Tangle 6.6: A Chapter about Dicks

Source material: Worm, Tangle 6.6

Originally blogged: September 9-12, 2017


Howdy!

After a week of working on an assignment (I finally remembered that word yesterday) on Norwegian migration in the 1800′s, I’m back to read some more Worm! How are you all doing?

So, when we left off, the Undersiders had just lost control of the situation, thanks to Armsmaster having studied their powers and developed tech specifically to counter them. This could be a tricky fight, and that’s *before* considering that he’s not alone, Regent has been taken hostage and Armsy also disabled the containment foam sprayers.

A tricky fight… and hopefully an awesome one.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

(#Arc 6 #chapter 6.6 #6.6p1

#there’s gonna be a lot of 6s in the tags today huh)


“Surrender,” Armsmaster ordered us.

“No,” Grue retorted.

I guess he failed to use that kind of voice people obey this time.

“You’re only going to embarrass yourself if you prolong this.”

“We have you outnumbered five to three, eight to three if you count the dogs,” Grue answered. “I can see your buddy Velocity lurking over there.”

I mean, numbers is one thing, but Armsmaster just revealed he’s got the means to specifically counter you, and these are experienced heroes with government-funded equipment and training.

The odds may be more even than you think, Grue.

Of course, the Undersiders have a bit of plot armor here, so I don’t think they’re actually going to lose, but if narrative convention hadn’t been in play? I’m not so sure I’d be putting my money on them.

“What do you hope to accomplish? I admit, it was clever to control the battlefield, to dictate each engagement so it occurred on your terms, and to use our own weapons against us… but those weapons no longer work.

Yeah, you really put a spanner in the works on that plan.

Noneof your weapons work,” Armsmaster turned his head to look at where Miss Militia had Regent at gunpoint.

I do wonder how he neutralized the powers. Especially Regent’s – normally, Regent should be able to make Miss Militia drop both him and the guns, allowing him to scurry away into the darkness.

“Which means you can stop trying to use your power on me, Regent. I’ve got a little blinking light in the corner of my H.U.D. telling me you’re trying something. I’ve set up psychic and empathic shielding, to protect myself from you and Tattletale.”

Interesting. So that’s a thing that can be done in this ‘verse, without the direct use of a power specifically meant to do that?

I suppose it makes a decent amount of sense, what with all the Tinkers around, for that kind of tech to be available. We also have the forcefield surrounding the PHQ, which I guess falls in a similar category.

Now, I accidentally glanced at the crack between another program and the bottom of my screen and saw the top of this next paragraph, so I’ll let Taylor ask the next question for me:

I glanced at Tattletale. He was psychically shielded against her? How did that work?

That… is actually a good question. Does he even know–

ooh I think something just paid off

Tattletale insisted her power was mind-reading back in the confrontation with the Dallon girls! Whom the Protectorate later spoke with. They’re now the only real sources the Protectorate have on Tattle’s power, besides Taylor insinuating that the Undersiders might find her out if she didn’t carefully police her conversation with Armsy.

Armsmaster isn’t protected from Tattletale – he just thinks he is because he thinks he finally knows what her power is.


Then I remembered. When we’d gone up against Glory Girl and Panacea, hadn’t Tattletale said she read minds? And now Armsmaster had bad info and was figuring he was immune.

I swear I didn’t accidentally look at this part.

And here I thought I might’ve figured out a twist that would get figured out at a critical moment later on. 😛

Still, figuring it out before Taylor explained it counts for something, right? 😉

“I don’t need to read you,” she told him,

Sounds like Tattle has figured it out too. Good, now Taylor doesn’t need to sneakily tell her in the heat of battle.

“You’re the only one with shields, so your teammates and the PRT staff don’t have any psychic shields up, and I can read them to get anything I need. You’re not the best inventor, but like most tinkers, you’ve got a knack.

Like a specialty? Ooh, let me guess… So far we’ve got things like his Swiss Army Halberd, which can turn into a variety of things, the psychic shield and… scanners, such as lie detectors, whatever lets him see through Grue’s darkness, possibly also the detection of Regent attempting to use his power on him (though that may be more of a side feature of the psychic shield)…

Maybe his specialty is less of a specific kind of invention and more the ability to fit them into things effectively, like all the gadgets in his Halberd and helmet? But that seems kinda lousy for the power of the local Protectorate leader.

Yours just happens to be condensing and integrating technology.

I was not expecting to be right. Holy shit, I’m on a roll.

Only works in your immediate presence, but still, you can stick way more technology in a space than has a right to be there… like your Halberd.”

Huh, that first tidbit is very interesting. So if you took his Halberd away, it wouldn’t function. (I guess that’s a good thing in battle.) Similarly, he can’t just start producing compact Tinker tech and start selling it off or leaving it somewhere to benefit the citizens locally.

So is this limitation common for Tinkers or specific to Armsmaster? If it’s universal to them, that makes a lot of Bakuda’s threats much emptier.


Armsmaster frowned. “You’re lying.”

Ooh, concerned about your reputation again, are we?

I think Armsmaster says “You’re lying” rather than “You’re wrong” because he wants to undermine her credibility.

…or maybe he’s saying she’s lying about her reading the others’ minds? Which… the only way he could figure that out is if what she said tipped him off to being wrong about her power because none of the others actually know that that’s his knack.

Either way, it doesn’t sound like he wants his teammates to know that.

Damn it. I wish I could’ve told her he had a lie detector built into his helm. But I couldn’t without explaining that I knew him.

…dammit, I forgot. I literally mentioned that in the previous post and I still forgot about it! Scratch everything above, I guess.

So I guess her accuracy is still what tips him off, just not for the reasons I speculated. Fair enough!

Also, that lie detector must be pretty high tech to catch a liar as practiced as Tattle. Then again, that’s nothing we didn’t already know.

(…considering my statements on Tattle and lying in 4.11, that’s quite a turnaround, isn’t it. Wait, why did I even say that back then? We’d seen her spinning significant lies before! Homestuck bias is my guess.)


Tattletale took it in stride, grinning, “Sure, fibbed about the reading minds bit. Not about your weapon and power.

I may have been wrong about Armsmaster’s response being evidence for it, but I still do think Armsmaster is the type who might want to pretend his power is cooler for the sake of gaining and maintaining respect.

Let’s see… to deal with my buddy Grue, you’ve made that thing a fancy tuning stick. Sensing vibrations in the air, translating them into images with that fancy helm of yours?”

Now hang on just a moment!

That’s sound.

We know the darkness stops sound.

Unless it just stops hearing. In that case this would be fine. But the evidence so far points to the darkness affecting the light and sound directly, and if it were to be different between the two of them, that would go against the Manton effect by affecting both light (not living) and the sense of hearing (part of something living).

