Extermination 8.5: Leviathan, Scioning Off

Source material: Worm, Extermination 8.5

Originally blogged: December 8, 2017


OK, everyone! Welcome back to the Wormy-Wormy Literature Club, where everything is fun and cutesy!

Ĕ̀͂͗̃̃̐ ̦͉̘̲͋ͮ̽͆̉̈́̏͢Ñ̜ ̑͆͐̈́I̲͖͙̪̙̬͋͂ͯ ̺͚̖̤͕̳̱ͤ͠M̺̭̰̺ͫ̓͐͒ ̣̠͔͔̼ͧ́͜ ̪̦͂̚ ͓̐̆͒̓́Eͫ̎̃ ̛͈̣̦̻͙̫̣Rͫ̈́́͏̲ ̦̝͍A̋ͫ҉͖͎͕̯ ̠̈̿̈́ͯͩ͝ ̟̲̻͙̉͘ ̶͈͍̰͓̇ͯ̑ͦ͐̋ͮỦ̲̹͕̻̯̠̏ͅ ̈̽O͖̝͇̩ͨ̀ͧ̓̓̔̄ ̰̪̘͎͓̎̓͊ͩYͮͬ̍̎

Last chapter, Armsmaster was awesome for all the wrong reasons. Then he lost an arm and became simply Armmaster.

Also, Taylor found her calling in this battle, namely as a tracker for Leviathan. This chapter, we’re teaming up with a flier to do exactly that, which will probably allow us to watch some battles from the air without Taylor having to take part in them directly. Meanwhile, Leviathan appears to be heading for a shelter, possibly the one Danny is located in. If he gets there, things could get even nastier.

Without further ado – let’s go!


Lady Photon and the eighteen year old Laserdream landed beside Armsmaster, making a small splash as they touched down.

Hi there.

I’m sorry about your losses. I never really knew them, but they all seemed like good men.

You could see the family resemblance. They weren’t supermodel good looking, but they were attractive people, even with their hair wet and plastered to their heads and shoulders by the rain.

I guess some people manage to rock even that look.

Both wore costumes with a white base color, had heart shaped faces, full lips and blonde hair. Lady Photon’s costume sported a starburst on her chest, with several of the lines extending around her body, or down her legs, going from indigo to purple as it got further from the center.

Nice.

Also, notice how Taylor’s narration is calling Photon Mom by her preferred name all of a sudden, now that she’s actually up close?

Her hair was straight, shoulder length, held away from her face by a tiara shaped much like the same starburst image on her chest.

Tiara, huh? Sounds familiar. *gestures to the photon niece*


Her daughter had a stylized arrow pointing down and to her right, on her chest, with a half dozen lines trailing behind it, over her left shoulder, one line zig-zagging across the others.

Fitting.

The entire design gradually faded from a ruby red to a magenta color in much the same way her mom’s did. Similar rows of lines with the zig-zag overlapping them ran down her legs and arms.

A starburst can look both like a shield and as a bunch of lasers going in all directions, whereas this design is unambiguously lasery.

She didn’t dye her hair in her ‘color’ like her younger brother did -had, past tense-, or wear the tinted sunglasses, but she did wear a ruby red hairband over her wavy hair, to ensure she always had a coquettish sweep of hair in place over one eye, and to pull the magenta, red and white color scheme together.

Is this the first mention of Shielder’s blue hair in the actual text, or did I miss that earlier?

Anyway, I like Laserdream’s design. 🙂


More than anything else, though, the two of them had the look of people who had seen half their immediate family brutally and senselessly torn apart over the course of one terrible hour.

Literally all the men we know of in that family.

These women are not having a good day.

As though they’d had their hearts torn out of their chests and were somehow still standing. It wasn’t that I had seen anyone in those circumstances before, but that look existed, and they had it.

I like this analogy.

It was painful to look at. It reminded me of when my mom had died. I’d been in a similar state.

The feeels– And just as I paste that into the liveblog post, Nyan Cat starts playing.

Maybe I should switch to a less varied, more fitting playlist.


Lady Photon – Photon Mom to Brockton Bay residents and the local news media – bent down by Armsmaster.

I suppose the evident heartbreak she’s dealing with is one reason for the change in how Taylor refers to her in the narration. This is a newly widowed and, uh, de-sonned and de-brothered woman, and Taylor is painfully aware of that fact. Least Taylor can do in this situation is mentally refer to her by her proper name rather than the nickname she doesn’t care for.

She created a shaped forcefield tight against his shoulder, lifted him with a grunt.

Not sure what that’s supposed to accomplish. Stop the bleeding, I guess?

“Take him,” Lady Photon’s voice was strangely hollow, though firm.

“No. I’m a better flier, and more likely to hurt that thing in a fight. I’ll take the girl and help against Leviathan.” Laserdream had a little more life in her voice than her mother did.

Makes sense. Besides, it might be a bit less awkward for Taylor to be carried by someone closer to her own age.

The girl.Like I didn’t warrant a name, or it wasn’t worth the effort to remember.

To be fair, they haven’t actually asked what it is yet. Which, alright, is kind of rude, and there are better ways to refer to someone whose name you don’t know. All I’m saying is she might not be using your name because she doesn’t actually know.

A part of me wanted to stand up for myself, a larger part of me knew this wasn’t the time or place.

After a long few seconds of deliberation, Lady Photon nodded. She looked like making that decision aged her years.

Poor Photon Mom doesn’t want to lose the one child she has left. 😦


Laserdream and her mom looked at me. I felt like I should say something. Give condolences? Tell them that their family had died well? I couldn’t think of a way to put it that didn’t tell them something they already knew, or anything that wouldn’t sound horribly offensive or insincere coming from a villain.

Awkward… :/

“Let’s go get that-” I stopped, both because I suddenly felt that something like motherfucker was too crass, and because I wanted to bend down to pick up Armsmaster’s Halberd, the one with the disintegration blade, grabbing the pole of it with my good hand. “Let’s go get him,” I stated, lamely.

Ooh, that might come in handy. Even if it doesn’t quite manage to sever Leviathan’s tail, it can still be used on other things.

It took some doing for Laserdream to lift me without pressing against my broken arm or touching the blade. She wound up holding me with an arm under my knees and the crook of her elbow at my neck.

Alright, now imagine the two of them exiting a church like this, both dressed in wedding dresses on top of their cape outfits. Neither one of them know how they got there.

(Trickster is hiding in the bushes, snickering to himself. Meanwhile, a newlywed lesbian couple find themselves wherever Laserdream and Skitter were just a moment ago, and suddenly in their underwear.)

She held the Halberd for me. I resigned myself to being cradled – there was no dignified way to be carried. She had morning breath, a strangely mundane thing – she’d likely been woken up at half past six in the morning by the sirens, hadn’t had time to brush her teeth or eat before coming here.

I guess in one way, the early meeting with Coil was helpful for Taylor.


She took off, smooth. It felt like an elevator kicking into motion, except we kept going faster, had the wind in our faces.

My first time flying, if you discounted the experience of riding a mutant dog as it leapt from a building, which was sort of half-flying.

I mean… in that situation, you did essentially fall and miss the ground by having the dogs leap off the side of the building before landing. According to Douglas Adams and satellites, that’s arguably flying.

It wasn’t half as exhilirating as I’d thought the experience would be. Tainted by the sombre, tense mood, the sting of the rain and the bitter chill that went straight through my damp costume and mask.

That’s a damn shame.

Each time she adjusted her hold on me, I had to fight that deep primal instinct that told me I was going to fall to my death. She was adjusting her grip a lot, too – she didn’t have superstrength, and I couldn’t have been easy to carry, especially soaking wet.

Fair. That’s the downside to having someone closer to her own age carrying Skitter, I suppose.


My power’s range was almost double the usual, and I had zero clue as to why. I wasn’t about to complain. Using Laserdream’s armband and my right hand, I passed on details.

It may be a mystery, but at least it’s a helpful mystery.

“He’s at CA-4, heading Northwest!”

The roads beneath us were damaged, shattered. When Leviathan had shifted the position of the storm sewers, he’d gone all out, and he’d gone a step further than just the storm sewer – he’d also torn up the water supply network for the city.

Ouch. All of this is going to be such a bitch to repair if the city survives.

The occasional pipe speared up between the slats in the sidewalk, fire hydrants were dislodged, and the water that poured from these was barely a trickle now. That might have meant too much was leaking from the damaged pipes to give the water any pressure.

Of course, Leviathan can still give it pressure, and direct it through the pipes as he wants.

As he’d beaten a path deeper into the city, he had found opportunities to do damage on the way. A police car had been thrown through the second story of a building. A half block later, as he’d rounded a corner, he had elected to go through the corner of a building, tearing out the supporting architecture. The structure had partially collapsed into the street.

Not only is he going to get a parking ticket, but he’s gonna be that guy who cuts through the corners, too, no matter what’s in his way?

Rude.


