Source material: Worm, Sentinel 9.4
Originally blogged: January 1-2, 2018
Let’s barrel right on through to 9.4! Chances are I’ll have to divide this chapter as a result, but that’s okay.
So, to recap what I just wrote at the end of Sentinel 9.3: In this chapter, we’ll probably be taking a closer look at how Kid Win is dealing with all of this, and whether his continued jovial attitude is a front or not.
Also, we might learn more about the crime scenes from the previous chapter and the outcome of the Traveler battle.
That’s pretty much all I have to say, which is good because I want to dive into this. Let’s go!
I’m a tinker. I’m supposed to be smart.
Sounds like I was on the right track!
So how can I have been so stupid?
…are you blaming yourself for something that happened during the Leviathan fight, or later?
Ballistic raised one hand and pointed at Kid Win. He waited until Kid Win moved before kicking at the uneven, rubble-strewn ground, sending a spray of concrete and wood fragments flying like a hail of bullets.
Oh, okay, we’re back in the battle. Guess we’re seeing the rest of it after all.
It only grazed the teenage hero mid-leap, lacerating the side of his stomach, hip and thigh, chipping his armor.
It still hit hard enough that it twisted him in midair. He landed on his back atop the rubble that covered the ground, grunted.
Hey, someone’s gotta provide the sound effects.
“Hey!” Ballistic bellowed, “Little girl!”
What do you want with Vista?
Kid Win saw Ballistic pointing at Vista. The villain, between his build and armor, had the frame of a football player, a dramatic contrast to the young heroine. He pointed at her, paused long enough for her to bend the ground into a semblance of cover, then launched a chunk of concrete at her.
…is Ballistic serving as a distraction? I see just about no other reason for him to act like this.
The concrete flew at an angle that wouldn’t have hit the girl anyways, struck the barrier and shattered, sending debris careening onto and into the girl.
Huh. Well, that backfired for Vista.
Vista screamed and fell backwards, part of her barrier crumbling to land on top of her.
He’s telling us exactly where he’s going to attack next.
Yeah, but why. So that they can put up defenses that will backfire? Or because he doesn’t actually want to hurt the Wards too much?
Kid Win looked up, saw Sundancer with her orb hovering a good fifteen feet off the ground, keeping it away from the walls of the building and the corpses that were hung above them.
Yeah, you can turn up the heat, but let’s try not to desecrate the corpses even more.
Even though it was fifteen feet up and thirty feet away, he could feel the heat of it prickle his exposed skin. He knew from the Endbringer fight that she could make it bigger, move it faster.
As the burning sphere drifted forward, staying at roughly the same height, Flechette and Glory Girl were forced to scramble away. Shadow Stalker leaped off of the top of the wall and into the alleyway next to the building to get away from the heat.
The Wards are scurrying away like mice.
Only Vista remained where she was, caught under debris that she was striving to shrink down and push away.
Uh-oh. Try not to melt the space kid, Sunny.
It dawned on Kid Win. Sundancer and Ballistic, at the very least, were holding back. Because they were strong enough that going all out would leave corpses.
Right. Enough corpses around here already.
Though honestly? I’m not sure Sundancer going all out would leave corpses, per se. More like something similar to the remains of Park Jihoo.
The revelation didn’t make him feel any better. In fact, it was just the opposite. If these guys got desperate or panicked, they might stop being so polite about it.
Ah, yeah, might want to avoid that.
Trickster and Genesis were tangling with Weld and Clockblocker – Clockblocker was putting paper in the air, freezing it to give himself footholds to go after his flying opponent.
Awesome! Custom platformer!
I’m now imagining the Wards playing Ultimate Chicken Horse.
The Wards playing Ultimate Chicken Horse
- Clockblocker’s the parkour master, generally placing small platforms that are hard to jump between and then flawlessly doing so. Favorite level: Windmill.
- Kid Win places hockey pucks whenever he can, and otherwise focuses on making deadly contraptions with honey and rotating pieces. He also likes the rideable paper planes. Favorite level: The Pier.
- Shadow Stalker and Flechette both like the crossbows, but Shadow Stalker is far more ruthless with her placement of them. She also places a lot of other traps. To her, it’s not about winning so much as killing the others in brutal ways. Favorite level: Metal Plant.
- Besides placing crossbows and black holes whenever she can, Flechette is good at wall jumping. Favorite level: Old Mansion.
- Weld is not very good at the jumping. He typically tries to make things easier for everyone, and just wants them all to have fun. Favorite level: Rooftops.
- At first Vista only played for the cute animals, but soon enough she became by far the most skilled player among all of them. She’s surprisingly cruel with her traps, and insanely good at moving through the levels. Plays with a 50% handicap and still often wins. Favorite level: Waterfall.
Any time Genesis moved to attack, Clockblocker set paper in her way, edge towards her, or he tried to duck in close enough to touch her. Giving up on more physical means, she exhaled a cloud of the choking smoke.
Clockblocker and Weld both worked together to minimize the spread of the cloud, using paper and plywood, freezing it in place with Clockblocker’s power.
Kid Win decided they had a handle on that. It was up to him to help against Ballistic and Sundancer.
Alright, Kid, whatcha got?
As he climbed to his feet, breaking into a run before he was even standing straight, he raised his spark pistol and fired off a series of oversized blue sparks at Ballistic.
This ought to work better than firing at Trickster, at least. Unless Trickster intervenes again.
Trickster managed to teleport him again, swapping his position with Ballistic’s.
Yup, there we go. This time Kid might’ve been prepared, at least.
The forward momentum of his sprint was enough to get him out of the way of his own gunfire.
Ah, that’s good. 🙂
His spark pistol sported a small power core that used spatial warping technology to magnify and then reabsorb a steady electrical current.
The barrel was wired with a helix-shaped electromagnetic rail, based on some of Armsmaster’s old data on the ‘hard’ light Purity and Dauntless created. Nanomolecular, ionically charged rifling on the barrel’s interior was arranged to guide the fired charges into a rough elliptical shape, which sustained their shape and consistency the longest.
This is either well-written technobabble or confusingly phrased semi-realistic science.
I can’t tell which, which is exactly why the former option has the word “well-written” in it.
*rereads a couple of times*
So basically the gun gives a physical shape to an electric charge, and through nano-magnets in the barrel, it makes that charge elliptical because that’s more sustainable?
In laymen’s terminology, it was not unlike a power bar that was plugged into itself, with a small addition that made each revolution of the current larger than the one before.
