Tangle 6.5: Through Broken Glass

Source material: Worm, Tangle 6.5

Originally blogged: August 30-31, 2017


[pre-intro]

I wanna see you bleeeed,
I wanna hear you screeeam,
I wanna wrap my hands around that pretty neck and– woah! Uh, hi there, hey. You’re here for the liveblog already? Uh, come on in, come on in.

What? The song I was singing? I swear it’s a very romantic song. Technically. Don’t worry about it, it’s a Homestuck thing.

Just sit down in the couch over there, have yourself something to drink if you want, and I’ll get started on the liveblog.


Tangle 6.5

So, musical distractions aside, hi! It’s time to read some more Worm. 🙂

Last time, the Undersiders decided to take on their biggest mission yet – pulling a massive prankster’s gambit on the Protectorate, in return for a quarter million dollars each. Considering the job is going to take place later the same day as 6.4, and the Undersiders need every bit of Unspoken Plan Guarantee they can get, I see no reason for this chapter not to launch us right into the early stages of the plan’s execution.

Depending on exactly how the Undersiders intend to embarrass the Protectorate (and other heroes at the party, I guess), this whole mission could make a lot of fun, humor and epicness, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they’ve cooked up.

Let’s pull the p(l)an off the oven and take a look, shall we?


My legs hugged the sides of Judas’ body.

Sounds like we’re on the way!

I could feel his breathing beneath me, the expansion of his body as his lungs filled, then emptied. He huffed out a breath, and it steamed in the cool night air.

Huh. I guess it gets pretty cold during spring nights in Brockton Bay. Or maybe hellhound breath is just naturally extra warm.

I mean, by this time of year (what are we at now, like April or May?) you wouldn’t typically get steamy breath even here in northern Norway, and Brockton Bay is at a similar latitude to Italy. Then again, New York has been known to get full-blown blizzards, so there are definitely other climate factors making the northeastern U.S. colder than the Mediterranean coast of Europe.

It’s sometimes strange to think about how the U.S. is a little bit south compared to Europe. Like, when you think about the U.S. as “across the pond”, it’s easy to imagine the country lining up with Europe on opposite sides of the Atlantic in a straight west-east line, but it doesn’t. All of the mainland U.S. is further south than the U.K. and Belgium, New York lines up with Rome, and Texas and Florida stretch further south than Morocco. Hawaii goes further and lines up with Western Sahara.

The confusion around this is only amplified by living in the nothernmost parts of Europe. The areas around the Mediterranean coast of Europe are referred to as “Syden”, “The South”, here in Norway, and we’re much more likely to think of the U.S. as being in the west than in the west-south-west.

Then again, Americans have to deal with this issue, as beautifully illustrated in xkcd:

Maybe JFK’s confusion about the southern half of the world isn’t so strange after all.


He stepped forward, just a little, and I got a glimpse of the world below us. Thirty two stories down, the cars on the street were visible only by the yellow and red points of their headlights and taillights.

Woah. Good thing none of the Undersiders have expressed a fear of heights… yet.

Geez.

See, some of the Americans in the audience may be used to skyscrapers being a thing (hell, you might not even be counting this as a skyscraper, idk), but the tallest building I know about within at least five hours of driving by car is 17 stories high. Although apparently there are plans of expanding the hotel in my hometown to 22 stories just to one-up the 17-story hotel.

Which is probably gonna look ridiculous, by the way. The current hotel and the buildings around it are like 4-5 stories, I’d say.

I felt Tattletale clutch me tighter, from where she sat behind me. Judas’ front paw rested on the stone railing of the rooftop, clutched it hard enough that the points of his nails bit into the concrete.

Do we perhaps have someone here who isn’t particularly comfortable with heights after all? I don’t blame her. I’m usually fine with heights myself, but we’re talking 32 stories here.

How did they even get up, anyway? Did they jump the rooves of like 30 smaller buildings like a staircase? Or did the dogs just straight up climb the walls with the humans on their backs?

Getting up here had been easy enough – Tattletale had cracked the employee access door and we’d taken the supply elevator to the roof.

…oh. Okay then.

Well, at least it’s an answer.

Had someone been alerted to our presence? Spotted us on camera? Hard to say. But time was short, and we’d already wasted enough time waiting for the dogs to finish growing. The moment Bitch deemed them set, we would move out.

…are they gonna jump back down? Casual reminder that these are hellhounds, not hellcats.

This plan had been terrifying when we’d just been talking about it. Actually being on the verge of doing it? Ten times worse.

Yup, definitely sounds like they’re gonna jump off the literal verge here.


As I read/write about the Undersiders getting ready on a rooftop, I happen to be listening to a piece of music the track art for which is a group of teens preparing for battle on a rooftop.

(here – Homestuck spoilers, though)


Still time to think of a reason to back out.

Good luck with that.

Bitch’s whistle, one of those ones that make you wince when you hear them a hundred feet away, cut through the faint, ambient hum of the city below us.

Last chance, Taylor.

It’s now or never.

Obviously the answer is never, because what would happen to the story arc if you pulled out of this before it even began.

