Tangle 6.1: Avoidance

Source material: Worm, Tangle 6.1

Originally blogged: August 19, 2017


[pre-intro]
Yo, who’s ready for Arc 6?

(#let’s go)


Tangle 6.1

Hey there! It’s time to dive into Arc 6 of Worm… which is called… Tangle? Hm. I was going to say that wasn’t insect-related, but in retrospect, I guess Agitation wasn’t either.

So evidently this Arc is about Taylor rescuing a long-haired prince from a tower and taking him to look at some lanterns, or something like that. Right?

Okay, jokes aside, this seems to suggest that whatever situation we’re getting into this Arc, it’s going to be a bit complicated, and possibly confusing. Hm. Maybe it’ll be an intricate confluence of inter-team villain politics in spite of the truce (that I’m assuming is still in effect – the ABB has proven that capturing Lung doesn’t incapacitate them once already)? Or maybe an antagonist (Bakuda? though not really her style) wraps our protagonists up in a web of manipulation?

Wait, manipulation… Kaiser, maybe?

I really don’t know. Let’s just jump in and see what happens!


I squared off against a very thin Japanese man of Grue’s height. He held a knife in one hand and a katana in the other.

Woah, we’re going very in medias res on this one.

That said, we don’t have a guarantee yet that this isn’t in a video game or something. Although that’d raise the question of how she’s so sure about the man’s height. A dream is also an option, if we’re going the “not a real fight” route.

A narrow smile crossed his face as he made his katana blade whip around himself at lightning speed.

At my command, a swarm of wasps flowed from beneath the armor of my costume and set themselves on him.

…very unlikely to be a video game.

There was a moment of bewildered swatting before he started howling in pain. Both katana and knife fell to the ground as he started using his hands to flail at the swarm.

That sounds… ineffective. Better than trying to use the weapons to cut the bugs in half, though.

I drew my baton and struck him across the bridge of his nose. I wound up hitting him much harder than I intended to, as he just happened to bend forward at the same moment I swung. As he reeled, blood streaming from his face, I lunged forward with a low swing to hit him in the side of the knee.

She’s really getting the hang of that baton.

He crumpled to the ground and writhed, in too much pain to retaliate. I bent down to pick up the knife, which looked cheap, and the katana, which looked antique. I used the knife to cut the katana’s sheath from his side, then dropped the knife and kicked it into a storm drain.

Later, Taylor would discover that she was terrible at judging the pricelessness of weapons. Turns out the knife was a one-of-a-kind artifact, and the katana was just your average non-legendary piece of shit that you can find dozens of in every Japanese household.


With the sheathed katana in one hand and my baton in the other, I looked over the evening’s battlefield.

At this point, I’m willing to say this is real. I guess this is another, less eventful raid on the ABB?

The building that loomed over us was a tenement, like countless others in the Docks. Five or more apartments in an area so small it should only hold three at most. Ten or twelve families sharing a single bathroom and shower. That reality was ugly on its own,

Yeaah.

but word had been that the ABB was turning tenement buildings like this one into barracks for their soldiers.

And any tenants who happen to be Asian into said soldiers, I’d imagine.

That the less than enthusiastic recruits, the ones with bombs implanted in their heads, were being gathered up here so they could be watched, trained, equipped, and deployed by the ABB’s captains.

Is this really a good place to attack, then, knowing there’ll be loads of people forced to fight you against their will or put in the crossfire between you and the people who want to fight you?

I’d balked at first. I’d been worried that it was a ploy on Kaiser’s part to get the organized villains of Brockton Bay to attack a building full of helpless people. Even after Tattletale had confirmed this was an ABB base of operations, I’d had my doubts.

It doesn’t seem like Kaiser actually did this, but let’s give him an honorary “Fuck you, Max” for being the kind of guy who would make Taylor suspecting this sound reasonable.


Had my doubts, that was, until we’d attacked and ABB soldiers had flooded out of the building like ants from an anthill. Clowns from a clown car. A ridiculous number of people, anyways, for a building that wasn’t all that big.

Heh. Yeah, that’s what you find in enemy barracks, after all. Lots of people ready to fight you.

We were outnumbered twenty to one, but I doubted any of us were really breaking a sweat. There was nobody with powers fighting in the ABB’s defense, since only Bakuda was uninjured and we had an idea of where she was holed up.

I suppose she’s recovered somewhat from the loss of some of her toes.

That meant that all we had to worry about were their rank and file gang members, and we’d already taken out the guys with guns.

Nice work.

Blazing fires as tall as I was dotted the road around the tenement. In other spots, patches of darkness lingered. There was no power to the area and there hadn’t been any for days, probably the military’s work, and the battlefield was lit by the flame alone, giving the ongoing fight had an almost hellish appearance to it.

