Source material: Worm, Interlude 7
Originally blogged: November 17, 2017
Given the siren going off, I feel like this is appropriate music for current events in the story.
Yarr harr, fiddle-de-dee! Yarr harr, fiddle-de-dee! Yarr harr, fiddle-de-dee!
Wait, no, that’s not what an air raid siren sounds like.
There we go. Hello, everyone, this is Krixwell, your local liveblogger and evacuation organizer. Please proceed calmly through the liveblog session to the closest Endbringer shelter! On the way, I’ll tell you all about my reactions to Interlude 7 of Worm.
So, what do I expect from this Interlude?
Interludes have always been a bit of a wildcard, but one thing that’s stayed certain is that they’ve landed neatly and chronologically like any other chapter. As such, I think we’ll be picking up during the evacuation, probably focusing on someone either evacuating or getting ready to go up against the Endbringer. I don’t know who, though, and there are too many suspects to make an educated guess – it could be literally anyone in the city, maybe with the exception of characters who already got Interludes. Maybe. And if Wildbow throws a real curveball it could even be someone not in the city.
I guess there’s only one way to find out, eh? Let’s go!
<Walk!> the soldier barked in Turkish. He jammed his gun between her shoulderblades, hard.
I have a feeling we’re getting curveballed.
He was twice as tall as her, far stronger than her, so there could be no fighting or resisting even if he wasn’t armed. She stumbled forward into the shrubbery and trees, and branches scraped against her forearms and face.
So is this a Turkish soldier in the U.S., or is “she” in Turkey? Or something in-between?
One foot in front of the other, Hana told herself.
Hana. Nice name. Have we heard it before in this story? I don’t think so.
Her feet were like lead weights as she trudged forward. The needles on the trees and shrubbery scraped against her skin. Even the twigs were coarse, almost thorny, catching on her dress and socks, biting through the cloth to scrape her skin and stab at her shoeless feet.
This doesn’t sound like what I’d imagine Turkey to be like, but I’ve never actually been there, so what do I know.
Well, I do know trees with needles are more typically found in colder climates. Y’know, like the one I live it.
<Faster!> the soldier threatened. He said something else, longer and more complicated, but Hana’s Turkish wasn’t good enough to make it out.
She’s at least somewhat competent in Turkish, but not fluent. Turkish ancestry but raised in the U.S., maybe?
She looked over her shoulder and saw the man back the way she’d come. He made his meaning explicitly clear by waving his gun toward the other children, who were corralled in the midst of a half dozen other soldiers. If she didn’t move faster, someone else would pay for it.
Besides the obvious meaning here – that there are at least seven of these soldiers and at least three victims, including Hana (probably more) – “other children” tells me that Hana views herself as a child too.
Seven years had given her village false confidence, let them believe that they were far enough away, secluded enough in the valley and forest, that they could escape the worst fighting of the ongoing war. That illusion had been shattered just hours ago.
Ahh. Well, we’re definitely not in the U.S., then. I feel like Taylor would’ve mentioned it if there were an ongoing war in the U.S.
I’m going to guess the Turks are on one side of the war. But where is this village, and who’s on the other side?
I’m not going to assume the world’s conflicts since the 1980′s have remained the same as on Earth-Aleph, by the way.
…huh. Now that I think about it, Parahumans started showing up during the late stages of the Cold War, assuming history is otherwise approximately the same between the universes. I wonder if it caused an incident, due to one of the sides thinking the first parahumans were experiments meant to be weaponized by the other side. If I recall correctly, Scion was at least implied to show up in American waters or saving Americans – I’m curious about Russia’s reaction to that.
She had been hidden in the cellar beside her house. She had heard the screams and gunfire. Too much gunfire, considering how few working guns the men and women of her village had.
…maybe the A-Team showed up.
Guns and bullets were too expensive when you lived off your garden and what you could hunt, and a trip to the nearest city to buy such things was dangerous. What they had were the leftovers, the handful of weapons taken off enemies by the guerilla fighters and left behind or traded in barter when they passed through the village for supplies and medical care.
Makes sense. At least it’s better than nothing.
Those who had the guns lacked the skill or training to use them. The fighters were supposed to defend them against people like this, stop them from getting this far.
Evidently, they failed.
Also, a thing I probably should’ve mentioned a couple posts ago: There is the possibility of Hana’s people being Kurdish, but it seems odd for me that she wouldn’t be fluent in Turkish then, unless her part of Kurdistan overlaps with a different country than Turkey.
[Please bear with past me in this chapter. He didn’t know much about Kurdish history. Or the global distribution of pine trees, as will soon become painfully clear.]
She hurried to take another step forward and flinched as a twig broke underfoot. The smallest of whimpers escaped through her lips.
When the enemy soldiers had found her in the cellar, dragged her into a group with the nine other children of her village, she’d known that her parents were already dead or dying.
As the soldiers had marched them through the village and into the woods, she’d stared hard at the ground, tears streaming down her cheeks, unwilling to look at the blood, the bodies, that littered her hometown. People who she had seen every day of her life.
Rest in peace.
Her eyes scanned the forest floor, but she had no idea what to look for. A hump of earth? Twine? A dense patch of dry, brown needles? She took another step forward, waited for disaster. When it didn’t come, she stepped forward again, paused.
Better not pause for too long.
Only a short while ago, she had watched from a distance as Kovan, the fat older boy that had once called her names, stepped forward and had his leg fall into a hole.
Ah, shit. Lemme guess, the soldiers thought it’d be a waste of time to bother helping him get it out, and shot him instead?
He’d screamed, and when Hana and the rest of the children had rushed forward to try and lift him out, they had only increased the volume of his shouts and the ferocity of his thrashing. With the Turkish soldiers watching silently behind them, Hana and the others had used their hands to scrape at the hard, rocky earth, revealing the wooden stakes that were lodged in the sides of the hole.
