Agitation 3.3: Planning Phase

Source material: Worm, Agitation 3.3

Originally blogged: April 18, 2017


I’m fairly sure I conveyed my hype for this chapter quite thoroughly at the end of 3.2. The Undersiders are going on their first mission since Taylor joined, which can only mean we’re in for some good shit. Undersiders in practice, Taylor having to go against her morals to keep up her facade, quite possibly a member of the Protectorate spotting Taylor working with the villains…

I kinda just want to get started!


“No,” Brian intoned, “Such a bad idea.”

So is this following right from where we left off, or is there some other detail Brian is disagreeing with?

Lisa still had the phone in her hand. Bitch had arrived just behind her, and stood in stark contrast to Lisa’s jeans, sweater and tight ponytail, with an army jacket, and virtually no attention paid to her hair. The littlest of the dogs, the one-eyed, one eared terrier, trailed after her.

“Come on,” Lisa wheedled, “It’s a rite of passage for dastardly criminals like us.”

The first option, then. Also hi Rachel, how convenient of you to show up right now!

I like the detail that Taylor currently thinks of the other Undersiders as “Brian, Lisa, Alec and Bitch”. By not using Rachel’s legal name, Taylor gives me the impression that she doesn’t yet see Rachel as a normal human person in the same way as the other three.

“Robbing a bank is moronic. We’ve been over this,” Brian closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, “You know what the average haul is for hitting a bank?”

Lisa paused, “Twenty thou?”

That’s not a bad sum, really, but is she right?

“Exactly.

Of course she is right. She’d know even if she’d never even considered robbing a bank, because fuck you she’s Tattletale.

It’s not millions like you see people getting away with in the movies. Banks don’t keep a lot of loose cash on hand, so we’d be pulling in less than we would for most other jobs.

We still don’t really know what kind of other jobs they do. Maybe art thefts and such?

Lisa has a point – it’s basically a criminal rite of passage – but it is a risk so I can understand Brian’s concern for getting more than just fun out of it.

And then there’s Rachel “no sharey the money plox” Lindt over there who hasn’t said anything yet.

Account for cost and the fact that this is Brockton fucking Bay, where banks have a little more reason to keep the amount of cash in their vaults to a minimum, and we’d be bringing in twelve to sixteen thou. Divide five ways and it’s what, two or three thousand bucks each?”

I suppose that’s reasonable when you’ve got plenty of superpowered villains around who might be interested in teleporting or exploding or wall-phasing their way right into the vault for some quick cash.

Also I’d like to point out that three thousand is still higher than their monthly salary.


“I could do with an extra three thousand dollars to spend,” Alec said, putting down his game controller and shifting his position on the couch to follow the conversation better.

Oh shit Alec is focused

“On what?” Brian asked. When Alec shrugged, Brian sighed and explained, “It’s a horrible payoff for the amount of risk involved. There’s three big superhero teams in this city. Figure there’s another dozen heroes that fly solo, and we’re almost guaranteed to get into a fight.”

True, a fight is almost guaranteed.

To be awesome.

“So?” Bitch spoke for the first time, “We win fights. We won before we had her.” She raised her chin in my direction as she said that last word.

Is that missing an “at least” or is it an acknowledgement of Taylor’s ability and usefulness to the team? I’m leaning towards the latter.

“We won because we picked our battles. We wouldn’t have that option if we were cooped up in the bank and waiting for them to come to us, letting them decide how and where the fight happened.”

Good point. They’ve implied before (as early as 1.7, but again later) that one of the main reasons they haven’t been caught was that Tattletale’s power let her know who was on their way and when so that the battles could be avoided if necessary.

Lisa nodded and smiled as he spoke. I thought for a second that she was going to say something, but she didn’t.

She concedes the point, it seems, and probably not without a little touch of pride in her ability.


Brian continued, getting pretty passionate as he ranted, “We won’t be able to slip away like we have when things got a little out of control in the past. Can’t avoid the fight if we want to get away with anything worth taking. The bank is going to have layers of protection. Iron bars, vault doors, whatever. Even with your power, Lise, there’s a limit to how fast we can get through those.

