Parasite 10.6: Division of Land

Source material: Worm, Parasite 10.6

Originally blogged: January 18, 2018


Welcome back to Krixwell Liveblogs Around the World in Eighty Days!

Wait, no. No, this is Worm. My mistake.

So, last time was quite the chapter. Dragon caught Taylor, but let her go to save her from the out-of-control zappy gun, saying she’d be in touch… but more importantly for what we’re about to dive into, it very much seems like Bitch intentionally got Taylor stuck in the foam, which without Dragon’s sacrifice would’ve gotten her arrested at best and killed at worst.

Naturally, Taylor is kinda pissed right now.

In this chapter, we’ll see how she chooses to confront Bitch, and how much she’s going to care about the fact that the other Undersiders are currently in the middle of fighting the Protectorate on their way out. After that… no idea. Let’s just see where this wild ride takes me next!


The residual foam on my glove made my hand sticky as I reached into the compartment at my back and grabbed my baton.

Oh damn, she’s not just going for a punch, she’s getting armed.

It took me two tries to get my thumb onto the button so I could whip it out to its full length.

She’s ready to beat some sense into Bitch.

That said, this is giving the others time to react and possibly step in.

I strode towards Bitch, weapon in hand. Tattletale hurried to catch up to me, turning to keep an uneasy eye on the ongoing fight with the Protectorate.

And that was when Tattletale knew… something was fucked up.

“Hey, Skitter!” Tattletale grabbed my shoulder.

I wonder to what extent her power has filled her in on what just happened by now.

I whirled to face her, hand clenching my baton. I could see the change in her expression as some piece fell in place for her.

Ah, there it is.


“Shit,” she swore, “Hey, listen-”

She didn’t get a chance to finish. White smoke billowed around us. My first thought was that our adversaries were using some sort of bug spray.

White smoke? That’s a new one.

Did the Protectorate pick up a new member or two after all?

The way today was going, it would be just my luck.

Heh.

I held my breath and hurried out of the cloud, Tattletale following, and searched for the source. Assault was taking on Regent and Imp, while Grue and Shadow Stalker were dealing with Battery and Weld. Bitch and her dogs, on the other hand, were facing down Triumph. Not the matchup I would have chosen, taking on the guy with the sonic shout using dogs with sensitive hearing.

Ouch, yeah. Poor doggos.

Also, sheesh, Weld just won’t quit, huh.

I almost went after Bitch right then and there, but self-preservation won out over any desire for retribution. As Tattletale and I made our way around the cloud, I spotted Miss Militia.

Hi! Did you smokebomb Tattle and Skitter?

A black-green energy crackled in her hand, and she lobbed a grenade my way. I scrambled back, only for it to turn out to be another canister of smoke, billowing out between Miss Militia and me.

Yup. So she did.

Kind of a poor tactic to use against the girl who can sense her surroundings using her bugs. You’d think the PRT would’ve learned by now that Skitter does better than average in blinded combat, especially if the opponent is also blinded.


Why the smoke?

That really is a good question… is… is Miss Militia trying to hide Taylor from the rest of the Protectorate due to her heroic nature?

No, that seems a bit too treacherous for Miss Militia. Besides, no matter if Dragon thinks she can convince her to change her mind, Skitter has clearly chosen a side at this point, and protecting her from being arrested alongside her team just because she supposedly – according to a man who lost all dignity and credibility (and confirmed by Tattletale, though Miss Militia presumably doesn’t know how Tattle would know) – intended to be a hero when she started out… just doesn’t make much sense.

The bees I had in the smoke were acting funny. I was surprised to find out why. I’d known that beekeepers used smoke to pacify the bees before collecting the honey.

Ahh, yeah, that makes so much more sense.

My assumption had been that it acted as a tranquilizer, putting them to sleep. In reality, it was forcing them to revert to instinctual behavior. It made them want to eat and feed and to flee.

Huh. So essentially it’s overriding your power. Good work on Miss Militia’s part! Now I suppose Skitter’s gotta pull in the remaining bugs from elsewhere and try to avoid getting them into the smoke, both parts of which could be an issue.

For those near enclosed spaces or even the corners of walls or the foundations of buildings, it made them adjust their wingbeats to divert the flows of oxygen.

Cool!


If she’d been intending to use the smoke to screw with my insects, she’d underestimated my power.

Ah, fair enough!

I canceled out the instincts and sent the bugs through the smoke, blind, feeling out for her. I found her running towards us, through the smoke.

“She’s coming!” I shouted.

And since Miss Militia can’t see through the smoke, she’s now at a disadvantage much like the one Grue would impose, except without the suppressed sound and oily characteristics of the darkness.

In retrospect, that was a mistake.

Case in point, Taylor just gave away her position.


Much as I might have warned Tattletale and the others, I’d also informed Miss Militia on my location. I turned to run, but she was already raising her gun to fire with an ear-shattering crack.

Better hope that your suit is bulletproof, even if she is using rubber bullets.

From the way it cut past my bugs, and the wake of disturbed air the pellets left behind them I could only guess she’d just grazed me with a shotgun. I collapsed sideways to the ground, and the pain came a heartbeat later, radiating over half of my upper body, from my shoulder to my right butt cheek.

Ouch.

I was guessing it was nonlethal ammunition – it could well have been lethal, for the sheer degree of hurt it delivered, if my costume had prevented it from penetrating.

I take that to mean the costume didn’t stop them. Well, that’s one question answered that’s been lingering ever since Gestation 1.2!


Before she could shoot again, I directed my bugs to her hands and eyes, hoping to incapacitate her.

Yeeah, might wanna avoid a repeat.

I still had a small few of the capsaicin-loaded bugs, and sent them all her way.

Niice. Gonna be a bit trickier to shoot straight with spicy hands and spicy eyes.

As hard as it was to see in the smoke, there was still faint light. That light disappeared the instant Grue used his power.

Well, at least you won’t reveal your location again with cries of pain.

And I suppose the smoke would dissipate after not too long, so something more controllable is good.

Miss Militia was staggering and reeling as her hands and face lit up with stings and burns. The gun wasn’t in her hands anymore, which meant we weren’t at risk of getting shot.

Nice.

I sent more bugs across to the other members of the Protectorate, to try to disable them.

That would probably be rather helpful.

I like this capsaicin trick, it seems quite effective.


s p i c y h a n d s a n d s p i c y e y e s


Tattletale fumbled around and found me in the darkness, clasped her hand around the same hand I held the baton with, and helped me to my feet. She gave me her support as we limped away. Nothing seemed to be broken, judging by what I felt.