…? Some kind of animal trap?
Each was set in the earth so they pointed downward at an angle, with some at the bottom to pierce his foot. Supple, the wood had bent enough to let the leg fall down deep into the hole, but attempts to raise Kovan had only pulled his leg and foot up into waiting wooden points.
Maybe it’s not an animal trap, but a trap set out against incoming soldiers?
It was, she knew, one of the traps that had been placed by her village’s hunters or by the guerrilla fighters that defended their village.
They were all over, set throughout the woods, around her village, near roads and other important places. She had overheard one of the fighters describing this very trap to her father. She had been told, over and over, that she wasn’t to play in the woods for much this reason, that if she had to travel into the woods for any reason, she needed an adult to guide her. The full reality of it hadn’t registered until she saw what had happened to Kovan.
She needed an adult who knew where the traps were. The soldiers didn’t.
They had tried for a long time to dig the boy’s leg free, knowing as they uncovered more and more of his pierced leg, saw the injuries and the quantity of blood, that he wasn’t going to be able to walk very far.
Hm. Seems like the soldiers are more patient than I thought.
It was hopeless, they knew, but Kovan was someone they had gone to school with. Someone they had seen every day.
Another victim, but this time to their own petards.
A soldier had put an end to their efforts with a bullet through Kovan’s head, making Kovan the second of the children to die.
Ahh, there we go. Rest in peace.
Hana was picked to go next. To test the path.
Well, shit. Sucks for her.
She clutched the front of her dress, balling the fabric up in hands that were still covered in dirt and scrapes from her efforts to dig Kovan free. One foot in front of the other.
And we’re back to the present.
Hana is currently being used as practically a minesweeping rod.
Every single one of her senses was on edge. She was hyperaware of the rustle of dirt underfoot, the scrape of pine needles against the fabric of her dress. She could feel the warmth of the sun heating her skin when she stepped into a spot where the light filtered through the pine trees.
Hm. Again the needles, and they’re now specifically pine needles. I think it’s time to check if I was off the mark about where pines can be found.
Most regions of the Northern Hemisphere (see List of pines by region) host some native species of pines. One species (Sumatran pine) crosses the equator in Sumatra to 2°S. In North America, various species occur in regions at latitudes from as far north as 66°N to as far south as 12°N.
Various species have been introduced to temperate and subtropical regions of both hemispheres, where they are grown as timber or cultivated as ornamental plants in parks and gardens. A number of such introduced species have become invasive and threaten native ecosystems.
Oh yeah, I was completely wrong about that. Well… at least we know this chapter takes place in the northern hemisphere, I guess? Really narrows it down.
And hey, western Turkey (but not Kurdistan) and the Caucasus are among the more specific locations of pine trees.
Maybe we’re in Armenia or Georgia?
[And so it begins.]
Anyway, let’s move on from the pine facts, or we’ll be here until tree A.M.
She blinked hard to clear her eyes of tears. So stupid. She needed to be able to see. Any clue. Any at all, to see a trap. Crying was the worst thing she could do.
Yeah, better stay alert.
One foot in front of the other.
She stopped. Her feet refused to go any further. Trembling, she looked around.
Are your trap senses tingling?
…I just realized that these circumstances can absolutely qualify as a trigger event. For all we know, Hana might have just developed a power that is likely to be accidentally activated in this Interlude.
She might become the savior of the remainder of her village. Not that it’d bring the adults back to life (unless her powerset turns out to include resurrection, I guess), but still.
If she took one more step, she knew, she was going to die.
The thing that made me realize the above was the thought “What if she actually does have that sense?”
So, uh, what if she actually does have that sense?
There was no rationale for it, no reason or clue. This patch of forest was no different from the rest. A bed of red-brown needles underfoot, shrubs and trees pressing in around her.
But she knew. Whether she took a step forward, to her right or left, she would be stepping into a trap.
I wonder if this power only works on traps or if it’s more like what Dinah has, but passive and less specific. A sense that detects outcomes where she dies? Or more usefully, where she gets hurt?
A hole like the one that caught Kovan, or perhaps an explosive device, like the one that took Ashti. At least she’d gone quickly.
So that’s what happened to the first kid… Rest in peace.
The soldier that was watching her called out from a distance behind her, the ever familiar <Walk!> that was a threat and an order at the same time.
Sick with fear, Hana looked around, searching for something that could tell her where to go, how to move.
You need to look at the numbers under the tiles and try to logic out where the mines are, so you can figure out where they aren’t.
In that moment, she knew she wasn’t going to die right away. She couldn’t walk any further, it was physically impossible, as though her feet were as rooted to the ground as the trees were.
Physically impossible because she’s paralyzed by fear, or because her power is restricting her?
They would make her watch as they tortured one of the other children to death. Then they would start on the next, maybe Hana herself, until they had another child willing to act as decoy and clear the traps from their way in the simplest, most dangerous manner possible.
Gotta say, if the power physically prevents her from taking a course of action that leads to her death, that’s a pretty bad position for anyone who would be inclined to sacrifice themself for someone else.
I mean, it’s one thing to prevent the user of the power from doing something dumb, but I feel like it shouldn’t restrict their choice entirely in that kind of situation.
She saw something vast.
It wasn’t big in the sense that the trees or even the mountains were big. It was big in the way that transcended what she could even see or feel.
So, uh. Are we getting a preview for what Endbringers are like here?
It was like seeing something bigger than the whole wide planet, except more – this thing that was too large to comprehend to start with, it extended.
I mean this certainly does sound rather Lovecraftian. Or Labyrinth-ian, but I don’t see any reason for her to be here.
She didn’t have a better word to describe what she was perceiving. It was as though there were mirror images of it, but each image existed in the same place, some moving differently, and sometimes, very rarely, one image came in contact with with something that the others didn’t.
I’d ask if the others were seeing this too, but given the cut-off “wal–”, I have a feeling they do.