High risk, high difficulty, low reward. Brian has a point.

Add the time we have to spend managing hostages and making a safe exit, and I pretty much guarantee that there will be time for a cape to get wind of the robbery and slow us down even more.”

Honestly, with how persuasive Brian is being here, it’s looking like we might in fact not get the bank robbery tonight.

But without it, how would the plot progress? Sooner or later Taylor’s gonna have to join in on a job, that much I’m sure of. What would be the point of hyping up for one of those only to spend the next chapter on saying “no, not that one”?


Alec said, “I kind of want to do it anyways. Hitting a bank gets you on the front page. It’s huge for our rep.”

“The runt is right,” Bitch said.

As much as I’m pleased with seeing a good argument in favor, I’m not sure front page is actually that much of a good thing, in a city with this much contention between villains and this many heroes going after the high-profile targets. It would probably be safer to stay low.

Brian grumbled, “Not fucking up is better for our reputation in the long run.” His deeper voice was really good for grumbling.

Hehe.

Alec looked at me, “What do you think?”

I’d almost forgotten I was a part of the discussion. The last thing I wanted was to rob a bank. Hostages could get hurt.

Ah, yeah, that would be a concern for Taylor. I keep forgetting about the hostages.

The fact that it would potentially put me on the front page of the paper wasn’t a high point, either, if I ever wanted to drop the supervillain ruse and become a hero in good standing.

That sounds intriguingly hypothetical… 😉

I ventured, “I think Brian makes a good case. It seems reckless.”

Bitch snorted. I think I saw Alec roll his eyes.

Bitch: “And here I was rooting for ya, kid.”

Alec: “Of course, she’s just like Brian.”


I get the sense that after the beatdown back in Insinuation, Rachel has gained a sort of grudging respect for Taylor. Taylor doesn’t seem to return it yet, though.


Lisa leaned forward, “He does make good points, but I have better ones. Hear me out?” The rest of us turned our attention to her, though Brian had a frown that made it seem like it would take a lot to convince him.

What do you know?

“Ok, so Brian said similar stuff before, before we hit that casino a few weeks ago. So I was kind of expecting this. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. The boss wants us to do a job at a very specific time. I got the sense he was willing to offer a fair bit if we went the extra mile, and I negotiated a pretty good deal.

Remaining mystery: Why does the boss want them to do these jobs? Is it perhaps as a diversion tactic?

“The bank robbery was my idea, and he liked it.

So the main thing was the timing, it didn’t matter as much to the boss precisely what they did. I think that supports the diversion theory.

According to him, the Protectorate is busy with an event on Thursday, just outside of town. That’s part of the reason the timing is so important. If we act then, there’s almost no chance we’ll have to deal with them.

Hmm, that’s interesting. It means the boss most likely has inside knowledge of the Protectorate, which is something I was thinking about already: What if the boss actually works for the Protectorate in some capacity?

Hell, what if the boss were to be Armsmaster. Wouldn’t that be a twist!

If we hit the Bay Central, downtown-”

“That’s the biggest bank in Brockton Bay,” I interrupted her, half-disbelieving.

“So everything I said about them having security and being careful is doubly true,” Brian added.

Damn, aiming high, huh?

If we hit the Bay Central, downtown,” Lisa repeated herself, ignoring us, “Then we’re hitting a location just a mile away from Arcadia High, where most of the Wards go to school. Given jurisdictions, New Wave won’t be able to jump on us without stepping on the Wards’ toes, which pretty much guarantees we go up against the team of junior superheroes. With me so far?”

We all nodded or murmured agreement.

I take it the Wards aren’t joining in on the Protectorate event.

This is a pretty clever way to make things more balanced, age-wise. Good job, Wildbow!


“Figure that’s happening in the middle of the school day, and they won’t all be able to slip away to stop a robbery without drawing attention. People know the Wards are attending Arcadia, they just don’t know who they are. So everyone’s constantly watching for that.

The hardships of being a teen superhero.

Since they can’t have all six or seven of the same kids disappear from class every time the Wards go off to foil a crime without giving away the show, chances are good that we’d go up against a couple of their strongest members, or one of the strongest with a group of the ones with less amazing powers. We can beat them.”

