Source material: Worm, Interlude 6
Originally blogged: September 28 – October 2, 2017
Howdalicious! It’s time to take a look at whatever ‘lude content is ahead of me in Worm. 🙂
As always, the fact that this is an Interlude poses one important question: Whom are we following today? Let’s see…
It’s probably too early to do a Coil Interlude. We kind of had a Bitch Interlude already via Brutus, so that’s kind of unlikely too.
Now, there is one character we got a glimpse of backstory for recently, whom it might make sense to finally get a closer look at: Alec. I would not say no thanks to an Alec Interlude right now.
Of course, there’s also a chance Wildbow isn’t done tugging at my heartstrings and is throwing in a second Danny Interlude here, following his reactions to what just happened. I don’t find it particularly likely, but it is a possibility.
There’s also a decent chance of a curveball like Miss Militia, or even… Emma? An Emma Interlude actually sounds like a good, though perhaps unpleasant, thing. I’ve complained in the past, even after 1.1, that the Trio doesn’t have much known personality to them beyond “bully”, and an Interlude from Emma’s perspective would go a long way to fix that.
So yeah, there are a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m hoping for Alec, but Emma would also be appreciated.
Let’s take a look!
Oh hey, I just noticed we’ve been in 2012 content for a few chapters now. Tangle 6.7 was released on my 14th birthday, nice.
Paige’s jaw hurt. Being muzzled like an animal did that.
Paige? Doesn’t sound familiar. I guess we’re going for the new character approach!
For now, I can’t help but imagine Rose McGowan, though that’s obviously subject to immediate change.
Anyway, it… doesn’t sound like she’s in a particularly comfortable situation.
The other restraints weren’t so bad, but that was only in a relative sense. Her hands were buried in a pair of reinforced metal buckets, each filled with that damn pastel yellow foam.
Containment foam? Is this an arrest?
The buckets themselves were linked together behind her back, with comically oversized chain links. It would have been intolerably heavy if it weren’t for the hook on the back of her chair, which she could hang the chain on.
Possibly an interrogation chamber.
Strips of metal had been tightened just under her armpits, near the bottom of her ribcage, her upper arms and waist, with two more bands around each of her ankles.
Okay, I need to come right out and say it: The only reason there wasn’t a bondage joke in the previous post was that I don’t know Paige’s age yet.
But yeah, whoever has Paige restrained like this (probably the Protectorate, given the foam) clearly doesn’t want her moving around at all.
Chains seemed to connect everything to everything else, preventing her from moving her arms or legs more than a few inches in any direction before she felt the frustrating resistance and jangling of the chains.
Jingle chains, jingle chains, jingle all the way…
The heavy metal collar around her neck, thick enough around it could have been a tire for a small vehicle, blinked with a green light just frequently enough that she forgot to anticipate it.
Sounds really annoying.
She got distracted and annoyed by its appearance in her peripheral vision each time it flashed.
The irony was, a pair of handcuffs would have sufficed. She didn’t have enhanced strength, no tricks to slip her restraints, and she wasn’t about to run anyways.
I guess this is just standard procedure, so as to not get blindsided by someone hiding some of these powers.
If any of that was a real possibility, she wouldn’t have been allowed in the courtroom.
So… is it for show, then? Is whatever’s going to happen in this courtroom, which this apparently is, open to the public, and the Protectorate wants to show off that they have the villains well restrained?
The prosecution had argued that she could have enhanced strength, that she couldbe a flight risk, and her lawyer hadn’t done a good enough job of arguing against it, so the restraints had gone on.
Which meant she got trussed up like Hannibal Lecter, as though she were already guilty.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a character in a series of suspense novels by Thomas Harris.
Lecter was introduced in the 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon as a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. The novel and its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs, feature Lecter as one of the primary antagonists after the two serial killers in both novels. In the third novel, Hannibal, Lecter becomes a protagonist. His role as the antihero occurs in the fourth novel, Hannibal Rising, which explores his childhood and development into a serial killer.
Ah. Huh, sounds like an interesting arc to take a cannibalistic serial killer character through.
Unable to use her hands, her hair, the vibrant and startling yellow of a lemon, had slipped from where it was tucked behind her ears and strands now hung in front of her face. She knew it only made her look more deranged, more dangerous, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
The way the defendant is presented can be very important. Speaking of which, what is Paige on trial for here? Is she guilty?
Also, there goes the “redhead” part of my mental image of her.
If she had been able to, she would have had a comment or two to make about that, or at least she could have asked the lawyer to tidy her hair.
“Hf lhmrf, cmfh ym tmdh mh hrrr?”
She would have argued with the man that had been hired as her defense, instead of waiting hours or days for a response to each of her emails. She would have demanded that her basic rights be met.
The rights to a fair trial and tidy hair?
But she couldn’t say anything. A leather mask reinforced with the same metal strips that were on her body and a cage-style grille of small metal bars was strapped over her lower face.
Really the kind of thing that makes it hard to defend yourself verbally.
The interior of the mask was the worst thing, because the arrangement extended into her mouth,
Oh no. :e
a framework of wires keeping her mouth fixed in a slightly open position, her tongue pressed down hard against the floor of her mouth.
Now that’s just inhumane.
The barbaric setup left her jaw, her tongue and the muscles of her neck radiating tension and pain.
“Silence. All rise, please. This court is now in session, the honorable Peter Regan presiding.”
I wonder if he’s related to Brivolbn7q Regan.
It was so hard to move with the restraints.
To be fair, that means they’re doing their job.
Her lawyer gripped the chain running between her armpit and her upper arm, to help her get to a standing position, but she stumbled anyways, bumped into the table.
There was no way to be graceful when you were wearing restraints that weighed half as much as you did.
Not exactly ballet equipment, no.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, your honor.”
Okay, so we’re tuning in right at the end, then, after a recess.
Paige watched as the clerk delivered the envelope to the judge.
“In the matter of the state of Massachusetts versus Paige Mcabee, as to the count of attempted murder, how do you find?”
Mcabee? That’s an odd-sounding surname. Especially considering the Mc- prefix means “son of”… is Paige a descendant of a bee? 😮
(No offense intended to any Mcabees in the audience, though you may want to look into your family tree.)
“Not guilty, your honor.”
Paige sagged a little with relief.
Aw, that’s good to hear. Unless she’s actually guilty, of course.
(#the bee movie was only four years old when this was written)
“In the matter of the state of Massachusetts versus Paige Mcabee, as to the count of aggravated assault with a parahuman ability, how do you find?”
“Guilty, your honor.”
Well, at least it’s better than attempted murder. It’s like they’re saying “she attacked someone who provoked her, but she wasn’t trying to kill them”.
Paige shook her head as well as she was able. No! This wasn’t fair!
If you say so?
See, at this point, I have much less context than Paige and the jury, so I have no clue whether this is fair or not.
She almost missed the next line. “…sexual assault with a parahuman ability, how do you find?”
“Guilty, your honor.”
Sexual assault. The words chilled her. It wasn’t like that.
Then what was it like?
“Is this your verdict?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Paige Mcabee, please direct your attention to me,” the judge spoke.
She did, eyes wide, shellshocked.
Well, this bodes ill for Paige.
The chapter definitely seems to be written so as to make us sympathize with her by default, but it wouldn’t be the first time Wildbow made us sympathize with a morally questionable character, so I’m a little wary until I get more context.
“Determining sentencing for this case is not easy. As your lawyer has no doubt made you aware, you do fall under the umbrella of the TSPA, or the three strikes act.
Hm. That really applies to the sexual assault charge?
At the age of twenty three, you have been convicted of no prior crimes.
Well, that’s a good sign, at least.
“According to the witnesses heard in this court, you first demonstrated your abilities in early 2009.
Late bloomer, then, relative to most other parahumans we know about.
You were vocal about not wanting to become a member of the Protectorate, but you also expressed a disinterest in a life of crime. This state, in which an individual does not identify as hero or villain, is what the PRT classifies as a ‘rogue’.
Huh. Seems like an odd use of the term, but it’s nice to have a term for that nonetheless.
Surely there must be many rogues. Hell, if I had a superpower, I’d probably be a rogue, depending on the power.
So what even is Paige’s power? It’s something that can be used both for attacking someone and for sexually assaulting them… Hm. I suppose pretty much any power that can be used to attack can be used to keep someone from fighting back in a sexual assault, so I guess this doesn’t actually tell me much.
“It is in our interests to promote the existence of rogues, as the proportion of parahumans in our society slowly increases.