We know some heroes can circumvent the Manton effect, but I don’t think Grue is one of them.


Before I started reading Worm, “We know the darkness stops sound.” was not a sentence I ever thought I’d write and be serious about.


Grue cracked his knuckles. He’d gotten the message. Darkness wasn’t going to do much.

What a badass.

Though… you do know the guy in front of you is covered in hard metal armor, right?

Right? Okay. Aim for the chin, then.

Armsmaster, for his part, gripped his weapon tighter. An unspoken threat to Tattletale.

To stop elaborating and disspelling the magic of his wizardly tech for his teammates?

“And the ass-end of that stick of yours is using the brass in between the floor tiles to help transmit an electrical charge to the area around you for fancy bug zapping.

How does it know to just zap bugs? Would it zap others who got close to him if he activated it just then? Would it have any effect, or is the charge too small and just feels like a tingle?

I guess if it were stronger, it’d be zapping him too, for that matter.

Did you set that up before coming here tonight, knowing the way the floor would be put together?”

That’s another thing that briefly crossed my mind – was he preparing specifically for the Undersiders when he went to this arrangement? Did he somehow predict that they – specifically they, not just any villain – might crash the party?


He didn’t reply.

“Guess not. Happy coincidence that the setup you put together works as well as it does in here, then.”

Oof, that’s gonna smart.

Again, no reply. She grinned a fraction wider. She went on, “You can tell I’m lying, huh? That’s awesome.”

Armsmaster’s weapon turned to point in her general direction. She didn’t back down.

Yeah, no, that’s not how Tattle rolls. “Weapon? What super deadly weapon pointed at me could you be talking about? Oh that one? That’s nothing to worry about. Now where was I…”

“So you’ll know I’m telling the truth when I say your team hate your guts.

Oof.

They know you care more about rising from your position as the seventh most prominent member of the Protectorate than you do about them or the city.”

Shit, I wasted the bold.


I considered going back to the second “Oof.” and editing out the bold so I could use bold+italic for a third “Oof.”, but that’s not how I roll.


In the span of a second, the blade of the halberd broke into three pieces, reconfigured, and fired in grappling-hook style at Tattletale.

Someone’s had enough of this.

Hey, at least she didn’t have Grue remove the darkness from the rest of the heroes’ ears.

The tines closed together, forming a loose ball shape as it flew, striking her solidly in the stomach. She crumpled to the ground, arms around her middle.

Ouch.

The head of the weapon reeled in and snapped back into place atop the pole.

“Bastard,” Grue spoke.

He did just attack a defenseless child who had done nothing to attack him yet and was willing to negotiate. Might look bad if Miss Militia and Velocity tell that to whoever’s in charge at the PHQ.

(Although I suppose talking is attacking, in Tattle’s case.)

“Apparently, according to your teammate,” Armsmaster replied, seemingly unbothered.

And apparently according to the rest of your team.

Y’know, that actually gives me hope for the portrayal of the Protectorate as a whole. Earlier in the story, Armsmaster had me a little worried that the general adult hero population might follow his example, as authority figures in a story that semi-often shows a cynical view of those. I’m still not 100% sure how much of that is Taylor and how much is Wildbow, but I’m leaning more and more towards Taylor nowadays.

I gathered my bugs, poising them near and above Armsmaster in case I needed them to act quickly.

If you’re gonna do anything with them, you’re definitely gonna have to act quickly, or he’ll just zap them all to death.


Armsmaster turned his head in my direction, “Skitter? You, especially, do not want to irritate me any more, tonight.”

Shit.

Way to plant seeds of suspicion. And if this wasn’t enough to get the Undersiders questioning Taylor’s relation to Armsmaster, it sounds like an implied threat to spill the fart niblets.

That would be baaad.

And also force the Decision that is already in motion and likely to happen at the end of this Arc. It would put her in a position of having to choose quickly and come clean to the others and make it up to them.

It would be bad for Taylor. Me, however? Yes, please.

The bottom of his Halberd tapped the ground, and the bugs perished. I glanced at the floor as he did it. Sure enough, the broad tiles had little lines of metal -bronze?- dividing them.

Tattle said it was brass already.


There was a flurry of action where Regent and Miss Militia were. She appeared to drop the machine gun, and Regent took that chance to pull away.

Took your time on that one, huh?

He didn’t get one step before she regained her balance and dropped into a low kick that swept his legs out from under him.

Well that’s helpful.

Her machine gun dissolved when it was halfway to the ground, turning into a shimmer of dark green energy that arced back up to her hand. It rematerialized into a gleaming steel machete.

I’m pretty sure neither of these work as an effective threat. Hostage taking is shady as it is, though an understandable necessity, but actually acting on (implicit or explicit) threats of violence against a captured and helpless enemy would be seriously bad form for government employees.

Like, that’d literally be a war crime if this were an all-out war. Not something the leaders of the Protectorate or the media should be fine with the heroes doing, especially against a child.

Regent stopped his struggles the second she rested the point of the bladed weapon against the side of his throat.

I guess the Undersiders don’t really think of that, though. I guess it can still be effective, just as long as no one calls the bluff.


Armsmaster watched it all unfold without twitching a muscle. Even if he didn’t care much about his teammates, he apparently trusted Miss Militia to handle herself.

“Grue. You’ve shown you can dismiss the effects of your power,” Armsmaster spoke, “Do so now.”

If Grue just thinks this through, hopefully he should realize what I just discussed. Regent’s hostage status is the only reason Grue could possibly have for letting loose, what, twelve or so more heroes?

“Somehow,” Grue retorted, “I’m not seeing a major reason why I should listen.”

“Um, got a sword pressing against my neck here, guy,” Regent pointed out.

“…Not seeing a major reason,” Grue repeated himself.

Ahahaha

Looks like he did think it through, more than Regent has.

Regent let out a little laugh, “Fuck you.”

Hehe 🙂


Armsmaster dispassionately watched the exchange, then spoke, dead serious, “Look at it this way. If there are witnesses, Miss Militia will have a far harder time selling the idea that she stabbed your friend in the throat in self defense.”

Geez.

So much for Miss Militia being cool, huh.

‘course, I still can’t shake that Princess Celestia voice headcanon (see Interlude 3), so I guess Princess Celestia is an antihero who’d stab a child’s throat to force people into submission now.

Not totally inconsistent with certain fan depictions of her, I guess.

He glanced in the direction of his second in command, and Miss Militia gave a small nod in response.

Would she? Probably not, I suspected. Could we risk it? That choice was up to Grue.

I suppose it could just be Armsmaster’s way of increasing the credibility of the threat, and Militia going along with it because it might work.

Grue glanced over at where Regent lay. After a second, he made the darkness fade.

Welp.