We passed over a gas station he’d stampeded through, and Laserdream erected a crimson forcefield bubble around us to protect us from the smoke and heat of the ongoing blaze.

“BZ-4,” I reported. Then I saw movement from the coast, called out through the armband’s channels, “Wave!”

Okay, so there are coordinates starting with B too. I was just starting to wonder if the C all the coordinates so far have started with could stand for something else, since it seems like we’re much deeper into the system on one axis than the other.

I was glad to be in the air as the tidal wave struck. The barrier of ice and the wreckage at the beaches did a lot to dampen the wave’s effect, but I watched as the water streamed a good half-mile into the city. Buildings collapsed, cars were pushed, and even trees came free of the earth.

Oof.

No cape casualties announced from Laserdream’s armband, at least.

Good! That’s improvement.

We passed over the Weymouth shopping center. It had been devastated by Leviathan’s passage, then had largely folded in on itself in the wake of the most recent wave.

“Fuck this, I’mma just fold myself together and cry. Shopping centers can cry, right?”

From the way the debris seemed to have exploded out the far wall, it didn’t look like Leviathan had even slowed down as he tore through the building. That wasn’t what spooked me.

Hm? What did, then?


What spooked me was that I’d been through the Weymouth shopping center more than a hundred times. It was the closest mall to my house.

Ahh, shit. Yeeah, we might’ve seen the last of that house – in liveable conditions, anyway.

Damn, what if Tattle was wrong and Danny stayed home due to his concern about Taylor taking precedent over his own safety? It would be a stupid decision, but panic isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes people make smart decisions.

When I sensed Leviathan turning south, towards downtown, I didn’t feel particularly relieved. There were enough shelters and enough space in the shelters to handle virtually every Brockton Bay resident in the city proper.

“Virtually” is a scary word sometimes.

From what I remembered, not everyone had participated in the drills that happened every five years or so, choosing to stay home. It was very possible that some shelters near the residential areas might prove to be over capacity, that my dad, if he arrived late, might have been redirected to another shelter.

Hrm.

One closer to downtown, where Leviathan was going. I couldn’t trust that he was out of harm’s way.

Yeah, no, that was never a certainty.


“He’s at or near BZ-6, heading south.”

The area we were entering had been further from the heroes with the forcefields, where waves hadn’t had their impact softened or diverted by the the PHQ’s forcefield or the larger, heavier, blockier structures of the Docks.

Oof, so this place was probably wrecked far more than everything we’ve seen.

Entire neighborhoods had been flattened, reduced to detritus that floated in muddy, murky waters. Larger buildings, what I suspected might have been part of the local college, were standing but badly damaged. Countless cars sat in the roads and parking lots with water pouring in through shattered windows.

At some point, a road stops being a road and becomes a river.

Not sure how that interacts with parking law. Are you allowed to park your car in a river? Does it make a difference if you parked before it became a river or after it? Lawyers, get on it.

Laserdream changed course, to follow Lord street, the main road that ran through the city and downtown, tracing the line of the bay.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“The wreckage goes this way,” she responded.

Hm, but it sounds like Leviathan didn’t, according to Taylor’s power?

I looked down. It was hard to tell, with the damage already done, the water flooding the streets, but I suspected she was right. One building that looked like it should have stood against the waves thus far was wrecked, and mangled bodies floated around it. It could have been the tidal wave, but it was just as likely that Leviathan had seen a target and torn through it.

Yeah, but did he tear through it with his body, or with a blast of water?

“Maybe, but he might have been faking us out, or he detoured further ahead,” I said. I pointed southwest. “That way.”

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too.


She gave me a look, I turned my attention to her armband, tried to discern where Leviathan fell on the grid. Around the same moment I figured it out, I felt him halt. “BX-8 or very close to it! He’s downtown, and he just stopped moving.”

I wonder if there’s any particular reason why he went there in particular, or if he just destroyed in whatever direction he felt like.

Also: It’s pretty clear that Leviathan has some interest in actually causing mayhem directly. If he only wanted to destroy the city, and to do so with certainty, he could hide out of sight while messing with the aquifer, but instead he’s attacking in person, allowing people to fight back. Either he’s not smart enough to think of that, or he has his reasons for this course of action.

I’m inclined to think those reasons are that it’s fun, in whatever twisted way whatever contains Leviathan’s apparent consciousness defines “fun”.

Alternatively, maybe Endbringers feed on misery and death somehow.

“You sure?” came Chevalier’s voice from the armband.

That confirms it: Those who aren’t moderated in the chat don’t have their voices replaced. Makes sense, though.

“Ninety-nine percent.”

“Noted. We’re teleporting forces in.”

Laserdream didn’t argue with me. We arrived at the scene of the battle a matter of seconds later. Familiar territory.

Here we go.


I had been near here a little less than two hours ago. The skeleton of a building in construction was in view, a matter of blocks away, an unlit black against a dark gray sky. Beneath that, I knew, was Coil’s subterranean base of operations.

Well. I guess that construction is at a high risk of having to start over, or never being completed.

Parian had given life to three stuffed animals that lumbered around Leviathan. A stuffed goat stepped forward, and sidewalk cracked under a hoof of patchwork leather and corduroy.

Huh. That takes some force. Does her power also make these stuffed animals as strong and heavy as their forms and sizes would imply – i.e. as if they weren’t made of fabric and stuffing?

A bipedal tiger grabbed at an unlit streetlight, unrooted it, and charged Leviathan like a knight with a lance couched in one armpit.

I dub thee Sir Tony.

The third, an octopus, ran interference, disrupting Leviathan’s afterimages before they could strike capes and wrapping tentacles around Leviathan’s limbs if he tried to break away.

Nice work!

Parian was gathering more cloth from the other side of a smashed display window, drawing it together into a crude quadruped shape, moving a series of needles and threads through the air in an uncanny unison that reminded me of my control over my spiders.

I guess she has some power over needles, cloth and threads to help make the stuffed animals too. Neat.


Leviathan caught the streetlight ‘lance’ and clawed through the tiger’s chest, doing surprisingly little damage considering that it was just fabric. After three good hits, the tiger deflated explosively.

We’ve had humans with protective outfits taking fewer hits before deflating explosively (best new death euphemism). Parian wasn’t kidding when she said her suffed animals were stronger than one would think.

R.I.P. Sir Tony.

The octopus and goat grappled Leviathan while Purity blasted him with a crushing beam of light. By the time he recovered, Parian was inflating the half-created shape in front of her, so it could stumble into the fray. She turned her attention to repairing the ‘tiger’.

Oh right, repairing is a thing. We might not have seen the last of Sir Tony just yet!

I was curious about her power. Some sort of telekinesis, with a gimmick? She had a crapton of fine manipulation with the needles and threads, that much was obvious, but the larger creations she was putting together – whatever she was doing to animate them with telekinesis or whatever, it left them fairly clumsy.

I can’t help but imagine them moving like in 30′s rubberhose animation.

Did her control get worse as she turned her attention to larger things? Why manipulate cloth and not something stronger, sturdier?

I mean, it could be that her power is specifically limited to cloth and other textile arts materials, like needles.

(#dang it timmy)


I wondered if she was one of the capes that thought of what she did as being ‘magic’. Her power was esoteric enough.

Ooh, like Ebony [here] might be.

A slash of Leviathan’s tail brought down two of the stuffed entities, and Hookwolf tackled him to ensure the Endbringer didn’t get a moment’s respite.

That damn tail. Real shame Armsy didn’t manage to cut through it, seriously.

Leviathan caught Hookwolf around the middle with his tail, flecks of blood and flesh spraying from the tail as it circled Hookwolf’s body of skirring, whisking blades. Leviathan hurled Hookwolf away.

Ah, yeah, Hookwolf isn’t someone you hold on to very long.

Browbeat saw an opening, stepped in to pound Leviathan in the stomach, strike him in the knee Armsmaster had injured. Leviathan, arms caught by Parian’s octopus and goat, raised one foot, caught Browbeat around the throat with his clawed toes, and then stomped down sharply.

Browbeat down, BW-8.

Ouch. It was a good try.

Leviathan leaned back hard, making Parian’s creations stumble as they maintained their grip, then heaved them forward. The ‘octopus’ remanied latched on, but the ‘goat’ was sent through the air, a projectile that flew straight for Parian.

Uh oh!

Hm. I suppose if it’s actually a form of telekinesis, she has to actively keep it up. If it’s more of an actual breath of life, making the stuffed animals autonomous golems serving Parian, they might keep going even if Parian herself is knocked out.

Her creation deflated in mid air, but the piles of cloth that it was made of were heavy, and she was swamped by the mass of fabric. Leviathan darted forward, held only by her octopus, and the afterimage rushed forward to slam into that pile of cloth.

Shit. I think I know what the next line is.

Parian down, BW-8.

That was the second option.


All of the ‘stuffed animals’ deflated.

Well, that answers that question.

To be clear, it doesn’t actually rule out the “breath of life” theory, but that needing upkeep makes it less likely.

