Interlude 8b: Beacon

Source material: Worm, Interlude 8b

Originally blogged: December 21, 2017


Interlude 8… again

Howdy! Interlude 8, déjà vu edition, here I come.

So, who are we following today? I kind of expressed some of my thoughts on that just a couple hours ago in this ask response [here, halfway down], but I guess I should reiterate:

I feel like we might be checking up on one of the hero teams. Maybe we’ll look from the POV of Legend for the Protectorate, Weld for the Wards (or, damn, what if we get Sophia), or one of the surviving New Wave members? Hell, maybe it’s time to learn about the Guild, even.

It’s also possible that we’re getting another Undersider Interlude, to see how one of the others is taking Taylor’s treachery, but I kind of doubt we’d get one this soon after Tattletale’s, and it has been two weeks. It’d be one thing to do that immediately after the reveal, but it seems a bit late now.

I’m gonna stop here, since I have a nasty habit of guessing pretty much everyone we know when it comes to Interlude POV characters. Let’s just jump in and find out!


[Discord]

Krixle Wells:
Liveblogging the second eighth, tenth Interlude of Worm! http://krixwell-liveblogs.tumblr.com/tagged/chapter-i8b/chrono

It’s incredibly clear what I mean, right?


Coil held firmly to the philosophy that one couldn’t be too paranoid.

Well, there goes the “checking in on the heroes” theory.

Hi, Coil. I suppose it makes a lot of sense to check in on you right after the reveal of how your power actually works.

Every moment of every day was a delicate balancing act, anticipating any number of unseen threats from every possible angle, whether he was speaking with his subordinates or simply rising to meet the day.

One of the last few asks got me thinking – though I didn’t mention it then, sorry – about the idea of the interaction between Coil’s power and death. If one timeline’s Coil dies, can the other one still pick his own timeline? Does that mean Coil is practically immortal unless he dies at just about the same time in both timelines, or dies when he doesn’t have a fork active? Or does he keel over, dead, if the Coil in the other timeline dies?

Which timeline becomes the alpha if Coil dies in both before he can pick one? Would both timelines just continue to exists as parallel realities like the Wormverse and Earth-Aleph? Could you make a hole between them?

Even after the explanation, there continue to be a lot of questions surrounding Coil’s power.

In one reality, he was safely ensconced in his underground base, costumed, with no less than twenty armed soldiers between himself and the multiple sets of heavy metal doors. He had spent his night reading, following the news and checking his stocks. His location was known only to those who worked for him, individuals paid well enough that even if they did have reason to attack him, their ‘coworkers’ would have incentive to stop them.

Nice.

I’m guessing the other reality’s Coil isn’t quite as safe. Are we actually going into what I was just talking about here?


Second reality: He was waking up in an ordinary, slightly rundown home in the southwest end of the city. He prepared and ate his breakfast, then stepped outside in his bathrobe to pick up the paper and the mail, pausing to wave to the neighbors as they led their two girls out of the house.

I guess that’s why he was talking about being paranoid. One of him is having a normal day as a civilian, and even then he’s got a backup under maximum security.

The flooding hadn’t affected their neighborhood as much as others, but the schools weren’t yet up and running, so the mother and father would be taking their girls to work with them for a short while.

I hope by “work” you don’t mean your villainous antics.

That’s not a place for small kids, as we’ve had thoroughly demonstrated with Dinah. Not that I expect Coil to give his own girls the same kind of “candy”.

Nice to hear he’s got a family, though. 🙂

I’m a little worried that by the end of this sequence, one or both of those girls will be dead in the civilian reality.

[And there goes my reading comprehension again.]

He headed back inside, showered, then dressed in a button-up shirt, khakis and a silk tie. He got in his four-year old prius and headed into the city.

He evidently takes keeping his identity secret seriously. Coil would have plenty of money to spend on a newer car, and he has access to money laundering (as we’ve heard via Grue).

That, or maybe he just likes the Prius.

What was normally a ten minute drive took him three-quarters of an hour, as he was forced to detour around destroyed roads, fallen buildings, and reconstruction work, move with the other drivers in a perpetual traffic jam from the moment that he left the little cul-de-sac where his house was.

Probably doesn’t help that a bunch of road sections downtown got replaced by a lake, either.

To all appearances, he was an ordinary man leaving for work. His identity, fabricated, was complete, a real job at a real company, records going back ten years in health, taxes, dentistry, house payments and more.

As I was saying: He takes it seriously.


The soldier that met him was known to the other soldiers as Creep. No captain would have the man in their squad, his predilections made him unemployable in the public sector, and the fact that Coil was the sole person who could and would provide him with the ‘payment’ he craved makes Creep as loyal as men can get.

