Shell 4.6: Special Guest

Source material: Worm, Shell 4.6

Originally blogged: June 29, 2017


Hey, did someone call for an Über? And a Leet? Well, they’ve showed up anyway, and the Undersiders are about to fight them in today’s chapter of Worm!

Their theme for the night appears to be Bomberman, so I suppose the Undersiders may want to watch their steps. Might be good practice in case Bakuda comes after Taylor, though.

I don’t have much else to say for now, so let’s get started!


We weren’t the only ones who were discussing strategy.  As I turned my full attention to the pair, I saw Über and Leet were muttering to one another.

Everything we know suggests the Undersiders are at a clear advantage in this fight, even without Rachel, which is honestly making me think there’s something important we don’t know. I’m not sure what it could be, though. Maybe they have an associate hiding in the back or something, or maybe they’ve been holding back and purposefully failed for entertainment purposes and are now giving it their full power since Taylor has shut off the camera anyway.

When they realized I was looking at them, they stopped talking.  Über wiped again at the blood under his nose and took a step forward.  “Enough talking.”

ROUND ONE – FIGHT!

I wished there were more bugs in the area.  The storage facility made for a disappointing selection.  Bugs had to live off something, and there was little around here except pavement, concrete and brick.

Hm, that’s a disadvantage for Taylor, the one with the most offensive firepower at the moment.

That left me only cockroaches and moths that had lived off of the contents of the lockers they could access, and spiders that dwelled in the dark corners.  However lame the pair of them were, I wasn’t happy about going up against two supervillains with so little at my disposal.

To be fair, you could still traumatize a lot of people with those.


I didn’t get a chance to dwell on it, because Über charged us.  I hurried to get out of his way.  Über’s power made him talented.

I guess that’s one way to put it. Grue described it last chapter as Über being able to do anything like he’s an expert at it if he can just figure out how to do it at all, so “talented” seems apt.

It didn’t matter if it was playing the harmonica, parkour stunts or Muay Thai, he could pull it off like he’d been working on it for hours a day for most of his life.  If he really focused on it, the way I understood it, he could be top notch.

I guess “being a villain” is too general for the power. Either that, or he hasn’t tried using the power on that activity.

In short, there was no fucking way I was going to let him get close to me.

Can’t let him use advanced martial arts on you, or worse, play the harmonica into your ear!

Grue had the opposite perspective.  He stepped forward and then disappeared as darkness swelled around him.  A second later, Über stumbled out of one side of the cloud, landed on his rear end, and then did a fancy spinning kick maneuver to bring himself to his feet again.  The juxtaposition of clumsiness and technique was outright bizarre.

Heh, I love it.


My bugs were gathering nearby, now, but very few of them were useful.  Somewhere in the periphery of my consciousness, I’d connected to a fledgling wasp nest hanging from a storage locker near the Trainyard.

Ooh, that’s more like it.

They were more useful, but extricating them all from the nest and bringing them to my location would take a minute.  I brought the rest of the bugs into a small swarm nearby, letting the group grow until I had use of them.  Both Kid Win and Lung had obliterated my swarm when I’d attacked them, and I couldn’t risk being more or less powerless if Leet pulled a similar stunt.

That sounds reasonable. She’s learning from her past experiences, which is nice to see.

Leet stepped in as Über circled around us.  Reaching behind his back, Leet retrieved what looked like an old school bomb;

Here comes the Bomberman!

Round black iron casing with a lit fuse sticking out of it.  The way the light bounced off it made it look wrong, though.  Like it was a picture of a bomb instead of a real one.

Like a video game sprite?

I wonder if it explodes in a + shape like a basic Bomberman bomb.

Regent waved his hand, and the bomb slipped from Leet’s grip, rolling a few feet.  Leet’s mouth opened into a round ‘o’, and he bolted.  Über wasn’t far behind.

Ahahaha, well played, Regent!

As he joined the rest of us in running for cover, Regent half turned to thrust out one hand.  Über stumbled and fell just ten feet from the armed explosive.

Welp, that’s gonna smart. Unless he’s at a diagonal from the bomb…

The blast radius was thankfully small.  The shockwave that rippled past us didn’t even make me lose my footing.  Über, though, went flying.

Sounds like it’s just a normal explosion, though a small one.

