Buzz 7.4: Callout Posts

Source material: Worm, Buzz 7.4

Originally blogged: October 18-20, 2017


ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOU– I mean, hi! It’s time for me to read some more Worm!

So, last chapter seemed to conclude the Taylor/Rachel bonding time for now – but Brian is on his way, so I don’t think we’ll be leaving the doghouse just yet. Unless we’re going back to the Loft, I suppose, or (unlikely) skipping Brian’s reaction to what happened last chapter with the E88 members trying to either drive Rachel out or kill her – an incident which may have large lasting consequences, depending on how much Kaiser sees through his lackeys’ bullshit, how much he cares that it’s bullshit if he does, and how much he personally wants the Undersiders out of his way.

For the first two points, I’m guessing “easily” and “not particularly”, respectively, but for the third, it’s a bit less clear. I get the impression that Kaiser sees the Undersiders as not particularly threatening, but they are a minor obstacle when it comes to taking over the Docks, which has been a known goal of the E88 ever since Interlude 2. On top of that, Kaiser is a manipulative bastard who knows how to spin people, so he may very well have hidden his true opinions on the Undersiders behind a more careless facade. And if he’s figured out that the Undersiders work for Coil, or if he eventually does, all bets are off.

…I seem to have talked more about the events of last chapter than about this chapter in this post. Oh well, I suppose that’s what happens when I have next to no idea what this chapter will be about (other than Brian’s reaction).

But hey, you know what that means? It means I’d better dive in and find out!


Brian arrived as Bitch and I were trudging through the field with shovels and trash bags in hand. Not the image I wanted him to get of me, but I was glad to see him nonetheless.

Feel free to elaborate on what image you do want him to get of you any time, Taylor :3

(I for one think Brian would be the type to appreciate that his potential mate is willing to get her hands dirty to help a friend.)

I’d rinsed off using the tap at the dog’s water trough, but I was still covered in dirty paw prints, grass stains, and my skin still itched with the feeling of bugs crawling on me.

Yeeah, I can see that not being a particularly comfortable state to be in as your crush arrives.

I had little doubt that with my wet hair and the state of my clothes, that I looked pretty damn grungy.

Ahaha

“pretty damn grungy” is almost as funny to me as “mucho cred”. :p


“There’s bullet holes in the front door,” Brian spoke from the other side of the chain link fence, raising his voice to be heard over the torrent of barks.

Yes. Yes there are.

He was wearing his costume and helmet, but had the visor flipped up and he wasn’t shrouded in his darkness. From a distance, he’d look like some guy in motorcycle gear.

That’s… actually very handy. Most capes with secret identities and a power that doesn’t transform them need a place to change clothes, but Grue’s costume can pass for regular clothes if he just turns off his power.

“Quiet,” Bitch ordered, and the dogs fell silent. Seeing what the other dogs were doing, the few who hadn’t learned the command stopped after one or two more barks as well.

Showing how “they’ll learn from the pack” works in practice, nice.

“Yeah, they fired off their guns a few times,” I told him.

“And you’re still here,” he said, in mild disbelief.

“My call,” Bitch told him.

Gonna take a little more than just some guns to get Rachel packing.

“It’s a bad call,” he admonished her.

“I’m not leaving.”

I agree with both sides on some level. Not leaving stands a good chance of provoking larger scale harrassment or even full-scale attacks by the E88, but on the other hand, I completely understand not wanting to let them bully her around and get their way.

Hm. “Bully her around”, huh? I wonder what Taylor’s stance on this is going to be. She’s spent a long time avoiding her own bullies and not standing up to them, because that’s what she felt worked best to minimize her own trouble and she had no effective way to stand up for herself. But a) this time she actually does – there’s no moral issue with using her power against the E88, especially E88 capes, b) this isn’t about protecting herself, but rather a friend, and c) Taylor has changed over the last few weeks. She’s gotten a lot more willing to stand up for herself, both in general and against the Harpies.

Then again, she’s also rather cautious and wants a minimal amount of bloodshed, even if it’s E88 blood.