On one hand, it’s not far-fetched that Creep and Dinah get the same sort of “payment”, but Coil isn’t the only one who can and will provide someone with that.

Given the nickname, however, I have another theory, and it’s not pretty for anyone involved. Taylor certainly wouldn’t approve.

…yeah, I’m talking about Coil providing Creep with people to rape. Possibly even children.

Everyone had a hook, a vice or something they needed on a primal, desperate level. Sometimes that need needed to be created, or nurtured, so it could later be hand fed.

Coil may be nicer, more friendly and likable on the face of it, but he’s not actually much better than Kaiser.

Those people who were driven by such things, carried that craving for something especially close to the surface, were among Coil’s favorite people, coming in a very close second to people who were useful. Those who were both useful and desperate for something Coil could provide?

The very best?

I mean, on one level this is just simple capitalism. It’s what Coil is willing to use as capital that’s the problem.

Well, they were the Travelers, Creeps and Grues of the world.

I wasn’t expecting him to bring up Grue, but I can see it.

I’m more interested in the Travelers, though. What exactly is it that they’re desperate for?


Wealth would have to suffice for anyone and everyone else.

In other words, he’ll provide them with the thing they so desperately need, but only if they’re also particularly useful.

Fair enough.

Creep remained the one individual that had the opportunity to discover Coil with the mask off, so it was worth buying his loyalty.

Ah, yeah, makes sense.

The man waited in the front seat of the white van, eyes forward, until he heard the three knocks on the back door of the vehicle. He pressed a button, opening the door to allow Coil to enter.

Once inside the back of the van, hidden from Creep’s view by a barrier between the seats, Coil removed his clothes, folding them neatly.

t r a n s f o r m a t i o n s e q u e n c e g o !

He donned his costume, his second skin. A zipper was hidden in the image of the long white snake that weaved up around the body of the costume to the head.

Hah! Reminds me of my pencil case, which is pretty much just one long zipper.

This is cool, but I have a hard time imagining it being practical to get into in any way, shape or form.

He drew it together around himself, tucked the metal tab of the zipper into a flap at his ankle. The fabric of the costume allowed him to see and breathe through it, but was an opaque black-gray to outside observers in all but the brightest light.

Sounds like going up against Purity could get awkward.


He was spending less and less time in his civilian identity, these days, to the point that he was pondering dropping it altogether. He could be Coil full-time, when the base was fully set up.

So what about the family? Is that completely fake too? Are your wife and children employees?

No, that doesn’t mesh with what Coil just said about Creep.

For now, though, so long as he needed a bed, and a place to get away from the noise of construction, the ruse was necessary. He seated himself in the one chair at the back of the vehicle.

I guess he just doesn’t care about them, then.

Things like this are part of why I don’t refer to civilian names as “real names”. It’s not the only reason – I just generally don’t like the idea of a name someone chose for themself being less real than the one they were given at birth – but it’s definitely a good illustration.

To outside observers, Creep was an ordinary laborer driving an electrician’s van to the construction site. Coil’s underground base had fallen just beyond the scope of the massive lake in the middle of downtown.

I seem to recall the above-ground construction site being damaged, but I’m not sure.

Had the crater extended another forty or fifty feet, it might have done more than crack the interior walls, cost Coil months of time rather than days, hundreds of thousands rather than thousands.

Lucky break, that.

Or did that perhaps happen in an alternate timeline? I could see him using his power on the Endbringer situation and, after both timelines turned out to successfully run Levvy off to the horizon, pick the one that suited him best personally.

Although he’d have to make a choice that would actually impact that.


Creep directed the vehicle down the ramp and into the parking garage. He stayed behind with the van as Coil departed.

Coil entered a doorway in the lowest, most secluded corner of the parking garage, entering a room with an electrical system behind a metal cage. Opening the door to step into the cage, passing around behind the electrical box and passing through the concealed doorway there, he reached the heavy vault door that marked the entrance to his underground base.

Welcome home.

Even after he was inside, with two employees waiting to greet him, a contingent of his squad captains standing at the ready, he remained careful. Back in the other reality, he stood from his computer, traveled into the room beside his own.

What’s he being careful about, though? Is he expecting that he might be attacked in here?

He paused in the doorway, staring at the girl who lay on the cot. She was dressed in white, unmoving but for the rise and fall of her ribcage, her eyes open.

Dinah… you don’t sound like you’re doing so good. What’s up?

“It’s morning, pet. You know what questions I ask you.”