Hm. Alright. Sounds like something you’d want to avoid in most circuits, but here it’s being controlled and taken out of the system.
An attached battery kept the current going. The shots themselves were ‘hard’ electricity condensed into balls, which meant they had a physical impact to them, due to how they carried and transferred kinetic energy. Given how the weapon charged, waiting a few seconds between shots meant the next shot hit harder, up to a limit.
I can make something like this, which is brilliant, then I go and dismantle my fricking hoverboard to get parts for a project I never even finish. Idiot.
Kind of relatable, honestly.
Ballistic marched towards Vista, who was trying to climb to her feet. He was intercepted by Glory Girl, who slammed him into a wall.
Woo! Go Glory Girl!
She punched him, drove her knee into his gut, then slammed him against the wall again, to keep him off-balance and hurting.
Ballistic slumped against her and grabbed at the collar of her costume for support. A second later, Glory Girl was a blur, disappearing into the skyline.
The Manton effect might keep him from just making people rocket off, but it doesn’t apply to clothes, and people tend to be attached to clothes. I doubt anyone would want to fight Ballistic naked (except Narwhal, I suppose), so he’s got a pretty solid loophole there.
His attacker gone, Ballistic fell onto his hands and knees with a grunt.
Looks like she got him to feel it, at least.
Flechette threw a handful of darts at Sundancer, pinning the girl against the wall.
Nice. Doesn’t stop her from moving her mini sun around, but nice.
Somehow Flechette had avoided Trickster’s attention. How? Kid Win turned to look, saw that she was standing so her body blocked Trickster’s line of sight to both the darts and his teammate.
Niiice. He can’t swap what he can’t see, so the trick is to make him not see what he needs to swap!
Better keep that in mind for later, Grue. Just in case.
So he can only teleport what he sees?
Oh, you didn’t know that.
I think I might’ve gotten too used to having Tattletale around.
So did Flechette figure that out or did she just get lucky?
Kid Win moved to mimic Flechette’s technique, running to a position where he would be between the injured Ballistic and Trickster. He cocked his spark pistol.
He was nearly lined up for his shot when his gun disappeared from his hand, an awkwardly sized piece of wood taking its place.
Damn. I guess Trickster figured out what he was doing, swapped himself with someone who would be able to see the gun, and then swapped the gun.
A second later, his mask and visor cracked against a hard surface.
Uh-oh. Did Trickster just teleport Kid?
He had to grip the wall to steady himself and keep from falling. He’d been teleported.
Then the wall moved beneath his hand, and he heard Clockblocker shout, “Get down, Kid!”
He let himself fall, simultaneously realizing he had been leaning against Genesis, in her gargoyle-like form.
Oh jeez. Did Clockblocker just try to tag her, only to get swapped with Kid?
Weld slammed into the villainess, his left hand in the form of a heavy miner’s pick. It did a surprising amount of damage, but she didn’t seem to care.
And yeah, she probably doesn’t care because that isn’t actually her. Tattle mentioned that one of her projections had been blown up and “she” had come back soon after in a different form.
She gripped Weld around the face with a claw, raked his chest twice with criss-crossing slashes of her other hand, leaving deep gouges in the metal.
The same noxious black smoke that she had been breathing began to billow out of the hole the pick had made in her chest.
Great, another outlet for it.
So is that smoke what these projections are mainly made out of on the inside?
Clockblocker charged, but Genesis shoved Weld so the two heroes stumbled into one another, delaying them long enough for her to leap into the air. She beat her wings to keep herself aloft and out of reach.
Kid Win unslung his laser rifle and fired at the villainess. His first shot grazed her, as one flap of her wings carried her higher into the air, but the next two hit the mark.
I’MMA FIRIN’ MAH no
One struck her in the shoulder, leaving a hole large enough to fit his hand through, the other struck her in the side of the head, doing a similar amount of damage.
When she takes this kind of damage without dying, it might be time to reevaluate whether this person is actually a person.
Genesis dropped from the sky, exploded into a mess of dark smoke and pebbles as she struck the ground.
Ah, fair enough.
Trickster, this seems like a great time to go into theatrical mode and play up how Kid Win just killed your oh so precious teammate.
Feeling a moment’s panic, he checked the settings on his gun. Normal levels, no anomalies. It could heat metal and other inorganic materials, cut through more fragile materials, but against a person, it wouldn’t do more than hurt and maybe leave the mildest kind of burn.
That’s another fair reason to start wondering if that was actually a person or not.
Or to start wondering if you really fucked up when making that gun.
Surely Trickster would want the latter.
I’m honestly not entirely sure which side I’m rooting for here.
That’s her power, he reminded himself, you didn’t kill her.
I guess they or other PRT employees have fought her enough that they know she can “come back” from seemingly fatal attacks.
But his gun had done a surprising amount of damage. Was it some interaction with how she pulled her new shapes together? A specific wavelength, a weakness to lasers?
Hehe. Perhaps… perhaps not… 😉
He wasn’t about to complain. He wheeled around, fired on the other villains.
I’m not sure that’s the greatest thing to be doing after getting surprised like that, but at least it’s presumably not going to do more than normal against the others.
An injured Ballistic opened fire on Vista, discharging a series of pieces of rubble at an angle. It struck the ground just in front of the girl and fallout from the impacts showered her. Each shot drove her back further, buying him a chance to limp to Sundancer’s side.
He touched the darts that were fixing her to the wall, sending them flying into Weld’s face.
…nice touch. No pun intended.
“Fuck!” Weld cursed, the metal spikes of the darts jutting out of his jaw, cheekbone, eyebrow and forehead, “Takes forever to get my face right after something like this!”
Ahaha, sorry, pal.
More bad news: You’ve also just revealed your weakness to the enemy.
Trickster’s teleportations had placed the enemy’s group in the interior of the building, with the Wards surrounding them.
So a reversal of how it was earlier?
Surrounding one’s enemy wasn’t quite an advantage when the enemy could teleport, but for a moment, they all paused where they were, various weapons at the ready. It was the kind of momentary peace that fell when everyone was waiting to react to what the others were doing.
One of few tactical situations that don’t quite have an analogue in chess. Not on the scale of the whole board, at least.
A wind blew past them, and Kid Win blinked as a fat droplet of water spattered against his visor. It was starting to drizzle. He glanced up at the corpses where they hung on the walls of the building.
