Tangle 6.8: The Master Plan

Source material: Worm, Tangle 6.8

Originally blogged: September 24, 2017


Guess who’s back in the saddle? Is it a trained jockey, ready for the race of his life? Neigh, it’s Krixwell, having just pushed that jockey off the horse’s back and galloped over to his laptop to liveblog some Worm while being chased by some very angry people. Huh, I wonder what they’re so upset about? Anyway, let’s get this thing started.

So, last time, we learned that a) the Boss is Coil, which is awesome if my impression of Coil as a fairly cool guy is correct, b) the Travelers, Circus and Trainwreck appear to also be under Coil’s protection, and c) they’re awesome.

Now the Undersiders and Trickster (but apparently not the rest of the bunch?) are heading off somewhere with Coil to discuss… something. Whatever it is, at least we’re probably in for some answers in this chapter, which I’m all for. 🙂

So, what do you say, shall we dive into it? I think we shall!

(#probably my most creative chapter intro so far)


We didn’t dally, stopping only to let Bitch direct her dogs into three separate vans Coil had waiting at the back of the garage.

Nice. No need to waste time waiting for the dog shrinkage.

Once that was done, we all rushed to the vehicle Coil had waiting, an armored limousine. It wasn’t too different from a regular limousine, but the sides and top were flat, and the front end was squatter.

So a limousine after a fight with a giant trash compactor.

All in all, it gave the general impression of something exceedingly solid.

Like the scars of a warrior, the flatness tells a tale of past foes barely beaten, but beaten nonetheless.

This limou has sine things. Terrible things.


I wondered if it was too conspicuous.

All the cars in town respect the old soldier, except for that one grumpy old T-Ford, and the electric youngsters who have never known the horrors of war.

The day the car compactors attacked was a day of painful memories for many, the first of many to come before the joy of their eventual defeat would be just barely insufficient to put the survivors at ease for long. The brave heroes who picked up the battle when it mattered the most – both cars and paracars, survivors and martires – would never be forgotten.


What the hell am I even doing? 😛


It was distinctive enough that it Could make us too easy to track.

That looks like a very important “Could” you’ve got there.

Coil didn’t seem like a stupid guy, though, and time was short enough that we couldn’t afford to take the time to debate it. I climbed inside after Grue, keeping my mouth shut for the time being, and my eyes open for details.

Yeah, I’m fairly confident Coil knows what he’s doing.


The interior was all black leather, the windows tinted dark. Coil’s black costume against the black background made him rather hard to make out as he settled into a chair at the far end, his back to the driver’s seat.

I wonder where we’re headed. Is the discussion going to be in this limo, or maybe Coil’s HQ?

If I squinted a little, it looked like only the snake stenciled on his costume was there, hovering in empty space.

Heh, nice.

We seated ourselves on the leather cushioned bench that lined one side of the limousine. Trickster, the only Traveler to come with us, sat at the far end, facing Coil.

I wonder what the others are doing. Taking care of the heroes post-KO, maybe?


“My dogs-” Bitch started.

Of course she would want to know that her dogs were safe before anything else.

“Will be taken care of, I assure you,” Coil replied. “You will find your dogs and the vans you used to arrive awaiting you when you depart.”

Bitch pursed her lips, looking angry, but didn’t say anything.

Safe or not, though, she certainly doesn’t like being separated from them like this.

“I wish,” Coil told us, “To perform a small demonstration. Because I would prefer to establish a few things before I move on to discussing the larger picture.”

A demonstration? Of your power, assuming you have one, maybe?

He reached into a cup holder to his left and retrieved a roll of quarters. He undid one end of the roll, then doled out a number of quarters into his palm. “If you would catch these and place them on the backs of your hands.”

Luck manipulation, perhaps?

He flipped a coin in Tattletale’s direction. She caught it and slapped it against the back of her hand, “Heads.”

“Heads,” Grue said, as he caught the next.

Coil double checked I was ready to catch it, then threw it my way.

“Heads,” I spoke, as I slapped it down.

Certainly looks that way. Though we’re only down to a 1/8 chance – Bitch and Trickster are the kicker here, taking it to 1/16 and 1/32 respectively.

And heads again for Bitch and Regent.

Oh yeah, Regent too. Sorry, Regent, forgot you were here. :$

I leaned forward, reached behind me, and retrieved my coinpurse. I found a silver dollar, showed Coil, and then flipped it. I caught it and slapped it down. Heads. I nodded.

