Sentinel 9.2: Needle Gals

Source material: Worm, Sentinel 9.2

Originally blogged: December 29, 2017


Wiggity wiggity wazzup, dude bros? I’m Krixy Fresh and I’m in the crib to livity livity liveblog some radical wormity wormity– *THWACK*

Ouch… Yeah, can’t blame you. I was practically asking for that knuckle sandwich.

Anyway, it’s time to read some Worm! We’re moving on to Sentinel 9.2, which I hope will continue from 9.1 by following Weld as he tries to rectify the awkwardness he landed himself in last chapter.

It’s also possible that we’ll stop by a different hero, or Taylor. That damn cliffhanger from 8.8 is still in effect, so I certainly wouldn’t say no thanks to checking in on Taylor and, maybe, the Undersiders.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!


Flechette spoke, “You’re a hard person to fin-”

Oh hey, it’s needle gal! Are you our POV character this chapter? Wildbow has generally been good about mentioning the POV character first – or at least quickly – in the Interludes (with some reasonable exceptions), which is a good guideline to follow in order to not confuse the reader. That said, it’s entirely possible that we’ve skipped ahead to Flechette’s arrival in Brockton Bay and she’s talking to Weld.

Shadow Stalker, transparent and wispy, whirled on the spot, not even pausing as she fired her crossbows. The first bolt went wide.

Woah, there, little miss hair trigger.

Alright, I guess Flechette’s our POV character, then!

Flechette caught the second out of the air, staggered back a step as she was caught off balance. Her right foot skidded to the edge of the rooftop.

This reminded me of The Adventure Zone, more specifically of the magic item called the Fletcher’s Mitt, which allows the wearer to catch projectiles.


“What the hell!?”

To be fair, it does seem like you startled her and things have been rather intense recently in Brockton Bay, but a “hero” like Shadow Stalker should definitely be more careful. Accidentally shooting a civilian or someone on her side to death just because they startled her wouldn’t look good on that already tainted record of hers.

Shadow Stalker rose from a crouch, becoming opaque in the process, “Oh. You shouldn’t sneak up on people when they’re on patrol.”

What? I nearly get shot and she blames me?

Hehe, yeah.

“You nearly killed me!”

“It’s a tranquilizer shot, and you have the fire escape behind you.”

Allegedly a tranq shot, at least.

Flechette turned to see Shadow Stalker was right about the fire escape. The bolt in her hand had a glass shaft, filled with fluid, a three-pronged head with a wider cross-shaped flare at the base of it to prevent it from stabbing too deep. Tinker made?

Okay, fair enough, seems this one’s genuinely a tranq shot.

We do know she isn’t always so kind, despite what she’s been ordered to.

“Geez. You shaved a year off my life, doing that.”

“Sorry. A little twitchy. Good to see you,” Shadow Stalker crossed the roof, offered a hand. Flechette shook it.

I did get the impression that these two hit it off during the Leviathan fight.

Gonna be interesting to see how Sophia acts when Taylor isn’t around, someone she actually likes is, and she herself is on duty.


“I suppose being twitchy is excusable,” Flechette excused Shadow Stalker, looking out beyond the rooftop to the dark streets. Some of the buildings looked ready to fall over, and the main street below the pair had a two-foot crack running down the middle. Water covered everything at the ground level, a half-foot deep. “And the apology is accepted.”

Honestly, that apology was more than I expected.

And yeah, under these conditions, the twitchiness is understandable.

“So. You joining the team?”

“No. Temporary stay, until you guys fill out your ranks again. Maybe a few weeks, maybe as much as a month or two. Weld told me you were out on patrol, that you might need backup.”

Right.

Some time has definitely passed, though it’s unclear exactly how much. How much progress has Weld made on rectifying his first impression?

“I don’t do backup, and I don’t do the team thing unless someone makes me, but I’m willing to hang with another crossbow aficionado. Is that the right word? Aficionado?”

I think you’re spelling it wrong in your speech… I’m pretty sure it’s either two Fs or two Cs… let’s see – ah, no, never mind. Just me.

But yeah, it’s the right word.


Flechette smiled, “It is. The brown haired guy at the computer told me you’d be around here. Took me almost two hours to spot you, though I did get sidetracked by some kids taking clothing from a broken display window. We’ll patrol?”

I suppose being transparent and wispy doesn’t exactly help with visibility.

“Sure,” Shadow Stalker agreed, lowering her eyes to her crossbows as she picked bolts out of one of the three cartridges mounted on her forearm and loaded them into her crossbows. “You look like a rooftop type. Fly? Glide? Grappling hook?”

I’m guessing one of those cartridges has the type of bolts she uses when she spots Grue.

“Grappling hook,” she patted her weapon, touched the chain that ran along her arm to the automatic-firing crossbow, her arbalest.


Sounds like the grappling hook is built into the weapon. Neat!


“If you can’t keep up, don’t worry about it. Keep moving in a straight line, I’m mostly untouchable, hard to spot, so I’ll scout ahead for trouble, double back every minute or so to check on you.”

Sounds reasonable.

“Got it.”

Shadow Stalker swept her cloak over one shoulder, simultaneously shifting into her shadow state. She turned and leaped twenty feet to the side of a neighboring building.

Whoosh!

Y’know, “My School Bully is a Secret Ninja” sounds like a Disney Channel show. Poor Taylor.

Grabbing a windowsill, she vaulted herself another fifteen or so feet straight up the face of the building, caught another windowsill, and then heaved herself up once more to reach the rooftop.

Okay so I know this is Sophia but she’s also being pretty damn cool.

Her cloak billowed out around her, and Flechette saw how Shadow Stalker’s costume clung to her body. One of the surprisingly few people who could wear a skintight costume without armor pads or features to mask minor physical imperfections and emphasize or suggest certain features.

…are you implying her body is very visually appealing? Because that makes you the third narrator to comment on that.


When Shadow Stalker had disappeared from view, Flechette remembered she was supposed to follow.

…I think Flechette was just genuinely Distracted by the Sexy.

Do we perhaps have a lesbian or bi character here? 🙂

She cocked her arbalest, flipped a switch beneath the trigger while sending a burst of her power through her weapon to connect the chain to the ammunition, and then fired a needle with an attached chain to the edge of the rooftop.