Although that would be one way one could pull a bait-and-switch on the mission being the focus of this Arc’s later half… making it about what happens when Taylor pulls the plug right as they’re about to go on their biggest mission yet…

I still don’t actually think that’ll happen, but I guess there are ways to spin the arc from here if she were to back out at this moment.

A second later, Brutus, with Bitch and Grue astride his back, stepped over the edge of the roof. Judas shifted forward under me, then followed.

GERONIWOOF


Falling from a height like that, you don’t get to scream. The wind takes your voice from you.

By the time they reach the ground, they should be moving at almost 40 meters per second (144 kilometers per hour or about 90 mph) and, given the weight of the dogs, make sizable dents in the ground at the very least.

So yeah, they’re moving very fast right now. The wind in Taylor’s face should roughly match that speed, I would think, making it like… *checks the Beaufort scale* …a fresh to strong breeze by the end of the trip.

If you happen to have something to hold onto, you cling to that for dear life and you pray, even if you aren’t a praying type. My hands clutched hooks of bone on either side of Judas’ neck hard enough that I thought I might break either the bone or my hands.

I doubt the bone would yield first.

Three stories down from the roof, there was a patio. As Bitch whistled and pointed from her position below us, Judas kicked against the wall just behind us, pushing out and away from the building.

These dogs are incredibly smart.

My heart rose into my throat and stuck there as I saw the edge of the patio below us, surely out of reach. Had he pushed too early? The next chance we’d have to touch a surface would be when we spattered violently against the road.

Ahaha!

I’m sure Rachel knows what she’s doing… doesn’t mean I really see the point of bringing the dogs up to the rooftop in the first place, but I trust they have thought of some way to negate, y’know, the usual effects of hitting the ground at forty meters per second.

(Forty meters per second, by the way, happens to be the speed you can go with a boat on ice in Minecraft. It’s ridiculous and awesome.)


His instincts seemed to be better than mine. His front claws reached down and gripped the patio’s edge.

Judas’ leg goes rrrip and they continue falling… Nah, the dogs are very sturdy, I don’t think we need to worry about that happening.

The patio goes crrrack and they continue falling.

Every muscle in my body tensed in my effort to not be thrown off him as we stopped, even with his powerful body absorbing the worst of the fall. He gripped the ledge, then pushed against it while leveraging his back legs into place. With every muscle in his body, it seemed, he leaped. Not down, this time, but out.

Damn, what an acrobat!


Time seemed to stand still as we left the building behind. The only thing below us was the street, twenty-nine stories below.

Still a ways to go, then!

I’m surprised she’s able to judge the distance that precisely under these conditions, to be honest.

The wind blew through my hair with a painful bite of cold. We’d crossed the event horizon, it was do or die from here on out.

At least it’s better than a literal event horizon, where the “do” option is usually long gone, as well as your humanoid shape. By the way, did you know that “spaghettification” is a real scientific term in serious usage?

That made it eerily easy to cast aside all doubts and hesitation and steel myself for what came next.

Ain’t no going back now!

The Forsberg Gallery was twenty six stories tall and was one of the more recognizable buildings you could find downtown.

Was this where the Protectorate fundraiser/party was supposed to be? I don’t remember if it was specified.

I guess this would be why they went to the rooftop of the 32-story scraper – so they could launch off the side of the building and land on or through the roof of the Gallery.

That’s… actually really damn cool.

If I remembered right, it had been designed by Architecture students at the university, a few years ago. I wasn’t really a fan of the design, which resembled the late stages of a game of Jenga, with each section formed in tempered glass with steel bars and girders providing the base skeleton.

Ehh. I’m leaning towards “not as cool as the designers may have thought” myself, but it could go either way, to be honest.

The entire thing was illuminated by lights that changed according to the time of the evening.

This kind of effect tends to be nice, at least.


In the blue-gray of the evening, the tower was pink and orange,

Oh wait, the colors of the lights change? I see. I was thinking, like, the direction and strength.

I’d say this made it even cooler, but pink and orange? …ehh, I was going to say it’s an atrocious combination, but looking at the Google Images search for “pink and orange”, I guess it can be nice if used well.

echoing the sunset that had finished just an hour ago.

Also in that context. Pink and orange on the sky during a sunset can be nice.

I guess maybe the tower switched to pink and orange to match the sunset, then just hasn’t changed to its proper post-sunset design yet.

As the leap carried us over it, a pink tinted spotlight consumed my vision.

Ouch. I guess that’s one of the kinder colors on your eyes, but getting spotlighted isn’t that fun, especially when it’s dark around you.

My lenses absorbed the worst of the glare, and a second later, I was able to make out what was happening again. Brutus, a matter of feet in front of us, slammed into the glass of the roof, sending cracks spiderwebbing across it.

Fuck yes. Though that seems to be some very strong glass. Makes sense, I suppose, for a glass building to be reinforced so people can throw rocks inside it without the whole building toppling.

Grue virtually bounced from where he sat on Brutus’ back, losing his seat, hit the glass of the roof with his shoulder, and began to slide. There was barely any traction to be had, not even on the steel girder that separated the massive panes of glass, and the only thing at the end of that slide would be a very long fall.