“So don’t change the dizzle, turn it up a little
I got a living room full of fine dime brizzles
Waiting on the Pizzle, the Dizzle and the Shizzle
G’s to the bizzack, now ladies here we gizzo
When the pimp’s in the crib ma
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot
Drop it like it’s hot…”
– English Romantic poet, John Keats
(linked page has autoplaying sound)
[sound that isn’t the quoted song, to be clear]
“The water’s going to wash away the evidence if you don’t let us go and hurry to check on the bodies,” Trickster spoke.
That’s a good point, honestly.
“Crime scene techs can’t get here in time with the roads like they are,” Weld spoke. “And we’re not allowed to touch the evidence anyways. Rules.”
Fair enough. Let’s hope the other crime scenes have ceilings.
“Rules? You shouldn’t sweat those things so much,” Trickster chuckled, “Here, I’ll help you out.”
Oh man, is he about to teleport one of the corpses down to Weld?
And yeah, I kind of agree with Trickster here. Securing the evidence is more important than waiting for the right people to do it when those people can’t make it in time anyway.
Weld disappeared, and the burned corpse flopped to the ground.
“Shit!” Clockblocker shouted, running forward.
Weld dropped from the wall for the second time in a matter of minutes as the restraints intended for the woman’s corpse tore free of the concrete.
So he did get stuck in the restraints, but because of his weight, the wall couldn’t support him. Alright.
Vista reshaped the wall to ease his descent. Kid Win raised his laser rifle to fire at Trickster.
I can’t help but imagine her shaping the wall into a fun slide under Weld.
Dumb. He regretted it the second his finger left the trigger.
Welp. Who’s it gonna hit, you or someone else?
As he predicted, he found himself somewhere else in the blink of an eye, and the impact of his own gunfire slammed into his back, intensely hot.
Oof. Better hope what happened earlier was a result of “Genesis”’s “biology” and not a malfunctioning gun, eh, Kid?
He threw himself to the ground at the base of the building, where water pooled, rolling so his back was submerged.
Stop, drop and roll!
It’s not lethal, can’t do any permanent harm, you had it vetted, tested on pig meat.
At least it’s not the Tiro Finale.
The balance of the fight had abruptly shifted. Clockblocker, Flechette and Vista were where the three Travelers had been, and vice versa.
You know what? I really, really like Trickster’s power.
“Nuh uh uh, kiddo,” Trickster spoke, as the gap in the wall began closing behind his group, “Up you go.”
What are you going to do now?
Nice try, at least, Vista.
The flayed corpse appeared in Vista’s position.
Well shit. At least she can make the fall shorter for herself.
No! Kid Win turned, saw Vista on the wall. She’d gotten tangled in the loops of wire that had been holding the corpse up.
Huh. Seems Trickster’s getting lucky.
The metal wire was coiled around a shattered part of the wall, and more than one wire had caught around her neck. Another looping of wire bound her body, one of her arms caught against her side.
Well, she’s stuck.
She struggled to pull at the wire on her neck with her free hand, but it was little help. The wire pulled so tightly against her throat that Kid Win feared it would cut her skin.
“Trickster!” Sundancer cried out, horrified.
Apparently Kid’s not the only one who doesn’t like this.
Is this the source of those problems we’ve seen alluded to between Trickster and Sundancer? That he’s a bit crueler than she appreciates?
“Just run!” was the villain’s only reply. The three villains started running, leaving the building behind, their footsteps sloshing and splashing.
Well, this is looking more and more like a Traveler victory.
Kid Win raised his laser pistol, aimed carefully, then fired, landing the shot a half-foot to the right of Vista’s throat. The wires heated and split, freeing her, and she dropped a foot before catching on more wires.
Nothing dangerous, this time, but it was a fair distance to fall and one slip could see her getting cut on the wire, strangled or cracking her head open as she fell.
Maybe if she has enough fine control of the power, Vista can reduce the distance to the floor and increase the distance between her body and each piece of wire?
Shadow Stalker materialized behind Trickster, catching him around the throat in a headlock.
Nice! But try not to let him see your arm.
She used one foot to kick his feet out from under him, and then forced him face first into the water.
Excellent. Looks like we might have a partial capture here, if this sticks.
Kid Win hesitated. Help her or help Vista?
I think you’d be better fit to helping Vista.
Vista. Shadow Stalker would say she could handle herself. Made a point of trying to.
He fired more shots to free Vista, missing the wires one or two times. The heroine, for her part, focused on angling the wall beneath her to allow herself to slide down instead of falling the full distance.
Ballistic shot Shadow Stalker, driving her back. The attack had left a gaping hole just below her heart, the edges wispy.
Welp. Here’s hoping she can just fill that back in.
The gap closed, but the attack had separated her from Trickster, and hurt her badly enough that she crumpled to the ground, a hand to her chest.
Looks like it’s a bit of both yes and no on that.
Kid Win fired a salvo at the retreating villains, grazed Ballistic. Sundancer turned, directing her orb between their groups. She dropped it into the water. Massive clouds of heated steam rose where the orb met water, obscuring the battlefield.
On one hand, that’s a bit unfortunate for the Wards, but on another hand, Trickster relies on line of sight, so this messes with his power a lot, even if he does get up.
By the time it cleared, the villains were gone.
Travelers 1-0 Wards
It took a minute to check that none of them had suffered any permanent damage. After some debate, they moved the bodies to a more secure, dry spot, inside the building.
Wait, there are dry spots in this city?
Glory Girl managed to make her way back two minutes after the Travelers were gone,
Sheesh, she must’ve gone far.
helped with the last body that still hung on the wall. By the time they were done, the rain was pouring down.
Y’know, over the course of Arcs 8 and 9… Water just does not have a good reputation right now.
Kid Win stared down at the corpses, an ugly feeling in his gut.
Any thoughts on who’s behind this?
He was dumb, easily distracted, prone to leaving his projects unfinished, and it was moments like this that this knowledge hit him particularly hard. His dad had made him get tested, and the doctors had labeled him with ADD and dyscalculia.
Eyyy! Canon, explicit ADD representation that so far seems well-handled! I can get behind this.
(I’m also still convinced that Greg has ADHD, and he was well-handled too, even if Taylor didn’t exactly appreciate him.)
He held to the opinion that the ADD diagnosis was way overused – he liked to think that he was just a daydreamer, prone to getting lost in his thoughts.
Eh, fair enough.