“It’s morning?” she asked, head rising. “I feel like I just had dinner. Candy?”

She’s losing track of time… relatable, honestly, though I don’t think the reasons are anywhere near the same.

“No, pet. It’s too early. Now please answer my question.”

Petulant, she replied, “Zero point two five two percent chance there’s any problems here in the next hour. Three point seven four four one percent chance there’s any problems before lunchtime.”

I suppose the second best alarm system is one that tells you the chances ahead of time.

(The best one is less probabilistic.)


“Good girl,” he spoke.

With that, he collapsed that world where he had stayed up all night, studying the news, following international business trends, tracking the details on his troops’ most minor operations – he helped ensure the success of the major ones with his power.

Oh… that’s pretty clever. Using a world without consequences to stay up and learn things (that should stay true to the other timeline for the most part) while getting plenty of rest in the timeline he intends to make the alpha. I love it.

The reality swiftly faded, leaving only the world where he had a full night’s sleep, ate a hearty breakfast, drove to the base with Creep. Only the memories and knowledge remained.

If he does this regularly, he can stay about as caught up on things as he’d be if he was awake 24/7 as Coil. Sleep only keeps him from meaningfully acting on those things immediately unless necessary enough to sacrifice the night’s rest and risk questions about his whereabouts from his civilian family.

Standing before his employees and soldiers, he divided realities once more, leaving only a heartbeat between the erasure of one existence and the creation of another.

If I was onto something re: pseudo-immortality, this is probably a good habit to be in.

He often wondered if he really was creating the realities, or if it was solely in his perception, foretelling futures to the extent that they hinged on his actions.

I mean, it’s possible that the timelines happen anyway whenever he makes a choice, and he just has the power of essentially having his consciousness cover two of the timelines until he chooses not to. Dinah’s power implies a few things along this line, though it’s unclear whether the timelines she sees are actual realities or projections in her mind.

He’d asked his Tattletale, and she hadn’t had an answer for him.

Coil has a nasty habit of viewing people as his property, doesn’t he.


He had hated these moments, before he’d acquired his pet and the assurances she provided.

The “pet” thing will never stop being creepy.

These were the times when he was most vulnerable, when he’d just started a fresh use of his power, his selves so close to one another.

“I must have hit my head. I’m being double.”

Geez, imagine the first time Coil discovered he had this power. Sounds like an incredibly confusing, mind-blowing experience.

It was sadly inevitable, unless he found a way to expand to a third world. Though he knew the chance of danger was miniscule, that his pet could not lie to him if she had wanted to, he still made efforts to distance the two worlds as much as possible.

Why can’t she lie? Is that a side effect of the precision and mathematical presentation of her power, or does her candy have some sort of truth serum or something in it too?

The first reality: “Captains, with me. Empire Eighty-Eight is divided, and I’m going to direct you on a series of strikes to ensure we deal as much damage as possible before the two factions can merge once more.”

Oh jeez. Without its leader, the Empire’s split. I bet one of the faction leaders is Purity.

Mix that with the public identities after Coil’s last strike, and it seems to me that the gang probably won’t ever return to what it once was. Maybe the two factions won’t merge, and we’re now going to have two smaller white supremacist gangs running around.


The other: “I wish to survey the base. Captains, as you were.”

So we’ve got one reality where the captains are at the entrance, and one where they aren’t. One where Coil’s holding off on the strikes against the two E44s for a bit, and one where he’s starting that process.

Two groups traveling in separate directions. One of his selves traveled with the troops, down the metal staircase to the lower level, the other moving in the other direction, across the metal walkway, the two employees hurrying to keep up with his long strides.

I feel like this chapter is going to take some mental gymnastics to keep things straight at a couple points. So far, though, Wildbow’s doing a good job of making it clear.

Also, I just thought of the first episode of season 2 of Rick and Morty, in which a single timeline fractures and Rick has to try to reunite the pieces. That’s represented by a split screen. I think if Worm were in a visual medium, that would be a good way to handle this chapter.

He eyed the base as it was developing. The massive quantities of crates and boxes were being unpacked, bunk beds for soldiers on call, a fully equipped medical bay, stocks and facilities for the kitchens, innumerable weapons. It was taking shape, fine details emerging where there had been only right angles and neatly organized stacks boxes.

Nice.

He owned the company that had built the underground shelters in Brockton Bay and neighboring cities.

Oh, huh. Well, that explains why the shelter Taylor visited reminded me of this base.

Hiding the details on his base in construction was a matter of intercepting information at the right time and place, paying with his own money rather than the city’s, controlling what was reported and to whom. His pet’s powers had assured him that nobody would be noticing any disparity anytime soon.

