Source material: Worm, Agitation 3.5
Originally blogged: May 18, 2017
“A favor,” he answered me, as if he needed to say it out loud to himself to believe it.
Hm. Is he surprised that she actually took him up on that offer?
The tone gave me pause. Had I misread him, that first night, when I gave him credit for Lung and assumed he was grateful?
Towards the end of the last chapter, I noted that Armsmaster seemed more serious and less welcoming than at their first meeting. Something seems to be up, and it might just be that he has since found reason to believe that Taylor
plays for the other team, er, is a villain. That would also explain him being surprised at her having the guts to call in the favor.
“Yeah,” I tried to sound confident, “But I should explain things first. First off, the Undersiders offered me a spot on their team. I took it.”
Better elaborate on that quickly and clearly!
His reaction was subtle. His chin rose a fraction, he shifted his weight fractionally, and the grip of his armored gauntlets tightened enough on his Halberd to make a faint metal-on-metal screech.
“Shit, she is a villain!”
Again… better elaborate.
“I think you’d better start making sense, fast,” he spoke in a calm voice, even as his body language was making me want to back away.
See, that’s what I’ve been saying too!
I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves, “I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the conversation we had last Sunday. It seemed odd how you accepted I was a good guy as fast as you did.
That’s a very odd place to start. “Hi, I want to cash in that favor. By the way I’m on the bad guys’ team now. It’s really weird how you thought I was a good guy. Wait, why are you swinging your Halberd at me?”
Are you sure you want to explain things in this order?
Would I be right in guessing you either have a lie detector built into your helmet or some power that works more or less the same way?”
…huh, that’s… Damn, Taylor is clever.
If she’s right, that is, but I presume she is.
He didn’t hurry to give me a reply, taking a few moments before telling me, “Lie detectors can be fooled, even mine.”
True that. Lie detectors are unreliable. I don’t believe they hold up in a court of law in most countries.
That probably goes double when dealing with parahumans. Lie detectors rely on biological clues, and most powers we’ve seen so far involve biology, in several cases the parahuman’s own. It’s very likely that powers can interfere with lie detection and create both false positives and false negatives.
“Well, tell me if anything sets an alarm ringing, or if your instincts tell you I’m lying. I was a good guy then, I’m a good guy now.
I suppose appealing to the technology is a fairly decent idea, but you’re still damn lucky Armsy decided to hear you out.
I joined the Undersiders because you said you were having trouble getting info on the guys. Now I know their faces, I know the names they’re using, I have a pretty good idea about what their powers do, and I know where they’re living.”
See, you could’ve led with this!
(But I’m not complaining – that wouldn’t have made for as interesting an intro to the chapter.)
His posture relaxed. He slapped the pole of his Halberd against his back and it snapped into place.
“If that’s the case, then you’ve done us a great service. Would you be willing to come to the Protectorate Headquarters and present that information to the team?”
So wait. Is Taylor doing this already now so that she can get out of the bank robbery? Or is she about to hold off in order to collect more info? She still hasn’t asked for that favor, after all.
My heart leapt. Meeting the local Protectorate, with Miss Militia, Triumph, Velocity, Dauntless, Battery and Assault?
I could’ve sworn I’d heard about Miss Militia before, but a blog search isn’t finding anything, so I guess not. In any case, I’m guessing she’s another equipment-based hero, possibly a Tinker like Armsmaster, but with a military theme.
Triumph I’ve def… what? Is Tumblr’s blog search broken right now or something? But searching for the ABB works. Hm. I swear I’ve made a joke about Triumph’s power being “to win” before, though.
Let’s focus on the new names. Unless I’m crazy and all of them are new.
[You’re not crazy, past me. Both of them have indeed been mentioned. Tumblr’s blog search is just notoriously unreliable, as you’ll come to get used to.]
Velocity seems pretty obvious: A speedster. However knowing this world, they won’t be just an ordinary speedster. Maybe someone who, unlike other fictional speedsters, actually takes advantage of the product of velocity and mass, namely momentum? Running into the villains to incapacitate them? Alternatively we could be talking about someone who can put other things into motion via strong telekinesis.
Dauntless also sounds familiar, and search once again yields nothing. *looks up “daunt” because he’s unsure if he really knows what it means*
Alright, this name is a bit odd. -less usually means you’re lacking the thing, but “daunt” is a verb. I guess we’ll just roll with it. To daunt is to intimidate with fear, so I guess Dauntless either went for a name that doesn’t reflect their powerset, or are paranaturally brave. Probably immune to Glory Girl’s power. Or maybe they’re supernormally unable to intimidate anyone.
Battery… electric powers? Or maybe something like the Pokémon ability Bide, where they tank some hits to “charge up” and then return the damage twofold? That seems tricky to implement literally with the variety of ways to hurt someone in this verse, but a loose adaptation could work. Leaning towards electricity, though.
