Hive 5.1: Truce

Source material: Worm, Hive 5.1

Originally blogged: July 13, 2017


Howdy, everyone! Krixwell here, ready to jump into Arc 5 of Worm! I’m curious to see what kind of title it has…

*clicks “Next chapter”*

Hive? Interesting. I guess this Arc will deal significantly with the idea of “home”. Worth noting that Taylor is supposed to stay at her hive and rest for a while to get over the concussion, though I still don’t know whether or not it’s getting covered or we’ll do a time skip. I’m strongly leaning towards the former, though, since Wildbow so far has tended towards starting where he left off or at most a couple days later.

However, I think the idea of “home” will be explored more thoroughly than that – for instance, this might involve Taylor realizing how much she feels at home among the Undersiders. Hell, maybe she’ll even find out who the boss is and have to make her decision to stay or betray? Considering the Interludes acting as bridges between the Arcs and the scentless man, who I’m assuming is the boss until indicated otherwise, appearing in Interlude 4, it’s not far-fetched that he’ll be somewhat relevant in this Arc.

Sidenote: I’ve previously considered making jokes about Worm Arc 5 (much like Steven Universe season 5 so far) mirroring Homestuck Act 5 in ways that wouldn’t really make sense in the story at this point, but… the part of Homestuck Act 5 I was thinking about happens to have the nickname Hivebent. 😛

I guess if the first third of the Arc is a multi-chapter Interlude following a bunch of aliens on an alien planet, we’ll know for sure that Wildbow was a Homestuck.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s read the first chapter of Hive!


The place was nondescript.

You don’t get much more nondescript than “the place”.

A hole in the wall in the midst of a long street of hole in the wall businesses. Everything was run down. For every given store or restaurant you passed, you could only guess if the place was still open or not.

Oh hey, a description!


The pub had a sign on it reading ‘Somer’s Rock’. There were iron bars on the windows and the curtains were drawn, but it would have been more unusual if that wasn’t the case. It was that kind of area.

I feel like this place might be in the Docks.

The paint on the outside was peeling, and the rust from the bars had bled onto the gray-white paint below the windows.

Seriously, “nondescript” is a silly word in literature. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it not immediately followed by a description of the place it’s saying doesn’t really have a distinguishing description.

I guess you could say it means “ordinary” or “not very interesting”, though.

As we stepped inside, it became clear that Somer’s Rock was one book that should be judged by its cover. It was dim, dingy and depressing.

The four Ds of Somer’s Rock: Dim, dingy, depressing and descript. 😉


The wood floor was stained the same dark gray as the counter of the bar, the curtains and tablecloths were dark green, and the only real color or brightness, if you could call it that, was the yellow light cast by ancient, burnt lightbulbs.

Wow, certainly wasn’t kidding when she said “dim”.

There were three people in Somer’s Rock when we arrived. One was a sullen looking twenty-something girl with brown hair and a slightly wrinkled server’s uniform, who glanced at us as we came in, but made no attempt to welcome us.

“Welcome to Somer’s Rock, this great… place… fuck it”

There were two identical twins behind the bar in the far corner, probably her older brothers, busying themselves with washing glasses and studiously ignoring us. One of them was wearing a dress shirt and apron, looking the part of a bartender, while the other had a black t-shirt under a Hawaiian shirt.

Better than a black t-shirt over a Hawaiian shirt. If that were the case, I’d have to call in Fashion Jasper (SU spoilers).

Besides the contrast in fashion, they were identical in height, haircut, features and expression.

Nice.


A group of tables had been pulled together with chairs arranged around them, but we walked past them to a corner booth. Tattletale, Bitch, Grue, Regent and I all arranged ourselves on the worn cushioned benches. I was calling them that in my head, really, because they weren’t Lisa, Brian, Rachel and Alec. We were all in costume.

Huh, that’s interesting. Is this, like, a thing with Somer’s Rock? Is it a pub frequented specifically by villains, or even capes in general, under a sort of localized ceasefire?

Either way, it doesn’t sound like the staff minds that five(! Bitch is with them for once!) wanted criminals just walked in.

As we settled in, the girl with the dour expression approached us, setting her notepad down on the table and then stared at me, the look in her eyes almost challenging. She didn’t say a word.

