Source material: Worm, Sentinel 9.1
Originally blogged: December 26, 2017
Howdy! Who’s ready to dive into Arc 9 with me? Well, if you aren’t, you’d better tune out now, because I’m going in!
I haven’t turned the page, so I don’t know what this Arc is called yet… let’s have a look, shall we?
Does that have anything to do with bugs? I mean, I know what a sentinel is, I think – a sort of protective warrior or guard, right? – but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in the context of insects.
Wait, is there a species called sentinel crab, or am I making that up? We did learn back in 3.1 that Taylor’s power also covers crabs (and we were recently reminded of that fact), so I guess it’s possible that the Arc titles might relate to those too. In which case the Arc itself might to some extent have to do with crabs, literally or metaphorically (though the protective warrior thing is more likely the main reason for the title).
Let’s do a little lookup.
1. a person or thing that watches or stands as if watching.2. a soldier stationed as a guard to challenge all comers and prevent a surprise attack: to stand sentinel.
3. Digital Technology. tag (def 9a).
verb (used with object), sen·ti·neled, sen·ti·nel·ing or (especially British) sen·ti·nelled, sen·ti·nel·ling.
4. to watch over or guard as a sentinel.
Sounds like I wasn’t off the mark on the main meaning of the word. And sentinel crabs do exist. Good.
So, what does this mean for this Arc? Well, I think Taylor (or someone else?) will take on the role of a guardian of the city, or something like that. That does sound a lot like the heroes’ job, but maybe she’s going to be more of a neutral party, protecting the city from both villains and heroes? Also, Taylor’s ability to control crabs will possibly get involved somehow.
As for this chapter, I guess we’ll finally find out whether the Undersiders are going to be part of Taylor’s plan or not (coddamn cliffhanger… :p), not to mention what the plan actually is. Hopefully.
So, without further ado, let’s jump in and see how wrong I am this time! 😀
Oh hey, this chapter was posted on April 3, 2012, and the Interlude was posted on March 31, 2012…
Did Wildbow do an April Fool’s thing between these chapters?
It was seven-thirty in the evening in a medium sized airport. Weren’t there supposed to be people?
Uh, yes, usually.
What’cha doing at the airport?
There had been staff, for sure. The odd staff member to greet him as he got off the plane, another to see him past the gates.
Okay, so it seems we’ve got another POV character for this chapter. Interesting.
I vaguely felt like that might be the case – with how much Arc 8 felt like a game changing climax to a hypothetical “part 1″, Arc 9 is an excellent point to start changing some constants up, such as Taylor being the POV character in every non-Interlude chapter.
Although that kind of defeats the apparent purpose of mid-Arc Interludes, which I know for a fact are going to continue being a thing.
I’m going to wait on speculating on who this “he” is for now, considering I have literally nothing to go off of except “he” and “got off a plane somewhere at around 7:30 PM”.
Still, the terminals were empty, there were no crowds, the shops and restaurants were all closed. Only half the lights were on. For the first time, he was wondering if he was getting in over his head.
I don’t even know for sure which airport this is. The obvious guess is Brockton Bay, but could be Boston, Vancouver or even Calcutta for all I know.
That said, it being Brockton Bay might explain the emptiness. I doubt Brockton Bay gets much tourism in its current state, and lots of the people who wanted to leave have done so already, apparently primarily by bus.
Hm, but lack of traffic doesn’t singlehandedly explain why stuff’s closed and half-lit. Is there some major arrangement going on in the city right now, or something? Or is it just that the airport was damaged in the Endbringer attack…?
In short, I don’t know what’s going on here.
(#and as i was writing that last sentence
#the lyric ‘what the fuck is going on?’ was sung into my ear)
At least there were no people making the same old jokes about the metal detectors.
Heh. Silver lining, huh?
Baggage claim had three carousels, which should have been in operation, delivering a regular supply of people’s luggage onto the conveyor belts, crowds gathered around them in anticipation. Instead, there was a single man in uniform with three large bags already piled onto a cart.
It definitely seems like mystery dude’s arrival is being treated as a special case. Were there even any other people who arrived with him? Did he fly in on a private jet?
“I can take my bags, I’m stronger than I look.”
Why do I feel like this is a hint that mystery dude is a parahuman with super strength?
“It’s alright, son,” the man replied, “It’s good to have something to do that isn’t cleaning up.”
Son. That bothered him more than he cared to admit. Not that he had any ideas about his own ethnicity, but it was vaguely condescending. A reminder that people didn’t know how to act around him.
Sounds like there’s either something visible about him that makes people unsure, or he wants people to treat him differently because of something they don’t see.
I’m inclined to go with the former.
I think I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this is Weld, coming back to take the role as leader of the Brockton Bay Wards. Although… didn’t he have a leader position in the Boston Wards too? Then why would this be getting in over his head?
I don’t know, maybe it’s not him. It’s just a working guess until things get a little clearer.
“Alright,” he conceded, “Where are we headed?”
The man gestured toward a set of double doors, then gripped the handle of the cart to push it in that same direction.
Stainless steel handles on the doors. He put his hands on the painted surface instead, pushed them open, and then held one of the doors open for the cart. He was distracted enough that he almost didn’t notice the group waiting for him.
So if this is Weld, then these would probably be the Wards.
The group consisted of a squad of PRT officers
Ah, fair enough. Still works with the Weld hypothesis, I suppose.
with their regular assortment of nonlethal weaponry and a large woman with a bleached blonde bob.
This is that administrator woman we met in Interlude 3, and heard about again in Interlude 7, isn’t it? I forgot her name.
…Piggy…? …Piggot! That’s it.
“Weld, I’m glad you made it,” she managed to say the words without a trace of humor or smile on her face. She extended a hand.
He glanced quickly at her hand, checking there were no rings, then shook it.
Rings, huh? Would your power absorb them into your body or something?
“Thank you, ma’am. Director Piggot, I’m assuming?”
“You assume correctly. Shall we?”
Yes, we shall.
Okay, so we’re getting to know Weld now, and probably getting a look at how the Wards are dealing with the events of Arc 8. I’m very pleased with this development.
As they fell into step, he asked, “Where is everyone?”
“This airport was attacked by one of the local villain groups just three days ago.
Ahh, that explains some things.