Anyway, I have to give it to Wildbow: This is a pretty good description for something incomprehensible.
Each of the images was as real and concrete as the others. And this made it big in a way that she couldn’t describe if she were a hundred year old scholar or philosopher with access to the best libraries in the world.
It kind of sounds like it’s bigger than the planet, and you can tell it is by looking at it, but it doesn’t look bigger than the planet because all of that bigness is in the same space. Which does not quite mean it’s compact and therefore smaller.
Y’know, for all that I keep mentioning Lovecraftian horrors, I feel like I should mention that I’ve never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft.
And it was alive. A living thing.
And if this is an Endbringer, it’s implied to have been human once. Maybe it still is, on some level.
She knew without having to think about it, each of those echoes or extensions of the entity was as much a part of a connected whole as her hand or nose was to her. Each was something this living entity was aware of, controlled and moved with intent and purpose. As though it existed and extended into those possible selves all at once.
Hm. Possible selves, eh? Sounds like we’re dealing with a sort of Schrödinger situation here.
It’s dying, she thought.
Huh? What makes you think that?
The outermost extensions of the creature were flaking off and breaking into fragments as it swam through an emptiness without air,
Ahh, yeah, I can see why you might think that means it’s dying.
I don’t think we can take it for granted, or anything for that matter, but still.
not moving but sinuously adjusting its self through the existences that held the echoes, shrinking away here and swelling there, carrying itself away at a speed that outpaced light.
Hm. Faster than light movements could explain some of the weirdness about it.
Fuck if I know how, though.
In its wake, flakes and fragments sloughed off of the entity like seeds from an impossibly large karahindiba, or dandelion, in a steady wind. Seeds more numerous than all the specks of dirt across all the Earth.
Karahindiba is Turkish according to Google Translate. Damn, I was hoping it’d help me find out what Hana’s mother tongue is.
So, should we be worried about the seeds potentially being literal? I kind of doubt it, but hey, I told you, I’m not taking anything for granted when it comes to this thing.
One of those fragments seemed to grow, getting bigger, larger, looming in her consciousness until it was all she could perceive, as though the moon was falling, colliding with the earth. Falling directly on top of her.
“Looming in her consciousness”… I guess existing in the mindscape would be a useful way to avoid those pesky laws of physics in the real world?
Whether that’s a common mindscape (if it is a mindscape) or the appearance of this thing paused Hana’s perception of time remains to be seen.
Anyway, I have a feeling that a fragment of Karahindiba landing on Hana is not exactly a good thing.
-k!> the soldier finished without missing a beat.
Hm. Sounds like I was on the right track with the paused perception of time. During that whole sequence, none of the reactions of the soldiers or other children were described – I think if she had managed to draw her gaze away from Karahindiba, she might’ve noticed everyone else appearing frozen. That is, if they’d be there at all.
Hana stirred, she was still in the forest, hands stinging with the scrapes, feet sore from the walking. Her heart pounded and she could taste fear like bile in her mouth.
Better hope that’s all that’s in there now.
Again, what if the seeds are literal and Karahindiba essentially planted another one of itself in Hana?
Already, the memory was fading. Had it even happened? As hard as she struggled to retain it, it was eluding her.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry Hana, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
It was like a dream that escaped her when she woke, but so slippery that even the idea that she’d dreamed in the first place was quickly retreating from her mind.
Usually when you dream, you at least have the context of having fallen asleep and woken up, even if you can only tell because time has passed. In this case, by the looks of it, time didn’t pass, and she didn’t fall asleep or wake up. So even if this had been only some kind of dream, it’d probably feel roughly like this.
The soldier shouted something too complex for her to understand, directed at his comrades. Hana let the scraps of the memory slip from her attention. This, here, was the priority. Either she walked forward, and she would die, or she would stand by and watch the others die for her cowardice. With just the vestige of an idea that something had happened, she had been shaken from her paralysis. Maybe she could step forward.
Maybe Karahindiba’s influence could help her out here somehow?
Also it seems likely that Karahindiba was the cause of the paralysis in the first place, so it ought to be gone now – or at least lessened, now that it’d be out of fear only of the traps.
She raised her foot-
And stopped. Something stood in her way. A blur hung in the air at chest level, crackling, shifting with a manic ferocity. She let her foot fall back down where it had been a moment ago and stared at the kaleidoscopic shimmer of black and green.
Kaleidoscopic is a good word that ran through my head during Karahindiba’s description, by the way.
So what is this, then? The beginning of some kind of portal she could escape through? Some kind of powerup?
She touched it, and felt a weight settle into her palm. Her hand automatically closed around it, feeling the warmth of it. It felt almost like when she pet a friendly dog. An odd thought, given what she found herself looking at.
A… seed, perhaps?
(Who’s a good eldritch doggo? You are, you are…)
A gun, polished gray steel. Somehow familiar. Identical to the smallest guns she had seen the guerrilla fighters carrying.
Alrighty, then! Maybe this sort of blur is what powers bags of necessity, or Wander’s hat in Wander Over Yonder…
I don’t know how useful this might be to Hana. She doesn’t sound like she had any more experience with guns than the rest of her family, and it’s her against at least seven trained soldiers with weapons of their own and hostages.
Then again, I was already thinking Hana might’ve developed a power even before she was visited by the apparently benevolent(???) Karahindiba.
I can’t use this. The thought was cold in her mind. If I use this, they’ll kill the others the second I fire.
The gun shimmered, became that blur of green and black, then settled into a new shape. She’d seen this, too.
Hm. This seems similar to Miss Militia’s power.
One of the fighters had been talking to Hana, showing her his English gun magazine, in an effort to get in good graces with her older sister. This was similar to the gun she’d just had in her hand, but there was a metal tube on the front, nearly doubling the gun’s length. The tube, she knew, made guns quieter.