Pretty handy, that certainty.


“The Travelers’ room,” it was more statement than question, but it required an answer.

…oh yeah, I didn’t even think of that: Where are the Undersiders staying now that the Loft is gone? Did they ultimately accept Coil’s offer and get a room here too?

A man in a sweater and small round-rimmed glasses, Mr. Pitter, spoke, “Done. Individual rooms, furnishings, kitchen and wardrobes. Some minor modifications are needed to make it more handicap accessible, but they could all move in today.”

Last I remember, nobody on the team was physicallyhandicapped. I guess someone was badly hurt in the Endbringer attack.

“And the containment facility?” he asked, though he already knew the answer, from the interruptions while he spent the night in the facility.

Secure. Contain. Protect.

This is where Coil keeps important things, like his weeping frog.

He’d heard the noise of the work just hours ago, been informed that people were arriving.

Yeah, that’s fair, though that seems like one of the places where that particular fork would have the most impact.

(#the weeping frog is by loreweaver

#i’m pretty much mentioning that as a shoutout to a friend)


“The vault door was placed just last night. She was-” Mr. Pitter paused, “Agitated. We had to call Trickster in to talk to her. He’s here now.”

“She”? As in Dinah, or does Coil have another captive?

Coil didn’t have to walk far to get to her in the other reality, so I guess it’s Dinah.

So… we’ve had several mentions of the Travelers so far, including it being pointed out that the Travelers need something from Coil, and now Trickster is in the base. I have a feeling we’re going to learn what their deal is by the end of this Interlude.

“I’ll speak with them.”

“Yes sir.”

Like right now, maybe.

He didn’t like interacting with people, especially not subordinates as important as the Travelers or Undersiders, without the ability to create or banish the reality if the discussion didn’t go his way.

No wonder he ends up quite persuasive and charismatic.

Here, he was safe. His other self was giving orders on movements, targets to attack, individuals to watch out for, informed by the night he had spent tracking the deployments and patrol patterns of the Protectorate and Wards.

In other words, if the talk with Trickster and Dinah doesn’t work out, he’s still been productive.


He let Mr. Pitter take the lead as they headed to the Traveler’s apartments. The man was small, unassuming, ordinary. A registered nurse, he had an exemplary eight-year record of acting as nanny and caretaker to a pair of very ill children.

Well, at least Coil has someone with experience doing this.

Then he had found out his wife had cheated on him, attempted to divorce her. Deciding that wasn’t acceptable to her, the woman had set about dismantling his life, ruining his careers, friendships, familial relationships and everything else, laying accusations and planting evidence of the worst sort of crimes.

Yikes.

The sort of accusations and suspicions that a male nanny had to be leery of at all times.

Eesh.


Mr. Pitter was one of those particular people who was both useful and bought with stronger things than currency. He would ensure the Travelers were comfortable and well stocked. More specifically, he would take care of Dinah, ensure any and all dosages were clean and properly administered, that the girl was kept in the best of health.

…but is that because Coil wants her to be healthy as a human being, or because he wants her to be intact and functional as a tool?

I’m thinking the latter.

All he had required was for his wife to disappear, the chaos and problems the woman had caused him discreetly sorting themselves out in the aftermath of her death.

Honestly? Good riddance.

He had gone from being a broken man to a person who was so unflinching in his duties that it had given even Coil pause.

“Wow, she was really fucking with him.”


Mr. Pitter knocked on the door, waited. It was almost a minute before it opened.

Trickster stood in the doorway, unmasked. His skin tone was darker in a way that left his ethnicity ambiguous, to the point where the boy could have been a darker skinned Caucasian, biracial, Middle Eastern or Eastern Indian.

Hi there.

His dark hair was long, hanging to his shoulders, and a hook nose coupled with a widow’s peak gave him something of a severe appearance. His eyes, normally sharp, were bleary with sleep.


I should watch more My Hero Academia.


“Are you really that sadistic, Mr. Pitter? I get dragging me here at five in the morning if Noelle needs it, but waking me up three hours later?”

Hm. Seems like Coil is using a nickname for Dinah to make the truth of how he acquired her a bit less obvious.

That, or I wasn’t actually off the mark with there being another captive, but I’m far from sold on that.

The ‘nanny’ didn’t reply, instead stepping out of the way, to give Trickster a better view of Coil. Trickster leaned out of the doorway to look his employer up and down, picked some sleep from the corner of his eye with his thumbnail. “Damn it. Okay.”

Hah!

