Hive 5.9: In Which Taylor and Lung Don’t See Eye to Eye

Source material: Worm, Hive 5.9

Originally blogged: August 6-7, 2017


Sometimes, rotting a man’s dick off comes back to bite you in the ass.

What’s up? It’s time for round 2 against Lung!

Lung is much more threatening this time, as he’s had plenty of time to develop the armor that protected parts of him against Taylor’s bugs last time (and that’s before you consider the fire he enveloped his body with), as well as his size, presumably a massive strength boost, and the beginning of his wings. Maybe he’ll have full wings by the end of the battle.

Oh, and this time he knows where Taylor is from the start.

On Taylor’s side of the fray, we have a douchebag in iron, two Giant Women, Judas and Angelica, Sundancer (whose power is still unknown but said to be capable of seriously hurting a lot of people, leading me to believe it’s a destructive AoE attack, likely fire or light type), and maybe Bitch and Brutus if she decides to come back after dropping off Newter with Labyrinth.

I have a strong feeling Sundancer’s power will be critical in this fight, though not necessarily this particular chapter.

Without further ado, let’s go fight a dragon!


“Yeah, me,” I answered Lung, hoping I sounded more confident than I felt.

“Ooo.”

“…me.”

“Ooo!”

“Yes, me.”

“OOO!”

“Me.”

“Ooooo.”

“Meee.”

“Oo foo foox sook.”


“Some history?” Sundancer murmured.

“I made his crotch rot off.”

Ahahaha! I was hoping that would get mentioned. I wasn’t expecting it to be by Taylor, though.

She turned to stare at me.

“Accidentally.”

Pfft.

“How do you-” she started, then she stopped as Lung’s growl rose in volume enough to turn her head.

I’m loving this already.


Angelica and Judas advanced steadily until they were on either side of me.

Master isn’t here, but Master’s fellow pack member is, and the scary beast is acting threateningly towards her.

Protect.

“Step down, Undersider,” Kaiser spoke from the opposite end of the room, “My girls and I have this in hand.”

Do ya now. Well, I suppose it’s a good sign that you’ve remained alive up to this point of Lung’s transformation.

Seriously, Lung should have quite the advantage over Kaiser. He’s a pyrokinetic, and Kaiser is covered in metal. Just heat up the armor and Kaiser’s in some serious trouble.

Either way, Taylor has made herself a target. I’m not sure she can step down at this point, even though she probably should.


“Do you?” I challenged him, not breaking eye contact with Lung, “Because Lung looks like he’s in pretty good shape there. You know how this works, right? He only gets stronger the longer you fight him. If you haven’t finished him off by now, you’re probably not going to.”

Good point.

“Btw, looking good, Lung. How’s your crotch?”

Lung chuckled, low and gravelly. He craned his neck to look at Kaiser, and I shivered.

“Ya hear that, little man?”

His neck alone was nearly as long as my torso and thicker at the base, tapering down to a more or less normal sized head.

Okay, I know this is a draconic transformation, but I can’t help but imagine a giraffe.

Also, all the memes surrounding a particularly long-necked SU character.

What was creepier was that he’d bent his neck in a ‘u’ shape to look behind himself. It was a movement that a gymnast would have been hard pressed to perform with their back.

Heh, nice work.

It wouldn’t be long before he just wasn’t recognizable as something who had once been human.

Yeaah, he’s sounding pretty damn inhuman-looking already.


Concept: Giraffe dragon.


The six of his thugs that were gathered around him looked like they were almost as scared of him as they were of us.

Bakuda did say she learned about fear from Lung.

And the ABB has plenty of new members, so some of these people may not have seen Lung in action before.

“What would you propose, then?” Kaiser asked me.

“Sundancer and I will help out,” I told him. I glanced at Sundancer, and she nodded.

I mean, there’s little reason not to.

Well, except that Taylor’s bugs are probably going to be pretty inefficient, except as a blinding tool.

Lung laughed again. “Ooo? Ug gurr?”

And I think Lung knows that.


Before I could figure out what he’d just said to me, he lunged straight at me, passing between two of his people, moving on all fours.

Welp, here comes the dragon.

I’d sent the flying insects and wasps into the room to help Bitch search for supplies, and I directed them straight for Lung as soon as I realized what he was doing. Too little, too late.

Then Judas intercepted him.

Good dog!

Just, don’t get hurt.

The pair of them rolled and tumbled, and I couldn’t tell which of them was making which snarling or growling noise.

…fair.

I guess they’d be about the same size? Maybe Lung’s a little bigger at the moment.

When the momentum of Judas’ pounce had stopped carrying them across the floor, Lung managed to get his footing first, and physically heaved Judas across the main floor of the warehouse. Judas slammed into two sets of the long tables, sending clouds of white powder billowing around him.

Ouch.

Let’s hope he doesn’t inhale any of it. Last thing we need here is a stoned hellhound.

When Angelica made her move, Lung was ready for her. He caught hold of her snout and foreclaw before she could do any damage and leveraged her forward momentum to throw her too, straight at Judas.

smooth.

There was an almost judo or akido kind of style to the throw, except I doubted either of them were human enough for normal moves and techniques to apply. What was more likely, I thought, that his reflexes, flexibility and strength were on a level where that sort of thing came naturally to him.

Oh, great.


In any case, my bodyguards, if you could call them that, had been tossed aside away like they were stuffed animals.

…cute stuffed hellhound plushies yes please

Lung didn’t drop to all fours again as he advanced toward me. Instead, he flexed his right hand, and my eyes were drawn to the foot-long blades that tipped each finger.

Lung has a hell of a time if he gets something in his eyes.

“Sundancer?” I asked, quiet, “Help me out?”

“If I used my power, I’d probably hurt you worse than I hurt him.”

It’s probably something that radiates out from her position. That’s about what I imagined already, but this supports that interpretation.

“That line is getting old fast.”