“Coke?” I ventured, feeling uncomfortable under the look.

So far, I’m headcanoning the waitress as looking kind of like Tambry from Gravity Falls, but with brown hair instead of purple.

I can’t really tell if the attitude is because she knows who the Undersiders are and have something against them, or because that’s just how she normally treats the guests.

I’m leaning towards the latter, though.

“No, Skitter,” Tattletale nudged me, “She’s deaf. If you want something, write it on the pad.”

Okay, two things here:

One, Tattle has adopted the name Skitter for Taylor, but we still haven’t seen anything about Taylor’s thoughts on the name. Hopefully we’re about to.

Two… actually, number two is invalidated by this being Tattle, who can know things like this without being a regular of the pub.

To demonstrate, she reached across the table, took the pad and wrote ‘tea, black’. I took her cue and wrote down my order, then passed the note across the table to the boys and Bitch. The girl gave me an ugly look as she walked away with our orders.

But it does sound like she’s been here before.

Also, is the waitress singling out Taylor?


It had been a week since the incident with Bakuda. Lisa and Brian had stopped by several times as I spent my days in bed, giving me updates on the situation as it unfolded.

Huh. Pretty sure this is the longest time skip so far. I guess nothing interesting enough to warrant a chapter happened during the recuperation.

At one point they had even brought Alec and Bitch, and I’d been veryrelieved my dad hadn’t been home at the time.

Oh boy, yeah. Those two aren’t exactly… paternally correct.

Alec and Bitch weren’t the polite houseguests that Lisa and Brian were, and I suspected their presence and personalities would have raised more questions with my dad than they put to rest.

Especially Rachel, I’d imagine. Like, how she and Taylor got along enough to stay friends. Oh, and the fact that she’s a wanted criminal. Danny might have seen her somewhere.

Also, there Taylor goes again: Still calling Rachel Bitch in a context where she calls the other three by their civilian names.


Apparently someone at the PHQ had named my costumed self ‘Skitter’.

Clockblocker, wasn’t it?

[It was Gallant’s suggestion. Clockblocker was just the one who checked and finalized it.]

Lung had overheard something about it, and it had now spread through the city in the aftermath of his escape, which implied he was probably looking for me.

I thought it would be mentioned in the news article about the robbery that Taylor read back in… 4.1, I think it was? That’s why I was surprised that we didn’t get a reaction to it back then.

As a newspaper article raised our possible involvement in the bombings that had taken place, as adversaries of Bakuda, my new name had come up yet again, so it looked like it was maybe catching on. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t love anyof the names I’d come up with, so I could cope.

I still think Worm would’ve made a neat one, even if the word is kind of associated with defenceless and powerless creatures. Skitter isn’t much better on that front, though, since it makes her sound like she’s running away like a scared mouse.

Also, this probably explains the waitress’ attitude. Maybe someone close to her was seriously hurt or killed in the bombings?

It seemed that we had arrived a few minutes early, because the rest of the guests arrived within seconds of each other, as the server brought us our drinks.

Oh, huh, seems like this was a scheduled event.


Kaiser came through the door with a girl on each arm, blondes with measurements like Playboy models. Kaiser wore armor head to toe, elaborately worked and topped with a crown of blades. The leader of Empire Eighty Eight.

Hello, Max. Fuck you.

The twins went by the names Fenja and Menja, and were decked out in Valkyrie-style armor featuring countless little steel wings, along with closed-face helms.

Sounds cool! Fits right in with Kaiser – given that they’re with him, they are presumably also Neo-Nazis, with armor that forces you to admit they look cool despite being shitty people.

Had to admit, Kaiser liked his heavy hitters. These two could grow to be three stories tall, and they were a hundred times more durable when they were.

Huh. I wonder if they’re twins, like the bartender and whatever role his twin has in the pub. Twins ending up with identical or tightly interwoven powers would be rather fitting with the heredity of powers.

Purity entered a few steps behind him with several others following her.

Hi! I’m much more happy to see you than the people you’re with.

She was dressed in a white costume without any markings or symbols on it, but the fabric glowed softly. Her white hair and eyes glowed too, but it was more like they were made of heated magnesium than anything else. I couldn’t look in her direction without getting spots in my eyes, and my mask had tinted lenses designedto reduce glare.