The front lobby and ticket claim were ransacked, and the airport has shut down for the time being, with only special cases such as yourself coming or going.”
“I take it things are bad?”
“Yes. We have seen this type of situation before, if not to this extreme. Too many citizens here had been living paycheck to paycheck or were unemployed. There was a great deal of latent frustration and unhappiness with the status quo. A powder keg needing only a spark to set it off.”
I wonder if this kind of thing is why the problem with the Simurgh tends to be what happens afterwards. I mean, it’s bad with Leviathan, but maybe the Simurgh specifically sets things up to make the recovery even worse after she’s gone.
Weld nodded, “And the arrival of an Endbringer is a bit more than a spark. I see. I know the Endbringers tend to target areas where they know they can do the most damage.
The mention of media coverage back in Interlude 7 really makes for a pretty silly mental image. Imagine Leviathan just sitting there, watching the news on an old 12-inch box TV while trying not to short circuit anything with his water echo…
You think Leviathan did it on purpose? Attacked this city because he knew this would happen?”
Possibly, though it’s not the only theory we have available for why he attacked right now.
“If someone raised the idea, I wouldn’t dismiss it. But our focus should be on what we do in the here and now. Are you ready to take command of the local Wards?”
Can you ever truly be ready for something like that? Especially if the only time you’ve spent with the people in question was during an Endbringer situation?
“I’m ready to try.”
That’s all one can ask for, really.
“Good. The team here is smaller than your old team in Boston. It currently consists of Clockblocker, Vista, Kid Win and Shadow Stalker. We had two members die in the attack, and a third left with his family when they evacuated.”
Let’s see, Aegis and Gallant died… I guess that means the third one was Browbeat.
Hm, a thought that just occurred to me: If we’re focusing on the Wards not only in this chapter, but in this Arc, then the title of the Arc referring to a role that fits with the job of the heroes makes a lot of sense.
(I’m still not convinced crabs won’t get involved somehow, though.)
Also, if we are going that route – which I’m in no way sure about yet – then I wonder how much we’ll see of Taylor. Maybe this Arc will act as a chance for Taylor to start working on her plan in the background while we the readers hang out with the Wards for a while, and we’ll return to see some of Taylor’s efforts at the end of this Arc from the Wards’ perspective, or in Arc 10 from her perspective?
PRT uniforms opened the doors, and he followed the Director onto a helipad, followed shortly after by the other PRT uniforms and man with his luggage. A black helicopter with the PRT logo on the sides sat there, propeller already whirring in preparation for takeoff.
Dude just stepped out of a plane and now it’s back up into the air again. Let’s hope he doesn’t get airsick easily.
The Director took the hand of a uniform inside the helicopter, stepping inside, and Weld followed her up, refusing a helping hand. The helicopter shifted slightly with the addition of his six hundred pounds of weight.
That’s what happens when you’re made of metal, I guess.
When the door shut, cutting off the worst of the noise, he took the offered headphones and put them on. When he spoke, his voice came through the headphones crystal clear, without a trace of the ambient noise of the helicopter, “So there’s only five of us?”
It’s a fairly small team.
One that fittingly enough matches the team size Wildbow’s used to dealing with from before… I feel like that’s a good sign re: potentially getting more chapters with the Wards.
“There will be more. We’ve got a lead on a young man who could be joining as a new member, assuming we can get close enough to him to make the offer. I trust you know your classifications?”
Hm, interesting. Is this someone we know?
“I do,” Weld nodded. He’d memorized it as a rhyme, as suggested by his old boss. Maybe that had been the intention from the start:
Brute and Breaker.
Blaster and Thinker,
Trump and Stranger.
Ooh! Okay, so we’ve got some interpretation to do here:
- Mover is obvious. Moves stuff. Telekinesis, launching and the like. Pretty simple. …Wait. I guess this could alternatively be those whose own movement is enhanced, such as fliers or speedsters. But then where do telekinetics fit in? Shaker?
- Shaker sounds like a variant that can’t quite move things, but can make them react physically in some way.
- Brute, we’ve been over with Lung. Physically strong and/or defended.
- Breaker: Breaks stuff. Faultline probably falls under this.
- Master: This one we’re well aware of. Covers Taylor and Paige, those with the power to control people or other living beings.
- Tinker: Parahumanly skilled at technology. Tends to have a specialty, such as Bakuda’s bombs, Armmaster’s small technology or Leet’s one-time inventions.
- Blaster: Ranged strikes, such as lasers. Lung also falls under this due to his blasts of fire.
- Thinker: Those whose mind give them an upper hand, like Tattle.
- Striker: Probably covers super-strength, among other things that would enhance one’s physical attack power.
- Changer: Changes one thing to another, as with transmutation or transfiguration.
- Trump: …powers that override other powers in some sense, maybe?
- Stranger: Probably the miscellaneous category. I’ve said before that this system needs to have one, and this sounds like one. Alternatively, this could be “we don’t fuckin’ know”.
Actually, maybe the Trump class covers those with powers to fail spectacularly at business and still somehow be seen as successful by the public.
He was classified as a brute and changer, classifications meant for the unnaturally tough and strong and for those who could change their shape to some extent, respectively.
Ah, I see, so changers don’t normally change other things, but themselves. Fair enough.
He never liked the word brute being applied to him, even though he was aware that the labels had originally been intended for the PRT teams to identify and label villains, specifically. It was only later that they had been extended to identifying the heroes as well.
“Right. This potential recruit is tentatively marked down as a Tinker/Mover.
Hm. Do we know any of those?
Depending on the interpretation of Mover, I guess this would be a Tinker with either a side power of moving technology, or a specialty in tech that increases mobility.
The only example I can think of in the latter interpretation would be Dragon (potentially – I’m still not quite sure on her specialty), though it’s definitely not her.
It isn’t unusual for powers to emerge in the wake of an event as serious as this.
Oh yeah, I suppose an Endbringer attack is a pretty strong contender for “shittiest day ever”.
And it sounds like this is a new character, then.
For this reason, we keep careful track of things to see if we cannot detect any new parahumans.
So that’s a thing they can detect? Interesting.
This young man has been observed in the south end, moving at over a hundred miles an hour with the assistance of a mechanical suit.
Ah, yeah, that’d be pretty easily detected.
Also explains why they have a hard time getting close to the guy.