This could go either way. I think my bet is that Taylor will be somewhat conflicted, but ultimately side with Rachel on this.


Brian folded his arms. “Is your pride or stubbornness worth getting those dogs hurt?”

Well, he knows where to hit. Rachel might not care if she gets hurt, but if her dogs do?

She scowled and looked down at the dogs.

“The thing they said about the hotdogs,” I spoke, quiet, “About poisoning your dogs. You couldn’t stop them unless you were here twenty-four seven, and maybe not even then.”

“It’s cowardly,” Bitch spat the words.

Do you mean the hot dog thing, or leaving?

Probably the latter.

“They’re cowards,” I told her. “Pretty much the definition of anyone who joins a hate group.

Get dunked on, ya hate-filled bastards.

It’s true! They’re cowards who fear and hate things that aren’t actual threats and seek the support of others with the same fear and hate. Yoda might have a thing or two to say about this.

In other news I suddenly understand why some forms of this fear carries labels ending in -phobia. I don’t like it any more than I already did, though – a true phobia is an anxiety disorder and as a former insectophobiac, I would rather not have it be equated to the kind of hate you see from islamophobes and the like.

But even if they did take a more direct approach, would you be able to handle it? Could you deal if twenty people showed up with guns? Or if Night and Fog dropped by at three in the morning, when it was just you and these guys?”

RIP Rachel.

Also, looks like Taylor’s cautious side won out.


“I can handle myself.”

I sighed a little and planted my shovel in the ground. I had to think of a way to convince her. If I lost my patience in the face of her stubbornness, she would win the argument, and we would all lose.

The “you get to punch me if I piss you off” thing is still in effect, right?

“I know. But isn’t it better to rely on us? To actually handle this instead of going it alone, hiding and letting those fuckers have the power?”

“I’m not hiding,” she gave me an angry look. “I’m protecting-”

You’re gonna have a hard time protecting anything on your own if the E88 scale this up.

Brian interrupted her, “Protecting your dogs would mean taking them somewhere safe.”

She shook her head violently. “No. I do that, the fuckers win.”

Ah, yes, there it is.

It’s stubbornness and pride versus the caring for her dogs, and so far the former actually seems to be winning out.

“I’ve been there,” I told her. “Really, I know what you mean.

Even if my ultimate prediction was wrong, I’m going to take this as proof that I was at least partially right about the logic that led me there.

But our number one priority is keeping you and those dogs safe. Once we’ve handled that, we can focus on dealing with any threats.”

Though I suppose “protecting a friend” should’ve been in the other column.


She drummed her fingers against her thigh, looking back toward the building.

Looks like you’ve at least got her thinking.

“We are going to deal with them?” she made the question a challenge.

“Yes,” Brian spoke. “I don’t like that these guys are moving into this area.

Nice. Withdraw from this battle, but don’t give up on the war.

The War of the Docks is building up on multiple fronts, like we honestly knew it would ever since Interlude 2.

I don’t like that they’d go so far as to attack a member of our group. If we don’t do something to respond soon, it’s going to hurt our rep. We needreputation, it protects us, gives people reason to think twice before they fuck with us.”

Such as by trying to chase them out of a neighborhood.

“No, man, the E88 tried that and look what the Undersiders did to them!”

Bitch nodded. “Okay.”

Brian quirked an eyebrow, “Okay what?”

Okay, you’re leaving?

“I’ll go, and the dogs come with.”

Nice. It’s time to find a new doghouse.

Oh hey, didn’t someone offer to make you one recently?


He smiled, “Good. I don’t think I can hop this fence without getting on the bad side of those dogs, so I’m going to meet you around at the front door. I’ll call Coil on the way”

Heh, nice one on bringing up Coil immediately after Rachel decided she needed a thing Coil offered her. Is he going to play up that he’s about to tell Coil no thanks to all the offers, including the one he made to Rachel, in the hopes that she’ll change her mind on the spot?