Team Über is blasting off agaaaain!


Leet watched his friend roll with the impact, try to stagger to his feet and fall again.  He turned to us with his face etched in hard lines of anger.

Face it, Leet, it’s looking like Regent alone could take you guys on.

“I keep wondering when you guys are going to give up,” Tattletale grinned, “I mean, you fail more often than you succeed, you make more cash from your web show than you do from actual crimes, you’ve been arrested no less than three times.  You’re probably going to wind up at the Birdcage the next time you flub it, aren’t you?”

See, that thing about the web show income is why I suspect that they don’t actually want to succeed as villains. They’re entertainers. But that’s not how they’re acting in this particular fight, which isn’t being broadcast (or at least, the broadcast is audio only). I still suspect there might be something larger going on here, such as someone hiring the two of them to do this.

“Our mission is worth it,” Leet raised his chin – inasmuch as he had one – a notch.

Mission, huh? One that’s worth going to the Birdcage for. Interesting…

“Right,” Tattletale said, “Spreading the word about the noble and underrated art form that is video games.  That’s from your website, word for word.  People don’t watch your show because they think you’re righteous.  They watch because you’re so lame it’s funny.”

#rekt

Though seriously, I think they might know that already.


Leet took a step forward, fists clenched, but Über called out, “She’s provoking you.”

…maybe not? I suppose “spreading the word about the noble and underrated art form that is video games” as a “mission” worth risking your freedom for isn’t the dumbest villain motivation I’ve ever heard.

“Damn right I am.  And I can do it because I’m not scared of you.  I don’t have any powers that are useful in a fight, and you guys don’t intimidate me in the least.

The reader isn’t supposed to be intimidated by them either, that much is clear. This is technically during the fight, but there’s no tension here at all.

I think Wildbow is lulling us into a false sense of security, though.

A guy who’s good at everything yet still manages to fuck up half the time, and a Tinker who can only make stuff that breaks comically.”

Oh, so that’s what Leet is? I guess the unreal look of the bomb was just an aesthetic touch then.

“I can make anything,” Leet boasted.

“Once.  You can make anything once.

…well then. That’s an interesting limitation. It certainly gives the duo another reason to switch up their theme each night.

But the closer something you invent is to something you’ve made before, the more likely it is to blow up in your face or misfire.  Real impressive.”

To be fair, he could sort of use that to make bombs. Terrible bombs that can’t be used practically, but bombs nonetheless…


“I could demonstrate,” Leet threatened, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder.

“Please don’t.  I hear the carbonized ash of geek is hell to get out of a costume.”

Oh my cod, Tattle is amazing.

“You say geek like it’s a bad thing,” Über said, in his characteristically overdramatic tone, “It’s a badge of honor.”

I will say I support him on this one. Don’t be ashamed of being enthusiastic about your interests.

“Among geeks, sure,” Regent replied, “But there’s clowns out there that consider being a clown to be a noble calling, while the rest of us just laugh at them.  Catch my drift?”

“Enough,” Leet growled, “It’s obvious you’re trying to antagonize us-”

Yes, and it’s working.

“I just admitted it.  That’s not obvious.  That’s fact,” Lisa pointed out.

I love this whole conversation.

“We won’t be baited!” Leet raised his voice, I think it’s time for our grand reveal, our guest-”

Oh boy, here comes the backup.

He was cut off as Grue blasted him in the face with a cloud of darkness.  Leet stepped out of the cloud, sputtering.

Ahaha!


“They’re laughing at you, Leet,” Tattletale heckled him, “You’re trying to be all dramatic, all intense for your viewers, and they’re just sitting at their computers, snorting over how much you suck.  Even Über is laughing at you behind your back.”

Hm. On one hand, that last bit would be a pretty standard “seed of discord” type lie, but on the other, Tattletale doesn’t seem like the type to lie unless she really needs to. I could see her thinking like this: She can do enough damage with the truth, why would she need lies?

“Shut up!” Leet spat the words, glancing over his shoulder at his teammate, “I trust Über.”

But how long will that last?

“Why are you even with this guy, Über?” Regent asked, “I mean, you’re kind of lame, but you could at least accomplish something if he wasn’t fucking up half your jobs.”

“He’s my friend,” Über replied, like it was the simplest thing in the world.