Makes sense – the amount of heroes and villains in play right now is already insane and quite disruptive.
of the PRT.
That’s terrible when most of the time the PRT are presumably also the prosecutors.
Many rogues do not cause confrontations, nor do they seek to intervene in them. Instead, the majority of these individuals turn their abilities to practical use.
Like construction work, for example! Parahumans aren’t just useful as fighters.
This means less conflict, and this serves the betterment of society. These sentiments mirror those that you expressed to your family and friends, as we heard in this courtroom over the last few weeks.
Sounds like Paige has a solid head between her shoulders.
“Those facts are in your favor. Unfortunately, the rest of the facts are not.
But which other facts?
Understand, Miss Mcabee, our nation uses incarceration for several reasons. We aim to remove dangerous individuals from the population and we do it punitively, both for justice against transgressors and to give other criminals pause.
I learned recently that one of the main reasons why Norwegian prisons are generally a bit nicer than American ones is that we have a different goal – instead of punishing the transgressors, the main goal is apparently rehabilitation and reformation so they’re hopefully better people when they come out.
“Each of these applies in your case. It is not only the heinous nature of the crime that must be addressed by the sentencing, but the fact that it was performed with a power.
I mean, this is obviously something with precedent. The charges specified “with a parahuman ability” in such a way that it seemed to be part of an official term.
Laws are still new in the face of parahuman criminality. We become aware of new powers on a weekly basis, most if not all warranting careful and individual attention in respect to the law.
True, there’s a lot to account for. For example, if mind control (which is presumably incredibly rare, considering mind reading is) is used to make someone do something illegal, how do you prove that in a court of law? How much accountability does the controlled party have if it can be partially resisted and they failed to do so?
In many of these cases, there is little to no precedent to fall back on. As such, the courts are forced to continually adapt, to be proactive and inventive in the face of new circumstances that parahuman abilities introduce.
It’s also another reason why the judge should not be affiliated with the PRT. The judge has a lot of power when they need to set new precedents all the time.
“It is with all of this in mind that I consider your sentencing. I must protect the public, not only from you, but from other parahumans that might consider doing as you did.
Not gonna lie, this feels very… familiar, given some recent ongoing events on Discord that I’d rather not go into detail about.
Placing you in standard detention proves problematic and exorbitantly expensive.
You ever have those moments while writing where you just feel like abruptly and arbitrarily alliterating?
It would be inhumane and harmful to your body to keep you under restraint for the duration of your incarceration.
Geez, that didn’t even occur to me as a potential part of “standard detention”.
Special facilities, staff and countermeasures would have to be arranged to keep you in isolation from other inmates. You pose a significant flight risk. Finally, the possibility of you re-entering society, by escape or parole, is particularly concerning, given the possibility of a repeat offense.
Will somebody tell me what the fuck she did, please?
“It is with this in mind that I have decided that there is sufficient cause to sentence you outside the scope of the TSPA. Guilty on two counts, the defendant, Paige Mcabee, is sentenced to indefinite incarceration within the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center.”
The noise in the courtroom was deafening. A roar of cheering and booing, movement, people standing, reporters pushing to be the first ones out the door. Only Paige seemed to be still. Cold, frozen in stark horror.
Seems to have been a contentious move… and apparently, the media are very interested in this case.
Had she been able, that might have been the moment she lost it. She would have screamed her innocence, thrown a fit, even swung a few punches. What did she have to lose? This sentence was little better than an execution. Some would say it was worse.
Yeah, it’s pretty close, really.
There would be no escape, no appeals, no parole. She would spend the rest of her life in the company of monsters. With some of the people that were kept in there, the ‘monster’ description was all too literal.
Hmm. Endbringers? And/or victims of Upsilon who happen to also be awful people?
[…can you imagine if they’d tried to lock Leviathan or even Behemoth up in the Birdcage? :P]
But she wasn’t able. She was bound and gagged. Two men that were bigger and stronger than her placed their arms under her armpits, practically carrying her out of the courtroom. A third person in uniform, a burly woman, walked briskly beside them, preparing a syringe.
Welp. Lights out if you don’t do something fast.
Panic gripped her, and with her having no way to express it, do anything with it, the hysteria only compounded itself, making her panic more. Her thoughts dissolved into a chaotic haze.
Even before the syringe of tranquilizers was jammed into her neck, Paige Mcabee fainted.
Been a while since we’ve seen one of these. 4.11, I believe?
Paige woke up and enjoyed five seconds of peace before she remembered everything that had happened.
Reality hit her like a splash of cold water in the face, somewhat literally. She opened her eyes, but found them dry, the world too bright to focus on.
Wet… light…? No.
The rest of her was damp, wet. Beads of water trickled down her face.
Ahh, it just missed the eyes.
She tried to move, and couldn’t. It was as though something heavy had been piled on top of her. The paralysis terrified her. Paige had never been able to stand being unable to move.
Very understandable. Also possibly foreshadowing for her power involving increased mobility?
When she had gone camping as a kid, she had preferred to leave her sleeping bag unzipped and be cold rather than be confined inside it.
Increased mobility also ties in well with the judge’s assertion that she’s a high flight risk, and maybe also with the ridiculous amounts of restraints. Although she did say handcuffs would’ve been enough…
It was that foam, she realized. The restraints weren’t enough, they’d sprayed her with the stuff to ensure that everything below her shoulders was covered.
Seriously? How much restraining do you even need?
It gave a little to allow her to exhale, she could even shift her arms and legs a fraction, lean in any given direction. The harder she pushed, however, the more resistance there was. The second she relaxed her efforts, everything sprung back to the same position with the foam’s rubbery pull.
She felt nausea well in her gut, her heartbeat quickening. Her breathing increased, but the mask made even her breath feel confined. The water made her mask damp, so it clung to her mouth and nose. There were slits for her nostrils and mouth, but it was so little. She could not take a deep breath without drawing water into her mouth, and with her tongue depressed, she could not swallow easily.
This all sounds incredibly uncomfortable.
At this point it seems like the main purpose of this Interlude is to give us more of an idea about how the punitive system works and what the Birdcage is like. It might also be trying to sell us on the idea that it’s unfair, but it has yet to actually give me any insight into the unfairness of this sentence that doesn’t stem from Paige’s own thoughts. Other than the judge being part of the PRT, I guess.
The room lurched, and she had to stop herself before she lost her breakfast. Puking with the mask on, she might choke. Dimly, she realized where she was. A vehicle. A truck. It had passed over a pothole.
She knew where it was taking her. But if she couldn’t get free, she was going to lose her mind before she got there.
If she can’t get free, this’ll probably be the last we see of Paige, for that matter.
“The little bird’s awake,” a girl spoke, with a hint of a nasal Boston accent.
“Mmm.” A man grunted.
This girl sounds like a jerk.
Paige knew the ‘bird’ reference was due to the stray feathers that stuck out of her scalp. Her powers had come with some extremely minor cosmetic changes, turning her hair the bright yellow of a banana or baby duck.
It affected all the hair on her body, even her eyelashes, eyebrows, the fine hairs on her arms. The feathers had started growing in a year ago, the exact same shade as her hair, only a handful at a time. At first, alarmed and embarassed, she’d clipped them off. Once she’d realized that no further changes were occurring, she’d relaxed and let them grow in, even showed them off.
Hm… And there have been details mentioned – specifically those about her family – that seem to indicate that Paige is not one of Upsilon’s guinea pigs, so I guess this is natural.
I have no clue what kind of power would tie into this, though. Flight? But how would she assault someone in a way the court would consider assault (sexual and otherwise) with that?
Paige turned her attention to the two people in the vehicle with her, glad for the distraction from her burgeoning panic. She had to force her eyes to stay open, painful as the light was, wait for her eyes to focus. Sitting on the bench beside her was a girl about her own age.
The girl had an Asian cast to her features. Her eyes, though, were a very pale blue, betraying some Western heritage. The girl wore the same orange jumpsuit as Paige, and every part of her except her shoulders and head were covered in the yellow-white foam. Her straight black hair was plastered to her scalp by the wet.
Oh, a fellow convict, huh? What’re you in here for?
The man sat on the other bench. There was more foam around him than there was around Paige and the other girl combined.
Oh jeez, someone they really don’t want moving.
Topping it off, a cage of metal bars surrounded the foam, reinforcing the setup.
…really don’t want moving.
The man was Asian as well, no less than six feet tall.
Does the girl happen to be missing a couple toes?
Tattoos swept up the sides of his neck and behind his ears, into the midst of his wet black hair; Red and green flames, and the head of what could have been a lizard or dragon, drawn in an Eastern style.