Hm. So what exactly does your power entail?

The needle bit deep, and the chain went taut. A second later, she was reeling in. The pull of the chain wasn’t quite enough to carry her straight to the rooftop, but the pull of the chain coupled with her ability to plant her cleats into the face of the building and run up the building face let her reach the edge of the roof. A bit of momentum, one hand and her cleats gave her what she needed to hop over the roof’s edge.

Not bad! Not quite as cool as Shadow Stalker’s ninja moves, but still neat.

Running across the rooftop, she used her index finger to flip the switch, severing the chain, then reconnected the chain to the next piece of ammunition as her free hand loaded it into place. It took her a second to spot the vague blur that was Shadow Stalker, almost three buildings ahead of her. The girl was practically gliding as she fell, moving more horizontally than vertically.

Nice. Shadow Stalker would make a good satellite. Though I doubt NASA would cooperate.


It was a drop to the next rooftop, Flechette noted. She touched the front end of the needle that was mounted in her arbalest, used her power on it.

Capes with the ‘breaker’ classification were generally those who had some ability to ‘break’ the natural laws of the universe as far as those laws applied to them.

Ah, I see. Interesting.

Shadow Stalker was one. Scion was apparently another. There were others who could slow or stop time in relation to themselves, change their effective orientation in respect to gravity or make themselves effectively larger without the exponentially increasing the stresses that the increased size and mass would normally place on their body.

That last thing sounds like Fenja and Menja.

Also, I love the idea of changing which way gravity acts for oneself. It reminds me of a running background gag I did in a project I’m no longer proud of, in which pears, specifically, were inexplicably affected by gravity depending on how the panel looked. For example, if the panel were to be upside down for some reason, pears would fall upwards from the characters’ perspective.

Almost always, such powers came with some physiological changes that let them manage despite the altered environment they were effectively operating in, allowing them to breathe and walk at the very least.

Nice.


Flechette wasn’t a breaker, though her power came close. Technically, she was a striker, a cape with the ability to apply some effect by touch or at point-blank range.

Yeah, but what exactly is that effect?

Also, point-blank meaning within touching distance or so is a common misconception, at least within the context of firing guns. It actually means within such a range that you don’t have to adjust your aim due to gravity.

The striker classification could include certain breaker effects as they were applied to things other than the cape themselves, but not always.

Makes sense. So then what you’re leading up to here is that your power allows you to make your projectiles break the rules?

Other strikers included those who used energy weapons, those who had certain kinds of superstrength that weren’t accompanied by durability and those with pyrokinesis or such that didn’t extend more than a foot around them.

Hm, so it’s really more about the range than anything else?

The way she used her ability, coupled with the intuitive understanding of angles, trajectories and timing she got from her secondary powers, gave her a low rating as a ‘blaster’. A cape with a ranged attack.

Fair enough, I suppose.

And I guess Lung is a Blaster specifically because his pyrokinesis doesn’t belong in the Striker category, then.


She infused the three-foot length of sharpened metal that was mounted in her arbalest with her power. The more power there was in it, the less it was affected by the natural laws of the universe.

So essentially her power is to infuse something with Breaker essence?

I guess the first natural law to go would be gravity, making just about every shot essentially at point blank range for Flechette.

Focusing more power into an object meant gravity, air resistance and general physics held less and less sway over it. She could tune it, make the effect longer lived, shorter lived or bias the effects to allow for more of one element or less of another.

Awesome.

I take it this isn’t limited to the projectiles, for that matter. Sounds very versatile.

She could do other things, but the primary benefit, the easiest thing to do, was making her ammunition punch through anything. It would glue itself in place on impact, if she had the effect wear off at the right time, and she was very good at timing things.

Huh. I think we may have seen this in the Leviathan fight.

And hey, I guess that makes for another parallel with Shadow Stalker. Sophia makes herself pass through matter, Flechette makes her ammunition do the same.

She could charge the metal of her cleats so they bit into any surface, and though it was too slow to be used defensively unless her foe telegraphed their attacks, she could make her costume frictionless.

Neat.


She fired the needle through the corner of the roof just in front of her, and it passed through without resistance. It continued on to strike the rooftop below and in front of her, nestling in deep as the effect wore off, bonding on a molecular level to the material around it. The chain stretched down at a fifty degree angle, taut.

This grappling hook mechanic got a lot cooler with that explanation.

Flechette stepped forward, onto the chain. The space between the spikes of her cleats made for a groove the chain could run through. She slid down, one foot behind the other, arbalest held behind her with the chain reeling out, a safety measure in the event she slipped or was pushed off, with the added advantage that it allowed her to control the speed of her descent.

Okay yeah this is pretty sweet.


When she was close to the rooftop below, she cut the chain, let herself drop down. She was running the second her feet met the surface, using the momentum from her slide.

Speedy thing slides in, speedy thing runs out.

It was tiring, constantly running, but she didn’t want to look bad in front of Shadow Stalker. She was going to spend weeks with this team, and Shadow Stalker was the only other girl present that was close to her own age.

Ah, yeah, I suppose the only other potential female friend would be Vista.

Or Director Piggot.

Doing double shifts of patrols, eating, showering, relaxing with her teammates, day in and day out, it would drain the life out of her if she had no friends to do it with, if she had no conversation and camaraderie.

Yeah, that’s fair.

At least this wasn’t so different from the exercise she got on her nightly patrol back in New York. The problem was that this city was unfamiliar ground. The buildings didn’t match together well, the skyline was jarring, didn’t flow.

And that was the case even before large portions of the city were ravaged by an Endbringer.

Back home, traveling from rooftop to rooftop wasn’t much harder than running, with the use of her grappling hook to move her every minute or two. Here, it was a jerky, stilted exercise, slow, awkward, demanding use of the grappling hook for nearly every building.

…you know, it would be just like Wildbow to actually stop to consider what the rooftops of New York are like before writing this.


It wasn’t something she did often, but after too many steep ascents followed by steep descents, she bridged a gap to a more distant building with her chain, forming a horizontal tightrope, and ran along it.

Sounds like a much better option, honestly. A little more risky, maybe.