Maybe I was wrong about this being set in the present, and this is Miss Militia’s backstory? Seems like an odd choice, especially with how thoroughly American her design is.
Or maybe this is set in the present, and the same thing with Karahindiba happened to Miss Militia in the past?
The rest of the children and the other soldiers were far behind. It was still nearly impossible, but-
<Walk!> the soldier behind her shouted. <Walk or->
Oh right, I forgot to comment on the gun. Specifically the silencer – it might help her gain at least some additional element of surprise, but I’m not sure just how much quieter they make the guns.
She wheeled around, holding the gun in both hands. She took a second to steady her aim, and the Turkish soldier’s surprise bought her just enough time to pull the trigger.
Well. This kind of ruins what I was talking about – namely hiding the gun a bit, making them confused about where the bullet came from – but I’m not sure it would work anyway.
Hannah’s eyes snapped open.
This is why I don’t sleep.
…alright. So all that was a dream, had by a Hannah with a far more American way to spell it. For now, I’m guessing that Hana made it out of whichever country she was in and is now having nightmares about the day she got her power.
Also, that places the event firmly in the past. Maybe Hannah is Miss Militia after all?
Oh, and I suppose she’s about to hear the air raid sirens, too, taking her morning from bad to worse.
She was still wearing her costume, she noted, as she rose from her bed and walked to the bathroom. At least she’d had the sense to remove her scarf so she didn’t strangle while she rested.
A scarf with the American flag, perhaps, also known as the defining feature of Miss Militia’s costume?
She was the only one who remembered. Everyone else forgot that impossibly huge being, if they were even graced with a glimpse of it. She couldn’t be sure.
Who knows. My standing theory is that it existed only in the mindscape of those it chose to exist for.
If any others saw it, they would inevitably forget it before they could gather their thoughts enough to speak of it. Like she was supposed to.
Evidently things went the other way for Hannah, but why?
But she remembered. She touched the combat knife that was sheathed at her hip, as if to remind herself it was there. She harbored her suspicions about her gift: her powers had taken a part of her psyche and given it concrete form.
Hm. So her weapon is pretty much a part of her, then.
The angriest parts of her, the most childish parts, the parts of her that dreamed, and those that forgot. The knife at her hip slept for her and dreamed for her, she imagined.
She said earlier that she doesn’t usually sleep. Sounds like that was to be taken literally.
She had gone nearly a year at a time without needing to stop and put her head to rest on a pillow.
When she closed her eyes and let herself drift off, it was because she felt it was something she ought to do, not because she had to. Even then, she never dreamed.
So you’re saying she’s a D&D elf, then.
She remembered, instead, her mind replaying past events in perfect detail.
That explains why it was so vivid. The “dream” sequence wasn’t dreamlike at all.
And through some chance of fate, this meant she remembered the entity, and she remembered forgetting it, as paradoxical as that was.
That was the weirdest part of finding out it was a “dream”, to be honest.
And she would never speak of it to anyone.
She’d killed the soldiers that held the other children of her village hostage.
Nice work. Not sure how you pulled it off, honestly.
After the first, she had feigned fear, pretended the guerrilla fighters were in the woods. Then she had waited for the moment they were too busy watching the woods and mowed the rest of the men down with an assault rifle.
Oh, that’s how. But why did they trust you after you shot at one of them?
She didn’t even feel bad about it, nor did she lose much sleep that one of the children, Behar, had been shot in the skirmish.
Rest in peace, Behar.
…also it’s not like she has much sleep to lose in the first place, is it?
She regretted the deaths, that went without saying, but she didn’t feel guilty about it. Of the ten of them, seven had made it back, because of her and her gift.
They had returned to their village, moved the bodies out of sight, and did what they could to conserve their food until the guerrilla fighters came through once again.
A village populated only by seven hungry children.
Hana had made the others swear a promise, to not speak of her gift. She knew the guerrilla fighters would recruit her, use her, if they knew. Whatever this power was that she had received, she didn’t feel it was for that.
Is that why she left for America before she became a heroine?
When the fighters had returned, they saw the state of the children and elected to evacuate them. The fighters took them to a city, and a man there saw that Hana and the others were shipped off to the United Kingdom, where many other refugees were going.
Ah, not directly to the U.S.
They were split up, and the others were sent one by one to homes for orphans and other troubled children. Hana’s turn came late, nearly last, and she was taken to fly on another airplane to her own new home. It was there she ran into difficulty. She’d moved through the archway – what she would later learn was a metal detector – and it sounded an alarm.
Hah! Part of her psyche is metallic now…
Guards had found the weapon she couldn’t drop or leave behind, and Hana was carried off to another place.
Yeaah, weapons are not something airplane authorities like. Right.
Interrogated, asked many questions. She was taken to the bathroom, patted down on her re-entry to the interrogation room, and they found the same gun on her that they’d taken away just half an hour ago.
I take it the weapons return to her, then. Probably a good thing – don’t want part of your psyche getting lost.
Everything else had happened very fast, after that. It was an American in a military uniform that rescued her. He took her to America, saw that she was put with a family there. When the first three Wards teams were established, she was enlisted.
She barely knew a hundred words of English, her numbers and the alphabet, when she first went out in costume.
Y’know, out of all the known characters, Miss Militia was one of those I least expected to be an immigrant, other than those confirmed not to be.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying immigrants can’t be patriotic for the country they come to, even more so than their country of origin. It just came as a surprise given the intensity of her American branding.
And I’m definitely not complaining. 🙂
Hannah bent over the sink and washed her face. She found a toothbrush and cleaned her teeth, then flossed, then scraped her tongue. Too easy to forget those things, without the rhythm of sleep to break up the continuity of days. Better to do these things a little too often, than to forget.
Yeah, that’s fair.
She gargled with mouthwash, then bared her teeth to see the dentist’s work, where he had capped them. Teeth that were perfectly shaped, white. Not really hers.