The military cutting off power to the area seems smart. The ABB aren’t exactly secretive about the general area they operate in, so cutting off power to that area to limit them is a reasonable move. Kind of sucks for the non-ABB people in the area, true, but so does the war itself.

The faces of the ABB members contorted in pain and fear. The villains advancing, implacable, with faces like Grue’s skeletal helmet, Spitfire’s modified gas mask with the lenses reflecting the flames and Gregor’s doughy face with barnacle-like bits of shell crusting it.

It sounds like an incredibly intimidating sight, and something that would look awesome in a live-action adaptation.

And me, I supposed. The yellow lenses of my freshly repaired mask, mandible design framing my jaw.

You look cool too, Taylor. 🙂


I headed towards where the fight was mainly happening, and came face to face with a twenty-something man. I immediately pegged him as one of the recruited. Someone who wouldn’t be fighting if it weren’t for the bomb planted in his brain. He held a baseball bat pointed at me like it was a blade.

As long as he doesn’t try to stab you with it, that doesn’t sound that wrong…

Or maybe that’s just me being similarly uninformed about the proper way to hold a baseball bat vs the proper way to hold a bladed weapon.

“Surrender,” I told him, “Put the weapon down, lie on the ground and put your hands on your head.”

“N-no. I can’t!”

“I’ve got powers. You don’t. In the past ten minutes, I’ve taken down people bigger than you, with better weapons, people with killer instinct, and I did it without a sweat. I’ll tell you right now, you lost. You’ll lose this fight. Lie down and put your hands on your head.”

It might be better to let him fight you. That way he can confidently tell Bakuda he did his best.

“No!” He stepped forward, raising the bat.

I didn’t like fighting these guys. Didn’t like hurting them. But if they wouldn’t surrender, the next closest thing I could offer to mercy was hurting them obviously enough that their willingness to join the fight wouldn’t come into question if he wound up having to explain to Bakuda.

Exactly!


I set my bugs on him, hoping to distract him enough to buy me time to deliver a decisive blow. This guy, though, he didn’t buckle. Rather than struggle, he charged headlong through the swarm of biting and stinging insects, blindly flailing his bat in my direction.

Hm. In D&D terms, this guy seems to be a barbarian.

I had to scramble backward to avoid being clubbed.

Much like in the first Lung fight, Taylor’s weakness is that her body isn’t enhanced or protected by her power, only by the armor.

I drew my baton back, tried to decide when and how to strike. If his bat hit my baton, he could disarm me. If I could hit his hand, though, or catch him with his guard down…

Seems like a good tactic.

There was no need. Grue stepped in, almost casually, and put his fist through the poor guy’s jaw. He crashed to the ground, the bat sliding out of his hands.

Yowch.

Well, good night then.


“Thanks,” I said, even as I winced in empathy for the guy that had just been knocked out.

“No prob,” the haunting vibes of his voice were at odds with his casual choice of words. “We’re nearly done here.”

Because of Steven Universe (and Minecraft, by way of a reference to Steven Universe), I can’t read “No prob” without thinking there should be a “Bob” after it.

Also, I love the idea of this really spooky voice, coming from this similarly spooky skull guy, just casually going “No prob”. 😛

I glanced around the battlefield. Injured and unconscious ABB members littered the ground around the building. Though we’d been outnumbered at the outset, only a few stragglers remained.

“Tattletale!” Grue bellowed, “How many?”

“This is it! Building’s clear!” she called back.

Good job!

Following her voice, I saw her crouching on top of one of the few cars parked along the street, gun dangling from her fingers, out of the way of the fight and with deterrence in hand.

“Spitfire!” Grue called out. “Snail!”

He’s got a name, y’know. Though to be fair he does go by “Gregor the Snail”.

The two members of Faultline’s team worked in tandem. Spitfire set about spewing a geyser of fluid out of the nozzle at the base of her mask, directing it to the base of the building, where it ignited on contact.

And there it is. A piece of fanart [here] that was sent to me after 5.1 essentially confirmed my then tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Spitfire literally spits fire [here], but this is the first I’m seeing of it in the story itself…

I honestly kind of love the literalness of the name. The power’s pretty cool, too. It sounds like it works by spitting out some kind of fluid that ignites when it hits something that isn’t Spitfire herself (or her outfit, one might hope), which is a neat way to avoid the problems associated with spewing fire directly from the lower half of your face.


Gregor the Snail, in turn, reached out with one hand and blasted out a steady stream of foam at the adjacent buildings. He’d informed us before the fight started – he could concoct a variety of chemicals in his prodigious stomach and project them in a stream from his skin.