Assault and Battery, of course. A duo who likely are melee fighters. Not sure what their powers might be, though. Strength alone seems too straight-forward.
[Well played, Madcap.]
I could imagine seeing their reactions to everything I’d found, telling them about my fight with Bitch, maybe about my part in the fight with Lung, if Armsmaster was cool with that.
I’m guessing Taylor has done plenty of research on each and every one of them, and has an impression of their personalities to base her mental images on.
Hearing their stories in turn.
Being treated as one of them, seems to be what you’re fantasizing about.
“Why not?” his response was so quick it was very nearly an interruption.
Heh. And good, we’re staying with the Undersiders for now, as expected. I want to see that bank robbery!
Plus, I like the Undersiders.
His tone and posture were both hostile again in a flash. I was glad he wasn’t still holding his Halberd, because I think he might have pointed it at me.
This has been a rollercoaster of a conversation for Armsy.
“There’s one more thing I need to find out for you,” I said, raising my hands in a sort of surrender.
Who the Boss is?
I needed to find out who their boss was.
Who the Boss is.
I couldn’t tell him that, though. The less he knew, the less likely Tattletale would know I told him anything. At least, I was hoping that was the case.
Hm, I suppose that makes sense. “Oh, the Protectorate are discussing us right now. Wait, how do they know that thing? Armsmaster told them? How does he know? He had a meeting with– TAYLOR WHAT THE FUCK”
“So tell me what you know and then go find that last detail.”
Can she tell him why she can’t tell him without telling him too much?
“I can’t,” I answered for the second time in ten seconds, hating myself for doing it.
“You’d better have a good reason, or I’m dragging you to the PHQ and we’ll see how well you tease when you’re in front of the entire team.”
Doesn’t sound like she thinks so.
Which would be a disaster. I swallowed hard, “What if I told you there was a spy in the PHQ?”
“You’d be setting off the lie detector. Try again.”
“close to the truth” doesn’t cut it in this situation.
I bit my lip. I’d been hoping that phrasing it as a question would throw it off.
“There’s something at play that’s for all intents and purposes, a spy in your ranks.”
“Mostly true. What is it?”
There’s the sweet spot!
“I can’t be any clearer without them figuring out I told. Just my being here is really risky.” If word got out as to how Lisa’s power worked, I was almost positive she’d know how.
Yeah, if there’s anything her power really ought to know, it’s things pertaining to itself.
He stared at me for several long moments, “The Tattletale girl.”
Hm, how did he come to that conclusion? Did Taylor mention back in 1.6 that Tattle knew Armsy was coming? I think she did. He probably extrapolated from that to “she’s the one with the spy… thing”.
(#once again my posts get long when there’s dialogue)
Armsmaster had come to the conclusion more or less on his own. I hoped that was enough to keep Tattletale from drawing a connection to me. Still… fuck.
Sometimes “fuck.” is the only good way to react to something.
He stared off towards the PHQ for a few long moments. Without looking at me, he asked, “So you’re not willing to provide any concrete information. Why did you call me?”
Time for the favor!
Actually, come to think of it… if Taylor gets Armsmaster to lower the bank’s defenses, won’t Tattletale wonder why things are going so smoothly and promptly be fed that “Armsmaster told the Wards to go easy on the robbery”?
“They’re planning something. They want me to help them. I do this, maybe one or two other jobs, I’m sure I can get that last essential detail, and you’ll have what you need to capture these guys.”
He didn’t reply.
So I asked my favor, “I need to know that if things go sour or if I need to sabotage their plan, I’ll have you to pull my ass out of the fire and keep me out of jail.”
Ahhh. Yeah, that’s a way safer favor when it comes to Tattletale’s power.
But will Armsy accept? He still doesn’t have concrete proof that Taylor is doing this to gather information like she claims, lie detector or no lie detector.
“What are they planning?”
“I can’t say,” I admitted. If I told him, Lisa might know I’d ratted the team out from any changes in the response time, extra guards or whatever else.
If it wasn’t clear from the last few posts, my current interpretation of how Tattle’s power works is that most of the time she’s only fed information she actually thinks about, as if asking questions to an omniscient entity inside her head. As such, if a question doesn’t occur to Tattle, she won’t usually be fed the answer by her power. Just how consciously she has to use the power is unclear, but she has at least some control over it, as evidenced by the conversation about Knowing people’s minds causing a sort of overload if she does it all the time.
I guess you could call it a sensory overload and look at the power like a sense.
However justified my silence was, I could see Armsmaster getting increasingly irritated.
“Is it murder? Is someone going to get hurt?”