So, luck manipulation, some sort of direct influence on small objects, or just the much less generally useful ability to make any coin turn up heads?

Man, a luck manipulator and a nerve twitcher like Regent would make a good combination. We’ve discussed how Regent’s power to make people make mistakes is actually pretty powerful – now consider mixing that with someone whose power is to make things go their way.


“Probability manipulation?” I asked him, “Enhanced luck?”

He shook his head, “No. Just the opposite, Skitter. I control destinies. I decide outcomes.”

Niice.

So does that mean he can’t control how those outcomes come along unless he micromanages everything?

Either way, being able to control outcomes would certainly explain how he wound up with the reputation of being a chessmaster.

“That still sounds like probability manipulation to me,” I said.

Tattletale leaned forward, to look past Grue and face me, “No. Well, it is, but only in the biggest, bluntest sense. But I can vouch that he’s telling the truth, vague as it is.”

I find this power very intriuguing. I know some people who’d be worried, though, and I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind too: How large can his influence be and how much does it take away from people’s agency? However, this setting has one neat feature that keeps coming up, which actually might limit this in such a way that the power respects people’s agency.

The Manton effect. It’s very possible that Coil can’t affect, or can affect to a limited degree, outcomes that directly involve other people’s influence. (Putting aside the fact that coin flips are not truly random, and are partially a result of how the coin is thrown.)

“When I asked what his powers were, at the meeting, you said you didn’t know,” I accused her.

Have you forgotten who you’re talking to? This is Tattletale, and she just witnessed the power in action. She may not have known then, but she probably knows it intimately now.


“No,” she shook her head, “I said I couldn’t say. Which is true.

Ah, right. Nice Scratchism there.

See, this is the kind of misdirection I was expecting to be more Tattle’s style back in 3.11, before being brutally proven wrong.

One of the contingencies for my getting to be part of the Undersiders and get the funding he offered was that I would keep the details a secret, and I’ve got to do that until he says otherwise, sorry.”

Yeah, that’s fair.


Coil placed his elbows on the armrests and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, or where his mouth would be if his mask showed any part of his face. “I feel that keeping potential enemies in the dark is a necessity. To those ends, rather than risk having her as an enemy, I sought out your Tattletale and hired her, with enough incentive to keep her loyal and silent on the matter.”

I mean, it’s not the worst reason I’ve ever heard for hiring someone.

“And us?” Grue asked.

“I won’t mince words, Grue,” Coil answered, “My choice to form the Undersiders was a gambit. If you failed, got yourselves killed, injured or arrested, then that simply meant there would be less parahumans in this city for me to be concerned about.

Showing a touch of his more heartless side, I see.

That isn’t to say I didn’t assist you or that I attempted to steer you towards failure. I did just the opposite. All I mean to say is that I was prepared for the eventuality.”

Fair enough.

Grue tilted his head slightly, “And if we succeeded?”

“Then you naturally find yourselves sitting here, proven to be capable,” Coil leaned back. “Worthy to hear my proposal, as the Travelers already have.”

Interesting… I guess that’s why only Trickster is here.


“I can’t help but notice you didn’t test them the same way you tested us,” Grue spoke, “We’ve worked for you for nearly a year.”

“The Travelers have an established track record.

I mean, for all Grue knows, Coil could’ve taken the Travelers under his wing long ago. Your own personal mini-team doesn’t necessarily have to be local, does it?

With this in mind, I contacted them and requested they come to Brockton Bay. They heard my offer, and I was hoping Trickster might give his reply tonight.”

This would presumably be how they were aware of the meeting and its location.

All eyes turned to Trickster. He didn’t hurry to reply. He reached into the fold of his jacket, found a pack of cigarettes, tapped one out, placed it inside the mouth-slit of his mask and lit up.

Keepin’ it classy.

Y’know, my association of Trickster with Tyki Mikk back when he was introduced just keeps seeming more appropriate.

He placed one hand on his hat to keep it in place as he rolled down the window to blow the smoke outside.

That said, I hate smoking and I’m glad he at least has the decency to do this.


“If you’re not bullshitting, if you’re making a good faith attempt at providing a fix, we’re in,” Trickster spoke, not looking at Coil.

A “fix”? For what, exactly? Your team’s internal struggles that Sundancer alluded to?