Huh, that’s pretty cool!

Adhesives, lubricants and strong acids, among other things. The one he would be using now would be something fire retardant, as we’d planned. It wouldn’t do to burn down the neighborhood.

Yeah, good call.

While Spitfire worked on burning the building to the ground, and Gregor kept the blaze contained to the one building, the rest of us spent several minutes working on disarming and moving the injured and unconscious enemies from the building’s vicinity. Grue had supplied me with a package of dozens of plastic wrist-cuffs, and I started making use of them on the ABB members.

I choose to imagine that the cuffs have cutesy cartoon characters and drawings of flowers on them.

Grue approached me, “I ran out. Got extras?”

I handed him a fistful of the wrist ties.

The latest exciting Western starring Clint Eastwood, coming soon to a cinema near you.


“So this thing with the ABB is almost over,” he said, “And I was talking to Fog, one of Kaiser’s people. Sounds like he’s not going to press the issue over Bitch and the dogfighting thing, like you suspected.”

Nice.

I nodded, “Good. I don’t like them, but that’s a fight we don’t need just yet.”

Yeah, best avoid that for now.

Grue wrestled with a gang member with an injured leg, twisting the guy’s arms behind his back and then punching him in the kidney when his struggling made it too difficult to get the plastic handcuffs on. The guy gave up the fight.

“You got any plans for tomorrow?”

I turned my attention away from the unconscious girl I was cuffing and looked at Grue.

I like how casual this has gotten.

Also, plaaans? 😉

“Well?” he asked.

“I’m planless. No plan,” I fumbled my words.’’

Ahaha, I love it. Planless!

(Honestly? #relatable)

Technically, I could or should be going back to school, but I still had the tentative excuse of the concussion, so I could get away with missing another few days. After the way the meeting with the school had gone, I was glad for the excuse.

Oh yeah, after that fiasco, the Harpies probably won’t be very pleased with Taylor.


“Want to come over to my place? I’m supposed to have a group meeting to discuss progress and whatever for this online class I’m taking, but I’ve also got my sister’s caseworker stopping by to check out my apartment in the afternoon.

fuck yes fuck yes fuck yes

I was hoping to buy some furniture and get it put together by then, but I’m tight on time and it’ll be a hell of a lot easier with two people,” he told me, “…and that was a rambling explanation.”

Nah, that could’ve gone a lot worse for you. But I see Taylor’s not the only one being self-conscious about their words… 😉

“I got the gist. Yeah, I could do that.”

I had seen him smile that boyish grin of his often enough that I could picture it behind his mask.

I’ve got a grin on myself. 😀

“I’ll text you with the time and address?”

“Alright.”

He gave me a very ‘guy’ clap on the shoulder, then headed over to catch up to a guy that was trying to crawl away, a little ways down the street.

You’ve got a date then! 0;D


As he left, Tattletale joined me, taking a few wrist-ties from me, and helping me with others. She was grinning.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Shipper on boooard!

“You’re reading too much into it,” I told her.

“He didn’t invite me,” she gave me a sly look.

That didn’t get past me either. Putting together furniture is even faster with 3-5 people than with two…

“Maybe he knows you wouldn’t have accepted.”

“Maybe he suspects I would’ve, and he wanted to spend time with just you.”

And why wouldn’t she accept? Perhaps to facilitate exactly this? 😉

I had my doubts. Definite doubts, about what she was implying. I didn’t get a chance to clarify.

It’s time to face it, Taylor: You’re actually quite likeable, loveable, no matter what the Harpies say.


“Coming down!” Gregor roared. There was a rumble as the building began to sag, followed by a crash as it started folding in on itself. Spitfire directed her napalm breath to one corner of the building, obliterating the wood and stone there. She swiftly backed up as the building finished its controlled collapse.

If these two weren’t villains, they could start a demolition company. Though I suppose that goes for a lot of parahumans. The parahuman society might be saturated with demolition companies run by parahumans who aren’t interested in heroics or villain…osity.

As the rubble settled, Gregor sprayed his extinguishing foam with one hand, directing the stream against the fingers of his other hand so the stream separated into a broad spray. Where each of the droplets hit a part of the building, they swelled into a blob of foam a few feet across. In short order, the building was covered enough that only a few traces of flame were still visible.

Alternatively, Gregor could become a firefighter.

“We’re done, let’s move!” Grue called out, returning to where Tattletale and I were.

We scrammed, leaving the thugs tied up, while Spitfire and Gregor the Snail disappeared down a different street.

byyye!