What? She’s only said it once that we’ve seen so far.

I guess it’s getting old really fast.


[reblogging the one-liner post about giraffe dragons]


As a friend on Discord has pointed out to me, a quick Google search yields this art by Kezrek on DeviantArt. It is a thing of beauty and I love it.

[Unfortunately, the source link that used to be here is now dead.]


Lung lunged again,

At least Lung (and Taylor) won’t get on my case for all the krixwelling I do.

and I threw myself to one side, too slow, too short a distance.

Lots of low dice rolls around here tonight.

With the sound of swords being drawn out of their sheaths, a barrier of blades and spears rose up from the ground between Lung and I. I found traction on the asphalt with my hands and feet, and I managed to half-crawl, half run away from him.

Nice. Kaiser may be a douchebag, but at least he’s protecting his ally.

Lung started to move around the barrier of blades, only to be blocked by another bristling growth. He roared, then leapt for the rafters up at the ceiling. I knew what he was doing almost right away, and ran for cover – once he had a grip up there, it would be a matter of using his grip on the steel girders that lined the ceiling to jump straight at me.

I guess the transformation makes him pretty good at acrobatics, unless this is something he’s just normally competent at as his human self – wait. Steel, you say?

Kaiser can manipulate those girders to grab Lung’s, uh, hands or stab him or something in that vein.

I wasn’t two paces before I knew there was no cover I could get to fast enough.

Except he didn’t get that far. A square pillar of steel as tall and long as an eighteen wheeler speared downward from the roof, straight at him.

Hah, nice!

Also, wow, the roof is pretty damn high, huh.

I guess the roof had some of the drugs.

It caught Lung in his midsection and shoved him down into the ground, hard. A few seconds later, the weight of the block of steel tore it from the section of ceiling it was rooted in. It didn’t hit anyone as it dropped down but I could guess it would’ve killed someone: I could feel the impact of it striking the ground in my bones.

Yeah, an 18-wheeler’s volume’s worth of steel is gonna be pretty heavy.


Maybe it’s not an 18-wheeler’s volume. It’s a little unclear to me which way that hypothetical 18-wheeler was supposed to be oriented.

Still heavy as fuck, though.


I looked at Kaiser. He was standing where he’d been when he walked into the room, hands clasped behind his back.

The stance of a man who is powerful and knows it.

“Fenja, Menja,” Kaiser’s order wasn’t shouted, but it could be heard across the warehouse. If you could call it an order.

I guess he has a deep voice that really carries.

But the two eighteen-foot tall valkyries seemed to know what he wanted. They advanced towards Lung with their weapons drawn, and Lung’s people began backing slowly away. I felt a pang of sympathy for Lung’s rank and file, mainly for the ones who’d been coerced into this.

Yeah, this is a shitty situation for them.

They’d probably seen what Fenja and Menja were capable of, earlier, but they couldn’t run without risking their boss’ wrath. Caught between a rock and a hard place.

The problem with keeping the rank and file in line using fear instead of loyalty is, well, exactly that: “instead of loyalty”. The subordinates that work because are afraid of the boss do worse work (their focus isn’t on doing their best for the boss, it’s on doing well enough that the boss won’t hurt them) and may drop everything if something frightens them more.


Lung wasn’t quite down and out yet, though.

Yeah, no, that would’ve been way too anticlimactic.

He started climbing to his feet, only to have a pyramid of criss-crossing blades spear up around him.

“You stay down.”

Blades appeared under and over his arms, just beneath his armpit, behind his knee, by his groin, with dozens more rising above and around him. Before he could find his way out, he was trapped. Buried and hidden beneath the layers of steel.

We know fire doesn’t hurt Lung – we’ve seen him cover his body in it. I wonder if molten steel would?

Kaiser inclined his chin, looking toward the ceiling, and I saw a shimmer. The tip of a blade began to emerge from one of the iron girders above, revealing itself at a glacial pace.

Those girders are really handy for Kaiser, huh.

Also, weren’t they steel before? I guess Wildbow’s using the terms iron and steel interchangeably.

It was no more than a half foot thick, but nearly twenty feet wide.

Damn.

I wasn’t sure if it was an optical illusion from the rippling energies of Kaiser’s power or not, but I thought maybe the ceiling was sagging under the weight of it. If he wasn’t careful, he’d bring the roof down on our heads.

Remember how Taylor was questioning mass-energy conservation a couple chapters ago? This is prime material for that sort of questioning.


Then Kaiser lowered his head to face the area where Lung was trapped and the massive sword he’d manifested in the ceiling plunged down into the pyramid in a heartbeat. Sparks showered as the gargantuan blade sheared through the trap.

“AHHH!” he awakens with a shriek. He looks around. Gets out of the bed, walks over to the window.

The moon is high in the sky outside the castle. It was just a nightmare, he tells himself. Just a nightmare. Tomorrow morning it’s back to the throne. Back to reigning the kingdom and living in luxury.

And so, with a funny feeling that he’s not getting much restful sleep anytime soon, Damocles goes back to bed.


But there was more hot metal that wasn’t a result of the impact. When I looked again, I saw Lung had avoided the blade.

Ooh, is he actually doing the molten steel thing I suggested?

The side of the pyramid closest to me glowed a white-orange, the blades curling and sagging in the intensity of the heat. He’d softened the metal enough with his pyrokinesis that he could use his monstrous strength and push his way free. Enough, at least, to avoid being divided in two.

Close enough!

Lung roared as he climbed free. As Kaiser raised more blades around him, Lung swung his claws and shattered the metal, sending the pieces sliding across the floor.

“Aiiihurrr,” Lung growled.

Uh… “Air”?

Lung wasn’t exactly talkative last time, so he’s actually saying more now that it’s hard to understand what he’s saying.

“You’re an animal, Lung,” Kaiser answered him, “Even without your power making you into… this. Go down!”