The girl with the crossbow and Shadow Stalker opened fire, joined by Purity from above. Laserdream dropped me at the fringe of the battlefield with the Halberd before joining them, flying above at an angle opposite Purity’s, firing crimson laser blasts at Leviathan’s head and face.

Alright, time to figure out what you do with this Halberd in the meantime. Try to stay alive.

Leviathan readied to lunge, stopped as a curtain of darkness swept over him, the majority dissipating a second later, leaving only what was necessary to obscure his head.

Grue! Good to see you!

Well. Not see you, per se. You know what I mean.

That said, you stay alive too, please.

It took Leviathan a second to realize he could move out of that spot to see again, a delay that earned him another on-target series of shots from our ranged combatants. Grue was here, somewhere.

Nice work.


It wasn’t much, I didn’t have many bugs gathered here yet, but I was able to pull some together into humanoid forms. I sent them moving across the battlefield towards Leviathan.

Nice. Distractions!

If one of them delayed him a second, drew an attack that would otherwise be meant for someone else, it would be worth the trouble.

Yeah!

I looked around, trying to find Brandish, Chevalier, Assault or Battery, or even someone tough. Someone that could take the Halberd and make optimal use of it.

Hm, good idea, but I have a feeling you’ll end up using it yourself, somehow.

One of crossbow-girl’s shots,

Can somebody tell Taylor this girl’s name already?

like a needle several feet in length, speared under the side of Leviathan’s neck, out the top. Shadow Stalker’s shots, at the same time, failed to penetrate Leviathan’s hard exterior.

Huh, I guess hers are more powerful.

“Flechette! I’m getting closer!” Shadow Stalker called out, looking back at her new partner.

Thank you.


“Careful!” the crossbow-girl – Flechette, I took it – replied, loading another shot.

Shadow Stalker timed her advance with a pounce on Hookwolf’s part. Empire Eighty-Eight’s most notorious killer latched onto Leviathan’s face and neck, blood spitting around where the storm of shifting metal hooks and blades made contact with flesh.

Nice!

Shadow Stalker ran within twenty feet of the Endbringer, firing her twin crossbows. The shots penetrated this time, disappearing into Leviathan’s chest, presumably fading back in while inside him.

Oh right, that’s part of her power – the crossbow bolts have the same kind of fading Shadow Stalker herself can do. By getting closer, she made it so that the bolts don’t have time to fade back in before they hit Levvy.

Flechette fired a needle through Leviathan’s knee, and the Endbringer’s leg buckled. He collapsed into a kneeling position, the knee striking the ground.

Sweet!

Huh, y’know, with how Flechette’s projectiles are consistently described as needles, I can’t help but wonder if Parian’s telekinesis would work on them.


Leviathan used his claws to heave Hookwolf off his face, tore the metal beast in half, and then threw the pieces down to the ground, hard.

Welp.

One landed straight on top of Shadow Stalker, the other almost seemed to bounce, rapidly condensing into a roughly humanoid form before it touched the ground again, landing in a crouch. Hookwolf backed away, the blades drawing together into a human shape, skin appearing as they withdrew.

Huh. Are you sure you’re not Hookworm?

He brought his hand over his head and pointed forward at Leviathan. A signal for the next front-liner.

Yeah, this sounds like the kind of experience you’d want to switch out after.


Shadow Stalker down, BW-8.

Ah, yeah, taking half of Hookwolf to the head doesn’t sound pleasant.

I didn’t recognize the next cape to charge in to attack. A heroine in a brown and bronze bodysuit. She flew in low to the ground, gathered fragments of rock and debris around her body like it was metal and she was the magnet, then went in, pummeling with fists gloved in pavement and concrete.

Cool!

You could tell, almost right away, the woman didn’t have much training or experience. She was used to enemies that were too slow to move out of her way, who focused their attention wholly on her. Leviathan ducked low to the ground, letting the heroine pass over him, then leapt for Flechette.

“Here, let me let you through…”
“But I wanted to hit you.”
“Oh, I can’t let you do that.”
“Rude.”

In the very last fraction of a second, the girl flickered, and was replaced by the brown-suited cape, who took the hit and stumbled back, fragments of rock breaking away.

Trickster?

Flechette dropped out of the sky where the cape had been, landed hard. It took her a few seconds to recover enough to fire another bolt at Leviathan, strike him in the shoulder. Trickster had just spared brown-suit from making a fuck-up that got someone killed.

Nice.


The boy with the metal skin formed one hand into an oversized blade,

I’d be saying the same thing about Weld as I did about Flechette just a moment ago, but thankfully we readers learned his name in Interlude 7, so my frustration over Taylor not knowing it isn’t quite as high.

I’m sure she’ll learn it in time, one way or another.

as long as he was tall, managed a solid hit at Leviathan’s injured knee as the Endbringer whirled around to face Flechette.

Good. It seems like people are generally attacking the knee now, having identified it as a weakened spot. Which of course is helpful, since the more his movement is hampered, the better.

Leviathan slapped the teenage hero down, swiped at one of my swarm-people, then was forced down onto all fours as Purity struck him square between the shoulderblades with a column of light. A metal shelving unit shot from the interior of a store, Ballistic’s power, I was almost positive, and made Leviathan stumble back.

So far this chapter is going pretty well. No one’s died yet, except for Sir Tony and the other stuffed animals, and not that many people are down.

Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx it.

We had the upper hand, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. More than once, in the past hour alone, the Endbringer had demonstrated that any time the fight was going against him, he’d pull out all the stops and do something large scale. A tidal wave or tearing up the streets.

Right.

We did nothave what it took to withstand another wave. No forcefields, no barriers.

Aren’t you at least somewhat in from the coast? I’m not sure, but if you are, that might help a little.

I had one of my gathered swarms explode into a mass of flying insects as they got close enough to Leviathan, make their way against the drenching rain to rise up to Leviathan’s face. Many clustered in the recessed eye sockets that looked like tears or cracks in his hard scaled exterior. Others crawled into the wounds other capes had made.

Nice! I don’t think there’s much they can do there, other than maybe blinding Leviathan or making it easier for you to track his precise movements, but nice.


Briefly blinded, he shook his head ponderously, using his afterimage and one swipe of his claw to clear his vision. He scampered back as his sight was obscured yet again by one of Grue’s blasts.

Hmm. Attacking the eyes might actually be the best bet here. Leviathan doesn’t seem to have any other external sensory organs, except maybe touch. If you can blind him on a slightly more permanent basis, he’s in trouble.

That said, he can probably still sense the positions and movements of water around him like Taylor does with bugs.

He lunged forward, stumbling into and out the other side of the cloud of darkness. A swipe of his tail batted the metal-skinned boy away. Another strike dispatched Brandish, who was moving in to attack with a pair of axes that looked as though they were made from lightning.

Brandish down, BW-8

Ooh, summoning electric/elemental weaponry? Cool.

Flechette fired one needle into the center of Leviathan’s face, between each of his four eyes. It buried itself three quarters deep, speared out the back of his head.

In your FACE!

Literally.

He reared back, as if in slow motion, stumbled a little. His face pointed to the sky. He teetered.

Yeah, no. Much as I’d like to to be, there was no fucking way it was going to be that easy.

Nah, he ain’t dead. Hell, you might not even have as much of an upper hand as it seems. Just look at how he acted in the fight against Arm(s)master.


That top-heavy body of his toppled forward, and it was only his right claw, slamming down to the pavement, that stopped his face from being driven into the ground. The impact of his claw striking the ground rumbled past us.

The rumble didn’t stop.

Shit.

Shiiit.

I have a feeling he’s not just pulling up the storm sewers again.

“Run!” I shouted, my cry joining the shouts of others. I turned, sloshed through the water to get away, not sure where to get away from, or to.

Leviathan and the ground beneath him sank a good ten feet, and water swirled and frothed as it began pouring to fill the depression.

Yep.

It begins.

He used his arm to shield himself as Purity fired another blast from above. As the ground beneath him continued to sink, the water lapped higher and higher around him.

So is he trying to escape down into the aquifer by staying in the sinkhole?


The Endbringer descended, and the area around him quickly became a massive indent, ten, fifteen, thirty, then sixty feet across, ever growing. The force of the water pouring into the crater began to increase, and the ground underfoot grew increasingly unsteady as cracks spread across it.

I have a sinking feeling about this.


I realized with a sudden panic, that I wasn’t making headway against the waves and the ground that was giving way underfoot. The growing crater was continuing to spread well past me, rising above me as the ground I stood on descended.

Not good.

Very not good.

“Need help!” I screamed, as water began falling atop me from a higher point, spraying into me with enough force that I began to stumble back, fall.

The ground in front of and above me folded into a massive fissure. The movement of the cracked sections of road created a torrent of water that washed over me, engulfed me and forced me under.

Extremely not good.

The impact and pain from the force of the water on my broken arm was enervating, drew most of the fight out of me when I very much needed to be able to struggle, get myself back above the surface. I tried to touch bottom, to maybe kick myself back up, but the ground wasn’t there.