“Thank you,” Coil replied, “I would like to speak with your friend, downstairs. Past experience has suggested this works best if you act as an intermediary.”

Hm. Trickster being called in in the first place seems to suggest that he has a bit of a connection with “Noelle” that Mr. Pitter doesn’t quite have, but Coil doesn’t seem to have much trouble talking to Dinah directly. Maybe there is another captive in the containment facility.

“I don’t know if that’s a great idea.”

Oh, don’t worry. If it goes badly, it didn’t happen.


“Indulge me. Would you like me to wait while you wash your face? Get dressed?”

“If we’re just going to talk to her, and if you don’t have anything else for me to do, I’ll probably go straight back to bed, after.”

“As you wish.”

I mean, fair enough. Even without being called in at 5 AM, being a villain probably isn’t conducive to a normal sleep cycle.

(Unless you’re Hawkmoth from Miraculous Ladybug. He seems to have a fairly normal sleep cycle, since most of the action, which he starts, happens in the daytime. Which also makes it kind of odd that the English dub opening begins with “In the daytime, I’m Marinette” as if most of her time as Ladybug isn’t also in the daytime.)

Trickster pulled on a black bathrobe, cinched it around his waist, then stepped onto the metal walkway.

“Is there at least anything I can tell her?” Trickster asked. “Anything encouraging?”

I don’t know, but the fact that you need to ask is not encouraging.

“Nothing definitive. I had intended to introduce Tattletale from the Undersiders to this situation, ask her for her opinions.

Okay, that makes it certain, Noelle and Dinah are separate people. Tattle definitely knows about Dinah, and Coil is aware of that.

That is, if she doesn’t already have some idea of what’s going on. Either way, her talents might turn up some details we have missed.”

I wonder if Coil has informed the Travelers about what Tattle’s power is.


“Had intended? I take it that she can’t, now, because of what happened at the hospital?”

Hm…

“Something like that. She’s informed me that there’s currently difficulties within her group and requested that I not distract her or give her tasks until things have been settled ‘one way or the other’. Her words.”

Ahh, I see. That makes sense.

“That’s not really anything that’s going to give Noelle hope.”

Yeah, no, evidently not.

So to summarize, it sounds like Noelle has some sort of situation/problem going on, and Coil and the Travelers don’t really know what it is…

Hang on. Something just stirred in the back of my head. Was Noelle the name of the pseudo-shapeshifter?

That would certainly explain Trickster’s involvement here.


“No. No it isn’t.”

They headed back onto the walkway, then down the stairs. A vault door, twenty feet across, was set into the concrete wall. It loomed over them, three times as tall as even Coil was.

Sheesh, the company making these bases and shelters really has a thing for huge doors.

Coil stepped to the side, gestured toward the small monitor and keypad to the left of the door.

Trickster touched a button on the keypad, “Noelle? You there?”

“No!”

“Oh, okay.”

The monitor flickered. A girl’s face took up most of the screen. Her face was framed with brown hair, greasy, and she had dark circles under her eyes. Her eyes moved as she looked at the monitor on her end, but she didn’t reply.

Hi.

“Hey,” Trickster spoke.

“Hey,” her voice had a ragged quality to it, as though she had screamed herself raw.

Nice to see you guys.

(#i should’ve saved that hi)


So it absolutely sounds like Noelle’s seen better days.

“Coil wants to speak to you.”

There was a pause. “Okay.”

Coil stepped forward so he shared the camera with Trickster. “Noelle. I’m sorry the construction work disturbed you. We shouldn’t have been doing that so late in the night.”

I suppose it makes sense that that would make her “agitated”, though there’s obviously something more to it.

“You locked me in,” Noelle accused him.

“For your safety, and ours,” Coil spoke.

So she is captive, though in a different sense than Dinah.

What happened here? Did her power go haywire or something?

“You agreed to this,” Trickster told her, “We talked about it. You asked us to do this.”

I… see.

I guess it’s more than her power. Maybe her mind is getting affected by something?

“I know. I- I didn’t think it would be this claustrophobic. Or lonely. I swear I’m getting cabin fever and it’s only been a few hours.”

Trickster opened his mouth, then closed it. When he finally found the words to say, he spoke, “You can call me any time.”

Aw.

I feel like we’re seeing the more caring side of Trickster. He’s kind of an abrasive jerk a lot of the time, so I like that.

“Except when you’re doing a job.”

“You can talk to Oliver, then, or Mr. Pitter.”

“Oliver’s still busy talking to you guys, and Mr. Pitter creeps me out.”

Oliver? Another member of the Travelers, I presume?