I guess they caught him, then. Good work!
He was glowering, his eyes hidden in shadows, oblivious to the endless spray of mist that sprinklers in the truck’s roof were generating.
His eyes, or his lack of them?
“Hey, little birdy,” the girl sitting across from Paige spoke. She was staring at Paige as if those cold eyes of hers could look right through her. “Here’s what we’re going to do. You lean to your right as hard as you can, then shove yourself left on my signal. But you keep facing the back door there, alright?”
Of course they have an escape plan.
And I’m pretty sure it’s going to succeed, too – I mean, there is so much pointing towards a round three against Lung, and locking Bakuda up after only one Arc with her as the antagonist (technically two, but we didn’t get to see the perspective of the characters that dealt with her) seems like a waste of an excellent character.
So this is Paige’s role here – she’s our perspective character so we can check up on Lung and Bakuda without having to go into their perspectives. Nice. 🙂
Paige glanced to her right. The back door of the truck looked like a vault door. She quickly glanced back at the Asian girl. Did she really want to turn her back to this person?
…no. But you’re gonna have to if you don’t want to go to the Birdcage.
The girl seemed to note Paige’s hesitation. She lowered her voice to a hiss that made Paige’s skin crawl. “Do it. Unless you really want to gamble on the chance that I’d be able to find you in the prison, if you don’t do as I say?”
Paige’s eyes widened. Thiswas the sort of person she was going to be locked up with. She shook her head.
Not if you help them not get locked up there!
…I shouldn’t be advocating for that. 😛
Alright, let’s miss some more inter!
(What do you mean that’s not what “Intermission” means?)
My inter still misses me, but its aim is getting better 😀
“Good, little birdy. Now lean to your right, look at the door.”
Paige did, straining her body to move as close to the door as she could.
What are they even trying to do? Tip the car over?
They’re all encased in restraints, it seems far-fetched for them to be able to move enough to pull something like that off. Not to mention that it would be incredibly difficult even without the restraints.
She heaved herself the other way, eyes still on the door. Something heavy cracked against the back of her head. She tried to pull away, sit upright again, but was stopped as the mask caught on something.
When she felt hot breath on the back of her neck, she knew what she’d caught on. The other girl had gripped the strap of the mask in her teeth.
Huh. Nice work, I suppose.
There was a tug, then the girl lost her grip, and the two of them were pulled back to their individual positions by the rubbery foam.
“Shit,” the girl growled, “Again.”
So why doesn’t Bakuda also have a mask? Does Paige’s power have to do with speech or her tongue? If she’s a frog girl like Tsuyu from My Hero Academia, you won’t see me complaining… and that would be a good way to tie the gagging and the things pointing to increased mobility together.
[Come on, dude, why would a frog girl grow feathers?]
It took two more attempts. On the first, the strap came free of the buckle. On the second, the girl gripped the mask itself and pulled.
Looks like the prisoner transporters might want to up the security even more.
Paige turned her head in the girl’s direction so the pacifier-cage on the inside of her mouth could be pulled free.
Yess, get rid of that monstrosity.
Tendrils of drool extended down from her mouth as she worked her jaw and tongue, trying to swallow properly. She let out a little whimper as sensation returned to the parts of her face that had gone numb.
“Two qweshionsh,” the Asian girl mumbled, her teeth still gripping the mask’s leather between them, “Youh poweh?”
Ahaha, I thought for a second that this was Paige talking before getting her mouth properly working again. Either way, I like it.
Paige had to work her jaw and mouth a second before she could speak, “My power? I sing. Really well.”
Huh. I was right about it involving her mouth, then!
But how the fuck do you assault someone, sexually and otherwise, by singing? Unless it’s like a siren’s song, that sounds incredibly difficult.
Speaking of which, if this power can be used offensively, it sounds like you should get Paige and Triumph together for a literal battle of the bands.
Oh, and Team FNKI from RWBY. I mean, there’s already one hole in spacetime, what’s another for a little musical combat.
To be clear, I was prepared for her power to possibly be something that didn’t really lend itself to her charges, but this obviously?? It makes me question whether the jury is also PRT-affiliated all over again.
That’s right, I’m going full conspiracy theorist over here.
The Asian girl frowned, “Whaf elth?”
“I… it makes people feel good. When I get going, I can affect them, alter their emotions, make them susceptible to following instructions.”
Ah, so it is like a siren’s song. Okay, fair enough.
The girl nodded, “Teh collah?”
Paige looked down at the heavy metal collar around her neck, “It’s set up to inject tranquilizers into my neck if I sing or raise my voice.”
“Okah,” the girl mumbled, “Take teh mahc.”
Take the what now? The mike, as in the microphone that detects the singing?
Paige nodded. They leaned away from each other, then swung together, the girl passing the mask to her. She clenched it in her teeth, feeling her jaw ache.
Ohh, the mask.
Maybe Bakuda at least can talk properly now.
By the way, while readjusting my setup after the post with the video (I’d moved the border of my split screen to see something better on the YouTube page, unsuccessfully), I accidentally caught a glimpse of the word “Lung” later in the chapter. So I guess I spoiled myself on that being confirmed, but at least it wasn’t something I was doubting in the slightest.
“Drop that and I’ll turn you inside out,” the girl spoke, “Lung. Hey, Lung? Wake up.”
You cannot be serious. I swear I didn’t read this line before making that last post! Ahahaha, that timing. 😛
That wasn’t the instance of “Lung” I caught a glimpse of, though, so I’m still spoiled that it appears at least once more in the chapter…
The man sitting opposite them raised his head a fraction, opened his eyes. Maybe. Paige couldn’t quite tell.
“I know it’s hard with the stuff they pumped into you, but I need your power. Birdy, lean forward, show him the mask.”
“Show him” would indicate that his eyes are at least healed enough that he can somewhat see.
But what exactly does Bakuda need him to do? Pyrokinesis seems like the only power Lung has that could be used on the mask somehow.
Paige did her best to push herself forward against the foam that was layered against her chest and stomach, gripping the strap in her teeth, the mask dangling below her chin.
“I need you to heat the metal, Lung,” the girl spoke. “Get it fucking hot.”
Is Bakuda trying to make a bomb from scratch, here? Like, literally right down to shaping molten metal into pieces she needs?
Lung shook his head. When he spoke, there was no Boston accent in his voice. The accent that was there made his words clipped, clearly not the voice of a native English speaker. “The water. Is too wet, too cold. And I cannot see it well.
Hm. Not sure why the water would get in the way, honestly.
My eyes have not healed entirely, and it is hard to see through this spray. Do not bother me with this.”
“Try, you miserable fucker. Failure of a leader. It’s the least you can do, after getting your ass kicked by a little girl, twice.”
Lost a bit of that old respect for Lung, have we?
Let’s not forget she beat you too, Bakuda. Though admittedly, you had her almost completely beaten at that point.
I’ve said it before: Bakuda is a much more threatening villain than Lung.
“Enough, Bakuda.” he growled. He slammed his head back against the metal of the truck’s wall behind him, as if to punctuate his statement.
“What? I couldn’t hear that,” the girl, Bakuda, grinned with a hint of mania to her expression, “Your voice is too fucking high pitched for my range of hearing! You pathetic… halfbreed… eunuch!”
Okay, now that’s a low blow.
Kind of like Taylor’s attack in the first place ;p
“Enough!” he roared, again slamming his head against the wall of the truck. “I will kill you, Bakuda, for these insults! I will tear your arm from your socket and I will shove it-“
Can you kill her?
Bombs, by nature, deal a lot of damage in an instant. In an unrestricted battle between these two, Lung starting from zero, Bakuda would likely be able to take him out long before he even started transforming.
“Pissed off?!” she interrupted him, practically screeching, “Good! Use it! Heat the motherfucking metal. The metal strip around the edges!”
I mean, sure, why not put the anger to good use.
Is this why Bakuda antagonized him in the first place, or is she just taking advantage of the situation caused by genuine frustration?
Still panting with the exertion of shouting, Lung turned his attention to the mask. Paige winced at the blast of heat against her face, started to pull away, but stopped as Bakuda spoke.
“Focus it!” Bakuda shouted, “Focus on the edges!”
The radiation of heat ceased, but Paige became aware of a stringent, smoky smell.
Sounds like a success.
“Hotter! As hot as you can get it!”
The smell was too strong, too acrid. Paige coughed a few times, hard, but she didn’t lose her grip on the mask.
“Now, birdy! Same maneuver as before, but don’t let go!”