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT

REVVED UP LIKE A DEUCE

ANOTHER SKITTER IN THE NIGHT


So we have the Undersiders and representatives of the EEE gathering for a seemingly scheduled event. Possibly also other villains.

What do the Undersiders and the EEE have in common, besides being villains? They both have the ABB as enemies, and the Undersiders vs. the ABB has become public knowledge. I’m thinking Kaiser might’ve contacted them and possibly other villainous groups Bakuda antagonized in her attacks to discuss the issue (and twist people’s minds into supporting him because he’s Kaiser and he does that kind of thing).


The people that had come in with Purity were other members of Empire Eighty Eight. Krieg, Night, Fog and Hookwolf.

Names to speculate on!

Krieg: Possibly something similar to Miss Militia. Could be a Tinker specializing in weapons.

Night: I mean, we already have Grue to make things dark, so I doubt that’s this person’s deal. Not sure what it might be.

Fog: …similar to the situation with Night. The obvious answer would be that they either generate fog or turn into fog, but those powers are very close to Grue and Shadow Stalker’s.

Hookwolf: This one sounds more interesting. Perhaps a werewolf-esque transformation? But then where does the “hook” part come into play… maybe they’re a pirate werewolf, Captain James Hookwolf.

It was interesting to see, because as far as I’d known, while every one of them had been a member of Empire Eighty Eight at some point in time, Purity had gone solo, while Night and Fog had splintered off to form their own duo in Boston not long after. All reunited, apparently.

So this is the group Purity wanted to reunite, then. I wonder if any of them want to be there. I’m guessing it would have to be Hookwolf.

That wasn’t even Kaiser’s entire team. Aside from the rare exception like Lung reaching out to Bakuda when she’d been at Cornell, it seemed that most groups recruited new members from within their own city. Kaiser was different.

Makes sense – if he can get more power for his cause, it doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as it’s (eugh) “pure”.

He was one of the better known American villains with a white supremacist agenda, and people sharing his ideals were either recruited from other states or they came to him. Most didn’t stay with him for too long, for whatever reason, but it still made him the Brockton Bay resident with the most raw parahuman muscle at his beck and call.

A lot of turnover, huh? Gee, I wonder why that could be. Do you know, mister “breaks his subordinates psychologically”? Yeah, fuck you, Max.

(I don’t care that his victims are Neo-Nazis like himself. It’s shitty as fuck nonetheless.)


Kaiser sat at one end of the table in the center of the room, his people finding seats and chairs at the tables behind him. Purity didn’t relax or order drinks, though.

She’s probably very tense right now. She only just got back into the EEE about a week ago, so this may very well be her first errand like this since returning.

She sat in a chair a few feet behind Kaiser, folded her arms and crossed one ankle over the other, settling in to watch the proceedings.

This all does sound very formal.

From my research online and digging through old newspaper articles,I knew Purity could create light and charge it with kinetic energy. She was like a human flashlight, if the light from the flashlight could punch through brick walls and tear city buses in half.

Awesome.

(The idea of adding more kinetic energy to light causes all sorts of physics-breakage, as getting anything to go up to the speed of light from just below it requires adding infinite energy, but it’s not like that’s known to hinder parahuman powers.)

As far as raw firepower went, she was up near the top of the list, a flying artillery turret.

Ironically, that last phrase just makes me think of one of the darker fictional creatures I know of:


Coil entered after Empire Eighty Eight, all the more conspicuous because he was alone. No backup, no show of force.

Okay, more villains are showing up.

I remember Coil being discussed around the time of Interlude 2 – Tinker with a personal militia equipped with his tech, wasn’t he? I forget if we were given a name for the militia itself.

He was taller than Grue, but he was thin to the point of being skeletal. His skintight costume covered him head to toe, lacking even eyeholes or openings for his nose and mouth, and the way it clung to his skin let you see his individual ribs and joints.

Spooky, scary and vulnerable to bone hurting juice.

The costume was black, and the only design on it was a white snake, with its head starting at Coil’s forehead, the tail extending down the back of his head, looping and winding over his entire body before finally ending at one of his ankles. He sat at the end of the table opposite Kaiser.