“Excellent,” Coil replied, not twitching a muscle. There wasn’t an iota of surprise there.

“Fix?” I asked Trickster.

Yes, please elaborate.

“That guy,” Trickster tilted his head in Coil’s direction, “Is offering my team a temporary solution to an ongoing problem, with promises that he’s going to look into a possible permanent fix.”

Well, that’s… vague. Doesn’t tell me much that wasn’t already clear, but fair enough. Wouldn’t be much of a trickster if he didn’t have some secrets, would he?

(Maybe Tattle knows now.)


“Vague,” Regent spoke. Trickster shrugged.

I couldn’t quite get a sense of these guys.

Heh.

I spoke up, “This wouldn’t have anything to do with what your teammate said about you guys pulling a ridiculous number of jobs, like you’re trying to fill a bottomless pit with cash?”

You’re being a bit rude, Taylor. The guy clearly wants to keep this private. I know you like having the information – and don’t get me wrong, I would love to know what’s up here – but it really doesn’t seem to be any of your business.

He turned to one side to let out a long exhalation of smoke, then answered, “My teammate needs to keep her mouth shut about private business.”

Great. You may have just caused more trouble for Sundancer.

Which, in no uncertain words, meant I should drop the subject, and that I was probably right. Probably not my best call, raising a subject pretty much guaranteed to touch a nerve.

Ya think?


“So,” Grue spoke to Coil, “You’ve provoked our curiosity, which I’m sure was your intent.”

Yeah! What’cha got for us?

“Yes. First off, let me show you what I desire,” Coil spoke. He touched a button beside the cup holders to his left, and the windows rolled down. I looked outside, and saw the darkness of a tunnel. As we left the tunnel, we found ourselves overlooking the rest of the city.

Control over an area? A specific building? The entire city?

The bay and the city both were spread out beyond us, a cityscape lit up by constellations of orange-yellow and white dots and the faint light of the moon above.

This would be a cool scene in a visual adaptation.

I looked back to Coil, and saw him gesturing to the open window.

“The city?” I asked him.

“The city, yes. Desiring to take over the world is not only cliche, but unrealistic,” he replied, his voice sibilant, smooth.

Heh, nice. Aiming high, but keeping it real.

Also of course his voice is sibilant and smooth, characterized by the most serpentine of sounds.

“I will, for the time being, content myself with seizing this city for myself. Cliche still, I might admit, but rare few do even this with any measure of success.”

I mean, considering how much conflict there is over the Docks alone, it’s a hell of a goal. I kinda like it.


“Isn’t it kind of obvious you’re trying to do that already?” Regent asked him.

“Perhaps, but contrary to popular expectations, I do not aim to limit my control to the organized crime of Brockton Bay. I would control everything. Government, courts, law enforcement, business, and much more.”

Oh damn, a full takeover. Coil as the sovereign ruler of Brockton Bay.

“Ambitious,” Grue spoke. I thought I might have heard a change in his tone of voice. Doubt?

“Quite. But rest assured, Undersiders, I am already moving into my endgame.”

“Endgame?” I asked.

By taking down the Protectorate’s control, for one thing, having just had the Undersiders sow doubt in their ability to protect the citizens by humiliating them at an event specifically designed to celebrate them?

Think, Skitter. Who are the major players in this city? What has changed? The ABB is wiped out, with the very plan I proposed at the meeting.

The rook has been captured.

Empire Eighty-Eight is reeling from the plays I made today, and I fully expect to finish them off in the coming weeks, hopefully with the assistance of you, the Travelers, and my other recruits.

The knight is withdrawing.

The Wards and the Protectorate are in a tenuous position, now. I took steps to ensure the public knows their heroes played only a partial role in stopping the ABB, and your actions tonight served to shake confidence in them further.

The Queen is weakened.

Yeah, Coil has this game well in hand.


If the matter is pushed further, I expect there will be a restructuring of the group structure. Perhaps members will be exchanged with other nearby Protectorate groups, someone else might be put in charge, new rules, regulations and quotas put in place.

I wonder what Armsy’s statement on the allegedly unprovoked attack on Tattletale will be.

But yeah, a restructuring sounds like a great time to strike.

Whatever the case, it will be some time before they regain their footing and re-establish their reputation. By the time this occurs, I will be settled in my new role.”

The king cobra slithers into his throne.

