Extermination 8.4: Armmaster

Source material: Worm, Extermination 8.4

Originally blogged: December 2-3, 2017


[pre-intro]

Today’s powers: “happen (with) land”, “instruct (with) shade”, “snow (with) finger”.

I don’t think I’m gonna be much use against Leviathan today, unless I can instruct the shadows to do something against him, or to contact Scion.


Extermination 8.4

Hello everyone
Extermination eight point four
It’s time to survive!

Last time was quite bleak
By now most our hope is lost
Let’s wait for Scion.

People shall spread out
Will Taylor be alone this time?
Maybe, maybe not.

‘Least when we spread out
Taylor might find something to do
To protect the town?

Will I write haiku
Throughout the chapter? Prob’ly not
One way to find out!


I got my orders and left behind a bizarre scene where Armsmaster was working hand in hand with Kaiser, of all people.

Heh, the things a temporary truce can do.

I suppose Kaiser is good at organization.

Kaiser worked to build the same sort of trap that he’d imprisoned Lung in, some time ago, creating bars of metal between and around each of Leviathan’s limbs, a cage tight to the body.

Oh, but apparently that’s not what’s motivating this cooperation.

This is a good idea. The more they can restrain Leviathan while he’s out, the more additional time they have once he’s back.

Rune and another telekinetic were working to bend the metal from Kaiser’s shaken barrier around Leviathan’s limbs and face.

Nice.

So what’s Armsy’s role in this?

It wouldn’t last. Leviathan was too big, his tail extended a long distance behind him, and it was thin and supple enough to slip through almost any barrier Kaiser could erect, strong enough that it could bend metal. Leviathan would get free, there could be no illusions on that front.

Yeah. It’s all about how long it takes him to do so.


While Kaiser worked, Armsmaster was simultaneously ensuring that he could maximize the damage delivered the second Leviathan moved again.

Ah, I see. Yeah, I suppose this is a golden opportunity to attack without Leviathan being able to react in time.

Gingerly, he worked with the grenades the Protectorate had liberated from Bakuda, the same explosives Miss Militia had been firing at Leviathan, and hooked them up as motion activated or proximity mines.

Oooh, that’s a really good approach. Got anymore of the time bombs? Although I suppose that didn’t hinder him that much last time.

A complicated affair, I imagined, when your target could start moving any second, and when you couldn’t fully know or understand what the individual bombs did.

I’m still kind of surprised the Protectorate is using them in the first place. I mean sure, take any advantage you’ve got, but this is Bakuda we’re talking about. I have a hard time believing she didn’t predict this kind of thing might happen if the Protectorate were to get their hands on her stuff, and it would be just like her to stick a bunch of bombs that would hurt/kill the user among all the other ones, and label nothing so that only she’d know which ones do what and are safe to use.

In the end, though, it was still our best bet to do one final measure of damage against Leviathan before he was free to wreak havoc once more.

Yeah, it’s a pretty clever way to go about damaging him the moment he moves – instead of relying on people to identify his movement and react to it, they’ve covered him with devices that do both parts automatically.


There were a little more than fifty of us left.

There must’ve been a lot more people at the start than I got the impression of in 8.1.

Hookwolf, Fenja, Menja, Genesis, Aegis and Manpower were among the fifteen or so standing combatants that remained and were able to go toe to toe with Leviathan.

Considering how fast Levvy dispatches his enemies, that’s not a lot.

Parian, the girl in the doll costume, had formed some massive stuffed animals – a lion and a pig that stood as tall as Leviathan’s shoulder.

“formed”? So does that mean she has the power to make them, or has she been stitching all this time?

Tougher than they looked, according to her. I had my doubts. I mean, it wasn’t just that they were stuffed animals, but according to Parian, this was her first fight.

She is a rogue, after all.


Too many others were capable of delivering the hurt, but were too fragile: Browbeat, Shadow Stalker, Lady Photon, Purity, Laserdream, Brandish and others I didn’t know. The Ward with the crossbow, some guy with crimson skin.

Have I learned what Brandish’s power is? I don’t think I have.

There was a light show in the sky above as Kid Win teleported in pieces of the cannon he’d had at the bank robbery, manifesting them onto a hovering platform set directly in front of Leviathan.

Yesssss

The Tiro Finale is back, biches!

He’d get anywhere from a few seconds to a minute’s worth of concentrated fire with the gun firing on the highest settings, directing a beam through a gap in the bars to where Narwhal’s razor sharp forcefield had opened a gap in Leviathan’s neck.

Hell yes.


Beyond those first few moments after Leviathan woke up, it woul (sic) be anyone’s guess.

Then round 2 will be on.

Taylor mentioned orders. Where is she supposed to go, and what is she supposed to do there?

I hurried away from the site Armsmaster had indicated to me, my right hand on my left elbow, keeping my arm from moving too much. Sector CC-7, a block and a half South, a block West.

Alright, well, that answers the first question, I guess.

So strange, to think that this was an area I’d walked through a dozen times, on my way to or from the Loft. Now I was looking at it as a battlefield, trying to figure out what routes Leviathan would take.

Sometimes, home becomes a battlefield.

It sucks, but it’s the reality of it.

What things I had to watch out for – the grates leading down to the storm sewers, the rain barrel on top of one of the buildings that might or might not be intact enough to retain any water in it. Puddles.

I wonder how much the storm drains have been able to do against Leviathan’s water echo and waves. Probably not all that much.

But they’re still threats. Sources of even more water for Levvy to fling around.


Stuff I could use… hardly.

Naturally.

It wasn’t like there was any weapon I could deploy, no feature of the terrain I could use to deliver the critical blow. This was Leviathan.

This was Leviathan and your power is to make insects do your bidding.

A creature that had killed more people in the last 12 years than I had even seen in my entire life. Seen in person, anyways.

Nah, I think that holds true even without that qualifier.

Hell, you could swap out “the last 12 years” for “one day” and I still think it’d hold true. I doubt you’ve seen nine million people in total over the years.

…that said, I’m saying that as someone who lives in a minor town in a country of about five million.

I was scared. A huge part of me wanted to just close my eyes and hope Leviathan didn’t come, that I wouldn’t have to deal with him. It would be nice to join the three hundred and fifty thousand other Brockton Bay residents that were trusting the heroes to handle things, find a peace of sorts in surrender and helplessness. Except I couldn’t.

