Source material: Worm, Agitation 3.12
Originally blogged: June 12, 2017
Yo, it’s time for another chapter of Worm!
Last time we got a wonderfully entertaining standstill between Panacea + Glory Girl and Taylor + a fantastically casual Tattletale… Tattle ended the chapter by asserting that her knowledge is “the most powerful weapon of all”, and it seems to me that if 3.12 involves a proper fight between these groups, it will focus on showing how Tattle uses her knowledge to her advantage in that kind of scenario.
We also learned in 3.11 that backup from the Protectorate and maybe New Wave are on their way, so things could get even crazier around here than they already are if the stalemate isn’t resolved soon.
Let’s just get on with it and see what happens!
“Information,” Glory Girl repeated.
Tattletale twirled the keys around one of her fingers, “For instance, it’s not exactly public knowledge that Panacea was adopted.”
I fail to see that being useful information in this case, but it’s another good way to illustrate that she knows a lot more than the general public.
“It’s not a secret either. It’s on official record.”
“Falsified records,” Tattletale grinned.
Hm… Now that, on the other hand, might be decent blackmail fuel.
Glory Girl glanced at her sister.
Does Glory Girl not know about this?
“Let me tell you a little story. Correct me if I’m wrong on any of the details. Eleven years ago, just five years after capes really started showing up, there was a team operating hereabouts, calling themselves the Brockton Bay Brigade. Lady Photon, Manpower, Brandish, Flashbang, Fleur and Lightstar.
So four, at least, of Glory Girl’s relatives, and I’d bet Lightstar is one too. Likely also Fleur in that case. So far the Brockton Bay Brigade sounds like essentially a precursor to New Wave.
They wind up taking on a villain in his own home and it’s a pretty decent fight. They beat him, and because he was a real bastard, he got sent straight to the Birdcage.”
Still loving the name of that prison, by the way.
“You can stop now,” Glory Girl said, “Point made.”
So would this particularly nasty villain happen to be Panacea’s dad?
“Oh, I haven’t even gotten to the good part. See, they found a little girl hiding in the closet. His little girl, a toddler,” Tattletale grinned at Panacea,
Sounds like it.
“Given the odds that someone with powers would have a kid with powers,
New Wave has generally made it seem like it already, but there we go. Confirmation that heredity of the potential is a thing.
and knowing how the little girl would never be able to have a normal life with word inevitably getting out about her past, they wound up taking her in.”
I’m not sure growing up among superheroes really qualifies much as a “normal life” either, but it’s probably better than the alternative.
“We know this story already,” Glory Girl replied, her tone just a touch testy.
Hm, I wonder if there might be a detail Panacea doesn’t know about coming up?
Whatever Tattletale was doing, I sensed it was giving us more control over the situation. I commented, “This is new to me. I’m sort of intrigued.”
Thank you for being the scene’s audience surrogate, Taylor!
“The point I’m getting at, Glory Hole,
hehe, there it is again
is that I know that one detail you two don’t.
Called it! ;D
Or at least, I’m willing to look at all the little clues that you’ve got floating around your heads and figure out that one thing that you’ve gone out of your way to avoid knowing.
Ah, right, gotta keep up the “psychic” charade with a semi-believable excuse for knowing something the supposed target of mind reading doesn’t.
Glory Hole’s curious, but she avoids the subject because her sister desperately wants her to, and Panacea… Well, if I told her, I suspect she’d do something very stupid.”
I could feel Panacea slump in my arms. The fight had gone out of her.
“So, Amy, you want to know who your daddy is?”
Ahh… She knew what her father was, but not who.
Hm, time to guess… Kaiser, leader of Empire Eighty-Eight?
Or maybe it’s Tattletale. “No, Amy, I am your father.”
For a few long moments, there was only the sound of rain pattering on the windowsill, and the buzzing of the insects still in the room.
I wonder what’s going on outside.
“It’s that bad?” I asked in a half whisper, as much to Panacea as to Tattletale.
“It’s not the man that would bother her so much. It’s the knowing.
I suppose making it a bit more concrete makes it a bit more real to her that this is her origin.
Every hour of every day after hearing me say his name, she would wonder. She’s terrified she’ll start second guessing every part of herself, wondering if she inherited it from him, or if she was that way out of an unconscious desire to not be him.
The psychological torture of origins you don’t agree with. Nasty stuff.