His inclusion on a local team would help fill gaps left by the death of Velocity, a local Protectorate member, and Armsmaster’s retirement.”
Rot in the Birdcage, you proud fuck.
“Others may make themselves known, and we will approach each of them in turn. To help fill the gap in the meantime, Flechette is arriving from New York.”
Oh hey, needle gal! She seemed to get along with Sophia during the battle, so I have a feeling they’ll be working together a bit more.
Weld chuckled, just under his breath.
He was surprised that she had heard or noticed the laugh. “No, it’s just that we know each other. Our teams are -were- friendly rivals, kind of.
We’d meet two or three times a year and compete, just to spar and practice our skills against less familiar opponents. We’d joke around about which team was better, give each other a hard time.”
Sounds like a nice relationship.
“I certainly hope this ‘rivalry’ isn’t going to hamper your ability to lead this team and work with her.” There was no humor in her tone. Just the opposite.
No, it sounded like they get along fine. Flechette might respect Weld a bit less than the rest as a leader, but I think it’ll be fine.
Well, until Sophia indoctrinates her like she seems to have done with Emma.
“Um, no, ma’am,” he replied, chastened. The helicopter lifted into the air. A glance out the window showed the sprawl of the city. It was dark out, but much of the city was unlit, nothing shining through the windows, no street lights illuminating the roads, nor the headlights and taillights of traffic.
I knew this was a dark story, but…
Alright, jokes aside, I take it the electric network’s not quite fixed yet.
Noting where he was looking, Director Piggot spoke, “Because the current situation is serious, and it isn’t improving as fast as we’d like. You’re going to have to be on the top of your game.”
“Clockblocker and Vista are your best assets. Clockblocker is a Striker 7 with touch-based time-stopping. Vista is a Shaker 9. Large scale spatial distortion.”
Hm. I may have to reevaluate some more of my classification thoughts. I guess Strikers are generally those with touch-based powers, such as Clocky, Rune, Panacea and Ballistic?
And Shakers, uh, shake things up a bit on the battlefield.
“Geez louise. The others?”
Good to see Weld appreciates the value of having two manipulators of spacetime itself on the team.
“Kid Win is a Tinker 4. Guns and antigravity devices, primarily.
I wonder if he can combine those to make an antigravity gun.
Shadow Stalker is more ambiguous. Breaker 3, sublabels are Stranger 2, Mover 1. Her particular nature as a ‘breaker’ makes her superlight, semi-gaseous, transparent and capable of passing through solid surfaces.”
Hm. It seems like most of the designations are more about what the powers do to the person wielding them. So a Breaker breaks their body apart, like Shadow Stalker and Fog.
I wonder if Stranger, if it’s not a misc category like I thought, covers those who can be not fully corporeal in the material plane. Those who can phase through things, for instance, like Shadow Stalker and Danny Phantom.
“Okay. The team sounds well rounded, I can work with that.”
Yeah, it does, doesn’t it. We’ve got Kid Win for attacks, Shadow Stalker for stealth, Clockblocker for buying time by putting enemies out of commission for a while, and Vista to make the battlefield fit their needs.
She handed him a stack of files, “Here’s the files on local factions, including your new team, and a file on the solo heroes and villains.
Wouldn’t it have been good to give him some of this before he arrived? I mean, it’s been over two weeks since they decided to put him here. Might as well give him some time to do his homework before he came to town.
You’ll have limited access to the databases as well, which you should be familiar with, but this should get you the essential details to get underway. I’ve ordered those files loosely by priority, so you’ll find the most need-to-know information at the top of the pile.”
Weld took the folders and opened the one for the Wards, glanced through it to memorize the faces of his new team. Then he went to the next file, “Then the top priority as far as opposition goes is… the Archer’s Bridge Merchants? Superpowered drug dealers. A Shaker 2, Tinker 2/Mover 3 and a Shifter 4. These aren’t big numbers. Am I missing something?”
…yes, why are those high-priority all of a sudden? Were they the ones who attacked the airport? Doesn’t sound like them, though.
Also, “big numbers” kind of sounds like the numbers in the classification do indicate something about the strength of the power rather than some sort of subclassification.
“Context. They’ve become a rallying point, representatives and leaders for those on the lowest rungs of society. Too many civilians who were the have-nots think allying with the Merchants is a way to become the haves.
Hm. So they’re growing… maybe they’re even going to end up being the ones to take the Alternative Beep Boops’ place at the Docks?
People that were angry, disenfranchised or both have gravitated towards the group, are seeking to overturn the social order.”
Of all the groups to rise to power in the wake of the Endbringer attack…
“So they’ve got, what, a following of homeless?”
“Brockton Bay doesn’t, or didn’t, have many that you could strictly call homeless, as there were so many abandoned buildings to squat in. When the Endbringer attacked, he chose the area with many of these buildings.”
He did ruin a lot of the Docks.
“I think I remember, yeah. The area where the fight started didn’t exactly look upscale.”
“The sad irony of this is that the defending parahumans protected that area, while other locations were leveled by the tidal waves. That area, known to locals as the Docks, was not under the control of any organized crime or villain organization even before the attack.
Because of the events of Arcs 1, 4 and 5… leaving it open for the Merchants. Damn it.
After the battle’s conclusion, it was swiftly occupied by the Merchants and growing numbers of their followers, and is now one of the areas with reliable shelter.
…I mean, at least they’re doing that much. They’re still pieces of shit, though.
Not entirely, but more than many. By the time our local heroes were finished with search, rescue and minimizing damage, their number of followers had reached a critical mass. In the past several days, they’ve begun attacking the city infrastructure, the airport, grocery stores, malls and they’ve repeatedly seized medical supplies and food as they come in.”
I see. Thus the need for the guards around the supply helicopter in 8.8.
“So a big priority will be safeguarding incoming supplies from relief efforts, protecting key areas of the city so it can recuperate from the disaster.”
“Yes, for the time being.”
“Let’s see, the next group is… Fenrir’s Chosen?”
Okay, this one I don’t remember hearing about before. Are they new?
Fenrir is a name heavily tied to the apocalypse (specifically the Norse apocalypse, Ragnarok), and that’s exactly what the Endbringer attack was for the city. An apocalypse.