Unless Taylor gets incredibly creative, she’s practically without powers here, but her heroic instinct forces her to do whatever she can to help nonetheless. Even though she’s nominally a villain, and even if it turns out she’s not able to save anyone except Clockblocker, just the fact that she’s still trying under these circumstances… that makes her a hero.

I’d seen firsthand how Leviathan had taken down some of the strongest capes. I couldn’t find refuge in that kind of trust anymore. My mental and emotional resources were better spent on figuring out how to help than they were on hope.

Yeah, that’s fair enough.


That’s an oddly hopeful way of saying she’s abandoning hope.

She isn’t, really. What she’s doing is abandoning hope that Leviathan will be Somebody Else’s Problem, hope that the others will defeat him, and putting that hope on herself instead. She knows, logically, that she’s not very fit for this battle, but she’s holding on to the hope that she can find a way to help nonetheless.

She’s not abandoning hope, she’s redirecting it.


I was hurting, too. The only thing keeping the throb of my arm from consuming my attention was the fear. It was a kind of grim cycle: the pain reminded me of why I should be scared, but the emotion and the adrenaline kept the pain as this intensely unpleasant background chatter in my brain, where it might have crippled me otherwise.

A pretty basic survival mechanic. Pain and fear are good for alerting you to danger, but it doesn’t help if it prevents you from doing something about that danger.

It was a teetering balance that had me on edge in a way I’d never experienced to this degree. There were probably people who lived for that hypervigilant, heart-racing, brain-going-in-overtime experience. I wasn’t one of them.

Yeeah, not really Taylor’s style.

Priorities. Back to what I was thinking about – there obviously wasn’t anything to be found here that would win me a fight against Leviathan or even hurt him. Ridiculous to think that way. Any advantages to be gained would be ones that kept me alive.

That’s the first step towards winning a fight, anyway.


I wiped the beads of water from my lenses with my glove, which only seemed to divide each of them into a mess of smaller droplets.

Anyone who wears glasses knows how difficult this kind of thing can be.

Leviathan was bigger than me, stronger, faster, tougher. I had to think like a mouse who might run into a murderous cat at any moment. Like prey. Use my small size. Hide.

Sounds like a decent plan, but from there you still need to work on figuring out how to help. Hiding is what all the civilians are doing.

I needed a position that kept me out of sight, gave me a good vantage point, but left me free to make a run for it. A spot where I had an escape route if things got bad. To top it off, in the event Eidolon couldn’t stop the wave, I could also do with cover.

Sounds like you might want some height, but too much height makes it hard to have an escape route. That’s what got Tattle killed.

It was the sort of street you saw often enough in the Docks. Large buildings lined either side, like giant boxes made of concrete or brick. I could have maybe found a fire escape to climb up, in the hopes that I’d be out of reach of the wave, but my experience with Lung back on day one had taught me better.

Heh, yeah.

The higher ground was an advantage, sure, but if your opponent could get up or down from that location faster and more easily than you could, that stopped being an asset really damn quickly.

It suddenly becomes a trap.

If there was anything that was going to be useful, it would be on ground level. I saw a rusted van that had sat in front of an old workshop since I’d first passed through this area, all tires flat, windows broken, interior gutted.

Hm. If not for the broken windows and Levvy’s way with water pressures, it could’ve made a decent wave shelter, but no.

A chain link fence stretched between two buildings, but someone had cut the wires that connected the fence to the frame, so half of it was curled back and waving slightly in the wind and rain.

The Docks really are a mess.


No, those things weren’t useful. Larger scale? There was an old roof supported by two pillars, attached on one side to a building, a carport, perhaps.

I suppose that could be used to give some height without having to break anything on the way down, but that’s probably not enough against the sort of waves Levvy sends.

The roof was mostly intact, corrugated steel with a smallish hole in one lower corner, which meant the area beneath it was largely dry, but for a small puddle. It was also exposed on three sides, which meant I couldn’t stay there. My bugs could. It was a place they could keep dry until I needed them.

Oh right, she has bugs.

I’d been acutely aware of my bugs since the battle started, and for the second time I could remember, I found my power was responding far more effectively as I called for them.

Hm. Last time this happened was on the way to the Agnostic Bed Bugs’ hideout in Hive.

Is it something about this area?

I don’t think it has to do with the adrenaline, seeing as that didn’t seem to have kicked in yet in Hive.

My reach extended further, my bugs were fractionally more responsive. The last time this had been the case, it had been when I teamed up with Bitch, Sundancer and Newter and wound up fighting Oni Lee and Lung. I couldn’t explain it, but I wasn’t going to complain. I needed every small advantage I could get.

I’m sure we’ll find out what’s up with this eventually. For now, though…


As they began gathering under the carport, my mind returned to that notion of being successful ‘prey’.

When I’d originally designed my costume, I’d picked the darker colors, made sure that the varieties of chitin I used to make the armor were spaced out so the individual shading would retain some ‘speckling’ after being painted, all for a reason. Camouflage.

Nice.

And for once, she’s up against an enemy that can’t smell her or – presumably, since I don’t recall Leviathan having any ears – hear her.

I’d known I’d have my bugs all around me. I’d known I would be standing in the midst of them while they gathered into swarms, would have them crawling on me from time to time. So I’d picked darker colors and made my armor mottled to blend in with the bugs that were, obviously, specks.

Damn, that’s clever.

Just hiding inside my swarm wouldn’t be enough. Too easy for him to attack just the one cluster, tear through me.

Hm, yeah. It’d maybe help against a human with a smaller-scale power, but Leviathan is a monstrosity with wide-hidding abilities.


So I gathered more than one smaller swarm, clustering them in areas where it was dry. The interior of the rusted van, under eaves, in doorframes and on a roof, under a large rain barrel.

This way she gives him multiple places to attack before he finds her.

Then, struck by a little inspiration, I condensed the nine swarms into human-ish shapes.

Eyy, the ghosting trick again!

Black silhouettes crouched, stood tall with arms akimbo, leaned against walls, leaned partially outside the driver’s side window of the van. In the gloom, through the rain, it was deceptive. Deceptive enough? I couldn’t be sure.

Depends how perceptive Leviathan actually is, I suppose.