Shadow Stalker was waiting for her when she got to the other end. She did her best not to pant for breath.

That’s the problem with hanging out with heroes. They’re always going to be better than you at something.

“Don’t you run out of chain?”

Flechette turned, reached over her shoulder to tap her back. “Tinker teammate back home specializes in replication and cloning.

Cool!

Small pack back here consumes energy from a small fusion battery to create a steady supply. I’ve also got a kit back at the base that makes me a fresh stock of bolts.”

Are the needlebolts also tinkertech?

“I could use one of those.”

Yeah, sounds handy.

I say this as someone who loves the Infinity enchantment in Minecraft because I keep running out of arrows if I don’t have it.


“Why’d you stop? You see something?”

“Come.”

Alright?

Shadow Stalker led Flechette to the edge of the roof. Looking down, they could see a group of men in a loose half-circle around a middle-aged woman. The woman was backing away from the men, who were gradually closing in.

Oh hey, look what we found: fuckers.

Hopefully not in the literal sense, but I can’t rule it out yet.

“Why haven’t you done anything yet?!” Flechette gasped.

“These things go smoother if the culprits are clearly committing a crime when you step in-”

To be fair, it is entirely possible that the woman is the culprit and these men are confronting her about stolen goods or something, but it’s not bloody likely.

A man grabbed the woman’s wrist, and she pulled back, struggled. She screamed, attacked the man, only to get punched and knocked back on her ass, landing in the shallow water.

Ah, there we go. Good enough for you yet, Sophia?

“-And there we go.” Shadow Stalker leaped from the rooftop, falling at a normal speed, slowing to an almost gentle floating descent when she was partway down.

Nice. Let’s beat up some bad guys.


You only need to wait like that if you’re going to be violent, Flechette thought to herself. Why? When she has the tranquilizer bolts?

Ah, right. Time for Shadow Stalker’s more favored bolts, eh?

And Shadow Stalker had neglected to inform command. Flechette reached for her ear, where an earbud was nestled in the canal. She squeezed it twice. “Console, woman under attack by twelve or so ordinaries. Shadow Stalker and Flechette stepping in.”

Oh jeez, that’s like twice as many men as I was imagining.

Which suggests organization. Are these Chosen goons, perhaps?

“Acknowledged,” a voice in her ear responded, “Good luck.”

She fired a bolt into the corner of the rooftop, then jumped, rappelling down.

Shadow Stalker was already engaged by the time Flechette arrived at the fight. In a matter of heartbeats, Shadow Stalker answered Flechette’s unspoken questions.

Which can’t be a good thing. Right?

The other heroine didn’t flinch as one of the men swung a baseball bat at her – the weapon passed harmlessly through her head. In response, she stepped back, materialized from her shadow state, raised a crossbow and shot him in the side of the neck. A fraction of a second after the glass arrow stuck in her target’s neck, Shadow Stalker stepped forward again, driving her armored elbow up at an angle at the spot where the bolt had struck home. Glass shattered and the combination needle-arrowhead was violently dislodged.

Yikes.

The man went tumbled with a splash, going limp before he hit the water. The side of his neck and the corner of his jaw were a bloody mess of cuts and embedded broken glass.

Ouch. Is he alive…?

Shadow Stalker wheeled around, then simultaneously slammed the top of her right crossbow into her left forearm and her left crossbow into her right arm. There was a barely audible click as cartridges loaded into the top of each crossbow. She extended her arms to fire at the two of the men closest to the woman. They dropped on their backs in the water, splashing.

She’s looking awesome, but she’s also – as expected – being far more violent than was probably necessary.

Realizing what they were up against, the group began to scatter.

I don’t have high hopes for Stalker letting them go that easily.

Flechette raised her arbalest, shot one bolt so it struck a wall just in front of one man’s throat. Still running, he ran headlong into it, clotheslined himself, and fell over, gasping and gurgling.

Though apparently Flechette agrees with that, she still takes a less violent approach.

She spared a glance to double check he wasn’t in a position to drown, which very nearly cost her. One of the thugs turned to attack her, drawing a gun, but she had a bolt loaded and fired off before he could aim it, spearing through the gun’s barrel and out the back, to strike a wall.

Not bad!

She loaded another bolt even as she was already pulling the trigger to fire it, so it was sent out an eye-blink after it was in place.

Seems to me that with most firearms, pushing the trigger during the reload would get in the way of the reload, but this isn’t most firearms. Probably Tinkertech, this crossbow too.

The shaft of metal struck the thug through the crotch of his sagging jeans, pinning them to the wall he was backing up to. He didn’t scream, so he clearly wasn’t well endowed enough to get hit anywhere important.

Heh. Sure, let’s try not to pull a Hebert here.

Flechette wasn’t exactly an expert -or even a novice- in that sort of thing, but she was ninety-nine percent sure that men didn’t dangle nearly to their knees.

Ahaha! Yeah, that’s usually not the case. 😛

(Also is that another hint about her being a lesbian?)


Made lightweight by her power, Shadow Stalker leaped to the nearest wall, then vaulted herself off, careening directly toward three of the retreating men. As she landed atop the one in the front, she dropped out of her shadow form, returning to her normal weight.

One mister Mario Mario is jealous of this move, having to carry his normal weight every time he wall-jumps onto an enemy.

Planting her feet on his shoulder blades, she combined the force of her weight and her momentum with a downward kick of both feet, driving him into the water, hard. She went shadowy a half second later, becoming almost invisible in the gloom of the empty lot, effortlessly reorienting her now lightweight body to land on her feet.

…I just realized something.

What if part of why Sophia was so good on the running team was that she was cheating by adjusting her body’s weight on the track?

Both of the men behind Shadow Stalker attacked her, one swiping a knife at her, the other kicking for the small of her back. Smoky, dark flickers appeared where limbs and weapons passed through her.

A rare case of a knife going through someone being a good thing for the person in question.

Almost casually, she holstered her crossbows, then straightened up. A flurry of other attacks passed through her.

Pretty handy defense, this.


One man hesitated, seeing the futility of what they were doing, and Shadow Stalker took the opportunity to drop the shadow state.

Oh hey, someone with a brain.