“One of two major offshoots of the Aryan villain group, Empire Eighty-Eight, which fell apart after the death of their leader, Kaiser.
Oh, it’s one of the E44s… did Hookwolf nab control over that and change his name, or was there another wolf villain around?
Fenrir’s Chosen are led by Hookwolf. Violent, utterly merciless, and reveling in the current chaos.”
Ah, well, half right. Didn’t change his name.
But yeah, a wolf taking charge after an apocalypse? The Norse allusion makes loads of sense.
“And it looks like he’s a Shaper 4, Brute 7, with the longest list of homicides or suspected homicides I’ve seen on someone who wasn’t already in prison. Thick file, I take it he has lots of followers?”
That would be because they’ve tried to put him in prison, repeatedly, but he’s apparently good at escaping.
“The largest group in terms of parahuman numbers, at present.”
“And this second group, The Pure, is the second offshoot of that Aryan group, I take it?”
Sounds about right.
“Small but powerful. Their leader, Purity, is a Blaster 8 and Mover 4.”
I… think I predicted her being one of the leaders? Did I write that anywhere? If I didn’t, shame on me.
“Yeah, there’s a Breaker 9, a Shifter 8 with Stranger 3 and a Master 6 in that group? I buy that they’re powerful.”
Let’s see, we’ve got Fog, Night and… uh…
Also, Shifter wasn’t in that rhyme earlier. I guess we didn’t get to see all of it.
“Their leader has made overtures to us, offering cooperation in helping us regain control of the city. We have refused her for the time being. If she approaches you, you are in no way, shape or form permitted to agree to any deals.”
Hm, interesting. I suppose Purity does just want a good, intact place for Aster to grow up.
“Noted. Let’s see… Coil, powers unknown.
Shame, honestly. I would’ve liked to see how they’d classify what he does.
The Travelers have high ratings on their powers, but their crimes are low end, pretty much. There’s the Undersiders… three Master classifications in one team.”
Huh. I suppose Regent and Bitch fall under Master too.
It’s interesting that the PRT doesn’t seem to be aware of Taylor leaving the Undersiders yet. I mean, sure, they haven’t seen much of the Undersiders since the attack, unless there’s been another time skip, but they at least have reason to suspect that might be the case, even if they can’t necessarily share that reason with Weld.
“Only one of whom is of any particular concern.
Investigations into two members have suggested sociopathic tendencies, and if they’re channeling their efforts into low threat activities such as robberies, we can afford to ignore them for the time being.”
Oh, so then Skitter is the one you’re worried about?
I suppose she has shown her skills over the last eight Arcs.
“Faultline’s Crew. Mercenaries, low rating, mediocre rating, low rating… A Shaker 12? Seriously?”
Hm. Labyrinth? I suppose what she does fits with Vista’s example of shaking things up on the battlefield.
“The girl has cognitive deficiencies that reduce the effective threat she poses, but yes. Again, that group is not an imminent threat.
Definitely Labyrinth, then.
I guess changing the playing field really is the signature of the Shakers, then.
In the current situation, I might suggest you leave them be if you cross paths, conserve your group’s strength for the priority opponents. The Merchants and Hookwolf’s group.”
Makes sense, I suppose.
…I’ve been using the phrase “I suppose” a lot over the last few posts, haven’t I.
“Okay. I’ll have this memorized by the end of the week.”
“I expect you will. That brings us to more mundane matters. You’ll be enrolled full-time at Arcadia High School. It’s close to the Wards headquarters, and your teachers have been informed about your special nature.
Alright, looks like the map I was given not having the school was based on speculation by Ridprime due to the path Leviathan took on the map.
I’m afraid there’s no easy answers as far as your appearance and how the rest of the student body will react to you.”
Yeeah, metal skin isn’t exactly conducive to a secret identity.
Weld looked down at his hands. His body, from skin to hair to bone, was all metal and alloys of varying types. “I’ve dealt with it before, I’ll manage.”
“We can’t enroll you in the co-op program, as your absence would be noted, and would draw attention to others who are using the co-op program to mask their attendance in the Wards.
It won’t be easy, attending high school full-time, keeping up with your coursework and leading the team in your off hours.”
Yeah, this sounds like a lot of work.
“It’s fine. I don’t have to sleep much, anyways, so it’s good to keep busy.”
“Good to hear that. All that said, I have asked your teachers to make special arrangements, reducing expectations toward your homework, provided you are not struggling in any subjects. The Wards program will also provide tutors should you need them.”
“You’ll have time to get into the swing of things without worrying about school, as the high schools are all currently shut down for repairs and to allow time for thorough investigation of the premises. When the schools are open, we’ll have you take three courses and attend first year classes on parahumans at the University, if that suits you?”
It’s clear they’ve got this all planned out.
“You’ll be living in a private room in the Wards headquarters, and you’ll have a monthly allowance of four hundred dollars in addition to the money put into your trust account by the program.
We expect you’ll spend this allowance on necessities, such as food and clothing. You do still eat, yes?”
“Yes,” he answered her, bending the truth. While he did eat, it was a negligible amount.
I can’t help but think of the Iron Giant, which naturally makes me imagine Weld eating scrap metal.
As he saw it, there was no real harm done if he pocketed some of that extra money and said he spent it on food. Given that his tongue was made of an alloy and the pleasures of food were a shadow of what they should be, it was only fair that he enjoy himself in some other way.
Yeah, that’s fair.
Man, imagine if Wildbow had decided to make Weld a skilled liar. He could’ve said his tongue was made of silver.
He knew that some staff back in Boston had caught on, but they hadn’t said anything. Director Piggot here gave him the vibe that maybe she wouldn’t be so cool with it. He’d be more careful until he knew for sure.
Yeeah, Piggot doesn’t stand for unregulatory bullshit.
“Your quarters have been checked and double checked, so there is no exposed metal, no screws, nails, frames or pegs.”
It really does sound like his power involves absorbing metal on touch.
“I appreciate the thought,” he told her. His physiology had the unfortunate drawback that he couldn’t help but attach to and absorb metal he touched. While it had been crippling when he’d first been found, dumped in a junkyard, he had learned ways around it.
…I was going to talk about the idea of Weld accidentally setting back some construction work by weeks or months by leaning on a metal framing, but then a much more important thing showed up here.