The people in the crowd were mostly huddled on the ground, trying to fend off the stinging and biting swarm.

Skitter FTW.

The dogs lurked at the edges of the room, and Bitch was astride Angelica. Velocity, in his red costume with the racing stripes down either side and two stripes meeting in a ‘v’ at his chest, wasn’t that far from her. I suspected they had been squaring off.

Between the name and the racing stripes, if this guy’s not a speedster, I’ll eat my hat.

Or at least nibble it a little.


(Even though it’s too small for me by now and sort of falling apart.)


I found Emma in the crowd. Her dad was huddled over both of his daughters, as though he could shield them from any danger, and Emma’s mom was hugging her around the shoulders.

Good parenting, I suppose.

Somehow, that reallypissed me off.

Oh.

Ohh.

Shit.

…also hey, Emma has a sister. I wonder if she’s just as mean? Or, heh, if it’s someone we already know. I doubt it, though.

Armsmaster glanced my way, “And the bugs.”

Taylor.exe is not responding

System diagnosis: Too busy being pissed off about the asshole who’s been tormenting her having it all including a loving and most importantly alive mother.

Reluctantly, I pulled them away from the crowd.

Ahh, there she goes. Sometimes you just gotta wait a few seconds, y’know.

I settled the flying bugs on the intact portions of the ceiling. I glanced up at the bugs and sighed. Then I glanced at Emma again.

I wonder if Emma notices that one of the villains keeps looking at her.

This was reallynot how I wanted this to end. Me arrested, my scheme a failure, Emma getting off scott free with a family, friends and no major consequences for all the shit she’d pulled?

It honestly feels like the Undersiders are practically in the middle of surrendering right now. Not exactly the optimal sequence of events for them, no.

What it also feels like is that this paragraph could be Taylor beginning to justify why she should suddenly set her entire swarm on Emma as a big exit. “If I’m getting arrested anyway, I’m not letting Emma get off unpunished.”

“Sir,” I spoke, trying to sound confident. Would Emma recognize my voice? “Let me check on Tattletale.”

Sir? You’re not going to sound confident to Armsmaster by calling him sir – he knows that’s not how you speak when you’re feeling confident. Everyone else might bite, though.

Emma recognizing her voice is a valid concern, but now that it’s been pointed out, I’m inclined to think it won’t happen. Could lead to some interesting plotlines, though – what would Emma do with this information? Would she become scared of Taylor? Would she try to blackmail her? Go “that’s so cooool” and ask to be a non-para sidekick, only for the request to be brutally denied by Taylor?

I doubt the last one, but I really don’t know. For all the things the story has proven me wrong on, and all the embarrassment I feel over my unjustified negativity in 1.1, I still don’t feel like the Trio have been fleshed out much. With how prominent they are in early Worm, that makes it feel like there might not be much there to flesh out.

At least Emma is the most fleshed-out of the three.


[End of session]


[Session 2]

Howdy, everyone! It is time.

For one thing, it’s time to check on Tattletale, hopefully, and perhaps gain some helpful information from her if she’s still in a state fit to talk.

It’s also time to see if the Undersiders can somehow make their way out of this situation that is dangerously close to an outright surrender without getting arrested!

Hell, maybe they actually won’t. That could lead the plot to some interesting places – what would the Protectorate do with Taylor? What if Taylor had to choose between finally betraying the Undersiders while they’re already under arrest or attempting to somehow stage a prison break from the Protectorate HQ, the most secure place in the city, from the inside? That would be one hell of a way to raise the stakes further.


“You can do that once you’ve surrendered,” he spoke.

‘Course. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be as easy as just asking.

He changed his posture so his Halberd was pointed in my general direction. I winced. I did not want to get the same treatment Tattletale had received. Or would he not do it with people watching?

Well, he sort of implied such earlier. This is a man who cares a lot about his reputation – attacking Taylor mostly unprovoked with a lot of witnesses would not be good for that.

My eyes darted in the direction of the crowd, to Tattletale, who didn’t look up to talking. All eyes were on the scene. Why had he gone out of his way to get an audience? Could I use it?

Hm… considering the entire point of this job was to humiliate the Protectorate, pulling a Tattletale now that there’s an audience could be useful.

That said, the question of why he wanted the audience is a good one. Does he want to show off?

What had he been so upset about, when I’d met him at the ferry? What had Tattletale gone out of her way to stress to us about Armsmaster?

His reputation? I mean, if you haven’t gotten a grasp of how much he cares about that by this point, you haven’t been paying attention.

Reputation.

“I need to make sure you didn’t do any serious damage,” I spoke, just a hint of accusation in my voice.

“She’s fine.”

Niice. The audience didn’t see the attack, so for all they know, it could’ve been even more disproportionate than it actually was.

“I want to verify that for myself,” I said, standing. How far can I push this? “Please, she was surrendering and you hit her so hard.”

“You’re lying.”

Oh yes, but you’re the only one here we know to have a lie detector. 😉

“The fuck she is!” Regent joined in, “Tattletale walks up to you, ready to be cuffed, and you smacked her across the room, you fucking lunatic!”

Regent’s catching on, and it turns out he’s a pretty decent actor!

Y’know… considering his theatre mask, that shouldn’t be surprising.

I didn’t dare to glance at the crowd. Armsmaster was the person we needed to get a reaction out of, here.

It kind of is both, isn’t it? But a good way to get a reaction out of the crowd is to get a reaction out of Armsmaster.

I wonder if any of this is being filmed? The media were supposed to be here, weren’t they?

“Enough. This is a fabrication,” Miss Militia spoke, her voice raised maybe a bit to carry to the rest of the room.

“Why do you think we’re so reluctant to surrender, if that’s the treatment we’ll get!?” Regent shouted, “It’s not like we’re not totally fucked!” Miss Militia moved the machete to remind him it was there.

Bad move, Miss Militia. You have an audience for your death threats now.

Armsmaster’s head turned toward me. This was my huge gamble. How would he respond? If he called me out as a traitor within the Undersiders, would people buy it, would my team buy it, or would it only hurt his credibility? He didn’t know that Tattletale would be able to tell it was truth.

Well, shit, that is a huge gamble of intentions.

I don’t know what I think Armsmaster will do here. He’s about pissed off enough to do it (honestly it’s a wonder he hasn’t already), but on the other hand, as Taylor points out, it might just hurt his credibility to the audience and he doesn’t know Tattletale is predisposed to believing it.

Hm. This could go either way.


“Miss Militia has a blade at my teammate’s throat,” Grue broke the silence, “I think it’s pretty clear you don’t pull your punches.”

Told ya it was a bad move!

Armsmaster turned to his teammate, “Perhaps a less lethal weapon would be more appropriate.”