A valid question. This girl staying undercover to figure out the one last detail (which Armsy doesn’t know is the identity of the boss; he probably isn’t aware there is a boss) isn’t worth risking people’s lives.
“No,” I said, “I’m pretty sure no civilians are going to get hurt, unless things go really wrong, which is something I’m hoping to prevent.”
He frowned, then stopped gazing out the window to look straight at me. “I’m not giving you any protection.”
Honestly, that’s fair. From Armsmaster’s perspective, this whole thing is a huge risk.
I clenched my fists at my sides, “This is the only thing I need, and you’ve got them!”
“You’re a stupid girl,” Armsmaster said. He gave me a moment to let the words sink in.
He didn’t give me a chance to speak. He bowled over me, his voice rising as he spoke, “You’re asking for my permission to carry out a major crime. At least, I assume it’s a major crime, because you wouldn’t be asking otherwise! You want me to stand by so you can play your little spy game with a team that has two murderers on it!”
He has a point there. “Yo, we’re gonna do a thing that’s illegal and could get civilians hurt, could you make sure I don’t get in trouble, k thx”
Two? I could believe that Rachel had maybe killed someone at some point, manslaughter if nothing else, but who else would? Eyes wide, I asked him, “Who-”
Honestly, I could see it being Alec, but I’m actually going to guess Brian. It’s what would cause most turmoil for Taylor, and he’s probably capable of it.
I didn’t get to finish my question. Armsmaster talked over me until I shut my mouth and listened. “Do you think you’re clever? In the real world, undercover cops have handlers. They have someone to report to, someone that can call in backup at any time. You? You’re a middle schooler with delusions of grandeur.”
Clearing this whole thing with the Protectorate firstwould’ve been a good idea, though she didn’t really have the opportunity when she was invited.
“I’m not in middle school.”
“Oh, well,” he crossed his arms, “I stand corrected on all counts.” The sarcasm in his voice was palpable.
I protested, “And if I did have back-up or a handler or anything like that, they’d know. The way I’m doing this is the only way this could work. Use your lie detector, you’ll know I’m telling the truth about this.”
Lie detectors can be fooled, even Armsmaster’s.
“I know you believe you’re right. That doesn’t make it god’s honest truth.”
Oh yeah, that’s one of the faults of lie detectors too. They only work if the liar is lying, not if the statements are false.
In fact, a machine that could tell if statements are objectively true or false would be the greatest invention in recorded history. It would revolutionize science, religion, politics, justice, and probably much more.
Armsmaster is being harsh about it, but he’s right and these are things Taylor needs to hear.
Like any good character, she has flaws, and one of her biggest is that she’s independent to a fault. She works alone and doesn’t really take into account that others may have something to contribute. In some cases, when offered help, she refuses it and believes it wouldn’t change anything (such as in the case of Mr. Gladly) and/or that the offer is primarily motivated by self-interest (Mr. Gladly, Armsmaster taking the credit for Lung, etc).
Even her dad, whose advice she does take when it comes to safety precautions for her runs, she doesn’t let help her in the Harpy situation, though part of that is likely because of her not wanting to think about it more than she has to and because of his anger issues.
Taylor needs to hear what Armsmaster is saying here: She is not always right and she should let experienced people help her from time to time.
There was something about hearing all this from Armsmaster that made it twice as hard to take. I opened my mouth, but my brain just couldn’t piece together a coherent response. I shut my mouth again.
“Abandon this charade, little bug girl, before you bite off more than you can chew. Tell me what you know, right now, then go home. I don’t care if you put your costume away for good or if you sign up for the Wards, but don’t go on with the solo act. That’s my recommendation.”
Gee, Taylor, Armsmaster is quite a jerk, don’t you think? Do you really want to associate with people like him? Why don’t you just go back to the Undersiders, drop the charades there and become their friend 4lyfe? 😀
(…but yeah, I’m obviously kidding. He’s not a jerk, he’s just putting this very bluntly to get through to her. What I’m not kidding about is that I still want her to stay with the Undersiders.)
That stung. I tried again, “I gave you Lung, full credit. You can’t give me the benefit of a doubt?”
“You gave me a dying man!” Armsmaster bellowed, startling me, “That was on my shoulders!
“They thought I made a man’s dick rot off!”
I had to put up with two days of losing command of my team, two days where they confiscated my Halberd and power armor! I was interrogated, all my equipment taken apart and checked! All because you couldn’t resist using your bugs to give that man a fucking near-lethal dose of poisons!”
Yeah, that… is probably why he seemed so tense at the beginning of this. He probably wanted to strangle her.
His attitude from the beginning of this meeting had been hostile. Now I understood why. I held my ground.