…how much of this comment is on the ABB’s recent behavior, and how much is because racism?

As if to punctuate his statement, a spear of solid steel erupted from the wall and slammed into Lung, carrying him to the end of the room opposite where Judas and Angelica were. Lung managed to grip the spear and move himself so the spearpoint wasn’t pressed against his chest when it punctured the concrete of the wall.

Not bad, either of you.


“Your people… animals.” Kaiser intoned.

Yeeah, I think this is mostly from the racism.

Not six paces away from me, one of Lung’s thugs let out a raw scream and collapsed to the ground. Dagger-like blades had pierced the tops of his feet mid-stride.

Ow.

As he used his hands to break his fall, another set of blades punched through his palms. The screams of the other thugs echoed his. He was on his hands and knees, unable to move with his hands and feet effectively nailed to the ground.

There’s something oddly familiar about someone getting nailed to a flat surface through their hands and feet.

What’s next, a crown of iron thorns?

“Kaiser!” I shouted, “No!”

“Not your business, little girl,” Kaiser told me, turning in my direction.

Hrm.

Isn’t it?

I took an immediate step back, fearing blades would appear under my feet.

Ouch, yeah, that’s probably best to avoid.

“This is wrong,” I said, as I watched a sliver of steel sprout out of the ground and rise with a controlled speed to the base of the thug’s throat. He was forced to arch his back and raise his head to the absolute limits to avoid getting a very unnecessary tracheotomy.

Tracheotomy (US: /ˌtreɪkiˈɒtəmi/ tray-kee-AW-tə-mee) is a surgical procedure which consists of making an incision on the anterior aspect of the neck and opening a direct airway through an incision in the trachea (windpipe). The resulting stoma (hole), or tracheostomy, can serve independently as an airway or as a site for a tracheal tube or tracheostomy tube to be inserted; this tube allows a person to breathe without the use of the nose or mouth.”

Yeeah, that would probably not be very helpful for this thug.

I glanced at Lung. He was watching what was happening, but I couldn’t read his alien expression.

“Fook ooo, Moox.”


“Wrong?” Kaiser chuckled, “As far as I’m concerned, the moment you need to fall back on morals to argue something, you’ve already lost the argument. This is war.”

Well, that’s another point for the psychopath checklist.

I haven’t really thought about it before now, but I watched a TED talk about the Hare psychopathy checklist this morning, so now this has me thinking: How many of the traits has Kaiser shown so far?

  1. “glib and superficial charm” – yeah, I think this counts.
  2. “grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self” – hell yes.
  3. “need for stimulation” – hm… unknown.
  4. “pathological lying” – I think he was implied to have been lying in the past back in Interlude 3½, but I don’t know if it’s pathological.
  5. “cunning and manipulativeness” – fuck yes.
  6. “lack of remorse or guilt” – showcased both in the Interlude and right as we speak.
  7. “shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)” – he seems to be rather… constant. If it doesn’t count, it’s probably close.
  8. “callousness and lack of empathy” – *waves hands towards the previous post*
  9. “parasitic lifestyle” – seems like an accurate way to describe what he’s been doing to Purity and other members of E88
  10. “poor behavioral controls” – not as far as we’ve seen. He’s very composed.
  11. “sexual promiscuity” – unknown.
  12. “early behavior problems” – unknown.
  13. “lack of realistic long-term goals” – what even are his long-term goals? The eradication of non-white people? Not particuarly realistic, even for a parahuman.
  14. “impulsivity” – if he’s particularly impulsive, we haven’t seen it yet.
  15. “irresponsibility” – ehh?
  16. “failure to accept responsibility for own actions” – he didn’t seem particularly concerned about his past actions in the Interlude, but that may fall more under point 6. He didn’t deny anything, either.
  17. “many short-term marital relationships” – unknown, though we do know he’s had children with Purity.
  18. “juvenile delinquency” – wait, isn’t this just a continuation of point 12? Either way, unknown.
  19. “revocation of conditional release” – uh. This checklist was intended for diagnosis of criminals under trial. N/A, I guess.
  20. “criminal versatility” – not 100% sure what this means. I guess being varied as to what crimes he commits? Unknown.

So apparently it’s 2 points for the clear-cut ones and 1 point for the “kinda fits” ones.

*counts up*

I count about 16 points. That’s actually pretty low; diagnosis requires 30 points, and “many non-psychopathic criminal offenders score around 22″.

I wonder how much of that low score is because of all the things we don’t know about him yet.


Right, back to the action.

Lung moved for Kaiser, this time. He virtually rolled to one side to avoid an outcropping of spearpoints angled in a way that he might have run himself through on them, then resumed his charge.

“Dook MOOOOVE!”

“At least I still have a dook. I mean dick.”

One of the giantess twins stepped in, kicking Lung into and almost through a wall. Lung bounced back almost immediately,

boing

drawing on his pyrokinesis to direct a column of blue-yellow flame at her. The other twin intercepted the fire with her shield.

Ooh, blue-yellow, that’s pretty hot fire right there.

A few seconds later, she was stumbling back and away from Lung and throw her shield away to avoid having the heated metal burn her arm.

Yeah, exactly.


Kaiser’s team wasn’t going to win this on their own. As much as I despised stepping in and helping him…

It’s gotten to the point where not only the reader, but even Taylor feels more sympathy for Lung than for Kaiser.

Still, Taylor is on a side. She can’t just not help because her sidemate is a racist, immoral motherfucker.

“Sundancer, now would be a great time to use your power.” I spoke. As I said the words, I called on every bug that was in the area and sent them to Lung.

“It’s not- no. I’ll burn them.”

Hey, fire type confirmed.

Although, would the power even work against Lung? As I mentioned earlier, he can envelop his body in flame without issue.

That said, this kind of “use it now!” “no” “how about now” “no!” back and forth only serves to strengthen my impression that Sundancer’s power will be critical and climactic for the fight.