That’s good.

Well… if nothing else, this means Taylor won’t be in any shape to take on Bitch physically anytime soon. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

The darkness disappeared after we’d traveled across the street. Grue greeted us. “Dragon?”

“Oh she turned out to just be a weird fetus and then it self-destructed but she told me she’d be in touch so that wasn’t really her anyway that’s my day how’s yours?”

“Kaput, thanks to Tattletale,” I spoke.

Thanks to– ah, right, because Tattle’s the one who brought the zappy gun and made it go haywire.

He looked back the way we’d come, “Damn that smoke. Listen, Tattletale, head down this street, wait for us. Skitter and I are going back in to find and retrieve the others.”

…hm. That includes Bitch. Taylor might restrain herself, but Bitch is a known master of “not the time”, and I’m not sure how Grue’s going to take it if Bitch is visibly surprised and angered to see Skitter again, or if Taylor does come in with some choice words for Bitch.

Either way, probably not gonna like it.


I supposed that would be another benefit of using the smoke. If you didn’t expect to be able to see, then it didn’t hurt to deny your enemy that same privilege. Miss Militia had been thinking about this.

I suppose Taylor does have an established pattern of going for the eyes.

If her team wasn’t so sparse on members, she could have done a lot more damage.

Yeah, that’s probably true.

“My bugs are telling me they’re over there, there and there,” I pointed in the direction of our teammates. “That’s all I can do for you. I kind of got shot, not sure I’m up to running around.”

Fair. Grue?

His head snapped around to face me, “Shot?”

Yeah, that’s a bit of a high-priority concern.

“I’m okay, it was nonlethal. I think,” I assured him, “Go!”

He did, glancing over his shoulder to look at me before disappearing back into the midst of the darkness.

My shipping of Brian and Taylor has largely subsided ever since the rejection, but there’s still a part of me that’s shouting about how much Brian seems to care about Taylor in this moment. Even though most people would show a similar level of concern if their (tentative) friend and teammate told them they just got shot.


Tattletale and I made our escape. We got three blocks away before we found a spot to hide. Tattletale got out her phone and began sending messages, presumably to Grue and Coil.

Grue seems a bit preoccupied at the moment, though maybe he managed to get the others out by the time they’d ran three blocks.

Our hiding place was the lobby of an apartment building. Boards had been placed over the windows, and there were signs that some people had camped out here, not long ago. It was otherwise similar to Grue’s apartment complex. Less tidy, obviously.

Heh, yeah, abandonment tends to do that to a place.

“You okay?” Tattletale asked me.

“That question seems to come up a lot.”

Hearing that is an occupational hazard. 😛

“I’m sorry. I knew the gun would inevitably overheat, and what little I could read off of Dragon told me she’d deal with that above anything else. I didn’t think you’d be stuck there, too.”

Makes sense.

That said… I’m beginning to notice what might be a habit of Tattletale’s: to take risks that affect others without asking or informing them. See for example her gamble on Taylor not betraying them, in which she voluntarily put the other Undersiders at great risk of having a lot of information about them volunteered to the Protectorate, without informing them of a tidbit that massively increased that risk.

Then again, I can’t actually think of other instances of this off the top of my head, and this instance is excusable by way of limited time, hostile ears and that she apparently didn’t think of the possibility that Taylor would be stuck there. So maybe it’s way too early to call “pattern!” on this one.


“No. Your gun thing there saved my skin. The real problem was…” I trailed off. I still had the baton in my hand – the residual containment foam meant I’d probably have to peel the glove away from the weapon. I clenched the weapon tight.

Whoops.

The real problem was Bitch, right?

We sat in silence for nearly ten minutes before the rest arrived as a massed group.

I guess Taylor decided she didn’t want or need to finish that sentence, and Lisa decided not to push Taylor on it.

Shadow Stalker was limping, and two of the dogs were their normal size, draped across Bentley’s back, but everyone was more or less intact.

I like that they’re still taking Shadow Stalker with them. She can continue to be an advantage for as long as Regent can sustain control… which seems like it might be indefinitely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if sleeping (or getting knocked out) cuts the bond. Maybe they’ll have Shadow Stalker locked up somewhere (electrified, naturally) while Regent sleeps, or something.

Bitch’s eyes widened fractionally as she saw me.

What’s up, Bitch? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. 😉


I was already standing, barely feeling the hurt from where I’d been grazed. Blood pounded in my ears, and I could feel the buzz of my insects.

You really shouldn’t fight right now.

“How-” she started. I didn’t let her finish. My baton held in both hands, I struck her in the upper thigh. When she didn’t fall, I let go of the baton and backhanded her. She toppled, and protests and shouts echoed around me.

Well, here we go.

And of course Regent, Imp and Grue have no idea where that came from.

Also I thought she just said the baton was stuck to the glove? I guess she spent the ten minutes peeling it loose.

It hurt. Damn it, I’d never really hit someone with my hands before. I wondered if I’d managed to break something.

Ouch.

There were still bugs on some of my teammates. I could sense them approaching, Grue and Imp moving to stop me. I ducked out of the way of their hands before they could grab me, and then held up my baton, menacing them.

“Uh-uh! Don’t you dare stop me now.”

I cast a momentary glance towards Shadow Stalker, then augmented my voice with the buzzing and chirping of my swarm, “Don’t.”

It’s worth noting that Regent and his puppet already don’t seem to be trying to do anything. Maybe Regent has a sort of understanding that there’s probably a good reason for this?

“What the hell are you doing!?” Grue roared.

“Ask her,” my response was barely above a growl.

So, Bitch, what do you have to say for yourself?


Grue glanced down at Bitch, who was rubbing her chin, opening her jaw wide, as if testing it.

“Does this thing still work…?”

I dropped down to a crouch so quickly that my knee slammed into the ground. I grabbed the upper end of the baton and pulled it over Bitch’s head, forcing the bar between her teeth, pulling back hard.

Eesh. If Taylor keeps it up like this, it might not.

Grue moved to stop me once more, and I shook my head. He hesitated, then stopped.

He seems to trust Taylor enough that he figures this is justified in some way and sees that Taylor needs to take out her anger… that or he just doesn’t want to get caught in the crossfire for trying to intervene.

Bentley was pacing towards me, snarling at the attack on his owner. I met his gaze with my own, unflinching, and he didn’t lunge to attack, maybe because he didn’t want to hurt his master in the process. I didn’t break eye contact with the dog as I spoke with the swarm buzzing in accompaniment, “Regent, this isn’t for Shadow Stalker’s ears.”