But seriously, if I see indications that Wildbow himself thinks ADD diagnoses are illegitimate more often than not, I will take back that “well-handled”. We’re trivialized enough as it is.
The dyscalculia was something concrete that he couldn’t deny or explain away. He couldn’t keep numbers in his head, couldn’t make the most basic intuitive leaps or connections with them.
That’s fair, dyscalculia is a lot more concrete and clearly defined than ADHD.
All of that had been before he got his powers. Nothing had changed, except that now he could visualize something, instinctively know how he could put it together.
His disability or disabilities put him a step behind the rest. His daydreaming was worse, because his thoughts were so damn interesting, now.
Ahaha, yeah, if I had the same power, I’d probably be spending loads of time thinking up new inventions too. Lots of useless or silly ones, I’d imagine.
He couldn’t take reliable measurements without using computers to do it. Couldn’t finish half his projects without feeling compelled to move on to something else.
Relatable as fuck. The last sentence, I mean.
The PRT staff insisted he was exceptional with antigrav and guns, had it even marked in his file, but he knew it wasn’t so true. He finished his guns because they were simple, in their own way.
I see. They don’t take too long to make, so he stays on task long enough to do it?
It was easy enough to take three half-finished gun projects and mash them together. Create something with multiple settings, even.
Take three half-finished gun projects, mash them together, and get 1.5 guns in one.
As far as he was aware, he was the only Tinker in the PRT’s records that didn’t have a defined specialty, gimmick or trick.
Huh. Maybe that means he hasn’t found his thing yet, and would turn out to be even better at tinkering once he did so.
He was increasingly worried that his special talent as a tinker was being able to occasionally make something despite his learning disability. Which would suck, if it were true.
So when a Tinker finds out what their special talent is, do they get it branded on the sides of their buttcheeks?
There were exceptions. He’d finished bigger projects. His hoverboard, driven by the idea of how awesome it would be to fly. Even then, it had been a chore. Monumentally stupid of him to dismantle it. The idea and motivation driving the action had been good: he was graduating the Wards in a little while, he’d be expected to change his name and adjust his methods, because an adult calling himself Kid Win was lame.
Heh, true. Any thoughts on what you’ll call yourself later? Mister Win? Adult Win? Dude Victory? Guy Fieri?
He’d had an idea about a harness with a floating array of turrets that could fire different munitions depending on what gun he holstered in the main slot.
Ooh, that sounds awesome.
Self adjusting and adaptive the way his Alternator Cannon was. Except he’d gotten frustrated at a snag in the testing, put it down to take a break and hadn’t picked it up again in six days.
Also I still like the name Tiro Finale better than Alternator Cannon. 😉
His hoverboard had effectively been destroyed for no reason, when it might have made the difference in getting the Travelers into custody.
What a shame. 😦
His Alternator Cannon was the real gem. It had been the result of a medication the PRT’s doctor had prescribed, which he’d been forced to stop after two weeks when he began to get increasingly dizzy, anxious and nauseous.
Sorry, dude, but it really does sound like you legitimately have ADD.
While he’d been taking the pills, he’d been focused, had a glimpse, maybe, of what he could do if it weren’t for his distractibility and daydreaming. When Piggy had spoken of destroying the thing, the mere thought had been crushing.
Oof, yeah. That would hurt a lot.
Then Leviathan had destroyed it for real, maybe the only truly brilliant thing he’d be able to make.
For fuck’s sake, Leviathan!
I’m counting this as a death, like with the Boardwalk and the Protectorate HQ. This gets a #dang it timmy.
Rest in piece, Alternator Cannon, a.k.a. “Tiro Finale”.
He harbored fears it might even the only brilliant thing he’d ever be able to make.
(#dang it timmy)
He wasn’t the worst hero ever, he knew that. He had things he could do. He could let the worries and the dozens of unfinished projects alone, most days. That changed when his team got thrashed.
Oof. Sounds like a motivating force at best, but at worst… let’s just say ADHDers are prone to depression.
Thoughts like that had been plaguing him since the Endbringer event a week ago. He couldn’t shake the notion that he was in the running for the weakest member of the team.
To be fair, there’s not that much competition for that title anymore.
The notion that he was dumb, second-rate. That this loss, here, was his fault, because he had dropped the ball.
The people of this city deserve a better hero, a more focused one.
I’m quite convinced Wildbow has AD(H)D now. That, or knows people who do and consulted them thoroughly. Because this is all damn accurate and covers ADHD problems you don’t usually see in fiction. I am very grateful to him for this representation.
Weld spoke, disturbing him from his thoughts, “I just got a message. PRT is on their way. We head back now.”
Oh right, I forgot they were still here, in the corpse house. I kinda got lost in Kid’s thoughts too.
Hearing the unenthusiastic replies of his teammates, Kid Win realized that the rest of the team wasn’t in any better of a mood than he was. Losing had a way of doing that.
Yeah, that’s fair.
Please don’t blame yourself for the others feeling bad, though. 😦
Not exactly where I thought that might go, but I can see it. Misery loves company.
Let’s get back to this Kid Winterl– wait, no, this is a regular chapter. Kid Wchapter?
Whatever it is, let’s just get back to it!
“Got word from the Protectorate. They’re handling the case with the bodies, we’re not to touch it or get involved in any way,” Weld spoke, folding his arms.
He had what looked like acne – blisters of extra-shiny metal on his face where the remainder of the darts hadn’t yet been fully integrated into his ‘skin’.
He reclined in an expensive, custom-made office chair, capable of supporting his dense, heavy body. Everyone else had found seats in the central room of their headquarters. Everyone, that was, except for Glory Girl, who had gone home. She wasn’t yet an official member of the team.
See ya, Glory Girl!
“No word on what’s going on?” Clockblocker asked.
“They’re staying quiet on the subject,” Weld spoke.
Vista leaned forward, “Maybe a serial killer?”
“We should focus on what we do know,” Weld shook his head. “As far as tonight’s patrols-“
I mean, yeah, this evidently is some form of mass/serial killer, just by virtue of killing multiple people, but that doesn’t really tell us much.
Random thought: What if that mecha speedster who’s been running around is responsible? If that’s the case, I have a feeling they might not want to become a Ward after all.
“Actually,” Kid Win cut in, “Sorry. But I have one theory.”
Lay it on me.
“What?” Clockblocker asked.
Kid Win glanced at Weld, checking to see if their leader was ok with it. Weld didn’t say anything, which he took as assent to continue.