Pulling the mask apart?
Paige nodded. She leaned away, then swung in Bakuda’s direction. What followed surprised her more than when Bakuda had bitten into the strap of the mask.
The Asian girl set about savaging the red hot metal with her teeth, digging into it even as they had to pull away.
Ah, I see, she needed to get it closer.
So to recap: We have Bakuda making what is presumably a bomb, from red hot metal, with her teeth.
Sheesh, this girl is crazy. Crazy enough for it to probably work, though.
Softer with the heat, the thin metal strip pulled free of the mask itself. The metal that ran along the strap cut Paige’s lip as it came off.
Oww. As if her poor mouth hasn’t suffered enough in this chapter.
She almost -almost- dropped the mask, but managed to snap her teeth to catch the buckle in her teeth before it could fall to the floor.
As the strip came free, Bakuda pulled back and jerked her head to one side, hard, impaling herself in the shoulder with one end of it. She screamed, and blood ran from one of the burns on her mouth.
Paige looked at Lung. The huge man did nothing, remaining silent. He only watched dispassionately as Bakuda’s chest heaved with the exertion and pain, her head hanging down.
It kinda feels like Lung has given up. Which is fair, really, considering the demise of his Abruptly Broken Band and his subsequent arrest.
“What the hell are you doing?” Paige breathed.
“No hands, have to make do,” Bakuda panted, “Again. Before my body realizes how badly I’m hurting it.”
Paige nodded. She wasn’t about to argue with the supervillain that was threatening to turn her inside out.
Usually the body realizes that kind of thing rather quickly, but fair enough.
Also, Bakuda couldn’t actually make good on that threat (yet) if Paige didn’t help, but of course Paige doesn’t know that.
The ensuing attempts weren’t any prettier or easier. The second long metal strip was freed and Bakuda impaled that one in her shoulder as well.
Gotta say, though, this is a rather unconventional use of shoulders.
The metal grilles from the exterior and interior parts of the mask were next to be pulled free. Paige was left holding only the leather portion of the mask, the straps and the covering that had gone over her mouth and nose. Seeing Bakuda gingerly balance the metal grilles on her free shoulder, against the tacky foam so they wouldn’t slip down, Paige did the same with the leather of the mask.
Might as well follow suit.
“What did you do to get sent here?” Paige asked.
If Bakuda goes into brag mode here, Paige’s reaction could be neat. 🙂
“Last I heard, before we lost power to our neighborhood, the body count was almost at fifty.”
“You killed fifty people?”
Not super brag mode, but still. It’s consise enough to fit the situation, but still gives a decent idea of the scale.
Also, I feel like she’s about to clarify that it was 50 people this time.
Bakuda grinned, and it wasn’t pretty, with her lips as ravaged as they were. “Injured more, too. And there were those who got brain damage, one or two might’ve gone homicidally insane, and I know a bunch got frozen in time for a hundred years or so… it gets blurry. Crowning moment was the bomb.”
Also… frozen in time? Does that work the same way Clockblocker’s power does? It wouldn’t be the first time Bakuda’s bombs were modeled after someone’s power. Maybe that’s how they all work.
“Bomb?” Paige asked, eyes widening.
Oh you have no idea.
“Bomb. They said it was as powerful as an atom bomb. Idiots. They didn’t even understand the technology behind it.
actually went off
and did something completely different?
That implication sounds very ominous.
Philistines. Sure, it was about that powerful, but that wasn’t even the real damage.
Wait. If it actually was that powerful in terms of raw explosive power, there’s no way they’d have missed it going off… right?
Amazing thing would’ve been the electromagnetic wave it generated.
Ah, okay, she’s talking about the hypothetical scenario of getting to use it, then.
Also isn’t this already a thing with atomic bombs? I think I’ve heard that if an atomic bomb was detonated high enough up in the athmosphere, it’d make an EMP that could take out most if not all of the U.S. power grid.
Wipe every hard drive, fry every circuit board for every piece of machinery over a full fifthof America. The effects of that? Would’ve been worse than any atom bomb.”
If the thing I just mentioned is actually true, Wildbow may have underestimated the abilities of atom bombs outside sheer explosive force.
Unable to even wrap her mind around that, Paige glanced at Lung. “And him?”
“Lung? He’s the one who told me to do it. Man in charge, he is.”
I’m not sure how long that’ll last if Bakuda’s frustrations with him were genuine.
Lung’s head moved fractionally, but with the shadows under his brow, Paige couldn’t tell if he was watching.
“You?” Bakuda asked Paige. “What’d you do to get sent here?”
There is a chance Paige will embellish to fit in, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with that if it happens.
“I told my ex to go fuck himself.”
There was a pause, then Bakuda started cackling. “What?”
“It’s complicated,” Paige looked away and down.
Oh my fucking cod did he take that literally while under the effects of her siren’s song oh my cod
“You gotta explain, birdy.”
“My name’s Paige. My stage name was Canary.”
“Ooooh,” Bakuda spoke, still cackling a little as she gripped one of the metal strips that was spearing her shoulder and pulled it free. Holding it in her teeth, she spoke, “That’sh no good. You calling yourshelf Canary in prishon?”
Jailbird might be better if it gets to that point.
“I didn’t intend on going to prison.”
“I mean, I’m not even a supervillain. My power, it makes me a fantastic singer. I was making a lot of money doing it, there was talk of record deals, we were moving to larger venues and my shows were still selling out… everything was perfect.”
See, this is an excellent example of a power being useful for things other than fighting. I love it 🙂
Bakuda let the strip swing from her teeth until it dangled, then carefully maneuvered it until she was gripping the far left side of it. She leaned back, her head facing the ceiling, as she slid the other metal strip, the one impaled in her shoulder, into her mouth as well, so she was holding one end of each strip in her mouth. Pausing, she asked, “Whaf haffen?”
Yes, I think that’s how I’ll be saying that for a while.
Paige shook her head. It was the testimony she’d never been able to speak out loud, at her trial.
Not much of a trial if the defendant doesn’t get to testify, is it?
“I’d just finished my biggest show yet. Two hours on stage, a huge hit, crowd loved it all. I wrapped up and went backstage to rest, get a drink, and ran into my ex. He told me that since he was the one who pushed me to get out on stage in the first place, he deserved credit. Wanted half the money.”
Douche alert status: red.
She laughed a little, “Ridiculous. Like I’m supposed to ignore the fact that he cheated on me and told me I was never going to make it for real when he left.”
The doucheometer just broke. I should really get a more sturdy one, considering this isn’t even the douchiest character so far.
Bakuda nodded. She pulled away from the strips, where she’d managed to tie them in the semblance of a knot. She used her teeth to bend the now-joined strips into an L-shape. With the end that wasn’t impaled in her shoulder now in a position in front of her, she closed her mouth on it.
This is sort of reminding me of, of all chapters, Shell 4.2. Much like the clothes shopping, the production of a thing that is presumably somehow going to blow up is ongoing, but takes a backseat to the dialogue. At least for me.
“We argued. Then I told him to go fuck himself. He left, and I didn’t give it a second thought… until the police showed up at my door.”
He did it.
He fucking did it.
Bakuda pulled her mouth away from the end of the strip. She’d bent it into a loose ‘v’ shape. She frowned at it, then glanced at Paige, “And?”
“And he’d done it. I- I guess I was still amped up from my performance, and my power’s effects were still empowering my voice, or he was in the audience and was pretty heavily affected. So when I told him to go fuck himself, he, um, he did.
He fucking did it ahahaha
(#oh my cod)
Or he tried, and when he found it wasn’t physically possible, he hurt himself until…” Paige closed her eyes for a moment. “Um. I won’t go into the details.”
Good job, Wildbow. You have successfully managed to sell me on someone accidentally committing both regular assault and sexual assault by talking.
And what’s more, you made it coddamn hilarious. :p
Oh hey, this doubles as looking into how the law treats mind control, like I mentioned early in the chapter.
Heh, I specifically indicated that I thought it would be incredibly rare, and then it turned out that’s pretty much part of what Paige has. It’s close, at least.
“Mmmm, shucks to be im. Oo ‘oo”
I love the “busy mouth” talk in this Interlude.
Bakuda raised her eyebrows, still working the metal strip inside her mouth. She pulled away, verified the end as being in a rough ‘o’ shape, and then gripped the strips in her teeth to pull the entire thing out of her shoulder with a grunt.
She placed the end she’d just reworked against the bench and slid her mouth down the length of the metal, so she could get a grip on the other end.