Knowing as much as she does already keeps her awake some nights, but knowing his name, knowing who he is and what he did? For the rest of her life, she would compare herself to him. Isn’t that right, Amy?”
“Shut up. Just… shut up,” Panacea retorted, her voice thick with emotion.
“Why? I’m on a roll.
Once she gets like this, I’m not sure you could make her shut up.
That’s not even the most dangerous tidbit of info I’ve picked up, here. I know stuff that’s just as bad.”
I saw a flicker of doubt cross Glory Girl’s face.
Hmm, interesting. Whatcha got on Glory Girl, Tattle?
“I’ll make you a deal, Glory Hole. You go in the vault, lock yourself in, and I don’t speak on the subject. I won’t say the one sentence that tears your family apart.”
Something big, clearly.
Glory Girl clenched her fists, “I can’t do that. I’m calling your bluff, and if I’m wrong, I’ll face the consequences of whatever you say.”
Sorry, Glory Girl, I don’t think she’s bluffing.
“Very principled. Very self-involved too, that you think the secret and the consequences have to do with you and your overzealous nature. They don’t. They have to do with her.” Tattletale directed the laser pointer at Panacea’s forehead,
Damn, Panacea’s right at the center of the secrets in this family, it seems. Also I like how Tattle casually mentions the “overzealous nature”, making it clear to Glory Girl that she knows about that too. Kind of like the whole “library” incident, really.
“You won’t be tickled pink, either, but the aftermath would be hers to deal with. Humiliation, shame, heartbreak.”
I could feel Panacea stiffen in my grip.
I say that a lot today, don’t I.
Heartbreak? It could just be platonic heartbreak as a result of the secret “tearing [her] family apart”, but what if it’s romantic in nature? Maybe Panacea here has been, ahem, fraternizing with the enemy?
“Offer stands,” Tattletale grinned, “For the next twelve seconds. Get in the vault.”
Tattle is leaving the decision on whether to let this come out to Glory Girl, making her pick between family/compassion and principles/curiosity. Either way, Tattle wins.
“You’re full of shit,” Panacea spat the words.
“Then why are you so tense?” I asked.
Taylor swooping in with a well-timed contribution…
Panacea abruptly tore out of my grip, so violently I had to pull the knife away to keep her from cutting her own throat against it.
But yeah, this is clearly something Panacea really doesn’t want Glory Girl to know.
Tattletale scrambled to put a desk between herself and Panacea, but Glory Girl slammed into her, carrying her across the length of the room.
Aaand the stalemate’s balance has been broken now that Panacea is no longer in Taylor’s grip, freeing Glory Girl to use her powers.
They stopped just short of a wall. Not that Tattletale got away unscathed. Glory Girl shoved Tattletale into the wall, one hand over her mouth, and held her there.
It seems Glory Girl has chosen family and compassion over curiosity and the wish for openness; she’s stopping Tattle from blurting out her sister’s secret.
While Panacea was distracted, I passed my knife into my left hand and gripped my baton.
“This fight needs more phallic imagery!”
I pressed the trigger while swinging it, letting the momentum of the swing draw it out to its full length. Panacea saw me coming, but I don’t know if she realized what I was holding. The length of metal struck her across the side of the head. She staggered a few feet, then went down hard.
Unfortunately for me, Glory Girl saw it all unfold.
But will she let go of Tattle’s mouth and risk Tattle distracting her with Panacea’s secret? Or maybe she’ll just carry Tattle over to Taylor by her mouth.
“Nobody fucks with my family!” she shouted, and her power cranked out full-bore.
My knees turned to jelly and my brain just gave up on rational thought. Glory Girl threw Tattletale at me like a very strong child might throw a rag doll, and I just stood there like a deer in the headlights.
(She has now officially let go of Tattle’s mouth. Do your thing, Tattle!)
Tattletale’s body collided with my midsection, knocking the wind out of me. The two of us collided with a desk, sending a monitor and a plastic box of files to the floor. Paper and fragments of monitor scattered over the ground.
…what? If the story doesn’t have sound effects, someone’s gotta provide them.
We were still reeling when Glory Girl started floating towards us. I was struggling, unsuccessfully, to heave wheezing gasps of air into my lungs, while Tattletale was gripping one of her arms tight against her body, making little whimpering noises.
Neither of them have powers that really help them much in a hand-to-hand battle against a goddess-like enemy.
Tattle’s is useful to know a bit about the enemy, at least.