“There were two other crime scenes, right? Any idea if there were the same number of bodies at each crime scene?”
Nine in total, in that case.
Does that mean anything to you?
“Same number-” Weld raised an eyebrow, “Why… Oh. Shit. I think I follow.”
Smarter than you’d think, given his brute-force power and his appearance, Kid Win realized. Or I’m just that bad with numbers. The connection took me twenty minutes to make.
Yeah, poor Weld, getting underestimated all the time for being a Brute.
Although that could be beneficial in a battle.
“Three crime scenes with three bodies each. So it’d be nine bodies?” Clockblocker asked, “Each killed in some different way? I don’t see what killer that would fit with.”
Took me a moment to remember that their association with the number nine was not something I made up from a name involving a Fellowship. It was the other way around, the number nine causing me to joke about the “Fellowship of the Meat”.
So are they the victims? Are these villains killed by other villains or an anti-hero?
“Not one killer,” Kid Win answered, “Nine bodies, each for different killers.”
I see. Which means nine killers. Still fits with the Slaughterhouse Nine.
“The Slaughterhouse Nine,” Clockblocker leaned back in his seat, groaning, “Fuck, that’d be all we needed.”
If I remember correctly, the Slaughterhouse Nine was introduced alongside Nilbog as examples of the really dangerous motherfuckers.
Judging by the state of those corpses, that seems justified.
“Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve arrived at a location in the wake of an Endbringer event,” Flechette pointed out.
I feel like that counts as taking advantage of an Endbringer event.
I mean, it’s not like the other things they’ve been up to wouldn’t land them in the Birdcage anyway, but yeah.
“Maybe it’s them,” Weld conceded, “And maybe the Protectorate figured that much out, with the clues they have from the other two scenes. It could be someone or something else. Either way, it’s not our case, not even in our league, and we should stay as hands off as we can manage. We need to talk about patrols and tonight’s duties.”
Yeah, fair enough. They’d only get in trouble if they meddled. They don’t even have a dog.
“The grunt work,” Flechette offered a literal grunt to punctuate the statement. Kid Win and Clockblocker chuckled.
“Vista’s due for a patrol, and as a young member, she has to go with someone. Lily?”
Yes! That sounds like a good time. I think they might get along well.
Flechette smiled a little, “Quick to make me pay for the snark, huh? No, it’s cool, I’ve been wanting a chance to shoot the shit with Vista.”
She extended her fist, with index finger and thumb extended to form a gun, mock fired it at her junior teammate. Vista rolled her eyes.
Heh, what a lovable dork. 🙂
(#i like dorks #i read homestuck didn’t i)
“Clockblocker, you and I will handle the night’s shifts after that. Your call if you want to patrol with me or not, we can cover different routes and go for a wider area if you’d rather.”
Hey, nice. Weld is practically reaching out a hand to Clockblocker and saying “Work with me, but you decide how much you’re willing to give me for now.” I’m not sure how deliberate it is, but it’s a nice gesture nonetheless.
Maybe Clocky will decide to work with him directly as part of his decision to go easier on Weld. 🙂
“Alright. We’ll figure it out.”
“Leaving Shadow Stalker. You okay with the late-night, Sophia?”
“Yeah, fine,” Sophia didn’t look up from her laptop.
Seems like her time of day, honestly.
“And me?” Kid Win asked.
“Special duty, tonight,” Weld smiled, “You’re recruiting.”
Oh shit please tell me (don’t tell me) we get to watch Kid Win try to catch the mecha speedster without a hoverboard
“There’s a kid calling himself Chariot. Been racing around the city with a powered suit that lets him move a hundred miles an hour.
Chariot, good name.
Speaking of people named Chariot, I finished watching the Little Witch Academia anime series the other night. It was epic, highly recommended.
Assault finally caught up with him last night, brought him into custody. Wound up calling the kid’s mom, got him to agree to talk to our recruiter. You. You’ll be meeting the kid in his home.”
Oh, okay. No ridiculous Roadrunner sequence with Kid Wile E. Fair enough.
“Shared interests. You’re both tinkers. You have the best idea of how he thinks.”
On one hand, that makes sense. On another hand, we just had a whole bit about how Kid Win feels like an inadequate tinker.
This might be an uncomfortable experience for Kid.
Kid Win nodded. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what he was feeling. A measure of excitement at the idea of getting to talk to another tinker that wasn’t Armsmaster? Sure. Fear? Would he be replaced by a new tinker? It was an immature thing to be spooked about, he knew that, but that didn’t make it any less real.
I mean, it’s not really how this team works, is it? But yeah, I get it. Fears aren’t always rational, I know that well.
“Cool,” he spoke, by way of agreement.
“You convince him, it’ll look good to the guys upstairs,” Weld informed him.
Hey, that’s a neat bonus, at least. And also a bit of additional pressure.
Right. Great. Pressure.
“Now, onto a more serious topic. I’m seeing that this team is really disorganized, these days.
That wasn’t a serious topic?
Okay yeah, recruitment is kinda trivial compared to stuff like Slaughterhouse Nine and Endbringers and the state of the city and so on.
I have no problem handling the brunt of the paperwork, it gives me a degree of insight into what’s going on that the files don’t. I don’t even mind cleaning up the kitchen and showers here when the janitors are off duty. But we really need to communicate.
Hm, yeah, he’s right. Both in and out of combat. There was almost no communication between the Wards while fighting the Travelers.
That said, that’s kind of the norm in this story, to some extent. This isn’t typically a story with a lot of combat banter.
Last night Flechette went on patrol and ran into a situation with Parian she should have been briefed on. It could have turned hostile.”
I wonder exactly how much she told them about what happened that night. Evidently she told them about Parian’s role as bouncer of the neighborhood, at least.
“Sorry,” Vista muttered.
“It turned out okay,” Flechette smiled a little.
It’s not Vista’s fault that she was asleep when the information was needed, but I suppose she should have reported it in so that Kid Win could’ve given it to Flechette without having to have Vista available.
But hey, it turned out “okay”.
> :] >:] > :] >:]
“Right. It’s okay, it’s understandable, given all we’re trying to handle,” Weld reassured her, “But we can’t miss out on details and updates on the overall situation. The Protectorate have their hands full with the gang wars between Fenrir’s Chosen, Purity’s group and Coil,
Oh right, Coil is up against both of them, as established in his Interlude.
they’re now dealing with this serial killer or serial killers, and they’re still updating the records. So here’s what we’re going to do, I’ve checked it with Piggot, she agrees. I’m picking up an extra patrol shift, and I’ll be adjusting your patrol shifts down by twenty minutes each, moving them around slightly.