“Alright,” I said. As he turned to leave, I raised my hand in the lamestlittle goodbye wave ever. Even though I was pretty sure he didn’t see it, I was left mentally kicking myself for doing it.

Ahahaha

I glanced at Bitch, who was giving me a peculiar look.

“What?” I asked her, feeling painfully self conscious.

Ahahahaha even Rachel is recognizing it now isn’t she

“You like him.”

“N-,” I started. Before I went on to protest, I had to stop myself.

Yeah, no, protesting isn’t gonna help you.

Bitch would appreciate straightforwardness and honesty more than anything else. I wasn’t sure I could afford to come across as dishonest or two faced, with her. “…Yeah. I do.”

D’aw.


She turned to head back inside. A horrible thought struck me at that moment.

“Do… do you like him?” I asked her.

Oh boy.

Let’s hope not.

She turned her head to give me an angry look, one I couldn’t read in the slightest.

That… could go either way. She could be angry because Taylor is right, or she could be angry because Taylor is wrong.

That said… why include this if she’s wrong?

“Because if you do,” I hurried to add, as I started to walk after her, “Hey, you were here first. I’ll back off and keep my mouth shut if you want to make a move.”

Seems fair enough.

There were about five seconds where she was very quiet. My pulse pounded in my throat. Why did I care so much about this?

“You should offer to sleep with him.”

Ahahahahaha


Of course. She thinks like a dog, she sees romance like a dog… Straight to the doggy style.

That much being clear doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious, though!


“I-uh, what?” I stammered. Relief mixed with embarrassment, and the abrupt change of topic left me struggling to get my thoughts in order.

Oh, I think the embarrassment is only gonna get stronger from here if Rachel should choose to elabradorate.

“It’s what guys want. Tell him you’re available if he ever wants to fuck. He’ll accept right away, or he’ll start thinking about you as a possibility and he’ll take you up on it later.”

Ahaha

“That’s- It’s more complicated than that.”

“It’s complicated because people make it complicated. Just cut the bullshit and go for it.”

That’s a very Rachel way to look at it, which I suppose is the point.

Hm, I wonder if she and Newter would get along if they got to know each other better.

“I don’t think you’re wrong about there needing to be less expectations and rules and rituals around dating, bullshit, as you put it, but I don’t think I can do what you’re suggesting.”

“Whatever.”

“Eh, your loss.”

But yeah, I think there’s some truth to this too.

I realized, belatedly, that she’d actually offered me advice. As… I struggled to find the word. As misdirectedas her suggestion might have been, especially with Brian, it was probably the most blatant gesture of goodwill I had seen from her, next to her telling Armsmaster that she thought I could kick his ass.

Yeah, that was a quite friendly gesture.

Heh, we’ve gotten romance advice from both Lisa and Rachel now. I wonder if we’re going to get some from Alec too before Taylor/Brian hopefully becomes a Thing.


“Thank you, though,” I told her. “I’ll, uh, I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Don’t care if you do.”

Fair enough.

We crossed the building’s interior and Bitch unlocked the door to let Brian inside. For a second, I thought her bluntness would lead to her telling Brian outright that I liked him, but it wasn’t the case.

I don’t think she cares enough to.

It’s somewhat unclear how much she actually doesn’t care about things, but she’s usually rather straightforward (even if she’s not quite on the same lane as most others) and honest, so I’m inclined to believe her most of the time.

She was more focused on keeping the more unruly dogs from slipping outside and stopping them from barking at the new visitor than on our discussion.

“I can’t get hold of Coil,” Brian informed us.

Hm. Well, he’s a busy guy, I suppose. And hey, this gives Rachel some time to reconsider.


“I couldn’t get Lisa or Alec, before,” I replied. “You think something’s up?”

He nodded, “Maybe. You stay here with Rachel. I’m going to go check on the others.”

Hm, this sounds like trouble. Possibly localized to wherever Coil, Lisa and Alec are, but… wait, no. I was going to say it was possibly localized to where Taylor, Brian and Rachel are, but that doesn’t make sense – Taylor wouldn’t be able to contact Brian any more than she would Lisa and Alec if there was something blocking telecommunications from the doghouse.