“Then burn them! If you don’t use your power, I can pretty much guarantee Lung will burn them worse.”

Are you sure? If he can burn them worse, then there’s no point to Sundancer burning them anyway, because Lung can withstand that kind of heat.

“Doubt it,” Sundancer replied. But she raised her hands in front of her, and there was a brilliant flare of light, only a fraction of a second, but enough to leave a black-blue spot in the center of my vision. There was a brief roaring sound as the light faded.

Nice! Seems like a sort of summonable light source that’s strong enough to rival sunlight.

I turned my focus to my bugs as another flicker of light appeared, longer and stronger than the first, again, accompanied by that faint roar.

Oh, so the roaring isn’t Lung after getting flashed.

…with the light.

“Hey, Skitter, was it?” Sundancer spoke.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Get back. Way back.”

Let’s see what you can do.


I ran for it, pulling my mask up and bringing my fingers to my mouth in the best whistle I could manage.

Two seconds later, Angelica shoved her snout between my legs. Had it been a movie, or if I’d been Bitch, maybe, I would’ve been able to slide or jump back and land on her neck or shoulders, ride on from there.

I’m impressed you got her to come to you in the first place, but that would’ve been really cool.

As it was, I half-fell, half-rolled over the top of her head and only barely managed to get a grip on a spike on her shoulder. I clung to that as she ran, praying I wouldn’t fall and get trampled.

Ahaha, I can’t help but imagine this in a chibi style.

“Angelica, stop, stay!” I called out, hoping she knew the command, that she’d listen. She did, slowing her pace to a walk, then stopping just by the loading bay door we’d come in.

It’s quite helpful that the hellhounds know to follow commands from Master’s packmates too.

Judas caught up and walked around her, until he was just in front of us. He was still covered in the white dust, but it didn’t seem to be having any real effect on him.

I suppose the sheer size of the hellhounds would contribute to their tolerance? Not to mention the fact that they’re, well, hellhounds.

I don’t know, I’m no expert on drugs or hellhound biology.

I hopped down from Angelica’s side, ready to climb on her and jostle her into action if Lung made another attempt to come after me. I wasn’t sure I could steer her, but with the prospect of Lung chasing me, I’d rather be moving totally uncontrolled at Angelica’s speed than anything my own two feet could offer.

Yeah, good call. And they’ve already shown that they recognize Lung as a threat.


Sundancer had managed to get her power going. A ball of light, larger than a basketball, smaller than a beachball, sat between her hands.

Light? That was it?

Then I saw the floor.

I mean, Sundancer’s power involving heat and/or light has been obvious since before I got spoiled on her name.

So yeah, is the floor melting?

The warehouse had clearly been raised above a flat expanse of asphalt, maybe an old parking lot, and the surface had cracked and been patched a fair bit over the years. It still bore the oil stains from the old days.

Directly below Sundancer, the floor was normal. Starting around five feet from her, though, the ground looked wet, glassy.

The asphalt was melting.

Interesting. It seems Sundancer herself is protected from the effects of the heat, the protection extending to the ground she’s standing on. That’s handy.

She dropped her hands, and the ball of light rose. Like it had a mind of its own, it darted towards Lung, zipping left and right and up and down as it moved.

Oooh.

I saw how it rose higher as it moved over Lung’s people, who were still nailed to the floor.

Try not to melt them, if you can. The ABB has had enough innocent people liquified recently.

At one point, it moved only ten or so feet over one of the tables, and the plastic surface of the table seemed to crumple up in fast motion, turning black and smouldering with tongues of flame.

Someone really needs to adjust the thermostat, or turn on the air conditioning in here.


I scattered my swarm, all too aware they weren’t doing a thing to Lung, knowing they’d just die when Sundancer got her orb to Lung.

Yeah, Taylor’s power has been predictably of little use in this fight.

This hasn’t been Taylor vs. Lung, round 2, at all.

She didn’t make it touch him, but seeing what it had done to the table, I thought maybe that was a good thing. Lung raised a hand towards the light and I could see the heat shimmers in the air. She pushed it a little closer to him, and his legs buckled.

And then he took off his jacket, and the North Wind had to admit that Sundancer was the strongest of the two.

Kaiser was apparently unwilling to let Sundancer steal the show,

Oh come on.

because he brought a shaft of metal out of the wall behind Lung, shoving Lung toward the orb.

Well, at least he’s being spiteful in a somewhat helpful fashion.

Unless he’s shoving Lung into the orb.

Sundancer moved the ball back, but just the second or so of close proximity to the ball was enough to take the fight out of Lung. He fell to all fours, tried to move, and found the asphalt like a molten tar beneath him.

Ouch.

Wasn’t he supposed to be fireproof? Or was that immunity only to the flames he made with his own power? Or, I thought, was that ball of light -Sundancer’s miniature sun- that hot?

I’ve been asking this for, like, two chapters now. 😛

I was lingering at the exit, watching and waiting to see the outcome. My bugs were prepared and ready, lingering as close as they could get without being wiped out by the superheated air.

Prepared and ready for what, exactly? In case things go south for Sundancer? In case someone attacks you while you’re lingering at the exit?

Even with his superhuman constitution,

Not gonna lie, I briefly misread that as “constipation”.

even with his pyrokinesis to maybe take the edge off the effect, Lung was clearly suffering. Just a matter of time, I realized, before he collapsed. Probably, I supposed, much longer than one would think, with his regeneration.

I would’ve expected him to collapse a couple paragraphs ago, actually, but Lung is tough.

Then the light of Sundancer’s orb winked out.

It took me a few long moments of blinking the spots out of my eyes before I could make out the scene in its entirety.

Welp, what happened. Did Kaiser turn on her for some reason… nah, she’s helping him achieve his goal.

oh.

ohh shit.

What if Oni Lee is back.

What if he just popped in and stabbed Sundancer in the back?