“I’m going to pull in every favor I’m owed, and put myself in debt with the local D.A. and whoever else I have to, to get you both sent to the Birdcage,” Glory Girl promised,
Gee, I think she might be a little angry.
“You know what that place is like? A prison without wardens. No communication with the outside world. No escapes yet, which is pretty amazing considering it houses all of the worst and most powerful villains we’ve been able to capture.
At least “no wardens” is preferable to wardens who are all amoral beasts that suck every trace of happiness out of you, if not your very soul. (What the fuck, Magic Britain.)
We don’t even know for sure if anyone’s alive inside there. It’s just a bucket where we dump scum like you, so we never have to worry about you again.”
You’d think they could at least stick some cameras in there. Although I guess that could cause trouble if someone had the power to turn into electricity or something.
Also, if you don’t watch the insides, how do you know nobody’s escaped and then stayed low since then?
Also also, what are the odds that by the time this story is over, there’s been a mass breakout? Pretty high, I’d imagine.
“Bugs,” Tattletale grunted at me, almost too quiet to hear.
I didn’t catch her meaning, but I was still struggling to catch my breath, so I just shook my head at her.
I think she means you should call in bugs, Taylor. I’m not sure how much help they’d be, what with Glory Girl being invincible not having stopped being a thing (to my knowledge – maybe it only works when she’s not murderously angry or something?). At least pissing off Glory Girl is no longer a concern…
“And no contact with the outside world means you don’t go fucking talking about whatever Amy wants to keep private. I trust my sister, I trust she has a reason for keeping it to herself.”
She does have a point here; I guess there was more to this plan than “I hate you and I want you gone”.
“Bugs. Swarm her,” Tattletale said, taking lots of little breaths as she said it.
Hm, I guess even if they can’t do much damage, at least they can get in her way.
I caught her meaning. I reached for my swarm, and was glad to find that my power was working perfectly. Panacea’s sabotage job had been undone when I’d killed the last of the spiders. I set every bug I could reach on Glory Girl.
Useless. It felt like I’d set them on unnaturally strong, slick glass.
Told you so!
“Idiots,” Glory Girl’s muffled voice came from the midst of the cloud of insects, “I’m invincible.”
Tattletale used her good arm to prop herself up, groaning, “First of all, I warned you about calling me stupid. Second, no, you’re not invincible. Not exactly.”
Ah, yes, there’s the other possibility: The Achilles. Alternatively the other other possibility, that it’s more like a ridiculously fast healing factor, but that doesn’t mesh too well with “unnaturally strong, slick glass”.
Then she raised her good hand from her belt and trained a small handgun on Glory Girl.
The sound was deafening. You don’t really get a sense for how intense gunfire is from TV and movies. As is, it was enough that it took me a few seconds to get a grip.
It’s literally a small sonic boom going off right next to you, so yeah… really loud.
Just a heartbeat later, I realized my bugs had broken through.
Very particular wording, there. Was it more like a self-mending forcefield covering her body?
They found flesh to latch on to, flesh to bite, sting, claw and puncture. Glory Girl dropped like a stone and started thrashing violently.
Venoms can be nasty!
“Help me stand,” Tattletale’s voice was strained, “Using my power like that on them took a lot out of me.”
She did pull out quite a few details about the two of them.
I grabbed her good hand and helped her up. With one of her arms around my shoulders, we hurried out of the bank, together. She shoved the gun into one of the largest pouches of her belt.
“What-” I tried, but talking just sent me into a spasm of painful coughs. We were down the front steps of the bank before I felt like trying again, “What just happened?”
Yes, please enlighten us!
Taylor is a good audience surrogate when things aren’t focused on her.
“She’s not really invincible. That’s just an idea she likes to put in people’s heads. She has a forcefield around her entire body, but it shorts out whenever she takes a good hit, comes back online a few seconds later.
Self-mending forcefield! Although it sounds like the entire thing goes away for a few seconds, more than that the bullet opened a hole for the bugs to go through. Never made much sense that they’d get through a tiny bullet hole that quickly anyway.
Still, I’m going to count that as me interpreting what happened mostly correctly. 😉
I knew when I saw she had dust on her costume. Dust that her forcefield would keep off her. Fuck, this hurts.”
“What is it?”
“She pulled my arm out of the socket when she threw me. Can you fix a dislocated shoulder?”
Panacea certainly could, but you can’t really trust her to not make it worse and add a few other issues.