Aw, that’s actually really nice.

“So you don’t deny he’s holding you back.” Lisa pointed out.

“Shut up!” Leet roared.

Someone’s getting worked up over here…

Except he didn’t have a very deep voice, so it was probably closer to a screech.  He pulled out another bomb and flung it at us before Regent could make him fumble again.  We scattered, with Regent, Tattletale and I running away while Grue shrouded both himself and Über in darkness.

Hm. What’re you up to, Grue? Gonna knock out Über while the others take care of Leet?

(I was going to use “fight” in front of those names, but changed my mind for each of them.)


As I scrambled for cover, I directed my bugs to attack Leet.  He’d done something different this time, because the bomb didn’t take half the time the first bomb had before it detonated.

I mean, it’s similar to the other one, so maybe it wasn’t supposed to blow up that quickly.

It caught me off guard, and I didn’t get a chance throw myself to the ground as a result.  The blast caught me full in the back.

Ow!

The air and the fire that rolled over me wasn’t hot.  That was the most surprising thing.  That wasn’t to say it didn’t hurt, but it felt more like getting punched by a really big hand than what I would have thought an explosion would feel like.

Maybe it’s another way the bombs are video-gamey and unreal? Although it’s worth noting that a shockwave does hit faster than the fire itself, so maybe that’s actually what an explosion would feel like.

I could remember Lung’s blasts of fire, Kid Win shattering the wall with his cannon.  This felt… false.

Ah, never mind, video-gamey it is.

“The bombs are fake?” I asked aloud, as I picked myself off the ground.  I ached, but I wasn’t burned.

“They’re solid holograms,” Tattletale said,

Ahh, like the bodies of a certain species in Steven Universe, I guess. Makes sense with the unreal look betrayed by how the light falls on the holograms.

“Actually pretty neat, if you ignore how ineffective they are.  I guess he couldn’t make real bombs without fucking up.”

Of course, this is the kind of weapon where you benefit from the enemy not knowing what it actually is.


Leet snarled, though it was hard to say whether it was Tattletale’s words or the moths, wasps and cockroaches that had settled on him.  As I’d suspected, they weren’t doing much.  Even crawling for his nose and mouth, they didn’t really slow him down.  Maybe there was a downside to getting him furious, like Tattletale and Regent were intent on doing.

But… why aren’t they doing much? Could “Leet” himself also be a remotely controlled solid hologram? No, Regent’s power wouldn’t work on that.

He whipped out two more bombs and Regent was quicker this time, snapping his hands out.  Leet recovered before he dropped the bombs, and pulled his arms back to throw them.  Regent was ready, though, and one of Leet’s legs jerked out from under him.  He fell to the ground, the bombs rolling only a few feet from him before going off.

WOOO, GO REGENT

He slammed into a door hard enough I thought he might have managed to kill himself.  Before I could approach and check his pulse, though, he began struggling to get to his feet.

“Good thing you made those things nonlethal,” I muttered, half to myself, “You’re one for four.”

One for four? I’m not quite sure what she means by that. One with lethal force that ended up rotting a dick off versus four she used nonlethal force against? But she’s fought more people than that, hasn’t she?

Or is she talking about the bombs. Yes she is, she’s talking about how only one of Leet’s bombs managed to hit someone on the enemy team. That makes so much more sense.

And yeah, if those had been lethal, Über would’ve been dead right from the start.


Glaring at us, he reached behind his back again and withdrew a sword.

The Master Sword?

“Link’s sword?” Regent taunted him, “That’s not even from the right game.  You’re breaking theme.”

What the hell, I wasn’t expecting that hunch to be right.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say we just lost what little respect we had for you,” Tattletale quipped.

Pfft.


Leet lunged for the two of them.  He didn’t get three steps before Regent made him stumble and fall to his hands and knees.  The sword slipped from his grasp and slid over the pavement before flickering out of existence.

Yeaah, bombs and swords are two of the worst weapons you could attempt to use against Regent. Bombs easily backfire, and swords require finesse.

He was only a few feet from me, too focused on Tattletale and Regent to pay enough attention to me.  I reached behind my back, withdrew my baton and snapped it out to its full length.

Time to get phallic.

I mean, if he’s gonna try a melee weapon, why not you too?