She leaned out of the way of one desperate punch from the other man, then grabbed him. She seized him by the shirt-front, pulled him forward with a hard tug on his collar and a counterclockwise turn of her body, then brought her right knee into his ribs. He fell with a splash.

Oof.

Metal kneepad, Flechette noted. That’s going to hurt.

Oh, absolutely.

The other man attacked, but Shadow Stalker went shadowy just long enough for his knife to pass through her, then slammed her metal mask into his face.

And thus came the inspiration for one of the most important scientific books of the 21st century: On the origin of headaches by Sophia Hess.

(#of course not everyone is willing to accept it

#there are those who believe that all headaches were created simultaneously 6000 years ago in the form they have today)


While he swayed back, stunned, blood streaming from his nose, she reached out and grabbed him by the lower jaw, her fingers digging into the bottom of his mouth. Instinctively, desperately, he bit down, hard, but the construction of the girl’s gauntlets was good enough to safeguard her fingers.

Oh yeah, this guy’s gonna have worse than a headache by the end of this.

She used her grip to pull him to one side as she’d just done with his compatriot, helped by a swift kick to the side of one leg. Rather than use her knee to deliver the telling blow, she brought the heel of her free hand against the gap between the man’s skull and his jaw. He screamed, crumpled toward the ground, his hands moving to where the strike had hit.

Oof.

So while we’re here, I feel like it’s worth noting that Flechette and Shadow Stalker hit it off while fighting an Endbringer, one of the enemies no one will blame you for going all out on.

Which means Flechette didn’t see then how Shadow Stalker seemingly goes all out on pretty much everyone.

Gonna be interesting to see what she thinks of Shadow Stalker after this fight.

Shadow Stalker waited a moment before letting go, forcing him to twist and squeal in agony before she let him finish collapsing.

After watching him a moment, perhaps to be sure he wouldn’t retaliate, Shadow Stalker glanced at Flechette. “Your man there is getting loose.”

Mister Notkneedick?

Flechette had been caught up in the spectacle of watching Shadow Stalker fight. A kind of horrified fascination.

It gets hard.

To pry your eyes away.

She saw the thug she’d shot in the crotch, on his back in the water, his pants still fixed to the wall. He was struggling to work his legs out of the jeans.

Huh. I guess he really doesn’t want to get caught.

She loaded a shot and fired a bolt just beneath his armpit, nailing his sweatshirt to the ground. Another just above his opposite shoulder and behind his neck secured him.

Try getting out of this one, Houdini!


Shadow Stalker was chasing one of the stragglers. Going shadow-light, she closed the distance in two long paces, leaving ripples and small disturbances in the foot-deep water, rather than splashes. As she reached the man’s side, she dropped the shadow state, gripped his ear and used one leg to trip him.

There we go, she HASS the ear.

With the grip his ear afforded her, she thrust him face first into the ground with enough force that he couldn’t absorb the impact with his arms. Water sprayed around them in the wake of the hit.

You can see the resemblance to 7.6 if you just look for it.

Flechette reached into her belt and withdrew a handful of darts, each nine inches long. She channeled her power into each, and then flung them at the feet of the two remaining thugs, catching the edges of their shoes. Their shoes fixed firmly to the ground and they fell awkwardly.

Ahaha, nice!

Two tranquilizer bolts appeared in the rear end of one and the upper thigh of the other. Shadow Stalker.

…to be fair it’s easier to get out of a pair of shoes than a pair of pants.

Which finished the fight. None of the men were left in any state to run.

Good job.


Flechette palmed one of her throwing darts, glanced at it. She’d been with the Wards a year before she had been given the arbalest and the chain reel.

Huh, interesting. I wonder how she fought before.

Her darts had been her weapon of choice for a long time, alongside a rapier she’d eventually retired after too many fights using it had turned out badly.

Oh, I see. Neat.

She hadn’t had the heart to change her codename, even if it didn’t quite apply anymore. Maybe when she graduated to the Protectorate.

Does the name Flechette mean “dart” or something along those lines, then?

“Hey,” Shadow Stalker called out, disturbing her from her thoughts. “Here!”

Tired, she thought, mind’s wandering.

Been there, done that, got a bunch of Homestuck shirts a while back that I quite like. One of them has a quote from Once Upon a Time, but I haven’t actually seen more than like ten minutes of that show. I have seen Once Upon a Time… Man, though, and parts of Once Upon a Time… Life. Those are very different shows from Once Upon a Time, unless Once Upon a Time is very different than I think it is. Which reminds me, before I watched it, I thought Frozen was going to be about Elsa and Anna trying to get Olaf somewhere. I guess that’s because Olaf was featured way too prominently in the trailers… honestly, he’s entertaining, but I’m pretty sure he’s only in that movie to appeal to the kids. You could easily cut him without having to change much, and the other characters are entertaining enough by themselves to make up for the absence of his comic relief. Unlike Jar-Jar Binks, who actually does important stuff in Star Wars Episode I. Jar-Jar gets a lot of shit, but I honestly think he was one of the better parts of that movie. Then again, I don’t really like Star Wars as a whole all that much in the first place, so maybe I just have different sensibilities than the average Star Wars fan.

Anyway, what were we talking about?


That, uh, was only supposed to be one sentence when I started writing it.


Flechette caught the device Shadow Stalker threw to her. Investigation revealed it to be a small, thin, round device with a single button on top. “Haven’t seen one of these since training.”

Hm, now what’s this?

“Times like this call for ’em. City wants us on patrol, not sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, waiting for the cops to cart these fuckers off,” Shadow Stalker kicked one man in the side, so he flopped over onto his back, no longer face down in the water. He grunted.

Ah, so it’s a button that calls in a retrieval team to the current location, then.

Flechette winced. That girl is a little too comfortable with violence for my tastes.

I’m glad you agree.

While Shadow Stalker ensured that the man with the cuts on his neck wasn’t bleeding out,

I can’t help but think of Victoria in Interlude 2, because I’m pretty sure the main reason Stalker is bothering to do this is that it would look bad and get her in trouble if she killed someone unnecessarily.

Flechette loaded another bolt into her arbalest and fired it into a spot on the wall, two floors up.

Shouldn’t one of you check on the victim before going? Or did she run off in a sentence I didn’t focus enough on?