He’s like a living, walking Rod of Asclepius. I doubt the symbolism of that is very fitting, though. It’s more Panacea’s thing, really. For Coil we should probably stick to just the snake itself.


“What’s his deal?” I whispered to Tattletale.

“Coil? Can’t say as far as his powers go, but he’s one of the more powerful players in town. Considers himself a chessmaster. You know, like a master strategist, tactician. Controls more than half of downtown with squads of top notch personnel in the highest end gear. Ex-military from around the world. If he even has powers, he’s the only one in his organization who does.”

Hm, interesting. So he might not be a Tinker himself, but he has access to gear that sounds like it’s Tinker-quality nonetheless.

Also, I suppose the chessmaster archetype and snake imagery go well together, what with snakes’ reputation of being cunning and wrapping you up in their schemes. I guess that’s why he chose the name Coil.

[“can’t say”. Nice Aes Sedai truth there, Lisa.]

I nodded. Almost the opposite of Kaiser in that department. I might have asked more, but others were streaming into the room.

Nice to have some foils among the villains.


Faultline. I knew of her from my research.

I seem to recall her name coming up before, but I’m not sure when. Either way, she sounds like she has the power to make earthquakes, or just generally to cause powerful vibrations.

She was twenty-something, and her straight black hair was in a long bristling ponytail. Her costume was weird, approximating something like a blend of riot gear, a martial arts uniform and a dress.

…wow. Hey, Fashion Jasper, it sounds like we have a disaster over here.

Four people entered the room with her, and the two guys in the group were instantly the weirdest people in the room. I knew them by name too. Newter wasn’t wearing a shirt, shoes or gloves, which made it all the more apparent that his skin was neon orange from head to toe.

A lizardman? Sorry, I mean, newtman?

Might want to consider a job as a newts anchor wait shit is that racist

He had light blue eyes, dark red hair that looked wet and a five foot long prehensile tail.

Honestly, prehensile tails seem very handy – no pun intended.

Gregor the Snail was morbidly obese, average height, with no hair on his entire body. His skin was milky white and slightly translucent, so you could see shadows beneath it where his organs were.

So far not as freaky as Aegis’ power, but way more freaky-looking.

Like someone else might have bad acne, he had bits of shell or scales crusting his skin. They looked almost like barnacles, but there was a spiral shape to them.

I wonder if these two can transform, or if these are permanent states. Wouldn’t be easy to keep a secret identity in the latter case.


You wouldn’t have thought they were close by their body language, silence and the sheer difference in appearance, but both had matching tattoos. Newter’s was just above his heart, while Gregor’s was on his upper arm. It looked like the greek ‘Omega’ symbol, but upside down. Maybe a stylized ‘u’.

Hm.

Oh, I just remembered what Faultline’s crew was called. It’s Faultline’s Crew. A fantastically imaginative name. But then what are the U-megas all about? Did they just decide on a more abstract logo?

Either way, if Faultline’s power does involve earthquakes and manipulating what happens under the ground, it’s kinda fitting that loyalty to the Crew is indicated through something that goes under the skin.

The tattoos also indicate a sort of “you’re one of us forever” attitude, for better or worse.

The other two girls in Faultline’s group were very normal by contrast; Labyrinth wore a dark green robe and mask with lines all over them. Spitfire wore in a red and black costume with a gasmask.

I wonder if Labyrinth’s power is literally to make labyrinths pop up wherever she uses it. Maybe she can make them non-euclidean.

And then there’s…

…Spitfire, whose power is to train flyers.

(If it turns out Spitfire literally spits fire… well, I don’t know what I’d do, other than enjoy it. Although I guess the gas mask would make that tricky.)


I was surprised when Faultline deliberately walked by our table on her way to her seat, taking the long way around. As she passed us, she looked over Tattletale and me and sneered a little before taking the chair to Kaiser’s right.

I guess she’s read that article blaming the Undersiders.

Who would even be able to leak that information? …actually, no, I thought I was onto something for a second, but thousands of viewers would know that Über and Leet were fighting the Undersiders, and possibly hear that Bakuda was there (if Über and Leet didn’t already reveal it to their audience). And failing that, there’s all the civilians, though Bakuda of course had tons of leverage over them, so (unless she actually wanted the information out there, which she actually might’ve), she would likely be able to keep them from talking.