Um… Grue… That is not where we want to go. Right?


He reached out and grabbed ahold of the end of Brutus’ tail, pulling himself to a standing position at the same moment that Judas, Tattletale and I crashed into the pane of glass to their right.

THUNK

The damage Brutus had done on impact was enough to ensure that we could break through rather than simply breaking the window.

Awesome.

I mean, it’s a little sillier-looking when your first few members crash into the window like Errol the owl, but a dramatic glass roof entrance is a dramatic glass roof entrance and it shall always remain awesome. 😛

There was a moment where you could hear the sound of straining metal, followed by the sound of a lot of shattering glass.

Geez, how much of the building just broke by extension?

Together we all dropped into the center of the Forsberg Gallery’s top floor, joined by a downpour of glass shards.

Ahh, yeah, that part. On one hand, it would look awesome, but now all that glass is coming down and potentially hurting people. I’m not sure there’s anyone on this floor yet, but it could hurt the Undersiders too.

Grue landed on his feet and stumbled back as Brutus landed just in front of him. All around us, there were people in fancy dress and uniforms. Suits, dresses… costumes.

Ah, yes, there they are. Guys, you may want to open your umbrellas that you all brought in here for no explicable reason.

People ran screaming and running for cover.

Good!

Heroes stepped forward, some trying to grasp the situation in the midst of the chaos, others putting themselves between us and the civilians.

hai


A matter of heartbeats after we touched ground, Regent and Angelica plunged into the room, landing just behind us. Regent lost his seat as Angelica landed, but managed to roll as he hit the ground, bringing himself to a crouch as he stopped. He almostmanaged to make it look intentional.

Nice.

To be fair, Regent ought to be an expert on the topic of clumsiness and how to potentially recover from it.

Angelica stepped up to Bitch’s side, wearing the same harness we’d fitted her with at the bank robbery, but with two large cardboard boxes strapped to her sides, rather than bags.

What’cha collecting? Artwork? This is a gallery, after all.

I’d say successfully performing a clean sweep of a gallery with half the heroes in town present and the media watching would certainly embarrass the Protectorate!

I felt weirdly calm as my eyes swept over the room. The Protectorate was gathered around the stage at the back of the room. Armsmaster, Miss Militia, Assault, Battery, Velocity and Triumph. Dauntless was MIA.

Armsy! Long time no see, ya prick! And Miss Militia, probably awesome as ever. Assault and Battery… well, I don’t really don’t know these two that well, but they’re certainly familiar names by now. Triumph is also familiar, though I still have no clue what his(?) power is.

Velocity I’m not actually sure whether I’ve heard of before. I might have. Either way, they’re probably either a speedster or powerful telekinetic.

Not far away was the ‘kids’ table with some of the heroes of the hour. Clockblocker, Vista, Gallant and Shadow Stalker, interrupted from their mingling with the rich kids, teen actors and the sons and daughters of the local who’s who. The platinum blonde in the white evening gown that was giving me the evil eye? That would be Glory Girl, out of costume.

Ayyy!

Guys, you know what?

I think we’re about to have some fun.


Standing guard by the front of the room, raising their weapons in our direction, was an on-duty PRT squad. Their very recognizable uniforms were chain mesh augmented with kevlar, topped with faceless helmets.

Ah yes, you’re here too.

The only means you had to identify them with were the badge numbers printed across their vests in bold white numbers. Four of the five had what looked like flamethrowers.

That’s just about the least practical weapon they could have in this scenario short of grenades. Who made this decision?

Although of course there’s a chance the weapons merely look like flamethrowers.

They weren’t firing yet – they couldn’t. They were packing the best in nonlethal weaponry, but there were elderly people and children in the crowd, and according to Tattletale, that meant they were prohibited from opening fire on us for the moment.

And this would be why it’s impractical. At least with an ordinary gun you can aim it at a specific target, whereas the flamethrowers can easily hurt others around the target, and also ruin things in between the shooter and the target, living or otherwise. Even Regent’s taser would be more useful here.

The civilians… men and women in their finest clothes and jewelry. A combination of the richest and most powerful people in the city, their guests and those willing to pay the exorbitant prices for the tickets.

Man, if they manage to rob that jewelry in addition to the art while fighting off the heroes, the Protectorate is reallygonna hear it. 😛

The tickets started at two hundred and thirty dollars and had climbed steeply as they’d been bought up. We’d initially considered attending as guests, for one plan of attack,

I was just about to say that the Undersiders could’ve easily afforded the early prices, though I suppose since this mission was on such short notice, the ticket prices had probably already reached millions.

before we decided that it was too dangerous to risk having our secret identities caught on camera, or to have something go wrong as we attempted to smuggle our equipment, costumes and dogs inside. Once we’d decided that much, we’d stopped checking the cost of tickets, which had gotten as high as four hundred dollars a person.

Maybe I exaggerated it a little too much there. 😛

The guests could use thirty dollars of the ticket price to bid on an auction, but it was still pretty exorbitant.

Ooh, what’s getting auctioned? Some of the art, or something the Protectorate brought?


I recognized the mayor – the first time I’d seen him in person.