I like when Taylor agrees with me. :p
“That’s not my fault,” I told Armsmaster, my voice strained with anger. I gave voice to a suspicion that had been nagging at the edge of my consciousness since I’d heard about Lung being hospitalized, “I didn’t dose him with enough venom to kill him. What I think is that the tranquilizers that you pumped into his system knocked out his ability to heal, which is what let the poisons do as much damage as they did.”
We glared at each other, as much as people can exchange glares when they can’t see one another’s eyes. Still, it wasn’t hard to imagine the expression on his face.
Ahaha, I love it!
This reminds me of Star Wars – more specifically the utterly narmy climactic scene in Return of the Jedi. You don’t give a character an unremovable mask that hides all visual trace of emotion to make him look inhuman, and then have the climax of your entire series hinge on that character’s emotional struggle as he looks back and forth at his options.
It’s so stupid.
“If you contact me again, you’d better be prepared to answer every question I have. Beyond that, I’m not condoning anything about what you’re trying to pull. You’re on your own.”
This could’ve gone better for Taylor.
I would have been happy to storm off, or offer my own angry parting words. Except there was something else I needed from him. On the assumption that he’d take me up on my offer, I thought I’d ask as a last, minor favor. Now I was put in a situation where I might have to beg a man I really wanted to punch in the face.
Hm. What could this be? “Don’t send Shadow Stalker”?
“I-” I paused, trying to find the words, “I’m asking you to please not tell anyone we met tonight. No records, on paper or computer. Don’t do anything different because of what you learned tonight. I know I can’t make you. I don’t have anything to offer you, besides the information I’m going to get. But if these guys get wind that I met you, it’s going to go really badly for me.”
Right, because Tattletale knows what they do, and if she knows them acting differently, she’ll ask why and find out.
“You made your bed. You have to lie in it.”
I mean, it’s honestly a fair attitude.
“No,” I shook my head, furious he was being so mule headed. My fists clenched, “Don’t toy with me here. Maybe you don’t agree with what I’m doing, but I started this because I wanted to do you a favor. The least you could do is not screw with me on this, and get me hurt or killed because your fucking rep got a smudge on it.”
Taylor has a point at the same time as she misses another.
I regretted my words as soon as they left my mouth, but I could hardly take them back.
“Fine,” he decided, then dismissed me, “You can go, now.”
Well, okay, good. That’s something at least.
It was a dick move, that last bit, because I was following his order if I listened and it made me look bad if I didn’t.
He gotcha there.
Still, if there was any upside to the bullying I’d endured out of costume, it was that I could handle the little maneuvers of bullies and assholes when I was in costume, too. I left and didn’t think twice about it.
Sometimes it’s best to just take the out you’re given.
I was pissed, and it was a lot easier to be pissed at Armsmaster than it was to be angry with myself. This hadn’t gone the way I’d planned.
I didn’t even know if that ‘fine’ of his was an agreement to do as I’d asked, or if I was royally screwed the next time I went to meet with the Undersiders. There were two ways I could respond to this. I could either drop the plan and put away my costume like Armsmaster wanted, or I could pull off the undercover gig and prove him wrong.
Oh boy. I think we all (well, especially you) know what she’s gonna choose. Taylor Spite Hebert is in town.
Fuck it. I was going to rob the hell out of that bank.
Fuck yes, you go, girl! I mean, Armsmaster has a point or five, but I’ve been wanting to see this for a while now. I’d be a bit disappointed if it never happened.
I’d win the trust of the Undersiders, I was going to figure out who was running the show, and then I was going to hand over all of the info.
To Miss Militia, I was thinking. Not Armsmaster.
Yeah, good plan.
End of Agitation 3.5
That was a ride!
Armsmaster proved a lot more hostile than before, and wasn’t willing to take much more of Taylor’s shit. In the process of telling her why, he told her some very important things for her to learn, but of course Taylor Spite Hebert isn’t taking it to heart just yet. I mean, part of the problem is that she doesn’t listen to others.
That said, he was kind of a jerk about it, as the lecture was prompted by anger and frustration, so spite would be a natural reaction for a lot of people, if not even most.
The chapter itself was very entertaining, and I’m glad we didn’t skip the conversation like I had originally expected. Actually, why did I even expect that? Of course the second meeting with Armsmaster would be relevant! Maybe I’m just too used to Homestuck’s idea of when to cut away.
Anyway, I’ve said this quite a few times now, but I’m thinking we’re finally getting to the robbery next chapter. For real this time. The meeting with Armsmaster is Wednesday afternoon, the robbery Thursday, so unless there’s more happening Wednesday night, I don’t see a reason for anything to come in between. Plus, “I was going to rob the hell out of that bank.” is a pretty good note to end off a chapter with right before robbing the hell out of that bank.
Now watch as the next chapter is a random flashback or something. See ya!