But if it’s at the other end, it seems to apply to both Coil and the two other Undersiders. That seems a bit odd to me, or maybe suspicious – Lisa and Alec probably wouldn’t go somewhere with Coil all of a sudden without telling the other three, and anyone who would specifically target both Coil and two of the Undersiders in one operation likely knows about the employment relationship to some extent…

There are a few people who are known to do so – the Travellers, Circus and Trainwreck. Circus in particular seems to have a rather vocal disdain for the Undersiders. Honestly, though, I doubt any of them are behind whatever this is.

We do have one suspect who has something against Coil and likely views the Undersiders as an obstacle: Kaiser. And if any opponent of Coil is to have found out about the relationship between Coil and the Undersiders, I would expect it to be Kaiser.

That said – we don’t know for sure yet that this isn’t an issue that covers a larger area that just happens to include the locations of Lisa, Alec and Coil but not those of Taylor and Brian at the time of their messages.


“No,” Bitch spoke. “I don’t need babysitting, and I’m getting annoyed being badgered by you two. Taylor goes with you. I’m going to stay here and pack up.”

Fair enough.

…if this were Lisa I’d suspect her of trying to set something up. I’m still slightly suspicious, but that’s not really Rachel’s style as far as I’m aware, and again, I’m inclined to believe what she says.

“Not a good idea,” Brian said, with a shake of his head, “If you get attacked in the meantime-”

“-I have Brutus, Judas and Angelica. I managed on my own for years, dealt with people tougher than those fuckers. If there’s trouble, I run.”

Valid point.

“And if they take one of your dogs hostage?” I asked her. “One of the ones you can’t use your power on, yet?”

A dark look passed over her face as she considered that. “Then I run… and I get revenge another day, on my terms.”

Well. As long as you’re confident that you’ll actually do that, I guess.

Brian tapped his foot for a few seconds. “Okay. If there’s trouble, it’ll be good to have Taylor at my back. If and when I get hold of Coil, I’m going to see about getting you some trucks, and people to drive them. In the meantime, stay alert, and don’t get yourself killed.”

Good luck.


Bitch scowled, but she nodded.

“Taylor, we should go. The sooner we check on Lisa and Alec, the better I’ll feel,” he was already moving as he finished talking.

Yeah, let’s get on that.

The moment we were out of earshot, he pulled off his helmet, tucking it under one arm, and asked me, “What happened?”

You mean why Rachel is downright friendly at the moment and willing to accept the temporary hit to her pride on the issue of leaving the doghouse?

Or the details of how the attack was dealt with, without Rachel’s spin on it?

Those things aren’t entirely disconnected, either.

I told him, explaining everything after the point Bitch and I heard the ruckus the bottle man and his gang were causing.

Ah, yeah, at the end of the last chapter I was sort of figuring that this chapter might start immediately after this recap, but this works too.


“Funny that it’s Kaiser that’s having trouble controlling his people,” Brian mused, when I was done.

How so?

I wondered if he was still sore over what Kaiser had said at the meeting.

Ahh, right, that.

“Coil upped the pressure the moment the truce against the ABB was broken. I would be surprised if Kaiser didn’t have his hands full with that,” I replied.

“You’re defending him?”

Hm, no, I don’t think she is. Suggesting a plausible explanation isn’t the same as excusing someone’s actions.

I say this as someone who hates when people assume explanations for my own actions are meant as excuses.

It wasn’t often that I felt acutely aware of the difference in our skin colors, but being asked if I was making excuses for the white supremacist supervillain was one of those moments.

Oof, yeah. That didn’t even occur to me right then – it’s a non-visual medium, after all, making it easier for the difference to fade into the back of one’s mind until it suddenly becomes relevant again. I do appreciate that Taylor has the same experience, one that reflects and to some degree explains how the narration (which of course is supposed to be by her) doesn’t mention it very often.