So the numbers will likely be somewhat even too, then? Maybe even advantageous to the Undersiders.

At this point it’s almost certain that the robbery isn’t happening in this chapter, but it may well begin in the next one. Then again, it’s two days away (it’s currently Tuesday, the Protectorate is busy on Thursday), so plenty can happen between now and then.

It might even be a different arc.

“Okay,” Brian begrudged, “I’ll accept that we’d probably do alright in those circumstances, but-”

Lisa interrupted him, “I also got the boss to agree to match us two for one on the haul. We bring in fifteen grand, he pays us thirty.

Oh damn, that’s a lot. Suddenly that’s nine grand each rather than three.

Or he gives us enough money to bring our total up to twenty five, whichever is more in the end.

So even if things go awry and they don’t get more than $8.3k from the heist, they’ll at the very least get $5k each. Dayum.

So we could walk away with two thousand dollars and he’d pay us twenty three thou. So as long as we don’t wind up in jail, we’re guaranteed five thousand dollars apiece, bare minimum.”

Brian’s eyes widened, “That’s insane. Why would he do that?”

Good flipping question.

And,” Lisa grinned, “He’ll cover all our costs, just this once. Equipment, information, bribes if we want ’em.”

This guy really wants them to do something on Thursday.


“Why?” I echoed Brian’s earlier question, disbelieving. Lisa was throwing around sums of money that I couldn’t even wrap my head around. I had never even had more than five hundred dollars in my bank account.

The thing about dollars is that pretty much every value with less than five or six digits sounds relatively low to me at first sight unless I readjust to the currency. A dollar is 8.51 Norwegian kroner as of this writing, so if I fail to readjust properly, everything sounds about an order of magnitude less expensive than it should be.

Even while aware of the fact that it’s a different currency, “five hundred dollars” doesn’t sound like much more than “five hundred kroner” unless I actually think about the conversions (not necessarily in detail though).

But in fact, 550 dollars (I applied inflation from 2011 to now) currently converts to 4678 kroner and that sounds like quite a bit more. It certainly sounds a lot more reasonable as a higher limit for how much a 15-year-old girl from an American lower-middle class family might have available at a given time.

(By the way, the singular of the Norwegian currency is 1 krone.)


“Because he’s sponsoring us and it stands to reason he doesn’t want to fund a team of nobodies. We manage this, we won’t be nobodies. That, and he really wants us to do a job at that particular time.”

Yeahh, I kinda noticed.

Seems Lisa supports Alec’s line of thinking with the front page story.

There was a few moments of silence as everyone considered the deal. I was frantically trying to think of a way to try to convince these guys it was a bad idea. A bank robbery could get me arrested. Worse, it could lead to me or a bystander getting hurt or killed.

I mean, at least you have some support on your side. Or had. Might’ve been swayed by Lisa’s new information.

Brian beat me to it,

Apparently not.

“The risk to reward still isn’t great. Five grand each for hitting what may well be the most fortified location in Brockton Bay and an almost guaranteed confrontation with the Wards?”

True, it doesn’t sound good when you put it like that.

“Second most fortified location,” Lisa countered, “The Protectorate Headquarters is the first.”

Trust her, she knows. Right?


“Fair point,” Brian said, “But my argument stands.”

“It’ll be more than five grand for each of us, I guarantee you,” Lisa told him, “It’s the biggest bank in Brockton Bay. It’s also the hub of cash distribution for the entire county. Said cash gets transferred in and out by armored cars on a regular schedule-”

“So why don’t we hit one of the cars?” Alec asked.

Alec swoops in with a good point!

“They have ride-alongs or aerial cover from various members of the Wards and the Protectorate, so we’d be caught in a fight with another cape from minute one.

Hm, fair.

Same problems that Brian’s talking about, as far as getting caught up in a fight, difficulty accessing the money before shit goes down, yadda yadda. Anyways, the Brockton Bay Central has cars coming in twice a week, and leaving four times a week. We hit on a Thursday just after noon, and it should be the best day and time for the sheer size of the take. Only way we’re getting away with less than thirty thousand is if we fuck up. With what the boss is offering, that’s ninety thou.”

