.

I find it interesting that it doesn’t cover people with a pre-existing advanced grasp of science who also happen to have powers (that may or may not be the result of such science), such as Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards. This is specifically for people who are literally superhumanly skilled scientists.


“Close enough,” Armsmaster said. It struck me he would be a Tinker, if his Halberd and armor were any indication. That, or he got his stuff from someone else.

So the description was slightly inaccurate or incomplete in a thus far unspecified way. Might want to keep that in mind.

Also, looks like I wasn’t wrong when I suggested Armsmaster as an example of a Tinker because he’s tech-based. Though surely making advanced equipment doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a superpower giving you the ability to do that, right??

He elaborated, “Well, most Tinkers have a specialty or a special trick. Something they’re particualrly good at or something that they can do, which other Tinkers can’t. Bakuda’s specialty is bombs.”

I swear if the Japanese name for the Bomberman games is Bakuda or some derivative… Ah, no, it romanizes to Bonbaman.

Still, after Lung = Dragon, I expect Bakuda to mean something related to bombs.

(I’m not going to go look up the meanings of the names – it’s more fun to guess.)


I stared at him. A woman with a power that let her make bombs that were technologically decades ahead of their time. No wonder he saw it as a concern.

And she used this for terrorism against a single university? Sheesh. And now Lung wants her help.

This does not bode well.

“Now I want you to consider the danger involved in taking the credit for Lung’s capture. Without a doubt, Oni Lee and Bakuda will be looking to accomplish two goals. Freeing their boss and getting vengeance on the one responsible. I suspect you’re now aware… these are scary people. Scarier in some ways than their boss.”

Doesn’t bode well for the prison wall either.

A teleporter and a bomber are practically a perfect team for executing a prison break from the outside.


“You’re saying I shouldn’t take the credit,” I said.

He’s certainly suggesting it, but I suspect he wants you to make the choice yourself.

“I’m saying you have two options. Option one is to join the Wards, where you’ll have support and protection in the event of an altercation.

Hah! Turns out this line of conversation did lead back to “join the Wards” after all!

Option two is to keep your head down. Don’t take the credit. Fly under the radar.”

This seems a lot more like Taylor’s style, though. Staying under the radar is what she tries to do in school, and it’s what she tried to do during the fight against Lung. She’s also a girl who thinks her safety through.

On the other hand, she dreams of being a superhero, and for her to truly be one she’ll have to face the fact that she’s going to make enemies, sooner or later.


I wasn’t prepared to make a decision like that. Usually, I went to sleep at eleven or so, waking up at six thirty to get ready for my morning run. At my best guess, it was somewhere between one and two in the morning.

And you just took down a dangerous dragon villain almost singlehandedly.

I was emotionally exhausted from the highs and lows of the evening, and I could barely wrap my head around the complications and headaches that would come from joining the Wards, let alone having two insanely dangerous sociopaths coming after me.

Give this bug a break.

On top of that, I wasn’t so ignorant as to miss Armsmaster’s motives. If I opted to not take the credit for Lung’s capture, Armsmaster would, I was sure. I didn’t want to get on the bad side of a major player.

I mean, Armsmaster seems nice, but…

In either case, I don’t think you should let him take credit just because he possibly wants the credit. That’s a whole other can of worms than the issue of your own safety.


“Please keep my involvement in Lung’s capture secret,” I told him, painfully disappointed to have to say it, even as I knew it made the most sense.

Well then.

I know I said, or at least implied, that this made the most sense for what I know of her character so far, but that last reason is kind of rubbing me the wrong way. I really hope she’s misjudging Armsmaster’s ego.

He smiled, which I hadn’t expected.

I mean, if you suspect that he wants to take credit for his own ego’s sake, why wouldn’t he smile when you let him?

Actually, even without that possible motivation, it makes sense that he’d be happy about you following his suggestion for your own safety.

He had a nice smile. It made me think that he could win the hearts of a lot of women, whatever the top two-thirds of his face looked like.

(I kind of hope he’s gay, just to make this statement retroactively ironic.)

I feel like Armsmaster could be played by someone like Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp or Robert Downey, Jr.

…some of these options may be influenced by me watching a Pirates of the Caribbean movie right before blogging, and the third by a certain armored superhero. I swear I was thinking about the beards, facial structures and demeanors, though!


“I think you’ll look back and see this was a smart decision,” Armsmaster said, turning to walk to the other end of the roof, “Call me at the PHQ if you’re ever in a pinch.” He stepped off the edge of the roof and dropped out of sight.

See ya, Armsy!

Call me if you’re ever in a pinch. He’d been saying, without openly admitting, that he owed me one. He would take the lion’s share of the credit for Lung’s capture, but he owed me one.

Hrm. I still don’t like it, but this does strengthen the odds that Taylor is right about him.

Oh well, we all have flaws, and they make for better characters!

Before I was all the way down the fire escape, I heard the thrum of his motorcycle, presumably carrying Lung towards a life of confinement. I could hope.

I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Lung, especially considering what we’ve learned of his lackeys in this chapter. In fact, I think it would be more satisfying if he came back after Taylor has developed more as a hero and she takes him down without the kind of help she had this time.

Lung has the type advantage, like the rival in a Pokémon game.


It would take me a half hour to get home. On the way, I would stop and pull on the sweatshirt and jeans I had hidden. I knew my dad went to sleep even earlier than I did, and he slept like a log, so I had nothing to worry about as far as wrapping up the night.

I guess we’re still putting off meeting the parents. Probably for the best, though, this has been quite a night for Taylor and she really doesn’t need her father confronting her about coming home at 2 AM with bruises right now.

I notice she’s not saying anything about her mother in this paragraph… Divorced parents, perhaps? Might explain the mother-dad distinction from 1.1.

It could have gone worse. Strange as it sounds, those words were a security blanket I wrapped around myself to keep myself from dwelling on the fact that tomorrow was a school day.

Oh boy, going back to high school hell. Next chapter, I presume. I do wonder how the experience of fighting Lung could change her outlook on the Bitch situation, so maybe it’s not all bad.

[For clarity’s sake: Past me was referring to the bullies here, not Bitch the character.]


End of Gestation 1.6

Well, then! We met the local leader of the Protectorate – Armsmaster, a guy who seems nice but may have a bit of an ego (and also sounds like he belongs in Cucumber Quest, judging by the name) – and learned quite a bit about the Protectorate itself.

We also got the Lung situation neatly wrapped up – for now – but were also warned about two potential future threats, one of whom we already knew about. The other, a Bomberwoman who goes by Bakuda, appears to be quite dangerous, and together, she and Oni Lee make the perfect team to bust someone out of prison. This may not be the last we’ve seen of Lung.

And, finally, Taylor is going home. It’s been a long night. Four chapters long, to be exact. Tomorrow brings a new day – a school day. Maybe this experience will change how Taylor approaches her conflict with the Bitches.

I’ve said it a few times by now, but this time I really think the next chapter might be 2.1. Then again, I don’t know what level of detail the arcs are divided at yet, so Gestation 1.7 is still a possibility.

We’ll see!

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