As he started climbing to his feet, reaching behind his back for what I realized was a thin, hard backpack, I swatted at his hand with the length of metal.

Owwww

He yelped, pulling his hand to his chest to cradle it.  I hit him in the calf, just below the knee, a little harder than I’d intended to.  He crumpled.

Leet’s going down.

He used to be an adventurer like you, but then he took a baton just below the knee.

Stepping around him, I grabbed the end of the baton with my other hand and pulled the length of metal hard against his throat.

That’s not the usual orientation of phallic objects in the throat area, but fair enough.

Honestly it sounds like they’ve practically captured him at this point.


Leet started to make strained choking noises.  He caught me off guard by bucking backward, throwing the two of us onto our backs, him on top of me.

This rodeo stallion is quite a wild one, huh.

I winced as the impact brought his weight against the bruised area of my chest where Glory Girl had thrown Tattletale at me.  I didn’t lose my grip, though.  Ignoring the one hundred and thirty pounds on top of me, I was glad for the extra leverage being on the ground afforded me.

The ground can be rather helpful. We should thank the ground more often for being there and supporting us when we need it.

“You okay?” Grue asked me in his echoing voice.  He stepped forward so he was standing over me.

“Peachy,” I replied, huffing with the exertion.

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“Don’t pull it against his windpipe.  You’ll get tired enough that you lose your grip before he ever passes out.

Hand to hand combat training with Grue, part 2: Field exercise.

Here,” he bent down and forced Leet’s head to one side, moving the baton so it was pressing against the side of Leet’s neck, “Now you’re pulling against the artery, obstructing the blood flow to his brain.  Twice as fast.  If you could put pressure on both arteries, he’d be out in thirty seconds.”

“Thanks,” I huffed, “For the lesson.”

Grue is a good teacher.

“Good girl.  Über’s down for the count, but I’m going to go help the others make sure he’s not going to give us any more trouble.  We’re only steps away, so shout if you need a hand.”

Seems like Grue did knock out Über without much trouble.

It wasn’t fast, even with the technique Grue had instructed.  It wasn’t pretty either.  Leet made lots of ugly little sounds, fumbling awkwardly for his backpack.  I pressed my body tight against it, though, and he gave up.  Instead, he tried pressing against the bar, to alleviate the pressure.  When that didn’t work, he started scratching uselessly at my mask.

The desperation is real.

Wait, weren’t they supposed to leave Leet awake so they could interrogate him?

I released him when he finally slumped over.  Extricating myself from underneath him, I adjusted my mask, drew my knife and cut the high tech backpack off him.  When I’d done that, I searched him.  If we were going to interrogate him, it wouldn’t do to have him digging out some little trinket to free himself or incapacitate us.

Smart move.

His costume was skintight, so it was easy enough to verify there weren’t any hidden pockets or devices on him.  Just to be safe, I cut the antenna off his head and removed his belt.

Yeah, incompetent or not, the guy’s a Tinker. Who knows what kind of extra purposes the antenna could have besides aesthetics.


The others returned with a battered and unconscious Über in their arms, his arms bound behind him with plastic wrist ties.  They dumped him beside Leet.

Are we doing the interrogation here, or getting away from the camera first? Is the camera even still active with Leet unconscious?

“Now to find out where they stashed Bitch and the cash,” Tattletale said.  She looked at me, “Got any smelling salts?”

I shook my head, “No.  These guys have henchmen, don’t they?  They’ve probably got them watching over the money.  We’d likely find Bitch in the same place.”

Really? These guys have henchmen?

I suppose they pay them with income from the streams. Hell, the henchmen probably started out as fans who wanted to help.

“Close but no cigar,” a mechanical hiss answered me.

We wheeled around to see a woman in the same outfit Über and Leet were wearing.

…they did say they had a guest. Hello there.

The difference was that she wore a gas-mask style fixture over her lower face, and the lenses of her goggles were red, not black.

Hi, Bakuda. Nice to meet you.


The woman’s mask seemed to take what she said and replay everything in a robotic, monotone hiss, “I really hoped they would take one or two of you out of the picture, or at least injure someone.  How disappointing.  They didn’t even get around to introducing their guest star for tonight.”