Dayum.

She folded her arms.

Brian sighed, long and loud, “Well, you got me, I guess. It sounds good.”

Aaand there goes Taylor’s pillar of support against the idea.

Lisa turned to Alec. There wasn’t any resistance to be found there. He just said, “Fuck yeah, I’m in.”

So am I! I’m not there, though, so I’ll just spectate.

Bitch didn’t need convincing any more than Alec had. She nodded once and then turned her attention to the scarred little dog.

Then everyone looked at me.

It’s time to decide. Are you going to argue more?

“What would I be doing?” I asked, nervously, hoping to stall or find holes in the plan that I could use to argue against it.

Dude, girl, no, that’s weak. There are plenty of uses for someone with your powers in this job.

Say for example you find some form of flying insect with venom that incapacitates without doing too much actual harm. I don’t know bugs well enough to know if you can find something like that around Brockton Bay, but this is just an example, so let’s say you do. You can then have one of those follow each hostage around and tell them to attack if the hostage tries any funny business. Doing it this way also means you’ll have more control over whether anyone gets seriously hurt.

So Lisa outlined a general plan. Brian made suggestions, good ones, and the plan was adjusted accordingly. I realized with a growing disappointment and a knot of anxiety in my gut that it was almost inevitably going to happen.

Fuck yes.


Arguing against the bank robbery at this point would hurt my undercover operation more than it helped anyone. With that in mind, I began offering suggestions that – I hoped – would minimize the possibility of disaster.

That’s probably a better approach, yeah.

The way I saw it, if I helped things go smoothly, it would help my scheme to get info on the Undersiders and their boss. It would minimize the chance that someone would panic or be reckless and get a civilian hurt. I think I would feel worse if that happened than I would about going to jail.

Yeah, crime that goes successfully tends to be less dangerous than crime that fails, unless the crime is intrinsically violent. That’s why bank officers are trained to comply with robber demands and not try to play hero.

The discussion went on for a while. At one point, Lisa got her laptop, and we debated entrance and exit strategies while she sketched out a map of the bank layout. It was uncanny, seeing her power at work. She copied a satellite image of the bank from a web search into a paint program, then drew over it with thick bold lines to show how the rooms were laid out.

The power to know things is a lot more useful than one might think.

With another search and a single picture of the bank manager standing in front of his desk, she was able to mark out where the manager’s desk was. That wouldn’t have been too amazing, but without pausing, she then went on to mark where the tellers were, as well as the vaults, the vault doors and the enclosed room that held the safe deposit boxes. She noted where the fuse box and air conditioning vents were, but we decided we wouldn’t mess with either of those. That stuff was cool in the movies, but it didn’t do much good in real life.

It works so much better when there’s actually room in the vents for someone to crawl in there. With more realistic vents, it’s significantly trickier.

Besides, this was a robbery, not a heist.

True, that’s an important distinction. There’s no need to go through the vents if you’re gonna let the people at the bank know you’re there anyway.


While we worked, Alec got restless and went to make an early lunch. Of the four of us, I got the impression he had the least to contribute, at least strategically, and that he knew it. I wasn’t sure if he just didn’t have a very tactical mindset or if he just didn’t care that much about the planning stage of things. My assumptions led to the latter, as he seemed more willing to go with the flow than Brian or Lisa.

Makes sense. Seeing how he acts during the actual robbery is going to be interesting.

He brought us a plate of pizza pockets along with assorted sodas, and we ate as we wrapped up the plan.

“Alright,” Brian said, as Lisa shut her laptop, “I think we have a general idea of what we’re doing. We know how we get in, we know who does what when we’re inside, and we know how we want to get out. Keeping in mind that no plan survives contact with the enemy, I think the odds are still pretty good.”

Mr. “The Risk Is Too High” has been appeased.

“So, the enemy,” I said, resisting the urge to wince at the realization that I would be up against good guys, “My only experience fighting in costume… or even just fighting, is against Lung, and that didn’t go well.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Brian said, “You did better than most.”