“found, dumped in a junkyard”? Have Upsilon been at it again?
He could rearrange the metals that formed his body, separate them into their composite elements, and he extended this particular trick to push all the impurities in the metals out to his ‘skin’.
So I guess if he really wanted to, he could have a silver tongue.
The impurities, unlike the metal that composed the rest of him, didn’t bond, giving him the ability to handle things with his hands and teeth if he needed to.
It didn’t always work – at least once a week there was one embarrassing moments where he bonded with someone’s wedding ring during a handshake or bumped into a shelf display – but it helped. Clothes helped as well.
How do you even break that to someone? “Hi, nice to meet you, and I think I just absorbed your wedding ring, sorry about that.”
In a more serious situation, such as when he was out on patrol, he could force parts of himself to melt and drop off, leaving a piece of himself behind, but it made him distinctly uncomfortable – pain wasn’t the right word – until he replaced the tissue he’d lost.
Yeah, that sounds quite… icky to experience.
More often, he preferred to just tear the offending piece of metal from whatever surface it rested on, whether it was a segment of chain link fence or a hubcap. Whenever he did it, he’d have to spend as much as an hour dissolving the metal and absorbing it into his body. Either way, they were only emergency measures.
Sounds annoying to deal with.
Which wasn’t to say he was weak. Being made of materials and alloys as strong or stronger than steel from head to toe made him practically untouchable in a fight. In addition, his biology fell into some optimal middle ground between organic and inorganic. For those whose powers affected only living things, he counted as inorganic. The opposite was also true.
Huh! That makes him immune to a lot of powers that could otherwise be used directly on his body. Most, in fact.
Although now we’re back to organic versus inorganic and the Manton effect being an objective thing, as opposed to my standing theory of the Manton effect being a subjective block based on what the wielder perceives as alive (the theory introduced in Interlude 5). In fact this sounds like pretty solid evidence against the latter interpretation. Hrm.
…I wonder if this also applies to Hookwolf.
“Do you understand why we have gone to this trouble for your sake, Weld? Why we are testing your ability as a team leader in a crisis such as this?”
I guess so that he’ll be ready when he graduates to the Protectorate?
“You’re grooming me,” he replied.
“Yes, but do you understand what we’re grooming you for?” she pressed.
He knew, but he assumed she would prefer to explain. Besides, how she explained would inform him a great deal about his new boss’s personality. “Not really.”
I mean, fair.
I’m thinking they might be trying to prepare him for not only being a Protectorate member, but potentially a Protectorate team leader.
“You likely know Director Armstrong in Boston, how he tends to prioritize research and understanding parahumans. I concern myself with more concrete affairs. Public relations, parahumans as a part of America.”
Ah, yes, if I recall correctly, Piggot’s first appearance was characterized by her concerns over how the incident at the bank would look for the Wards.
“What Armstrong continually fails to grasp is that if we do not integrate parahumans into society, help society bend to accommodate your kind, there is no point in lab experiments or classifications.
She has a point.
As bad as things might be with the periodic arrival of Endbringers and parahuman criminals, matters could be ten times worse if panic or prejudice takes hold from the public. You understand?”
Absolutely! Both of those things are bringers of chaos, maybe even more so than the Endbringers.
“One thing, ma’am,” Weld spoke.
He took a deep breath. Not that he really needed it, but he did anyways. “Forgive me for saying so, but I get the impression you don’t like or respect Director Armstrong?”
It does sound like they have their differences, at least.
“I just thought you should know he’s something like a father figure to me. He’s the one who recruited me to the Wards, got me up to speed. I’ve already made plans to go to his house for a bit this summer. Maybe I’m putting myself on your sh… in your bad books by saying so, but I just thought I should let you know I’ll step up to defend him if you start putting him down.”
Ah, nice. Also, I like how Piggot’s just like “yeah, so what”. It… suits her.
Another thing I like is how Weld clearly caught himself almost saying “shitlist”.
“I see,” tiny frown lines appeared between her eyebrows.
Well, at least you’ve got that out in the open now.
A fire on a street below caught his attention. A car had been set on fire, and people were crowding around it.
Hm? Villains afoot?
Or are these people using the car as a campfire of sorts?
Not noticing, Piggot pursed her lips, “Fine. My apologies for putting you in that situation. I won’t say anything further about Director Armstrong for the time being. I was speaking of the need for public relations?”
“Yes ma’am,” he spoke, feeling somewhat relieved at her composure.
Composure is what she does best, I suppose, besides maybe PR.
He wouldn’t feel a hundred percent okay about it until he verified her as someone who wouldn’t find some other way to get back at him.
I don’t think she’s the type for that, though relations between the two of you may be a little strained.
But I mean, Piggot’s the kind of person whose relationships with the people she works with are strained by default, isn’t she.
“As the number of parahumans first became clear, a long-term plan was established. In the early phases of the plan, much effort was dedicated to setting up the Protectorate and Wards, ensuring the public had heroes they could look up to, likable faces, likable personalities. Merchandising, interviews, tv shows, music, movies and more were all encouraged and supported with the idea of building up this image.
Law, policy and rules for the official groups were all shaped with the idea of gradually building confidence in heroes.”
Makes sense. The PR-otectorate seems to be doing a good job on that front, for the most part.
“As we enter the next phase, our objective is to push the public a margin beyond their comfort zone. We are encouraging and promoting the existence of rogues, which is an unfortunate term that heralds back to the early days.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but I love the idea of rogues finding their unique places in society, like Parian and Canary did.
“Right,” Weld responded. The term ‘rogue’ applied to anyone with powers who wasn’t hero or villain, the negative connotations of the term tying back to an era when expectations had been rather different, much the same way the brute classification had been coined.
Back when you were either a hero or not a hero, I suppose.
“This is a sensitive subject, slow to advance, as major corporations are particularly litigious when parahumans get involved.
I suppose there are a lot of things that need to go in the contracts to cover the companies’ asses, and when they don’t and it blows up, it’s time for a lawsuit.
In simple terms, the big businesses do not want people with powers affecting the status quo, and it is very easy for them to derail years of work with one bad media campaign targeting parahumans.”
Damn. It’s a wonder the government still seems to in favor of parahumans, then, enough to continue supporting the PRT. Although there’s still the issue of that anti-rogue judge Paige had to deal with.