“I don’t want to underestimate him, is all,” I said.

Brian sighed, “Yeah. Maybe you’re right.

Decent save.

But Kaiser was willing to demand restitution for the attack on his dogfighting ring, and I’m more than willing to do the same for this attack from his skinheads, if it comes down to it.”

Yeah, don’t let him get away with thinking that’s a one-way street.

“Both events having something substantial to do with Bitch,” I noted.

“I’m aware of that fact,” he told me, frowning. “She’s useful, she’s a credit to the team, but she comes with some problems. We’ve dealt with it in the past, we’ll deal with it in the future.”

“Right.”

Right.

I don’t think Rachel should be blamed for the skinheads’ attack in itself, but she should’ve informed the others long before it got to this point. Much like the main complaint in 5.2, really.


“How was she? Any fights?”

“Nothing serious. No, it was actually kind of nice. I might even do it again, if she let me.”

“Really,” he replied, skepticism clear in his tone.

Hehe. Wasn’t expecting that, were you.

“Really.”

“What changed?”

“I’m figuring her out, I think. How she operates, how she thinks.”

It’s worth noting that Taylor has a head start that Brian doesn’t, even if he’s been Rachel’s teammate for significantly longer. Lisa never told him about what Rachel’s power did to her brain, so Brian had to learn from scratch.

“I’ve spent ten months on the same team with her, and I haven’t even come close to getting how she thinks. I can usually keep her from going too far or hurting someone, keep her mostly in line and get her to follow directions, but I haven’t had a conversation with her yet that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall.”

And this is why I didn’t use the word “friend” in my last paragraph.

Heh, and here I used to think that Brian was the one with the strongest connection with Rachel. To such an extent that I suggested alien emotional romance was afoot!


“That might be the problem. You’re in charge, she looks up to you, respects you, but…” I paused. How could I word this without getting into the particulars of her mode of thinking? “…But you’re something of an authority figure in our group, and her personality demands she tests authority. Especially when she’s insecure.”

Hm, yeah, makes sense.

But not scents. Rachel’s alpha is scentless, after all.

Brian considered that. With a note of approval in his voice, he commented, “You havebeen giving this some thought.”

It’s Taylor. She gives pretty much everything some thought. :p

But yeah, it is pretty clear from what she said that she’s been paying close attention to how Rachel thinks.

“I think that you’d have a much easier time handling her if you took an official leadership role in our group. Not just being the sorta-kinda leader, but actually taking the position.

Hm, yeah, might work. Not sure everyone would be happy with it, especially if not given an explanation for why, but it wouldn’t ultimately be that big of a change except when it comes to Rachel.

If you’re not comfortable with that, or if you think the others will make it too hard, well, she’ll probably get more comfortable with relying on you as someone in charge over time, as you prove you can handle it.”

Makes sense.


“It’s been ten months, how long does she need?”

“And she’s had how many years, without parents, teachers, bosses? I mean, even when she had foster parents, I don’t think it was sunbeams and rainbows, y’know?”

He rubbed his chin. “…Yeah.”

Yeah, this might take a while.

“Tell me she hasn’t gotten at least a bit better in the course of those ten months.”

“Marginally.”

“There you go. It’ll only improve from here on out.”

A little bit of hope for the being that lives in the dark.

He offered me a theatric groan in reply.

Hehe.


[Session 2]

Brian was walking with long strides, and he had long legs, which forced me to do little jogging spurts to keep up. It wasn’t tiring, I was fit enough from my running, but it was embarrassing to feel like a small child trying to keep up with a grown-up.

Looooong.

New theory: Brian is Slenderman, but no one has noticed.

Either way, we did make good time getting back to the loft.

Brian put his finger to his lips as he pulled on his helmet and flipped his visor down, emanating his darkness to hide the costume.

Yeah, probably a good call, in case some enemy has infiltrated the Loft.

That said, Taylor is still without her costume – if she’s gonna go in before they’ve made sure no one malicious is there, she’ll need to cover herself in bugs again.