What bottom?

(I am quite certain there is not, nor has there ever been, a bottom in this hole.)

Feeling out with the pole of the Halberd, I touched ground, pushed, failed to get anywhere.

Oh, that bottom.


A hand seized the pole of the Halberd, heaved me up, changed its grip to my right wrist and pulled me up and free of the waves.

Ooh!

I’m gonna guess that this is Grue.

When I blinked my eyes clear of water, Laserdream was above me.

Ah, no. Alright, Laserdream’s good too. Better, in fact, as far as Taylor’s survival goes.

She faced the epicenter of the growing depression in the ground, flying backwards. Her other hand clung to an unconscious Parian. It seemed like the two of us were too much for her to carry alone, because she hurried straight for a nearby rooftop, carefully lay Parian down.

Is she going to be in any way “safe” up there, though? It’s only a matter of time before the sinkhole takes the building too.

We hadn’t set down for more than ten seconds before the building shuddered and began to collapse.

See what I mean?

The ground beneath the building cracked and tilted, no doubt because the underlying soil and rock was being drawn away by churning water. The flooding in the streets was diverted into the deepening bowl-shaped cavity Leviathan was creating, filling it. It was almost a lake, now, three city blocks across and growing rapidly.

Another piece of damage that’s gonna be hard to repair. If Brockton Bay survives, they’re probably gonna have to live with having a new lake downtown, at least unless they find some highly powerful terraforming parahuman.

Only fragments of the taller buildings in the area stayed above the waves; some buildings were already toppled onto their sides, others half-collapsed and still breaking apart as I watched.

Should’ve invested in house boats.

Some capes were climbing out of the water and onto the ruined buildings, with the help of the more mobile capes. Velocity and Trickster were working in tandem, Velocity running atop the water’s surface to safe ground, trickster swapping him for someone who was floundering, rinse, repeat.

Cool!

Trickster’s kind of a dick as far as we’ve seen and heard, but his power is neat.


As our footing dropped beneath us, Laserdream reluctantly grabbed at my hand and Parian’s belt, hauled us back up into the air.

Above me, her armband flashed yellow.

Hm? Do we know what that means? I don’t remember that being mentioned in Armsy’s walkthrough.

“Armband!” I called up to her. “Tidal wave?”

“Can’t see unless I drop you,” she responded, over the dull roar of the waves beneath us. With a bit of sarcasm and harshness to her tone, she asked me, “Doyou want me to drop you?”

Ah, right, an alert for that kind of thing.

Also, hehe.

Right, I’d kind of messed with her cousins at the bank robbery. She counted me as an ally, here and now, but she wouldn’t be friendly.

Ah, right. Fair enough.

Myrddin and Eidolon moved from the coast to the ‘lake’ in the upper end of Downtown.

Might as well start thinking about what to name the lake if the city survives. Lake Leviathan? No, sounds too celebratory. How about Lake Heroic, to celebrate all those who helped fight against the threat that created it? Including the villains, though popular history might conveniently forget that detail.

I saw and sensed Leviathan leap from the water like a dolphin cresting the waves, moving no less than two hundred feet in the air, toward the pair, lashing out with his afterimage in every direction.

Sheesh.

I didn’t see how it turned out, because Laserdream carried Parian and me away.

At least we haven’t heard any deceaseds or downs from the armband since the sinkhole started.

I could sense the Endbringer through the bugs that had made their way deepest into his wounds, the ones that had found spots where his afterimage couldn’t flush them out each time it manifested. With my power, I could track him beneath the water.

Sweet! Now to make that useful by warning when and where he’s about to breach.

He was moving so fast that it was almost as though he were teleporting, finding the drowning and executing them.

Scalder deceased, BW-8. Cloister deceased, BW-8. The Erudite deceased, BW-8. Frenetic deceased, BW-8. Penitent deceased, BW-9. Smackdown deceased, BX-8. Strider deceased, BW-8

Oof. There they go.

(#dang it timmy)


“Setting down again,” Laserdream said.

“But if there’s a tidal wave-”

“I don’t see one.”

Then what was the blinking about? A warning about the sinkhole?

I joined her in looking toward the coast. The water was as stable as it had been since the fight started.

“If it’s a trick-”

With a little anger in her voice, a hard tone, she spoke, “Either we set down or I drop you. I can’t hold on much longer.”

Flight or no flight, gravity can be a harsh mistress.

Although I believe Harsh Mistress died a couple chapters ago, so you should be fine.

“Right.”

She carried me two blocks away from the crater. The ground was wet, but no longer submerged, the road was torn up, shattered, covered with debris.

Laserdream checked her armband, “It’s one of the shelters. They sprung a leak, need help evacuating. I’m going.”

Welp.

Dad. It could be my dad.

“Bring me,” I said.

On one level, I absolutely understand Taylor’s desire to go there.

On another, what can she really do? She’d be moving away from Leviathan – hopefully – and thus unable to track him, she doesn’t have a power that can help evacuate people, and she’d be weighing down Laserdream.


She frowned.

“I know your arms are tired. Mine is too, and I was just hanging there. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you’ve done this much to help me, but we have to stick together, and you can fly low enough to the ground that you can drop me if you have to.”

“we have to stick together” is the one non-selfish argument Taylor has for going with Laserdream here. If Laserdream leaves without Taylor, Taylor’s going to need another flier to help her stay within range of Leviathan anyway.

“Fine, but we’re leaving the doll kid here.”

She laid Parian down in a recessed doorway, then pressed the ‘ping’ button on the girl’s armband.

Fair enough.

[“doll kid”… Laserdream, Parian is at least the same age as you, maybe a little older.]

I held the Halberd out while Laserdream walked around behind me. She wrapped her arms around my chest and lifted us off. Uncomfortable, and she was jarring my broken arm, which hurt like a motherfucker, but I couldn’t complain after just having asked to come.

Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.


Myrddin down, BX-9.

Presumably from a different attack than the one we saw earlier. It’s been too long to be explained away by the time it took him to fall down to the ground.

Laserdream carried us around the edge of the ‘lake’ that was still growing, if not quite so fast as it had been.

I suppose an answer to my question earlier about why Leviathan was going downtown might’ve been that he wanted to get close to a weak point in the aquifer. Granted, his powers are extreme-ranged anyway, but still.

I saw others gathered at the edge of the water, forming battle lines where Leviathan might have a clear path to make a run for it. Ifhe wanted to make a run for it. As it stood, he was entirely in his environment, in the heart of the city, where he could continue to work whatever mojo he needed to bring more tidal waves down on our heads.

Lake Heroic is turning into a fantastic base of operations for a water-based monster intent on destruction of the city around it.

To my bug senses, Leviathan was deep beneath the waves, moving rapidly, acting like he was engaged in a fight. Against Eidolon? I couldn’t tell. Every darting, hyperfast movement dislodged a few bugs, made him harder to detect.

I guess we’re on a time limit as far as tracking goes.


[End of session]


[reblog of a Tumblr post]

[Image description: a PSA on dog body language, designed to teach the warning signs that the dog might bite if bothered further.]

brindlesandpibbles:
While it may be easier to believe sensationalized, false “facts” about bully breeds that they attack unprovoked, most dogs do not. Dogs give very clear indications of their moods when they are encountering strangers or new situations. LEARN THE BODY LANGUAGE.

[reblog] shyfox:

YES. This essential for everyone who spends any time near dogs at any point of their lives.

“unprovoked” bites rarely ever happen, if at all.

[reblog] clickntreat:
“unprovoked” attacks are a direct result of the warning signs being punished out of the animal. Know the signs and respect them; never punish.

Rachel: *aggressively forces half the population of Brockton Bay to read this*


[Session 2]


The shelter was set beneath a smallish library. A concrete stairwell beside the building led belowground to the twenty-foot wide vault door.

Pretty big, that. I suppose that’s necessary so they can get a good bandwidth on the stream of people to the shelter.

Fragments of the building and the ledge overhanging the stairwell had fallen, blocked the door from opening fully.

That’s not good. If the shelter is breached, it will be harder to escape from it than it was to get in, even without Levvy’s other shenanigans.

Making matters worse, the door was stuck in a partially ajar position, and the stairwell was flooded with water, which ran steadily into the shelter.

You’d think a door would be better at containing water when it’s ajar…

Two capes were already present, shoulder deep in the water, ducking below to grab stones and rising again to heave them out.

Three out of four gray rocks recommend you lift them out of the water.

(#ba dum tish)


“What’s the plan?” I asked, as Laserdream set us down, I immediatelly sent out a call to summon bugs to my location, just to be safe. “Do we want to shut the door or open it?”

“Open it,” one of the capes in the water said. He ducked down, grabbed a rock, hauled it out with a grunt. “We don’t know what condition they’re in, inside.”

Ah yeah, I guess it’s worth letting more water in, in return for getting in to find out if people are alright.

Laserdream stepped forward and began blasting with her laser, penetrating the water and breaking up the larger rocks at the base of the door.