Coil raised an eyebrow behind his mask, gave Mr. Pitter a glance. The man hadn’t reacted.

“Eh, fair enough. I’m just doing my job.”

Trickster diplomatically didn’t comment on Mr. Pitter’s presence nearby. Calmly, he spoke, “We’re working on a solution.”

“You’ve been working on that for a month now!” She began to shout, which only added to the gravelly quality of her voice, “Fix this! Fix me! You did this to me, Krouse!

What the fuck happened to her??

“Noelle,” Coil spoke, controlling his voice, “Trickster is not to blame. At the next possible opportunity, I will be inviting an employee of mine to speak with you and the rest of the Travelers. Her power will provide hints. I’ve also been in contact with the head of parahuman studies at Cornell. An expert in the field.”

Hmmm.

If Noelle is not the pseudo-shapeshifter, maybe she’s a civilian friend of Trickster’s who has a trigger event recently and gained a power that’s messing with her body and mind?

Although Trickster’s formerly nomadic nature does make it unlikely for him to have any long-time friends in Brockton Bay, unless this is where he started out.

Also, it seems like that possibility would be fairly easy to figure out.


Her scream sounded through the intercom system, “That’s just more poking and prodding and theories! You promised us you’d fix me!”

The first step to fixing a problem is identifying it, Noelle. He’s working on it.

Punctuating her statement, there was a bone-rattling impact against the vault door. Almost every soldier on the lower level stood or turned to face the doorway, hands on their guns. Dust spilled out from the joins where the concrete walls met ceiling.

Hm. Looks like whatever this is made her strong enough to actually warrant that door.

Irritating. Nothing more was going to come out of this conversation. At least he knew the one thing he’d sought to find out: she was getting worse. He used his power, obviating the reality with the raging girl in favor of the one where he was talking to his soldiers.

Well, okay then.

At least Trickster gets his beauty sleep.


“-dersiders are otherwise occupied, so you’ll be supported indirectly by the Travelers. Captain Heroux? How fast can your squad be ready?”

“Captain Heroux” is not a name I’d trust if I were a villain.

“We’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

“Good,” Coil spoke. “Be ready, I’ll have orders for you in less than an hour.”

“Sir.”

Guess they’re leaping into it pretty soon.

Coil turned, leaving the captains to their assigned tasks. He glanced at Mr. Pitter, “The Travelers’ quarters are all set up, I trust?”

“Yes. We just installed the heavy door in the middle of the night. Noelle was agitated enough that we had to call in Trickster to calm her down.”

“I see.”

Yeah, he just did literally see that, but it never happened.


“He’s still here, if you want to talk to him.”

“Let the boy rest. He’ll be tired.”

Hehe.

“Yes, sir.”

“Ensure the girl has a double ration for this morning.”

“The costs-”

“Are my concern. With her sleep disturbed, she is liable to be… cranky.

That’s certainly one way of putting it.

Let’s ensure she has little to complain about. And Mr. Pitter?” he paused, “Speak with Duchene about the construction the second she comes in. I want that door on the lower level reinforced. Extend walls inward and put in a second door, if you have to.

It did seem like it might give in with a couple more attacks.

Schedule any construction for the middle of the day, so we aren’t interrupting her sleep again, but I want it done as soon as possible.”

All around a good way to handle the information from that other reality.


The man nodded, correctly interpreted the order as a dismissal, and hurried off.

You generally don’t want to incorrectly interpret an order as a dismissal.

That left him with the one remaining assistant following after him. Cranston. “Anything urgent?”

“No, sir. The businesses you purchased are still struggling in the wake of the catastrophe, but we’ve received insurance payments-”

Oh man, the insurance companies must be having a hell of a time after the Endbringer attack.

I have no doubt that and other parahuman antics are used as excuses to run the costs of insurance policies through the roof, though. It’s probably an even more lucrative business in the Wormverse.

“Good. We’ll discuss it later.”

“Yes, sir.” Cranston hurried off.

Lots of hurrying off going on here. Did Coil forget to put on deodorant or something? 😛


Coil returned to the end of the complex furthest from the entrance, entered his quarters. He paused at his computer to check his emails and the latest news feeds. Nothing crucial.

Do you reckon Coil ever made one of his alternate reality selves take the time to reply to a blatant Nigerian Prince scam just for fun (like James Veitch likes to)?

He divided realities. In one, he stayed at his computer. In the other, he entered the room reserved for his pet. “Good morning, pet.”

I have a feeling the numbers are going to be different. Exactly why, I don’t know, but I have a feeling they’re going to be higher this time.

“It’s morning?” she groaned, sitting up. “I thought I just finished dinner. Candy?”