I remember in 2.6 when Taylor expressed this sentiment, the others reminded her that entire teams of heroes had gone up against the guy without doing any real damage.

Lung was overpowered as hell, Taylor, and you still mostly beat him. The Undersiders just finished the job.

“I’ll rephrase,” I said, “It could have gone better.

That’s fair.

We’re going up against the Wards and they aren’t pushovers.”

If you’ll recall, you were invited to the Wards yourself. Still, that’s a valid point.

Brian nodded, “True. Let’s talk strategy and weaknesses. You know who the Wards are?”

I shrugged, “I’ve researched them. I’ve seen them on TV. That doesn’t mean I know the important stuff.”

You know what they want you to know. I can’t imagine they don’t have PR folks working hard on keeping track of what people know about the Protectorate and the Wards.

That’s why it’s so good to have a backdoor into their secrets in the form of Lisa.


“Sure,” he said, “So let’s go down the list. Team leader: Aegis.

Ooooh

You’d think he has the standard Alexandria package, flight, super strength, invincibility, but that isn’t exactly right. He does fly, but the other two powers work differently than you’d expect. See, he isn’t invincible… he just doesn’t have any weak points.

So a) Aegis is a “he”. I believe I assumed “she” when the name first came up, whoops.

b) Alexandria has the standard package, sort of Superman-esque. Could have something else too.

c) Not invincible, but no weak points. So in other words, all of him is equally strong/vulnerable against attack. I mean, that’s fair.

His entire biology is filled with so many redundancies and reinforcements that you just can’t put him down.

Oh my cod that’s very different

All of a sudden he sounds like a coddamn eldritch monstrosity.

Throw sand in his eyes and he can still see by sensing the light on his skin. Cut his throat and it doesn’t bleed any more than the back of his hand would. The guy’s had an arm cut off and it was attached and working fine the next day. Stab him through the heart and another organ takes over the necessary functions.”

At least it sounds like these things are mostly internal, but still, easily the freakiest power we’ve heard of so far. I love it.

“Not that we’re stabbing anyone through the heart?” I made it a hopeful half-question, half-statement.

“No. Well, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stab Aegis through the heart just to slow him down. If you did it with something big enough.

Heh, that’s one downside to being practically unkillable. It lets the enemy go all out if they’re usually limited by a code against killing.

The guy’s like a zombie, he gets back up within seconds of you beating him down, keeps coming at you until you’re too tired to fight back or you make a mistake.”

“And he’s super strong?” I asked.

Brian shook his head, “Lisa, want to field this one?”

Ah yeah, I forgot to mention that. Brian said that power too worked differently than you’d expect.

She did. “Aegis isn’t strong, but he can abuse his body in ways that makes it seem like he is. He can throw punches hard enough that they’d break his hand, mangle his joints and tear his muscles, and his body just takes it.

It does sound like he has one more power: No pain. Either his freaky biology involves no pain or he’s trained himself to ignore it, which is very hard to do.

He has no reason to hold back,

See? That’s what pain is – a motivation for the body to not do the thing that harms it.

and he doesn’t need to waste any time protecting himself from you. He can also draw on adrenaline… you’ve heard stories like how little old grandmothers lifted cars off the ground to save their grandkids?”

Yeah, that’s pretty intense. If someone can control that, it’s practically super strength.

I nodded.

“That’s adrenaline at work, and Aegis can do that for hours at a stretch. His body doesn’t run out of steam, he doesn’t get tired, he doesn’t exhaust his reserves of adrenaline. He just keeps going.”

Daamn.

Aegis originally considered the name Duracell, but some battery company had taken it.


“So how do you stop him?” I asked.

“You don’t, really,” Brian said, “Best bet is to keep him occupied, keep him sufficiently distracted or stick him somewhere he can’t escape. Trap him in a dumpster and throw it in the river, you can get a few minutes of relief. Which is all harder than it sounds. He’s the team captain, and he isn’t stupid.

He sounds very exhausting to fight against.

Rachel? Sic your dogs on him. A two ton canine or two should keep him out of our hair until we’re ready to run.”