We’d broken into a dilapidated old mechanic’s shop to stash our ride, and we returned there in short order as Tattletale made a call to the authorities about dealing with the ABB members.

This whole truce deal must be kinda nice to the heroes, I guess. Suddenly the villains start doing some of their work for them, as well as lightening the load on the rest of it.

As the car pulled out and headed towards the water, I let myself breathe again.

You okay there? It seems a bit late to be holding your breath to avoid breathing in smoke.

Our third night like this since Bitch and I had gone up against Lung. Each night had been easier than the last, and I wasn’t sure how much of that was me getting more comfortable with things, and how much was the fact that the ABB was falling apart under the sustained onslaught.

I guess the Abruptly Bedridden Bunch might not last much longer, even if Bakuda takes proper charge again.

“I think the ABB is just about done,” Grue spoke from the driver’s seat, echoing my thoughts and his earlier statement.

Of course, there’s still the option that they’re wrong. I still think we haven’t seen the last battle against Lung, though I suppose a third and final battle against his full dragon form doesn’t necessarily require his gang to be intact.


“Three days and nights of pressure from the police, military, all the good guys and most of the villains in the city will do that,” I said.

Lisa commented, “It’s like I was telling you, Taylor, someone breaks those unspoken rules, the community protects the status quo.

Nice, Lisa’s about to spell out what I pointed out a couple of times in Hive: That this entire situation is a perfect example of what she was talking about in 3.6.

Us villains make truce with the local authorities, we actually work together, in a way, with the cops, capes and military holding the line during the day, and taking down any ABB members who stick their heads up, while us villains do the nitty gritty stuff… In this case, it’s probably more blatant an invoking of that than any example I can think of. Guess we can thank Coil for that.”

I suppose, yeah. Coil seemed like an important factor for why the debate in 5.1 went as smoothly as it did.

“It’s been a learning experience,” I added, “If nothing else, I’ve gotten a better sense of the other groups. I didn’t think Coil’s soldiers would be quite as good as the ones I saw in action. Meeting the members of Faultline’s crew, and the Travelers, too. They’re not bad people.”

“They seem like good people,” I lied.

Taylor has come a long way.


“I learned a lot too, in a different way,” Tattletale leaned forward from the backseat, putting her head and shoulders between the two front seats. “I said part of the reason I wanted to go with Trickster and his shapeshifter teammate was to figure out their powers, right? I never shared.”

Ooh! Ooh! Lay it on me.

“And?” Grue asked. One hand still on the wheel, he peeled off his helmet with the other. It took only a second for the darkness around his face to clear up.

“And Trickster, their leader, is a teleporter. Not just himself. He can make anything he can see teleport.

Oh man, that’s awesome. Incredibly versatile if used right.

Except there’s a special rule to his power, a restriction. He has to swap the places of two things with roughly equivalent mass. The bigger the difference in mass, the slower the swap and shorter his range.”

Huh.

I wonder what his limitations are if the masses are equal. Like, could he theoretically teleport the moon if he could see something of a similar mass? That would probably be a bit extreme.

“That sounds like a pretty large drawback,” Brian said.

“He makes it work. He had ABB members hitting their own guys, he was disarming them like it was a piece of cake.

Sweet.

As for the ‘shapeshifter’.” Tattletale made finger quotes. “Her name is Genesis. Her power? Remotely controlled projections.”

“She’s not actually there?”

Hm, that or the gorilla is a projection placed around her real body.

Tattletale shook her head. “Showed up with a triceratops-bull-cyborg thing, charged through the front door, set off a trap, got blown to smithereens. And Trickster just laughed. Two minutes later, she’d pulled together a lady knight in shining armor and was dealing with the guys with guns.”

So the projections are solid, or am I misinterpreting this? That would make the power incredibly strong.


“Geez,” I said, “Sundancer’s got a miniature sun. Ballistic, as Brian and I saw just last night, just needs to touch something to have it go rocketing off at a few hundred feet a second. Doesn’t matter if it’s ball bearings or a car. Add this new info, and well…”

“Heavy hitters,” Brian finished for me.

“We can be glad they’re on our side,” I said.

Yeah! For now, at least.

“For now,” Brian pointed out, “We still don’t know why they’re here and why they’re helping.”

Hey, that was my line!

That second part is a good point, though.

He glanced at Tattletale, eyebrow raised. She shrugged, “My power’s not telling me anything concrete. I’m as curious as you are.”

There seem to be an unusual amount of these dark spots in Tattle’s Knowledge surrounding the Travellers. Though maybe that’s just because she hasn’t had a lot of time to accumulate facts about them.