He let that sink in. “Who else is left? New Wave isn’t in a position to take control. They are powerful but too controversial, with even less trust from the public than the Protectorate.

Which is honestly incredible considering one of these two teams largely consists of anonymous people and it isn’t New Wave.

The Merchants under Skidmark’s leadership are too weak and self centered to make a serious play.

Worst timeline.

Except for the one where Kaiser takes over, I guess.

Faultline’s group is mercenary, and conservative use of my power has made me an exceedingly wealthy man, leaving me the option of purchasing her cooperation if and when it is necessary.”

Yep, she’d probably be 100% on board with this if you just paid her enough.


“There are scarce few who are in a position to impede me, as I make my play, and I’m not only speaking of capes. I’ve quietly been purchasing properties throughout the Docks and will aggressively purchase more in the final stages of my plan.

Hm. How does this help?

Two of the three mayoral candidates for this June’s election were bought and brought to this city by me, much as I purchased my elite soldiers to aid me in controlling the streets and hampering the Empire’s business.

So that’s his angle on taking the political control: Corrupt politicians. What are you going to do about the third candidate?

The city council has its elections in September, I will have similar agents placed throughout by then, as well. When I say I am nearly finished, I am not speaking in ambiguities. I am saying that the dominoes have been set up and the first of them are already falling.”

Nice work. No, seriously, this is a well-laid master plan as far as I can tell. I can commend it without necessarily thinking it’s a good thing for it to succeed.

That said, I’m not saying it’s definitely a bad thing either. Undemocratic, sure, but whether it’s a net positive or negative for the people living in the city remains to be seen. It depends on what Coil actually intends to do with the city.


Well, I thought, there goes any doubt I had about the Protectorate not caring what was up with the Undersider’s sponsor. Shit. Was he really that close?

Taylor certainly seems to consider this a bad thing.

“Leaving only you and your role in this,” Coil finished.

“Which is?” Grue inquired, a challenging note in his voice.

“Taking over this city is pointless if I do not keep it, Grue.

So… you want the Undersiders to keep control for you?

I hand picked you Undersiders because I needed allies who were comfortable being situated in the North end, the Docks, the Boardwalk, the Trainyard, the outskirts to the North. I picked you because I saw you had potential, yet you were not so high profile as to demand the immediate attention of authorities.

Hm, worried about rivals coming in from the north?

This freed you to be overlooked until you were more established. It allowed you to grow both practiced and comfortable as a team, and to establish a reputation for yourselves.

Sometimes, a low reputation is beneficial.

In my efforts against Kaiser, I have not only been whittling away at his Empire, but I have worked to keep him occupied so you would not be sandwiched between two major factions in the early stages of your group. You had only the ABB to deal with, and you held your own for nearly a year. Skitter joining your group was sufficient to tip the balance.”

Huh, nice. This puts the early mentions of Coil as an opponent to Kaiser in a new light.

“So. If you accept this deal, I would have you control the Docks and the surrounding area. You’re not overly disliked, you’ve proven yourselves resourceful and capable.

I mean, they weren’t super popular after they got blamed for causing Bakuda’s rage, but that seems to have fixed itself up since then.

I would have you guard against any parahuman trespassers and squash any gangs or groups in your territory, should they not submit themselves to my command and control. If this project proved to be a success, I would have you be my agents in expanding to nearby cities. But I digress, that is long term, only a possibility.”

Imagine… the Coil Metropolitan Area.


“And what do we get in all this?” Regent asked.

Coil replied, “I expect that wealth and power go without saying. Beyond that, I leave it to you to name your terms.

That’s a pretty big offer.

As I explained what I desire, I leave it up to you to decide what you would ask for, in exchange for your cooperation.”

Nobody hurried to reply.

Yeah, this is the kind of thing you need to think about for a bit.

Just ask Madoka Kaname.

We exchanged glances with one another, trying to gauge each other’s reactions. Trickster finished his cigarette, tossed it out the window and rolled the window up.

*silence*

Coil broke the silence, “Bitch.

Honestly it’s funnier to imagine him stopping there.

I am aware of your collection of dogs. More than one isolated building containing strays and dogs due to be euthanized. Animals that you rescued, retrieved and gave shelter.”

I guess that explains where she takes them.

All attention turned to Bitch. She looked angry, opened her mouth to speak, but Coil interrupted her before she could.

“No. I would not interfere with your business. I respectyour passion.

Good.