So they’re out on the front steps now, but are the battles over out here?
I shook my head. I knew how, generally speaking, from the first aid classes I had taken, but I doubted I had the strength to manage it, and I didn’t want to waste time getting Tattletale in a good position to fix her arm when we needed to be gone.
The fight outside the bank was still going our way. Only Aegis was still in action,
Because of course he’s still going.
and he was hemmed in by the three dogs and Regent’s borrowed laser cannon.
Grue stepped out of the darkness near me, holding onto Bitch much the same way I was holding Tattletale.
“Let’s scram,” I said.
“Let’s,” he agreed, in his haunting voice.
Yeah, the boss battle is over, it’s time to get out.
Huh… If they get out now, that means we saw nothing of Browbeat in the entire battle. Was he even present for most of it? Maybe he decided to retreat for some reason.
“Hey G-man,” Tattletale winced, “Pop my shoulder back in?”
Grue nodded. I helped brace Tattletale as he shoved her arm back into place. He asked, “What happened?”
“It was Glory Girl on the roof,” I explained, then I coughed painfully a few times before adding, “Can we please get the fuck out of here?”
Victoria “Glory Girl” “Karlsson” Dallon.
“You guys took Glory Girl?” Grue asked, incredulous, while Bitch roused herself enough to whistle for her dogs.
Well, first they “took” Panacea… twice…
“In a sense,” Tattletale replied, at the same time I nervously pointed out, “She could be coming after us any second.”
I guess the insects and venoms Taylor used weren’t ones that would keep her down for long, then.
We got on the dogs, and Regent fired a salvo of shots from the laser cannon into Aegis, hammering him into the side of a building until the wall around him collapsed.
…he’s okay, he’s Aegis.
He then paused to jam his taser into the control panel. When the gun started to smoke, Regent made his way down, jumping the last four or five feet to land on a dog’s back. He tucked the skateboard under one arm.
“Leave it,” Grue said.
“Tracking device. Assume any tinker worth a damn is going to have tracking devices in their stuff.”
“It’s true,” Tattletale answered, as Regent turned towards her. “Sorry.”
“Fuck!” Regent swore. He jammed his tazer into the underside of the skateboard like he had with the control panel, then threw it across the street.
Nice thinking disabling it, at least, in case Kid Win found himself in a good enough state to come after them. Though I bet he has spares that he can summon in like he did the parts of the Tiro Finale.
We were mounted with Bitch sitting in front of Grue, mainly so he could support her, and Tattletale behind me on Angelica, her uninjured arm wrapped around me. Regent was alone.
Grue raised his arms, and filled the street with darkness.
Angelica bolted, nearly unseating me, as she made a headlong run into the absolute darkness.
Must be fun to have the ability to escape dramatically into the shadows in broad daylight.
I was on a creature more than twice the size of a horse, without a saddle, and she wasn’t suited for riding in the same way a horse was. I had one foot resting on a horn of bone that jutted from her side, while the other dangled. My hands were gripping the straps we’d fitted her with, the only thing from keeping me tumbling backwards, head over heels, as she lunged forward at run that would probably outpace any cars on the road.
You’d think these beasts would leave massive pawprints leading the good guys straight to their hideout.
Not that there would be any cars. The police and parahuman response teams would have the area blocked off around any potential cape fights. To make our escape all the more terrifying, I knew the dog couldn’t see. She was following Brutus by scent, and Brutus was going by Grue’s directions. The blind leading the blind.
Hm, interesting that the sensory deprivation gas doesn’t cover scent.
I should have been terrified, my hands cramping, unable to see or hear, knowing I could tumble off at any second, but I was elated. Even when Angelica crashed into something hard enough to nearly knock us off, it didn’t kill my enthusiasm. I hooted, hollered and cheered our victory, barely hearing the noise myself as the darkness absorbed it.
You did it! 😀
You successfully robbed a bank, terrorized hostages, beat up heroes, and traumatized Clockblocker! Well done!
We’d done it. I’d done it. We’d escaped without killing anyone.
I suppose that is the victory Taylor was aiming for.
The only ones who’d really been hurt at all had been the Wards, Glory Girl and Panacea, and that would be fixed when Panacea came to, for sure.
Granted, she won’t be willing to fix Clockblocker’s trauma.
Any property damage had largely been the fault of the Wards and Glory Girl. I’d maybe made some enemies, I’d scared some innocent people, but I’d be lying to myself if I said that could’ve been avoided. In short, things couldn’t have gone better.