Nice.

My mind briefly went down the line of “why not try to break the door”, but besides the other reasons why that’s a bad idea, that train of thought quickly came to a stop once I realized that yes, this door is presumably designed to keep parahumans out. That’s what people seem to think the Endbringers are.

I was very nearly useless here. With one hand, I couldn’t clear the rubble, and my power wasn’t any use.

At least you’ll be able to give advance warning if Leviathan approaches. That is, unless he runs out of bugs.

There weren’t even many crabs or other crustaceans I could employ in the water around us, and the ones that did exist were small.

Man, Taylor taking control of a giant crab and having it move the rocks sounds awesome.


Then I remembered the Halberd.

!!

Yes!

Told ya it’d come in handy.

“Hey,” I stopped one of the capes that was heaving rocks out of the stairwell, “Use this.”

“As a shovel?” he looked skeptical.

“Just try it, only… don’t touch the blade.”

Hehe, I like this approach. Let ‘em see for themselves.

He nodded, took the Halberd, and ducked beneath the water. Ten seconds later, he raised his head, “Holy shit. This works.”

“Use it on the door?” I suggested. He gave me a curt nod.

Wait, we actually are going for the “destroy the door” approach?

Enemy location unknown, I could hear the cape’s armband announce. Defensive perimeter, report.

Time to check up on the bugs.


There was a pause.

No reports. Location unknown. Exert caution.

“I’m going to try cutting the door off,” the cape spoke. He descended beneath the water.

Are the bugs all gone, then? I would’ve expected Taylor to try sensing them here… Although I guess we’ve moved more than four blocks away from Leviathan, making it futile.

I could barely make out his silhouette. Laserdream ceased firing as he made his way to where the heavy metal door was, stepped around and set to burning long channels in the side of the stairwell. I realized it was intended to give the water in the stairwell somewhere to flow that wasn’t towards the people inside.

Ooh, good call.

The door tipped into the stairwell and came to rest against the opposite wall, resting at a forty-five degree angle, sloping up toward the railing.

Nice work!

The water in the stairwell flowed inside, an unfortunate consequence.

Well, yeah. You were prepared for that, though, right?

The cape with the Halberd set to using the blur of the Halberd to to cut lines into the back of the door and to remove the railing, so there was sufficient traction for people walking up and out of the door.

Excellent.


I stepped down to investigate, sent a few bugs in to get the lay of the land. The interior of the shelter was surprisingly like what Coil’s headquarters had been like, concrete walls with metal walkways and multiple levels.

Huh.

There were water coolers and a set of freezers, bathrooms and a sectioned off first aid area.

Seems like a nice enough place.

It was clear that one of the waves or Leviathan’s creation of that massive sinkhole in downtown had done some damage to the shelter. Water was pouring in from a far wall and from the front door, and twenty or so people were in the first aid bay on cots, injured and bloody.

At least they’re still alive.

You know what I just realized? Even if Danny is alive and well, Taylor coming across him as Skitter could make for an interesting, emotional moment.

A team of about fifty or sixty people were moving sandbags to reduce the flow of water into the chamber from the cracked back wall. A second, smaller team was blocking off the room with the cots, piling sandbags in the doorway. In the main area, people stood nearly waist deep in water.

That’s a lot of people, but that’s good.

“Everyone out!” Laserdream called out.

That said, it’s worth knowing when to fold and evacuate the shelter to a different shelter.


Relief was clear on people’s faces as they began wading en masse toward the front doors.

“Oh good, the capes got in, we can stop this futile work.”

My dad was taller than average, and I hoped to be able to make him out, see if he was in the crowd. As the group gravitated toward the doorway, however, I lost the ability to peer over the mass of people. I didn’t see him.

I hung back as people filed out in twos and threes. Mothers and fathers holding their kids, who otherwise wouldn’t be tall enough to stay above water, people still in pajamas or bathrobes, people holding their dogs above water or with cats on their shoulders.

And then there’s Danny, somewhere. All alone. Wondering if Taylor is okay. Wondering where she is, whether she’s made it to a shelter. Whether that shelter has been breached.

Unbeknownst to Danny, Taylor wonders the same about him.

They marched against the flow of water from the stairwell, up the back of the vault door and onto the street.

Mr. Gladly was near the back of the crowd, with a blond woman that was taller than him, holding his hand. It bugged me, in a way I couldn’t explain.

Oh, hi there.

It was like I felt he didn’t deserve a girlfriend or wife. But that wasn’t exactly it. It was like this woman was somone who maybe liked him, heard his side of things, validated his self-perception of being this excellent, ‘cool’ teacher.

Is that what bugs you? The idea of a person who genuinely likes Mr. Gladly?

A part of me wanted to explain to that woman that he wasn’t, that he was the worst sort of teacher, who helped the kids who already had it easy, and dropped the fucking ball when it came to those of us who needed it.

Also he’s terrible at giving homework.


It was surprising how much that chance meeting bugged me.

A shriek startled me out of my contemplations. It was quickly followed by a dozen other screams of mortal terror.

Uh oh. Did Leviathan catch up?

Impel deceased, CB-10. Apotheosis deceased, CB-10.

How many capes were there working on unblocking the door, again, besides Laserdream and Skitter? I think it might’ve been two.

I felt him arrive, a small few bugs still inside him, though most of the rest had been washed away in his swim. There were so few I’d missed his approach.

Leviathan.

In other words, he’s significantly closer than the outer range of the power.

People ran back inside the shelter, screamed and pushed, trampled one another.

Can’t blame them, really. Waist deep in water is arguably better than being open prey for an Endbringer. Although in this case, said Endbringer could easily kill them with that water, too.

I was forced into the corner by the door as they ran into the shelter, tried to make some distance between themselves and the Endbringer.

Laserdream down, CB-10.

Aaand there she goes down too. You’re stranded, Taylor.

(#dang it timmy)


And he was there, climbing through the vaultlike door, so large he barely fit.

…the downside to having a large bandwidth is that big bad things fit through. Well, shit. Running back into the shelter seems to have backfired a bit.

One claw on either side, he pushed his way through. Stood as tall as he could inside the front door, looking over the crowd. Hundreds of people were within, captive, helpless.

Yeeeah, you fucked up, guys.

Although… if they’d gotten out, would they actually have gotten anywhere?

A lash of his tail struck down a dozen people in front of him. The afterimage struck down a dozen more.

No death notice from the armband for civilians.

Yeah, that’s a thing I’ve been painfully aware of for a while – we know there have been lots of cape deaths, but we have no idea how many civilians have perished during the chapters up to now. This city does seem to largely respect the evacuation orders, but there’s always going to be those who don’t make it to a shelter, and those who decide to be “brave” (read: foolish). Neither of those are facts that this story is the type to ignore.

Add to that the effects of panicked masses and people who can’t handle the stress.

(#dang it timmy)


Leviathan took a step forward, putting me behind him and just to his right. He lashed his tail again. Another dozen or two dozen civilians slain.

He’s cutting through them like they’re made of whipped cream.

Mr. Gladly’s girlfriend was screaming, burying her face in his shoulder. Mr. Gladly stared up at Leviathan, wide eyed, his lips pressed together in a line, oddly red faced.

Leviathan: “NO ONE’S GONNA DO IT IF IT’S OPTIONAL”

I didn’t care. I should feel bad my teacher was about to die, but all I could think about was how he’d ignored me when Emma and the others had had me cornered.

Oof, harsh.

I still don’t think Mr. Gladly was necessarily as in the wrong in that situation as Taylor thinks. Taylor had just gotten done telling him how much she didn’t want his help. He may have simply decided to respect that. It wasn’t a really good decision as a teacher, but still, I don’t think it was as malicious or uncaring as Taylor makes it out to have been.

One hand on my shoulder to steady my throbbing broken arm, I slipped behind Leviathan, hugging the wall, slipping around the corner and moving up the vault door with padded feet.

There’s really not much Taylor can do here. Besides the armor, she’s pretty much like the civilians here.

This is all about survival, it seems.

(#dang it timmy)


It was a dark mirror to what Mr. Gladly had done to me.

Really dark. He left you at the mercy of the Harpies. You’re leaving him at the mercy of a fucking Endbringer.

What Emma and her friends had done, I couldn’t say for sure that I would have had the mental fortitude to put up with it if I hadn’t gotten my powers – and for all he knew, I hadn’t.

…are you saying you think you might’ve ended up committing suicide?

I couldn’t know whether I could have dealt with everything that had followed the incident in January, if I could have made it this far if I hadn’t had my powers, these distractions. In every way that mattered, Mr. Gladly turning his back on me, back there in the school hallway, a time that felt so long ago, could have killed me.

I still don’t think it’s quite fair to think like this when this happened right after you – as far as I remember – pretty much told him to mind his own business.

I think I’m gonna have to reread that part later, update myself on the exact sequence of events, but I’m fairly sure that’s what happened.