I wonder if he’s as cute as the mayor in Homestuck.

The mayor has been mentioned before, if I recall correctly, on the topic of Danny’s ferry project? Let’s see…

Ah, nah, blog search isn’t showing anything about that, but of course he was mentioned in the previous chapter, as the person behind this fundraiser/celebration! I don’t know how I forgot that so quickly.

There was a guy who might have been a lesser known actor – I thought I recognized him, too. The rest were just people, maybe a bit better looking than the norm, a bit better dressed.

And Emma.

Oh for fuck’s sake.


So Emma’s here! What does that mean for Taylor?

Well, it means the separation of her cape life from her school life is threatened again. It means there’s a distracting influence. And most importantly, it means Taylor has power and anonymity in front of a helpless (as far as we know, anyway – anyone could be secretly a parahuman, even her) Emma, and may struggle against the temptation to use it.

This is an opportunity Taylor might have to fight herself to avoid taking.

Oh! And Emma herself is a physical representation of what Taylor doesn’t want to be, a reminder of the thing she thought in the previous chapter about the prospective of betraying friends. Emma’s mere presence might net us some more consideration about Taylor’s Decision right in the middle of the heist.


I could have laughed. She was standing there in the crowd with her parents and older sister, looking scared shitless in a little sky blue dress and blue sandals. Her dad was a high profile divorce lawyer. I supposed it was possible he’d worked for someone famous or powerful enough that his family hadn’t needed an invitation or expensive tickets to get in.

Taylor’s immediately calling attention to how helpless and scared Emma looks here, albeit indirectly, and through that, to how much power Taylor and co. have over her at this moment. Taylor is in a situation where she could see Emma and take pleasure from it.

It kind of sucked, knowing I was about to give her an awesome story to share with the rest of the school when her suspension was over with.

Heh, fair point.

I was really, really hoping it wouldn’t be a story along the lines of ‘these idiotic villains just pulled a stunt so dumb it would put Über and Leet to shame, and got themselves arrested in a matter of seconds’.

Ahaha!

Speaking of “in a matter of seconds”, it’s kinda feeling like we’re in bullet time here, which of course is excellent writing for this kind of scene. I wonder how long they’ve been in there by now, though. Five seconds? Ten?

Tattletale laughed, with a nervous edge, “Holy shit! Not doing that again! Fucking intense…”

Ah, there we go, speeding up again. This particular line also helps to reinforce that these last nine or so paragraphs have been an expanded moment, because it’s very much not something Tattle would wait, like, a minute to say after crashing through the roof.


Her voice trailed off as Grue blacked out the crowd, leaving only the spot where we stood and the very edges of the room clear of the darkness. She gave him a dirty look.

Nice! Creates more confusion, keeps the people in the cloud of darkness from seeing and hearing what you’re doing next… just generally a good move.

“Bitch, Regent, go!” He shouted, as he stepped my way, grabbed my hand and practically pulled me from where I sat on Judas’ back. Tattletale hopped down, following a pace or two behind us.

What are they doing? Maybe riding around the room to grab the art?

The three of us ran for the front of the room, while Bitch whistled for her dogs and ran for the back. I sensed it when Regent unhitched the two boxes that were strapped to Angelica. The boxes were heavy and hit the ground hard, splitting at the seams.

Oh, huh. Seems the boxes were more for bringing something in.

Better than I’d hoped. I had my bugs flow out from the top of the box and the split sides, and ordered them into the crowd.

Oh fuck yes 😀

It had literally just crossed my mind that Taylor would need bugs, but then I got too distracted by the boxes to question that in text. Turns out they were the answer!

If a few more of the biting and stinging sort headed in Emma’s general direction, it wasn’t due to a conscious choice on my part.

Pfft. You sure about that?


If everything went according to plan, Bitch, Regent and the dogs could delay or stop anyone who ventured beyond the cloud of darkness.

Beyond the Cloud of Darkness sounds like a cool title for a Grue-inspired music track.

Everything else, our success or our humiliating arrest, hinged on Grue, Tattletale and I.

Interesting… tell me more.

My bugs reached the front of the room just seconds before we did. I could sense their locations, and this in turn gave me the ability to identify where the people, the walls, doorway and furniture were.

This is rapidly becoming one of Taylor’s main tricks, and I love that. It’s a clever use of her power, a little bit out of the box, and I really appreciate that it’s not just a one-time thing.

I was moving with my knife drawn before Grue even banished some of his darkness to reveal a portion of the PRT squad that was stationed at the entrance.

Heya!

So is he still covering their heads, or…?

As the cloud of black dissipated into tendrils of smoke, I was stepping behind one of the team members, drawing my knife against the hose that extended between the flamethrower-like device he held in his hands and the tank on his back.

Oooh, nice. Yes, make those even more useless!

It didn’t cut immediately, forcing me to try a second time. As the knife severed the material of the hose, the PRT team member noticed me and drove his elbow into my face.

Ouch.

My mask took the worst of the hit, but getting hit in the face by a full grown man isn’t any fun with any amount of protective headwear.

That mask has been so helpful over these Arcs. Good work on that, Taylor.