But at the same time, I know it likely pains you, that you have only so much time to spare, to visit these locations, to feed these animals you have rescued and give them the individual attention and care they need.”

How would you remedy this? Surely not by giving her more time. Are you proposing that you use your wealth to build good dog shelters?

I’m all for that.

Bitch glared at him. If looks could kill.

“I could provide the resources you need, to fully equip the buildings and make them comfortable for the dogs. Assistants to care for the animals and work under you as you see fit.

Yes, good.

I would have the city give the same sort of funding to anyone who adopts a sheltered animal that is provided to foster parents, with oversight, of course, to ensure that the animals are being properly cared for, that the system is not gamed. There would be no more dogs cooped up in shelters, awaiting euthanasia. What would you say to that?”

“I’d say you’re fucking with me.”

If it sounds too doog to be true…


He didn’t press the issue, instead, he turned to the next member of our group. “Regent. A hard young man to please, because you grew up wanting for nothing, and you expect largesse, luxury and idle entertainment as a matter of course.”

Juicy backstory!

Spoiled kid, not particularly surprising. Everything about Regent has been screaming that for a while.

The question, then: why is he a villain?

“What do you know about how I grew up?” Regent challenged him.

“I know what the Protectorate knows. Not long after Lung was brought into custody, Armsmaster began pushing for details on your group.

Interesting… this isn’t the first thing that’s indicated Coil has people on the inside, either.

And I mean, if the Arguably Bodacious Blasters managed to sneak someone in, then it’s no big feat for Coil.

Staff at the PRT offices were tasked with looking through old criminal records and reports of lesser known parahumans, trying to find parallels. Find if perhaps a supervillain in another area perhaps moved to Brockton Bay, changing their names, costumes and methods. They found you.”

Hm, so Regent used to go under another cape name?

“Ah,” Regent leaned back in his seat. “Shit.”

And he doesn’t want people, probably least of all the Protectorate, to know that.

“So I know who you are. I know that you went out of your way to get out from your father’s thumb, and that it’s quite likely that a part of you is driven to prove yourself to him, to pursue success, power and status in our circles.”

Spoiled kid wants to stand on his own.

Now, does this mean his father is also a villain, and the act of moving to Brockton Bay and ditching the previous cape identity was part of getting out of his father’s coddling?

[Coddling. Right.]

Anyway, this is a nice, though not exactly subtle, way to exposit about Regent’s backstory, which I’ve been waiting for since at least 2.2.


“His father?” I asked.

“Not my story to tell,” Coil waved a hand, “I leave it for Regent to share at a later date, if he chooses. All I mean to say is that I can give you that, Regent. Status and notoriety, perhaps enough to rise above your old man.”

Unlike Taylor, Coil has at least some respect for people’s secrets.

Regent nodded once, but didn’t say anything. I would have liked to see his expression behind his mask.

“You must understand, Undersiders, I do not use fear as Lung did, or manipulation as Kaiser does.

It seems more like negotiation is Coil’s deal.

I would have you work alongside me because you know I am the person that is best equipped to provide what you desire, and that nobody else can or will give you a better offer.”

It’s a fairly good reason to work for – or as he says, alongside – someone. Simple capitalism, though not necessarily with money as the currency.


“Which sounds nice, sure,” I countered. Could I poke holes in this plan, maybe derail it? “But I haven’t quite forgotten that you just told us you were fully prepared for us to screw up somewhere along the way, and that you would have been perfectly okay with it happening.

Hm, that’s a good point. He’s got backup if he needs to turn on the Undersiders, whatever or whomever that backup may be.

You would’ve shrugged, said ‘less capes to deal with’ and you would have dropped us and walked away.”

Coil nodded, “This is true.”

“So if we screw up later, it’s going to be the same thing?”

It’s a very good question.

“No,” Coil spoke. Then he paused for a moment. “I understand your concern, but I have already informed you of a great deal, here. If you were arrested, or if half your team perished in action, it would be dangerous to abandon you, because you could divulge key information. This will continue to be the case.”

That’s fair.

I nodded, slowly, “Except you could provide false information to us, or stop providing key info.”

“Look to Tattletale for the answer to that. I may have purchased her assistance, but I expect you consider her a friend, and vice versa.

In this particular aspect, the Undersiders do have an advantage.

You could, I hope, trust her to verify that what I tell you is truth, and to know more about my plan that I divulge, in any case.”