I wonder if this is something she got because she needs to look good while representing the Protectorate?
Her weapon found its way into her hand at some point after she put the mouthwash down, a handgun not unlike the first shape it had taken for her.
I feel like this power would be far more useful if she managed to convince her gift (which is a part of her psyche, so I guess convince herself) that anything can be used as a weapon if employed creatively enough. Need a screwdriver? Convince the power that a screwdriver is a weapon because it can be used to stab people.
(Don’t try this at home, kids.)
She spun it around her finger by the trigger guard a few times before holstering it as she left the bathroom. She went to the window and stared at the city across the water. Colors shifted subtly in the refracted light of the PHQ’s forcefield, oversaturating the view like a TV with bad picture settings.
I said this probably happens in the present, but jumping back a few minutes is acceptable between scene changes like this, so this might still be before the Endbringer alert starts sounding. Besides, it might not sound the same on the Protectorate’s island.
Speaking of the Endbringer attacking the city, we might be about to get our first glimpse of it.
Even if she never dreamed, America still had a surreal, dreamlike quality to it. It was so distant from where she had come from, so different. There was no war here, not really, and yet the people here managed to find so much to complain about.
Men in suits, trouble in love, medical care and not having the latest touchscreen phone. Such complaints often carried more emotion and fervor than anyone in her village had used to bemoan the death of loved ones or the methodical eradication of their people.
Hm. Methodical eradication, you say? I’d say that suggested she was Armenian, but upon further research, the Armenian genocide happened between 1914 and 1923 – Hana living through that wouldn’t fit the timeline at all, even if her power came with an extended lifespan. She was still under 18 (presumably) when the Wards were established, and those were established in the 80′s at the earliest.
Let’s see, what other wars and such has Turkey been involved in around the 70′s and 80′s?
Hm… The Kurdish conflict fits the timeline, but we’ve established that Hana’s village wasn’t in Kurdistan unless Wildbow didn’t do his treesearch.
When she heard the complaints of her friends and coworkers, she simply nodded and gave the necessary words of sympathy.
“Yeah, your kid only getting a B on that philosophy essay is really sad, Linda.”
Bright lights and conveniences and wanting for nothing and televisions and sports cars and capped teeth and chocolate and the list went on… It had taken her the better part of a decade to even start getting used to it, and everything moved so fast that any time she thought she was getting a grasp on it, there was something new, something she was supposed to know or understand.
Am I gonna have to break out that one ICP quote I did again?
She’d accepted without complaint when her adoptive parents told her to start writing her name in the more American ‘Hannah’.
I suppose it might help avoid some racists, and also make it easier to tell people how to write her name.
She’d agreed and signed the papers when they took the last name her parents had given her and replaced it with their own.
That said, I feel like things like this should be entirely the child’s choice, if they’re old enough to make a choice.
Small things, so minor, compared to what she had seen and done. It didn’t bear complaining about.
Everyone praised her for how dutiful she was in school and her training. She never gave up, never quit. Why should she? This was nothing compared to those hours she spent in that forest.
Those hours when each step or lack of one could lead to her death, or that of another.
So hard to believe that the events from her dream had occurred just twenty six years ago.
Hm, so that puts a bit of a time frame on things. The events of the dreams would’ve happened in 1985, then, assuming present day is 2011. The war had lasted for seven years… which identifies it on the list of wars involving Turkey as the Kurdish conflict (known on the list as the Turkey-PKK Conflict), which started in 1978 and is still ongoing.
I guess Wildbow really didn’t check if there were pine trees in Kurdistan, just in Turkey. Fair enough.
Or, for a more fun explanation: There was a parahuman in Kurdistan whose power was causing pine trees to grow randomly within a large radius.
Wait, no, the forest was specifically implied to have been there when the war started. Either it had other trees too or the parahuman joke theory doesn’t work.
The Fish Formerly Known As Spoop:
@King Krix the Pink I should probably just let you know right now, because otherwise there is going to be a shitshow.
MM is Kurdish.
King Krix the Pink:
Yeah, I kinda just figured that out
To be clear: I’m considering the specifics on the war/genocide far more decisive evidence than whether there are pine trees in Kurdistan.
Hell, for all I know, there might be Kurdish villages outside of Kurdistan, in the parts of Turkey where there are pine trees. The most likely answer is that Wildbow checked if there are pine trees in Turkey and didn’t notice that there aren’t in Kurdistan specifically, but even in-universe there are still reasonable ways around this.
Also, this perfectly explains the other issue that made me discount Kurdistan at first:
The Fish Formerly Known As Spoop:
Also, @King Krix the Pink, MM didn’t know Turkish all that well because the rebellion was partly over the Kurdish language being made illegal.
King Krix the Pink:
The Fish Formerly Known As Spoop:
It’s perfectly possible that with her parents in the rebellion, she never really had the chance to learn Turkish.
It never felt entirely real. More than once, she had let herself begin to believe she’d died, that she’d taken that step forward and never made it out of the forest.
I suppose it’d feel like a good afterlife compared to the hell she lived it.
She had made mistakes when she let herself think that way, had put herself in too much danger, back in her earliest years as a hero.
Naturally, most mythologies without rebirth don’t let you die again in the afterlife.
Now, when she found herself slipping into that mindset, she often tried to sleep. Her memories as she slept were perfect, unblemished, almost more real than real life, which was why she never did it too often. Ironic, given how necessary it often was, to keep her grounded in reality.
Some sleep to escape reality. It’s the other way around for Hannah.
She’d grown to love this country. Truly love it, for what it stood for. She’d had to fight to wear the flag as part of her costume. America wasn’t perfect, but nothing touched by human hands could be.
So basically, the reason she’s so overtly patriotic is that she comes from a country where she had it a lot worse, so she can see the good sides of the U.S.
I like it.