(Yes, I’m absolutely implying corporations in the U.S. have way more power over the government than is healthy. At least that’s how it looks from over here.)
“I see,” Weld commented. He didn’t like that in simple terms bit of what she’d said. Too many people implied he was stupid because he was strong.
One of his reasons to dislike the term “Brute”, I’d imagine.
But could he really speak up about it, when he couldn’t be sure if her choice of words came from an offensive or judgemental perspective? Or was he being overly sensitive?
Honestly, I think Piggot might just be trying to make sure she doesn’t talk over the head of a boy she doesn’t know all that well. Not so much assuming he’s stupid as not assuming the opposite.
“The second half of this phase is getting the public more comfortable with the outliers. The people with stranger powers, and stranger appearances. You’re likable, Weld. You have a clearly unnatural appearance, if you’ll forgive me saying so-”
Yes, a clearly “unnatural” appearance, but not a “monstrous” one like Gregor’s. Weld is more on Newter’s end of the axis.
Weld shrugged. He stood out. There were a hundred things that bothered him more than stares and comments on the subject.
“-but you have fans, and people are interested in you. You get higher ratings for your interviews than even the average handsome hero gets.
I like Weld so far, and this only helps reinforce that.
You’re second most popular for team leaders for number of youtube videos, possibly helped by a briefly lived internet meme featuring your face,
I wonder what exactly that meme was. 😛
…I also wonder if Wildbow took inspiration from the Worm fandom actually making a meme about Weld before this chapter.
and you have a blemish-free record, both academically and in your two years serving as a part of the Wards.”
In other words, an excellent good guy.
[reblog of a post from here]
By the way, I’ve been meaning to say… Maybe the only way to keep down Levvy is to hit him with a Chevy.
So I was just talking to a friend (who hasn’t read Worm) about nicknames, and I realized a thing…
I’m not good with nicknames lol
Eh, me neither tbh 😛
I’d give some Pokémon examples, but it’s been a while so I’ve largely forgotten
But in my liveblog, I’ve ended up nicknaming some characters by way of shortening their names and putting a Y on the end
Heh, the first one I did was called Armsmaster. I started calling him “Armsy”.
(spoilers ahead, but I don’t think you should read Worm anyway – it’s a dark and depressing story, probably not good to mix with existing depressive tendencies)
…then he lost an arm, and I started calling him Armmaster, or just “Army”. Later in that Arc I ended up calling a guy called Legend “Leggy” and all of a sudden it’s a Ruby invasion.
The being responsible for Armsy becoming Army was called Leviathan, or Levvy. 😛
Now we just need a Chevy.
There’s a guy called Chevalier, how did I miss that
“Provided all goes according to plan, we intend for you to become a member of the core Protectorate team within the span of three to five years. Making your face national, even international, if you are willing.”
Sounds like a decent plan.
“Wow. Yeah, I’m definitely okay with that, ma’am,” he tried to feign surprise. Armstrong had already covered much of this.
“Of course, this hinges on your ability to lead your team, in the here and now.”
‘course. It’s not enough to just be likable.
“It seems we will land shortly. Any questions before we do?”
“One. I was hoping to arrange interstate training sessions with the New York and Boston Wards groups. As far as I’m aware, the local team doesn’t do this. They barely have regular situation training.”
Ooh, this sounds like a good idea. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that it would let him see his old friends once in a while, but yeah, it’s generally a good plan.
“I recall Triumph made a request for something like this, a few years ago. I believe we refused him on the grounds that it was frivolous.”
But is it, though. Especially in the wake of an Endbringer situation, isn’t it pretty clear that it wouldn’t hurt to train the Ward teams in working together if the situation demands it?
Weld squared his shoulders. He had to be assertive, here. “I’m firmly of the opinion that it would improve the local team’s ability to cooperate and respond to a greater variety of situations. I’m totally prepared to eat any and all paperwork on our end.”
Okay so I’m sure “eat the paperwork” is just a figure of speech I haven’t encountered before, meaning to deal with the paperwork, but I can’t help but imagine Weld literally chomping down on a stack of paper like a damn goat. I love it.
And hey, little to no risk of the usual problems with eating paper when your throat is made of metal.
“Eat the paperwork?”
“I mean I’ll do it all, for the members of my team.
Ahaha, apparently Piggot wasn’t familiar with the phrase either. 😛
Or maybe she’s actually had someone literally eat the paperwork before. You never know with these parahumans.
Give you updates after any and all training sessions. Notes on improvements, lessons learned, weak areas, strengths, resources that could fill any perceived gaps.”
The things he’s listing here are, in themselves, good arguments for why they should do this.
“So long as you’re prepared for me to put a stop to things at any time.”
That’s about as much concession as you’re going to get out of Director Piggot, I think.
“And,” the Director paused a moment as the Helicopter touched down on solid ground, “It cannot cut into the regular patrol schedule. You and your team members would do this outside of the hours you’re on clock for the Wards.”
Sounds reasonable, though the other Wards might not like that.
“I’ll see if I can sell it to them. Thank you, Director,” Weld stood.
Secretly, he was elated. The training games he’d led his team through back in Boston had been some of the more fun moments of his career.
I’m glad he’s had some fun times.
It had also allowed for a harmless but fun interaction with the New York group, giving them a chance to mingle, talk and share war stories.
Someone to socialize with and relate to that isn’t part of the usual team. That’s something people tend to need from time to time, I guess.
There was something about being able to mess with others on a level that you couldn’t with teammates you had to fight alongside. If his new team liked the games half as much as he did, it would be a win in his book.
“Do you wish me to come down and introduce you?”
That earned a moment’s consideration. Was this woman likable? No. Would the others like her? Probably not.
Weld knows what’s up.
Which meant that having her introduce him might be detrimental, associate him with someone they might view negatively.
Can’t fault his logic there. I’m not sure this association would stick for very long, but first impressions are important.
“No, I don’t think it’s necessary, ma’am.”
“Your old keycards will let you in. I’ll have replacement identification sent to you shortly. In the meantime, I wish you luck.”
“Thank you, Director,” he handed her his headset and stepped through the door as PRT uniforms opened it. As if welcoming him into the city proper, there was the sound of a woman screaming down on the street below, the noise turning into a manic laugh in the same breath.