It’s well and good to be able to lift a car off of your body, but most cars don’t jump back into the fray.

“I don’t need to hold back?” Bitch asked, her eyebrow quirked.

“For once, no. Go nuts. Just, you know, don’t kill him.

As I said! The enemy can go all out on you.

Alec? You’re the backup there. Keep an eye on Aegis, see if you can’t use your power to throw him off. Buy enough time for a dog to get its jaws on him and he’s probably out of action.”

“Sure,” Alec said.

Seems pretty solid!


Brian extended two fingers and tapped the second, “Number two. Clockblocker. Let it be known, I fucking hate people who mess with time.”

I’m torn between “fuck no” and “fuck yes”. I’mma go with both, I think.

Now which time power does this person have?

“He stops time, if I remember right?” I inquired, as much to stay in the conversation as to get the clarification.

…of course it would be that. Clockblocker. Blocks the clock. Duh, why didn’t I think of it.

“More specific than that,” Brian said, “He can stop time for whatever he touches. The person or object he touches is basically put on ‘pause’ for anywhere from thirty seconds to ten minutes.

Freeze tag!

So does he choose the duration, is it random, or does it depend on factors relating to the target? Do frozen objects respond to forces like being pushed or falling due to gravity?

Only good thing is that he doesn’t control or know how long it’s going to last.

Okay, that’s handy. For both the Undersiders and Wildbow.

But if he gets his hands on you, you’re out of action. He’ll either stand next to you and wait until you start moving, then touch you again, or he’ll just tie you up in chains and handcuffs so that when his power wears off, you’re already in custody.”

Yo, quit the camping!

“Long story short, he touches you, you’re boned,” Alec said.

With a name like that you might expect him to be the one that keeps people from being boned…

“The upside is that whoever he touches is also untouchable. Can’t be hurt, can’t be moved. Period.

Or in terms I used above, can’t be affected by outer forces. I like that Brian actually answered my questions here immediately. 🙂

I’m guessing this applies to gravity too.

He uses that defensively, and he can do stuff like throw paper or cloth in the air and freeze it in time, making an unbreakable shield.

Yeah. That’s pretty clever, really!

You don’t want to run into something that’s frozen. A car that drove into the side of a piece of paper that Clockblocker had touched would be cut in two before it budged the paper.”

“Noted,” I said.

So that’s what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object. Although a car isn’t exactly unstoppable.

[Hm… What if Siberian were to do it?]


Brian continued, “The third heavy hitter on the Wards is Vista. You know that myth about how the capes that get their powers young are exponentially more powerful? Vista’s one of the kids who keeps the myth alive.

Ooh, that’s very interesting. *makes mental note about that myth*

I suppose it would make sense given that they’ll have had more time to hone their powers, if you compare them at the same age.

Clockblocker is sort of a one trick pony, his trick involves screwing with one of the key forces of our universe, but it’s just one thing. Vista also messes with physics on a fundamental level, but she’s versatile.

Shit.

“Twelve years old, and she has the power to reshape space. She can stretch a building like taffy, so it’s twice as tall, or squeeze two sidewalks closer together so she can cross the street with a single step.”

That is a damn versatile power. Someone shoots at you? Make the space between you and the bullet large enough to step aside long before it arrives. Someone tries to run away? “What do you mean you’re running “away”? You sure seem to be getting closer and closer to me…”

I’m guessing she could make an opening in Clockblocker’s shields, since she’s not actually moving things, just reshaping the space between them.

“Her weakness,” Lisa added, “Is the Manton effect.” She turned her full attention to me, “You know what that is?”

“I’ve heard it mentioned, but I don’t know the details.”

Hmm… no idea.

“Wherever our powers come from, they also came with some limitations. For most of us, there’s a restriction about using our powers on living things. The reach of powers generally stops at the outside of a person or animal’s body.

That’s interesting. Especially considering Alec’s power is in violation of that rule, applying specifically to people’s nervous system. Same with Taylor’s power, really – mass mind control of creatures with simple brains naturally involves using the power on those brains.