I grimaced and brought bugs up to cover my face, calling more from the area to form the beginnings of a swarm. Brian – Grue now – reached out and coated the front door of the loft in darkness, then opened it without the slightest of creaks or squeals.

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re wondering too.”

Before we ascended the metal stairs leading to the second floor, he coated them in a layer of his power to render our footsteps utterly silent.

I didn’t anticipate the scene in the living room of the Loft.

Hm. Probably either devastation, or anticlimactic normalcy. Maybe there’s an ongoing fight, but I think they would’ve heard that before they entered.


The TV was on, showing ads. Alec lay on the couch, his feet on the coffee table, a meal on his lap. Lisa sat on the other couch, laptop resting on her legs, a phone to her ear. She turned her head as we came upstairs, gave us a funny look, then returned her attention to her laptop.

Anti-climactic normalcy it is!

“Why the fuck aren’t you answering your phones?” Grue raised his eerie voice. He flipped up his visor and banished the darkness around him.

Lisa frowned and held up a finger. She continued talking into the phone, “-don’t agree with this, and if you’d asked me, I would have said you shouldn’t do it. No, yes, I think it’s an effective measure.”

Hm. How long has she been on the phone? If she’s talking to Coil, and has been for a significant amount of time, that might explain why Brian couldn’t reach Coil and Taylor couldn’t reach Lisa.

Alec… might just have been preoccupied, I guess.

She pointed to the laptop, and I stepped forward, moving the bugs off my face and down to the center of my back, where they would be present but not in the way, resting on cloth rather than skin. I looked at the screen.

And – discussed after this quote because I forgot to write about it before looking at this bit – what is this “effective measure” that Lisa would’ve advised whomever she’s talking to against doing?

I feel like the screen is going to show a news story involving something Coil decided to do.

“My problem is that it’s not just them. It’s their families,” Lisa spoke into the phone. “Unspoken rule, you don’t fuck with a cape’s family.”

Ah shit. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that sets the entire community against you.

I read the contents of the email she had open. I felt a ball of dread settle in the pit of my stomach. I leaned over the back of the couch and put a hand on her shoulder to steady myself as I reached down to press the pagedown key on the laptop. I read more of the email and then hit the button again to scroll down again.

Ah, email, not news story. Fair enough.

When I’d read enough of the page to verify my suspicions, I hit the home key to return to the very top of the page. I checked who else had been Cc’ed on the email and the time it had been sent.

The narration is conspicuously avoiding immediately saying what the email told Taylor. Hm.


Fuck,” I muttered. “Fuck!”

Lisa looked up at me, frowned, then spoke to the person on the other end of the phone, “Can we finish discussing this later? I’ve got to talk to my team about this. Kay. Later.”

Yeah, something’s evidently very bad here.

The email was a list. At the very top of the list was Kaiser. Following his entry were his lieutenants, Purity, Hookwolf and Krieg, and the rest of the members of Empire Eighty Eight. It wasn’t even limited to people with powers, noting some powerless captains and even some of the lower level flunkies.

…with their civilian names? Damn.

The list included pictures and text. Beneath each of the villain’s names was a comprehensive block of data, noting their civilian names in full, professions, addresses, phone numbers, the dates they moved to the city and the first appearances of their costumed identities in Brockton Bay.

Ahh, that and much more. Well then.

If Coil has made that public, there are going to be a lot of people who’ll have reason to go after these members in their civilian homes. I don’t really feel much sympathy for them, but it’s a questionable move for (at the very least) the reasons Lisa mentioned.

There were pictures of them in costume paired with pictures of their alleged civilian identities, roughly matched in angle and size for easy comparison. Most of the entries had zip files attached, doubtless with more data and evidence.

Kaiser. Max Anders, president and chief executive officer of Medhall Corporation, a pharmaceuticals company based in Brockton Bay.

There it is. I’ve been spoiled on his surname for a while, but now that cat’s bag has been opened. The cat had torn a hole in the other end of the bag already, but still.