Half the block was without power, and searchlights on the corners of the rooftop scanned nearby streets. PRT guards stood at the edge of the roof, armaments in hand. He relaxed at the sight of the guards – if they weren’t acting on whatever was going on below, he didn’t need to worry about it.
Fair enough, I guess.
He took a deep breath, deep enough that he could feel the groan of the metal stretching to its limits inside his chest.
Then he stepped off the rooftop and through the elevator doors. When the complex chrome doors shut, they cut off the noise of the helicopter entirely.
Welcome to the Brockton Bay Wards HQ, Weld.
It was utterly quiet, inside the box. There was barely any sense of motion or movement from the elevator. Tinker designed. It had to be.
Ah yeah, I remember these elevators from Interlude 3.
He avoided touching the chrome walls or railing. It was probably coated with something, but emerging with a piece of railing stuck to him would make for a terrible first impression.
Ahaha, yeah, that would be something alright.
Stepping out into a hallway, he walked up to a security terminal. He swiped his identification card, spoke his name for the voice authentication, “Weld.” There was a pause, and then the doors glided open.
His team was there, each with their masks off.
Time to meet the gang!
I remember from Interlude 3 that Vista had a crush on one of the boys, but which one was it? It wasn’t Aegis or Gallant, was it? Because if that’s the case, she… might be less than cheery these days. I should probably go back and check before I continue.
Not that I expect anyone to be totally fine with the deaths of Aegis and Gallant just because they weren’t crushing on them.
Ah, shit, it was Gallant.
Clockblocker sat in a chair at the huge computer to the right of the room, swiveled to check out their new arrival, then stood, folding his arms. Red haired, freckled, thin lipped, he wore a costume that was all white, with animated images of clock faces on it. A white helmet sat on the counter of the computer terminal.
Looking back at Interlude 3 reminded me that Clocky was supposed to be the next leader of the Brockton Bay Wards once Aegis graduated. I wonder how he feels about Weld coming in to take the role instead. At least it seemed like Clocky didn’t really want to be leader: “Go for it. I’m going to procrastinate as long as I can on the leadership thing.”
Shadow Stalker was leaning against a wall, thumbing through a smartphone. She had one foot against the wall, one arm folded just under her chest, her free hand resting in the crook of her other elbow.
…that’s an interesting pose. It’s got the pose of someone who quite casually doesn’t really care, mixed with a common signal of nervousness. Maybe she’s trying to appear casual, but is actually somewhat nervous about the new leader?
And Clocky doesn’t seem thrilled to see Weld either, with the folded arms.
She looked up at him, stuck the phone in a pouch on her belt. She was dark-skinned, pretty, and from what he could see beneath her costume and her voluminous cloak, she had a nice body.
Oh cod. Dude, I low-key ship you with Taylor (and it’s becoming more… medium-key as I learn what you’re like and don’t have to worry about you being an actual piece of shit), please don’t get romantically interested in Sophia… Seriously, anyone but Sophia.
Though to be fair, he’s not commenting on anything we don’t already know from Taylor. In this story, the narrator calling someone pretty doesn’t necessarily mean they’re attracted to them just yet.
Athletic figure. A part of Weld’s adolescent psyche was relieved that there was some eye candy here.
I’m sure having a metal body doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting it hard.
Kid Win and Vista arrived from what the ‘cubicles’ at the far end of the spacious room. They weren’t really cubicles, but sectioned off areas with beds and room for personal effects.
Hm. This room appears to be kind of similar to the Undersiders’ former Loft in some respects. A spacious room, with smaller, sectioned-off, cubicle-like spaces for the individual members in the far end.
I kind of like how the Wards and Undersiders seem to be becoming clearer parallels to each other in some ways.
The base in Boston had been similar. Kid Win was in civilian clothes, brown-haired, ruddy cheeked in a way that suggested he had been exercising until just recently. Very normal looking.
Vista was in pyjamas, her hair tied back into a ponytail. He’d had someone as young as her on his team in Boston, but the boy had been a Thinker, a limited precog content to work and communicate with them from their command station. This girl had been out in the field – three fingers on her left hand were bandaged, with crimson seeping in through the white.
Her eyes were puffy, as though she’d been crying until very recently.
Poor child 😥
Should he comment on that? Offer support? He wasn’t sure what to say, if it would even be welcome.
Pretty awkward situation. Maybe you should’ve had Piggot here after all.
Although I have a hard time imagining she’d be much comfort to Vista, at least she could’ve helped break the ice.
“Hello,” he spoke. He received a chorus of muttered and murmured greetings in return.
Yeeeah, the moods aren’t exactly high around here these days. It certainly doesn’t help that Weld walked in here as a replacement for one of their dead friends.
“Look,” he said, “I won’t make a big deal of this. The guys upstairs want me in charge. It’s going to take me a short while to get up to speed, but I hope to prove to you guys that I can and will work as hard as anyone.”
I… don’t think that’s what they’re grumbling about, but nice try.
It was hard to say what he’d expected, but surely he should have gotten more of a response than some blank stares and glazed looks. Was it the wrong time for this? Every single one of them looked dog tired. Clockblocker looked like he was barely managing to stand.
I suppose on top of the mourning process, they’ve had a lot of shit to deal with recently.
“From everything I’ve heard, you guys are an excellent team, and I hope I can do you justice as a leader. It’s my hope that we can improve on a winning formula. I’ve talked to the director about some special training-”
Stop talking. They clearly don’t want to hear about work right now.
“Training?” Clockblocker interrupted, “You just lost me.”
…what, is there no training here at all?
Or is he commenting on there being no time for that between the shit they have to deal with?
“If you’ll hear me out, I think you’ll like the idea.”
“Have you seen the situation out there?” Clockblocker challenged him, “Less than an hour ago, I saved a guy I know from my high school physics class from being dragged into an alley by a half-dozen grown men. One of them stuck him with a needle before I got him away from them. The Hospitals are shut down or over capacity, so I brought him here. He’s upstairs right now, getting drugs to ensure he doesn’t get HIV.”
Yikes. Yep, sounds like the latter situation.
Weld struggled to find something to say, failed.
Clockblocker went on, “Kid Win and I stopped some lunatics in gas masks from mixing ammonia and bleach into a poison gas. You know why? They wanted to off the people in an apartment block so they could loot the place and stay there. There’s people going fucking crazy out there, and you’re talking training.”