Oh, and then there’s the video Bakuda had recorded of the death of Park Jihoo, showing the Undersiders.

So yeah, that’s one hell of a mystery that I only thought was a mystery for a short moment and that totally didn’t need solving.

“I’m going to go before all the seats get taken, if that’s cool?” Grue spoke, and the rest of us nodded. Grue sat between Faultline and Coil.

I guess he’s going to be the main Undersider ambassador here. I think Tattle might’ve been a better choice thanks to her power, but Grue’s pretty good too.

“What was that with Faultline and you?” I murmured to Tattletale, “History?”

“Nothing important,” she replied.

Hm… not sure if I believe her.


Regent leaned forward. “She and Tattletale have been feuding a little. Faultline upped the ante when she poached Spitfire from us when we were in the middle of trying to recruit her.

Ohh, I remember now. Faultline first came up when they were discussing previous attempts at recruitment, with Spitfire joining Faultline’s Crew instead.

Can’t say why Faultline doesn’t like Tattle, but I know Tattletale hates it when people act like they’re smarter than her, and Faultline issmarter than her. Ow. Fuck, that hurt.”

Tattletale had kicked him under the table.

Ahaha.

“They’re mercenaries right?” I asked.

Tattletale nodded, “Faultline’s crew does anything short of murder. You can say her personality sucks, you can say her powers suck, but I’ll admit she’s very good at finding hidden strengths in the people that work for her.

That’s a very useful trait to have.

Tell me more… about all three of those things.

See those two guys? When it came to powers, they got a bad roll of the dice. Became freaks that couldn’t hope to pass in normal society, wound up homeless or living in the sewers.

So it is a permanent change.

Shitty luck, that.

There’s a story behind it, but they became a team, she made them effective, and they’ve only messed up one or two jobs so far.”

Nice work, all three of you. 🙂


“Gotcha,” I said, “Impressive.”

“Keep in mind, though, we haven’t screwed up any. We’re 100%.”

That’s a damn good track record!

“They’ve done something like three times as many jobs as us,” Regent pointed out.

“But we haven’t failed any jobs, is the important thing,” Tattletale stressed.

…but Regent would make a better statistician than Tattle.


Another group arrived, and it was like you could see a wave of distaste wash over the faces in the room. I had seen references on the web and news articles about these guys, but they weren’t the sort you took pictures of. Skidmark, Moist, Squealer. Two guys and a girl, the lot of them proving that capes weren’t necessarily attractive, successful or immune to the influences of substance abuse. Hardcore addicts and dealers who happened to have superpowers.

Oh boy.

Skidmark sounds like… possibly a vehicle-based Tinker?

Squealer might have some sort of screaming based power.

…I don’t want to think about what kind of power would cause someone to call themself Moist.

(Okay, okay… Maybe hydrokinesis or something similar?)


Skidmark wore a mask that covered the top half of his face. The lower half was dark skinned, with badly chapped lips and teeth that looked more like shelled pistachio nuts than anything else.

Yikes. Don’t do drugs, kids.

He stepped up to the table and reached for a chair. Before he could move it, though, Kaiser kicked the chair out of reach, sending it toppling onto its side, sliding across the floor.

…fuck you, Max.

“The fuck?” Skidmark snarled.

“You can sit in a booth,” Kaiser spoke. Even though his voice was completely calm, like he was talking to a stranger about the weather, it felt threatening.

“This is because I’m black, hunh? That’s what you’re all about, yeah?”

This meeting didn’t get far before the hostilities started, huh.

Still calm, Kaiser replied, “You can sit in a booth because you and your team are pathetic, deranged losers that aren’t worth talking to. The people at this table? I don’t like them, but I’ll listen to them. That isn’t the case with you.”

“Fuck you. What about this guy?” Skidmark pointed at Grue, “I don’t even know his name, and he’s sitting.”

Ohh, right… Max probably doesn’t know the color of Grue’s skin under the costume.

I have to admit, it slipped my mind too.

Faultline answered him, “His team hit the Brockton Bay Central Bank a week ago. They’ve gone up against Lung several times in the past and they’re still here, which is better than most. Not even counting the events of a week ago, he knows about the ABB and he can share that information with the rest of us.”