A fitting justice, maybe, leaving him in that shelter with Leviathan.

I suppose, but I’m personally too sympathetic to Mr. Gladly to think he actually deserves it.

Jeez, Taylor can get pretty dark sometimes.


I saw Laserdream lying face down in the water, bent down and turned her over with my good hand and one foot, checked she was breathing.

O hai.

The two capes, who I took to be Impel and Apotheosis, were torn into pieces.

That tends to be bad for your health.

I ran past them. Ran past the civilians who Leviathan had struck down, ripped apart.

Jeez, what an unhealthy fad.


I stopped, when I found the Halberd, picked it up.

Good to have. Bug power is mostly or entirely useless at the moment, but the Halberd might come in handy again.

Found Impel’s armband, bent down and pressed the buttons to open communications, “Leviathan’s at the shelter in CB-10. Need reinforcements fast.”

Yes, good!

Chevalier replied, “Shit. He must have gone through some storm drain or sewer. Our best teleporter’s dead, but we’ll do what we can.”

Good luck.

[I wonder if he means Strider, who died at Lake Heroic earlier this chapter?]

Which left me only one thing to do. I had to be better than Mr. Gladly.

Yes, but what can you do? The Halberd is pretty much all you have here.

Oh, also, if it’s possible to do so, you really should nab Impel’s armband. Your own is busted and you might still need portable communication without relying on other capes or corpses.


[Session 3]


I ran past Impel and Apotheosis, passed Laserdream, and reached the shelter’s entrance once more.

Honestly, Taylor accomplished more by running out and finding Impel’s armband than she’s likely to be able to pull off by going back in. Though at least she has the Halberd – maybe she can find some creative use for that.

Leviathan was further inside, crouched, his back to me. His tail lashed in front of him. Terrified screams echoed from within.

Honestly, with how quickly Leviathan acts, it’s a wonder there’s anyone left to scream.

It was agonizing to do it, but I moved slowly, to minimize the noise I made, even as every second allowed Leviathan more time to tear into the crowd. To move too fast would alert him, waste any opportunity I had here.

It might. We still don’t know if he has a sense of hearing, but it’s best to give him the benefit of the doubt on that.

A backwards movement of Leviathan’s tail arced through the air, fell atop me, forcing me down into the water. Gallons of cold water dropping down from ten feet above me.

Whoop!


I swallowed the scream, the grunting of pain that threatened to escape my throat, stood again, slowly.

With only one hand, I didn’t have the leverage to really swing the Halberd. I had to hold it towards the top, near the blade, which meant having less reach, having to get closer.

Just… be very careful where you stick that hand.

When I was close enough, I drew the blade back and raked it just below the base of his tail. Where his asshole would be if he had human anatomy. Easiest place for me to reach, with him crouched down like he was.

This is incredibly risky but I love it.

Dust billowed and Leviathan reacted instantly, swiped with one claw, fell onto his side when the damage to his buttocks and the hampered mobility of his tail screwed with his ability to control the movement of his lower body.

Yesss

His claw swipe went high. His afterimage was broken up by the the wall above the door, but enough crashed down in front of and on top of me to throw me back out of the shelter, into the toppled shelter door.

There’s a lot of in and out in this chapter.

I was pushed under the water, the Halberd slipping from my grip.

Welp.


I climbed to my feet at the same time he did, but I had a clear route up the back of the shelter door while he had to squeeze through the opening. I was on the street and running well before he was up out of the stairwell.

Nice work, you lured him out! Now what, though?

I gathered my bugs to me, sent some to him, to better track his movements. As he climbed up, I gathered the swarms into decoys that looked human-ish, sent them all moving in different directions, gathered more around myself to match them in appearance.

A false clone technique, nice. Which is the real Taylor, Levvy?

With the effects of my slash of the Halberd combined with the damage Armsmaster had already done, Leviathan didn’t have the mobility with his tail he otherwise would.

Excellent.

When he attacked my decoys, he did it with slashes of his claw and pouncing leaps that sent out afterimages to crash into them. A swipe of the claw’s echo to disperse one swarm to his left, a lunge to destroy one in front of him. Another afterimage of a claw swipe sent out to strike at me.

Uh oh, he found you.


Water crashed into me, hard as concrete, fast as a speeding car. I felt more pain than I’d ever experienced, more than when Bakuda had used that grenade on me, the one that set my nerve endings on fire with raw pain.

Yikes.

It was brief, somehow more real than what Bakuda had inflicted on me. Struck me like a lightning flash.

I plunged face first into the water. My good arm on its own wasn’t enough to turn me over – the road just a little too far below me. I tried to use my legs to help turn myself over. Zero response.

…Taylor is rapidly losing the use of her limbs. At least so far they’ve stayed attached, which is better than Armsmaster or the ghost of Kaiser can say about theirs, but I say this without knowing the exact reason why Taylor’s legs aren’t responding. It could be temporary lameness, or but it could also be that they just kinda… aren’t there anymore?

That said, I highly doubt we’ll have Taylor sitting in a wheelchair for the rest of this story.

I suppose Tinkertech prosthetic legs are an option, though…


I’d either been torn in two and couldn’t feel the pain yet or, more likely, I’d been paralyzed from the waist down.

The latter also has a higher chance of Taylor believably surviving this Arc. If she’d been torn in two, she’d have to contend with bleeding out on top of everything else.

Oh.

Not like I really should’ve expected any different. Neither case was much better than the other, as far as I was concerned.

…as I was just saying, the latter is marginally better. More survivable, even if Leviathan’s presence and current status of “actively out to kill Taylor specifically” mean it’s only a slight difference in her overall chances.


[Discord] The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:

@Krixle Wells what if taylor made a wheelchair from bugs and just had the bugs carry her around

Danny: Taylor? Is that you?
Taylor: Yes, dad. Hi.
Danny: Oh my God, Taylor, I’ve been so worried abo– wait, are you… sitting on… a swarm of bugs? …what?
Taylor: Long story.


My breath had been knocked out of me at the impact, but some primal, instinctual part of me had let me hold my breath. I lay there, face down in two or three feet of water, counting the seconds until I couldn’t hold my breath any more, until my body opened my mouth and I heaved in a breath with that same instinctual need for preservation, filled my lungs with water instead.

Well, this ain’t healthy.

Is this when the cavalry comes and pulls Taylor out?

The lenses of my mask were actually swim goggles, it was a strange recollection to cross my mind.

Hah, that’s fitting.

I’d bought them from a sports supply store, buying the useless chalk dust at the same time. Durable, high end, meant for underwater cave spelunkers, if I remembered the picture on the packaging right. Tinted to help filter out bright lights, to avoid being blinded by any fellow swimmer’s headlamps.

Huh, interesting.

I’d fitted the lenses from an old pair of glasses inside, sealed them in place with silicon at the edges, so I had 20/20 vision while I had my mask on without having to wear glasses beneath or over it, or contact lenses, which irritated my eyes.

Ahh, smart.

I’d built the armor of my mask around the edges of the goggles so the actual nature of the lenses wasn’t immediately apparent, and to hold them firmly in place.

Nice.


Even so, when I opened my eyes, looked through those lenses for their original purpose, all I could see was mud, grit, silt. Black and dark brown, with only the faintest traces of light. It disappointed me on a profound level, knowing that this might be the last thing I ever saw. Disappointed me more than the idea of dying here, odd as that was.

Heh.

“What a shitty last sight. I couldn’t get to go while looking at something neat? Was that too much to ask?”

Through my power, I sensed Leviathan turn, take a step back toward the shelter, stop. His entire upper body turned so he could peer to his left with his head, turned the opposite way to peer right. Like a dog sniffing.

I wonder if he has some kind of power relating to his eyes. Like detecting lives to snuff out… actually, no, that’s the one eyesight power we can tell he doesn’t have, unless it counts insect lives.

He dropped to all fours, ran away, a loping gait, not the lightning fast movement he’d sported when he first attacked. Still fast enough.

Hm. What did he spot? The reinforcements?

My chest lurched in a sob for air, like a dry heave. I managed to keep from opening my mouth but the action, the clenching of every muscle above my shoulders, left my throat aching.

Eugh.

Two seconds later, it hit me again harder.

Two blocks away, Leviathan crashed down into the water.

…hm.

Another lurch of my throat and chest, painful. My mouth opened, water filled my mouth, and my throat locked up to prevent the inhalation of water. I spat the water out, forced it out of my mouth, for all the good it would do.

Of all the ways to go, I’m fairly sure drowning would be one of the more unpleasant ones.

I’d left the fat cape to die like this when the wave was coming. Was this karma?

Back then, you didn’t have a choice. I don’t think this is how karma works, even by the pop culture definition.


Something splashed near me. A footstep.

I was hauled out of the water. I felt a lancing pain through my midsection, like a hot iron, gasped, sputtered. Through the beads of water on my lenses, I couldn’t make out much.

There we go. So who’s come to Taylor’s rescue?

Bitch, I realized. She wasn’t looking at me.

!!