I wonder if Taylor ever got around to buying a book on dog psychology after all. Maybe during the two weeks after the Leviathan attack?

Then again, she’s spent enough time with Rachel to start picking up some of these things naturally, on top of online research.

“Got it,” Regent spoke. Shadow Stalker moved to the bench by the elevators, sat down, and buried her face in her arms, covering her ears. Regent informed me, “She can’t hear much of anything, now.”

Shadow Stalker, internally: “Fuck, I was curious…”


“Bitch,” I pulled on the bar, eliciting more struggling from Bitch, “Just tried to fuck me over in the fight with Dragon. Shoved me into the foam.”

Assuming the others believe Skitter, it’s not too far-fetched that Bitch could get kicked off the team for this. I kinda doubt that’s going to happen, though.

Bitch made a muffled noise, then jabbed me in the side, where I’d been grazed by Miss Militia’s shotgun. It hurt, and in the interest of keeping her from doing it again, I shifted my position so I could force Bitch onto her back against the ground, her head pinned down by my baton.

Ouch.

She could still hit me and jab me, but my shins could take a lot more abuse than her jaw could. I belatedly realized I’d taken my eyes off Bentley, but he didn’t maul me. When I looked up, I saw Tattletale had a grip on his chains.

Nice work, Tattle! Good to know there’s some support to be found.

“You’re a coward, Rachel,” I spoke, “You just did the very same thing you hate me for almost doing. You stabbed me in the back. You fucked over your own teammate.”

…ah, yes, the hypocrisy of it all is so concrete you can taste it, and then spit it out because hypocrisy doesn’t taste very good.

She mumbled something around the bar. The look in her eyes made me seriously worry she would kill me when I let her go.

Solution: Stay like this forever.

What do you mean that’s not a solution?


“I’m in a position to hurt you now, and I’m pissed enough to do it,” I spoke, my voice low. “But I won’t. This vendetta against me ends, now. You got your shot at me, you fucked it up. If you’re still mad at me, you fucking better cope, got it!?”

I love this. 😀

She snarled out two muffled words. I suspected they were rude.

Yeah, probably.

When I spoke next, I bent low and whispered the words for her and her alone, “When you’re tossing and turning and trying to sleep, remembering what I did and said here and getting pissed off about it? Remember that you were the weak one. You embarrassed yourself, fucked up, you were the weakling, the wuss who couldn’t even confront me face to face. And knowing you like I do? I’m betting it’s going to gnaw at you. That’s as much a punishment as I could inflict, I think. That’s on you, not me.

Hooooly shit, Taylor.

Holy shit.

You know who this is reminding me of? Sophia.

“You said it yourself, a while back. It’s a mistake to underestimate me. You want another shot at it, it had better be really damn good. Because if it isn’t, I’m going to survive, I’m going to get away. And then I might break your jaw for real. For starters.”

Just… holy shit.


You guys were waiting for that one, weren’t you.


I love how this story handles Taylor’s darker, more vicious moments.

The way they always make sense in context, the way they’re infrequent and sometimes abrupt but never seem to come out of nowhere. The way her personality doesn’t seem to change, just show another side of itself that doesn’t usually come out in full force but has been there in the background ever since 1.1. The way she’s damn scary when it happens.

It’s really good writing of a fantastic character.


I stood, removing the baton from her mouth and stepping away, to give her room to stand. Leaning against the wall, I pressed the button and collapsed the baton into the handle. I stared at her.

What is Bitch going to say now?

What does anyone say after something like that?

Is she just going to stay silent, perhaps, defeated?

Working her jaw, she stood and glared at me. She either didn’t have a response for me, or she did and her jaw hurt too much for her to try giving it. None of the others were jumping into the middle of this.

It seems they all recognize that they really don’t want to get between these two right now. That feeling would probably be tripled if they’d heard what Skitter just said to Bitch.

In the face of the silence, I offered one final comment, “I think I’ve already covered what happens if you want to continue this vendetta. Now I’m going to offer you a deal. Number three, I think, and my deals with you are usually pretty fair, if I may say so myself.”

Oh boy.

Her eyes narrowed.

“I fucked up, you fucked up, whatever. Insult for insult, blow for blow, I’d like to think we’re even.

I suppose they are, for the most part.

So now I’m going to trust you to have my back. I’m going to put myself in more situations where you have a prime chance at fucking me over, backstabbing me, catching me at my most vulnerable. Because we can’t function as a team any other way.

“Try harder if you want to fuck me over, also I’m going to make it easier for you by explicitly trusting you.”

“I’m going to treat you like a damned teammate, Rachel, but I’ll go one step further. You think you can put this behind you and satisfy yourself with what you tried to pull earlier tonight? Cool. Because if you’re willing, I’ll come with you to help take care of your dogs. I’ll bring fucking lunch, if you want it. That’s the deal I’m offering you, pissed as I am right now. I’ll be your damn friend.”

Honestly? At this point, I have a hard time seeing that as something Rachel deserves from Taylor. Cod knows Taylor has given her enough chances by now. But then again, it doesn’t seem like Taylor sees it that way either – she’s giving Rachel another chance to be friends not because Rachel deserves that chance, but because she wants to give it to her regardless.


She looked away, down at the ground, scowling.

“Take it or leave it.”

I think Rachel on one level wants to take it, but on another, more conscious level wants to say “fuck your deals”.

She decided to leave it, apparently. Bitch stomped away, slamming the door the moment Bentley passed through it, leaving the rest of us standing there in the rubbish-strewn apartment building.

Close enough. Kinda hard to say “fuck your deals” when your jaw is barely functional.

Grue sighed audibly and looked over our group, “We’d better go. We should decide what we’re going to do with Shadow Stalker, now.”

Ah, yeah. Sure.


“We could keep her,” Imp spoke.

“We kept Amethyst.”

Regent shook his head, “Nope. There are drawbacks to this, and one of them is that I lose control of anyone I’m controlling while I sleep.

Called it!

Better to get rid of her on my terms than have her trying to shoot me in the throat while I take a nap.”

The electrical cage idea has its problems too.

“And it’s kind of fucked up,” I spoke.

“I thought you were all-in,” Regent said.

Oh yeah, someone mentioned Taylor being uncomfortable with what Regent was doing as one of the pieces of evidence for him being the one controlling Shadow Stalker – back then, I thought she was just referring to the torture, not the intended result of it.