Miss Militia’s eyebrows knit together in concern, “Sir?”

“Now.” He left no room for argument. Then, to ensure they still had control of the situation, he turned to his nearest available hostage.

Me.

Armsy’s doing damage control and not succeeding particularly well.

I was flat on my back and couldn’t back away fast enough to escape, especially with my having to slip my arms from the straps that held the tank of containment foam to my back. He pointed the head of his weapon at me as he strode over to me, the threat of his firing it serving to keep me subdued. I glanced at Grue, but he was frozen, two of his teammates at the mercy of the city’s leading heroes. Tattletale was struggling to her feet, but she couldn’t accomplish much.

He can’t actually fire the weapon unless she acts in an obviously threatening manner, as that would more than prove the Undersiders right in the eyes of many audience members.

(The rumor come out: Does Armsmaster is overly violent? Vote now on the devices under your chairs!)

Good to see Tattle’s getting up, at least.

Above Regent, the sword shimmered and turned into that black and green energy. In that moment, Regent struck, drawing his knees to his chest, then kicking up and to the side to drive both of his heels into Miss Militia’s upper stomach. A second later, he shoved both of his hands in the direction of her collarbone.

You go! 😀

The black-green energy of her power continued to arc around her without solidifying as the contents of her stomach began violently heaving their way out of her mouth,

ew

spattering into the flag-scarf that covered the lower half of her face and overflowing onto the floor. Regent had to roll to one side to avoid being bathed in vomit.

Yeah, stay away from that, please.


I took advantage of the distraction and brought every bug in the room down from the ceiling, sending a fair majority of them toward Armsmaster. He swiped at his face to remove them, then lifted his weapon.

Why didn’t he just zap them again?

I grabbed for the pole with both hands before it could strike the ground, and pulled myself across the floor to situate my body between the pole and the ground.

Oh, he was trying to, never mind. Nice work, Taylor!

It didn’t feel like I thought it might, the electrical charge. As the end of the Halberd made contact with my body, it was as though someone had dropped a handful of live snakes onto my chest and they were writhing in place there, a single tendril rushing up the skin of my right arm and over my fingertips. It didn’t hurt much at all.

Yeah, if it had been strong enough to hurt much, it’d probably zap Armsmaster too.

What might hurt more is if Armsmaster tries to drive his pole down anyway, into your body instead of the floor, but at least he’ll probably be preoccupied with the bugs.

And the bugs around Armsmaster didn’t die. Very few of the ones on me, even, perished.

Nice.


I’d known spider silk was insulated to some degree. I was really glad that it was insulated enough. Really, really glad my interference was enough to stop the energy from conducting through the area and zapping the bugs out of the air.

Oh yeah, this manuever would’ve failed if the current had gone through her armor/body and into the floor, wouldn’t it. That possibility didn’t even cross my mind.

“Hm,” looming over me, Armsmaster made a noise of disapproval, “Not smart.”

“Bitch! Dogs!” I hollered, “Grue! Shadow me!”

Ooh, it’s sounding like Taylor has a plan. 😀

Of all the times to lapse into caveman grammar. Still, he smothered me and Armsmaster in darkness.

Hey, caveman grammar is genuinely useful in this situation! It allows you to communicate the essentials of your statement as quickly as possible.

So let’s see… Armsmaster sees in the darkness via vibrations in the air (SOUND)… which… certain insects are very good at making. Armsmaster is surrounded by insects right now – if Taylor makes them buzz loudly, she should be able to essentially blind his darkvision, shouldn’t she?

When Armsmaster managed to wrest the Halberd from my hands, I had enough bugs on him to tell he was bringing the bottom end of his Halberd down hard against the floor, away from me.

Meanwhile, Taylor can of course “see” via the positions of her bugs.

Armsy’s still trying to break Taylor’s advantages, naturally.

My bugs didn’t die, and continued to settle on the exposed skin of his lower face, crawl up under his visor. The charge or whatever other stuff he had going on to direct it wasn’t conducting through the darkness.

Ooh, interesting. Kinda weird, but interesting and very helpful.

Hehe, it just occurred to me that from the audience’s perspective, Armsmaster and Taylor are fighting inside a cloud like old-timey cartoon characters.

Before he could strike at me, I headed in the other direction. Staying in close proximity to Armsmaster wasn’t a good idea, with my power being one that worked at range, and him being the close-quarters combatant.

Good call. No need to stay close when the darkness stops the thing you were staying close to stop, much more efficiently than you could.

I felt him move away from me, clawing the bugs away from his mouth and nose, heading out the opposite side of the cloud of darkness to strike the ground, kill off the swarm I’d set on him and then turn his attention to the charging dogs.

Well, shit, there goes Taylor’s army, but she did call for the dog attack, which would be limited by the darkness, so… I guess this might be going as planned? Hard to tell at this point.

I wasn’t two steps outside of the darkness when I had Velocity in my face.

BONK ow sorry shoulda looked where I was runnin’ wait you’re one a the villains ain’tcha

Battery and Velocity were both speedsters of a sort, giving them the ability to move at a ridiculous pace. They were very different kindsof speedster, though.

How so? Battery of course has the limitation of having to stay still to charge up, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what Taylor’s referring to here.

As I interpreted it, from all the stuff I’d read online and in the magazines and interviews, Battery could charge up and move at enhanced speeds for very short periods of time, sort of like how Bitch’s power pumped up her dogs, but concentrated into a few brief moments. It was a physiological change, altering her biology and then altering it back before it became too much on her body.

Huh, interesting!

The actual act of moving at the speeds these guys could manage was an incredible strain on the body. There were only one or two parahumans on the planet who could manage that kind of movement without any workarounds or limitations, and Battery and Velocity weren’t among them.

That’s actually a really cool concept, because it forces some more interesting powers than just “moves fast”. It becomes “moves fast by”, which allows for quirks in the fight based on how the power works – for instance, Battery’s charging making her a sitting duck.

So what about Velocity?

Velocity, in contrast to Battery, was more like Shadow Stalker. He changed states, and while I had no idea what this meant exactly, whether it was him shifting partially into another dimension or altering the way time or physics worked in relation to himself,

Oh geez. We’re bringing quantum physics into this? The branch of science where you can’t be sure of a particle’s position if you know it’s momentum or vice versa, along with other pairs of mutually uncertain qualities?

Sounds like this could be interesting, actually.

I did know that it made him able to move very fast, without needing to rest like Battery did. Fast enough that my wasps couldn’t really land on him, and those that did were dispatched before they could start stinging.

Well, that’s incredibly unhelpful.

The drawback, though, was that while he was moving like that, he wasn’t hitting as hard,

Hm…

probably for the same reasons he wasn’t shattering his bones by hammering his feet against the ground ten times a second, getting torn to shreds by friction or running out of oxygen due to an inability to breathe. His speed came with a reduced ability to affect the world around him and be affected by it.