I felt the bite of cold air. A chill breeze, going straight through the soaked fabric of my costume. When I looked down to where the long road sloped to the edge of the water, I saw the reason for the chill. Eidolon was flying at the coast, focusing blue rays on the water around the shattered boardwalk and debris at the water’s edge, hardening the waves into irregular sheets and glacier-like formations of ice.

Hm. But if that doesn’t go all the way down to the sea floor, doesn’t that just give Leviathan more to throw at the coast?

Dangerous. I could remember seeing on TV that they’d tried something like this a few years ago. A Tinker using an ice engine, I think. I didn’t know exactly how or why, but judging by the fact that they hadn’t used the tactic again, I got the impression It had turned out really badly.

I guess maybe Eidolon missed that?

Perhaps it’s time to use the communicator and hear what’s up.

My guess was based on the notion that hydrokinesis was the movement of water, and ice was just water in another form.

I mean, fair. My reasoning was based on the ice being simply more hard debris floating in the water unless solidly attached to the sea floor.

It wasn’t that Leviathan would levitate the chunks of ice. Nothing so blatant. Rather, when a tidal wave did break through the ice, rolled up onto the battlefield with frozen shards and chunks caught up in the current, Leviathan might move those chunks a little faster in the wave’s passage, make them hit a little harder, and give them a tendency to strike where they could do the most damage.

So essentially, it’s resicetant, but he still has influence over it? Or at least that’s what Taylor thinks.


That was my suspicion, anyways. The heroes didn’t exactly dish out the full details at press conferences, afterward, so I could only make an educated guess.

Yeah, fair.

Either way, it was a delaying tactic. Holding off the damage, in the hopes that we could end this or get reinforcements before Brockton Bay became another Newfoundland.

Honestly, at this point, it’s probably more accurate to call it Newlostland.

We were hoping for Scion. The first cape, the golden skinned man. The guy that could go toe to toe with an Endbringer and win, if things hadn’t already gone too far south.

Considering how incapable over a hundred capes working together have turned out to be against Leviathan, Scion’s abilities – beyond what we heard of in Interlude 1, which was fairly standard stuff, though still impressive – must be off the charts.

If Behemoth hadn’t already turned the area into a radioactive, magma-ridden wasteland. If Leviathan hadn’t built up enough momentum with his waves. If the Simurgh… Ok, the Simurgh was different, I had to admit.

Fire, water and (presumably) air! Called it!

But what’s different about the Simurgh?

The issue with her wasn’t so much winning the battle. It was what came after. Win every battle against her, lose the war, more or less.

That’s… ominous.

Maybe the Simurgh isn’t all that strong of a fighter, but due to her manipulative abilities, she causes a lot of conflict between the people? Or maybe some of her powers have delayed effects?


The problem with waiting on Scion was that the guy wasn’t exactly in touch with the rest of us.

get a damn phone

There was speculation he had at least one human contact – someone that had given him clothing and a costume, at least – but he never bothered to stop long enough for anyone to pass on any requests, to tell him to go to X place when we gave him Y signal.

Too busy saving the day to be asked to save the day.

He rescued people twenty-four-seven, three hundred and sixty five days a year, handling crises only as they came to his attention, which meant that sometimes an Endbringer came and Scion was wholly occupied with saving sinking ships, stopping landslides and putting out housefires. I wondered what he was doing now.

I mean, you’re doing good work, but priorities, man.


My swarms were in place, which left me having to decide where to hide. The carport was too in the open, none of the eaves left me a good enough escape route, and as for the space under the rain barrel on the roof, well, I wasn’t that stupid, and I’d already dismissed the roof as an option anyways.

Hmm.

I started toward the rusted van. I was halfway there when I reconsidered. As comforting as it might be to have the safety of metal around me and to be more or less concealed, it posed some of the same problems as the rooftops. If things turned sour or if an unexpected situation arose, I’d be trapped.

Yeah, and it doesn’t protect against the wave.

After a moment of tense consideration, I reluctantly decided on the carport, hunkering down in the gloom and hoping the shadows there would help conceal me.

Fair enough.

It offered me an escape route – around the back of the building, or through the side door, it gave me cover from the rain and any debris, and it gave me concealment. I’d have to cope with the lack of cover from any incoming waves or Leviathan himself.

Yeeah, I suppose it’s time to make compromises.


By the way, I’ve been meaning to say… Maybe the only way to keep down Levvy is to hit him with a Chevy.

(#drove the chevy to the levee but the levee was dry)


Secure in the amount of bugs around me, I collected the ones that could go out in the rain and manage reasonably well. Primarily roaches. I sent them out in the general direction of where Leviathan and the others were. The better a sense I had of any imminent encounters, the better I could react.

Good call.

Manpower deceased, CD-6. Aegis deceased, CD-6 (sic), my armband spoke, at the same moment my bugs reached the area around where Leviathan had been.

He was awake again.

Taylor stole what I was gonna say.

Here we go.

…also it looks like Leviathan actually found a way to get past the mind-numbing redundancy of Aegis’ eldritch biology.

Oh, and that’s another New Wave man dead. I’m pretty sure they only have women left now, at least out of the members we’ve met, and none of those are going to be particularly happy after this.

(#dang it timmy)


Aegis would have been covering an aerial route, keeping Leviathan from heading to the rooftops, which meant Leviathan went up.

I keep forgetting that Aegis could fly.

I had the mass of roaches ascend, trying to get a sense of his location. I tried to use my armband to help gauge the direction he was traveling, but since I couldn’t move my arm, it was difficult at best.

I wonder, if Taylor had removed the armband and put it on the other arm, would the lack of a pulse during the transition lead the armband to believe she was deceased?

Fenja down, CC-6 (sic). My head snapped up.

I wonder how big she’d gotten, considering Leviathan was escaping from above.

I found them. Fenja and Menja were duking it out with Leviathan. Both were nearly as big as he was, which was saying a fair bit.

Not bad.

I knew their power warped geometry to make them bigger, simultaneously reduced the effective size of incoming attacks by an inversely proportionate amount. Six times as tall and a sixth of the hurt, on top of the benefits of being bigger.

Huh, interesting. “Warping geometry” seems like a good way to get around the square-cube law.


Fenja deceased, CC-6.

rip

I think this is the first time we’ve actually gotten both “down” and “deceased” for a character, but I’m not sure.

