Hive 5.7: Teletroubles

Source material: Worm, Hive 5.7

Originally blogged: July 30, 2017


Hi! (…ve.) It’s time to continue the raid on the ABB!

My predictions are about as simple as they were at the end of 5.6: The raid continues, but the precense of Lung and Oni Lee ups the stakes and causes more trouble.

Also, Lung might try to seek out Taylor.

Y’know what’s odd about Lung? He doesn’t feel anywhere near as threatening as he did in Gestation yet, because a) Taylor and the Undersiders have beaten him before, b) we’ve met Bakuda, who, despite being his subordinate, comes across as way more of a threat, and c) the protags have much more firepower this time.

Perhaps this is the chapter where we finally see what he’s actually capable of.

Let’s get into it, shall we?


“Lung’s there,” I echoed, as much to let Sundancer and Labyrinth know as to help myself process the idea.

“He’s with Kaiser. I can’t get to them. Kaiser blocked the door with giant knives.”

With Kaiser as in fighting Kaiser, or as in Kaiser is a treacherous dick?

If it’s the former, well… I think Lung has the advantage here, powerwise. They both form metal armor on their bodies, and Lung has the power to heat the metal on Kaiser’s body with his pyrokinesis, whereas Kaiser can only attack with metal to metal.

Kaiser’s advantage, of course, would be that it takes time for Lung to reach his full potential.

Also, I just realized that maybe I should be careful about calling Kaiser *whispers* a dick *stops whispering* right now. Kind of a sore point for Lung.


“Ignore Lung!” I stressed. If Kaiser wanted to go it alone, he could reap the consequences. “Priorities are Newter and Oni Lee! Can you get upstairs to rescue Newter?”

“I can’t ride Brutus in there, I’d have to dismount.”

That would put Bitch at a considerable disadvantage. She’s a squishy summoner/druid, whose power is in empowering, not in using her own body in combat. Much like Taylor, really, but unlike Taylor, Rachel can’t control her dogs remotely and directly like Taylor can with her bugs.

Also, I really like how Taylor is now taking some control. I have previously likened Taylor to a general, a war tactician, a leader of an army. That’s what’s kicking in here, I think.

“Then draw him outside! Watch your back!”

I hung up, shoved the phone into the compartment behind my back, and drew my baton and knife.

“What are you doing?” Sundancer asked.

That’s a damn good question. Is Taylor going in? Dammit, didn’t she hear anything I just said about how she too is a squishy summoner/druid?

“Oni Lee’s a freaking assassin. I can’t leave Bitch on her own.”

I didn’t wait another second. I bolted for the warehouse, drawing more bugs from the surroundings to help back me up.

Well, at least she’s not gong in unarmed.


Bitch, still riding Brutus, came rushing out the loading bay door, Judas only a step behind. They skidded to a stop, facing the building. Through the hole the explosion had made in the wall, I saw Angelica climbing up the stairs.

Go get ‘im!

As Angelica reached the top of the stairs, Judas lunged up and through the windows at the opposite end of the second floor hallway, trapping Oni Lee in between them.

“Trapping”? Seriously? Taylor, he can teleport.

Oni Lee barely seemed to care. I could see him in his black bodysuit with belts and bandoleers of knives on it, his mask with the demonic face and leering, fanged, ear-to-ear grin. He glanced at one dog, then the other, then looked out the window.

He probably already has teleported.

What happens if one of his left-behind forms gets torn apart? Does that carry over somehow? I doubt it.


I knew his power was a hybrid between duplicating himself and teleportation. He could teleport, but when he did, he left a body behind that could act autonomously for a few seconds. So when I saw him glance out the window, I followed his line of sight, and saw he had already appeared just behind Bitch, half-crouching on Brutus’ back, one hand on a hook of bone to help him balance.

o hai there

There was a flash of steel in his other hand as he reached around her throat with a blade.

Well that’s just fantastic, isn’t it.

I’m actually impressed that he managed to keep his balance after teleporting directly to the back of a hellhound.

Also, it kind of sounds like he might need line of sight to teleport. Good to know. If that’s the case, then his weakness is being blinded, perhaps via a fuckton of insects covering his mask, or even just the pepper spray Taylor keeps in her costume.