She walked briskly to the two men that had just been darted. She bent down and used her left hand to wind the coil of the restraint device around his left foot, then did the same for the next man’s right foot.

Oh, she wasn’t getting ready to leave, never mind.


She tossed the restraint device over the bolt she’d embedded in the wall, a metal thread trailing behind it. She caught it as it fell, then connected it back to the cord, forming a loose loop that encircled the bolt in the wall. She pressed the button, and the cord retracted, pulled tight around the pole, then continued retracting.

Ohh, nice.

The two thugs were pulled off the ground, so that each hung from the wall by one ankle.

Excellent.

The device would signal nearby police and PRT officers and direct them here. They’d use their own equipment to make the restraint device lower the men so the thugs could be brought into custody. The cord was difficult to cut with conventional knives and saws, and those caught wouldn’t want to cut it either, given how they faced a long drop face first onto pavement. Any buddies of theirs would have a hell of a time getting to them and cutting them free, as well.

This sounds pretty handy, at least against mundanes.

She walked over to the man she’d clotheslined, who still hadn’t finished gasping, nor had he collected himself enough to run. She grabbed his wrist and forced it behind his back.

“C’mere, dude.”


As she hauled him to his feet, a collision made her stagger back. It hadn’t been directed at her. No, it was the man she held that slumped, almost insensate. He hung his head, a trail of blood dribbling from his lip.

…Shadow Stalker?

Seeing a movement just outside her blind spot, opposite the man, Flechette pushed her captive down and away. She had to evade the weapon as it swung towards her head.

Alright, not Shadow Stalker.

Hm. Who are you and what are you doing? Assuming it wasn’t a miss, this mysterious attacker just took out one party and then attacked the other, so is this a third party?

Maybe this is someone from a rival gang? The Pure, for example, if my guess that the people we’ve been fighting were from Fenrir’s Chosen was correct?

It was the middle-aged woman that the men had been attacking. She held a metal trash can lid in two hands. Oblivious to Flechette, she swung the lid down at the man’s head.

Ahh, I see. She wasn’t trying to attack Flechette with that second strike, she just got in the way.

Ma’am, let the heroes handle this.

“Hey!” Flechette shouted, “Stop!”

She reached out to grab for the lid, but a hand on her wrist stopped her.

“Let her,” Shadow Stalker spoke.

I suppose Sophia is no stranger to taking out her aggressions through violence.


The woman kicked the man in the ribs, hard, then struck him with the flat of the metal lid.

“You fuckers!” the woman screamed.

That is indeed the technical term for them.

Stunned, Flechette spoke to Shadow Stalker, “The hell? He’s not in a position to defend himself!”

“Doesn’t deserve to.”

I…

can’t argue.

“She’s going to kill him!”

“Better that we give her another few swings than render her powerless for the second time tonight,” Shadow Stalker spoke. “Or she won’t get over it for a long time. We’ll stop her before she goes too far.”

This is actually sounding more reasonable by the line, what the hell.


“No, this isn’t right.” Flechette pulled her arm free of Shadow Stalker’s grasp, then grabbed the woman’s wrist, stopping her as the lid was brought back behind her head. Not entirely to the woman, she spoke, “You’re better than this. You have to be.”

Flechette is learning who Shadow Stalker is.

The woman resisted, tried to pull free to make another swing. When Flechette maintained her grip, the woman used her free hand to throw the lid down on top of the man.

“Stop,” Flechette spoke. As the woman struggled, she turned to bark a command to Shadow Stalker, “Help!”

Stalker’s made her position on this clear, do you think she’s actually going to help?

“I’m on her side, to be honest,” Shadow Stalker didn’t move.

Yeah, exactly.

“So am I,” Flechette grunted as the woman shifted her weight towards her, knocking her off balance. “Which means stopping her from doing anything she’ll regret!”

Sensible, though I don’t think Stalker sees this as something to regret.

“Let me go!” the woman shouted at her, “Fuckers like this hurt my daughter!”

Hm. More history, huh?

…shit, what if this is Dinah’s mom? Although if that were the case, she’d probably say “took” rather than “hurt”.

“Is she here? Your daughter?” Flechette asked.

“She’s home, it- it happened last week! Let me at him! Fuckers!”

Okay, definitely not Dinah.

“Stop attacking him and I will!”

“Let me attack him!”

“Stop attacking him and I’ll let you attack him!”


The woman didn’t have a response, beyond continued struggles. Though Flechette kept to an exercise regimen, spent four nights a week in the gym, she was still only seventeen, and the woman had a good fifty or more pounds of weight advantage. The woman pulled free and staggered back, gave her an angry look.

If not for that blasted Manton effect, Flechette could’ve caused gravity to temporarily stop working on the woman, causing her to lose her footing and most of the weight advantage.

When the lady stepped forward, toward the fallen, bloodied man, Flechette stepped in her way. The woman didn’t back off, so Flechette raised her arbalest a fraction.

What are you going to do? As far as I know, you don’t have tranq needles.

That was apparently enough. The woman scowled further, then turned and fled the scene, half-running, half-limping.

Fair enough.


“Thanks for the backup,” Flechette spat the words to Shadow Stalker.

“Told you, I don’t do the backup thing,”

…true.

Shadow Stalker bent over the unconscious man, turning his head to investigate his injuries. “He’ll live. Him and his buddies deserve what they got.”

Perhaps.

“That’s not your call to make.”

But yeah, Flechette has a point.

“Sure it is,” Shadow Stalker retrieved another restraint device and quickly strung the man up beneath a metal frame meant for an air conditioning unit. “Times like this, we’re cop, judge, jury and if it really comes down to it, executioner. We’re the ones with the power.”

“No. That’s wrong.”

Imagine if Taylor had heard this. She’d have a thing or two to think about it.

Also, remember those hypothetical parahuman supremacist organizations I’ve said I’m certain exist some places in the Wormverse? With this line, I could see Sophia potentially joining one of those at some point.

“Suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree,” Shadow Stalker turned her back, preparing another restraint device.

Flechette huffed, angry. She didn’t want to get into a shouting match, wasn’t sure what to say to convince the girl. “You can finish your patrol alone.”

I think that’s what Sophia wants anyway.