I fell back through the doorway even as the tank began emptying its contents onto the floor. It was a yellow-white, and as it poured onto the ground, it expanded like shaving cream.

A yellow-white what?

Also, shaving cream, you say?

OH GOD HOW CAN SHAVING CREAM BE SO FLAMMABLE


I’m sorry there’s so much Homestuck in this particular chapter’s liveblog, especially to the non-Homestucks following along, but you can’t just give me a substance that explicitly acts similarly to shaving cream being used as fuel for a flamethrower and expect me to not make a reference.

(#shaving cream causes many deaths in homestuck #i’m not kidding)


The tank was probably close to three gallons, making for a hell of a lot of foam.

And a hell of a lot of fire, I’d imagine.

Grue leveraged all of his weight to bodily kick one of the squad members into the foam, then slammed the base of his palm into the next guy’s chin. As the man reeled, Grue grabbed at the tank on his back and pulled it up over his head. This not only pulled the man off balance, but the weight of the tank kept him that way.

“And to the left you’ll see a specimen of the species Grueus brianus being totally awesome.”

Grue, his hands still on the tank, pulled the squad member’s helmeted face down at the same time he brought his knee up. The pane of the helmet cracked, and the man didn’t even have the wherewithal to bring his hands up to soften the fall before hitting the ground.

Damn, dude.

A fourth squad member stepped out of the darkness, and Tattletale took hold of the nozzle of the man’s weapon, forcing it to one side before he could open fire.

Tattle’s turn! Time to see her in proper combat for the first time, it seems.

I scrambled to my feet to help her. As Tattletale began to lose the wrestling match over the weapon,

Yeeah, she’s out of her element on this one.

I leaped over the still-expanding pile of foam,

That was just one of the squad’s tanks. How much foam is there going to be in the room if/when all of them get spilled?

then went low as I landed to knock his legs out from under him. He fell, hard, and Tattletale wrenched the weapon from his hands.

Sweet!

As he climbed to his feet, she pulled the trigger and blasted him in the face.

…not so sweet. So wait, was this the one who didn’t have a flamethrower? Whatever that one does have, it was implied to be a non-lethal weapon, at least.

Grue banished enough darkness to reveal the final member of the team, and Tattletale buried him under a blasting of the foam.

Ahh, I see, the fire at the front of the flamethrower, the igniter, wasn’t lit yet, so she’d just have put a bunch of foam in the other guy’s face, not fire.


I’d watched a discovery channel feature on this stuff. The PRT, the Parahuman Response Team, was equipped with tinker-designed nonlethal weaponry to subdue supervillains.

Hm… or maybe that was the intended use of the weapon of the guy who didn’t have a flamethrower? I don’t even know. If it was, it’s not that different from how a flamethrower works anyway.

This containment foam was standard issue. It ejected as a liquid, then expanded into a sticky foam with a few handy properties.

Ahh, now I get it. It’s like I suggested earlier – the weapons only look like flamethrowers. I was thinking that not lighting the igniter seemed odd when actively in combat, but it wasn’t lit because these weapons don’t actually need an igniter.

So did the fifth squad member just not have a weapon that was useful in this fight at all?

It was flexible and it was porous when fully expanded, for one thing, so you could breathe while contained within it, at least long enough for rescue teams with a dissolving agent to get to you. It was also impact resistant, so PRT squads could coat the ground with it to save falling individuals or keep heavy hitters from doing much damage.

Sounds incredibly versatile.

The way it expanded, you could coat all but the strongest villains in it, and it would disable them. Because of the way it denied you leverage and was resistant to impacts and tearing, even the likes of Lung would have trouble pulling themselves free.

Niice.

[Foreshadowing for Interlude 6?]

Topping it all off, it was resistant to high temperatures and a strong insulator, so it served to handle the pyrokinetics and those with electromagnetic powers.

So basically this stuff would be excellent to have in the hypothetical third showdown with Lung.


While the PRT member struggled ineffectually to remove his foam-covered helmet, I pulled the tank off him and helped Tattletale put it on. Grue already had his on, and was getting a third one off one of the foam-captured PRT team members for me.

Oh fuck yes. Co-opting useful enemy equipment – and if they pull the rest of this off well enough, they might be able to bring it with them and use it in the future as needed.

Although I suppose they’d run out of foam quickly.

It was heavy, and I almost couldn’t handle the weight. Rather than stagger around, I crouched and let the base of the tank rest against the ground.

Hm, might become an issue during the escape, forcing them to ditch one or more of the tanks.

Grue pointed to our left, and we aimed. A second later, he made the darkness dissipate, showing the buffet table surrounded by the various Wards and Glory Girl flying a few feet above the ground.

Wait, why wouldn’t they just shoot before removing the darkness? Especially Taylor and Brian, who’d both know where the people were.

They were swatting at the bugs crawling on them, but they weren’t so distracted that they didn’t notice the sudden emergence of light, or us.

“Glory Hole!” Tattletale heckled the heroine, before opening fire on her.

Ahaha, classic.

Grue directed a stream at Clockblocker, to the left, so I turned my attention to the person on the far right of the group. Shadow Stalker.