It wasn’t doing them a lot of good. Not Fenja, anyways.

You don’t say.

I saw a light as Kid Win rose above the level of the buildings, fired a painfully bright beam down at the Endbringer. After the laser petered out, he rose up higher again, to keep out of reach.

Get ‘im!

He was in the middle of firing another beam when the laser flicked around nearly three hundred and sixty degrees, spun by a massive impact.

Kid win down, CC-6.

I wasn’t talking to you, Leviathan!

(#dang it timmy)


And then Leviathan was in view, entering the same street I was on.

Well, shit. Hi there.

As if to herald his coming, a massive wave crashed hard against the barrier of ice Eidolon had erected around the wrecked Boardwalk, the spray seemingly reaching nearly to the stormclouds above.

Strike one.

One shoulder was bloated, five times the normal size, twisted, like it was covered in elephantine tumors, bleeding openly.

Huh, nice.

I have a feeling Tattle’s power would still say he has no weaknesses, but it’s a good sign.

Hm. Maybe the bloating is the result of one or more of Bakuda’s bombs?

He was injured in other places, had a hole through the side of his stomach, a larger blackened wound at the base of his neck, and a fifth of his face was missing, torn off below the cheekbone.

I’m not sure he has a cheekbone, but this is good nonetheless.

He didn’t seem to be suffering much.

This, not so much.

He held Kaiser’s upper torso in the one claw, tossed it casually to one side. The man’s legs were nowhere to be seen.

Look, it’s no secret I didn’t like him. That doesn’t mean I wanted… no, you know what? Fuck you, Max, you’re a piece of shit and I can’t finish that sentence and feel entirely sincere about it.

Wait, what? I hadn’t heard the report on Kaiser’s death.

…also, this. I was going to comment on that, but forgot.

Is this some sort of false Kaiser?

I checked my armband, where my arm hung immobile at my side.

It was dead, offline. Black screen.

Oh. Hm.

That’s not good.

(#dang it timmy)


I didn’t have another second to worry – Leviathan was extending one claw in my general direction.

Shit.

“I know you’re there.”?

The water that had pooled shallowly beneath the carport trickled his way, as if it were moving downhill, gathered in a rising bulge of water on the street in front of the carport, swelling to five feet in height, fifteen feet across.

Oh, good, he might not have noticed Taylor after all. He just found another source of water.

Unsure what to do, I remained absolutely still.

A movement of his claw, and the bulge broke, spilled to one side as an onrushing wave. It swept beneath the rusted van, suddenly rose to heave the vehicle in Leviathan’s direction.

Good thing you weren’t in there, huh?

The van rolled once, skidding toward the Endbringer, threatening to strike one leg out from under him. He stopped it by punching it through the roof, into the front end of the van.

It seems like he was expecting someone to be there.

Either that or he wants to wear the van like a glove.

He stabbed the other claw through at the same point, tore the van into two halves that he tossed to either side of him.

This behavior shows that he’s clearly searching for more people to kill.


A flick of his tail, and he sent a blade of water slashing through the air at the rain barrel, slicing through the swarm and stilts. The barrel crashed to the rooftop, and water cascaded out.

Again: Good thing you weren’t there.

A twisting movement of his claw, and that cascade of water flowed off the roof in a small, controlled wave, moving like a speeding car, straight towards the carport on the other side of the street, toward me.

Ah, shit, so much for him not having noticed you.

I caught a glimpse of Leviathan rearing back in reaction to something as I legged it, left my swarm behind as I ran perpendicular to the wave’s direction, away from Leviathan. I leaped as I felt it make contact with the swarm, felt it slam into my legs a fraction of a second after.

Oof.

(#dang it timmy)

[Uh… for the rain barrel, maybe? Or the swarm?]


Holy shit, just noticed the progress on the scroll bar. This appears to be a long one.

You know what, I think I’m gonna call it a night here. We’ll see if Taylor has any luck getting away from Leviathan tomorrow!

[End of session]


[Session 2]

Today’s powers: “scrape (with) popcorn”, “radiate (with) sleet”, “signal (with) income”.

Well, I doubt scraping popcorn or telling Leviathan my non-existent income via Morse code are going to be very helpful. Sleet rays could be useful against other enemies, but sleet is water (and far less solid than ice), so he could probably just turn my rays back at me.

Looks like I’m not gonna be very useful today either.

Anyway, let’s get back to the chapter!


Hm, maybe if I first radiate some sleet and then radiate with that sleet, I can choose what sort of radiation it makes. If I can make some sort of radiation that hurts Leviathan significantly without hurting myself, then that’s worth giving him just a little more ammo on top of the huge masses of water he already has.


I’d cleared enough ground that the angle of the hit didn’t throw me straight into the side of the building. I was thrown a distance, rolled on my side, on top of and over my probably-broken arm.

As if that arm hasn’t been through enough.

Although to be fair, that’s peanuts compared to what happened to a lot of the corpses lying around.

Pain consumed me. I writhed, my good hand pressing on my bad arm. I gagged, pulled my mask up to throw up, as if my body was trying to find some way to rebel against the pain.

ew

I tried to climb to my feet, but I was too weak, dizzy, and my good arm gave out. I landed face first in dirty water.

Shit. For all we know, Leviathan is still after her. Lying face down is not a good position to be in under those circumstances.


I had no idea how long it took me to pull myself together. It could have been two minutes, it could have been ten seconds.

Even ten seconds kinda sounds like a lot in this situation.

I managed to climb to my feet. Stumble back toward the carport, staying to the shadows.

Hm. Are you thinking that Leviathan believes he’s successfully gotten rid of you? Or maybe that he didn’t notice you to begin with and attacking the carport was a coincidence?

As I approached the corner of the building, I saw Armsmaster fighting toe to toe with Leviathan, a Halberd in each hand.

Oh, hey there!

Is it sacrifice time already, or…?

One was similar to the one he’d used the night we attacked the fundraiser, capable of unfolding into a grappling hook, the other was simpler, a dull stainless steel from tip to butt end, with no decoration or style to it. The head was surrounded by a strange blur that seemed static, unmoving around the blade and point.

Huh. Some kind of concealment tech to hide what he’s actually doing with the Halberd head?