“Bitch!” I screamed. It didn’t matter. At the same time as I opened my mouth, a red dot and a mist of red appeared out of the back of his head. A split second later, another dot and spray of red appeared on his back, around his heart was. He fell on top of Bitch’s shoulder, limp, then collapsed to the ground.

what.

A second later, he exploded into an opaque cloud of white ash, ten feet across.

I glanced over my shoulder, saw the dark silhouettes of Coil’s men lying down on the edge of the rooftop. One had a pair of binoculars, the other was set up behind a long rifle with a prominent scope. A sniper team.

Note to self: Don’t fuck with Coil.

But… did Oni Lee teleport before he got shot?

Wow, that’s a question you don’t see often. “Did this guy who just got shot on-screen teleport away before the shot we just witnessed hit him?”

Anyone else would be dead by now, but the fact that the body had exploded into dust meant it was just a clone, a leftover remaining behind after Oni Lee had teleported away.

Ah, yes. That’s why it occurred to me that he might’ve teleported away, but I couldn’t be sure that wasn’t a side effect of whatever tech Coil’s men were using.

I mean, we’ve seen Bakuda liquify a man. Bullets that turn the corpse into ash aren’t far-fetched.

He probably wasn’t remaining in one place for more than a second. My bet was that he was appearing, immediately looking for a new target or vantage point, then making a quick exit, leaving the clone to do the deed.

I do wonder how much independent agency the clones have. Does Oni have to decide what the version left behind is going to do before he teleports, or can the clone think for himself?

How long did it take him, when he first got the power, to come to terms with the knowledge that the next time he uses it, he’s not going to be the Alpha Oni anymore and when that happens he’ll die after a few seconds?


I reached Bitch and cast a nervous glance over my shoulder for Oni Lee. “You okay?”

“Felt the fucking steel on my throat,” she rubbed her throat as if she was checking it was okay. “Where’d he go?”

Bitch knows what’s up with Oni’s power. Not surprising, considering we know the Undersiders have run into him before.

I saw Oni Lee for only a fraction of a second, as he fell from the roof of the warehouse, before he exploded into another cloud of white dust. Another point for the sniper team. Why had he been up there? Who or what had he been trying to see?

Huh, those snipers are good.

They’re probably gonna get tired of Whack-an-Oni after a while, though.

“The snipers,” I breathed, whirling around.

Where the sniper team had been, there were four figures now. I saw the rifle fall from the edge of the roof as the two soldiers struggled with a pair of Oni Lees.

…y’know, or this. This is a thing that can happen before they get sick of it.

Then, puff, the clones were gone, and there was enough white dust around them that they wouldn’t be drawing a bead on him again, even if they hadn’t lost the rifle.

It sounds like they’re alive. Lucky break.

But where had he gone from there? I looked around, feeling the panic begin to set in.

Hm, this is actually another perfect example of what Bakuda was talking about with regard to fear. Oni Lee, as a short-range teleporter, is someone who can be practically anywhere in the area. You don’t know where he is, but you know he’s here somewhere, ready to suddenly be right here, right at your location, killing you.


Brutus made a roaring sound somewhere between a howl and a growl, not quite recognizable as either. He reared like a panicked horse, and I saw Oni Lee drop from the side of his head, land in a crouch, and lunge for me, a knife in each hand.

Oh shit.

(Don’t you dare hurt Brutus!)

(…or Taylor!)

I swatted at his hands with my baton, sending one knife flying through the air and breaking his stride. It didn’t matter. Less than a second later, he was dust. He’d teleported.

If he uses his teleportation even more frequently, he can (unless he has an upper limit) spam the area with Oni clones and have all of them attack Taylor and Bitch at the same time.

This is one very powerful tweak to the standard ability of teleportation.


Hands seized me from behind, in a rough nelson hold,

I don’t know much about wrestling, but I’m pretty sure that move is banned, Oni. At least the full nelson.

pulling my arms out of the way as another Oni Lee materialized out of the dust in front of me, ready to capitalize on my inability to defend myself.