Taking hold of it in her teeth, she turned her attention to the wall of the truck between herself and Paige. There were locks placed at regular intervals against the wall, meant to secure the chain of standard handcuffs in place, for those not doused in foam.
Hm. Could it be that this isn’t a bomb at all, but rather an extended lockpick of sorts?
She began feeding the metal strap through the loop of the lock. Beads of sweat mingled with the water running down her face as she worked.
Sounds like it.
The knot joining the two straps jammed in the hole. Bakuda pushed a little harder, and wedged it firmly in place. The L-bend in the metal placed the closed ‘o’-shaped loop of metal close to Paige’s shoulder.
“Any bets on Oni showing up?” Bakuda asked Lung.
“I would be surprised,” he rumbled his response.
Oni is a man who picks his battles. This is probably not one of his top choices.
She gripped one of the metal grilles in her mouth and began working at it with her teeth. It was all one thin piece of metal, bent and woven like chain link fencing, albeit a tighter mesh. Now that it was no longer held securely in place by the metal strips, Bakuda was free to start unwinding and straightening it.
Hm. Okay, I’m officially on the chain link fence about what she’s actually making here.
When it was almost completely unwound, she adjusted her bite on it and clenched the second mass of wire, the one that had been in Paige’s mouth, in her jaws, bunching it together into a cylindrical mess about four inches long and one inch across. Still biting it, she turned her head so the mostly straight four-foot length of wire was pointing at Lung, not two feet away from his face. Her mouth still around the tangle of wire, she mumbled, “Need end hot.”
Also, it’s beginning to look more like the bomb option again.
Lung growled, but he did as he was asked. When the end was white hot, Bakuda quickly adjusted her grip, letting go and biting again until the tip was near her mouth. Lips pulled back, she bit down on it.
“How can you do that?” Paige asked, “Doesn’t it hurt?”
“No uffing hit ih urhs,” Bakuda growled.
She pulled away, set it so the handle was against the bench, the length of wire against her shoulder, and examined her handiwork. “But tooth enamel is tougher than you’d think.” She spat a measure of blood out onto the floor of the truck, then bit down twice more, pausing between bites to turn the length of metal with her teeth, lips and tongue.
If nothing else, this chapter really shows that Bakuda is very handy with her mouth.
I wonder how much pørn that fact inspired.
When she extended the length of wire in Paige’s direction, sliding it through the ‘o’ shaped end of the metal strip, Paige realized what Bakuda had spent this much time setting up. She didn’t even need to be asked to bend down against the foam restraints and crane her neck to one side, to put her collar in reach of the overlong makeshift screwdriver. The metal strip with the loop in the end served to hold the portion closest to Paige up, so Bakuda could direct it more easily.
A screwdriver, huh? Well, I guess it ended up closest to the lockpick option.
What’cha gonna screw, though?
It wasn’t fast work. Bakuda had to use her teeth, jaw and a turning of her head to rotate the screwdriver, and it was a chore to get it back in position if she lost her grip on it. Ten long minutes of silence and grunting were broken only by the sound of two screws dropping to the metal bench, before Bakuda stopped to take a rest and ease her jaw.
Is it the non-foam restraints being screwed open?
Also, one thing that occurred to me – why doesn’t this vehicle have some sort of camera in this room, allowing the driver and other PRT officers to detect antics like this?
And while things are busy occurring to me – the reason Paige would be a high flight risk in standard detention is that she could just tell one of the wardens to let her loose and guide her to the exit. Meanwhile, the Birdcage doesn’t have any wardens to control.
“You won’t be able to do anything to my collar without setting it off,” Paige spoke.
“Dumb bitch,” Bakuda muttered, sticking out her lower lip and peering down as if she could investigate the degree of damage to her own lips. “I’m a bomb expert. I understand triggers and catalysts on the same fundamental level you understand walking and breathing.
Hm, yeah, that’s fair to include as part of her power.
I can visualize mechanical things in a way you couldn’t with five college degrees and a hundred years. Insult me like that again and I’ll endyou.”
She didn’t know, Bakuda, chill.
As if pushed to prove herself, she gripped the screwdriver in her teeth again, and set to work again. A panel was pried off, and the unscrewing was resumed, deeper in the collar.
“I’ll show you, birdy. I’LL SHOW THEM ALL!”
Let’s talk consequences for a moment. Specifically, where will Paige’s story go from here?
I’m pretty much taking for granted that this escape attempt will be successful. If it weren’t, there’d be no apparent reason to have this happen in the first place. What I’m curious to see is what Paige does next – she’ll be a fugitive, so she can’t just go back to her roguish life, which means there’s a chance she’ll be coming with Bakuda and Lung on a more permanent basis, despite their moral compasses not quite aligning. There’s also the issue of whether that will be voluntary on Paige’s part, or if Bakuda will be forcing her. It could go either way – about 50/50 chance – and either direction would be quite interesting to get some follow-up on.
On the involuntary side, Paige would be in a similar situation to Bakuda’s new recruits from Shell – a good (or at least neutral) person forced into working for a terrifying super villain. Maybe she could attempt sabotage of some kind, but primarily she’d make for a good perspective into what that’s actually like.
In the voluntary direction, Paige would essentially turn from neutral to a willing lackey of evil, if you’ll excuse the overly dramatic terminology. It would be interesting to see how that came about, and it would be cool to see the protagonists (not to be confused with the heroes) up against an antagonistic Canary – or perhaps, Siren. I think I personally prefer this route.
Either way, I’m all for Paige potentially working with Bakuda, Lung and maybe Oni after the heist.
There is of course the chance that she doesn’t, but because of her status as a fugitive, she might be forced to resort to villainy, solo or otherwise. That would also be neat, though we probably wouldn’t see her very often.
Unless of course she went and joined the Undersiders, but that seems very unlikely.
Two sessions and the scroll bar is only about 40% of the way down the page? That’s including the comments section, but jeez, “long-ish” indeed.
But yeah, it’s 1 AM, so I think I’m gonna cut it here. Let’s continue this on Monday. 🙂
[End of session]
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
i love your liveblogs and all
but 1am is a bit late for the blogs
Anthyding Can Krixpun:
Oh yeah, I’ve been keeping up with both Krix’s blog and Lore’s today
Anthyding Can Krixpun:
I started at about 7:30 PM
and I’m still nowhere near done with the chapter
that I had already done one session on
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
You’re not far, but not exactly close.
I can give you the wordcount, if ya want.
Anthyding Can Krixpun:
I know roughly how much is left in terms of scrollbar.
I tend to check with high speed and blurry eyes to make sure I’m not close to the end when I end a session
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
ooo, yeah, longer than i thought
Anthyding Can Krixpun:
I have about half left, as far as I could tell
What other live bloggers. Is Wy doing something
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
Krix was doing something.
He was doin’ Worm.
If you don’t know what Worm is.
Also Minda just started up
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
You should go read it.
The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
Now, I don’t think Krix is doing the worm mind
Anthyding Can Krixpun:
I can neither confirm nor deny that I am constantly doing the worm.
Zero is Justice!:
Man Krix does dancing is in its new season and it’s break dancing? Sweet
Let’s see if we can’t get these three would-be fugitives out of the car tonight, shall we?
Paige hesitated to talk again, knowing how easy the girl was to provoke, but the silence was crushing. “I guess it’s a good thing this is a long drive, from Boston to British Columbia.”
Oh, so that’s where the Birdcage is.
Wait, did I know that already? I feel like I might’ve known that and forgotten. *searches blog* Ah, yes, it was mentioned back in Hive 5.2, during Hookwolf’s introduction. Which, incidentally, is rather fitting to look back at right now, since he’s said to have escaped during the transport at least twice. Sounds like they really shouldup the security on the transport even more.
…y’know, it’s kinda silly how it’s still called British Columbia, even though it hasn’t been British territory in the last 146 years. Canadian Columbia?
“You were asleep a while,” Bakuda pulled away from the screwdriver, talking softly, as if to herself. “Not as long as you think.”
Hm. So where are we right now, then? Washington state? Canadian British Columbia, in the final stretch up to the Birdcage?
Paige felt something come free from the heavy collar around her neck, saw Bakuda tilt the screwdriver upward, sliding a glass tube with something glowing inside down the length of the metal bar After another few minutes, another piece of machinery joined the glass tube, as though it were a high-tech shish-kabob.
Now what is this?
“Tragic,” Bakuda spoke, on her next rest. “This is beautiful work. Not the actual assembly, that’s crap. It’s obvious the tinker that designed this intended it to be put together by regular schmoes. Wouldn’t have screws and shit, otherwise.