There was greed, corruption, selfishness, pettiness, hatred. But there were good things too. Freedoms, ideas, choices, hope and the possibility that anyone could be anything, here, if they were willing to strive for it.
The good ol’ American Dream.
As she accepted her new country, she let herself make friends, boyfriends, let herself get close to her parents and their church. By the time she started college, her accent had all but disappeared, and she knew enough to at least pretend to know what others were talking about when they spoke of pop culture, music and television.
Hehe. Don’t worry, Hannah, it’s like that for a lot of us. 😉
People were judgmental, she knew, and so she would never speak of what she had seen in that moment she received her gift.
I guess it would particularly upset some religious groups. And scientists, certainly.
The Lovecraft fans, on the other hand… Well, that depends on whether my unfounded hypothesis on the Endbringers is accurate or not.
Even among other faithful, she would be met with suspicion and scorn, were she to say she’d seen God, or one of His warrior angels, such as they existed beyond the scope of human understanding.
Ah, yeah, definitely.
That He had given her this ability so she could save herself. Others would offer different interpretations, argue that He had given such gifts to bad people, too, they would point to the science of it.
And suddenly you’ve started a religious war over the origin of parahuman powers.
Maybe some small part of her suspected these hypothetical individuals were right. Still, she preferred her faith to uncertainty. The notion that this thing she had seen was something other than a benign entity watching over humanity, that it might be malign, or even worse, that it existed with no conception of the effect it had on mankind? An elephant among gnats? It wasn’t a comfortable thought.
That last one is pretty typical of Lovecraftian horrors.
Though again, I’ve never read any actual Lovecraft literature.
She glanced at the clock; 6:30 in the morning.
We’re getting close to the siren – assuming it actually is the same day, Taylor is thinking about the fact that it’s about time for her morning run around now.
She draped her flag-printed scarf loosely around her neck and lower face, then left her room. The energy became an assault rifle hanging at her side, bouncing a comforting beat against her hip as she walked. She made her way up a flight of stairs and down to the end of a hallway.
Watch out for the stairs.
She heard a male voice, a female one. She paused at the open doorway and knocked.
Hm, are we about to meet a new (to us) Protectorate member or two? Whoever they are, they might have just sent out the alert for the Endbringer.
“Yeah?” Armsmaster called out.
“Am I interrupting?”
“No. Come on in,” he replied.
Okay, so the male one was Armsmaster. No real surprise there. I’m more interested in the female one, though.
Dragon? I don’t know why she’d be in Brockton Bay, though.
She stepped into the room. It fell somewhere between a workshop and an office. Two spare suits stood at one side of the room, each with minor functional differences. A set of Halberds were placed on a rack behind Armsmaster’s desk, one shattered in pieces. One of the spaces on the rack was empty – Armsmaster had the Halberd in front of him.
Ah, interesting, so he has multiple. Good call.
“You worked too hard and forgot to go to sleep again, Colin?” Hannah asked, though the answer was obvious.
Colin, eh? Not the worst of names.
He frowned, reached over to his computer and hit a button. He saw the time, muttered, “Damn it.”
Relatable. Though usually when I stay awake all the way to 6:30, it’s not because I worked too hard.
“Good morning, Miss Militia,” a woman’s voice came from the computer.
Hannah blinked in surprise, “Dragon. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were there. Good morning.”
Oh, it was her! Just not in the flesh.
“You’re up early,” Dragon commented. “And you were out late, from what I’m seeing on the web. Trouble sleeping?”
“I don’t sleep,” Hannah confessed. “Not really, since I got my powers.”
“Oh? Me either.”
Interesting. I wonder what Dragon’s reason for that is.
Colin leaned back and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, “I’d give my left foot for that little perk.”
Hannah nodded. There were others like her? She asked the computer screen, “Do you remember?”
“Sorry? I don’t understand,” Dragon replied.
Aw, she thought for a moment she could have someone to relate to.
“Nevermind.” If Dragon didremember, Hannah knew the answer to that question would have been different. Dragon was too smart to miss the connection.
“We were talking shop,” Colin spoke. He motioned to the Halberd he had in front of him. “Procrastination through Tinker stuff. I think tonight’s project was a success.”
I suppose having something to tinker with lends itself well to procrastination.
Armsmaster stood, seizing the Halberd in one hand. He pressed a button on the handle, and the blade blurred. Without even swinging the weapon, he let the heavier top end fall against an empty stainless steel mannequin that might have held a spare suit of his armor. Dust blossomed where the blade touched the mannequin, and it passed through without resistance. Pieces of the mannequin clattered to the ground.
“Impressive,” she told him.
He pressed a button, and the blur around the blade dissipated in a steel-colored smoke, leaving only the normal axehead top of the weapon.
Huh. Who knows what kind of tech went into that.
“Only problems are that it’s vulnerable to forcefields, fire, and other intense energy, and the apparatus takes up too much space in the upper end. Even with my power, it likely means I’d have to do without some of the kit I’ve gotten used to.”
I take it Miss Militia knows about your real power, then?
Wait, Tattle would’ve outed him to her at the gallery anyway, wouldn’t she.
“I trust you’ll figure it out,” Hannah told him. Then with mock sternness, she put her hands on her hips, “Now, no more distracting me. Just what are you procrastinating on?”
Yes, enlighten us please.
Colin ran one of his hands over his short cropped brown hair, sighed. “Right. You have as much say as I do, in this.”
He walked back to his desk and slumped down into his seat. He kicked a screwdriver and a pair of pliers from the corner of the desk to put his feet up, one ankle crossed over the other. Reaching in the opposite direction, he grabbed a stack of folders and let them fall to the desk.
Hmm… maybe he’s going to talk about Taylor and the Undersiders?
“Piggot has decided to take action in reflection of recent events. Both the Wards and the Protectorate are being restructured.”
Hannah winced, “How bad?”