Say what you will about Oni Lee, but one thing’s for sure: he uses his power effectively.

Knowing he wasn’t about to let go of me, I brought both my legs up in a kick at Oni Lee’s stomach. They connected and he doubled over.

Nice!

Brutus lunged forward, biting at him before he could recover. Both the Oni Lee that was holding me and the one clasped in Brutus’ jaws turned to carbon ash, adding to the volume of the opaque, gritty white cloud that surrounded us.

byeee

As Bitch managed to get Brutus under control I saw his face. One of his eyes was in ruins, and volumes of blood and other liquids were flowing from it.

Nooooo he hurt Brutus 😦

“Fuck this,” I growled, drawing the bugs out from my costume, and retrieving the ones I’d had in the building. I spread them around, reaching for him, hoping for some sort of early warning.

No sooner the thought crossed my mind than the silhouette of a figure appeared twenty feet to my right. He whipped his arm in my direction, and I didn’t have any time to do much more than turn in his direction before something collided with my head. I stumbled and fell over backwards.

So much for early warning. Ow.


In the instant I toppled over, I had the presence of mind to tuck my chin against my chest so I wouldn’t add to my concussion. The armor covering my shoulders took the worst of the impact.

Good thinking.

Speaking of which, I’m not yet convinced that fighting with a concussion isn’t going to bite Taylor in the ass.

As I lay there, trying to parse what had just happened, I realized that a small knife was embedded in the armored section of my mask, cracking the lens. A throwing knife? I pulled it free and pulled myself to my feet.

Ouch, that ain’t good.

I had enough bugs around me now that I could be sure he wasn’t attacking us. That just raised the question of where he was.

It also doesn’t help that he’s far away if he can instantly be in melee range of you again.

“Bitch, you okay?” I asked.

“Fucker stabbed me in the arm!”

If that’s the worst injury we get away with today, we can count ourselves lucky. I headed out of the cloud that surrounded us, hoping to get a better sense of the battlefield.

Yeesh, yeah, you’re up against at least two highly dangerous people here.

Also, I think I’ve pointed this out before, but imagine if Oni Lee and Bakuda cooperated more directly than we’ve seen so far? Bakuda making a single bomb, handing it to Oni with a short delay set on it, and Oni spamming clones – all holding copies of the bomb – all over…

Boom.


I got out just in time to see Oni Lee tackling one of Coil’s snipers off the edge of the roof. Oni Lee disappeared in a cloud of white before he hit the ground. I was pretty sure the sniper hadn’t.

Ouch.

Sundancer was crumpled over, Labyrinth holding her shoulders.

This was not going well.

Gee, ya think? 😛

Oni Lee appeared thirty feet away from me, standing just to my left and behind me.

Hi again.

My bugs gave me a sense of his position before anything else, and I threw myself to one side. I thought maybe I saw the shape of one of his throwing knives pass through the air where I’d been standing, but I wasn’t seeing very well with a cracked lens on my mask.

Additional senses can really come in handy for improving your reaction time.

At my command, The bugs that had alerted me to his position gathered on him and began biting and stinging.

Then I noticed something weird. More bugs popped into existence in the midst of the cloud, near Sundancer and Labyrinth. I felt the original bugs perish as they exploded into ash.

Huh. I guess that confirms something I was idly thinking about earlier, but didn’t mention (sorry, I try to limit that happening): If Oni touches something, does it come along for the ride and leave a copy that explodes into ash, like his clothes do?

He was taking them with him. I don’t think he could help it.

I could track his movements.

Awesome. That ought to be very useful.


“Bitch! Here!” I shouted.

She lunged out of the cloud, still astride Brutus, pulling up short to avoid trampling me.

“I can see where he’s teleporting,” I told her, “Get Judas and Angelica.”

She whistled, long and piercing. As if in response, Oni Lee appeared just a few feet away.

“Yes, Master? Walkies?”

“Behind you!” I pointed.

Brutus whipped around, snapping and snarling, and Oni Lee had to backpedal to escape being caught in the mutant’s jaws. He disappeared just a second later.

Not so fun now that they know where you are, is it, Oni?