I’d say poor Clocky’s gotten enough of being restrained by the Undersiders’ shenanigans for a while, but here we go again.

Also, interesting to see that we’re not immediately pairing up Grue and Shadow Stalker. She might still decide to go for him instead of Taylor, though.

I admit, I had a reason to be ticked at her, since she wrote a note for Emma’s dad, giving him fuel for that damned assault charge. It was with a measure of satisfaction that I unloaded a stream of foam on her.

Revenge is a dish best served, uh, foamy.


The stream was dead on, but she didn’t seem to give much of a damn as she evaded to one side.

Considering her power, she might actually be a major threat here. “Sticky foam? Screw that, I’m a cloud now.”

I caught her square in the chest with another spurt, making her stagger a bit, but she didn’t fall or get caught in the stuff like the others. Instead, she sort of ducked low, her cape billowing, and then rolled to one side, readying her crossbow as her feet touched the ground and she shifted to an all-out run.

Yeeah, gonna take a little more than foam to keep her down.

Whether that was a tranquilizer shot or a real arrow, I was fucked if she hit me.

True. This isn’t a scenario that makes it easy for the other Undersiders to get a tranquilized teammate out of there on a hasty retreat.

I went wide with my stream, aiming to catch her a little and either slow her down or mess up her aim. She stepped on a bit of foam and was tripped up a little.

Well, that’s something at least.

Tattletale added her firepower to mine, and with our combined streams, Shadow Stalker fell.

Nice. Just… you didn’t cross them, did you?

We took a second to bury her under the foam, and Grue added a measure of darkness to it.

Hm. The foam, I think she’d be able to get out of, but there was something about her power mixing weirdly with Grue’s. The darkness might actually be the main thing that keeps her trapped there.


“Next!” Grue hollered, pointing. I hauled the heavy tank off the ground and moved closer to our next target before putting it down again and aiming.

This time, I deliberately moved a force of bugs into the area for some extra distraction. The darkness dissipated, and it was the Protectorate this time, half of them. Battery, Assault, and Triumph.

Mooovin’ on up.

I wonder if Armsmaster’s going to say anything when we get to him. No one’s really saying much (do these heroes have no respect for the tradition of witty quips and one-liners during fights?), but Armsy in particular might have a few choice words for Taylor. It would be particularly relevant right now, while she’s in the middle of her Decision, too.

Hell, what if he were to spill the beans on Taylor’s little project in front of the Undersiders, now that he might think she’s already officially decided to stay with them?

Battery was already charged up when Grue dismissed the impenetrable shadow that had covered them, and moved like a blur as soon as she could see where she was going.

Forcing a hero who charges up by standing still to stand still for a while… Probably not the most thought-out part of this plan. 😛

Also, I still think they should just shoot before removing the darkness. I haven’t seen any reason not to yet, other than allowing Glory Girl the displeasure of hearing Tattle’s taunt.

For that matter, why not remove the darkness at the heroes’ feet and leave their upper bodies covered? I’m pretty sure Grue has enough control over the darkness to do that.

I mean, I do get the Doylist explanation for this – it just makes it more interesting to read if the heroes have at least a small chance to defend themselves. But I can’t think of any good reasons for the characters to be doing it this way.


She didn’t bolt straight for us, though. Instead, she leaped to one side, kicked Assault square in the middle of the chest with both feet, and then careened off in the opposite direction.

Um, alright?

Assault was a kinetic energy manipulator, and could control the energies of movement, acceleration and motion much like other heroes could manipulate flame or electricity. He used the energy from Battery’s kick to rocket towards us, as Battery moved around to flank.

Ahhh.

I think this eliminates one of Velocity’s potential powers – because this is it. Applied in certain ways, Assault ought to have a form of telekinesis, in addition to what he’s doing here, which is essentially using that… on… himself. Hang on. Shit, I guess the Manton effect would keep him from moving anything non-living? Although I suppose if you consider it “manipulating the energy”, he’s not technically using the power on the thing or person he’s moving. Yeah, that works out.

Grue directed a stream straight at Assault, but the first second of fire seemed to skim right off the man. It did start taking hold after that, but the delayed effects gave Assault just enough time to slam into Grue and send him flying into the wall beside the Wards. After that, the expansion of the foam kept him from moving much further.

oof


[End of session]


The containment foam launchers have been previously mentioned in Interlude 3.

Ah, right. They did sound familiar once they were actually explained. 🙂


[Session 2]

Tattletale and I focused our fire on Battery. The woman ducked and dodged out of the way of our streams, moving too fast to follow reliably with our eyes.

Hm… Battery is practically a speedster when charged up. This is making me question Velocity’s other theorized power.

She seemed to stumble into a cocktail table, one of those round ones large enough for four people to stand around, but any clumsiness on her part was an illusion of the eye. A heartbeat later, she had the table in her grip and was spinning in a full circle.

Smooth.

She threw the table like an oversize frisbee, and I pushed Tattletale in one direction as I flung myself in the other.

Maybe she just wants to play catch!

The table edge caught the weapon in Tattletale’s hands and knocked it from her grip with enough force to make Tattletale roll as she hit the ground.

Uh oh, disarmed.