To make room for communication training?
With the downtime that creates, we’re going to have meetings like this, every day.”
Ah, nice. Sounds reasonable enough. Not sure Clocky’s going to like it, but at least it’s actively supposed to help them deal with the situation better.
Pausing, Weld glanced at Clockblocker, as if expecting a response. When Clockblocker only nodded assent, Weld’s eyebrows rose a fraction in surprise.
I think this is a mixture of what I just said and the resolve to go easier on Weld.
He continued, “Gives us a chance to talk about our recent patrols, fears, concerns, ideas. Or hell, just talk, because I’m seeing this trend where we only see each other in passing, while patrolling or in class, and some of you are going out of your way to spend time together and hash stuff out, even at the detriment of stuff like school.”
Socialization is important when you want the team to work well together.
“You’re talking about class, earlier,” Clockblocker said.
Ah, right… I’m not sure that’s quite exemplary, but to my knowledge, Weld doesn’t have the full picture.
“More or less. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but we can restructure our schedules, make time for it, instead of detracting from an area we need to pay attention to.”
Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.
“Sure,” Clockblocker agreed. Was there a note of irritation in his voice? Kid Win couldn’t tell. Dennis was playing along, at least.
I guess he’d still rather be patrolling, but as Kid put it, he’s playing along.
There’s also the way this is partially a reaction to his own highly justified exit from the lecture.
“Now, about the paperwork you guys have been submitting, there’s been a few recurring problems…”
Kid Win sighed and settled into his seat. This was going to be a little while.
Yeah, here comes the boring part.
The building was ugly, had trash piled up on either side of the front door, a sour smell wafting out from it.
Fortunately, we’re reading a narrative. Provided the author knows what he’s doing, we get to skip the boring parts.
I think we’re about to meet Chariot.
The water level wasn’t so bad here, and the building was almost entirely intact. The only sign of damage was the boarded up windows on the first and second floors where the glass had been knocked out of the window frames. Red brick, it seemed like the usual sort of tenement building one would find in the Docks.
Sounds like a relatively alright place these days.
He stepped inside. A Hispanic boy in the front hall whistled sharply as Kid Win stepped inside, while a group of Asian-American boys and girls in dirty clothing ran around him, screaming at a ear-piercing volume as they continued a game, some pointing and hooting at the superhero. Occupants aside, it was dark, with only two dingy lightbulbs and no open windows.
I can’t say I’m not getting Oliver Twist vibes from this moment.
I’m guessing the Hispanic boy is Chariot?
It’s nine o’clock at night. Don’t these kids have a bedtime?
He checked the folded paper he had in his hand, found the room number, and headed up the stairs. A morbidly obese, older man sat halfway up the stairs, maybe a babysitter for the kids.
Seems I was wrong.
It’s definitely not Fagin over here, though. Not exactly the kind of guy the Wards would try to recruit.
Kid Win hoped the man was a babysitter, because the man was white and the kids weren’t, meaning he probably wasn’t family.
Babysitter or genuinely good adoptive father are the two good options. One of the bad ones would be this situation being more like Oliver Twist than I first thought.
If he wasn’t getting paid, there was only one uncomfortable explanation for why the man would be willing to tolerate that yelling and squealing.
A couple uncomfortable explanations. One more uncomfortable than the other, but both fucked up.
Or maybe he’s deaf. Let’s go with that.
Heh. That’d probably help, yeah.
The fat old man didn’t budge an inch as Kid Win approached, forcing the boy to squeeze by. He made his way up, ignored a gang of fit twenty-something Asian guys who were standing guard in the hallway on the second floor.
I wonder how many of these people were part of the Acclimated Bastard Banterers, and how many of those were voluntarily so. This place is shady as fuck, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people here had a gang background.
On the third floor, he headed past people who were sleeping on blankets in the hallway, found apartment 306.
The door opened a second after he knocked. A tired looking Hispanic woman greeted him, “You’re the superhero, I take it?”
I’d imagine Kid’s here in costume, so yeah, there’s a pretty good chance of that, ma’am.
“Yes. Kid Win,” he extended his hand. She shook it firmly.
“Ashley Medina. My son’s back through here.”
Lily, Sabah, Ashley… Wildbow’s on a roll with his names.
There was a sense of pride in the narrow apartment, Kid Win saw. An undercurrent of aesthetic taste, matching knick-knacks and furniture.
There were marks of a vacuum cleaner’s recent run over the carpet and both kitchen counters and dining room table were immaculately clean in a way that suggested she’d gone to some effort to clean up.
A SUPERHERO IS COMING
In a building like this, though, there was only so much you could do. There was a water stain on the ceiling, dark brown marks on the carpet under a small rug, maybe from a previous occupant.
Well, you do what you can, that’s all that really counts.
“If you’ll wait here, I’ll get him.”
Kid Win sat on the sofa. He noticed the cathode ray tube television was missing its screen, had been gutted. Quite likely for parts. The toaster was a goner, too.
I guess that’s what happens when you’ve got a tinker in the house.
Only the wireless modem in the corner of the kitchen had survived, green lights blinking.
At least he has respect for wi-fi. For now.
He has priorities, at least, Kid Win thought, with mild amusement. Gotta have an internet connection.
I know, right? You can’t trust a teen who willingly sacrifices the internet connection.
When Chariot arrived, Kid Win stood, offered a hand. There was a delay before the kid shook it. He was lanky, with big ears and close shorn hair that made him look slightly goofy, but he had a wary look in his eye.
The PRT had to literally chase him down to get a word with him, so it’s not surprising that he’s a bit wary.
Exactly why he’s wary is a bit more questionable. Bad experiences with the PRT?
He wore a t-shirt and jeans that were stained with grease, had lots of little cuts and stains on his fingers, hands and forearms.
The calling cards of a mechanical worker.
Been there. Substandard tools, not enough parts. I can use that.
“Please sit,” Chariot’s mother said.
I mean, yeah, the best thing the Wards can offer to an up and coming tinker is more resources, right? Although there could be more the kid wants too.
Kid Win obliged. Chariot was the last to take a seat. Was he reluctant, something else?
“Chariot, is it?” Kid Win ventured. God, hope I don’t fuck this up.
Good luck, pal.
“Mm,” was the noncommital reply.