See, in the back of my mind I was kind of like “What if the person leading them is Bakuda”, and I’m really not sure why I didn’t mention that, given my usual policy of recording pretty much every thought. I guess I just sort of… thought it was too unlikely to even consider mentioning? But that’s a really bad reason to not do so.

(This isn’t just me trying to look retroactively correct, I swear.)

Well, in any case, we now have an enemy present who’ll actually be able to use bombs that do something other than just knock people around. This is more like it for a boss battle.

“Bakuda?” Tattletale was the first to put a name to the face, “Fuck me, the game their costumes were from… Bomberman?”

Indeed. I’d like to think that if I hadn’t been reminded about it by a couple of asks, I would’ve probably figured that out when Leet started throwing bombs around. 🙂


Bakuda stood and bowed in one smooth motion.  Regent raised his hands, but she let herself drop to her knees, gripping the roof’s edge with one hand to avoid sliding off.

“Nuh uh uh,” she waggled one finger at him, “I’m smart enough to learn from the mistakes of others.”

I guess that’s exactly why she had Über and Leet fight the Undersiders in the first place – it allowed her to observe and figure out the Undersiders’ abilities. Though she was seemingly supposed to show up before the duo was defeated.

“You seriously left the ABB to join Über and Leet?” Regent asked, astounded.

Pfft.

I don’t think she’s joined them so much as taken control of them.

It’s occurring to me how silly Bakuda’s outfit is at the moment. Like, she’s been painted as this serious threat with a scary gas mask and all, but here she is with a fucking Bomberman costume covering the rest of her body. I wonder if her personality has a similar juxtaposition.

“Not exactly,” Bakuda said.  She snapped the fingers of the hand she wasn’t using to keep hold of the roof.

Below her, the door to the storage locker opened.  Three men in ABB colors stepped out, each holding a weapon.  A gun, a baseball bat, a fire axe.

Well then, she’s got backup. Are there some of these in other lockers too? If so, she’s managed to surround the Undersiders with Achoo Blessya Babes.

I wonder if Oni Lee is here too.


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…’nuff said.


Then other doors opened, all down the corridor of storage lockers.  Thirty or forty doors, each with at least one person behind them.  Some with three or four.  All of them armed.

Hey, called it!

It was at this moment the Undersiders knew…

they fucked up.


“Those two were cheap hires.  They just wanted a few hundred dollars and I had to wear this costume.  Guess you get what you pay for.

Hehe. I like that she was willing to go along with the costume thing, even if she wasn’t necessarily thrilled.

“Goes without saying, I’m still with the ABB,” Bakuda stated the obvious for us.  “In charge, matter of fact.  I think it’s fitting that I commemorate my new position by dealing with the people that brought down my predecessor, don’t you agree?”

Congrats on the promotion!

And yeah, I suppose that makes sense. But how do you know about the other Undersiders’ role in it? I suppose there are several ways she could get to that conclusion – Lung could’ve found a way to contact her, but it’s also a reasonable assumption from the fact that he was heading off to fight the Undersiders. Plus, Oni Lee saw them.

She didn’t expect an answer, nor did she wait for one.  She pointed at us and shouted, “Get them!”

Here we go!

Next chapter, that is.


End of Shell 4.6

Now that’s more like it.

The “fight” against Über and Leet was fun, but fairly tensionless. Now things have turned around and the true enemy has shown her… well, mask, but you get the point. Now it’s four Undersiders versus about forty Asplody Beach Balls and the first adult enemy we’ve encountered since Lung.

Wait, were Über and Leet adults? I didn’t get that impression, especially considering Leet’s weight, but now I’m not sure.

Anyway, this upcoming fight has been in the cards since the end of Gestation. Back then, of course, I wouldn’t have expected that three of the then mysterious villain kids would join Taylor for the battle.

Taylor, incidentally, is still at a disadvantage because of the selection of bugs at her disposal. This could be a tricky fight to win.

As for what the end of chapter posts are actually supposed to be about, namely the chapter that ended: It was very fun, but not fantastic. Like the previous one, it mostly seems to just have been setting up the Bakuda fight in the next one, and while that’s important too, it ends up feeling just a little bit… fillery? I don’t think it’s actually “filler”, but it’s just how it feels. They can’t all be winners, I guess, and this one didn’t exactly lose either.

Next chapter might just blow me away though. See ya then!

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