“I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot,” I retorted. “This kind of mind control-”

“Body control,” Regent interrupted, his tone bored, “Her mind still belongs to her.”

Which only makes it more fucked up, given the “I have a mouth and I still can’t fucking scream” aspect of it.

“Semantics. This kind of mind control is pretty high up there on the scale of fucked upness. People are going to respond to that. It might be the nudge they need to start responding to us with lethal force.

Eesh, I suppose so. That’s not something we want.

Think of how different tonight would have played out if Dragon and Miss Militia hadn’t held back.”

Dragon would’ve been able to pulverize them all with a few shots of the bigger stuff.


“Sure,” he shrugged. “Whatever. I don’t know why you’re arguing with me. I agree, we should get rid of her.”

Yeah… but how?

“What did you do, back in the old days?” Tattletale asked.

Oh jeez. I have some ideas and they don’t work out well for the victims, even if Regent wasn’t the one to do the deed.

“Kept three people I used regularly, with my sister’s help. But this is fine. Look, watch.”

Sister, huh. I guess one with a similar power? Or maybe one that kept the victims from doing stuff while Regent was asleep.

Also, did he cycle through these people according to need, or does this mean he can control multiple people at the same time? He also said “anyone I’m controlling”, which is sort of ambiguous but could include a plural.

Shadow Stalker stood, lowering her hands and arms from around her head, and walked over to the door. She faced Regent.

“I’m letting you go,” he spoke.

“That’s my third wish.”

So, uh, does that release her? Probably not a good idea to release her right here.

I guess it makes more sense that he’d tell her that so that the real Shadow Stalker will know that when he does lift the control. Before that, though, he should make her walk far away.


I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the one who’d walk a thousand miles
to be far from you dorks


And then he did. She dropped to all fours on the ground, grunting. A second later, she was loading her bolt, spinning to point her crossbow at him. She stopped before firing.

I guess he still has some control over her that he can access at will. I wonder if that is a permanent part of her now.

Also, I wonder if there’s a range to it. If he now has permanent access to controlling Shadow Stalker remotely, he’s basically got free access to the Wards HQ until SS alerts Piggot that she was taken control of again.

“There’s a catch,” he spoke. “My power? Once I’ve figured someone out? It’s a lot easier to control them, after. Any time you come near me, I can do this.

Okay, so there is a range to it.

I can use my power and retake control in the blink of an eye.”

Nice. Also, “figured someone out” is interesting wording. It seems kind of like the torture amounts to Regent essentially practicing moving someone’s body parts until he can take full control.

Also, I guess “torture” might not be the right term? For most intents and purposes, though, it seems to have been enough like torture to justify still using the word.


He had her raise her crossbow and point it at her temple. It was a tranquilizer dart, but the meaning seemed pretty damn clear.

Oh shit, yeah, that’s one way to make sure someone doesn’t try anything.

By the way, the Undersiders are rapidly becoming Sophia’s worst nightmares in general. Grue has her pride. Skitter has her identity. Regent has her body.

“Next time I get control? I’m keeping you for a full day. Maybe two, if I feel like pulling an all-nighter. And here’s the funny part,” there was no humor in his voice, “I’m going to do it even if I’m in civilian clothes, if my power tells me you’re in range. You won’t even know when it’s coming.

Oh boy.

You’re now a liability to the Wards, and you won’t ever know when or where I’m going to get control again…

And there’s a good chance Piggot knows this.

“Unless you leave. Skip town. Join another team.”

…huh. Is this going to work?

And just when the Undersiders and Wards had been equalized in terms of member count, too… also, if Shadow Stalker does leave, does that mean Flechette gets to stay here with her needle girlfriend?


She nodded, slowly. The movement was jerky, which was peculiar. Was he giving her limited control of her own movements?

Maybe just enough to move her head and nothing else?

“Now let’s walk you off to the other end of the city before I release you.

That’s more like it. I guess the only reason he released her here in the first place was so that he could illustrate this little speech.

I don’t think you’re quite stupid enough to try and follow us, but I think my teammates would be more comfortable if they were sure.”

Yeah, sounds about right.

Shadow Stalker turned and walked through the door.

Bye bye!


Incidentally, I forgot to mention that if Shadow Stalker does move, and she gets a say in where, she’s probably going to Portland.


Regent looked at us, shrugged. “Good enough?”

“She might be mad enough to come after someone else in our group, but yeah. Good,” Grue said. “Let’s go deliver the stuff.”

Yeah, but she can’t be sure Regent won’t be near the other members.

We didn’t meet Coil in the underground base, and the people surrounding him weren’t all the same uniformed mercenaries that had made up his entourage in our prior meetings.

Hm, alright. So where are we now?

The meeting place was at the south end of the Docks, near the border to the downtown area, and it was closer in appearance to the refurbished, ramshackle building where I’d reunited with the Undersiders than anything else.

Fair enough. I guess the base might still be under repairs after the damage Leviathan did?

By the way, I wonder what Coil thinks of the whole Taylor situation? It seems to be common knowledge in the PRT, so it’s probably just a question of time before he finds out about it if he doesn’t already know.

Wait, of course he knows, he’s the one who told Tattle there was a hero there in Gestation, duh. Never mind.

The building was an old quadruplex, and it had been reinforced with metal panels, sandbags and plastic sheeting to keep the interior crisp and dry, much as the other building had. Small rooms with bunk beds filled half of the lower level, with a bathroom, kitchen and living room taking up the rest.

Looks like a decent enough place. Not fancy by any means, but better than many of the other buildings around here are these days.

Finding the lower level empty, we headed to the second floor and found an open space supported by two metal pillars. There were a half-dozen mercenaries with Coil, as well as a collection of people who looked like they had come from every walk of life.

Hiya!

Teenagers, professionals, and two guys that might have been capes – one thin, short guy with brown skin and a tattoo around his mouth, depicting a mess of sharp teeth penetrating the skin of his cheeks and lips.

Sounds like a pretty badass tattoo, honestly.

The other was burlier, shirtless, and wore a rusty, old fashioned looking mechanical rigging around his hands, with a bear-trap jaw plate. The frame seemed set up to hold metal claws around his fingertips while allowing his hands the full range of motion. He had a spiked collar of much the same style.

Huh, interesting.

So I highly doubt we’re not seeing these guys again down the road in some capacity or other.


Coil sat in a black leather armchair, with a laptop set on the table beside him. Dinah was there, too.

Oh hey, it’s Taylor’s living reminder of why she’s doing this.