Heh. “SCREWS? PAH! I AM ABOVE SUCH MUNDANE ATTACHMENT OPTIONS!”
But the way it’s designed, the way everything fits together… makes a scientist proud. Hate to butcher it.”
Sometimes you can’t help but respect the thing you’re breaking apart.
Paige nodded. She didn’t know enough about that sort of thing to risk commenting. As scary as this situation was, as curious as she was, she felt the lingering effect of tranquilizer in her system, an impending boredom.
She closed her eyes.
Try not to fall back asleep. I don’t think Bakuda would take that very well.
It didn’t feel like her eyes were closed for more than a minute before she was woken by a shout of “Birdy!” Paige jolted awake, turned to Bakuda, and saw the work was done.
Eh, fair enough. That’s a pretty decent conceit for a minor time skip, I suppose.
Bakuda hadn’t just disabled the collar, but had assembled components into a roughly sphere-shaped setup of metal and wires. It dangled from the remains of the mask and strap, which Bakuda held in her teeth.
Ahh, there we go. Now we’re cooking with explosives!
Lung spoke, his voice low, slightly accented, “We have stopped. Her device will buy us time, and you will use it to sing. The bomb will not do much damage, but it will slow them and dose anyone hit with a small amount of sedatives. This will make it easier for you to control them, Bakuda says. You will then get them to free us.”
Hm, yes, sounds like a good plan.
Someone just accidentally spoiled that we don’t learn what route they took by raising the question (suggesting the route via Seattle), and by extension confirmed that the place we’ve just stopped at is either near or at the destination, or unknown. (You may notice I don’t have a screenshot – the message was deleted, but it was too late.)
It’s a pretty minor thing, but still, I’m posting this for transparency.
Paige’s eyes went wide. She nodded.
It’s time to sing, jailbird!
There was a loud sound outside the truck, and Bakuda started swinging the device left and right like a pendulum. The metal doors at the back of the truck slammed open, and Bakuda let go. The device rolled out the door.
Here we go!
Paige sang, not stopping as the device detonated, rocking the truck. Her song was wordless. She was her own accompaniment, using the acoustics of the truck’s interior to generate echoes. She charged her voice with her power, willing those who heard it to obey, to submit in a way she’d never done before.
The siren sings a wordless song, a treacherous song, a villainous song.
It might have worked, if there was anyone around to hear it.
So, uh, if a Paige sings in a car and no one’s around to hear it, did she still sing?
A giant metal claw entered the back of the truck, closed around Lung, and dragged him out. When the claw returned to claim her, she stopped singing, started shrieking instead.
Well, shit. Looks like the Protectorate thought of this kind of thing.
That said… metal? Maybe not the best thing to use against Lung.
“No!” Bakuda’s screams joined her own, behind her, “Fuck you! No! No! I had a fucking plan!”
Once again, information is key. Bakuda had a good plan, but it was based on incomplete information, so it failed. Now she has to come up with a plan B very quickly if she wants to avoid getting caged.
The arms moved along slats in the ceiling, carrying them through what looked like a massive underground bunker. Everything was concrete, and the room was so vast that Paige could not even see any of the walls.
See, the problem with the whole concept of the Birdcage as a prison no parahuman has ever escaped is that the parahumans are so damn varied. On every turn in its design, they needed to find something no villain could use to get out, which is harder than it might sound. Take the material of the walls, for example – whatever they pick, there’s bound to be a villain who can bend it to their will out there.
It seems like the most viable tactic would be to stack loads of unrelated things on top of each other and hope that none of the villains can manipulate all of those things – and even then, all you need is a bit of teamwork.
And then there’s the teleporters and phasers. What’s in place to prevent a phaser like Shadow Stalker from just walking through the walls? What’s to prevent a powerful teleporter from being halfway across the continent two seconds after he’s put into the prison?
We’ve already spent half the chapter seeing how the restraints the PRT uses for parahumans can be overcome, so that’s not a good answer to how this prison has allegedly had no escapes.
Hm… honestly, I think the most escape-proof option would be a void dimension. Nothing there but air and a rift to deposit new prisoners, not even gravity. Naturally, this would be equivalent to a death sentence, as the prisoners would soon die of thirst.
And even then there’s no guarantee there won’t be someone with the power to dimension hop.
So yeah, apparently this bit is made of concrete.
There was only the ceiling twenty or thirty feet above them and the floor, extending endlessly around them, lit by florescent lights at regular intervals. The only thing breaking up the empty expanse was the armored truck bearing the PRT identification on the side and a black square attached to the ceiling, further down.
A black square? Curious.
The arms arranged them in front of the black square – an oversized monitor.
Ahh. Welcome committee?
A face, clearly a CGI rendering intended to mask the real identity of the speaker, appeared on the screen. When the voice came from the speakers, the filter intended to disguise the woman’s voice didn’t quite hide her strong accent. Paige tried to place it. Not Southerner, not Cockney, but maybe similar? She’d heard someone with that accent before.
I wonder if it’s someone we know. Probably not, though – Miss Militia isn’t that high-ranking, and we don’t really know many other adult parahumans enough to identify them by voice.
“Prisoner 599, codename Lung. PRT powers designation Brute 4-9 asterisk, Blaster 2-6 asterisk, fire and heat only.
Hm, interesting. It’s time for some more terms in the vein of Tinker.
Brute 4-9*, Blaster 2-6*, fire and heat only.
I’m really not sure how to read the numbers, and certainly not the asterisks, but I’m thinking they’re subclasses – for example, the numbers 4-9* might tell trained PRT personnel that Lung’s Brute powers come with a gradual transformation, and 2-6* might tell them that he has large control over the thing he’s blasting. I’m surprised she specifies “only” fire and heat – it makes it sound like Blasters usually can use pretty much anything? I mean, if it were the norm to specify the thing they can manipulate after the designation, there wouldn’t be a need for the word “only”.
think I’ve figured out why Paige’s power slips around the thing I said about mind control being incredibly rare: The whole reason mindreading is rare as fuck is that it would take an incredible amount of brainpower to process what is going on in another brain while also dealing with your own. My rationale for mind control of humans being even rarer was that it usually has mind reading as a prerequisite or secondary power.
(Much like how Taylor, who is technically mind controlling bugs – and is capable of doing so because their simple brains don’t require anywhere near as much brainpower on Taylor’s part to deal with – has access to the individual bugs’ sensory impressions and such.)
But that’s not actually the case with Paige. Her power is indirect mind control – her voice makes people susceptible to suggestions, neither requiring Paige to read minds nor change them directly. A true mind controller of humans is probably incredibly rare or non-existent, and Paige does not fall under that category.
(#idk maybe i’m being captain obvious here)
Individuals reading or viewing this log are directed to see page three and four of prisoner’s file for particulars on powers.
Fair. The parahumans are varied enough that it would be very hard to condense every detail about someone’s power into the powers designation.
Recommended protocols were properly carried out with sprinkler system and added restraints.
Heh, they doused him, nice.
Chance of escape following interment in the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center rests at a fairly steady .000041% with no gross deviations in any likely scenarios. Within acceptable limits. Will be processed to cell block W.”
…well, at least they acknowledge that there’s some chance of escapes.
“You’re Dragon,” Bakuda spoke, eyes widening, “No shit. Best tinker in the fucking world. I’d say I’m a fan, but I’d be lying.”
It took me a moment to connect the dots here, but it seems Bakuda recognized the woman on the screen. Dragon, huh? Something to bond with Lung over, I suppose, if that were something she’d want.
Paige couldn’t help but react to that as well. Dragon had designed the Birdcage and much of the gear the PRT used, including the containment foam. She was head and shoulders above any of the other tinkers that went out in power armor.
Dragon sported a wildly different suit each time she deployed. Her stuff was so advanced that a group of criminals who had gotten away with stealing a damaged suit of her armor were now using that same technology to operate as top of the line mercenaries – the Dragonslayers.
Oh yeah, those were mentioned back in Interlude 5.
Hm, I wonder if the tracker was part of what was damaged. I mean, I’m assuming there was one, because if any Tinker is gonna be “worth a damn”, it’s this one.
Dragon was also Canadian, which was the detail Paige needed to peg her accent as that of a Newfoundlander. Not an accent one heard very often, these days.
Ahh, I see.
I guess that tells us Paige has been in touch with or otherwise heard Newfoundlanders in her time, though that doesn’t seem like particularly useful information.
“Prisoner 600, codename Bakuda. PRT powers designation Tinker 6 with bomb speciality. Recommended protocols were not properly carried out.”