I mean, it’s a good point. Still not entirely convinced Max’s attitude is entirely decoupled from Skidmark’s race, but at least his excuse is… defensible?

(Either way, fuck you, Max.)

She gave Grue a look that made it clear that he didn’t have a choice if he wanted to sit at the table. He dipped his head in the smallest of nods in response. We’d discussed things beforehand and agreed on what details we’d share.

I wonder if the Undersiders have given the other villains the impression that Grue is officially their leader.

I suppose in a sense, he is, de facto. Tattle comes at a close second.


“What have you done that’s worth a seat at this table?” she asked Skidmark.

“We hold territory-”

“You hold nothing,” Grue answered, raising his voice, his powers warping it, “You’re cowards that hold onto the areas nobody else cares about, making drugs and selling them to children.”

…fair enough. That’s pretty pathetic.

“We sell to everyone, not just-”

“Find a booth,” Grue’s echoing voice interrupted him. Skidmark gave him a look, then looked at the others sitting around the table. All still, every set of eyes he could see behind the masks was staring him down.

See, Grue’s motivations for saying this I don’t doubt.

“Assholes. Puckered, juicy assholes, all of you,” Skidmark snarled, stomping off to the booth where his teammates already sat.

From Skidmark’s perspective, he was just very rudely brushed off by the Cool Kids™.


The serving girl picked up the fallen chair and restored it to its position at the table, not meeting anyone’s eyes as she walked up to the table where Kaiser’s people sat, put down her notepad and waited for everyone to write down their orders. It struck me just whythe pub had a deaf waitress.

I suppose it’s so the villains can speak freely between themselves?

Though it also forces the customers to take turns to order, contributing to the, well, order in the pub.

“I’ll be taking a chair, I think,” someone spoke from the door.

You might want to write that down.

Most heads turned to check out a male figure in a black costume with a red mask and tophat. It gave me sort of a Baron Samedi vibe.

Sounds like a stylish fellow!

His teammates followed him into the room, all in matching costumes of red and black, differing only in design. A girl with a sun motif, a guy with bulky armor and a square mask, and a creature so large it had to crawl on its hands and knees to get through the door. It was hard to describe, approximating something like a four armed hairless gorilla, with a vest, mask and leggings in the red and black style its team was wearing, six-inch claws tipping each of its fingers and toes.

That’s… quite a sight. I wonder if it’s more in line with Bitch’s dogs or with Newter and Gregor.

“The Travelers, yes?” Coil spoke, his voice smooth, “You’re not local.”

“You could call us nomadic.

Makes sense with that name. Nomadic villains, huh? Nice.

Also of course the guy with the snake theme has a smooth voice.

What was happening here was too interesting to pass up, so I decided we’d stop by for a visit.” The guy with the top hat pulled off the first really formal bow I’d seen in my life. “I go by Trickster.”

I like it!

This guy actually reminds me quite a bit of one of my favorite villains in fiction, Tyki Mikk from D.Gray-man.


“You know the rules, here?” Grue asked Trickster.

“We’ve been to similar places. I can guess. No fighting, no powers, no trying to bait others into causing trouble, or everyone else in the room puts aside all other grievances to put you down.”

Pretty good set of rules, that. Just informal enough to keep even villains in line, just formal enough to keep them in line.

“Close enough. It’s important to have neutral ground to meet, have civilized discussion.”

“I won’t argue that. Please, continue as if I wasn’t here.”

When Trickster took a chair and put his feet up on the table, nobody complained, though Skidmark looked like he wanted to kill someone. The rest of the Travelers settled in a booth not far from us. The gorilla thing sat on the floor and it was still large enough to be at eye level with its teammates.

Curious George is all grown up!

Jokes aside, I notice it’s being described as a teammate, which is not the case with Rachel’s dogs.


Coil dipped his head in a nod and steepled his fingers. When he spoke, his voice was smooth, “That should be everyone. Seems Lung won’t be coming, though I doubt any of us are surprised, given the subject of tonight’s discussion.”

“The ABB,” Kaiser replied.

Heh, imagine how awkward that would be – Lung showing up halfway through like “hi guys, what are we talking about today?”

Incidentally, I just realized why Tattle isn’t at the table: The exact reason I thought she might be better for it is against the rules.