Leviathan slapped his tail at Armsmaster’s legs, and Armsmaster leaped over it, swiped out with the blurry Halberd.

I suppose they don’t make you head of a Protectorate division if you don’t know how to move effectively in combat.

It carved a chunk out of Leviathan, left a cloud of dust that the rain quickly drove down into the expanse of water beneath them.

Nice!

The Endbringer reared back in pain, and Armsmaster stepped forward, leaped up higher than any normal human could,

Jump boost tech in his boots, I imagine.

and caught Leviathan just above the knee with the Halberd, driving the blade nearly a third of the way to the bone.

So he does have bones, then? It didn’t really sound like it when Tattle examined him, but I suppose her power never said “no skeleton”, and his body does act as though he has one.


Leviathan retaliated, swiping at Armsmaster, but the hero planted a foot on the uninjured part of the knee, and kicked himself back and out of the way.

We’re looking at a pro, here.

I suppose if we’re doing the heroic sacrifice thing I’ve suggested for Armsmaster, or at least following through on his death flags, it’s only fair that he gets one last chance to prove his worth first.

The afterimage followed him, and he swiped at it with the other Halberd. The blade erupted with a flame like a giant purple blowtorch, turning the worst of the afterimage into steam before it could crush him.

Sweet!

He turned his back so the steam didn’t billow against the exposed flesh of his face. Some remains of the afterimage struck his armor, but he slid back and rolled with the impact, keeping his feet on the ground the entire time, enabling him to leap and roll to one side as Leviathan’s tail came down from behind and directly above him.

Woo!

Seriously, he’s being pretty awesome here. I’d love to see this animated.


Leviathan was badly injured. Ichor poured from six large wounds that hadn’t been there when he’d arrived on the street.

Seriously nice work, Armsmaster. Seriously, it seems like this is almost as much as a hundred heroes pulled off in 8.3.

“You dumb brute,” Armsmaster growled. He was panting for breath. “Every fight you’ve done so far, that we’ve got on camera? I’ve watched it, put it through programs. I’ve got a computer on my back that’s relaying to a supernetwork, noting your every move, using subsonic pulses to read every aspect of the street, the surrounding buildings, every feature of the terrain. I know exactly what you’re going to do next – you’re going to try to catch me from behind with a wave.”

Much like Taylor, Armsmaster is a hero who does thorough research, and then adapts. We saw it in Tangle, and we’re seeing it here. The level of badassery he’s showing here thus becomes another reinforcement of the theme of “knowledge is power”.

That said, pride cometh before the fall.

Leviathan lunged, swiped with the oversized claw. Armsmaster rolled to one side, then swung both Halberds behind him to intercept the wave that was coming from behind, vaporize it.

I do wonder if Leviathan has a sense of hearing. If he does, and can understand English, then he’d have reason to switch up his methods after hearing what Armsy just said. Doesn’t seem like he’s doing that just yet, though.

“You don’t even speak English, do you? Or you’d know what I was saying, you’d know I already won.

Looks like Armsmaster is thinking about the same thing.

The others helped, slowing you down, stopping the waves. But this victory, this killing blow? It’s going to be mine.”

Oh yeah, the pride is strong in this one. That’s another death flag for you, pal – you’re up to at least three or four now.


Leviathan lunged, stopped, letting his water echo get ahead of him, then lunged again, a half second later. Armsmaster leaped out of the way of the echo, drew his knees to his chest to avoid a claw swipe while he was still airborne, and sent his grappling hook between Leviathan’s feet to pull himself to the ground in a flash.

That said, Armsmaster really does seem to know what he’s doing. Out of everyone still alive, he probably has the best shot at this.

I don’t think he’ll pull it off, but he’s gonna do a damn good job trying.

He skidded with the momentum, right between Leviathan’s legs, and raised the blurry Halberd to strike Leviathan between the legs, against the first ten feet of Leviathan’s tail. The tail was turned to dust where the blade made contact, the plumes of it briefly obscuring Armsmaster.

Oh shit, it seems like Armsmaster just straight up got rid of the tail, assuming the turning to dust went all the way through. The tail is not only one of Leviathan’s most effective weapons, but Taylor explicitly pointed out that it seemed to help him balance.

I can’t help but imagine Leviathan comically tipping over like one of these things:

“This cloud around my blade? Nanotechnology.

So, uh.

Does Armsmaster just monologue because he likes to hear himself talk about how cool his stuff is?

Nano-structures engineered to slide between atoms, sever molecular bonds. Cuts through anything. Everything. Like a sharp knife through air.”

Just a little sharper and you’ll be able to cut through reality into other dimensions. I mean, interdimensional holes in spacetime are an established possibility.

I wonder if these subatomic nanostructures are possible specifically as a result of Armsmaster’s power to make technology smaller. Like, Armsmaster applying his power to technology that’s already as small as non-Tinkers have been able to pull off to make something that’s smaller than the same kind of thing it’s made of.


Leviathan whipped his tail at Armsmaster. Armsmaster stepped out of the way, slapped at the tail with the broad side of the blade.

Ah, I guess he didn’t manage to detach it completely just yet.

More dust, another chunk of flesh gone, ichor pouring from the injury. He ducked the echo as though it were an idle afterthought.

Making progress, though.

Leviathan turned to run. Armsmaster sent out one blade like a grappling hook, circled the smaller of the Endbringer’s claws with the chain.

Huh. It seems Leviathan actually feels threatened now. Nice. But Armsmaster’s not going to let him get away – he wants to kill him. A bit of pride that might just bite Armsy in the armse.

Leviathan moved, oblivious or uncaring, and Armsmaster waited until the slack was out of the chain, pressed a button.

The chain and Halberd ceased moving, and even Leviathan’s strength ceased to move it.

Huh.

Rather than pull away, the Endbringer skidded, fell on his back, wrist still held by the chain.

A half second later, the chain went briefly slack, then rigid again as Armsmaster reeled himself in.

And there he goes.

Hm. One potential outcome here is that Armsmaster ends up killing Leviathan, but taking out himself in the process, possibly intentionally. That would make his exit a true heroic sacrifice, set apart even from all the other sacrifices in this Arc, through its successfulness at doing what it seems like no one has ever done before: Taking out an Endbringer.

In death he’d finally get his precious reputation, and deserve it too.

He drove the blurry blade straight into Leviathan’s face with all the force of his forward momentum.