I joined Brian in pulling off my mask. The car, supplied by our boss, had tinted windows, so there was no stress there. I’d have to put it on again when we made our way past the military blockade, but that wasn’t such a problem.

Tinted windows, cool.

I lowered the sun visor above the windshield and used the mirror to examine my neck. The bruise was still noticeable, there. Much as Bitch had said, it looked like I’d survived a hanging.

It’s not far from the truth, really.

“Mind if I stay over again, tonight?” I asked.

I saw Tattletale shrug in the backseat, through the mirror. “It’s your place too. You don’t even need to ask. I think you should call your dad, though, so he doesn’t worry.”

“Yeah, call your dad,” Brian confirmed.

Yeesh, she’s been staying there for several days to avoid Danny seeing the bruise? Suggesting the last Danny saw of her was after the failed Harpy trial. I wonder what he’s thinking.

“Alright.” I was going to do that anyways.

When the military barricades with flashing lights atop them came into view in the distance, we pulled into the loading area for what had once been a small grocery store, out of sight.

“Any rush?” I asked.

“We’re good,” Tattletale said, “I’m going to call Regent and Bitch, see how their group is doing.”

“Then I’ll call my dad.”

We might be about to find out.


I stepped out of the car to make my call.

He picked up on the first ring.

“Hi dad.”

Also, from the way Lisa and Brian were talking, it kind of sounded like Taylor hasn’t been calling her dad the last few days. The man is probably freaking out.

“Taylor. I’m relieved to hear from you.”

So he’d been concerned.

Of course he has!

I’m surprised he sounds so calm.

“I’m going to stay at Lisa’s again, tonight.”

“I’d like you to come home, Taylor. It worries me that I haven’t seen you since you left the meeting at the school.”

“I’m okay.”

Hm, sounds like she has been calling him, but not saying much more than that she’s staying over.

Danny doesn’t know why his daughter is suddenly staying away from him, and the last time he saw her was right after something that a) involved the Harpies in a way the Harpies were fully aware of and likely to seek revenge for, b) ended in failure and frustration on Taylor’s part and c) might be a failure Danny blames himself for.

Danny has a lot of things to worry about in this situation.


“It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I’ll feel a lot better when I see that for myself. I want to talk, have dinner and breakfast together, touch base. I don’t want to lose touch like we did after…”

“After mom died,” I finished for him.

Yikes. He’s that worried. He might actually think the loss in the Harpy trial might’ve been similarly devastating to Taylor.

“It’s okay, Dad. I just… I guess I needed a change of pace, to get away from it all for a little bit. I already made plans for tonight. It’d be awkward to cancel. I’ll come home for dinner tomorrow?”

Oh yeah… maybe tell him you have a date… ;p

At least she’s being somewhat open with her dad.

He hesitated. “Okay, just tell me you’re going to school.”

“Yeah,” the lie passed through my lips easily, but it sat heavy on my conscience.

You’re slipping on the “don’t lie to dad” thing, Taylor.

Disappointing him would have felt worse, though. I tried to take the edge off the guilt by making it a half-untruth, “I didn’t go Monday. I started going yesterday afternoon.”

This is a rather checkable lie, but Danny trusts Taylor a lot, so I don’t think he’s going to.


“I suppose that’s better than nothing. I’ll see you tomorrow night, then.”

“Love you, dad.”

“Love you too.”

This could’ve gone worse.

I hung up. It was a white lie, right? I wasn’t really hurting anyone, and my dad would only worry more if I told him I wasn’t going to school.

I mean, it’s gonna do some damage to your relationship if the school tells him, prompted or otherwise, that you weren’t at school yesterday, but other than that… fair.

Tattletale and Grue climbed out of the car as I pulled on my mask.

“All set?” she asked.

“Ready,” I answered.

She opened the hatch at the base of the grocery store, that would lead us into the tunnels that stretched beneath the barricade.

We descended into the darkness.

So is this like that storm drain, a shortcut back to the Loft, or are you meeting up with the others somewhere else?

*scrolls*

Oh. Apparently we’re not gonna find that out just yet.


End of Tangle 6.1

This was a decent chapter to set the stage for Tangle. Not super exciting overall, but well-written to establish when we’re at, what’s going on, and what’s happened in the mean time.

The main takeaways from the chapter: We’ve skipped ahead a couple days, there have been more raids against the Anglerfish’s Best Buddies, who are seemingly going under, Taylor hasn’t returned home in this time, Spitfire and Gregor could start a demolition firm, the Travellers are heavy hitters, and TaylorxBrian is still adorable.

I am looking forward to that furniture date so much, folks. I’m not sure it’s going to be the next chapter, but if it is, you won’t see me complaining!

Not much else to say, really. See you next time!

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