Shrugging, Colin told her, “As far as the Wards go, we’re losing Aegis. Piggot and the PRT want to see how he does leading a different team, and the boy’s parents are amenable. He’ll stay in the Wards for a little longer, to suggest he’s younger than he is.”
A different team? Are they starting up a sort of second youngster team?
“A shame. Who do we get?”
“It’s a swap. It’ll be Weld from the Boston team.”
Oh, that kind of different team. So we’re getting a new Ward and Aegis is moving to Boston. Alright.
Weld… maybe someone with the power of shooting welding flames with their hands?
“I don’t know him,” Hannah admitted.
“He’s a good kid with a good record,” Dragon chimed in from the computer, “Ferrous biology, absorbs metals through his skin. Strong, tough, good grades across the board, high marks in the tactics simulations. Likable, and a scan of the web shows feedback for him is higher than average, which is impressive, considering he’s one of the Case 53s.”
Ferrous biology… sounds like someone who should under no circumstances go up against Kaiser.
[I stand by this, even though we later get reminded that Kaiser can’t affect Weld’s body due to the Manton effect. There are other aspects of Weld’s power that Kaiser would’ve been able to exploit easily.]
Now what is a Case 53? Hm… It’s impressive that he’s well liked in spite of it, so maybe it’s the sort of deal Shadow Stalker has, in which he’s a Ward to atone for his crimes?
“He’s got the tattoo?” Hannah asked.
“The mark is branded into his heel, not tattooed, but yes.”
Ahh… Upsilon. We meet again.
Hannah nodded. “What else?”
Colin frowned, “We’re supposed to pick two others from our Wards team to transfer to one of the other major teams, nearby. I settled on Kid Win, I’m stuck on the others.”
Aw. I guess we won’t see more of the Tiro Finale, unless he pulls it out against the Endbringer.
Which ought to be showing up soon, by the way.
“Too new. Might be able to sell it to Piggot, but my suspicion is that she’ll think it looks bad, giving up our newbie.”
“Hm. Gallant won’t be able to leave for Boston. Too many logistical issues,” Hannah glanced at the computer. She couldn’t say more.
“You can speak freely,” Colin spoke, “Dragon has either read the record in question, or she’s reading it as we speak.”
“Gallant has local responsibilities, and is expected to start helping with his father’s local business enterprise,” Dragon spoke, giving truth to Colin’s words, “Miss Militia is right, he’s a local fixture. And his girlfriend is here.”
Ah, right, we wouldn’t want to break up Gallant and Glory Girl by having him move out of town.
Hannah nodded, “Painful to give up Vista or Clockblocker. They’re our big guns, and they’re local heroes after the role they played in that bomb scare. Shadow Stalker?”
…I’d like to hear more about this spacetime combo against Bakuda.
Shadow Stalker probably won’t move. It’d be strange of Wildbow to take her out of the setting before her obsession with Grue got a chance to be relevant.
Colin shook his head, “There would be more trouble over handing over someone like Shadow Stalker to another team than there would be if we gave away a newbie like Browbeat. Discipline problems.”
“Still?” she asked. Armsmaster nodded.
Yeah, considering what Grue has been saying about her, I don’t think she’s ready.
Hannah frowned, “Alright. This is what you do, then. Propose Shadow Stalker and Kid Win. If Piggot does refuse Shadow Stalker, and you should make an argument that Shadow Stalker might need a change of scenery, Piggot will have a harder time refusing Browbeat, right after.”
…I suppose that might work?
Colin rubbed his chin, where his beard traced the edges of his jaw, nodded.
“If she doesn’t agree to giving away either of the two, and you really should play hardball on that, you can offer Clockblocker. He graduates this summer, anyways, and I’d say he’s got enough friends and contacts here that he might apply to come back to Brockton Bay to join our Protectorate when he turns eighteen. Best case scenario for us, and it’s not like Boston or New York need more capes.”
Colin sighed, “You’re better at this than I ever was.”
Hannah wasn’t sure how to respond. Colin had his strengths, but he was right.
He went on, “Congratulations.” He picked up the second folder and held it out to her.
“What?” She took it, opened it.
…he did say restructuring in both the Protectorate and the Wards. Is the restructuring in the Protectorate that Miss Militia is now the leader?
“There’s a change to our team, too, according to Piggot and the rest of the oversight. You’ve been promoted. Within the next two weeks, this building and this team will be transferred to your command.”
Nice. She may have threatened Alec, but I’m still more sympathetic to Miss Militia than I am to Armsmaster. As far as I know, she was just doing her job and obeying her superior. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Honestly, though, I’m not sure it’s so much Miss Militia being promoted as it is Armsmaster getting demoted, for some of his failures and controversies over the last month or two.
She stood there, paging through the folder of paperwork, stunned. “Where are you going?”
Oh… Well, then. I wonder what Taylor will think of that when she hears about it.
Hannah broke into a smile, “Chicago! That’s fantastic! A bigger city, a bigger team! Where’s Myrddin being moved?”
Hm… I wouldn’t be so sure he’ll actually be in charge of that team.
Also, Myrddin I believe I’ve heard of before. I know the name is the Welsh name for Merlin, and I seem to recall mentioning that before – Gregor’s interlude, maybe? Hang on, time to blog search.
Yep. Gregor and Newter fought Myrddin and Chevalier in Philadelphia once and “didn’t lose!”
“He stays in Chicago.”
Hannah shook her head, “But…” she trailed off.
The hard look on Colin’s face was telling enough.
“I’m so sorry,” she spoke.
Between Armsy taking Taylor’s blame for Mr. Rottendick, failing to stop the gallery heist, and being generally disliked as a leader, this was kind of… well, not expected, because I didn’t think to expect it, but it’s not exactly surprising either.