Ooh, that’s gonna smart. Well. No it isn’t– actually, yes it is? Leviathan has been seemingly reacting to pain even though he doesn’t have a nervous system? I’m confused. *checks Interlude 8* Ohh, Tattle’s power said he had a nonstandard nervous system.

It’s gonna smart. Probably.

He pulled it free, slashed again, then freed the chain and used it to pull himself across the street, out of reach of Leviathan’s violent response.

Nice work, man.


Armsmaster called out, “Let’s see how quickly you respond to classical conditioning. Every time you try to run, I’ll do something like that.”

I mean… if you fail here, the world might regret you teaching an Endbringer not to run. Especially considering Plan A was “beat him up until he goes away”.

That said, I suppose it could help someone else take him down for good.

Leviathan had no reply.

Leviathan isn’t exactly the talkative type. Comes with having no mouth, I suppose.

He simply climbed to his feet, swiped a claw through the air. Armsmaster parried the afterimage that sailed through the air toward him, using the purple flame.

“For the record, that last trick was a temporal stasis trigger, with thanks owed to the cooperation of a subordinate of mine. Drains my battery reserves, but you don’t understand that, do you?”

Man, it’s a good thing he doesn’t seem to understand you, because you keep laying bare your strengths and weaknesses.

I’m guessing this subordinate is Clockblocker. Much like how Bakuda was able to make bombs emulating Vista’s abilities (and probably Clockblocker’s too, for the time bombs – in fact I’m thinking that turning other parahumans’ abilities into explosives might’ve been a part of her specialty), Clockblocker and Armsmaster may have been able to emulate the former’s power in tech affected by the latter’s.


Maybe Armsy is filming this with his visor, so that he can make sure his historical victory over Leviathan is properly recorded. That would provide more reason for his monologuing.


Leviathan lunged, and Armsmaster fired out the grappling hook, stopped it in mid air by freezing it in time. Leviathan ran himself through on the chain, the thing spearing deep into his neck and out the back of his torso. Uncaring, the Endbringer continued to charge at Armsmaster.

Ouch.

Let’s make a Leviathan necklace!

Armsmaster let the chain go slack, ducked a swipe of the tail, leaped forward and to one side to avoid the claw that followed. Another small hop and roll ensured he moved right beneath the afterimage, and he made two swipes with the blurry Halberd at the back of Leviathan’s thighs as he passed behind the Endbringer. His chain reeled in, pulled free of Leviathan’s neck wth (sic) a spray of blood, came down and across Leviathan’s hip to snap back to the top of the Halberd. He fired it off again to get himself more distance, pulling himself across the street, spinning to face Leviathan once more as he stopped.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This entire fight would be really cool to see animated.


He passed one Halberd to the other hand, so he held two, wiped some frothing spittle from his mouth with his gauntlet. “I am going to be the one to take your head, abomination. I can only hope you know mortal terror in your last moments, know what you’ve inflicted on so many others.”

Okay, pride and falls and all that, but Armsmaster genuinely is pretty good at this kind of speech.

Leviathan stood, straighted itself, touched its claw to its ruined face, then its neck. The amount of blood it was losing – it seemed somehow more than Leviathan should have been able to contain within himself. I mean, he was big, but this was a lot of blood.

Wow.

For several long seconds, Leviathan didn’t move.

Considering how rapid his movements have been through the last few chapters, every time he stops moving feels quite significant.

“Delaying, buying time for a tsunami?” Armsmaster laughed, and Leviathan cocked his head at the display of emotion. “No. Three point four minutes before the next big wave breaks through the ice. Dragon’s probes are giving me the data on that. This will be over before then.”

Let’s hope you’re right about that.


So what is Taylor’s role here?

Having one single hero take out Leviathan pretty much on his own without Taylor finally finding a way to help seems a bit… counter to some of the things that’ve been somewhat in focus in this Arc – teamwork to take down a threat to everyone and trying to find a way to help even though it seems hopeless.

That said, maybe that’s the point.


He stepped forward, then stepped again, waiting for some cue from Leviathan. On Armsmaster’s third step, Leviathan took a small step back, lashed his tail behind him.

“Finally scared?” Armsmaster taunted. “Good.”

Try not to be too cocky. Before you know it, you might misinterpret a preparation to attack as fear because that’s what you want to see in it.

Nausea and pain was welling up in me again as I watched from the corner of the building, under the carport, threatening to override my sense of awe.

She may have her reasons to dislike Armsmaster, but she can identify badass when she sees it.

Besides, she did spend most of her life admiring Armsmaster before she found out he was a dick.

It was all I could do to keep quiet, keep from distracting Armsmaster, or distracting Leviathan and throwing some wrench in Armsmaster’s data.

I suppose that is one way of helping.

The last thing I wanted was to become the hostage that made Armsmaster hesitate for the fraction of a second that cost him -cost us all- the fight.

Yeah, that would be unfortunate.


Armsmaster went on an all-out offensive, slashing as fast as his arm could move, cutting leg, knee, tail, leg again, moving out of the way of Leviathan’s attacks as though it were easy. For ten seconds he continued, relentless.

Good work!

“I should thank you, monster,” Armsmaster spoke, after he’d just finished a backflip that had carried him near enough to Leviathan’s torso to strike the creature across the lower belly.

For giving him a chance to restore and boost his reputation?

Leviathan lunged, dropping to all fours, as if trying to swamp Armsmaster with a huge volume of water by way of his afterimage. Armsmaster was already casting his grappling hook out, pulling himself out of the way. In the final moment before he pulled away, his other Halberd swung up and into Leviathan’s neck, making a wound mirroring the spot where Narwhal’s forcefield had cleaved deep, the one Kid Win had undoubtedly opened wider with his laser turret. Armsmaster reeled the hook back in.

This battle is really cool.

The Endbringer turned, as if to run, only for the loop of the grappling hook’s chain to pass under his ‘chin’. Armsmaster heaved himself up and onto the Endbringer’s back, drove the Halberd into one side of the neck, lengthening the cut he’d just made. He stepped on the top of the Endbringer’s head, leaped down, catching the Endbringer across the face with the Halberd as he descended. Leviathan collapsed, going spread-eagle.