“Thirty five individuals confirmed dead and over a hundred hospitalized in this past week. Armed presence on the streets. Ongoing exchanges of gunfire between ABB members and the combined forces of the police and military.

Warzone indeed.

They have raided our businesses and bombed places where they think we might operating. They have seized our territories, and there’s no indication they intend to stop anytime soon,” Coil clarified the situation for all present.

“It isinconvenient,” Kaiser spoke.

Is that all it is to you, Max? It gets in the way of your plans, but no biggie? I wonder what Purity thinks of this line.

“They’re being reckless,” Faultline said. She made it sound like that was a crime on par with killing kittens.

Let’s not ask what Faultline thinks of recklessly killing kittens.


Coil nodded, “Which is the real concern. The ABB can’t sustain this. Something will give, they will self destruct sooner or later, and they will likely cease to be an issue. Had things played out differently, we could look at this as a good thing.

Why isn’t that a good thing? I mean, besides all the damage in the mean time?

Our problem is that the actions of the ABB are drawing attention to our fair city. Homeland security and military forces are establishing a temporary presence to assist in maintaining order. Heroes are flocking to the city to support the Protectorate in regaining control of matters. It is making business difficult.”

Ahh.

There’s also the whole issue with the power vacuum left after the ABB self destructs. Like the one discussed in Interlude 2, but larger, because not only would the gang be weakened, it would be gone. The War of the Docks might still happen.

“Bakuda is at the center of this,” Grue joined the dialogue, “Lung may be the leader, but everything hinges on the girl.

She is the one who started it, at the very least.

She ‘recruited’ by orchestrating raids of people’s homes while they slept, subduing them, and implanting bombs in their heads. She then used those bombs to coerce her victims into kidnapping more. No less than three hundred in total, now.

Yikes. When Taylor first fought Lung a couple weeks back, he was implied to have about 50-70 members. Things sure have changed.

Every single one of her soldiers knows that if they don’t obey, Bakuda can detonate the bombs.

I still don’t think “soldiers” is the right term, but it’s better than nothing.

All of them are willing to put their lives on the line, because the alternatives are either certain death or watching their loved ones die for their failure. Taking her down is our ultimate goal, but she’s rigged her bombs to go off the second her heart stops, so it’s a little more complicated than a simple assassination.”

And that’s another issue. Damn, this situation is tricky.

He reached into the darkness that shrouded his chest and withdrew a package. “She videotaped the ambush she pulled on my group a week ago and left it behind when she ran. I’ve made copies. Maybe you’ll find it useful for getting a better understanding of her.”

Oh, she didn’t get a chance to publish it. Fair enough.

Grue handed a burned CD to everyone at the table.

This was our show of strength. The video showed everything from the point Bakuda had liquefied Park Jihoo to the second bomb she had set off in her ranks. As the second bomb had gone off in the midst of Bakuda’s group, the camera had dropped briefly, recorded the sounds of guns going off and everything being darkened by Grue’s power, but it didn’t show us running. It didn’t reveal our weaknesses, how lucky we’d been to get away, or how bad our circumstances had really been. It did let everyone know what we’d been up against, let them know that we’d come out fine and had been able to attend this meeting. That would do as much for our reputation as anything else.

Not bad! Masters of the getaway strike again.


I wasn’t 100% recovered from my concussion, and Alec was complaining of twinges in his arm, still, but Brian had stressed how important it was that we attend, give the illusion our team was intact, untouched. Seeing the other groups with their subtle posturing, I knew he’d been right.

Niiice.

“So,” Coil let the word hang in the air as he cracked each of the knuckles on his right hand individually, “We’re in agreement? The ABB cannot be allowed to continue operating.”

…remember Tattle’s lines in 3.6 about how those who break the unspoken rules of the game would be taken down by the people ostensibly on their side?

“But the real evidence to my ‘cops and robbers’ theory,” Lisa continued, “Is the reaction you see when someone crosses the line. You’ve heard about it happening. Someone finds out another cape’s secret identity, goes after the cape’s family. Or a cape wins a fight and decides his downed opponent isn’t in a state to say no if he’s feeling lusty? Word gets around, and the cape community goes after the fucker. Protecting the status quo, keeping the game afloat. Bitter enemies call a truce, everyone bands together, favors get called in and everyone does their damndest to put the asshole down.”