Actually, maybe that’s why it’s limited to simple brains. Maybe whatever powers the powers doesn’t consider insects “living things” because their brains are too simple. I really like the concept of magic that doesn’t necessarily follow human ideas.

There’s exceptions for the people with powers that only work on living things, like you, Alec and Rachel.

Ah, yeah, Rachel too. In her case, it’s straight up bodily transformation, which definitely messes with way more internal parts than Alec or Taylor’s powers do.

But the long and short of it is that the Manton effect is why most telekinetics can’t just reach into your chest and crush your heart. Most people who can create forcefields can’t create one through the middle of your body and cut you in two.”

This is a pretty neat concept to introduce, to deal with why people don’t use their powers on their enemies internal bits.

That said, one of my favorite ever powers in a work of fiction, outside of Worm, belongs to Tyki Mikk from D.gray-man. He can choose what things to interact with physically and what to phase right through, and one of his favored ways to kill is to stick his heart right through your chest and literally just pluck your heart out. He’s also generally one of my favorite villains, thanks to that power and his personality.

(Though I will say they took it a little far when he started flying on the basis of making air be solid to his feet.)

“Narwhal can,” Alec cut in.

“I said most,” Lisa said, “Why these restrictions exist is a question nearly as big as where we got our powers in the first place. The capes that can get around the Manton effect are among the strongest of us.”

I’m glad the origin of the powers is being treated as a mystery by the characters now. I think things are going to come together over time to at least imply something about the origin of parahumans towards the end.


I nodded, slowly. I wondered if that had something to do with why Lung didn’t burn himself, but I didn’t want to get further off topic, “And Vista?”

“Vista can stretch and compress space. She can also do funny things with gravity. Thing is, the Manton effect keeps her from stretching or compressing you. It also makes altering an area a lot harder for her if there’s more people in that space. So if all of us are in one room, chances are she won’t be able to affect the whole room.”

Handy.

Wait. Gravity? Interesting.

“But,” Brian added, wiping a string of cheese from the corner of his lip, “Every time we’ve run into her, she’s been faster and overall more powerful with her power, and she’s had new tricks. Every second she’s on the battlefield is a second things become harder for us. We take her down sooner than later. Aegis, Clockblocker, Vista. Those are the ones we’re most likely to run into, and whoever else winds up coming, they’re the ones we have to deal with, or we’re fucked.

I doubt any of these three are not going to show up. If not this time, the remaining one(s) will likely show up later, at least.

“Let’s quickly go through the rest. Kid Win.”

“Tinker,” Lisa said, “Flying skateboard, laser pistols, high tech visor are staples for him. Expect something new, depending on what he’s come up in his workshop. He’s mobile but not that threatening.”

Sounds very eighties.

“Triumph?” Brian said.

“He turned eighteen and graduated to the Protectorate. Don’t have to worry about him,” Lisa said.

Still no idea what this guy does.

“Gallant.”

“Glory Girl’s on and off boyfriend,

Ooooh

he pretends to be a Tinker in the same vein as Kid Win, but I think he just runs around in secondhand armor with a fresh paint job.

Pfft.

So kind of like the Iron Patriot to Iron Man?

His thing is these blasts of light. Getting hit by one feels like a punch in the gut, but the blasts also mess with your feelings. Make you sad, make you scared, ashamed, giddy, whatever. Not that bad unless you get hit by a bunch in a row. Don’t.”

That does tie in nicely with his girlfriend, at least.

“That just leaves Shadow Stalker. Bloodthirsty bitch,” Brian scowled.

Alec explained to me, “She’s got it in her head that Brian is her nemesis. You know, her number one enemy, her dark opposite. She’s been going after him every chance she gets.”

Oh boy.

“She was a solo hero,” Tattletale said, “Vigilante of the night, until she went too far and nearly killed someone, nailing him to a wall with one of her crossbows.

Yikes, and this girl is after Brian?

Better watch out.

The local heroes were called in, she got arrested, and made some sort of deal. Now she’s a probationary member of the Wards, with the condition that she uses tranquilizer bolts and nonlethal ammo for her crossbow.”

I guess that’s helpful at least.