Lung was limp, his arms dangling at his sides. He was still bent over, and he might have fallen face first into the tar, if it wasn’t for the spear of iron that was impaling him through the heart.

“What did you do!?” Sundancer shouted.

Oh. Shit.

At least Sundancer is okay, but it doesn’t seem like the same can be said for Lung.

So… if Lung is going to die here (or already has, which seems likely but not completely certain – it’s rare that you can say that about someone who just got stabbed through the heart), what then? It’s a safe bet that Bakuda will actually become the boss of the ABB, allowing us to have her, a much more interesting character, as the main villain of the story (or at least the first part of it) without the detail that Lung is still a thing getting in the way.

For the same reason, I don’t think this would bring the War of the Docks back on the schedule. The War was going to be the result of a power vacuum left after Lung, but Bakuda filled that power vacuum before and I’m sure she can do it again.

Kaiser may also become a major concern for certain villain groups, as surprisingly few seemed interested in murder, but I don’t think the community at large will go after him like they have with the ABB. Non-murderous villains or not, it seems par for the course that the leader of the targeted gang might get killed in the raids.


“Obviously,” Kaiser said, “I ended it.”

“It was already over!”

I was under the impression very few people really argued with Kaiser. Fenja and Menja joined him, one on either side of him, and neither of them were sheathing their weapons or shrinking back to a normal size. I took that to be a very bad sign.

Oh no. Don’t you dare, Kaiser.

I was so preoccupied with watching Kaiser that I almost missed what happened next.

It started as a flash of crimson in the corner of my eye. I looked, and I saw Lung’s wings fully unfurled. Like the wings of a bat, only they had silvery scales where the bat had fur, and the flesh that stretched between the ‘fingers’ of the wings was the deep, dark red of blood.

Hm…

Was I right to doubt whether he was dead yet?

Lung grabbed the spear that impaled his chest and snapped it with his claws.

“Oot’s joost oo floosh wooond!”

(#moonthoo poothn

#uh #monty python)


He stood, and his entire midsection seemed to arrange so he stood another foot or two taller. Taking hold of the fragment that was still embedded in his chest, he slowly slid it out. Once it free, he cast it aside. It clattered to the floor of the warehouse.

We were so quiet, you could hear the ringing of the steel as it settled on the ground.

“Stoop oorgoong, hoo oonloo stoobd moo oo lootl.”

“Sundancer! Run!” I shouted, breaking the stillness. I sent my bugs swarming to Lung. Anything to block his vision, distract him for even a second.

I’m gonna count that as something I called – I did say blinding Lung was one of few ways the bugs could be useful in this fight. 🙂

The events that followed seemed to happen in slow motion. Lung repeated what he’d been trying to do as the fight opened, only nothing seemed capable of getting in his way, now. He was faster, stronger, more maneuverable.

“If you haven’t finished him off by now, you’re probably not going to.” – Taylor Hebert, 2k11


He lunged toward Kaiser, using his wings to carry him effortlessly above a growth of steel blades. Reaching Kaiser, he slammed the man into the wall. Kaiser went limp, but Lung repeated the process, banging him against the brick of the warehouse wall a half dozen times in the span of seconds. When he was done, he flung Kaiser away like a toy.

Ow.

And this is why you don’t fuck with a dragon.

(Unless you’re actually, y’know, fucking the dragon. Apparently a fair amount of people in D&D settings do that.)

Fenja had to drop her spear to catch Kaiser in her arms, which seemed to be exactly what Lung wanted. Lung did the same ‘I explode’ trick he’d done to wipe out my bugs in my first encounter with him, only it was ten times the explosion, ten times as big.

Well shit.

The two giantesses staggered back, which gave Lung the opportunity to dart across the floor and drive his flattened, clawed hand into Menja’s belly like a knife.

Ouch.

I’m half expecting “or maybe Fenja”.

As he withdrew his claw, she collapsed.

“Nessa!” Fenja screamed.

Oh hey, civilian name.

I hope she survives that.

Lung ignored her and started walking towards Sundancer and I. Fenja rushed to her sister’s side, still carrying Kaiser.

Here he comes, and he’s no longer playing around.


[End of session]


sharedvi:

re: userscript – That’s ok, I understand, hope it will be useful for any of your readers, at least. (BRB inventing the spoiler-detection-AI :). Fixed the Maxthon issue though. (Also the browser looks cool! Maybe I should try it if I hop off Vivaldi eventually)

Oh, neat! Maybe it’ll work for me tomorrow, then. Still gotta avoid the comments in general, but it might save me someday if I accidentally end up down there (which has happened in the past while moving the screen divider and such).

Thank you so much either way, though! It’s very much not your fault it didn’t work out.

(Also, yeah, I’m rather satisfied with Maxthon myself. I originally got it because I got sick of Chrome taking up a ton of resources on my older computer, and went searching for basically the most lightweight browser I could still enjoy using. Maxthon does have a limited supply of extensions compared to bigshots like Chrome and Firefox, but other than that I’d say it’s fully featured and more.)


[Session 2]

Now, where were we?

Ah, yes: Lung has a floosh woond from getting stabbed in the heart. He’s grown his wings out, knocked out Kaiser, and wounded Nessa/Menja. Last we saw, he was going after Sundancer and Taylor, and I was going to sleep.

I’m back with two new pairs of glasses and a fidget spinner. Let’s finish up the chapter, shall we?


Sundancer began forming her miniature sun once more, with increasingly frequent flickers of light and fire gathering between her hands.

“No.” Lung boomed.

Lung knows the threat now.

He raised his bloody claw, and the flame in Sundancer’s hands dissipated, slipping out of her grasp like greased eels.

I suppose it would be fair for him to be able to control that flame too. I mean, why wouldn’t he be?

She tried once more, and again, he thwarted her with an almost casual ease.