She sat at the base of the chair, on a cushion just beside Coil’s feet, picking at the threads of her white dress with a dazed single-mindedness that told me she had probably received her ‘candy’ pretty recently.

Eesh. The cushion also carries further “pet” vibes, and that still creeps me out so much.

“Undersiders. Tattletale informed me you were successful, despite complications. May I see it?”

Tattletale stepped forward and handed Coil the USB thumbstick.

v i c t o r y

He plugged it into the laptop, then turned the computer so the middle-aged man to his left could type away.

“Data’s corrupted, sir. Looks like the download was interrupted at the ninety-seven percent mark.”

Damn it, Dragon!

I did think it was a little odd that Tattle told Dragon that they successfully had all the files even though it was mentioned that the progress bar wasn’t at the end yet. Did I mention that? I don’t think I did, being distracted by Tattle’s frankness, but I should have.


“Can you fill in the blanks?” Coil asked him.

I have a feeling this guy might be a parahuman with computer powers, but he might just be a regular computer wizard.

“Probably. Will take some time. There’s encryption. Good encryption. Maybe a few days, with the full team working on it?”

Never mind, sounds mundane. Though maybe Tattletale can help them figure out the encryption keys.

“Most likely it is Dragon’s work,” Coil spoke. “Let’s assume it’ll take a week, minimum. Perhaps Tattletale will be able to assist.”

Coil and I are on the same page about that, it seems.

“Yes, sir.”

“Priority number one, I want the data on the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

Hm, interesting. I guess that makes sense – now that they’ve shown up in Brockton Bay, he’d want to know as much as possible about them.

Besides, it’s possible the Slaughterhouse are going up against Coil rather than vice versa. We don’t know who the corpses were; they could be Coil’s people. That might also explain why the Travelers were at one of the corpsehouses – they may have had something planned with Coil’s people at that location and then arrived to find them hanging on the walls.

I felt a chill, but didn’t say anything. Was he intending to hire them? It would be a huge mistake in my book, if he was.

I doubt it, though he does have a precedent for hiring nomadic heavy hitters.


Regent asked the question for me, “The Slaughterhouse Nine?”

“At least some of their members have been seen in town, preying on the locals, disrupting recovery efforts. The recent chaos makes the city a playground for them,” Coil spoke. “One of my teams is bound to run up against them soon.”

Hm. No mention of direct attacks on his people. Guess that’s not it. Maybe they were just random civilians?

Also it doesn’t elude me that the Undersiders fall under the umbrella of “one of my teams”. I have a feeling they’ll be up against the Fellowship within the next Arc or two. Maybe three, but that’s pushing it.

“How likely is it?” Tattletale asked. She tilted her head in Dinah’s direction. “Can you ask her?”

Hm, given that she’s already gotten her “candy”, I’m not sure how willing or capable she’s going to be to answer right now.

“I suppose.” Coil put his hand on Dinah’s head, stroked her hair, then slid his hand down the side of her face until he could place his fingertips under her chin, raise her head to look at him, “Pet?”

Fuck you.


Seriously, the “pet” thing manages to bother me more than the “candy” thing.


It was disturbingly intimate in a way I’d rather not think about. No, not intimate. That was the wrong word for the impression I was getting. Possessive. I looked away.

I know, right? Eaugh.

“Yes?” Dinah asked.

“Likelihood that one of my groups encounters the Slaughterhouse Nine?”

“Who?”

I guess she needs a bit more context… although I’m not sure if she’s asking for more info about the Slaughterhouse Nine, or asking Coil to specify a team.

He moved to take the laptop, and the middle-aged man stepped back to let him. He typed for a few seconds, then turned it around so Dinah could see. It was a gallery of images.

“Bonesaw.” he spoke. The girl on the screen looked barely older than Dinah, maybe the same age as Aisha. The image showed her wide-eyed, a spray of dried blood painted her face at a diagonal.

Well that’s… suitably crazed-looking.

Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting people around that age in the Fellowship of the Meat. Are they all youngsters? Or are they mostly grown-ups with like three hobbits children in their midst?


“Shatterbird.” A dark-haired, brown-skinned woman with a helmet covering the upper half of her face, in a beak shape. I was reminded of Iron Falcon, the boy I’d tried to help, who’d died in the Endbringer attack.

“Squawk!”

I saw a glimpse of the next line and it seems like Taylor is going to say what she knows about Shatterbird’s power, so I’m gonna take a moment to speculate:

Maybe her power is to shatter bones? Not sure what prompted the bird aesthetic if that’s the case, though. Shatter bones and fly?

From what I’d read, Shatterbird usually used her power as the Nine arrived in a city, to maximize panic and terror.

That sounds… familiar. It reminds me of the Simurgh, who is a presumably birdlike being who spreads panic and terror by virtue of what she is, and apparently leaves cities in a state that’s potentially even more destructive than the Simurgh herself.

I wonder if there’s going to be a watery Fellowship member. We already know there’s a firey one, due to the charred body.

Also, I guess I should speculate on Bonesaw too… I mean, what do you use a bonesaw for? To cut things up. I’m thinking her power might be kind of like Faultline’s, except it works on living beings. She might be the one behind the chain-limbed person.

I supposed they were flying under the radar for now. Fuck, I’d have to do something about my costume, just in case.

Hm. Pray tell, what can you do about your costume that might help you against whatever Shatterbird does?

“Crawler.” No portrait, this time. It was a still from a surveillance camera, a misshapen silhouette, not even humanoid, in a shadowy area.

Hm, was Crawler mentioned back in Interlude 3, when the Wards were trying to come up with a name for Skitter that wasn’t taken?

*rereads*

Nah. The names that were suggested before Skitter were Maggot, Worm, Stinger and Pestilence. The latter two were taken.

Anyway, it sounds like Crawler is a Changer of some sort, maybe into some sort of giant spider or similar.

I doubt that would let Skitter control them, but that’s a fun idea to imagine.

I’d come across stories about him when I’d been researching possible superhero names for myself. Not pretty.

Ah, heh. The Wards didn’t consider it, but Taylor did.


“Mannequin.” Another long-distance shot. The figure was standing by Bonesaw in the photograph, with other hulking figures within the shadows of the background.

If this were any other team I’d suggest they had control of mannequins much like Parian with stuffed animals, but with them being in the Slaughterhouse, I’m more inclined to say they like to make mannequins out of corpses.

He stood almost twice her height, and he looked artificial. His body was in pieces, each section wrapped in a hard shell of ceramic or plastic or white-painted metal – I couldn’t be sure.

Huh. Or he might be a mannequin himself. Case 53?