Father of a Theodore Richard Anders and an Aster Klara Anders. Twice divorced, currently living in a penthouse apartment downtown. Drives a black BMW. Native born to Brockton Bay, son of Richard Anders. Richard Anders, according to the email, was Allfather, the founder of Empire Eighty Eight.

Huh. I guess Kaiser “inherited” the E88 in a more conventional sense than I thought.

Allfather, huh. How much more self-aggrandizing can you even get than practically calling yourself God? Rather fitting for the leader of a group with Nazi leanings, though, what with the importance put on having a strong leader in nazism and other forms of fascism.

From the pictures, it was clear to see how the armor fit around his face and body, how both Kaiser and Max Anders had the same height and body type.

This isn’t DC – it’s not gonna be enough to put on some glasses to prevent people from recognizing you. Here, people can realistically tell whether people have similar physique with or without full body armor.


There were other images as well, showing Max Anders with a gorgeous twenty-something blonde, and Max Anders with an older brunette woman at a coffee shop, their table strewn with what looked like paperwork. I scrolled down to confirm my suspicions, the blonde appeared in another picture with her twin sister. Fenja and Menja.

Hm, I don’t remember Kayden’s hair color when not powered up. Could the brunette be her?

The brunette woman was Purity, according to the email.

Yup!

Far mousier than I might have thought, given the sheer presence she had in costume. Real name, Kayden Anders. Interior decorator. Single mother of one Aster Anders.

She kept his name? I wouldn’t have guessed, what with how much she’s come to dislike him.

Purity was promoted to Kaiser’s second in command in the same week that Kayden Russel took Max’s hand in marriage to become Kayden Anders. Their separation occurred within the same time period as Purity leaving Empire Eighty Eight to apparently strike out on her own. Little citations pointed to files apparently in the attached zip file.

This really goes into some detail, huh.

Also, I wonder if this bit would still be here if Interlude 3½ hadn’t been a thing – if I remember correctly, you guys told me that happened because of donations, right?


Krieg was alleged to be a James Fliescher. Head of a pharmacy chain, in turn connected to Medhall. Father of three, married.

Hm, sounds like a good opportunity for some money laundering.

According to the notes in his block of information, he took a vacation twice a year with his family. The email stated that the zip file had copies of inter-company emails where he’d told his coworkers he went to places like South America or Paris, and flight records showed that he was lying. He alwayswent to London. Twice a year, every year, for nearly twenty years. Not once, during these trips, had Krieg been seen in Brockton Bay.

Huh. Maybe he’s got a secret mistress or something in London. Or secret business, for that matter.

The list went on. And on.

Every piece of information connected to others. Even the info on the mooks like the ones I had met earlier with Kaiser’s business, showing how they were employed as low level employees of Medhall and its derivative businesses. It seemed like everyone had a criminal record except the people at the top.

I’m guessing the only reason more people at the top don’t have criminal records is that they don’t get caught, or if they do, they don’t remain on top.

In short, It was comprehensive enough it would take a special kind of willful ignorance to not buy into what the email was selling.

Yeah, no, it’s pretty damn thorough.

The email had been sent not only to Lisa, but to the Brockton Bay Bulletin, a half dozen other local news stations, and several national ones. Everyone that mattered, and a few that didn’t.

Whoever sent this (I’m currently thinking it’s Coil) clearly wants this to go public. If it were just a matter of wanting the E88 members arrested, they could send it to the Protectorate. Although if it’s Coil, it wouldn’t make sense to send it to the Protectorate – Coil is trying to discredit them, and serving them a massive victory over the E88 on a silver platter isn’t going to help towards that goal.

Also I hope they Bcc’d Lisa. Otherwise all the news stations would now have her email address.


The email had been sent at 1:27 pm this afternoon. Less than an hour ago. That was the really bad news.

“Coil did this?” I murmured.

Why is it especially bad news that this is a recent development?

Lisa nodded, tightly, “Yup.”

“With your help, I’m guessing?”