But yeah, sorry, Flechette. This one’s no good. You really are better off befriending Vista.


A thought I forgot to voice in the last post: It’s entirely possible that part of the Harpies’ bullying of Taylor comes from Sophia (maybe) having a disdain for mundanes like she thinks Taylor is. That, and perhaps a desire to put Taylor down in Emma’s eyes. Reinforce to Emma, one of the few exceptions, that Taylor is a loser and she should hang out with Sophia instead of going back to her old mundane friend.


“Whatever,” Shadow Stalker replied without looking back, “If you want to be like that. I’m only on the team because I have to be, so you’re doing me a favor. Prefer to fly solo.”

Yeeah.

At least if you were with her, Flechette, you could keep an eye on her. I get it if you don’t want to, though.

Three strikes, Flechette thought, as she strode away. Nearly being shot for saying hello, the way Shadow Stalker had delayed helping the woman, and now this.

Yeah, those strikes went by quickly.

She’d give the other girl the benefit of a doubt. Maybe Shadow Stalker had some unresolved issues, maybe it had been a rough week. But for now, she needed to calm down and wait long enough to think more objectively about what had happened. Then she’d decide whether to deal or to tell her new team leader.

Oh, Weld absolutely needs to know, if he doesn’t already.

But yes, this seems reasonable enough.

Fuck. She felt profoundly disappointed. She wanted to like the other heroine, but this was too much.

Taylor: “Tell me about it.”


She had one other thing she had wanted to do tonight, before she finished her patrol, went back, showered, ate and unpacked.

She squeezed the bud in her ear twice, “Console?”

A brief pause, then a voice in her ear, “Kid Win on the console. Hi, Flechette. Deal with those guys okay?”

Heya, Kid.

“Guys are dealt with but… I’m going to do the rest of my night’s patrol alone.”

“Sorry. I should’ve warned you. Tends to be easier to work around her.”

Heh, sounds about right.

I remember (mainly because I reread parts of it during last chapter’s liveblog) in Interlude 3, someone (Aegis?) mentioned having deliberately kept Shadow Stalker out of the bank robbery battle.

So she’s always like that.

Yep. Even out of costume.

“This is unfamiliar territory for me. I might need you to brief me if I run into a cape, so I know what I’m potentially running into.”

“Of course, I’m not going anywhere.”

Sounds good.

“And on that subject, I remember meeting someone when I was in town for the attack. What can you tell me about the cape with the stuffed animals? Pariah, par-”

“Parian,” Kid Win replied.

Heh, nice. I like the idea of Flechette and Parian getting along, one needle gal to another.

“A parian doll was a kind of doll about a hundred and fifty years ago. Though Parian’s costume is actually closer to a more classical Victorian style porcelain doll, from the same era.”

Nice. I don’t think a history lesson is what Flechette wanted, but I appreciate it.

Is Kid Win reading this from somewhere, or does he just happen to know stuff about historical dolls?

Maybe Parian explained it to him herself.


…what if needle gal wants to know more about the other needle gal because she wants to be needle “gal pals”? *attempts to waggle eyebrows suggestively*

(#there’s probably a good ship name for these two)


“Oh.” That was random. What kind of guy knew that much about dolls?

Hehe.

He went on, “She’s a rogue. Fashion student with the costume and stuffed animals as a gimmick to help her build for a professional reputation and stand out. Tentative rating of Master-6, but we haven’t really seen her fight, outside of the Leviathan encounter.”

Nothing here we didn’t already know, except the exact classification.

“Student. So she’ll be near a college?”

“College is gone. Kaput. Um, let me see. Last we heard, she was situated between the spot where the college was and the lake downtown. If I remember right, there’s going to be a fairly thin strip of places there that are intact enough to live in. Vista ran into her the other night, but she’s asleep right now and we’re behind on paperwork so…”

Well, at least we know who to ask.

“So you don’t know exactly what happened, and I’d be going in blind. She’s harmless though? This Parian?”

Unless you piss her off too much, I suppose. Then you risk being chased by a… lion… huh. Remember my joke about Weld and the Wizard of Oz from the last chapter? We have a lion [here]!

And for another reference, just add Sir Tony and we’re left with needing Parian to make a bear.


“Nobody’s harmless at a time like this, Flechette,” Kid Win replied.

“Right.” Flechette thought of the middle-aged woman beating her attacker bloody.

…fair point.

“Listen, easiest way to get to that area, you’ll find the lake to the northwest, walk the perimeter of it to reach the north end. The area she could be staying at should only be a block or two wide. If she’s even awake.

I wonder if Kid has bothered to try to guess at Flechette’s motivations here.

I’ve got Clockblocker buzzing in, probably to check in for the night and give me the cliff notes on his nightly patrol, so I’m going silent until you need me, k?”

Sounds good.

If Flechette’s intentions are anywhere near what I imagine they might be, she’ll want a little privacy.


“Sure.”

Flechette gauged the direction of the ocean, deemed that east, and then headed northwest as Kid Win had suggested.

Told ya the ocean seemed to be to the east [here], though I do think this is the most explicit confirmation of that so far.

Oh, wait, no, it was explicitly mentioned as “the ocean bordering us to the east” back in 1.2.

She traveled at ground level, wading through the water, to make faster progress. Nothing to prove, now that she had stopped patrolling with Shadow Stalker.

Life tends to be better when you have nothing to prove.

It didn’t take long to find the ‘lake’ Leviathan had made in the downtown area. Given that the streets were flooded with water anyways, the crater itself was distinguishable only by the barrier around it, and a dark shadow beneath the water where there was nothing beneath to reflect light.

I guess that’s one good reason to mark it down on maps as a “crater” rather than a “lake” for now – that it’s barely different from the rest of the city.

Hulks of fallen buildings sat in the center of the water. The orange light of a fire on the top floor of one of the buildings suggested that someone had swum to one of the buildings and was staying there. Maybe one of the safer places to be.

Heh, yeah, I suppose. Got one hell of a moat, that’s for sure.

The crater was surrounded by orange striped barriers with flashing lights and portable chain link fences that were chained together. The fencing formed a solid barrier around the hole.

And a fence around the moat, too.