Also, I’m getting heavy Adventure Zone vibes.

His joints were a mix of loose chains and ball joints.

Ahhh, guess Bonesaw wasn’t behind the chain corpse after all.

A Tinker with a body-modification fetish. I couldn’t say how much of the transformation was his own power and how much was Bonesaw’s work.

…or maybe it’s a bit of both?


“The Siberian.” A woman, naked from head to toe, her body painted in alternating stripes of jet black and snow white.

Sounds more like a zebra, honestly.

Also, judging by the colors, it seems we’re going for a Siberian husky rather than a Siberian cat.

…I wonder if Wildbow is a dog person.

She had gone up against the Triumvirate – Legend, Alexandria and Eidolon – on a dozen occasions, and she was still around to talk about it. Or around, at least.

Daamn.

So is she mute, then?

From what I’d read, she didn’t talk.

Fair enough.


“Burnscar.” Younger, maybe an older teenager or a young-looking twenty-something. She looked almost normal, with her dark hair badly cut, but then I saw the vertical row of cigarette burns marking each of her cheeks, and a faint glow to her eyes.

This would probably be the one responsible for the charred corpse. Fire powers, naturally, though I’m not sure the exact nature of hers.

“Hatchet Face.” This was one I hadn’t even heard of. The man didn’t wear a mask, and his head was shaved.

Hatchet Face is a beautiful name.

He looked like he had been beaten, burned and just plain abused so often that his face was as much scar tissue than flesh, and he didn’t look like he’d been handsome to begin with.

I wonder if he flips a coin. (That’s a joke, I don’t think Wildbow would do that.)

I’m guessing this one’s a Brute of some variety.


“Jack Slash.” Jack looked like someone on the attractive side of average, his dark hair cut short and styled with gel.

“Jack” and “Slash” together make me think of Jacks using knives or swords, such as the ones in Homestuck… or more prominently, Jack the Ripper. As such, I’d expect this one to have a habit of mutilations (as expected from any Slaughterhouse member) such as “deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations”.

Hm, I guess that would be the corpse whose gender was unidentifiable.

His beard and moustache were immaculately trimmed so that each had a serrated edge, and his shirt was wrinkled, only half buttoned so his hairless upper chest showed. He had kind of a Johnny Depp look to him, though he had more of a widow’s peak, a longer face and lighter eyes.

Even his facial hair is edgy.

Maybe he could get along with Hookwolf.

[Again??]

Good looking, if you looked past the fact that he was a mass murderer. He held a small kitchen knife in the photo.

That’s probably only the beginning of his toolkit.

Also, headcanon that Johnny Depp used to be (and maybe still is) Taylor’s celebrity crush.


There were parahumans who were fucked up before powers entered the picture, like Bitch, and there were parahumans who became monsters after they got their powers, like Bakuda. Then there were the really dangerous ones, the people who had probably been monsters before powers were even on the table, and then they got worse.

Oh jeez, yeah.

Are you talking about all the Fellowship members now? (I didn’t count, did we make it through all nine?)

And if that wasn’t bad enough, you had Bonesaw, who was like some kind of artist, as psychopaths went. The sort of person that drew other lunatics to her, just because they wanted to see what she would do next.

…and once the lunatics are together, they form a team.

Even that wouldn’t normally work as a dynamic, but as I understood it, Jack somehow managed to play them off one another and keep the group more or less intact.

So Bonesaw is the heart of the group, bringing them together in a fucked up way just by being herself. Jack is the head, scheming ways to keep things together.

He was familiar enough with the psychology of his group and just plain charismatic enough to keep them from killing one another.

Yeah… sometimes that’s necessary. When it is, that doesn’t bode well.


Which wasn’t to say they didn’t. There were only eight members in their group at present, and the turnover rate was pretty damn high, because they had a tendency towards recklessness, infighting and showy displays.

Ahh. But are you sure about that? It kind of sounded like they might’ve gotten a new member, judging by the corpse math. Then again, that was assuming an equal number of people in each location, and that’s not necessarily the case – one could easily have one corpse less. Or maybe one of them killed two people, just because the number nine is important to them for whatever reason.

…I wonder if they had someone wielding a bow at some point.

Jack Slash: “You have my sword.”
Bowwow: “And you have my bow.”
Hatchet Face: “And my axe!”
Bonesaw: “What? Who the fuck are you guys and why are you quoting the Lord of the Rings?”


They thought nothing of descending on an elementary school, just because they could. When the heroes came for them, they came with lethal force.

Basically, the worst kind of sickos, all bunched together in one team.

Great, when’s the meet ‘n’ greet?

“Mmm,” Dinah said.

“What is it, pet?” Coil murmured.

“It’s him.”

What?

“Who?”

She pointed at the screen, at Jack Slash. “Him.”

I actually guessed that it would be that specific “him”, but that doesn’t get me any closer to answering the more pressing “what about him”.

“You’re going to have to explain it to us, pet. What about him?”

“He’s the one who makes everyone die.”

I shivered. What?

…shit, is that a prediction?

I mean sure, it’s an accurate enough statement coming from anybody, but this is coming from a girl who sees potential futures. Is she seeing a whole bunch of futures where Jack Slash causes loads of death and suffering in Brockton Bay?


“Everyone here?”

Dinah shook her head, her hair flying out to either side. “Everyone. I don’t understand. Can’t explain.”

Sheesh. Everyone’s a lot of people.

“Try,” he urged her.

“Sometimes it’s in two years. Sometimes it’s in eight. Sometimes in between. But if he’s alive, something happens, and everyone on Earth starts to die.

Holy shit.

Does that have something to do with Karahindiba and its kin, and the granting of Jack’s power? Because beings like Karahindiba seem like the one thing that would have this kind of power. But Karahindiba seemed benevolent and what the fuck does any of it have to do with Jack?

Well. Jacks gonna Jack, I guess, and surprisingly often that involves the end of the world.

Not that everyone doesn’t die anyways but they die really fast when that something happens, all one after another, and in a year almost everyone is dead. So I said everyone, if that makes sense and a few live but they die pretty soon after anyways and-“

Sheesh, it’s a proper apocalypse scenario, complete with a few postapocalyptic survivors.

Does Jack trigger a nuclear war or something? Or, worse, a Tinkertech war?

…how did the cold war end in this universe when both sides got a new sort of weapon to play with in the last decade of the real world version?


“Shh, pet. I think we understand what you’re saying. Quiet now, unless you think of something important. We need to consider this.”

Yeah, we definitely do.