“Get one dog near those guys,” I pointed to Sundancer and Labyrinth, “We should join them asap.”

ASAP is actually a really handy acronym. Like, when do you need to say a long sentence quickly more than when you’re saying you should be quick?

Actually, I guess there are a lot of more pressing situations, but my point still stands, dammit!

She nodded, whistled, and pointed. No sooner did Judas and Angelica arrive at our sides than Judas headed off to his next destination. Bitch offered me a hand.

I wonder how they knew she was sending specifically Judas over to where she pointed. Maybe she pointed at him first.


I gratefully took it, letting her help me up onto Brutus’ back.

As we approached Sundancer and Labyrinth, the sidewalks on either side of us dropped out of existence, leaving only a bottomless pit where they had been.

“The fuck?” I murmured.

…well that’s probably not good.

Or maybe it is. Maybe this is Labyrinth’s power at work?

Then the buildings began to rise in height, some leaning over the street and joining with the others in grotesque arches and bridges. Brickwork stretched and extended into the alleyways, closing them off.

Then windows began to shrink and warp, leaving only flat expanses of brick, concrete and stucco for the building faces. Under our feet, the road began to shift in color, with some patches becoming paler, and others darkening. They sharpened in definition as they settled into an alabaster white and jet back. A checkerboard?

This certainly does fall under the kind of warping I’d expect from Labyrinth’s power, though it doesn’t seem to be doing quite what I would think.

…if this is Coil being a chessmaster… but no, he shouldn’t be present.


Brutus had to leap out of the way as one of the squares of the checkerboard suddenly rose to a height of ten feet. As if in response, other squares began to rise and fall, each to varying, almost random heights.

Ohh, it’s Q*Bert’s work.

Jokes aside, this is getting more labyrinthine. The higher squares get in the way of your sense of where you are.

I was almost dismounted as another square appeared in a wall and slid out of the side of the building in a thirty foot long horizontal pillar.

Oh wow.

I guess all we really need is wild staircases. Let’s make this an Escher painting!

We reached safe haven, an expanse of unaffected ground, thirty feet across, with two figures in the center. Sundancer and… Labyrinth.

“This is you?” I asked Labyrinth, awed, as I climbed down off Brutus.

She didn’t reply. Instead, she reached out and touched the side of my chin.

Hm… Is Labyrinth mute? I don’t think she said anything earlier either.

The images of arches, pillars and checkerboard patterns fell away like a house of cards.

“Hallucinations,” I spoke, as Labyrinth made a waving gesture towards Bitch’s head. She looked at me and shook her head slowly.

“They’re not hallucinations?” I asked.

Hallucinations would’ve made a lot of sense as a power – capable of making the place look labyrinthine and confusing without actually having Vista-esque space manipulation – but apparently that’s not quite what’s going on here.

She didn’t reply.

“You can’t explain because you can’t or don’t talk,” I realized, speaking my thoughts aloud.

It sure seems that way.


Oni Lee appeared a few feet away. I whirled and pointed, “There!”

He was stumbling, moving to avoid something that wasn’t there.

Well, it’s not quite clear yet whether it’s not there or just not visible to you, but I’m leaning towards the whole thing being a form of solid illusion. Not quite hallucinations, but not quite real either, and if Labyrinth wants you to be able to go and see through them, you can.

He was still there, trying to get his balance, as I felt more bugs appear at another point on the opposite side of us. Only he appeared fifteen feet in the air, fell, and landed in an awkward position, falling over.

Heh, nice.

I guess they’re not solid, then? Otherwise he would’ve remained standing up there, fifteen feet in the air.

“Bitch!” I pointed.

She whistled and pointed to send Angelica. Oni Lee’s response was delayed, as if he couldn’t even see her approaching, at first. I felt more bugs pop into existence a second before she set her jaws on him.

“There!”

Bitch sent Judas next. Oni Lee’s reaction was even slower, but he had time to throw himself onto his back, flinging two throwing knives into Judas’ face and shoulder before he disappeared.

Don’t. Hurt. The doggos.

“Over there!” I pointed as he reappeared.