I suppose that’s kinda true. Kinda.
Okay, they could have gone a lot better, but the way they ended up? Pretty damn good, all in all.
Hehe, even Taylor can’t quite rationalize her way to saying that this went perfectly. 😛
Aegis would have climbed out of the rubble by now, flown up for a bird’s eye view. If Grue was doing what we’d planned, he was filling every street and side street we passed with darkness.
Good plan. The weakness of the darkness is that people can still see where the darkness is, after all.
Aegis couldn’t see where or if we doubled back or what streets we took, so he could only identify our location by the places where fresh darkness appeared. If he tried to close in to get us, though, we’d be gone by the time he reached us. All he could do was follow our general location.
Masters of the getaway!
Just when I thought I might not be able to hold on any longer, we pulled to a stop. Tattletale and I slipped off of Angelica. Someone, probably Grue, pushed a backpack into my arms. Even working in total darkness, I managed to change into the set of civilian clothes we’d hidden away before we headed to the bank. I was handed an umbrella and gratefully unfolded it with my stiff hands.
Ahh, good call changing inside the darkness. Not sure why I didn’t think of it.
And from there they can spread out, so Aegis doesn’t see a group of five people who just so happen to match the enemies’ gender and height distribution.
It was tense, waiting in the darkness, with only the feeling of the rain on the umbrella to give me a sense of the world beyond myself and of time passing.
It was a long time before the world came into view again. Grue said his darkness faded after twenty minutes or so, but it felt like far longer than that.
Oh, huh, that is a pretty long time.
As the darkness cleared away, I saw Lisa sitting on the steps at the front of a shoe store, holding aleash in one hand and a paper shopping bag in the other. Angelica, as normal as she ever was, was on the other end of the leash, sitting patiently.
I guess it might be necessary, though, if it takes as long to transform the dogs back as it did to make them hellhounds in the first place.
All around us were shoppers and pedestrians, each with their umbrellas and raincoats, looking around with scared expressions and wide eyes.
Yeeah, suddenly losing sight and hearing for about twenty minutes while you’re just minding your own business out on the street must’ve been freaky.
The sounds were refreshing after the silence of the darkness – falling rain and the murmur of conversation.
And not an insignificant number of loud “what the FUCK?!”s, probably.
Lisa stood, and winked at me as she tugged on the leash to get Angelica following at her side. We joined the crowd of disoriented shoppers.
Assuming things went according to plan, Alec would be dropped off next, without a dog, and he’d change into civilian clothes the same way we had.
Oh, I see, they’re being dropped off at different spots to increase the “spreading out” effect I mentioned earlier.
Bitch, Brian and the two dogs would make the final stop at a storage locker near the Docks. Inside, they would change into their civies, relax for a few hours inside, and leave the money there for the boss to pick up.
Wait, why does the boss need to pick up the money? To count it? He’s giving them more back than he’s picking up, after all. Picking up the files makes sense, but picking up the money seems like unneccesary work… Actually, maybe it’s so he can launder it?
After taking a long enough break that the heroes would have abandoned pursuit, they would make their way back much as we were.
“Everyone came out of this unscathed?” I asked Tattletale in a low voice. I was sharing my umbrella with her, so speaking together in a kind of huddle wasn’t strange looking.
“No injuries or deaths for us, for the heroes or for the bystanders,” she confirmed.
I mean, there were injuries, right? Just not lasting ones.
“Then it’s a good day,” I said.
“A very good day,” she agreed.
I think Taylor will find it good to know that Tattle also cares about that.
Arm in arm, we walked leisurely through downtown. Like everyone else, we craned our heads to follow the police cars and PRT vans that were rushing to the scene of the crime with sirens wailing. Two girls who just finished their shopping, walking their dog.
End of Agitation 3.12
This arc’s final battle was actually pretty tame thanks to the powersets involved not being particularly effective against each other, but still quite enjoyable. It also raised some questions about Panacea: Who is her father (I’m still suspecting it’s Tattletale, wait, I mean Kaiser), and what is the terrible secret that would tear the family apart if Glory Girl found out?
There’s not much more to say about this chapter, really. The escape sequence was nice, though, and made for a satisfying ending.
It seems I’ve accurately identified this as the end of the arc, so stay tuned for thoughts about Agitation in general!
[Reminder: At this point I did not yet consider the Interludes part of the Arcs.]