That’s really cool.

He couldn’t hit as hard, couldn’t hold or move things as easily. An effective loss of strength proportionate to how fast he was capable of moving.

It’s a pretty well-designed drawback. Usually one of a speedster’s strengths is that they can just run around and sucker punch the target every time they run past, but this guy has to stop if he wants full power on his attacks. I like it!


So as fast as he was moving, having him hit me wasn’t much worse than getting punched by an eight year old.

Hehe.

Problem was, he was hitting me a lot. His perceptions were ramped up, too, which meant he had the luxury of what must have been seconds in his own senses to see my reactions, calculate the best place to stick that next punch or kick to knock me off balance or inflict pain.

Oof. Yep, that’s the other part of the usual “speed by and sucker punch” speedster tactic – they punch frequently.

It was less like being in a fistfight and more like being caught in a gale-force wind that had every intent of screwing me over.

Heh, nice. Maybe Velocity should’ve named himself something wind-related instead? It would be more unique, at least.

Velocity was forcing me to back up, stumble and overall just working to herd me in one direction – towards an open window.

Uhhh.

You sure about this, Velocity? Are you another jackass like Armsy and Militia?

This is the top floor of a, what was it, 22-story building? Armor or no armor, that’d be fatal to Taylor, with no reasonable defense for Velocity’s actions.

Either he’d force me through and leave me hanging from the ledge, helpless to avoid arrest, or I’d have to give up or let myself be knocked to the ground instead, at which point it would be pretty much over.

Ah, I suppose the ledge is an option, but relying on Taylor to hang onto that edge still ought to get Velocity in a whole lot of trouble. It’d still be attempted murder – “oh, I figured this kid I’ve never met would be a competent enough acrobat to not die from it” is not a valid defense.

Or at least it shouldn’t be. Who knows how the laws work on this kind of situation? It’s a big unknown so far, but it’s fair to guess they’re not particularly polished – it’s only been 30-ish years since parahumans started showing up, after all.

Once I was down, he’d either keep up the onslaught until another cape could finish me off, or he’d turn off his power long enough to knock me over the head a few times with a chair or something.

One thing’s for sure, at least: It doesn’t sound like Taylor’s in a particularly good spot, here.


Across the room, Grue was working with two of the dogs and Bitch to keep Armsmaster hemmed in, while one of the dogs and Regent were keeping Miss Militia out of action.

I couldn’t win this one on my own.

“Grue!” I hollered.

Yeah, gonna need some help here.

I got struck in the mouth three times before I could bring an arm up to fend Velocity off and speak again, “Need cover!”

He spared me a glance and a blast of his darkness. In an instant, I was blind and deaf, with only my bugs to go by.

Hm.

Now how does this interact with Velocity’s power? Does phasing out spare him from the effects of the darkness? But if it does, why wouldn’t he just shoot out of the cloud immediately rather than wait for Armsmaster’s lead?

It’s worth noting that his power was compared to Shadow Stalker’s, and we know Shadow Stalker’s power and Grue’s power have odd results when mixed.

But Velocity was slowed down, and I had my suspicions that it wasn’t just the fact that he had to use his hands to find me before striking. Grue had said that Shadow Stalker’s powers were somehow less effective in his darkness. Could that apply to Velocity too?

Hm, close enough.

Honestly, at this point it seems like Grue’s power doesn’t just mess with some of things that humans sense (light and sound). It also blocks electric charges, and apparently phase shifting, and it resists movement (though this is explainable by the darkness acting like a dense gas). It’s almost like it’s blocking or resisting physics themselves.

Though of course, “vibrations in the air” (SOUND) travelling through the darkness throws a couple spanners in the works.

Or was it just the extra resistance of Grue’s power versus normal air, combined with Velocity’s low strength?

I suppose that works too.


My bugs were now successfully settling on him, oddly giving me a better sense of his movements than my eyes had,

Niice.

and I was directing them not to sting or bite, so he wouldn’t have an easy time finding them. They began to cluster on him, and somehow I felt like that was slowing him down even more.

I… guess that makes sense? His power might be able to extend to his clothing, hopefully, but the bugs are living creatures, so the Manton effect might be in play here?

Now, normally you’d think “but Velocity’s power is directed at himself, a living creature – if anything, the Manton effect would prevent it from affecting his clothes”. I can absolutely see that, but how about this: Affecting the clothes, or maybe other things he’s holding, is a secondary power.

We know that parahumans can have secondary or sub-powers that have the opposite Manton category of the main power. Lung’s main power is his draconic transformation, which affects a living target (himself), but he’s also a pyrokinetic. Fire isn’t generally considered living, despite the metaphors and phrases that might indicate it is.

In this case, Velocity would have a) the power to make his body go into speedy phantom mode (living), and b) the power to make things touching his body (clothing, air, etc) follow along and not block his movement (non-living). The latter power, taking non-living targets, would not be able to stop the bugs from slowing him down.

Or maybe I’m just massively overthinking this. 😛


The onslaught had been softened, and he wasn’t half as effective at keeping me off balance, now. He couldn’t effectively see my posture to know the optimal places to strike, so I was able to get my feet firmly on the ground.

Excellent.

I lashed out twice with my fists, but my hits lacked impact. Something to do with his power, I suspected, as well as his ability to move fast enough to roll with any hits he felt connecting.

Yeah, I mean, you did say it limited his ability to be affected by the world. That’s a fairly good defense.

So I grabbed a weapon he couldn’t react to, my pepper spray, and directed a stream of it into his face. ThenI instructed the bugs I’d gathered on him to bite and sting.

Oh fuck yes.

The effect was immediate, and dramatic. You’ve never really seen someone flip out until you’ve seen a speedster flip out.

Ahaha this sounds potentially glorious already.

He fell to the ground, stood, tumbled over a chair, then was up the next second, lunging for a table, blindly patting it down in the hopes of finding something to wash his eyes out with. I felt him slow down dramatically, increasing his own strength enough to allow himself to check the cups and pitchers.

Yesss.

I had bugs on the table he was searching, and the only liquid there was wine. Anticipating he would continue looking for some relief, I moved closer to the table nearest me.

Sure enough, he darted over to the same table and began searching. I took one long step to my left, reached behind my back, and gripped the foam handle of my extendable baton with both hands. Like a golf club, I swung it up and between his legs.

FOOORE!

Okay, but seriously, Taylor, that’s two. One more and your vendetta against dicks officially becomes a pattern. 😛

My rationale was that I needed to hamper his mobility, but I didn’t want to deliver any permanent injury, which was a possibility if I hit him in the knee or spine. Besides, the Protectorate had top notch costume designers, and what male superhero with an expensive costume would go out without a cup? Right?