Well, with a prediction like that, it seems we really need to take out Jack Slash. Holy shit.

Silence reigned for a few long seconds. You could have heard a pin drop.

No shit. This was quite the heavy thing to get dumped on us all of a sudden.

I’m shaken. A little stirred, too. I’d be a subpar vodka martini now.

“His power isn’t all that, I don’t think,” Grue spoke, slowly, as if considering the words as he spoke. “Space warping effect, so any blades he’s holding have an edge that extends a horrendously long distance, all with the optimal force behind the swing.

Interesting. Shaker, then, right?

Swings his knife, cuts through an entire crowd. Doesn’t make sense that he’d be able to murder everyone on Earth.”

The most ridiculous scenario I can think of: Getting hold of a ridiculously sharp blade and cutting through the entire Earth. And even that probably wouldn’t do much to end life on Earth, since the Earth isn’t held together by a force you can just cut through.


“Unless he somehow cuts the planet in half,” Tattletale mused.

…I swear, I came up with that idea separately.

But yeah, I really don’t think that would actually do anything of note, besides making a massive slice through the ground that goes around the planet.

That was disquieting.

“No,” Dinah spoke. “He doesn’t.”

Thank you.

“I think we need more numbers if we’re to understand this, pet. What is the likelihood that he succeeds in this? To one decimal point.”

That assumes that this is something he’s actually trying to do. We can’t make that assumption yet, no matter how insane and murderous the guy is.

“Eighty three point four percent.”

Doesn’t look like Dinah has trouble with that assumption, though.


“You said if he’s alive. What if we killed him? Now? To one decimal point. If I use my power.”

“Thirty one point two percent chance someone kills him before he leaves the city, if you use your power.

Huh. If that number would change without Coil’s power, it means it’s gotta be someone Coil sent, such as the Undersiders or the Travelers. (The Travelers seem better suited for this job.)

It doesn’t happen until fifteen years from now, if you do.”

…I see. So whatever Jack has to do with this, it’s only a hastening factor, and the end of the human species on Earth will just be delayed by his death.

“So it still happens?” Coil asked.

“Yes. Always happens.”

Well, shit.

Hm. I have a feeling Jack’s not going to get killed after all. This seems like a story-climactic thing being planned out – although yes, I’m still aware that this story is written by the seat of Wildbow’s pants – and I doubt we’ll be going until fifteen years from now (in-universe).


Tattletale spoke up, “He’s the catalyst for something else, then.”

Catalyst, yeah, that’s a better word.

“Is it always successful, pet? This something that kills everyone on Earth?”

She shook her head, “Not always, not all the way. Sometimes more people live. Sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands, sometimes billions. But millions or billions always die when it happens.”

Even on a good day.

So this means it is possible to stop it from bringing total destruction. That seems like a good end goal for the story.

Endbringers move over, the threat scale of Worm has just increased drastically once again.

“If I were to send the Travellers? How likely would they be to kill him?”

“My head hurts.”

No wonder.


“Please, pet, this is important. To one decimal point.”

“Twenty two point six percent. Thirty point nine percent chance some of them die.”

Terrible odds, those.

Undersiders?

“And the Undersiders?”

“Eleven point nine percent chance they succeed. Fifty five point four percent chance they die if they fight those people.”

Sounds about right. I told you the Travelers had better chances. When you’re up against these kinds of people, you need the heavy hitters.

Also, Dinah didn’t say “some of them” for the Undersiders. It sounds like she means a 55.4% chance that all of them die.

Coil sighed, then straightened. He looked at the middle-aged man, handed him the computer, “I strongly recommend you get what information you can on the group. Any detail in the PRT records could be invaluable. Lose sleep if you have to.”

Yeah, holy hell, this just became so much more important.


The man took the laptop, swallowed, and then offered a quick bob of his head. The others in the assembled group around Coil looked just as alarmed by what they’d overheard.

Yeah, no shit. A trustworthy source just told them there’s a good chance everyone’s going to die within the next three at worst, twenty at best years.

“We should contact the local heroes,” Grue spoke. “Let them know what’s up.”

Coil nodded, slowly, “I’ll look into it. That said, I think the numbers illustrate one thing. You are not equipped to fight that group. If you encounter them, you-“

Run. Run like the wind.

Wait, the wind doesn’t have legs.

“Sixty percent,” Dinah muttered.

“Sixty percent, pet?”

What, the chance that the Undersiders are going to run into the Slaughterhouse Nine? Or one of Coil’s groups in general?

“Sixty percent chance the Undersiders encounter some of those people.”

Yeeah, I doubt we’ll be seeing one of the timelines in the 40%.


Coil turned to look at us. “So you’re likely to encounter them. When that happens, you run. Cede any territory, abandon any job. I would rather you were alive than successful in a job.”

“Got it,” Grue spoke.

“Failure is always an option.”
– Adam Savage

“In the meantime, we move on to the next phase of my plan,” Coil spoke. “You may be wondering about this location, how it is similar to the new headquarters I provided you. I have outfitted these areas to be your stations, points from which you will operate, work to seize and keep territory. I have several more.

Oh, nice. I think he mentioned something like this back in 6.8, didn’t he? Though back then we of course didn’t know the Loft would be compromised.

If you’re amenable, I would have each of you take one of these stations for yourself. Grue, this would be your station, shared with Imp, which I assume is alright?”

Ahh, I see. Right, this I’m pretty sure he did mention back then, though it slipped my mind for a while – each of the Undersiders getting control over their own areas, that kind of thing.

Grue looked around, “Big place and a lot of beds for two people.”

“More on that later. Rest assured, I can provide staff, help. I expect you’ll wish to find and recruit people of your own.

In the meantime, I suppose it’s helpful should the others want to stay over.

Contact me about funds – I will ensure that anyone you hire is paid well.”

Grue nodded.

Not necessarily just in money, knowing Coil.


“Regent? Your territory is near Grue’s, close to the water.”

Regent nodded.

Nice.

“Bitch is absent?”

“Interpersonal stuff,” Grue replied. “She’ll be back.”

Ah, yeah… gonna need a little time to herself to recover, but she will.

“A shame. Your other headquarters, where I moved your collective belongings, that will be her station. Barker and Biter here showed up for the Endbringer fight, and I got in contact with them. They, alongside these three young individuals,” he gestured to the two parahumans, and three college-aged kids who looked rather intimidated, “Will work under her. Barker and Biter profess to be fearless, and should have little difficulty managing the dogs, even when Bitch’s abilities are at work.