“You know my morning questions.”

He already knew the numbers – he noted they had barely changed, as she rattled them off – but if he always canceled out the reality where he asked her for the chance of any danger in the morning and never asked again because it would be redundant, she would never remember.

Ah, yeah, that’s a good point.

Even a mind like hers had its limits and boundaries.

…I mean, it makes sense. Her power looks forward, not back to realities that quite possibly don’t exist anymore.


“The chance my grand plan is a success, ignoring any uses of my powers?”

“Seventy two point two zero zero two one percent.”

Oh jeez, he’s really making good progress.

Pleasing. It was a number he could raise in the ensuing days and months with the use of his power. Interestingly enough, the number was better than it had been before Leviathan attacked.

Huh.

“Chance the issues with the Undersiders will be resolved?”

“Don’t understand.”

Makes sense that she’d need to know a bit more about it. For instance, what “being resolved” actually implies in this case.

Unfortunately Coil himself doesn’t seem to know enough about it to get much more detailed.

He frowned. Another limitation. She needed to be able to visualize the scenes. “What is the likelihood that the Undersiders will still be serving under me, at the point in time my plan succeeds or fails? To one decimal point?”

That’s more like it.

“Sixty five point six. But they aren’t all the same Undersiders.”

“Oh?” he rubbed his chin,

That is a very interesting detail. It could just refer to whether Taylor rejoins them or not (though it’s not clear whether Dinah counts Taylor as part of the current Undersiders, so even that doesn’t actually tell me whether she will), but it could also refer to another member joining. Very intriguing.

“The chance that my plan succeeds with this new group versus the old?”

“I don’t understand. My head’s starting to hurt.”

That’s a good question to ask, though apparently we’re not getting an answer.

“Just one or two more, pet. If the group changes, is it more likely that my plan succeeds? To one decimal point.”

“Yes. Four point three to eleven percent, depending on who comes and who goes.”

Huh.

“One more question. What is the chance that I find a remedy to the Travelers’ circumstances? To one decimal point?”

“Nine point five. Candy?”

Not that great, huh.

Also it’s kinda nice that Coil figured out that he could ask for the number of decimals.


A full seven percent lower than it had been before the Endbringer attack. Had a crucial individual died or left the city?

That could be it.

Also I feel like it’s worth noting that both of these numbers are with Tattletale’s help… unless maybe that’s what causes the difference? Maybe there’s a significantly lower chance of Tattletale actually helping out after seeing Dinah and/or going through the whole thing with Taylor?

Or was his running theory correct? Was there a reason Leviathan had come here, beyond the chance to attack a city already under siege?

Are you saying there’s a connection between what’s happening to Noelle and Levvy’s attack? As in, whatever caused Noelle’s… whatever it is being the same thing that caused Leviathan to come?

Or maybe Noelle’s issue in itself drew Leviathan? Is Noelle turning into a fourth Endbringer, even? Though we know Leviathan was never human, which is a bit of a stick through that wheel.


I have to admit, it’s kinda difficult to keep writing “Noelle” and not think of The Adventure Zone.


It was hard to ignore the reality, that Leviathan, from the time he arrived, had gradually moved closer and closer to this location, where the girl had already been ensconced. The Travelers had even picked up on that, called him, worried.

Oh, damn.

Another possibility: What Noelle is going through doesn’t make her a “fellow” to the Endbringer’s, but a target. A threat, maybe, someone to get rid of before she reaches maximum potential.


Something to ask Tattletale about, perhaps, when he introduced her and Noelle.

Absolutely.

“It feels bad. Wanting the candy so much, knowing I’m going to want the candy, seeing it like I do. It builds up.”

Aw 😦 Poor little addict.

Seven percent lower. At what point did earning their loyalty fail to be worth the resources he was investing?

I guess he’s just gonna ignore Dinah’s complaints, and probably ask one more question, about the Travelers’ usefulness.

“Knowing I’ll get sick if I don’t get it, being able to see it, what it’s like, the getting sick, and as it gets closer to happening, higher percentages, it feels more real, so clear a picture it’s almost as bad as getting sick for real. Even if there’s only a nine point two-”

Oh jeez, she meant that kind of “seeing it like [she] does”! Fuck, that really sucks.

“You’ll get some to tide you over in a bit, pet,” Coil interrupted her, in as reassuring a tone as he could manage.

Just one more question, huh?

It was impossible to conceal all of his irritation at being disturbed from his thoughts, but she was distracted enough by her own problems that she likely didn’t notice.

His plan was succeeding, though it had been delayed slightly by recent circumstances.