Hm, interesting. Would recommended protocols have prevented the (surprisingly unsuccessful) escape attempt that covered a large portion of this chapter?
The formal tone of the voice dropped away as she muttered, “I hate to get someone fired, but I’m going to have to report this. Supposed to be in an S-class containment truck and placed no less than six feet from other prisoners… well, at least nothing came of it.”
Ahh, yes, it would. Someone fucked up.
“Fuck you, Dragon,” Bakuda snarled.
Heh, she’s not exactly happy to be reminded of the failure, is she.
“…Chance of escape from the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center is .000126% with potential gross deviation in the event of introduction of contraband material or a matter producer.
Significantly higher risk than Lung. Not surprising, really, with the difference in their powers.
And that last part is another point against the security of the prison – the least bit of teamwork among prisoners can make a massive difference.
…so, uh, why are they telling these things to the prisoners, anyway? It’s just gonna give them ideas for how to maximize their chance of escape.
With monitoring this chance drops to .000061%. Will be processed to cell block C.”
As I pointed out earlier in the chapter, why wasn’t the transport vehicle monitored?
“Prisoner 601, codename Canary. PRT powers designation Master 8. Recommended protocols were properly carried out, with provided restraints and no human personnel being brought within three hundred yards of said individual’s position. Hi Canary.”
Ah, the claws may not have been typical procedure. They might’ve been the Birdcage’s way of handling the special protocols.
I wonder, were the transport vehicles self-driving? Either that, or very, very long.
With Dragon going “Hi Canary”, I wonder if she’s a fan.
Paige blinked a few times in surprise, “Hi?”
“I followed your trial. I thought it was a damn shame things went like they did.
Sympathetic to her, at least.
I get that it was a reckless accident, but you don’t deserve to be here. I even wrote a letter to your judge, the DA and your governor saying as much. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.”
Well, you tried, at least.
The sympathy hit Paige hard. It was all she could do to stop herself from bursting into tears.
Finally someone who understands, and it’s the person who created and is presumably in charge of the prison she’s been sentenced to spend the rest of her life in. Damn.
“I’m afraid I’ve got to do my job, and that means carrying out my role in enforcing the law. You understand? Whatever my feelings, I can’t let you go.”
…hm. I wonder if Paige’s power would work over video chat, or if electronic transmission ruins the effect.
“Listen, I’m sticking you in cell block E. The woman that put herself in charge of that cell block goes by the codename Lustrum.
That sounds vaguely familiar? No results on a blog search, though.
She’s a pretty extreme feminist and misandrist, but she protects the girls in her block, and it’s also the block furthest from the hole the men opened into the women’s half of the Birdcage.
Well. That’s something, I guess.
If you’re willing to play along, buy in or pretend to buy into her way of thinking, I think she’ll keep you safest.”
Paige didn’t have words to reply. She just nodded.
“Ok. Prisoner 601’s Chance of escape from the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center is .000025% with no gross deviations. Do you three understand why I’m telling you this?”
I can understand why you’d tell them this part – let them know just how bad their odds are, to prevent them from even trying. I just don’t get why you’d point out what could make their odds better.
“Our chances of escaping are pretty slim,” Bakuda spoke.
“Yes. The Baumann Detention Center is a structure so complex I had to design an artificial intelligence to put it together.
It’s situated inside of a hollowed out mountain, the walls of which are lined with layers of a ceramic of my own design, each such layer separated by volumes of dormant containment foam. If you punched a hole in the outside of the mountain, you’d only wind up with more foam than you knew how to handle.
Neat. That would be helpful against breakouts from the inside and from the outside.
“That’s the mountain. The prison itself is nicknamed the Birdcage because it is suspended in the center of the empty mountain, hanging only by the same network of tubes that supplies prisoners and food to the cell blocks.
Huh, that’s really cool.
Both the interior of the tubes and the interior of the mountain itself are vacuums. Even if an individual were to have powers allowing them to navigate the vacuum, I have three thousand antigrav drones in position at any given time, laying dormant in that lightless void, waiting for any signal, motion, energy or air leakage to awaken them.
So, uh, how the fuck is the mountain shell still intact? There must be some incredibly sturdy architecture in play to keep the mountain from collapsing under the weight of itself and the air above it.
And what happens if a villain has the ability to hijack the drones?
Once awakened, a drone will move to the location of said anomaly and detonate. Many of my drones contain a loadout of containment foam, but others contain payloads designed to counteract various methods one could theoretically use to traverse the vacuum. Some are quite lethal.”
That said, it’s a fairly decent tactic.
“These are not the only measures I have taken, but it wouldn’t do to inform you of everything I have done to secure this facility.
I was kind of wondering why you were laying it out in such detail.
Know only that your chance of successful escape is negligible, and the chance of you dying or being maimed for attempting it is much higher.”
I’m still thinking there’s going to be a mass breakout by the time this story ends, though.
“Know that while I do retain control over the structure and the ability to observe those within, enabling me to respond to emergencies such as natural disasters, you will not be able to manipulate this to your advantage. I will not, cannotintervene should a hostage be taken, or if an individual should threaten or perform damage to vital or luxury resources.
So basically the inside is gonna be a hellhole plagued by destruction and maybe death, as Dragon can’t do anything about it. Great!
There was no other way to run the prison effectively than to have you police and protect yourselves. I stress: nothing you do can convince me to free you. The elevators to the Baumann Detention Center go one way. Down.”
“It’s really a massive pain. I keep having to send people over to blow them up and install new elevators at the top every time someone’s put into the prison.”
“I will be depositing you in the elevators now. You will be provided with a limited measure of oxygen, sufficient only to carry you safely to the bottom. Should you slow or stop the lift, or attempt to scale the interior of the tube, I expect you will likely fall unconscious, suffer brain damage or die for your trouble.
Damn, she’s crafty.
A counteragent for the containment foam will be applied as you descend, so that you are free before you reach the bottom.”
Imagine how much trouble the Protectorate would have if they encountered a villain whose powers included rapidly secreting containment foam counteragent.
Lung and Bakuda were carried off in different directionis. Paige was the last to be carried away by the robotic arms.
“I am sorry, Paige Mcabee,” Dragon’s tinny voice sounded, as the arm set her down. “Good luck.”
The ground beneath her shifted, and then she descended.
Welp, here she goes.
Lung walked with confidence to the ‘hole’, a word with double meaning, as it referred to the actual hole in the wall, as well as the more vulgar term for why many in the men’s half of the Birdcage went there – it was the sole route into the women’s prison.
Meeting up with Bakuda immediately, are we?
A group of women were on guard on the other side of the hole, standing or sitting at various vantage points there.
“Who’re you?” one of the women asked him. She was a striking woman with coffee colored skin and a mouthful of teeth that looked like knife blades.
“I am Lung.”
Hm… Considering the events of late Shell, Hive and early Tangle, Lung might be more globally infamous right now than he ever was before. They might recognize the name.
“Which cell block are you in?” this question came from a heavyset woman that looked more like a middle aged soccer mom than a prisoner. Lung noted, however, how each of the other girls that were on guard turned to listen when she spoke.
Hm, might this be Lustrum?
“W, ma’am,” he spoke, taking extra care to not offend.
“You want a girl?”
“I am here only to visit one of my subordinates. Cell block C.”
Yup, meeting up with Bakuda alright.
I’m not sure whether the heavyset woman is Lustrum or the exact opposite of Lustrum, a pimp.
“Even if you aren’t buying, can’t let you through for free.
…pimp it is.
Gotta pay something. Marquis runs your cell block, still? Divvies up the cancer sticks from his food crates fairly enough?”
Cancer sticks? My immediate thought would be cigars, but I don’t see why those would be in the food crates.
“Yes.” Lung reached into his pocket and retrieved a half-carton of cigarettes. He handed them over.
Apparently they are. Well, cigarettes. That was my first immediate thought, I just changed it to cigars because they were more literally sticks.
“Good boy. Listen, Glaistig Uaine runs the cell block you’re going to. You keep some of these sticks, you give them to her, so as not to insult her.”
“I will. Thank you for this advice.”
Lung is really a rather polite guy, when he wants to be.
Glaistig Uaine sounds like a Welsh, or at least Gaelic, name. Not sure what else to make of it, though.
“I do like a polite boy. You run along, now.”
He bowed his head in respect, then walked briskly to the next cell block. A smaller contingent of guards awaited him there, and he handed over the remaining cigarettes, specifying them as a gift for Glaistig Uaine. The guards parted to let him through.