Leviathan down, CC-7! For some definition of “down”, anyway. It’s not quite clear what the armband’s definition of that was, considering the unconscious Clockblocker was never reported as “down” as far as we heard.


Full disclosure: I wanted to double check the location code, remembering that it had been mentioned near the beginning of the chapter, so like an idiot, I hit control+F and searched for “CC-7″. Bad move, because it ended up taking me down instead of up like I had expected, and took me to the line:

Armsmaster down, CC-7.

That’s all I saw, though, and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it still sucks having accidentally spoiled myself like that.

In the future, I’ll just take the extra time it takes to look back manually if it’s in the same chapter I’m currently liveblogging. I won’t let this happen again.

(#idiotwell)


Armsmaster slashed at Leviathan’s forearms as the Endbringer started to clmb (sic) to his feet. More damage done, though it didn’t stop Leviathan from rising. While Armsmaster pressed the attack, his armband hissed with a message I couldn’t make out. I glanced at mine – still broken.

Hrm.

“This will be over before then,” Armsmaster echoed an eariler statement, speaking more to himself than to the armband or Leviathan.

I guess the armband might’ve been reminding him of the wave?

Leviathan hopped backwards to create some distance, staggered a little as the more injured of his two legs failed to take his weight, used his smaller hand to stop from falling a second time, poising himself on three limbs.

He’s really been taking a beating.

Armsmaster used his grappling hook to haul himself close, readying to make another slash for the neck.

He mentioned he wanted Leviathan’s head, and while that was probably just metaphorical like it usually is, it does seem like he might be trying for a decapitation.

He changed his mind as the ground rumbled, pulled the hook free to latch it on a garage door.

Oh no. Considering the whole aquifer situation, rumbling ground is not a good sign. Not that it would be one without the aquifer either, of course.

Countering his forward momentum, he swung himself to one side of the road, staying out of Leviathan’s reach.

Your friendly neighborhood Armsmaster.


The ground rumbled again, brief, intense, stopped.

Armsmaster touched a hand to the side of his visor, and I thought I saw his lips crease in a frown before he turned his head away from me.

Yeah, whatever this rumbling is, whether it’s the aquifer about to create a sinkhole under CC-7 or something else, it’s not conducive to Armsy’s plan here.

Another fierce rumble, and a crack appeared like a seam down the center of the street, a straight line as far as I could see in either direction.

Yep, here we go. Sinkhole time.

Although that’s oddly straight. Maybe this has more to do with sewers and such? I don’t see that causing the same kind of rumbling, though.

Leviathan raised his claw, and the road suddenly split, heaving upward as a concrete pipe wide enough to fit a man crested from the pavement like a whale rising from the waves. A second later, water gushed forth, veering toward Armsmaster.

The storm sewers.

Alright, that is what we’re going with for now. Sinkhole time isn’t just yet, then.

So, Armsy, what does your computer have to say about this?


Armsmaster hesitated, then threw his grappling-hook-Halberd forward into the onrushing waves like a javelin. The gush of water froze in time,

Be careful with that. You don’t want to get trapped like Clockblocker.

and he leapt forward, stepping on the furthermost extensions of the immobile spray in a parkour-style ascent over the water and the pipe.

fucking

badass.

The water resumed its regular motion as Armsmaster took his final leaping step off the top, heading straight for Leviathan.

Leviathan moved faster than he had in the last minute, caught the blade in his claw.

aaand this is where it goes to shit, isn’t it?

Dust rose from the claw as the blade sank deep, blood poured out, but the blade remained fixed in place. Armsmaster tugged, failed to dislodge it. He tried to pull away, but I could see Leviathan had caught onto his hand and wrist with his clawtips, while the Halberd sat embedded in his ‘palm’.

Now what?

“How!?” Armsmaster roared.

How what? How did it get stuck? How did Leviathan move so much faster than before? How did you lose?


I didn’t hesitate a moment in sending out my bugs. Three swarms, shaped like people, more as a general cloud. The bugs all sagged beneath the drenching rain, the ones on top taking the brunt of the downpour.

It’s time for Taylor to do something.

She might not be able to harm Leviathan or snatch Armsmaster out of harm’s way, but she can make some excellent distractions.

Leviathan planted one foot beside Armsmaster for balance, reached out with his free claw, and pressed the tips against the side of Armsmaster’s throat and torso.

*poke*

Still holding on to Armsmaster’s hand and wrist, he pushed against the side of the man’s body. Armsmaster screamed, a frantic noise that seemed to redouble in urgency with every breath. He tipped over and fell with a splash.

Not so cocky anymore, eh?

The Endbringer stood, showing none of the frailty or pain it had been displaying seconds ago. The injuries were there, to be sure, his head hung at an angle because of the way the weight of his head hung on the intact portions of his neck, but he wasn’t suffering, had no trouble putting his full weight on his more injured leg. Had it been an act?

It… kinda seems like it. I suppose this is the more manipulative side of Leviathan.


From Extermination 8.2 (bold mine):

“I’m telling you your chances now because you deserve to know, and we so rarely get the chance to inform those individuals brave enough to step up and fight these monsters. The primary message I want to convey, even more than briefing you on the particulars of his abilities, organizing formations and battle plans, is that I do not want you to underestimate Leviathan. I have seen too many good heroes,” he paused for a fraction of a second, “And villains, too, die because they let their guard down.”

That said, I would advise you to think of him as having many of the strengths of both siblings at once. You’ve seen the videos on television and the internet. You know what he is physically capable of. I want to be clear that despite the image he might convey, he is not stupid, and he can display a level of cunning and tactics that can and will catch you off guard.

“Our second priority is that we need to find ways to hurt him. If you cannot, if your attacks are deflected or prove otherwise useless, work to support those who can. It is vain to hope to kill him, but he can be whittled down enough that he will flee back to the ocean, and if we hurt him enough, it may delay the time before he is capable of making another attack elsewhere.”

Good job, Armsmaster, of ignoring every bit of advice Legend gave.


The Endbringer dropped Armsmaster’s arm and Halberd, where the weight of the metal armor and device pulled them beneath the water.

Uh oh.

A lash of his tail dispatched two of my three swarms. He watched, seeming not to care, as the third ran up to him, smashed against his leg. The bugs spreading out, burying themselves deep into his injuries.

I don’t know if that’s going to help much, given that his flesh just gets even harder further in. But that’s not something Taylor knows.