Before she could make a third attempt, Lung blasted her with a torrent of roaring flame. For two, three, four seconds, the fire washed over her, consumed her.

Well, shit.

Let’s hope she’s at least somewhat protected against fire. Maybe the five-foot radius applies to all heat, not just the heat she herself generates?

When he stopped, there were tongues of flame dancing on the asphalt around her, even her costume had fire lingering on it, but both she and her costume were untouched.

Niice.

So I guess this is a bit of a stalemate. Except it isn’t, because Lung has plenty of other parts of his power to rely on. This situation is getting very tricky.

She, at least, was fireproof. Or she’d had to be, to avoid being burned by her own power.

She wasn’t, however, invincible.

That sentence does not bode well.

As the flames of his attack dissipated, Lung was made visible again, revealed to be standing right in front of her. He barely seemed to care she was there as he backhanded her aside.

Ouch.

Then he turned his attention to me.

Fuck.

Y’know, it kinda feels like he saved the best for last here. The revenge against the girl who rotted his dick off could wait until he’d cleared the other pests that were bothering him.


Just me left, really. I swallowed hard, drew my very underwhelming knife and stood straight, facing Lung. Please don’t burn me, please, please. Look at this knife and see it as an insult. An excuse to trounce me physically.

I mean…

that’s not really much better, now, is it.

I suppose it might be a slightly less agonizing death??

It’s also the tactic that gives Lung more control over how much damage he’s doing. How much pain he inflicts on Taylor before killing her. If he wants revenge beyond murder, a physical pummeling may be the way to go.

And then setting her on fire.

Angelica started snarling at Lung. She took a step toward him.

“No!” I ordered her, “Back!”

The snarls ceased, and she looked at me.

Yeah, no, she stands even less of a chance against Lung now than she did at the start.

That said, this reminds me, Bitch is still out there with Labyrinth. What are the chances of her swooping in with all her dogs right when Taylor is at her most vulnerable again?

Probably quite low, I guess.

[Once is a character introduction. Twice is a cop-out. But at least Bitch’s presence is pre-established here.]

“Back,” I repeated. When I took a step toward Lung, she didn’t follow. A powder-covered Judas stood fifteen feet away, tense, but not approaching either. Good. No use in anyone else getting hurt. There was nothing else she could do.

Hell, I was almost positive there was nothing else I could do.

Defeatist? Sure. Fair? Absolutely.


My bugs gathered on Lung, but as far as I could tell, there was no skin, anymore. No flesh to bite, nothing to sting.

The type advantage of this Rival is incredible.

Actually… *checks*

Yep, Bug type Pokémon take double damage from both Fire and Flying moves (the latter presumably because that type covers a lot of birds), and Bug moves do ¼ damage to dual-type Fire/Flying Pokémon like Charizard.

Oh, and Bug also does half damage to Rock, which is very relevant to Lung’s scales.


Lung rumbled with a rough, guttural chuckle, and let a brief flame wash over him, wiping the swarm out of existence.

remember usss

I dispersed the bugs in his vicinity that hadn’t yet had a chance to touch him and get burned for their trouble. No point. Detrimental, almost.

Almost?

It is detrimental, if you somehow were to end up needing more bugs later, perhaps to deal with someone who attacks after Lung is down. Given the structure of the arcs to have clear climactic boss fights, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but Taylor can’t know that for sure.

Though I suppose she can have a good idea about it.

Then Bitch, riding Brutus, bounded down from the hole in the ceiling and crashed into Lung.

OH FUCK YES

SHE CAME


“Bitch!” I shouted, too late, “No!”

…I suppose that would be likely to end badly at this point.

Once he got over the shock of the initial impact, Lung used one hand to grab Bitch from where she sat on Brutus’ back, and took hold of Brutus by the neck with his other.

Welp.

(Don’t hurt Brutus… or Bitch for that matter.)

Heaving his arm, and Brutus, to his left side, then to his right, Lung casting the dog head over heels through the air.

Judas and Angelica began to move forward, but stopped when Lung elicited a scream of pain from Bitch.

“Nnno,” Lung rumbled.

Why did the scream of pain make them stop? Are they trained well enough to recognize a hostage situation?

Or maybe it’s just a natural reaction to “we start moving, Master screams in pain, shit maybe we shouldn’t move”.

“Stop!” I shouted, stepping forward again, “I’m the one you want, aren’t I?”

It always sounded so good when you heard it in the movies. As I realized what I’d just said, it only sounded stupid.

Pffft.


It kind of is stupid. “Stop hurting my friend, hurt me instead! And when I’m out of commision, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to hurt my friend, but let’s not think too hard about that.”


He advanced toward me, carrying Bitch like a careless seven year old might carry a cat.

I wonder what Bitch would think of this comparison.

Actually, I wonder what Bitch thinks of cats in general.

I backed away, but his stride was long enough for him to close the gap effortlessly. He grabbed me and hefted me into the air, lifting me above his head so he could look up at me.

“Ug hurrrrr.”

“Ug hur to you too, my good sir, what can I do for you on this jolly afternoon?”

And this is the other problem with the self-sacrifice strategy: Sometimes the opponent can just decide to hurt both of you at the same time.

He couldn’t talk, so I couldn’t even fall back on the tired old cliche of getting him to monologue. Fuck.

Lung proceeds to lay out his backstory and motivations in a long “speech” that’s almost impossible to understand. I hope someone’s written that as a ficlet or short comic. Obviously I probably couldn’t read it yet, but I hope something like that exists somewhere.

He had my neck encircled with thumb and forefinger, two claws at my ribcage and his ‘pinky’ finger at my midsection, just below my waist. He squeezed a fraction tighter, and I groaned.

So… let’s hope Lung isn’t one for “eye for an eye, crotch for a crotch”.


The fabric of my costume was preventing the edges of his claws from cutting into me, but it wasn’t reinforced to stop me from being crushed.

Well, that’s something at least.