Alright, maybe not right now.

And yeah, the city being thrashed by a kaiju tends to be a bit of a setback.


His plan was succeeding, though it had been delayed slightly by recent circumstances. Potential enemies were divided or reduced in numbers, the city all the more vulnerable to being seized. Victory was so close he could taste it.

Things really do seem to be going Coil’s way.

Perhaps worthy of a celebration. Coil maintained his own vices. It would be unfair to expect more of himself, when he had the unique talent he did.

Hah, nice. Coil is in the unique situation that he can do pretty much whatever he wants without consequences, without spending any time doing it, and without anyone but himself knowing he did it.

Why not use that to celebrate from time to time?

It had certainly been an expensive talent. Even with his ability to game the markets in a way that clairvoyants and precognitives couldn’t detect, it had taken him years to pay it off.

Huh.

I doubt Coil is going to celebrate with some stock market gaming, so I guess this is more about how he got the resources to do what he does.

A maddening, frustrating endeavor, when he had already been thinking of plans he wanted to set in motion, having to postpone them. And he still owed a favor, even now, up to a week’s services. He couldn’t be sure if he was powerful and secure enough to fight back if they demanded too expensive a price, or too much of his time at a point critical to his plan.

That’s a bit unfortunate when you’ve got some big stuff going on, yeah.


He canceled the reality where he stood at his pet’s bedside, found himself still at the computer. Best to leave the world where his pet wasn’t so tired, in case he wanted to ask more questions that morning.

…I guess that’s one way to cheat himself to infinite questions. Coil is a genie’s nightmare.

The worlds he created weren’t real. They were little more than an especially vivid, accurate dream.

Sure, keep telling yourself that.

To enjoy a whole separate world, free of any consequences beyond the ones he wanted? It would be unreasonable if he didn’t indulge in it. Anyone would, given the chance.

This, however, I can get behind.

These entertainments kept him centered, utterly calm. He needed that, after the irritation of dealing with the Travelers’ girl.

He touched a button on his phone, “Mr. Pitter? My office.”

He hasn’t actually told us what those entertainments tend to entail. I have a feeling we’re about to find out. Maybe one reality’s version of Coil will have a normal conversation with Mr. Pitter, whereas the other one does something completely off-the-wall to watch Pitter’s reaction?

Note that “doing something completely off-the-wall” could run the entire range from making silly faces to appearing bare to firing Pitter to murdering Pitter to silly walking, depending on what Coil secretly enjoys and how much Wildbow wants to reinforce that this man is not what he seems at first glance.


“Yes sir,” the reply sounded.

He was on the brink of achieving his goals. It would be a laughable tragedy, to get this close, only to have his power fail him, to accidentally choose the wrong reality, or to have his other self killed by accident or malicious intent, forcing him to live with the ramifications of these idle amusements.

I guess that answers the question of what happens if one Coil dies. The Coil that doesn’t die is forced to live the reality he’s in.

Or at least, that’s what Coil thinks would happen, if he hasn’t experienced it before.

For now, he wouldn’t touch his pet, nor any of his powered subordinates. Not when he was this close.

Fair enough.

A click of what appeared to be a part of his desktop wallpaper made his bottommost drawer pop open.

Sneaky!

Mr. Pitter entered the room. “Sir?”

One reality: “My pet needs her ‘candy’, a low dosage, please.”

The mundane reality…

The other: Another click of his computer mouse, remotely locking the doors. Mr. Pitter turned, alarmed, tested the door.

And the off-the-wall one.


For now, even with the safeguard of his other realities, he would do nothing he couldn’t explain away if he had to. He wouldn’t entertain himself with anybody he couldn’t replace. Mr. Pitter? Replaceable.

Possibly morbid, but fair.

No such thing as being too paranoid, after all.

…nice use of bookends. Kiiinda wanted to know what Coil was going to have not done, but I guess that’s better left to the reader’s imagination anyway.


End of Interlude 8b

That was an interluding Interest… wait…

I guess Wildbow felt like Coil’s power needed some demonstration. “Show, don’t tell,” they say, and now he’s shown after the telling that happened last chapter. On top of that, we got a bit of a look into Coil’s daily life, which was neat.

And then there’s the situation with Noelle. It’s unclear exactly what it is, both to the readers and to Coil, but whatever it is, it’s almost certainly not good, especially if Leviathan was able to sense it. Hopefully we’ll get more information from Tattletale later on, though it’s not guaranteed that she’ll actually be available to help out, depending on what Taylor’s plan is.

And… that’s it, then! Stay tuned for Arc Thoughts: Extermination!

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