That’s just about the last person I was expecting. What are you doing out here?

Her face was etched deep with pain, fury, fear, sheer viciousness, or some combination of the four.

Oh jeez. Did Leviathan mess with her dogs?

I followed her gaze, blinked twice.

Her dogs were attacking Leviathan, and Leviathan was attacking back. He hurled two away, three more leapt in.

That’s… more than usual.

Is this why Rachel wasn’t present at the meeting? Did she go off to the doghouse and bring every dog she could even remotely trust in battle?

After all, if there’s anything that warrants using even the untrained dogs as hellhounds, it’s an Endbringer.


How many dogs?

Leviathan pulled away, only for a dog to snag his arm, drag him off balance. Another latched on to his elbow, while a third and fourth pounced onto his back, tearing into his spine. More crouched and circled around him, looking for opportunities and places to bite.

This seems to be working out rather well so far, honestly.

He clubbed one away with a crude movement of his tail, used his free claw to grab it by the throat, tear a chunk of flesh away. The dog perished in a matter of seconds.

Except it does mean this is going to happen.

Don’t hurt the doggos?

(#dang it timmy)


Bitch howled, a primal, raw sound that must have hurt her throat as much as it hurt to listen to. She moved forward, pulling me with her, lifting me up. When I sagged, she gave me a startled look.

Poor Bitch. This must hurt so much to do, to watch, to know the inevitability of the losses…

I looked down. My legs were there, but there was no sensation. Numb wasn’t a complete enough term to explain it.

At least paralysis can sometimes be temporary, unlike complete amputation. It’s not guaranteed to be, but it’s a possibility, and while wondering about that, you don’t have to worry about bleeding out.

“Back’s broken, I think,” the words were weak. The calm tone of the words was eerie, even coming from my own mouth to my own ears. Disconcertingly out of place with the frenzied, savage tableau.

Heh, yeah.


Leviathan wheeled around, grabbed another dog by one shoulder, dug a claw into the dog’s ribcage and cracked it open, the ribs splaying apart like the wings of some macabre bird, heart and lungs exposed. The animal dropped dead to the water’s surface at Leviathan’s feet.

Squished like a rotten apple.

Bitch looked from me to the dog, as if momentarily lost. In an instant, that look disappeared, replaced by that etching of rage and fury. She screeched the words, “Kill him! Kill!”

Good doggos!

It wasn’t enough. The dogs were strong, there were six of them left, even, but Leviathan was more of a monster than all of them put together.

😦

They’re good doggos nonetheless.

He heaved one dog off the ground, slammed it into another like a club, then hurled it against a wall, where it dropped, limp and broken.

With that same claw, he slashed, tore the upper half of a dog’s head off.

“Kill!” Bitch shrieked.

Consider: Bitch as a cheerleader. Now that would be something.

(#dang it timmy)


No use. One by one, the dogs fell. Four left, then three. Two dogs left. They backed away, wary, each in a different direction.

Bitch clutched me, her arms so tight around my shoulders it hurt. When I looked up at her, I saw tears in the corners of her eyes as she stared unblinking at the scene.

Rachel Lindt needs a hug.

Maybe not a human hug, but she needs a hug.

Scion dropped from the sky.

Hi there! About time!

Golden skinned, golden beard trimmed close, or perhaps it never grew beyond that length.

Imagine Scion not taking the time to stop and talk to anyone or buy a phone for people to call during Endbringer emergencies, but stopping every so often to shave.

His hair was longer than mine.

A haircut, though, takes too long.

His bodysuit and cape were a plain white, stained with faded marks of old, dirt and blood, a strange juxtaposition to how perfect and unblemished he looked, otherwise.

Honestly, gotta thank whoever it was that managed to get him to wear an outfit, even if it does seem he’s never changed or washed it.

There was no impact as he landed, no great splash or rumble of the earth. Leviathan didn’t even seem to notice the hero’s arrival.

A gentle lander, huh. Nice.

By the way, this would be a great time to have a functional armband, so you could report Scion’s arrival.

(#dang it timmy)


Leviathan struck at one of the remaining dogs with a broad swing of his tail, caught it across the snout. It dropped, neck snapped. A short leap and a slash of the claw dispatched the last.

Aaand Bitch’s emotional wreckage is complete.

Scion raised one hand, and a ball of yellow-gold light slammed into Leviathan from behind, sent the Endbringer skidding across the length of the street, past Bitch and I.

Fuck yes. Let’s see what’cha got, Scion!

Leviathan leaped to his feet, reared around, swung his claws at the air ferociously. Water around him rose, rushed towards Scion, a wave three times as high as Bitch was tall. Three times as tall as I might be if I could stand.

Leviathan probably knows that Scion is one of the few threats he should take seriously.

Scion didn’t move or speak.

Supposedly he doesn’t do a lot of the latter in general.

He walked forward, and ripples extended from his footsteps, soared past us with some strange motive force. The ripple touched the wave, and the tower of water collapsed before it got halfway to us, dropping straight down.

Niiice.

Liquid as far as the eye could see was being flattened out into a disquieting stillness by the ripples of Scion’s footsteps, like a great pane of glass.

So Leviathan can make water move, and Scion can make it stop moving…

Leviathan lunged up to the side of a half-ruined building, leaped down to a point three-quarters of the way between himself and Scion. His afterimage slammed into the hero.

I have a feeling Scion’s about to no-sell this.

Scion turned his head, shut his eyes, let the water wash over and past him. When the attack was over, he squared his head and shoulders, facing Leviathan head on, raised a hand.

Yep.


Another blast of yellow-gold light, and Leviathan was sent sprawling.

Sweet.

I saw the ripples and waves of Leviathan striking the ground wash past us. Saw, again, how the ripple of Scion’s footstep seemed to wipe out and override that disturbance, returning the water to a perfect flatness.

Hm. I wonder if Scion’s footstep ripples cancel out any sort of power influence? Maybe it’s the power to set things right.

Even if it is, it’s probably too much to expect him to be able to repair the whole city with it, Miraculous Ladybug-style. I’m fairly sure the destruction is something the city is going to have to deal with after all this.

Leviathan grabbed a car, twisted his entire upper body to toss it in the style of an olympic hammer-throw.

So all the way back in Arc 1, we were talking about the concept of parahumans in sports associations. Imagine a fucking Endbringer showing up to participate in the Olympics…

The car hurtled through the air, and Scion batted it aside with the back of one hand. The vehicle virtually detonated with the impact, falling into a thousand pieces, each piece glowing with golden-yellow light, disintegrating as they splashed into the water.

How extra. I love it.


(Technically, Leviathan should be disqualified anyway because whatever he is, he’s not a human and never was, but it doesn’t seem like anyone but Tattletale actually knows that.)


Scion raised one hand, and there was a brilliant flash, too bright to look through.

When the spots faded from my vision, I saw that one of the damaged buildings was emanating that same light the pieces of the car had, was toppling, tipping towards Leviathan.

It seems like his powerset primarily involves movement and maybe destruction, though the destruction may be a result of moving different parts of a thing in different directions.

Scion, fingertips glowing, started his slow advance as the structure was pulled atop the Endbringer. The ripples of his footsteps erased any disturbance in the water from the building’s collapse.

Hmm.

Leviathan heaved himself out of the rubble, turned to run, only for water to rise and freeze solid in one smooth movement, forming a wall as tall as Leviathan was, a hundred feet long.

Nice! Scion’s work still, or did more capes just show up?

He paused for a fraction of a second, to gauge which way he might go, poise himself to leap over. Scion caught him with another golden-yellow blast before he could follow through.

Sweet 😀


The movement of the water and the creation of the ice hadn’t been Scion. Eidolon approached, flying close, raising one hand to create a ragged mess of icicles where Leviathan was to land.

Hey, whaddaya know, I was right. I was specifically guessing that more capes had shown up because the we saw this power from Eidolon before. I was going to specifically mention Eidolon too, but then started thinking that it wouldn’t make all that much sense for him to stop his efforts with the ice wall against the waves.

(In retrospect, I should’ve mentioned all of that.)

Some impaled the Endbringer, but by and large, they shattered beneath him, left him scrabbling for traction and footing for long enough that Scion could shoot him again, send him through the barrier of ice as though it were barely there, tumbling.

He’s definitely on the defensive now!

Scion paused, turning to look at Eidolon, his eyes moving past Bitch and me like we weren’t even there. His eyes settled on the hero, the most powerful individual in the world staring at the man who was arguably the fifth.

If you’re up against an Endbringer, this seems like a good team to have on your side.

His expression was so hard to read. I knew, now, what people had meant, when they said they thought his face was a mask, a facade. Though it was expressionless, though there was nothing I could point to to explain why I felt the way I did, somehow I sensed disgust from him. Like nobility looking at dog shit.

…if they can work together, that is. Sheesh.