“Which she isn’t,” Brian growled, “At least, not when she comes after me. That arrow she shot through my side had a fucking arrowhead on it.”

…never mind.


Tattletale shook her head, “Her powers and Brian’s sort of have a weird interaction with one another. Shadow Stalker can sort of transform. She becomes extremely lightweight, can pass through glass and thin walls and she’s nearly invisible. Only thing is, while she and the stuff she carries are all wispy in her transformed state, the stuff she shoots with her crossbow only stays that way for a half second.

Wispy, huh? Kind of like Brian’s sensory deprivation gas?

Then the effect wears off and it’s a regular arrow flying towards you. So she can leap between rooftops, almost impossible to see, hard to even touch, and all the while she’s shooting very real arrows at you.”

Very ninja-y. The name Shadow Stalker seems appropriate.

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“Her power doesn’t work well while she’s inside Brian’s darkness, for whatever reason. She isn’t as fast or agile, he can see her better, and she can’t see him in the darkness,” Tattletale told me,

Heh, there’s a certain irony to the darkness making someone more visible.

“So it becomes something of a very intense game of tag, with one very fast person that’s essentially blind and deaf but carrying lethal weapons, while Brian, the other, is trying to take her out without getting shot.”

Everyone else better try to stay away from the blindly shooting crossbow wielder too, then. Especially considering they too will be blinded.

“Let’s avoid that,” Brian said, “It’s too time consuming and she may want to use that kind of scenario to delay us. Just don’t get shot, and if you see her or see the opportunity, inform the team and do your best to take her down without losing sight of a priority target.

Sounds like a fair plan.


“So that’s the plan, then?” I said, “So many maybes.”

“That’s the way these things go, Taylor,” Brian said, his tone a bit terse, “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of covering all the bases.”

Taylor likes to account for everything, but sometimes that doesn’t work out.

“Oh, I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing your plan-” I said.

“Our plan,” Brian interrupted.

I didn’t want to think of it that way. Instead, I said, “I’m a touch nervous, is all.”

“You don’t have to come,” Bitch said, her tone a touch too casual.

Newfound respect? Maybe. Desire to have Taylor along? Not necessarily.

“In all seriousness,” Brian told me, “If you’re having second thoughts…”

“I am,” I admitted, “as well as third thoughts, fourth thoughts, and so on. But I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m coming with.”

That’s the spirit!

“Good,” Brian replied, “Then we’ve got the rest of today and tomorrow to prepare. Taylor? You can meet me on your run first thing. I’ll have a cell phone for you. You can text Lisa with anything you think you’ll need, like those weapons you were talking about. Look up models and brands ahead of time if you want something specific.”

“What’s her number?” I asked.

“I’ll put it in the phone before I give it to you.

Nice. They did say they could get her a phone!

Lisa? You confirm the job with the boss, talk to him about the other stuff.”

“Got it.”

“So unless there’s anything else, I think we just planned a bank robbery before noon,” Lisa said with a grin. I looked at the digital clock displayed under the TV. Sure enough, it was half past eleven.

I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a good thing.

Quick and easy! Now you can chill out the rest of the day and not at all sit for hours on end worrying about what will happen come Thursday. Fun! 😀


End of Agitation 3.3

I don’t think I’ve truly managed to get used to the slow pace of this story yet. No bank robbery this chapter, which was somewhat disappointing, but we did get a lot of information on some of the Wards and on how the powers are generally limited in this verse.

Overall, this chapter was… alright. The back and forth on whether or not they should actually do the robbery ended up getting a bit tedious after a while, though it might hold up better at a normal reading pace. Then we got an infodump, which while interesting, wasn’t all that exciting.

So yeah, maybe the chapter is suffering from too much hype on my part going in, but it does remind me quite a bit of 2.2, when most of the chapter was spent researching the Undersiders. It’s not bad, but it’s not that good either.

I don’t think we’ll be getting into the bank robbery immediately next chapter. It’s still two days away, and there are other things for Taylor to deal with in that time, such as whether she’ll go to school tomorrow. And even before that, there’s still most of today left to deal with, should Wildbow choose to do so.

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