She walked with the fence to her left, which roughly halved the area she had to keep an eye on, in case of approaching trouble. Her right index finger was just below the trigger of her arbalest, and her left hand clutched a handful of darts.

Sounds reasonable.


The massive sinkhole Leviathan had made was roughly circular, but it was large enough that she couldn’t say for sure when she had turned and started moving more west than north.

Whoops.

Well, as long as you don’t start moving south, you’re on the right track, I guess.

Fresh graffiti stained buildings, some warning people to stay away, others were the crude pictographs of hobo signs. One neighborhood had used the debris of fallen buildings to form makeshift barricades in alleys and in front of doorways. There wasn’t much intact housing here – the sinkhole sat to her left, and two blocks to her right, from what she could make out in the moonlight, the buildings were too damaged to serve as living accommodations.

Still, I’m fairly sure some people are going to try to live there.

At one intersection there were two parallel, vertical lines spray painted in yellow on opposite walls. Traffic cones, some broken, an orange striped barrier and the remains of one yellow raincoat sat in the water, much of it weighed down by rubble.

Are these yellow lines possibly a gang symbol? Merchants, perhaps?

Together, the organized debris formed a brightly colored line joining the marks that had been spray painted on the wall.

Huh.


She stepped over the line, and immediately felt a resistance. It took her a second to figure out what it was – a thread caught the moonlight.

Whoops.

There was a muffled splashing sound, and a twelve-foot tall gorilla leaped from the nearest rooftop to land directly in front of her. It swung its arms wildly in front of it, missing her, then slammed both knuckles down in the water, crushing one side of the orange striped barrier. Flechette raised her arbalest to shoot, then stopped.

Well hello there, miss Traveler.

I guess Noelle wasn’t the name of the pseudo-shapeshifter after all, unless Coil’s reinforced door didn’t work out.

Or unless this is an actual zoo gorilla, but I’m pretty sure those don’t get twelve feet tall.

It wasn’t real. Damp cloth, stitched together. And it was blind. It wasn’t acting as though it could see her.

Ohhh. Looks like you found your target!

She dropped the arbalest, backed over the line, and then waited.

Parian arrived at a run, feet splashing in the water. She spotted Flechette, and the gorilla moved to place itself between the two of them.

Her creations can only see what she sees. They’re puppets.

That’s a bit of a weakness, but it makes sense. It’s not like she can just weave functional eyes.

Though maybe that wasn’t really obvious given the rest of what her power can do.


“Stay back,” Parian warned. She peeked out from behind the gorilla. Her mask, a doll’s face, was smudged, and a crack ran from the corner of one eye to the ear. She wore a frock, different than the one she had worn for the Leviathan fight, but it was wet, dirty, and some of the lace had torn. There was a wood chip in the damp golden curls that were otherwise too perfectly coiled to be real hair.

Huh, I like that last detail.

“I’m staying back,” Flechette assured the girl. “Remember me?”

“Yes. You talked to me before the fight, pulled me away from that horrible little girl.”

“Yeah,” Flechette smiled, shrugging. She stepped forward.

Right, Parian was stuck in a conversation with Bambina.

“Back!” Parian called out. The Gorilla slammed its knuckles against the ground again, then lurched forward, one fist raising as if to deliver a massive punch.

Flechette obeyed, backing up another two steps, hands raised. The gorilla’s fist stayed where it was.

Nobody’s harmless at a time like this, and Parian seems rather aware of that herself.


“I’m a hero. Member of the Wards. I’m in town for a little while.”

“Doesn’t matter. I made a deal. Me, my friends and my family get a place to stay here, a fair share of the food and water. In exchange, I keep people from entering.”

Oh, I see. That seems like a reasonable way to survive as a rogue in these circumstances.

“I’m a hero,” Flechette stressed the word. “I’m not going to cause trouble.”

That word doesn’t always count for as much as it should. Hell, just look at Shadow Stalker.

“I don’t know you’re telling the truth. Nothing saying you couldn’t be lying.”

“I have ID.”

Parian shook her head. “It doesn’t matter anyways.”

A deal’s a deal.

Anyway, Flechette, you came here to see Parian. If she won’t let you in, maybe you should ask her to come out? Or just stay where you are.

The frocked rogue climbed up to stand on top of the gorilla’s shoulders. She added, “I made a deal. I’m keeping to it. One hundred percent neutrality. You trespass, I fight you.”

Fair enough!


And I’d almost definitely win, Flechette thought. You may even know that, but you’d fight me anyways.

She certainly seems like the type to.

“Okay,” Flechette replied, trying to sound reassuring, “I won’t step over the line. I heard you were around here, you’re one of the only recognizable faces for me here, I thought I’d stop by, see how you were doing.”

Yes, good 😀

“Coping,” Parian answered.

“Good, good,” Flechette sheathed her arbalest, hoping the rogue would feel safer. “Look, I’m here if you need anything. If people make trouble and you’re not strong enough to protect that neighborhood there, or if you need resources that you couldn’t get otherwise, like names or medical services, call me. Can I give you my card?”


The gorilla lowered his raised fist, reached forward with palm upturned, and Flechette fished in her belt for her cards. Slightly damp, but readable. She placed it in the center of a sopping wet hand crafted out of black denim.

What isn’t slightly damp or sopping wet in Brockton Bay right now?

The gorilla’s palm was surprisingly firm. Hard. Its shape was a little too humanlike, in comparison to a real gorilla, maybe. Not that it mattered.

Nice. I guess Parian wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to study a real gorilla hand.

“Okay,” Parian spoke, as the gorilla handed her the card. Her voice was a little softer. “Phone lines are down, but cell phones work around here.”

Sounds like Parian’s becoming more at ease, which is good. 🙂

“You guys need anything here? I don’t know what the situation is with supplies, just got into the city a few hours ago. Don’t know how that stuff is being distributed, but I could see about making sure you guys have something.”

Parian sat down cross-legged on the gorilla’s shoulders. “Yeah. We’re low on fresh water. This stuff we’re wading in has too much salt content, and you couldn’t even boil it clean if you wanted to, I don’t think.”

Ironic, isn’t it. All of this trouble is caused by a kaiju bringing in too much water, and the one thing they find themselves lacking is water.