“Just to give me an idea, on a scale of one to ten, how interested are you, in maybe joining the Wards?”
It’s currently sounding like a two or so.
“Ten’s a lot of interest.”
Eh, higher than I figured.
I suppose he did agree to meeting. If it were a two, he might be vehemently against it.
“Trevor!” Chariot’s mom admonished, “They offer funding, education-“
Ahh, I see. Ashley wants him to join, but he doesn’t particularly care.
“We do,” Kid Win interrupted. If mom pushes, this guy’s only going to get less interested. Shit, a four is low. Maybe if I do the talking… “It’s good money, with room for better money. Especially for a tinker like you or me.”
Smooth introduction of the fact that you can relate to being a tinker.
And yeah, tinkers being well paid makes sense, given how often they produce things that can be used by others, in all parts of the PRT.
“The guys in charge want tinkers. They really want tinkers, both because they want us in a position where we won’t be making trouble for them, and because and they want the kind of stuff we can create.”
Makes a ton of sense.
“I’m not giving up my stuff.”
Kid Win paused. This is like looking into a mirror to a year and a half ago. “Look, I can see your TV, your toaster. Chances are you’ve gone to the Trainyard or a scrapyard to find some stuff. Old batteries, car parts, chains, good metal, whatever.”
You might want to view it as more of a… lease arrangement than giving up your stuff.
“He wanted to go to the Trainyard,” Chariot’s mother cut in, “I told him no, caught him trying to sneak out.”
Chances are he’s been there at some point anyway.
I wonder how that area is doing these days.
Chariot scowled a little, looked away.
This would be easier without her here.
Yeah, probably. Maybe you should ask her to let you talk in private? She might respect that.
“I get it. Been there. You’re hungry to use your power, but more than any other kind of cape, you’re facing a hurdle in terms of the entry-level resources you need. This is where the team would support you. You get funding, a lot of funding, to put your stuff together.”
“hungry to use your power”
I wonder if that might be a thing beyond just regular psychology, for other capes as well. An instinctive desire to use the powers that comes packaged with them.
Kid Win reached into his belt, retrieved a compact disc. He placed it on the glass coffee table, then withdrew a set of small tools from the other side of his belt. He dismantled the object and began laying out the components one by one.
A compact disc as in a CD, or is that just unfortunate phrasing for some other sort of disc that is compact? A non-specific “object” seems like an odd description for the former, and it’s hard to dismantle a CD into components.
Chariot reached for the nearest component, and Kid Win moved to block the boy’s hand. “Don’t touch, please. Look only. Trace oils and static charge could damage something.”
That’s more like a CD though.
So what are you up to, Kid?
The boy gave him an annoyed glance, bent over the table to look closer at the chips.
“What’s this crystal?” Chariot asked.
Okay, I don’t think this is a CD. It probably slipped Wildbow’s mind that that’s what CD stands for while writing this.
“3D computer chip. Uses light instead of electrical current. They’re made by this Protectorate tinker down in Texas.
I’m fairly sure this is theoretically possible, but incredibly difficult to do at this scale. Armmaster might be capable of something like this if he tried.
She gets funding to produce a set number every month, in addition to her regular pay. So long as you’re in the program, you can put in an order for her stuff, with the specs you want.”
Sounds like a fairly good deal.
“And this metal threading, gold?”
“Gold, for maximum conductibility.”
“That’s a camera, this would be the power source, that part does something with wavelengths, and this reads energy… but I’m not getting it. What does this do?”
So we’ve got something with wavelengths, at least two sensors and a computer chip. Seems like some sort of advanced surveillance device that can send information back somewhere?
Kid Win quickly slipped the pieces back together, turned the compact device over, then pulled out his smartphone. Touching the screen, he activated the compact device. It floated above the coffee table. He turned his smartphone around to show them the image it was streaming from the device’s camera.
There we go. But that in itself is fairly basic these days (though I guess maybe it wasn’t in 2012? tech evolves rapidly these days, smartphones in themselves aren’t even all that old), so what more does it do? What sort of energy is the other sensor for?
“So much effort, for a video camera?” Chariot’s mother commented, “My tax dollars are going towards this?”
The dumbfounded look Chariot gave his mother put Kid Win in the awkward spot of having to suppress a smile. This is a point for me. If I asked him again, what would he say? Five, six?
“You join the Wards, you get exactly what you need to reach your full potential as a Tinker.” A small lie there. Not like I’ve reached my full potential.
Fair enough. Not for lack of trying, though.
“And anything you make, the PRT buys the rights from you. If you’re willing to give up that much, you can do well for yourself.”
Sounds like a sweet deal.
“You’re talking money?” That had piqued Chariot’s interest. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees.
It seems he does have an interest in that.
All the more reason to recruit him, really. Otherwise it could become a motivation to go down on the dark side if he gets desperate enough.
“I maybe shouldn’t, but I’m going to tell you what I’m getting out of it, because it’s almost definitely going to be the exact same for you. I get paid, but the money goes straight into a trust. I’ve made enough to pay for my college education, and every dollar I earn beyond that is going to be waiting for me as a cash award, if and when I graduate from a four-year postsecondary program.
“I’ve made enough to pay for my college education” says a lot when we’re talking about the U.S.
I’m getting four hundred dollars in allowance each month, just to mess around in my workshop, all my materials are paid for, and I currently have about two thousand dollars sitting in the bank, right now, from that. Once I turn eighteen? I make more.
*whistles* Not bad!
It automatically transitions to a job with good pay, working with the Protectorate, and the hours will be totally flexible around any classes I take.”
If this deal didn’t sound sweet before…
“Then Trevor could just not use his powers?” she spoke.
If the instinctive desire to use one’s powers is a thing, this would be a perfect line to lead into a confirmation.
“Sure,” Kid Win folded his arms, leaning back against the back of the couch. “What do you think, Chariot? You think you could keep from using that power of yours? Be normal?”
Chariot frowned, looked down at his scratched-up hands, “No.”
It’s hard, being a kid and not using your power. It’s hard, and nobody understands.
Kid Win nodded in agreement, “It’s a part of you, Chariot, a part of how you think, now. I’m telling you this is the best option. The safest. Having a team means you’re protected, free to do what you need to do.”
You got this, Kid. You’re doing great.
Chariot’s expression indicated clear interest. Then he frowned, “I don’t want to give up my stuff to others. It’s mine.”
Back to that again… Hm.