Fucking hell. Yeah, I think I see your point, Clocky.
“I didn’t mean now,” Weld protested, backpedaling, “I was thinking in terms of the future. The training would be something to look forward to, after this crisis has passed.”
Fair enough, though it’s evidently not what you should’ve opened with.
“You’re assuming it’s going to pass,” Shadow Stalker replied, her voice tired. “Some are saying this is the way things are going to stay. I almost agree with them. This isn’t the kind of city that bounces back from things.”
Honestly, knowing this story, this setting? They might be right.
I’m losing them. “I can’t believe that. We’ve got to have hope.”
Hope is at an all-time low in this city. I agree, you should do your best to bring some of it back, but don’t expect everyone to agree with you.
“Pull a fifteen hour patrol out there, then come back and talk to me about hope,” Clockblocker spoke. “You know, I could almost play along. Go with the blind optimism, say yippee to training. But you don’t even mention the guy you’re replacing? A few words for the dead? It’s a matter of respect, bro.”
And there it is.
“I didn’t mean to dismiss them or their sacrifice. I just didn’t know them, and-”
Oh jeez, he doesn’t even know who it was. He’s using gender neutral pronouns (even though Clocky mentioned Aegis was a “guy”.
Or maybe it’s that Weld is referring to both of “the dead”, Aegis and Gallant. I suppose that works.
Clockblocker turned, swiping his arm angrily at his helmet to snatch it off the counter. Tucking it under one arm, he spoke to the others, his back to Weld, “I’m going to check on my family. I’ll head there in costume, in case I run into trouble, be back in the morning. Mind manning the console, Kid?”
Translation: “I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m out.”
Kid Win shook his head, “I need to take a break anyways.”
Vista glanced at Weld, then asked, “Where do you guys need me?”
…it seems there’s more people wanting to get out of this pressure cooker.
“Go sleep,” Shadow Stalker spoke, placing a hand on Vista’s head as she walked past the girl, “I’ll start my patrol, go with Clock to make sure he gets home and that he has some backup. You can relieve me when I’m back, maybe get Clockblocker to go with you.”
Okay so not only did everyone just decide to do their own things all of a sudden (though I’m not sure if “manning the console” involves staying or leaving the room), but they did that in front of the guy who’s supposed to be their new leader without consulting him at all. It’s like a collective “we’re out and fuck you you’re not our leader”.
It’d take quite a bit for this to go any worse for Weld.
“Thank you,” Vista’s voice piped up, with a definite note of relief.
Helplessly, Weld watched as the team split up to go their separate ways, Kid Win sitting down at the far end of the computer station, Shadow Stalker and Clockblocker heading for the elevator.
Welp, Weld. You’re gonna have a hard time.
So I guess this leaves Weld to either try to talk to Kid Win, or explore his surroundings some more. I’m leaning towards the former.
“I fucked up. I already lost them,” Weld spoke, mostly to himself.
“No. They’re just tired,” Vista spoke from beside him. “And not just lack of sleep. You’ll see what I mean.
Oh hey, or that.
And I mean, yeah, they’re under a lot of stress these days. Mourning Aegis and Gallant, the public going nuts, Director Piggot probably breathing down their necks… Anything else?
You could’ve mentioned Aegis and Gallant, but you can’t be blamed if Clockblocker didn’t give you time to get around to it. Nobody’s really in the mood for speeches.”
Also there’s some irony in Clockblocker not giving someone time to do something.
“Right,” Weld replied, feeling lost, “Aegis and Gallant. They’re the ones who died?”
Vista gave him a look that could only be described as pity. “You didn’t even learn their names? Nevermind what I just said. Yeah, you fucked up.”
Yeeah, should’ve done some research on this front. If nothing else, asked Piggot when she explained it.
In a couple ways, Weld seems like a sort of antithesis or foil to Taylor. We’ve got pessimistic/realistic Taylor who researches and thinks things through thoroughly, and optimistic Weld who may not have done enough digging here and was faced with an emotionally charged situation he had no idea how to deal with.
Hm. Maybe there’s also some (edit for clarification: metatextual, not literal in-universe) connection between Weld not realizing the emotional state he was likely to find the team in and the fact that he’s made of metal. A typical character trait of “metal men” in fiction is heartlessness, or lack of emotional understanding – maybe that’s a flaw Weld will have to work on.
Also, should I be on the lookout for a lion, a scarecrow, a girl from Kansas and her dog?
Then she turned away and walked back to the cubicles. She was halfway there when he saw her rub at one cheek with the back of her hand.
“I… I just got here,” Weld said, helplessly.
I just got told by a pre-teen, he thought.
“Shit,” he swore under his breath.
Sounds about right.
He found a chair in front of the computer and dropped the stack of file folders on the nearest flat surface. He plucked the file folder off the top of the stack, opened it and began studying.
Time to do your research.
End of Sentinel 9.1
And thus ends the first non-Interlude chapter without Taylor in it. (Although Director Piggot may have been alluding to her at one point.)
We finally got to know Weld, which was fun! I had been looking forward to that, and what I found did not disappoint – he’s a very nice guy, with refreshing optimism, even if he did make a pretty big faux pas in not reading the room or researching the people he was replacing. I hope we get to see more of his experience as the new leader of the Brockton Bay Wards.
And it’s entirely possible that this Arc will stick to that topic. Nothing against her, but I’m okay with taking a break from Taylor for a while to follow a different POV.
Taylor may have been the primary POV character for eight Arcs, but it’s become increasingly clear that it’s hard to call her a main character, especially over the course of these last two Arcs. This story, so far, doesn’t have a main character. It’s a story not about a character, but about society at large, which we’ve so far happened to be seeing through the eyes of one Taylor “Skitter” Hebert.
(Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do want to see what she’s up to later.)
So, next chapter… we might be going back to Taylor and presumably seeing the things I predicted for this chapter (whether her plan involves the Undersiders, what her plan actually is), or we might be sticking with Weld to see how he tries to rectify this awkwardness he’s created.
Or, hell, what if this Arc involves checking in on multiple groups of Sentinels, one per chapter? That’d be a neat gimmick, though I think I’d prefer sticking with Weld.
Either way, see you next time!