Which left only me standing, against Triumph and Battery. Armsmaster, Miss Militia and Velocity were nowhere to be seen.

They should be in the remaining cloud of darkness, if things are going well for Bitch and Regent.

I could have used my bugs to feel out for them in the darkness, but I had more pressing matters to focus on.

That said, the fact that this is being pointed out does not bode well.


Battery was charging again, taking advantage of us being off balance to build up a store of power again. Heck, she’d probably built her whole fighting style around it.

Makes sense. If you need to stand still repeatedly per battle, get yourself a fighting style that gives you time to stand still.

I could see the normally cobalt blue lines of her costume glowing a brilliant electric blue-white.

You know what, that’s really cool.

I focused my attention on her, drawing every bug in the immediate area to her while I tried to get myself oriented to open fire again. Wasps, mosquitos and beetles set on her, biting and stinging.

…but if your tactic to yourself time to stand still relies on not letting the enemy do things to you with their body, you’re gonna have trouble with the ones who don’t need to use their body.

For just a fraction of a second, I saw the glow of the lines of her costume dim, before igniting again. She needed to concentrate, it seemed, and my bugs had served to distract.

Oh man, that’s an even bigger weakness.

As I pulled myself upright and opened fire, she was a step too slow in getting out of the way of the stream. I caught her under the spray and started piling it on top of her.

Gotcha!


A shockwave blasted me. I was knocked off my feet for the second time in a matter of seconds and my ears were left ringing.

Well, shit. Who caused it?

Triumph had a gladiator/lion theme to his costume, with a gold lion helm, shoulderpads and belt, and skintight suit elsewhere.

Hiya! We finally about to find out what your power actually is, besides “winning”?

Also, geez, what an outfit. I can’t decide if it’s cool or ridiculous, which means it’s probably both. Though it’s leaning more strongly towards ridiculous. 😛

He had managed to claw enough bugs away from his face to use his sonic shout.

I guess it makes sense for him to pick as generic a name as Triumph. What else was he supposed to call himself? Loudspeaker? Noiseblaster? Mr. Skyrim?

Also, uh

Aren’t all shouts sonic?

He was one of those guys that was big, muscular and tough enough that you’d avoid him even if he didn’t have that other power, and his other power was one that let him punch holes through concrete.

We got a bruiser over here, huh.


Grue aimed and fired a stream at him, but Triumph was surprisingly quick in slipping out of the way.

A slippery away-slipper that slips away.

…I don’t know where I was going with that.

As Grue reoriented his aim, Triumph kicked over a cocktail table and grabbed it with one hand to use as a shield against the foam.

Between all these tables getting thrown around with no respect for anything that might be on them, the containment foam being sprayed everywhere, all the things people may have knocked over in their haste to get out of the way and the three car-sized dogs who crashed through the glass ceiling… someone’s gonna have a hell of a clean-up job after this.

That poor janitor.

I tried to scramble to one side, to attack him from another direction, but he opened his mouth and unleashed another shockwave that sent me skidding across the floor, dangerously close to the piles of foam that had the Wards trapped.

Get him from the back with your bugs! He’d have to turn his head all the way around to shockwave the bugs away, and by the time he notices their approach it might be too late for that.

As I tried to raise my nozzle in his direction to spray more containment foam at him, my vision swam and I saw double, and a high pitched whine threatened to drown out everything else.

Is he using ultrasound or something?

I lowered the weapon, sent more bugs his way and focused on regaining my senses.

Good.


“Here!” Grue hollered. He raised his hand. Triumph inhaled, gearing up for another blast-

Ohhhh

why didn’t I think of that

for fuck’s sake it shout be so damn obvious the moment it was made clear that his power uses sound blasts

Grue’s darkness blocks sound, that’s been a thing we’ve known for ages

Just stick some darkness over Triumph’s head and he’s almost out of the game.

And Brutus barreled through the corridor Grue had parted through in the darkness to slam into Triumph like a charging bull.

Wait, what?

That is really not what I though was about to happen.


Maybe Brutus can pin Triumph down for long enough to sticky-foam him, or at least put darkness on his head.

Maybe a little harder than I would have hit the guy, had I been the humvee sized monster making the call. Still, you couldn’t fault a dog for not knowing.

Hehe.

Just to my left, Shadow Stalker pulled her upper body free of the goop and began the slow process of working her crossbow free.

Oh hey, someone’s not done playing.

Not normally possible, but her ability to go into a shadow state apparently made her more slippery than most.

Honestly, I would’ve expected her to just phase right through the stuff, but I’m still gonna say I called this.

“No,” I growled at her. “Stay down.” I buried her under more foam.

Bad dog.


I pulled myself to my feet, wobbled, straightened up, wobbled some more, and then worked on keeping my balance.

“Skitter!” Grue roared, “Move!”

That doesn’t sound good.

I didn’t waste any time in throwing myself to the ground. Out of the corner of my eye, I only saw a blur of blue and silver where I’d been standing.

Ah, seems we have more bad dogs on the loose.

I had to flop over onto my back to see Armsmaster standing six feet away from me, leveling the blade of his Halberd in my direction.