It makes a lot of sense that tap water would be out of order, given Leviathan’s ability to easily fuck up the pipes even without the sinkhole.

“Okay. Fresh water.”

The doll girl shifted her weight to put the card in the front pocket of her lacy apron, fumbled with it. Flechette spotted a tremor as the girl put the card away and moved to clasp her hands in her lap.

Nervous? Or maybe sick due to some other deficiency?

She’s shaking.

“Hey?” Flechette asked.

I suppose cold is another option…

“What?”

“Seriously, are you okay? You holding up?”

Parian turned, looked behind her, as if checking anyone was listening.

I guess she doesn’t want any of the residents she made the deal with to hear her complain/vent.


“I hate fighting. Hate confrontation. Even this, being here, having just thought I might have to fight you, fight anyone, it makes me feel edgy. My teeth are chattering and I’m not even cold.”

Aw.

“You faced down Leviathan. You did better than a lot of people.”

True, but that doesn’t mean she liked it.

“Do you know how long it took me to get my head together? To actually step up and help?”

“But you did. You stepped up. Give yourself credit. You’re strong.”

I don’t really think this is about ability.

“I want this to be over. I’m so, so scared that someone’s going to come and try to loot this place and I won’t be able to do anything.”

“You’ve got my card. I can’t promise I’ll arrive immediately, but I’ll be staying at the Wards headquarters, which isn’t too far.”

“I’ve got your back.”

I like these two.

Parian nodded. Quietly, she spoke, “That helps a lot. More than you know.”

“And I can come by on my patrols, if you want. Check everything is okay, give you an update on what I can do about supplies.”

Yeah, Flechette is totally into Parian. She’s practically coming up with every excuse she can to spend more time with her at this point.


Parian hesitated, “Please do. If you pluck the strings twice, I’ll know it’s you. I’m using my telekinesis on the strings, I’ll feel it.”

Ahh, so that’s how it works. Neat!

“Deal. I’m Flechette, by the way, in case you didn’t know.”

“Oh. Um. I didn’t. My name’s Sab-” Parian stopped, made a barely audible groan.

Hehe. Not used to secret identities, are you.

“It’s okay,” Flechette suppressed the urge to smile. Sabrina? Maybe. Sable? No, the b pronunciation was different.

Never mind the B, pronouncing Sable with anywhere near the same A sound as in Sabrina seems very odd to me.

Personally, my first thought was Sabine, probably because of Miraculous Ladybug. And hey, that Sabine has a daughter who’s into fashion and sewing.

“I’m an idiot,” Parian spoke.

Flechette paused, then removed her visor. “Lily.”

This is a very nice gesture. 🙂

Also, I love the name Lily. It’s a beautiful name.


I need people I can trust, she tried to convince herself, even as she knew she had other reasons. Stuff like this could get her in serious trouble with the Wards.

Other reasons, eh? 😉

And qualifying Parian as someone you can trust this much might be a little hasty, but she does seem trustworthy.

Parian hesitated, then reached up and removed her mask. Though her clothing style was western, her wig all blonde curls, her face was dark, middle eastern.

I guess that’s what you call multicultural.

Maybe. She could be entirely western, culturally, despite having Middle Eastern ancestry.

There were bands of metal extending from the edges of her face to the middle of her cheekbones, her chin and her forehead. Mounts to keep her mask in position? She had full lips and large, dark eyes. “Sabah.”

That’s a nice name. Quite… royal.


Cute, the thought struck Flechette. Funny to think she’s older than me.

She’s totally into her and it gets more obvious by the paragraph.

“Nice to meet you, Sabah.”

“I’m still not letting you over the line,” Sabah warned. She looked so small, up on the gorilla’s broad shoulders, the threat held little gravity. Maybe, Flechette considered, it was intended more for Sabah than for her.

Hehe. Yeah, gotta stick to the deal, even if the would-be intruder is cute and gave you her number.

“Okay,” Flechette donned her visor once more, “But maybe you want to walk with me? Do a patrol of the perimeter of your territory? I’ll stay on this side.”

Gotta hand it to Flechette, she’s kinda smooth.

Sabah put her mask back on, and for a second, Flechette thought she would say no.

“Okay. Thank you.” Parian dropped her legs down to either side of the gorilla’s neck as it moved forward. To stay decent, the girl pressed her hands down on the lap of her dress, leaning forward a little.

This is the most romantic situation I’ve ever read about with one party sitting on top of a twelve feet tall gorilla.

It was a little thing, that bashful modesty, but Flechette felt as much of a rush watching that as she did running across her chain/tightrope with a five-story drop below her.

Yeah, the narration isn’t even trying to be subtle about it anymore. 😛


She didn’t let it show. Instead, she smiled and started walking, hands clasped behind her back, darts clasped in one hand in case of trouble or ambush. The gorilla crossed the yellow line and sort of half-ran, half-loped to catch up, move beside her. It slowed to a plodding, gentle walk.

“Hi, I’m Lily, and I like long walks along suspended strings together with girls riding 12-foot-tall plush gorillas.”

Flechette was secretly relieved. She knew she’d manage for the duration of her stay, now. She’d made a connection, even if it wasn’t with someone on her team. She wasn’t in this alone.

😀

“So, you’re a fashion student?” she asked.

I hope you both have a good time! 🙂


End of Sentinel 9.2

This was a very nice chapter. We got to follow Flechette as she a) gave us a look into Sophia’s approach to being a hero when Taylor’s not present, and b) warmed our hearts with the smooth beginnings of a beautiful lesbian romance that will hopefully blossom like a Lily.

I loved it, especially the latter part. Also, please let me know what some of the ship names for Lily x Sabah are. I’m sure there are some very nice ones.

As for next chapter, who knows. It seems we are going for the multiple hero POV approach to this Arc, so unless I’m wrong about that, we’re checking out another hero’s POV next time. Maybe Kid Win’s, or Clockblocker’s? Or maybe we’re visiting one of the adults next?

It’s also worth noting that both the heroes we’ve seen the POV’s of over the last two chapters have had something in common, namely that they just arrived. It’s possible that we’ll be alternating between these two, but I don’t find it particularly likely.

Anyway, that’s all for tonight. See you next year!

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Sentinel 9.2: Needle Gals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s