Bitch didn’t even have time to give a command before there was a sound like a champagne cork being popped. Oni Lee screamed as one of his shins exploded in a spray of blood.

Oww. Did he teleport to the top of a raised square again?

I felt him reappear somewhere else, collapsing to the ground, while his predecessor endured having the kneecap on its good leg shot out.

This clone got the short end of the stick.

I followed the sound of a chamber being reloaded to spot Coil’s sniper. He was lying on his side at the foot of the building, one arm outstretched to hold his rifle steady. His right leg was bent the wrong way.

Ow. This must be the one Oni pushed off the roof. Knee for a knee, I guess.


I used to be an Oni like you, but then I took a sniper bullet to the knee.

(#outdated memes)


He’d been knocked off a three story building, had a broken leg at the very least, and had still managed to retrieve, load and fire his rifle?

If he was willing to be that professional, I could damn well play spotter for him.

“There!” I pointed in Oni Lee’s direction. On the warehouse again.

Very inspirational, mr. nameless sniper. Very inspirational.

There were two more muted popping sounds, and I could see Oni Lee spin in a pirouette of sorts as a shot clipped him, before he collapsed to the rooftop.

He exploded in a cloud of ash once again. Except I hadn’t felt him appear anywhere.

“He’s gone,” I said, “Out of my range.”

Huh. I guess either that rooftop has a good view, or Oni’s power doesn’t require line of sight after all. I mean, Taylor’s power currently has a range of about four blocks due to the unexplained power boost.

I mean, maybe that’s not that far (I’m from a small-ish town in a country that doesn’t really do the whole “clearly defined, regularly sized blocks” thing much even in the larger cities, so I’m not used to counting distance in terms of them like Taylor is), but it’s far enough to indicate that Oni has basically just noped out.

He might come back to this fight, but I wouldn’t count on it.


Sundancer looked up at me, one gloved hand on her shoulder. “Good,” she managed to answer.

“You okay?”

“He gouged my shoulder. I’ll need stitches, but it’s not the worst injury I’ve had.”

Oni may be a slippery motherfucker, but he doesn’t have much firepower, it seems. He relied on the knives for most of the fight, with the exception of when he tackled the sniper off the roof.

That’s probably part of why “willing to withdraw when at a disadvantage” is the clearest personality trait he’s shown so far. We’ve seen it now, and we’ve seen it before, when he encountered the Undersiders before he and his group of henchmen had managed to meet up with Lung.

After seeing how he acted today, I’d hesitate to call him a coward, though. He seemed a bit like one in Gestation, but back then, I had little info to go on when it came to how powerful he would expect the Undersiders to be. And now, he’s clearly proven that he’s willing to put himself in situations that are dangerous enough to get several clones killed before they poof, and he didn’t withdraw until he was obviously not winning anymore.

He’s not a coward. He’s a clever man who knows when to withdraw so he can fight another day.


“Okay. Uh, man, Coil’s guy,” I spoke, trying hard to organize my thoughts and priorities with the adrenaline that was pumping through me, “You going to be alright?”

“Yeah,” he rasped, then he coughed.

I’d have to take him at his word.

Nameless sniper, your efforts have been very much appreciated. I hereby dub thee, “Bob”.

“Labyrinth, watch him. Make sure he keeps breathing and that his buddy knows where he is,” I said, “Sundancer, Bitch, we’ve gotta go help Newter.”

What did I say about Taylor taking charge earlier? Yeah, I’m still very down with this development.


End of Hive 5.7

That was a really good fight!

Wildbow expertly showed off how his slight adjustment to the standard power of teleportation worked to Oni’s advantage, and the way Labyrinth’s illusions(?) tripped him up and Taylor’s bugs coming along for the ride helped her track his movements was an excellent way to turn the tide of the battle until Oni noped the fuck out. It was quite satisfying. 🙂

Next time, we’re going in to help Newter. I find it interesting that Taylor is bringing Sundancer, who has already stated that she can’t use her power without potentially seriously hurting a lot of people, presumably including those on her own side. I can’t imagine she’s being brought along for no narrative reason though, so I think we’ll get to see what her power actually does sooner or later.

See you next time!

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