I directed a bug into his eye. It stayed there, wings fluttering in staccato. It was annoying enough for him to drop Bitch and deal with it.

Ooh, nice one. That… actually kind of suggests that his eyes may not be immune to fire. If they were, he wouldn’t have had to use his hand. Then again, maybe he just didn’t think of it.

He didn’t give her a chance to escape, though. Before he dealt with the bug, he shoved her against the ground and stepped on her, holding her down with his clawed foot. That done, he used the points of his claw to pick the bug from his eye socket.

This man would rather stick a claw in his eye than a flash of the element he’s otherwise known to be immune to.

He chuckled again, low, gravelly, as he examined the cockroach impaled on his clawtip. “Auuhh-roagh?” Cockroach?

“Heh, cockroach, like the thing you don’t have anymore. Wait, why are you so angry? Sore subject?”

He lowered his arm so I was at his eye level. Then he squeezed again, weaker than the first time. Shook me, not as hard as he could have.

Hm… has he figured out that Taylor is hiding more bugs in her outfit somehow?

Then his arm sagged again, until my toes were brushing the ground. After shaking me, his grip had loosened, and he hadn’t really tightened it, so I managed to get my knee against the base of his palm and shove myself backward, push myself free. My feet touched asphalt, and I backed up a few steps.

It… seems like he’s getting weaker? Was the cockroach venomous?

“Hurrrrrrrr,” he rumbled.

“Don’t fucking underestimate me,” I snarled in response.

This is the girl who filled Clockblocker’s every accessible orifice with bugs. Don’t fuck with her.

I don’t know if he heard me. I hadn’t even finished the sentence before I had to skip backward two steps to avoid being crushed beneath him as he collapsed face first to the asphalt.

Hm. Considering how much it took for him to go down last time, it seems a bit odd for this to be the result of one cockroach attack. Also, she never said she had the cockroach bite or sting or whatever it is cockroaches do.

So what’s going on here?

One thought that briefly crossed my mind was that Newter had gotten better already and snuck up behind Lung, but that seems far-fetched (then again, xenobiology) and doesn’t let the “Don’t fucking underestimate me” make much sense.

“Bitch, you okay?” I asked.

She was picking herself off the ground. She nodded.

“What happened?” she asked.

Good question.


I sheathed my knife and reached for my cell phone with one hand. My other hand, I extended with the palm up. A cockroach settled on it.

“Wasn’t sure it would work, or if it’d be enough. Took a bit of caterpillar, had a roach swab it in that pool of blood Newter left upstairs, and mashed the thing in Lung’s eye.

Holy shit, that’s genius!

Ahaha, seriously, that’s amazing.

Big and tough as he is, a drug that strong in the mucus membranes of the eye? So close to the brain? Apparently it’s enough.”

I suppose there’s some sense to the idea that distance to the brain might affect how well it works. Not sure if that’s accurate to real drugs, but I’ll allow it. This isn’t exactly a real drug, anyway.

That said, all those insect venoms are technically drugs too, aren’t they? Or at least work similarly?

But yeah, Newter’s hallucinogenics were stated to be incredibly potent.


Bitch folded her arms, looking down at Lung. Then she looked up at me.

“Now what?”

It was a surprisingly apt question, coming from her. Did we just leave him here?

The Protectorate are somewhat in on the whole “war against the ABB” thing, aren’t they? I suppose you could get away with informing them of the whereabouts of the knocked out draconic gang boss. Uh, again. Just be out of the way in time.

Although there are also knocked out sidemates around, like Kaiser, Newter and Sundancer. They probably wouldn’t be too happy if you just left them there to get caught by the Protectorate along with Lung.

He’d be all better in a matter of minutes. There were options. I just didn’t like any of them.

Oh. Right. Rapid regeneration, massive resistance to even this potent drug. There’s no time.

I dialed Tattletale’s phone, but it was Regent who answered.

“Hey,” he said.

“A, lemon,” I said.

X, uhh… how did the color part go again? Oh right, that’s how they’re doing.

“C, grass,”

Shit, I messed up.

Alec and Alex are very similar names, okay? 😛

he replied, “You wouldn’t believe it. We found one of Bakuda’s workshops. The stuff she has here is crazy.”

“No time to chat. I need to talk to Tattletale, fast.”

Ooh, interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more about the other groups’ adventures coming up.


“She’s checking the place for booby traps. Distractions probably aren’t a good idea.”

“It’s kind of important,” I said, looking down at Lung.

“Right.”

Two seconds later, Tattletale’s voice was on the other end, “Hey?”

hoi

“Quick question. I have to be sure, which is why I’m calling you. Lung heals, right?”

“Yeah. Wait… Lung’s there?”

“Unconscious at my feet.

Regent in the background, barely audible but clearly shouting: “Are you shitting me, Skitter, you did it again?!

But I don’t know how long, so answer fast. He heals? He’s already healing what I did to him from last time, right?”

“Right. He’ll heal pretty much anything, given time, provided he isn’t dead. Lose an arm, he’d grow it back in a few months.”

That last part’s quite possibly the case for Newter too.

“Thanks. That’s what I needed to know,” I said. “Good luck with the booby traps.” I hung up.

Then I looked down at Lung. I drew my knife.

“Why the knife?” Bitch asked. I think anyone else might have sounded concerned. She just sounded curious.

“I’m ending this.”

Ohh shit.


I grabbed one of the larger spikes that framed Lung’s face and heaved it to one side so his accordion-like neck was outstretched, face upturned.

No time to be delicate about it. I had no idea how strong the toxins in Newter’s blood were, or how fast Lung’s biology would process it.

She’s actually doing it, isn’t she? Or at least trying to.

I mean sure, there are certainly worse people to murder, but it’s coming as a bit of a surprise that Taylor is so resolute about it. Then again, this is exactly the kind of attitude she showed while fighting Clockblocker: Actions of questionable moral, justified by rationalizations. This time the rationalizations are a bit less self-centric, but still.