That’s exactly what’s happening here. By turning the city into a needlessly deadly warzone and causing an imbalance of heroes to villains in the game, Bakuda is threatening the game itself. She’s crossed the line, and now everyone is banding together to stop her.


There were nods and murmurs of agreement from around the table, some from the various villains gathered around the room.

“Then I suggest we establish a truce. Not just everyone here, but between ourselves and the law. I would contact authorities and let them know that until this matter is cleared up, our groups will restrict our illegal activity to only what is absolutely essential to our business, and we will enforce the same for those doing business in our territories.

I doubt Armsmaster would be too pleased with “we’ll only be a little evil”, but it’d certainly be an improvement. It’s also a very practical way to resolve the part of Tattle’s description where all of the cape community comes together, not just the ones on each side.

That would let police forces and military focus entirely on the ABB. There would be no violence, infighting between our groups, grabs for territory, thefts or insults. We band together with those we can tolerate for guaranteed victory, and we ignore those we cannot cooperate with.”

Coil’s suggestion is precisely as Tattle was saying: Everyone goes after the fucker.


“Just saying my group won’t be getting directly involved in this without a reason,” Faultline spoke, “We won’t be going after the ABB unless they get in my way or someone pays my rates. It’s the only workable policy when you’re a cape for hire. And just so we’re clear, if it’s the ABB paying, my team’s going to be on the other side of things.”

I mean, fair enough.

Not quite sure what she means by that last sentence, though.

“Unfortunate, but you and I can talk after this meeting is done. I’d prefer to keep matters simple,” Coil said, “You’re okay with the other terms?”

“Keeping on the down-low, not kicking up a fuss with other groups? That’s status quo with my group anyways.”

“Good. Kaiser?”

“I think that is acceptable,” Kaiser agreed.

This seems good so far.

“I was talking to my group about doing something not too different from what Coil just proposed,” Grue spoke, “Yeah, we’re cool with it.”

“Sure,” Trickster said, “Not a problem. We’re in.”

Hands were shaken around the table.

Nice.

Man, let’s hope Skidmark doesn’t start shit now.

“Funny,” Tattletale murmured.

I turned away from the scene to look at her, “What?”

“Aside from Grue and maybe Faultline, everyone’s already plotting how they can use this situation to their advantage, or fuck over the others.”

Heh. Of course they are. Coil’s a chessmaster, Kaiser’s a manipulative bastard, Trickster… well, I don’t know him much, but the name has some implications about his behavior. Better keep an eye on him, or rather, on the side of him he doesn’t want you to see.


I turned back to the scene, the villains sitting around the table. It dawned on me just how much sheer destructive potential was gathered in the room.

This could get complicated.

Yep.


End of Hive 5.1

Well, that was interesting. Loads of new characters, and some large-scale developments in the cape community.

This chapter is essentially Tattle’s final piece of evidence for her theory coming true in front of our eyes, which tells me this is not the first time something like this happens. This is practically normal procedure when the status quo is threatened.

It’s still interesting, though. It means we now have, ostensibly, a war not between all the different factions, but between the ABB and everyone else. Yet at the same time, villainous self-interest is still in play on the “everyone else” side, as the factions try to benefit from the situation.

It’s as Taylor says, this could get complicated.

One thing that strikes me is that in other stories, this kind of chapter would usually have disagreement. Usually there’d be a sense of disunity in the proceedings, but here the most conflict we get after the proceedings actually start is Faultline compromising with “where the money leads us”. And that’s okay, because the conflict isn’t actually necessary here. This is standard procedure, and no one other than Faultline really has much reason to object to the initial suggestion Coil makes. In fact, given that they then proceed to think of how to take advantage of it, they have more personal reason to agree. And that’s why the conflict is not necessary in this chapter: The conflict of the Arc is not in whether the truce comes into effect, but in who will use it how.

Next chapter… maybe Taylor goes back to school for the first time since she got bombed?

See you then!


[postscript]

By the way, re: Faultline’s “other side” comment – for some stupid reason I was briefly mixing up the ABB and the Undersiders, which is why the line confused me. It read to me like “If it’s the Undersiders paying, (…)”.

Silly brain.

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3 thoughts on “Hive 5.1: Truce

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