The cell blocks seem sort of like little kingdoms. It’s interesting how structures like these form when you leave a bunch of people to themselves for a while with no existing power structure to follow.
He found Bakuda in a cell all to herself. The walls of the prison were all metal of some sort, painted a dark blue, but Bakuda had scratched formulas and sentences into the walls of her cell, where they glittered silver-gray in the right light. Her cot was pulled into the center of the room to give her more surface to write on.
“Bakuda,” he spoke.
She seems to be trying to figure out some way to get out. Not particularly surprising – she’s really not the type to give up.
Okay, one thing I need to address – it seems like some time has passed. Not enough for Lung to no longer be “new”, but enough for Bakuda to scratch all this into her walls, and enough for Lung to be confidently aware of the leadership in his cell block and walk around the prison with a sense of purpose.
I’m not sure quite how much time that amounts to, though.
“Lung! This place is amazing!” she grinned maniacally, her scarred lips spread wide, “I thought it would suck, but it’s… it’s like being inside the fucking Mona Lisa of architecture. Genius shit. She wasn’t lying about this place being inside a vacuum, but what’s amazing is what happens when you breach the outside.
She’s not necessarily scrawling about how to get out, though I’m not ruling out that she might also be doing that…
She’s nerding out. She’s fangirling.
See, she didn’t make this place tough. It’s fragile. Like she built the most complex house of cards ever.
You knock a hole in the wall, and you’re not only pretty much guaranteed to off yourself, but the change in air pressure changes the room configuration, seals off the space so the breach doesn’t affect anyone in other rooms.
Damn. This really is pretty cleverly set up.
And even if you stop the main bits from sliding down, the drop in air pressure carries into the next room, and that room seals off. I could spend a decade figuring out how she did this. And that’s the simplest part of it. In busier areas-“
At least she’s got something to do while she’s stuck here!
“I do not care about this,” Lung interrupted her breathless rambling.
I mean, fair. Kinda rude, but fair.
…huh. I just realized something: Lung reminds me of Gregor. It’s somewhat the contractionless speech, but it’s also parts of their demeanor (outside battle, anyway) – rather calm and slow, a bit quiet.
Bakuda stopped and wheeled around, still grinning. “Ok. How you doing?”
“Satisfactory. My eyes are healing, but I am still having trouble seeing color. I do not like the leader of my cell block, but he is a fair man.
Hm. Sounds like it might’ve been a couple of days.
He has given me his favor in exchange for telling him about Brockton Bay, a place he once operated. This has helped ensure I am not bothered.
Hm. Marquis once operated in Brockton Bay… I’m gonna go out on a looong limb and suggest he might be Panacea’s father. It’s a bit of a wild guess, but yeah.
That, and the prisoners seem to wait to see what each new inmate can do before they pick him as a target.”
This makes a lot of sense. In a regular prison, you’d usually be able to tell how tough someone is likely to be by their appearance, but that’s far from the case with parahumans.
“Yep. It looked pretty grim for me for a few days, but when the freaky girl in charge of this block found out I could fix the televisions here, things suddenly got a lot easier.”
Ahh, so a little more than a few days. Possibly a week or two?
Honestly, it seems a bit risky to have televisions in the same prison as Bakuda. I bet she could manage to make a bomb from the parts.
She raised an eyebrow, smiling. “So. Why the visit? Feeling lonely?”
She dropped the smile in the blink of an eye. “Then explain.”
“This is your first time in a prison, yes?”
Was he concerned about her safety?
“I was in prison before I came to America. There are four ways one can survive in such a place.
You can join one of the gangs or groups in charge. This was not possible for me then, for I was known to be half Japanese, half Chinese, and there was no gang willing to include such a person.
Hey! Backstory for Lung that sheds some light on why the Allflavor Bean Bags recruited across national borders the way they did!
Lung himself is multinational and was excluded from gangs because of it, so he started one of his own that would take in any Asian person regardless of specific nationality. I like it. 🙂
It is not a possibility for me now, either, for I am too used to being in charge to bow and scrape for any length of time without losing my patience. It is the route I see you have taken here.”
“Sure,” Bakuda eyed him warily.
Makes sense. After a while as a leader, you stop having the self-image you’d want a henchman to have.
“The second option is to be somebody’s bitch. They give you their protection in exchange for the most base of services. You understand why I would not take this route.”
“I get it, yeah.”
“The remaining options are to either kill someone or to be seen as a madman. In such cases, one demonstrates he is too dangerous or unpredictable to be fucked with.”
One requires guts, though… possibly not your own. The other requires acting skill. I’m honestly thinking the latter might be harder.
“So what are you doing?”
“I thought I would choose the third and fourth.”
Both of them? You don’t seem to be playing the part…
…you’re not implying you’re gonna be seen as a madman for killing someone you’ve identified as your subordinate, are you?
Bakuda’s eyes went wide. She backed away, then realized the futility of the move. Lung stood in the middle of the one doorway that led out of the cell. “Why?”
It… seems Bakuda interpreted it the same way.
“You insulted me. You failed me. Because I must kill someone, and killing a subordinate of mine who others have cause to protect should also mark me as sufficiently unpredictable. Others will fear me after this.”
Bakuda is pretty much defenseless here, unless she’s actually been making bombs after all. The only thing she can really do is talk or flee, and the latter is looking difficult.
She could point out that the insults were (possibly) just an effort to get him to help out in the escape attempt, but that would only partially remove one of Lung’s reasons.
Also, if they both make it out of the Birdcage alive, this is going to be a sore spot between them. We might get to see a more independent Bakuda against Brockton Bay if she survives.
“I… I insulted you to get your power going, you know?” she squeaked, “I did it to help our escape.”
Good first step. Let’s hope he believes it, and cares. But I doubt it’ll be enough.
“I might have overlooked it for this reason, but we did not escape. You failed me, both here and in the city.”
Why can big bads never seem to understand the concept of “doing one’s best”?
(Although I’m not sure Lung is going to be the Big Bad, he’s at least a big bad.)
She flicked her arm, and an arrangement of bedsprings and twisted scrap metal dropped from her sleeve into her open hand. “I’ll punch a hole in the outside of the cell if you come any closer. Air flows out of the room, door seals shut, we both suffocate.”
Hm. “I’m taking you with me” is a strange gambit, really, but it might be effective.
And of course she seems to have made a bomb. :p
“You are not fast enough.”
Aw shit. And that’s a damn cliffhanger in an Interlude.
So, the two probable outcomes we’ve been presented with: Bakuda dies, or Bakuda and Lung die. Either way, Bakuda dies.
I’m honestly thinking this is a false dichotomy. For instance, Bakuda might find herself not capable of pulling off the murder-suicide, but capable of evading Lung some other way, and maybe then making the hole, killing Lung. What I’m saying is that we’re presented with a dichotomy where either option leads to Bakuda’s death, and that honestly makes me think there’s a good chance she won’t die and will come back later as a twist.
There’s that, or this might quite simply be tying up the loose end that was Bakuda. I have no fucking clue.
I’m definitely hoping for Bakuda’s return, at least. Somehow.
End of Interlude 6
Well, that was a ride from start to finish!
We started with an unfair sentencing following an unfair trial, as Paige Mcabee got sentenced to life in prison with the worst of the worst for what we later found out was the act of accidentally causing her ex-boyfriend to literally go fuck himself. Then bam, suddenly we meet our old friends Lung and Bakuda, on their way to the same prison.
A large portion of the chapter was spent on an ultimately (and surprisingly!) fruitless escape attempt as Paige got to know Bakuda and to some extent Lung. I was so sure that would succeed! But I guess I got bamboozled. Well played, Wildbow.
Then we learned a few things about the Birdcage as we said farewell to Paige (probably forever – I don’t expect to see her again, at least not as anything more than a cameo if/when there’s a mass breakout from the Birdcage). It’s a very interesting building, though I’m still not 100% sold on its ability to contain all kinds of parahuman indefinitely.
And holy hell, that ending cliffhanger. There were two possible outcomes presented, and I’m left unsure about even the one thing the outcomes have in common. I went into that in much more depth in the last post, though, no need to rehash it all here.
A+, Wildbow. Excellent work.
Next time, we’re moving on to Arc 7, which according to the link I checked to make sure there wasn’t, like, another Interlude here, is called Buzz. I suppose it was only a matter of time before that word showed up for an Arc title! I’m going to leave the speculation on what that could mean for the intro post to Buzz 7.1, though.
Before that, though, there’s an Arc thoughts post to do, which I think I’ll save for tomorrow.
See ya then!