Coil made a good decision securing Tattle on his side. Her power really is a pain in the ass to anyone who has something to hide from their enemies.

So if I wanted to argue the point further, it’d look like I didn’t trust Tattletale. I wasn’t sure I liked that, but I nodded. “Alright.”

Hm, yeah, and if the hurt feelings weren’t enough, it could tip her off to why, too.


“Skitter,” Coil spoke. “I came prepared, tonight, with offers in mind for the rest of your team. I can help care for Bitch’s collections of rescued dogs, and help ensure less animals need rescue in the future. Grue is relying on me for a personal matter, and he knows that my taking power can only ensure that things go his way without difficulty. You, and you alone, Skitter, have me wondering what you desire, at the end of things.”

So here’s the thing.

Does Coil know about the undercover mission? I really don’t trust Armsmaster to have kept it entirely to himself, and we know he has people on the inside. What does the Protectorate besides Armsmaster and the Wards know about “Skitter”, and how much of that does Coil know?

Tattletale, to my left, leaned forward again, interest clear on her face.

I had to be convincing. No way was I going to let something slip past the radar and alert Tattletale now. So I gave it a serious think.

This would really be the worst possible time for that, wouldn’t it.

I kind of hoped someone would break the silence while I took the time to consider, maybe even distract from me, but nobody did. Everyone patiently waited, putting me at the focus of all attention, a spot I hated being in, in or out of costume.

Ugh, yeah.

“The city,” I replied, being careful to be as genuine as possible, to avoid alerting Tattletale, “You want to control it. Fine. I want you to make it work. Fix up the Docks so they aren’t a shithole. Give people work. Clean up the drug trade, or the hard drugs at least. Straighten out the asinine bureaucracy of the government and schools and all that. That sort of thing.”

That.

Is.

A fantastic answer.

See, this is why I was saying that Coil as ruler of the city might not be bad – we haven’t learned what he was going to do with it, and there was a chance he’d go in this direction. Dictatorship is generally bad, but not all dictators were.


Coil shook his head, “Not something I can offer you in good conscience, dear Skitter.”

I guess that answers that. But at least he could try, couldn’t he?

He raised his hand to stop me before I could open my mouth. Not that I was going to, but he did. “What you’re talking about, I already intended to do, in large part.

😀

To give it to you as a gift would be little different than offering you an amount in cash, when I already intend to give you as much money as you require.”

The best answer to the best request.


“So you’re going to improve Brockton Bay,” I said, carefully.

“Don’t get me wrong. I will not claim to be a good person – I assure you I am not.

I always thought I might be bad, now I’m sure that it’s true
‘Cause I think you’re so good, and I’m nothing like you

That said, you are likely to discover I am a proud man. I would consider it a catastrophic failure on my part if this city did not thrive under my rule, a tremendous blow to my ego.”

I nodded.

Not the worst reason to do good things.

He continued, “Our desires on individual subjects may differ, however. I would argue there will always be crime, always be drugs.”

“I’m not saying there won’t. I’m just saying that there’s room for improvement. When I was in grade six, more of my classmates could explain what a K-hole was than name a dozen countries.”

As if to prove Taylor’s point, I have no idea what a K-hole is.

Maybe it’s like an A-hole, but for the knee.


“I am not promising quick fixes, Skitter. What I will tell you is that individuals like yourselves would control territories and be responsible for maintaining your own kind of order in those areas, with whatever means you saw fit. Over time, people would adjust to this, crime rates would decrease.

Well, hopefully at least.

I would simultaneously be controlling the flow of product into the city, reducing the distribution of the most problematic drugs, those that would lead to the most societal decay and crime, while making other, more benign product available in their place.

Sound like a good plan.

Crime and drugs cannot be conquered, but they are animals I believe I can tame.”

Good luck.

“And the city itself?” I asked. I thought of my dad, “Fixing the ferry?”

“Yes. Rest assured, if you were to accept my offer, I would fully expect you to contact me and speak up at any time you felt I was not following through in any department. I might be a proud man, but I would rather you injure that pride, even provoke it intentionally, rather than let me be complacent.”

Nice 🙂


I nodded once, slowly.

“I have said my piece, then. I leave you to consider it, Undersiders. I recognize that this is not what you signed on for, in the beginning. I know it might not have the same appeal in the scope of costumed hijinks, and I’m prepared for the fact that that this might lead you to refuse this offer.