Scion turned away from Eidolon to focus on the enemy once more. He blasted the Endbringer again. Floated up and moved past Bitch and me faster than I could see, to strike the Endbringer a fraction of a second after the blast of light struck, stopping there in midair to blast Leviathan a second time as the Endbringer was still flying through the air at the punch’s impact.

Damn, what a combo.

Everything about Scion and his actions was utterly silent. His movements or attacks didn’t even stir the air. Only the effects, Leviathan striking the water, the breaking of ice, generated any movement, shudders or sounds.

I feel like this ties in with the calming footstep ripples and his lack of talkativeness.

Eidolon froze the water around Leviathan’s four claws, giving Scion the opportunity to land another blast. Leviathan turned, raised a spraying wall of water to cover his retreat. Scion sent out one blast of his golden light to strike the wave, following up with a second blast before the first even made contact with the water.

Hm. We’ve seen what the ripples do to the water, but what about the blasts?

Seeing the second blast coming, Leviathan leaped to one side. No use – the blast of light curved in the air to head unerringly for him, struck him down.

Homing attacks, even. Nice.

Edges of the Endbringer’s wounds glowed golden yellow, drifted away into the air like flecks of burning paper caught in the updraft of hot air.

Huh… interesting.

A fist imprint near the base of Leviathan’s throat glowed with edges of the same light, the wound continuing to spread and burn as I watched.

This light appears to be quite effective.


A tidal wave appeared in the distance, at the furthest end of the street, near the horizon.

Well, shit. Bitch, Skitter, you need to get to a safer place. We’ve had too many almost-drownings already today.

Scion sent out a blast of golden light the size of a small van, darting to the center of the wave, disappearing into a speck of light before it made contact with the distant target. The middle third of the wave buckled, fell harmlessly into a splash of water, all momentum ceased. The other two sides of the wave curved inward, bent, to bear unerringly towards us.

…damn. This is a man who can literally stop a tidal wave with a couple blasts.

Another blast of golden light, and one side was stopped, stalled. A third blast was spared for Leviathan, who was getting his hands and feet firmly on the ground, crouching in preparation to run. The Endbringer was knocked squarely to the ground.

Yeah, no, Levvy, you’re in trouble now. You’ve been a bad boy.

Scion stopped the third wave in its tracks with a fourth blast, but the water was still there, and it still bowed to gravity. The water level around us rose by a dozen feet, momentarily, slopping as gently over us as physically possible, like a lap of water on the beach.

Suddenly the term “tidal wave” makes a little more sense… Normal “tidal waves” have nothing to do with tides, but this one is more similar to them than most.

When the flow of water was past us, I could see a fifth blast of light following Leviathan, who had used the cresting water to swim away. He was making his way to the coast.

Run, fucker, run! You don’t belong here! Or anywhere else, for that matter!

Scion rose, flew after his target with a streak of golden light tracing his movement. Eidolon followed soon after.

The very best outcome would be if they managed to put an end to Leviathan’s reign of terror for good, but I doubt that’s going to happen.


Ten, fifteen seconds passed, Bitch holding me, averting her eyes from the corpses of her dogs, jaw set, not speaking or moving.

Poor Bitch.

A teleporter appeared beside Laserdream, a distance away. He looked at us, startled, glanced at his armband.

Heh, yeah, neither Taylor nor Bitch have functional armbands, so they don’t show up on the map.

“You okay?” he called out.

“No,” I tried to shout back, but my voice was weak. Bitch spoke for me, “She needs help.”

Skitter down, CB-10. It’s time to get out of here.

“Bring her here, I’ll take her back.”

Bitch carried me, dragging me by my collar to where Laserdream lay. I grunted and groaned in pain, felt those hot pokers through my upper back and middle, but she wasn’t the type for sympathy or gentleness.

Hehe.


The teleporter touched one hand to my chest, another to Laserdream, who turned her head to look at me.

Oh hey, she’s awake.

There was a rush of cool air, and we were in the midst of chaos. Nurses, doctors, moving all around us. I was lifted and placed on a stretcher, hauled up by four people in white. There were shouts, countless electronic beeps, screams of pain.

Yeeah, there are a lot of people to take care of here.

I was placed on a bed. I would have writhed with the pain of being shifted if it weren’t for my general inability to move. There was a heart monitor on one side, a metal rack with an IV bag of clear fluid on the other, thick metal poles beside each, stretching from floor to ceiling. Curtains loomed on either side of me, making for a small room, ten feet by ten feet across. The emergency room, triage or whatever was in front of me, past the foot of the bed, a dozen more cots, doctors doing what they could for the massed injured, civilian and cape alike.

I wonder if Panacea is around here somewhere, helping everyone she can.

All around me, nurses moved with a rote efficiency, to put a clip on my finger, and the heart monitor started beeping in time with my own heartbeat. One put some sticky glue on my collarbone, pressing an electrode down there.

With the sheer amount of injured people, there needs to be a massive amount of nurses running around right now.

(By the way, if anyone’s playing the bingo, you can cross off “looks up a word”. Specifically “rote”.)


“My back, I think it’s broken,” I said, to no one in particular. Nobody in particular replied.

Butt out of this, Nobody In Particular. She was talking to your sibling, No One In Particular.

All of them too busy with set tasks. People seemed to approach my bedside and leave to go attend to another patient elsewhere.

Yeah, this place is too busy right now to spend too much time with each patient at a time.

“Your name?” someone asked.

I looked to the other side of me. It was an older woman in a nurse’s uniform, pear shaped, gray haired. A man in a PRT uniform stood behind her, holding a gun on me.

I mean, I get that she’s a known villain, but do you really think there’s that high a risk of her attacking someone right now, in this place and this state?

“Skitter,” I replied, confused, feeling more scared by the second. “Please. I think my back’s broken.”

“Villain?”

Please, PRT, do not abuse the truce to arrest your enemies while they’re down after doing all they could to defend the city.

I shook my head. “What?”

“Are you a villain?”

That said, this is actually a question Taylor needs to be asked around now. Yes, she’s a known villain, but just today, she left the team that was the sole reason she’s not a hero instead. Now she needs to consider her options.

“It’s complicated. My back-”

“Yes or no?” the Nurse asked me, stern.

But seriously, what does it matter to you?


“Listen, my friend, Tattletale, do you know-”

“She’s a villain,” the PRT uniform cut me off, touching his way through some blackberry device with his free hand. “Designation Master-5, specifically arthropodovoyance, arthropodokinesis. No super strength.”

Nice.

Arthropodovoyance is a clunky word, but a pretty good description of her ability to sense and sense through arthropods. Arthropodokinesis less so, technically, because that sounds more like she directly moves the bugs rather than making them move themselves.

The nurse nodded, “Thank you. Handle it?”

The man in a PRT uniform holstered his gun and stepped up to the bed. He grabbed my right wrist, clasped a heavy manacle around it, fixed it to a vertical metal pole by the head of the bed.

Damn it.


“My other arm’s broken, please don’t move it,” I pleaded.

He gripped it anyways, and I couldn’t help but scream, strangled, as he pulled it to one side, clasped a manacle down on my wrist, hooked the other side of the manacle to the second pole.

Well fuck you too.

“What-” I started to ask a nurse, as I forced myself to catch my breath, stopped as she turned her back to me and pulled the curtain closed at the foot of the bed, walked past it.

Great. You’re great human beings, you know that? Simply fantastic.


I looked up the Hippocratic Oath to see if it mentioned this kind of behavior. It doesn’t seem to (not that it’s legally binding these days anyway), though on the bright side, I did notice that the original oath was sworn in the name of – among other medical deities – the original Panacea.


“Please-” I tried again, looking to the PRT uniform, but he was pushing his way past the curtain, leaving my company.

Leaving me chained up. Alone.

Well. This certainly is a development.


Endbringer of Extermination 8.5

Phew. That was a pretty decent chapter. Taylor sneaking up and nanobotting the minikaiju in the butt was definitely a highlight, and Scion was awesome. 🙂

So now things are looking up and down at the same time. Up in that Scion showed up and Leviathan is on the run, and down in that Taylor has only one functional limb and might be getting arrested instead of treated.

I mean, I can understand why the PRT is doing this, but that doesn’t mean I like it. There’s a truce in place to fight the bigger enemy, and if we suppose Tattle was right about most of the parahuman antics being a game, then abusing such a truce to arrest people on the other side is cheating.

(It’s possible that they’re not actually doing this, and the manacles are just a precaution against villains creating chaos in the hospitals, but let’s be real – this story is not one where people should get the benefit of the doubt most of the time.)

And I don’t care what the Hippocratic Oath does or doesn’t say – medical personnel siding with the heroes and prioritizing them over the villains, to the point of possibly not treating the villains at all, is awful. Especially when the villains are there as a result of heroic work anyway.

Next chapter, Taylor hopefully gets some treatment. We’ll probably also learn more about the medical efforts surrounding this whole debacle, unless we don’t have time for that before Taylor gets hauled off to a PRT holding cell or interrogation room.

See you next time!

2 thoughts on “Extermination 8.5: Leviathan, Scioning Off

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