Something struck Kid Win as off about the reply. What was it? It was out of tune with the flow of the conversation, didn’t quite match up with Kid Win’s own experiences being recruited. Maybe it sounded forced? But why would Chariot fake reluctance?
That’s very odd. Did someone instill this mindset of “don’t ever give others your stuff” on him, and now he’s repeating it even if he doesn’t really mean it?
He pushed forward, anyways, “I get that, really. But it’s only given away in name. You still get to use it, you just can’t give it away or sell it to others. The benefit is that you gain access to all the stuff and plans other PRT tinkers have made.
Which you could potentially use to make your own stuff even better!
I can’t show you any more of that than I have, but the fact is, you’d be able to look at my blueprints as easily as I could look up yours, get inspiration…
“…Or you could look at the sort of stuff Dragon makes.”
Oh damn, heavy hitter point!
Chariot’s eyes lit up.
I think that one line was worth like two points on the scale.
“Tell me you’re not interested, now.”
“I’m… kind of interested.”
Sounds like a success in the makings!
Again, that vibe. Pretending he’s not as interested as he is.
Hm. Reluctance to prove his mom right?
“They can’t force you to join, but they do want you on the team. There’s no negotiating. You’d get the same I get, pretty much, so if you’re holding back or trying to fake like you don’t want to join when you do, you’re just wasting your time and mine.”
“I’m onto you.”
“I’m not,” Chariot replied, defensive. “It’s only… this is a big deal.”
“It is. So take my card. Call me if you have any questions, or if you want me to pass on word that you’re joining the team.”
Damn, Kid, you’ve done a fantastic job here.
Kid Win fished in his belt and then handed his card to the boy. Black with white lettering and his starburst-gun emblem on the back.
“Okay,” Chariot replied.
“Talk it over with your mom. Get back to us.”
“Thank you,” Chariot’s mother spoke, standing. Kid Win stood as well. He shook her hand again.
I kind of have a feeling Kid will only get halfway out the door, at most, before Chariot comes after him.
“Not a problem,” Kid Win replied. He punched the boy lightly on the shoulder as he stood, “Join. It’d be good to talk shop with someone else that gets this stuff.”
The mother led Kid Win to the door, and he headed out the building – the fat man from the stairwell was gone, and only the Hispanic boy by the front door was still in the hallway. Kid Win stepped outside.
Okay so he did get through the door, but how much further?
Something’s off with this scenario.
Yeeah, there does seem to be something fucky. Something, or someone, seems to be trying to make Chariot not join. It might be the mom, despite her apparent desire for him to join for the benefits… maybe she was being #nothelping on purpose?
He tapped his foot a second, then stepped around the building and into the alleyway. He retrieved his smartphone, and used it to send the hovering camera up to the third floor, checked in the windows where the apartment would be.
Ooh, time for some sneaky business.
The boy was leaving the bathroom, going into his room. Kid Win moved the camera to the next window over, the boy was sitting down at his computer, turning it on.
Let’s see what sort of revelations we can find here.
Man, what if the twist is that Chariot’s already been snapped up by a villain team?
Straight to the computer. Hm. Kid Win pocketed the hovering camera, then turned his attention to the smartphone. According to the phone, there were three wireless modems in the building. One was named with a string of violent swear words, the other was on its default settings. Both were unlocked.
The two wi-fi networks in my house have boring names. The main one just has my dad’s first initial and our surname stuck together, and the one in my bedroom is called “Gjester”, meaning “Guests”.
He chose the third, locked connection, clicked a button on the screen to have his phone decrypt the password.
Heh. I guess there’s no use in locking your networks when the person who wants access is a tinker with access to PRT resources.
Fifteen seconds later, he could see someone online. Kid Win watched the white text scroll by with details on the connection’s activity.
Damn, that was a fast hack job. Got some good resources on that phone, or a bad password on the network.
Google docs – pages of technical stuff, the boy was adding notes on gold wiring, shortform notes on antigravity, 3D crystals.
Oh, neat, he was intrigued enough by what you showed him to take notes on it, perhaps in the hopes of using some of it himself.
The next page the boy visited, five minutes later, was an email account.
Twenty seconds later, an email was sent.
Can you read that too over this system?
Well, that’s promising. Nobody sketchy would use an anonymous mailing address, right?
Guy from wards came. I’m in.
It kinda sounds like a Reverse Taylor is being planned here.
A Reverse Taylor, of course, is a wrestling move.
Kid Win stared at the screen for a long while. Cryptmail. That wouldn’t be an agreement with the PRT.
Yeah, no, he’s definitely talking to someone else.
“So someone got to you before we did,” he muttered to himself. He tapped the armor over his ear twice to open a communications channel, “Console?”
Certainly sounds like it.
“Weld here, manning the console.”
“Do me a favor, call everyone back to the base for a quick meeting? And maybe call Piggot?”
You think we need everyone for this? Well, fair enough, Weld did want more communication.
End of Sentinel 9.4
This was neat. We did get to see the end of the Traveler fight, learned who might be (and probably are) behind the corpses they found in 9.3, got to know Kid Win a bit better, and uncovered a possible
wrestler Reverse Taylor plot in the making.
Shame Kid Win’s excellent recruiting skills are probably going to waste.
I mean, it’d be a hell of a thing if they pulled a Tattletale and invited him in with everyone being fully aware of his apparent real alignment. I doubt Piggot would allow that kind of shenaniganry, though. And, honestly, it sounds like the kind of thing one of them might suggest and then have everyone else immediately shoot down… maybe Tattle was right to keep it to herself.
Next chapter, we’ll probably learn what the Wards intend to do about this. I’m going to guess that Vista is our next POV character, which sounds like a good time. 🙂
There’s only her and Shadow Stalker left, so assuming we’re covering everyone, it’s just a question of which one comes first. Maybe we’ll also throw in a Piggot chapter, but that seems less likely.
So far, I really appreciate this Arc. It’s nice to get to know the Wards a bit better without having to cram it all into one Interlude, and we’re getting to see how they all deal with the situation after Leviathan’s visit, while also introducing new subplots involving characters like the Slaughterhouse Nine and Chariot. Hopefully the latter two aren’t connected. I don’t know much about them yet, but I feel like the Slaughterhouse Nine are among the last ones you’d want trying to infiltrate the Wards.
So yeah. See you next time!
[Wait, did past me really end this chapter without mentioning the outstanding ADD rep that remains the most memorable thing about 9.4 for me six Arcs later?]