…a different bad dog than I was thinking. (I thought it was Battery – I could absolutely see her potentially getting loose if she just stayed put long enough.)

Heya, Armsy, how are you today?

The silver of his visor made precious little of his expression visible. All I could see was the thin, hard line of his mouth.

I really wonder what he’s thinking here. Does he think Taylor has joined the Undersiders permanently? Does he think that she’s doing a damn good job pretending to be on their side?

Does he care which one it is anymore?


“Sorry,” I mumbled, quiet enough that I was pretty sure Tattletale and Grue wouldn’t catch it. I aimed his way with the foam sprayer.

I don’t think he’s gonna let you do that.

In a flash, he whipped his weapon around so the butt end was facing me.

(haha you said butt)

There was a muffled ‘whump’ sound, and I felt something like a wave of intensely hot air that made every hair on my arms, legs and the back of my neck stand on end.

Um…?

I realized the trigger of the containment foam sprayer was depressed and nothing was coming out of the end of the weapon. I tried again. Nothing.

Well, shit.

Bad luck with the ammo, or did he just do something to it?

That would be an electromagnetic pulse screwing up the machinery. Fuck.

Ahh. I wonder if it was a particularly short-range EMP or if the other foam sprayers are out of commission too.

Before I could organize my thoughts and warn Grue and Tattletale, Armsmaster flipped the weapon around in his hands like you saw military cadets doing with their guns during a march. As it whirled around him, I heard that ‘whump’ sound twice in quick succession.

Somehow, I doubted he’d missed them.

Well, now it’s both things.


“Call off your mutant,” he spoke, in that kind of voice that people obeyed.

I suppose that’s actually one of the nicer things he could call the dogs other than dogs, hellhounds or similar terms.

Certainly a lot more respectful than “monster”.

“I promise you, it would only get hurt if it attacked me, and I’d rather not subject an animal to that, when it’s the master that’s to blame.”

That’s nice.

“Bitch!” Grue called, “Call him off. He’s right.”

Huh. Wasn’t expecting that response… but Grue knows when to back off.

From a point I couldn’t see, Bitch whistled. Brutus moved back through the corridor Grue had made to rejoin her.

“You were moving like you could see in my darkness,” Grue spoke, a note of wariness in his echoing voice.

Right, he’s got enhancements like heat vision, I suppose that m– wait, no it wouldn’t. We’ve already been over this with Bakuda, heat is a form of light and gets blocked by the darkness.

Trackers? Some sort of scanner that doesn’t rely on visibility or sound?

“I’ve studied your powers,” Armsmaster told us, tapping the butt of his weapon on the ground. Every bug within fifteen feet of him dropped out of the sky, dead. “This was over from the moment you stepped into the room.”

Ah, shit. He’s got the all-important Knowledge.


Miss Militia stepped out of the darkness beside the stage, with what looked like a machine gun in her hands, Regent as her hostage. He didn’t have his scepter.

Fuck.

Hrm. That means he can’t tase anyone, but his main power should still be working, right?

Also, “to tase someone” as a verb is a little bit silly, because it expands to “to Thomas A. Swift’s electric someone”. At least we don’t cut off the R when we light amplified by stimulated emission of radiation something.


End of Tangle 6.5

Showdown!

This is going awesomely so far. That stored-up Unspoken Plan Guarantee really helped a lot! But by the time they got to the last few heroes, the big boys and girls, we’d seen the clockwork-like process of letting a few heroes loose at a time and sticking them with the foam enough times that the Unspoken Plan Guarantee went “nope, I’m outta here, it’s time for the heroes to fuck this up a bit”, and now there’s trouble afoot.

The bit at the start of the heist, jumping off the 32-story scraper to land on the roof of the Gallery and crash through it, was fantastic. It was damn cool in written form, and it’d be hella cool in the form of them newfangled moving pictures!

And from there, the Undersiders basically took complete control of the place, which was cool. I kind of wish we’d gotten more dialogue from the victims, but they didn’t have much time before Grue trapped their noises in his darkness donut.

The whole sequence dedicated to fighting the heroes, though? Ehh. It’s effective, sure, but not super satisfying. I feel like it was missing something. I think those things might have been more time for each hero (even though it’d have messed with the pacing towards the end), and some more dialogue.

Also, I did not get a satisfactory in-universe answer from the chapter on why Grue let the heroes out at all. Both he and Taylor would be able to tell where the heroes were and aim accordingly without letting them out, and Tattle could be assisted by just letting the heroes’ feetsies stick out. Maybe some of my readers have some good excuses for this to share in the asks, but for now, it feels like an idiot ball being given to Grue to make the scene more interesting. It’s further compounded by Triumph’s power being something the darkness can suppress directly.

Basically I both think there should’ve been more fighting and less fighting. Picky customer, huh? 😛

Anyway, next time, we’re up against the big ones – Armsmaster, Miss Militia, Triumph, presumably Velocity, and possibly Shadow Stalker if she can shadow mode her way out of the foam while the Undersiders are busy. The Undersiders have been disarmed, Regent’s a hostage, and things are generally not looking up for them.

This could get a lot more interesting from here. 🙂

See you next time!

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