Heh, but then why do you think it’d be as effective as you’re hoping?

Also, I’m pretty sure this can still lead to permanent injury, even if you discount injury directly to the genitalia.

Unless, the thought crossed my mind as Velocity keeled over, he’d foregone the cup for extra mobility and to reduce friction.

rip

I’d find some way to make it up to him, after all of this was over with.

Sound familiar? That’s what she said after Clockblocker, too.


He pulled weakly against my grip as I brought his left arm and his right leg together, and cinched them together with a double-set of plastic handcuffs. I then cuffed his right arm to the table in front of him. Velocity was out of action, for all intents and purposes.

Nice work. 🙂

Though every impulse told me to get out of the darkness and get a look at what was going on, I stayed put, crouching and feeling out with my bugs. With their legs and bodies serving as thousands upon thousands of tiny fingers I could use to feel out my surroundings, I got a sense of the situation.

Imagine if Taylor’s power had been literally controlling thousands of disembodied fingers.

Since doing whatever he’d done to Miss Militia, Regent had taken to standing guard over her. He had one hand outstretched in her direction while she struggled on the floor, dry heaving now, with her limbs twitching.

Sounds like he’s keeping her from getting up by continuously using his power on various parts of her body. Nice!

Tattletale was with him, one hand still pressed to her stomach, but she was standing, watching the crowd for anyone who might step to Miss Militia’s rescue.

Which left only Armsmaster. Except ‘only’ wasn’t the right word. Bitch, her three dogs and Grue had Armsmaster surrounded, and even with that, I got the impression that he was in control of the situation.

Ah, shit.

He’d formed the head of his halberd into a loose ball again, and had the chain he used for the grappling hook extended partially so it could serve as a flail.

A flail, huh? Pretty solid choice of weapon for multiple thick-skinned enemies, I suppose.

There was something of a stalemate as my teammates remained where they were, staying spaced out, just out of reach of the weapon. Armsmaster, for his part, was standing in a loose fighting posture, holding the long pole of his Halberd as he swung the flail head in a loose figure eight.

He’s in control of the situation, but he doesn’t seem to be making any more progress than the Undersiders. Meanwhile, the Undersiders just had a resource unlocked: Taylor. If there’s one thing that tends to help resolve a stalemate, it’s backup.

Brutus growled at his quarry, moving a half step too close, and Armsmaster seized the opportunity. The chain extended with a faint whirr and the flail moved with surprising quickness to collide with Brutus’ shoulder.

Whatever happened to not wanting to hurt the dogs? 😡

From Brutus’ reaction, I would have thought he’d just been hit by a wrecking ball.

I mean, a flail and a wrecking ball are basically the same thing, really. Just different scales.

Either Armsmaster was far stronger than he looked, or there was something about his weapon that was giving it a little extra oomph. Given that he was a tinker, it could have been anything.

True. Tinkers tend to have lots of tricks up their sleeves, and Armsy’s power is literally to make more tricks fit in his sleeves than there should be room for.


Armsmaster didn’t stop at felling Brutus. As he finished giving the ball the necessary momentum, Armsmaster reversed his grip and lunged at Grue, swinging the bottom end of his weapon like a baseball bat.

Wait, I thought Grue was out of reach of the flail, but it’s within reach for the handle? I suppose the handle is a long pole… I guess I was just imagining the flail as being longer than it should be.

Grue avoided the swing by stepping back and ducking, but wasn’t able to recover quick enough to avoid the follow-up. Armsmaster kept moving forward, not pausing as he slapped the end of the pole back into one of his hands and rammed the midsection of the pole against Grue’s chest, hard.

Ouch.

Grue hit the ground with enough force that he almost bounced, and was driven hard into the ground a second time as Armsmaster brought the end of the pole down into his stomach.

Yeeah, that’s not very fun, huh.

Without thinking, I stepped forward out of the darkness, then stopped myself. What help could I offer by jumping in there?

Hm…

It seems to me that Armsmaster is preoccupied with his Halberd. If he wants to zap bugs right now, he’ll have to stop swinging the flail around, which would give the others an opening.

Bitch whistled for a dog to attack, but Armsmaster was already reacting, drawing his elbow against the chain to control the movement of the flail’s head.

He seems to have a pretty high reaction speed. Technological augments alerting him to the incoming threat?

He dropped the pole and grabbed the chain to pull the ball towards himself, caught it out of the air with his free hand and turning in a tight circle to preserve the momentum from flail-head’s flight, slammed it full force into Angelica’s ear. Bitch had to skip back out of the way as Angelica collapsed to the ground where she’d been standing.

Don’t hurt the doggos 😦


Without glancing down, Armsmaster put one armored boot underneath the pole as it rebounded against the ground, then kicked it straight up to chest level. He caught his weapon in one hand and reeled in the chain. The flail-head snapped back into a blade shape as it reconnected with the top of the pole.

Guess he’s done flailing around.

Two dogs and Grue down, and he’d made it look effortless.

Not so much of a stalemate anymore, really.

It struck me just what made Armsmaster a step above other tinkers, above other people with the ability to invent and perform mad science, and it wasn’t the insane amounts of training he had probably put himself through. Tinkers tended to have a knack, a special quality specific to their work. According to Tattletale, Armsmaster’s ability let him cram technology together and still have it work. Other tinkers were limited in what they could carry and have access to at any given point in time, but Armsmaster? He had a solution for every problem he’d been able to think of, without having to worry about economy of space, the weight of his hardware and the room on his utility belt, or whatever. And with all of that, his main gear, his armor and Halberd, were still devastating and completely reliable in their own right.

Yup. This is pretty much what I was saying about the tricks and sleeves, in more words.

Armsmaster is basically the ultimate boy scout – always prepared.


While Armsmaster had his back turned to her, I saw Tattletale step to one side, surreptitiously.

Hm? Where are you going?

Judas lunged, and in the same moment Armsmaster reacted, Tattletale made a move for the crowd, drawing her gun.

Oooh

I glanced towards Armsmaster, and my view of him was blocked as Judas collapsed to the ground between us. Through my bugs, I sensed him extend his weapon towards Tattletale, felt the recoil as the head of it rocketed off.

What are you playing at here, Tattle? Forcing Armsmaster to attack you with excessive force again in front of the audience? The gun wouldn’t really help sell the idea that it was excessive, though.

The grappling hook caught her gun hand with enough force to screw up her aim, and the tines of the hook closed around her arm.

That’s a pretty good move in this situation, I’ll give him that much.

He reeled in the chain at the same time he pulled it back toward him, and in doing so, flung Tattletale across the floor. The tines let her go just in time to send her careening into one of the flimsy cocktail tables. Armsmaster jerked the pole of his weapon to control the flight of the hook as it reeled back in, striking Tattletale’s gun out of the air and shattering it into pieces.