“Only a little. He asked me a few times, to give him my thoughts on some stuff, put him on the right path, eliminate possibilities. I didn’t think he’d get this far, or go this far. Once I got him on the right track, he apparently used private investigators and hackers to dig up the rest of this and get the photographic evidence.”

“Fuck,” I muttered.

Damn.

“I don’t agree with it,” she said. “It’s crossing a line. It’s not just messing with the enemy, there’s going to be a ton of collateral damage.”

“Why weren’t you answering your phone?” Brian changed the subject.

I feel like she was rather preoccupied with this.

She blinked a few times, startled, “My phone was nearly a goner, so I grabbed a fresh disposable to talk to the boss. I didn’t want to use the phone with the rest of your contact info in it, just to be safe. Alec was with me the entire time. He should’ve gotten any calls.”

“Check your phone, Alec” Brian spoke, terse.

Alec did. His eyes went wide, “Oh fuck.”

Hehe.

“Part of being a member of this team is being on call if we need you. I swear,” Brian growled at Alec, “I’m going to kick your ass so hard-”

Lisa looked from Brian to Alec to me, “Something happened. Is anyone hurt?”

Something tells me she didn’t need her power to figure that out.

“Yes, something happened, no, nobody’s hurt. That’s really not what concerns me,” I told her. I pointed to the screen, “Did Coil plan this? Is this a scheme of his, him using his power? Using his destiny manipulation or whatever to create some general coincidence, put us in a bad spot, and force us to join him?”

That’s… a good question. I’m also curious how much power Coil actually has over how the outcomes he decides come along. If he were to use his power to decide that the Undersiders would join him, would the power create coincidences to enforce that without Coil knowing exactly what the power was doing?


Lisa shook her head forcefully, “I didn’t get the sense of anything like that, and that’s not how his power operates. Besides, he expected we would agree anyways. He wouldn’t jeopardize that with a gambit like this. It’s too crude.”

“Alright, we’ll join you.” *two minutes pass* “Wait, did you use your power to make us join you?” “Yes.” “We’re out.”

“So it was just him attacking Empire Eighty Eight on a new front, and a fucking bad coincidence for us,” I said, as much to myself as anyone else.

“What’s going on?” Alec asked.

I took a deep breath and tried to explain just how bad the situation was. “Coil just made a big play against the Empire, and it looks like it was anonymous. Bitch and I got in a fight with some of his underlings at almost the same time.”

Ahh, shit.

And Lisa was already heavily against the play even before this was brought to her attention.

“I don’t-” Alec started.

“Look at it this way,” I interrupted, “Kaiser and every single one of his twenty-ish superpowered flunkies are going to be pissed enough to want to kill someone, after Coil went and turned their lives upside down.

Yeeah, and the Undersiders have become fantastic targets.

Kaiser and his people know who we are, from our cooperation against the ABB. Specifically, they know who Lisa is. So who are they going to blame for this, if not the group his people were just fighting with this very afternoon, the group with the very talented information gatherer in their ranks?”

Name: The Undersiders
Status: Fucked over


“Oh.” Alec said. “Fuck.”

“Exactly.”

Yeah.


End of Buzz 7.4

This was an okay chapter. Nothing special, but certainly not bad.

As I had expected, we opened with Brian’s reaction to what happened in the previous chapter, although I wasn’t expecting the adorable crushing Taylor moments we got, nor Rachel’s, um, sage romantic advice, which was all great.

Then Brian and Taylor left to check on the Loft. On the way, we got a neat conversation about how Brian could approach leadership with Rachel on the team, before they arrived to discover just how fucked the Undersiders are now on the Kaiser front.

And boy are they in trouble, having accidentally wound up as likely suspects for a huge hit against the E88. I give it two or three chapters before skinheads come looking for them, at most – maybe there’ll be one to show the public’s reaction to this list being published, and maybe one to show the Undersiders preparing for trouble? Either way, I don’t think it’ll take long before the trouble does come along.

So yeah… See you next time!

(#they don’t want to make it double)

One thought on “Buzz 7.4: Callout Posts

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