“It’s the politics,” Colin spoke, leaning back, “I’m good at this. Better than most, if you don’t mind me boasting. Everything I bring to the table, I worked my ass off for. But when it comes to shaking hands, managing people, navigating the bureaucracy… I’m not good at it, won’t ever be. Because of that, I’m getting demoted, and I can probably give up on ever being in charge of another team.”
He’s always been the type to speak his mind, I suppose. Not something the bureaucracy always appreciates.
“I’m sorry. I know how much you wanted-”
“It’s fine,” he said, but it was clear in the curtness and hardness of his tone that it wasn’t.
His precious reputation has taken a hard hit. There’s not much that would be less fine for him than this, really. Well, other than even harder hits.
He turned away and touched his keyboard. In the darkness of the room, his face briefly reflected the blue light of the screen. His brow furrowed.
Hm? Is the Endbringer being detected? It seems like it’s about time for that.
“Dragon. That program you gave me, predicting the patterns of class S threats, remember it?
Sure sounds like it.
I made a few modifications, to see if I couldn’t catch any highlights, I’m running a dozen of them concurrently. One, I called HS203. I want you to look directly at this. I’ve put it behind some pretty heavy security, but if you wait a second, I’ll-”
Man, I hope the thing that interrupted him was the realization that Dragon had already managed to bypass that heavy security.
“I’m already looking over it,” Dragon interrupted.
“I see what you did. Linking my data to atmospheric shifts. I think I see it.”
They kinda sound like meteorologists.
Hannah walked around the desk and leaned over Colin’s shoulder to see the screen. A map of the east coast was superimposed with a rainbow hued cloud. “This doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Are the Endbringer’s even bigger than I had imagined? Covering not just cities but entire coasts?
“Nothing’s truly random,” Colin explained, his voice tight, “Any data shows a pattern eventually, if you dig deep enough. Dragon started work on an early warning system for the Endbringers, to see if we can’t anticipate where they’ll strike next, prepare to some degree. We know there’s some rules they follow, though we don’t know why. They come one at a time, months apart, rarely hitting the same area twice in a short span of time. We know they’re drawn to areas where they perceive vulnerability, where they think they can cause the most damage. Nuclear reactors, the Birdcage, places recently hit by natural disasters…”
Oh jeez. So they’re basically the “oh you’re already in a shitty situation? here let me fuck you up even more!” gang.
Also, this tidbit about the Endbringers targetting the Birdcage is interesting and ties in nicely with my theory that there’ll eventually be a mass breakout.
But yeah, sounds like it’s more of a city-sized thing. I guess the rainbow cloud is a projection of probability?
He clicked the mouse, and the image zoomed in on a section of the coastline.
“…Or ongoing conflict,” Hannah finished for him, her eyes widening. “The ABB, Empire Eighty-Eight, the fighting here? It’s coming here? Now?”
It all comes back to Taylor as a spark, doesn’t it. Without Taylor throwing in her gauntlet, the conflict with the ABB wouldn’t have happened. Coil might not have moved on to all-out war with the E88 and “hastily” jumped on the chance to send the e-mail (though I’m still somewhat inclined to call bullshit on his excuse there).
It’s not her fault, but there is a thread of cause and effect.
Also it does seem that Dragon has her base of operations in Brockton Bay, even if she’s only present in this particular room via video call.
[I think I misread Hannah’s latest line as coming from Dragon and drew this conclusion from the use of “here”?]
Colin didn’t have a reply for her. “Dragon? Brockton Bay falls within the predicted zone, and the city is on the list of locations that rate high enough on the sensitivity or negative media scale.
If the Endbringers pick their targets by watching TV, I might have to revise my Lovecraftian theory.
And hey, Miss Militia’s backstory also turned out to be a point against that, seeing as she treats an actual Lovecraftian being as something she’s never seen the like of since.
So that’s two points against it from this chapter alone, and no points in favor, ever.
Good theory, eh? 😉
Add my data, the correlations between abrupt microshifts in temperature, air pressure and-”
I think I’m going back to “like natural disasters”. It reminds me of the Walpurgisnacht from Madoka Magica, which appears like a natural disaster to the mundanes.
“The data is good.” Dragon’s voice, synthesized to mask the most telling details about her identity, held no trace of doubt.
The data is good. But the conclusion is bad.
“Good enough to call for help?”
Yeah, that’s probably wise.
I guess around now is when the sirens start, a bit before the Endbringer actually arrives?
Colin moved quickly, spinning in his chair to reach a small console. He opened a glass panel and flipped a switch. Air raid sirens immediately began their ominous whine.
Yeah, there we go.
“Dragon, I’ll contact Piggot and the Protectorate teams. You get hold of everyone else that matters. You know who’s most needed.”
“Already on it.”
I suppose some capes’ powers are more useful than others. If the Endbringer turns out to be essentially a living hurricane or something, I feel like Taylor’s power might not be particularly useful.
He turned to Hannah, and their eyes met briefly. Much was communicated between them in that moment, and she wasn’t sure she liked what she saw in his eyes.
A glimmer of hope?
Hope that this early siren might help save some lives?
“Miss Militia. Recruit the locals. And we need a place to gather.”
She swallowed her concerns. “Yes sir!”
“Recruit the locals.” Does that include the villains, or just heroes like New Wave?
Endbringer of Interlude 7
So, this was an interesting chapter. First we got the thrilling backstory of Miss Militia, which was very interesting even if I did get a little too hung up on pine trees. It featured an actual incomprehensible being, so if the Endbringers aren’t among those, at least we did get to see one anyway.
Meanwhile, in the present, Armsmaster is being moved to Chicago and Miss Militia is taking over. It’s going to be interesting to see how that works out for her, and how Taylor reacts.
And then, the Endbringer approaches.
Next chapter brings the beginning of the bringing of the end. Until next time… try saying that ten times fast. 😉
Anyway, let’s move on from the pine facts, or we’ll be here until tree A.M.
I probably shouldn’t have brought up the pine trees again.