I’m not quite sure if she’ll be able to go through with it, though. This would her first time taking a life, which can be daunting even with lots of great reasons.


As I was writing the last half of the previous post, a track called “Spider8ite (Thief of Lounge Mix)” was playing over my head. That doesn’t have lyrics, but the original “Spider8ite!!!!!!!!” has these:

In this world there is no
Place for people like you
I’ll extermin8 you
With my spider8ite

In my world there is no
Place for weaklings like you
I’ll extermin8 you
With my spider8ite

It felt very appropriate.


I jammed the knife into Lung’s eye socket.

…ow.

Of course, why didn’t that occur to me? His body is still covered in scales, with his eyes as his only known weak spot.

His head and consequently his eyes weren’t as large as you’d think, in proportion to the rest of his frame, but the tissue around it was tough. I had to leverage the knife back and forth before I was able to pry his eyeball out.

“If you were to rip out my iris – I would be like, ‘Ouch!’, but then – if you grounded it up to a fine powder, it wouldn’t be blue anymore, it would be sort of a dull, blackish-brownish color.”
– Michael “Vsauce” Stevens, “Why Do We Ask Questions?”, TEDxVienna (2013)

Who would’ve guess that this would be the second time the subject of ripping out eyeballs had come up for me this week?

It was hot to the touch as I held it in the palm of my hand, no bigger than a ping-pong ball.

The second eye was faster, though no less messy.

…geez, when I said at the beginning of the fight that Taylor could blind Lung, I did not mean it like this.


When I was done, I stood, sheathed my knife and backed away from Lung’s body. Shouldn’t I feel worse about this? Shouldn’t I feel sick, or grossed out, or disturbed by the morality of it? I didn’t even feel cold, the way Grue had described. It just felt like something I had to do.

And there it is. At least with Clockblocker she briefly contemplated the idea of somehow apologizing, but this time she felt the need to do this. But, again, Lung is a much more dangerous and vile man than Clockblocker, and she was operating under the assumption that she’d eventually end up on the same side as the latter.

I’m not fully convinced this will stop Lung from seeking out Taylor again. She’s taken his dick, she’s taken his eyes, all in all that’s asking to get attacked in full dragon form.

After all, a dragon has more ways to find someone than just sight.


I glanced at the two eyeballs clasped in my hand, then put them out of my mind. I surveyed the room. Priorities?

I asked Bitch first, “The dogs are okay?” If I placed them second to anyone else but her, or if I forgot to ask, I got the feeling Bitch would mind.

“Fuck the dogs did you just carve out Lung’s eyeballs holy shit you’re so much more metal than I thought also don’t fuck the dogs they’re great and my friends and they’re fine thanks for asking but holy shit.

“They’ll heal when they turn back to normal.”

Yeah, that’s more like Bitch.

So is that an actual part of the power? That injuries don’t carry over?

“Sundancer?” I asked.

Sundancer was lying on her side, one arm pressed against the shoulder Oni Lee had stabbed. “I’m… okay.”

That was everyone I gave a damn about, leaving only Fenja, Menja and Kaiser.

Hah! Fuck you, Max.

I looked across the room and called out, “Fenja?”

The giantess nodded.

“Get your sister to a hospital, or whichever doctor your guys use. Get your boss taken care of.”

Reasonable.

She stood without giving me a response. Her sister had shrunk enough for her to cradle in her arms. Kaiser, for his part, was slung over her shoulder, limp.

“Oh, Fenja?”

She paused.

“I’ll leave it to you to make the call, but if you think Kaiser has a sense of honor, maybe point out it would be bad form to push the point on the dogfighting thing, after we dealt with Lung for him, saved his life.”

Heh, nice.

“We were the ones who defeated Lung and saved your life. Don’t fuck with the Undersiders.”

She nodded, then ducked through the opening in the wall.

byyye


I stepped toward Sundancer and offered a hand to help her up. She flinched away.

Oh. My hands were bloody. I dropped the offered hand to my side.

Yeeah, that tends to happen when you perform dual eye impromptutations.

“Let’s go,” I suggested.

Let’s.


End of Hive 5.9

Holy shit that was a good fight.

For a lot of it, Taylor was mostly just a bystander, watching as Kaiser and Sundancer (and to some extent Fenja, Menja and the dogs) did their things. Those parts were awesome, though! Kaiser may not have won this fight (though he briefly looked like he had), but he sure isn’t a weakling, and Sundancer’s mini-sun is pretty cool.

Ultimately, though, only Taylor was really left. Bitch jumped in, but didn’t really get to do much other than witness Taylor’s incredibly clever singlehanded defeat of Lung, making use of the power of a sidemate who was taken out of commission several chapters ago.

And then she fucking pried his coddamn eyeballs out. Holy shit, Taylor. At least what she did to Clockblocker was temporary, aside from psychological scars.

Oh wait, Lung can regrow limbs. That probably also applies to eyeballs.

Anyway, I maintain my viewpoint that Taylor is much more suited to be a villain than a hero, and at this point I think that’s what this story might be about at its core: The rise, not of a great hero, but of a great villain.

(This is where I ruin the poetic sound of that by comparing it to Star Wars, isn’t it? Don’t worry, though, Worm is much better.)

So, what’s next? The Arc isn’t over, nor was I expecting it to be. I think we might be in for a chapter of cooling down, perhaps telling us a bit about what the other Undersiders were up to.

And after that, this probably isn’t the end of the Abruptly Blinded Bats’ reign of terror. As I mentioned, Lung can still function while blind, and even if he couldn’t, I think Bakuda would take control. The battle was won, but this war probably isn’t over.

See you next time!


[postscript]
By the way, I’ve just updated Sharedvi’s userscript – confirmed working for me in Maxthon. I’m now safe from accidentally looking at character tags. 🙂

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