“No hostages,” he said, “No guns.”

Somehow it slipped my mind that she could be attempting to take a hostage.

Despite there having been multiple hostage situations in this chapter alone, I still managed to forget that was a thing.

Grue started to stand, fell, then managed to stand successfully on his second try. The three dogs Armsmaster had dropped were taking longer to get upright. Angelica shook her head violently, twice, paused, then did it again.

Armsmaster looked at Bitch, then slapped the pole of his weapon against the palm of his armored glove.

“Rachel Lindt, AKA: Hellhound.”

This sounds like the beginning of an arrest statement.

I hope we get to hear Bitch correct him on the name.

“Armsmaster, AKA: dickhole,” Bitch retorted.

Never mind, that’s a thousand times better. 😛


“If this goes any further, I can’t promise those animals of yours won’t suffer permanent damage.”

Does he actually care about this at all, or is this just a tactic to get Bitch to step down, like it may have been last time?

I could see her eyes move behind the eyeholes of her mask as she cast a sidelong glance to her left to look at Brutus, then to her right, at Angelica. Then she met his gaze, “You do lasting damage to any of them, we’ll find you and do ten times worse to you. Trust me, old man, they know your smell, we can track you down.”

Again, the pole slapping against his glove with a sound of metal against metal.

Yeeah, you don’t want to feel the true wrath of the Bitch.

Meanwhile, Armsmaster seems kind of… impatient at this point.

His tone was measured as he asked her, “Why risk it? You’ve already lost. We had enough footage of your dogs that I was able to put together a simulation of their fighting patterns. I know how they attack, how they react. I know how youthink in a fight, the commands you give, and when.

Once again: Information being key.

All of that is wired into my suit, into my heads up display. I know what you and your beasts are going to do before you’ve decided on it. None of you are walking away.”

Ahh, yeah, that would explain his reaction time.


“It’s not just me and the dogs,” Bitch spoke.

What are you saying? That he’s failed to take into account the other Undersiders?

“Your friends? I may not have a simulation set up for him, but I’m better than your leader, Grue. Stronger, better armored, better equipped, better trained. If your friend Regent turns his attention from Miss Militia for more than twenty seconds, she will shoot one or all of you, not that he could do anything to me if he bothered. Tattletale? Unconscious. Skitter? Not a threat.”

Hm… why don’t you think Skitter is a threat? Because of your bug zapper, which has proven to be stoppable in multiple ways?

Or maybe you think she’s holding back because she’s trying to be an undercover hero?

Is this where you play the traitor card? Do you have a reason for using it now, though, when there were far more useful times to do it earlier?

Questions?


What was he doing? Why was he so focused on getting Bitch to admit it was over?

Reputation, yet again.

Ah, right. It looks better when the enemy surrenders in the face of your glory than when you beat them to submission.

He needed to salvage this situation, and the surest way to do that, to recoup his losses and come out of this looking okay, would be to get the meanest, toughest, most notorious of us to bend at the knee and concede defeat.

He really didn’t know Bitch, though.

Yeah, damn did he pick the wrong target for that.

She pulled her cheap plastic dog mask off and threw it to one side. It was only a formality, really, since her face and identity were public knowledge. Her smile, as it spread across her face, wasn’t the most attractive. Too many teeth showing.

“Lung underestimated her, too,” she told him, looking at me.

Hehe, nice.

Armsmaster turned to look, as well.

Seriously? I mean, really, Bitch? Passing the ball to me? I didn’t have a plan. There wasn’t much I could do, here.

Hey, at least it’s as close to a vote of confidence as you’re gonna get from her.

oh shit

I just realized what she just did

Armsmaster took credit for the first defeat of Lung, and here Bitch is revealing to the audience that Taylor’s behind that. Not only does that undermine Armsy’s reputation in relation to capturing Lung, but being caught taking the credit is going to make people question his credibility in other cases too.

“Velocity?” Armsmaster queried me, casual.

I’m going to tar him.He’s lying on the beach, cracked at both ends.”

I shrugged, miming his casual tone, while feeling anything but, “Dealt with.”

Just two people being casual together and having a good time. 🙂

“Hm. I think-”

As he spoke, I faced Grue and jerked my head in Armsmaster’s direction. Armsmaster wasn’t oblivious, and took my cue as reason to drop into a fighting posture. There was nothing he could really defend against, though, as Grue shrouded the two of us in darkness a second time.

Ooh, maybe she’ll do the blinding thing I talked about earlier this time?

The worst possiblity, that Armsmaster would tell the Undersiders what I was planning, was dealt with for the moment. I doubted Armsmaster would continue to talk while under the effects of Grue’s power.

Oh yeah, that’s very helpful.

So if someone tries to talk inside the cloud, can Grue hear it, like he can see through it?

Which left me the problem of dealing with the guy. I could sense the bugs I had on him moving, as he came through the darkness, towards me. At the very least, if I could draw him away from the others, I could buy them time.

Time to recover would be nice. This fight has been pretty hectic.

I ran for the glass door that led to one of the outside patios. I glanced over my shoulder, and sure enough, I saw Armsmaster emerging from the cloud of oily shadow. He spun on his heels to swing his flail into Judas, bringing the dog down as it emerged right after him, then whirled to face me again. As I got outside, the chain reeled in, bringing the flail head back to the top of the weapon. He paused.

Hm. Now they’re going away from everyone else’s earshot, if I’m reading this right. This could be interesting.

Why? There was only one reason he’d be staying back and reeling in like that, instead of closing the distance to get me in his reach.

I took a guess. Knowing that the attack would come faster than I expected, from what had happened to Tattletale on the two occasions, I threw myself to the floor of the patio.

Oh yeah, this attack again.

The ball came flying out of the end of his weapon, but my attempt to dodge did little good.

Aw.

He whipped the chain to shift the sphere’s trajectory, and simultaneously opened it into its oversized grappling hook form. The thing hit me in my side, with the tines passing over each of my shoulders and under my armpits.

GRAB.

I grunted with the impact, and as I tried to stand, I nearly slipped on the excess chain that spooled around me in the grappling hook’s wake. I felt the claw of the hook tighten around my chest.

On the far side of the patio, Armsmaster planted his feet and raised his weapon to start reeling me in.

Just two people doing some casual fishing and having a good time. Except one person is the fish and it’s not all that casual.


No, no, no, no, no.

I was not going down like this.

Not with Emma fucking Barnes and her asshole lawyer dad in the crowd.

Yes, Taylor! Find the power of spite within you!

I started to gather my bugs from inside, but stopped. No use bringing them here, when Armsmaster could murder half the swarm with that souped up bug zapper he’d worked into his Halberd. I moved my bugs into position indoors.