He’s still implying “I have backups.”

All I hope is that if you do refuse me, if you decide you are more comfortable as simple uncommon criminals, that our prior arrangement will stand.”

That’s actually pretty cool of him, to still allow them to keep the status quo.

“You’ve invested this much in us, and if we say no, we can just walk away?” Regent asked him.

Coil spread his hands a bit, “What would you see me do? Murder you? Threaten you? Orchestrate an arrest? There is no guarantee any attempt on my part would be wholly successful, whatever I chose, and you may count it as a compliment that I would not want any of you escaping the attempt and coming after me as a dedicated adversary.”

Hey, all good points.

He knocked on the window behind him. Immediately, the limousine slowed down and pulled over. As I glanced outside, I saw we were in the Docks.

“Think on the subject. Discuss it and get back to me with your reply, the sooner the better, no later than a week from now.

A.k.a. after the Decision, I suppose. It should be interesting to see how the promise of an improved Brockton Bay affects Taylor during that whole debacle.

Tattletale, it should be obvious, but I formally free you from all stipulations in your contract requiring you to keep my identity as your sponsor private. You may give my contact information to your teammates.”

I mean, yes, it should be obvious, but she did still indicate that she felt bound by it earlier, when they were talking about Coil’s power, so it might be worth saying anyway.

“Sure thing,” Tattletale replied.

“And before I forget, I arranged individual accounts for each of you with a supervillain banker by the name of The Number Man, as paying for tonight’s job in bills, naturally, was unfeasible.

Ooh, that sounds neat. The Number Man, huh? That’s simultaneously one of the nerdiest and coolest-sounding cape names so far.

My men will provide you with your account information and the instructions for accessing these accounts as you retrieve your dogs.”

Grue extended a hand, “I’m not sure what we’ll do, whether we’ll take this deal, but it’s been good working with you thus far, and I hope to continue.”

Coil took Grue’s hand and shook it, firm, “Likewise, Grue, Undersiders.”

Coil does seem like a good boss. 🙂


We departed the vehicle. We were on the West end of the Docks, judging by how far the water was, and how close we were to the mountains that surrounded the city. Parked behind the limousine were three vans, each with two of Coil’s soldiers standing by, alert.

Doggos!

As we walked by the end of the armored limousine, a soldier passed out envelopes to each of us.

Ka-CHING!

We continued walking, and Bitch opened each door we passed, letting the dogs out.

It took over a decade, but we finally found the answer.

They were smaller, now. Judas, the tallest, only came up to my shoulder. Their external muscle, wet and wrinkled, hung off them like excess skin on a person who had lost a great deal of weight.

I mean… it’s not my favorite analogy of all time, but it works.

The interiors of the vans were spattered with more excess flesh, blood and bone that had been shed. The final stage would be the dogs shucking off the last of the excess mass, revealing their normal shapes nested deep within, dry within a membrane, virtually untouched by the injuries they had sustained over the night.

Huh, that’s interesting. So the growth essentially layers on top of the true dog body? I suppose that would explain why Brutus gains a tail.


As the last of the dogs, Angelica, was released and the vans and limousine pulled away, we headed back to the loft. Each of us too busy sorting through our own thoughts and dilemmas to be distracted with conversation, so it was remarkably quiet.

Everyone has a lot to think about after that conversation, Taylor included.

I have it. I’ve got what I need.

I just didn’t know how I felt about it.

You have what you need but you can get what you want.


End of Tangle 6.8

Another day. Another temptation. Another reason to stay with the Undersiders.

This was an excellent chapter. A relaxed negotiation, through which we learned what drives Coil, and what his goals are. The Undersiders have some big decisions to make, and there’d be a good chance they’d all say yes even if this weren’t a narrative with a plot to further.

And yes, that includes Taylor. If the friendship with the Undersiders, the romance with Brian, the assholishness of the Protectorate members she knows, and the fun she has as a villain wouldn’t sway Taylor, she’s just been offered something good there’s realistically no way for her to do as a hero. This is quite possibly the biggest out of all the reasons she has to stay an Undersider, and it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

We also learned a bit about Regent and what drives him, which was nice. It’s been a looong time coming.

Next up… the Decision?? Or maybe discussion about the offer between the Undersiders? Possibly both? I don’t know!

Let’s find out next time! 🙂


[postscript]
A moment of silence for the victims of the Compactor War.

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