I was hoping to find some weakness, devour him from the inside out, but the bugs might as well have been biting on steel. Nothing budged beneath their jaws, their stings couldn’t penetrate.

Taylor has really shitty luck when it comes to enemies and their skin/flesh.


He turned, crouched, bolted West, away from the coast, full speed.

I hurried to Armsmaster’s side.

Well, alright. See ya, Levvy.

“You,” he groaned. His left arm was gone at the shoulder, torn out of the socket. Blood poured from the wound. “You’re dead.”

Dude, if this is about Tangle… oh wait. It’s because of the armband being broken – he genuinely thought she was dead, because once the armband broke and lost touch with the central system, the system assumed the worst and went Skitter deceased, CC-7.

“Hey, you’re not making any sense.”

“He killed you.”

Had my armband announced my death when it glitched out and died? Assumed total destruction of my unit, and me with it?

Yeah, seems like it.

“I’m alive. Listen, I’m going to try and find your arm, my armband got broken, maybe something got dislodged when Leviathan broke my arm.”

He only groaned unintelligbly in response.

I ran over to the general area where Leviathan had dropped Armsmaster’s arm.

So does this mean he’s just Armmaster now? 😉

I tripped over the crack that ran down the middle of the street, got my feet under me to keep running, and began feeling through the water.

I came within inches of touching the submerged blade, turning my hand to molecular dust.

Ah, yeah, that’d be… an issue.

There are enough problems at hand here. 😉 😉


Finding the arm, I picked it up. Heavy, almost too much to hold in one hand.

Not exactly the way you had ever expected to shake hands with the one and only Armsmaster, was it?

It wasn’t just the weight of the armor or the fact that it was a muscular, full-grown-man’s limb – the gauntlet had been crushed around the pole of the Halberd, crumpled like tinfoil.

So that you have to pick up the Halberd too, which is filled to the brim with technology that is smaller than usual but not necessarily lighter?

With the arm and weapon in a bricklayer’s grip that was painful to maintain, I hurried back to Armsmaster’s side, dropped them near him. I shook him, hoping to get him alert, to no avail.

“Here’s your missing limb, I’m sure you know what do do with it.”

With my only working hand, I pried the Halberd free of his glove, rested his arm across his chest, and pressed the button.

“Armsmaster down! CC-7! Leviathan is heading West…”

I wonder how the remaining Undersiders are going to react to hearing Skitter’s voice after her death message. I guess they might think “Was that… no, must’ve just been someone who sounded very similar.”

I felt the bugs I’d clustered in Leviathan’s wounds change direction. The compass point between West and Northwest was what? More Wests than North.

Oh shit! She just found a way to be useful. She’s now able to sense Leviathan’s movements remotely and keep the system updated.

As long as he stays within reach of her power, at least. Fortunately, that ought to be at double range, unless the mystery boost stopped applying.


“Cancel that! He’s going West-North-West from my location!”

My voice echoed back to me in the Armband’s tinny voice a half-second after I’d finished.

Oh, so the armband just repeats what you say if it’s approved, rather than play the recording. Fair enough, though it seems potentially troublesome if more than one person were to start communicating things at a time.

Armsmaster’s armband changed to display a red dot, tracking Leviathan’s movements, or the closest approximation the system could guess.

Nice.

“Roger, sounds like he might be heading for one of the shelters, lots of people packed into a space where they can’t run, vulnerable,” someone replied, “Medical help incoming. Whoever this is, you can track Leviathan?”

Like in this situation. If the armband doesn’t delve into voice acting and use different voices for each of them, this could get a little confusing for third parties.


“Yes, as long as I’m within a few blocks of him.” Again, the system relayed my message. Affirmative. Range restriction of ‘a few blocks’.

Huh. It rephrases it too.

Did it really need to reword what I said?

I could see it being useful if someone’s unnecessarily wordy, but there’s not much to be gained from this particular rewording.

“Can you fly? Chase him?”

“No.” Negative.

It seems almost stylistic at this point.

Meanwhile, the other person doesn’t seem to be getting reworded, at least not quite as blatantly. Maybe it’s a perk of being trusted with unmoderated chat.

“Then I’m sending a flier your way, to ensure you stay close enough. We need eyes on this bastard, and you’re them.”

Yeah, I can’t imagine the reworded message would keep the word “bastard”, given the formal, military-esque styling.

So yeah, we finally know what Taylor’s role in all of this is! It’s kinda satisfying.

…I suppose Tattle’s comments on Taylor’s use of the bugs to sense her surroundings might’ve been foreshadowing.


“Got it!”

There was only silence after that. Teeth clenched, shivering, I pressed my good hand as hard as I could manage against the ragged mess of Armsmaster’s shoulder, trying to slow the blood loss.

So is Taylor gonna have to carry Armsmaster’s former arm with her now?

Also, if the armband is on the detached arm, why didn’t the system announce Armsmaster deceased, CC-7 when the arm stopped getting a blood pulse? Hm. Maybe it did, and just didn’t bother announcing that to Armsmaster’s own armband.


Endbringer of Extermination 8.4

This was great.

Armsmaster was fucking awesome in this chapter. Sure, he was underestimating Leviathan and being a prideful man seemingly only concerned with his reputation as usual, but he was genuinely a really badass fighter who provided us with what I believe to be the most visually cool fight so far in the story.

And, surprisingly, he didn’t actually die, in spite of about 3-5 different death flags. I doubt Wildbow is going to casually be like “oh btw Armsmaster bled to death” at the beginning of the next chapter, so I think he’s good for now, even if he’ll only be Armmaster from now on.

Meanwhile, Taylor finally found a way to help out! One that fits with what she’s been doing regularly ever since Agitation: Sticking bugs on people to track them. Along with the flier that was just assigned to Taylor, this also puts her in a position giving her an overview of the battle wherever it moves to.

Speaking of which, Leviathan appears to be moving towards one of the shelters. I should note that Danny’s also got a death flag or two on him (basically, if going for maximum angst for Taylor, it’d be a good time to kill him off just when he and Taylor have a conflict and she last saw him during a really stressful confrontation), though Armsmaster has just proven that such is survivable in this story.

So yeah. Next time, this bug is going flying! See you then! 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Extermination 8.4: Armmaster

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