Hm, whatcha gonna do with them in there?

Still shaky from the hit, thankful for the armor I’d built into my costume, I managed to grab the excess chain below me and wind it around the patio’s railing behind me. If Armsmaster wanted me, he’d have to come to me, dammit. I wasn’t going to make this easy.

Hah, nice. So now Taylor’s stuck to the railing, preventing the fishing.

The chain grew taut, and Armsmaster tugged twice before deciding it would be less trouble to approach than to add to the property damage. He closed the distance to me on foot, pausing only to free his chain from the patio railing. He reeled in his chain to pull me the remaining two or three feet to him.

“Skitter. I would have thought you would be quicker to surrender.”

I am very much looking forward to these two talking to each other out of earshot of others.


Nobody else was in earshot. “Whatever side I’m on, I don’t exactly want to go to jail. Look, my offer stands. I’ve almost got the last bit of detail I need from these guys.”

“Something you said you’d have weeks ago,” he replied.

…fair.

“There’s no other way you’re going to salvage this, Armsmaster,” I stood as straight as I could with the grappling hook around me. The damned thing was heavy. Tattletale had gone out of her way, even got herself knocked out of action, to let us know how important Armsmaster’s status was to him. I needed to use that.

Ooh, going to use the offer of information on the boss to tempt him to let the Undersiders succeed?

“Only way you won’t look incompetent is if you can say I only got away because you let me. That all of this tonight happened because you let it. Because letting me get away with this meant I could get the info on who’s employing the Undersiders, on where the funding, equipment and information is coming from. Then you clean up, and it’s two supervillain groups dealt with in the span of a week. Tell me that doesn’t sound good.”

That does sound pretty good. Question is, though, does Armsy buy that she can get the information before the embarrassment gets out of hand?

Armsmaster considered for a moment.

“No,” he answered me.

“No?”

Well, at least he considered it.

“Don’t expect anything other than a prompt arrest for you and your companions for your antics tonight,” he shook his head, “A bird in the hand, after all…”

He gave me a little shake, as if to make it clear just who the bird was.

I took a deep breath, “You were right, Armsmaster.”

…?!

He was right about a lot of things back in their last conversation. A jerk, but right. I wasn’t expecting Taylor to admit that now, though. Is she being genuine, though, or just manipulating him?

“Of course,” he spoke, absently, pushing me against the railing with one hand.

If it’s manipulation, it doesn’t seem all that effective, so far.

His grappling hook released me, reconfiguring into what I suspected was the same setup that had fixed Lung to the ground with bars of stainless steel, back in my first day in costume. It was shaped like a rectangle, and there were two ‘u’ shaped bands of metal with electricity arcing around them, the tips of each ‘u’ glowing hot enough to melt against any surface.

Welp.

“This was over from the moment we stepped into the room,” I finished.

You got me.

Now what awesome trick do you have prepared here?

Nearly seven hundred hornets exploded from underneath my panels of armor, all latching onto him, biting and stinging relentlessly, flowing underneath his visor, into his helmet, his nose, mouth and ears. Some even crawled down beneath his collar, to his shoulders and chest.

oh fuck yes

I was wondering why that didn’t come into play in Hive! It wasn’t meant to set up anything for that Arc! It was all for this and it’s awesome.


I threw myself at the tail end of his Halberd, hugging my body around it. With one hand he lifted me and the Halberd both, and slammed us against the ground. Again, I felt those tendrils of electricity running over me, on top of the pain of having my stomach caught between the pole and the ground. I was very thankful, the second time tonight, for the panels of armor I’d implemented into my costume design.

The armor really helps out a lot, doesn’t it? Good costume design.

He repeated the process, lifting me two or three feet off the ground, then slamming the pole and me down again. After the second time, I had to fight to place myself beneath the pole again in anticipation of a third hit, knowing he would weather the onslaught of hornets longer than I did this abuse.

Rescue couldn’t have come a second later.

Fuck yes.

Bitch, an unconscious Tattletale and Brutus were the first ones over the edge of the patio.

Over the edge, huh? I suppose this is as good a departure point as any.

Brutus bumped against Armsmaster as he passed, knocking the man off balance and giving me the chance I needed to heave myself upright and pull the Halberd from his grasp. I held it in my hands, and he was too distracted by the swarming hornets to even realize it.

Niice. If you take it with you, and then break it, he’ll be largely incapacitated as a hero for a while until he can make a new one. Unless he has spares, of course.

(The breaking would be because, as a Tinker who’s worth a damn, he’s guaranteed to have a tracker in there.)

I threw the Halberd over the edge of the patio and ran toward the door leading back inside.

Close enough. He now has to retrieve it, so he’s put largely out of commission until he can do that.

I caught Grue’s reaching hand as he and Judas bounded through, so he could swing me up behind him.

As we leaped from the patio’s edge, I looked behind us and saw Angelica and Regent following.

A badass entrance and a badass exit.

Grue was banishing his darkness, to make the mess we’d created all the more clear for those of our audience that hadn’t yet managed to flee. Our objective was to humiliate, after all.

Excellent. 😀


For much the same reason, maybe as a bit of a spiteful ‘fuck you’ to Armsmaster, who’d made this all so much harder than it had to be, I left my bugs where they were, arranged on the wall to the right of the patio and the floor in front of it. Half were gathered into the shape of two large arrows pointing to the patio door, one on the floor and one on the wall, while the other half were arranged into bold letters spelling out ‘LETS GO’.

Ahahaha so that’s what she was doing

I love it.

I wrapped my arms around Grue, holding him tight as much in anticipation of our landing on a nearby rooftop as a farewell hug.

Chances were good that this was my last job as part of the Undersiders.

Well, we’ll see about that.


End of Tangle 6.6

Well, that was one hell of a battle!

I barely even know where to start. This was a really good chapter throughout, as good as or even better than the second Lung fight. The Undersiders got to fight some very skilled heroes, providing a highly satisfying battle with a lot of tension and creative use of powers. And at the end, when Taylor unleashed her hidden hornets with an clever one-liner, it was an epic way to bring back an idea that had been established in Hive but never paid off back then. Chekhov’s gun took longer to fire than I would’ve expected, but when it did fire, it was more satisfying than it honestly had any right to be.

So yeah! Armsmaster’s a dick, Miss Militia is apparently also a dick, Velocity’s dick hurts, and the Undersiders are awesome.

Next up, major plot-wise, is presumably learning more about the Boss, and then… the Decision. The next few chapters are gonna be interesting. 🙂

See you then!


[postscript]
…yo, Taylor, I wouldn’t have pegged you as the type to leave out the apostrophe in “LET’S GO”. 😉

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