Huh, neat. Bitch herself has more bite than bark, but it could be nice to have a bit of both under her.

Meanwhile, the three college kids are just desperate for a paying job, aren’t they? Hoo boy, they didn’t know who they’d be working under, probably.

The men and the young lady I’ve provided have some degree of training in veterinary medicine or handling dogs. Let her know this. She is free to accept them or refuse them as she sees fit.”

Oh, nice.


Grue looked over the five people who would be Bitch’s henchmen, nodded.

“Tattletale, I’ve set up quarters near Lord Street, in one of the ABB’s old locations.

Just get the stench of drugs out of there and that sounds alright.

I assume your teammates will want to be in contact, and this area is both accessible, and it can reach any other area readily.

So Tattle’s place would be their common meeting place. I like it.

The area is already furnished with computers, and you’ll find staff there, people who are capable at gathering information, be it from media, computers or the streets. You’ll also find a small force of mercenaries that I’ve assigned to you, so you can act on that information where you see fit.”

We’ve seen that Tattle’s power acts as a supercharged Sherlock Holmes lookover, so she needs some sort of information to get her started. These people could provide her with that, and then Tattle’s power can fill in more from that.


“Cool.”

“Skitter, I have set up quarters near the south end of the Boardwalk.

That would be around where she’s been working recently anyway, wouldn’t it?

Reconstruction and repair work is still ongoing there, but if you will be patient, it may well be one of the more lucrative locations when things are up and running again.”

Sounds about right!

I nodded. That wouldn’t be far from my old home, close to our old hideout. Did that mean something? Did he know who I was, or had Tattletale suggested it? I felt uneasy about that.

To be fair, you have been active in that area, enough that it wound up in the PRT files, unless I’m misremembering.

“Regent, Grue, Imp and Skitter, I realize I have not detailed any employees to you to begin with. I leave it to you to start this task for yourself, to decide what you need and how you intend to operate.

That sounds reasonable. Rachel has specific needs for her dogs, and Tattle has a specific role with specific things that can help her fulfill that role, but the rest of them are just kinda combat-focused, so it makes sense to let them define their MOs a bit more first.

Once you have decided this for yourselves, let me know, and I will endeavor to help you fill in the blanks in your individual operations.

Yeah.


Elephant in the room: This means the Undersiders are going to be going each their own way, to some extent, and operate more independently of each other. They’ll still be a team, but it seems like it won’t be in quite the same way as before. Though I suppose Coil might still call them together for a mission.

Is everyone okay with that?


“As you leave, you’ll receive emails on the locations of your individual headquarters. For the time being, all I require from you, for now, is that you establish order and assume some measure of control over your territories.”

There were nods all around.

I wonder what Bitch’s territory is going to be like with her “in charge”.

“Good morning and welcome to Brockton Bay News. My name is Ronaowow Itsakidneystone Johnson. Our top story today: A large amount of wooden signposts have appeared overnight in parts of the lower Docks area. These signposts, seemingly hand-made, prominently feature minimalistic drawings of what appear to be dogs, along with poorly spelled text ordering onlookers to treat dogs well. BBN correspondent Waffle Erduno is on the scene. Waffle, what is your take on this story?”


“Your payment for tonight’s job will be in your accounts shortly, with a bonus for the obstacles you faced. Any questions? Any topics you would like to raise for discussion?”

“A few questions, but I figure I’ll see what’s up with this new role we’re taking,” Grue replied, “Then I’ll ask them.”

That seems reasonable.

“Good.”

“I’ve got something I’d like to talk to you about,” I spoke, augmenting my voice with the swarm’s noises to mask it. “In private.”

Huh. You gonna voice your concerns re: Dinah?

“Yes. That’s fine, I was hoping to have a private conversation with you anyways. Anyone? Anything else before we part ways?”

Nobody had anything further to say. Grue and the others turned to leave, and the crowd around Coil followed them soon after.

See ya later!

One of Bitch’s henchmen – Barker, was it? – leered at me as he passed, dug his hand into his groin in some sort of scratch or a lewd gesture.

Seems like a decent fit.

Lovely. He’d get along great with Bitch.

Hehehe


When the group had left the room, I could hear noises downstairs, as they moved about the house. Or maybe it was Grue, checking his new place. I was left alone with Coil and Dinah.

The crux of the matter.

I wasn’t sure I liked that our group was being split up like this. The timing seemed bad. I’d sort of been hoping I could repair the divide, and that would be hard if we were each in our own territories, doing our own things.

Ah, yeah, that’s true. I’m not sure quite how much Coil knows about the falling out between Taylor and the other Undersiders – in his Interlude, he seemed not to know much of the details, though that might’ve changed since then – but yes, this comes at a bad time for Taylor whether he thought of that or not.

I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

“I heard about the incident at the hospital, following the Endbringer attack.”

Ahh, yeah. I guess that would be why he wanted to talk to Taylor too.

I nodded.

“Tattletale told me that you know I was fully informed about your true nature.”

This sentence could work coming from either of them, but I’m pretty sure it’s still Coil talking.

“Yeah.”

“Did she explain how?”

Ah, hm. He’s asking whether Tattle told her about his power, but is that because he wants to check Tattle’s loyalty, or because he actually wanted to tell her himself?

I shook my head. She’d told me about his power in confidence.

As he had done to Tattle. She wasn’t supposed to tell it to anyone else.

“Well, I suppose I may share that detail at some point in the future. You understand my desire to keep certain things private?”

Of course.

“Yeah, no. I get it. It makes sense, it’s smart.”

Especially in a ‘verse where knowledge is power is a recurring theme.


“Mmm,” he murmured. He turned to his pet, stroked her head like one might with a dog or a cat.

Ugh.

She stared down at her dress, picked at a thread that was sticking out, stretching it out long. The thread snapped, and she let it drift from her hand to the ground. Then she started picking at another. Coil interrupted my observations, “So. You wished to discuss something?”

Yeah… that shit.

“Yeah. I’ve made a decision.”

“Do tell.”

“Before, back in the limousine, you asked me what I wanted out of all this, what I desired from my deal with you.”

…you’re not going to wish for Dinah’s freedom, are you? I know you care about that, but it seems like you should ask for something bigger than that, something that might protect others too.

“Yes.”

“I asked you to fix the city, you told me you planned on doing that anyways, that I should ask for something else.”

“And you’ve decided.”

“Yeah,” I took a deep breath. “Dinah. Your… pet.”

She’s doing it.

“You want me to release her. I’m afraid-“

I hurried to cut him off, “No.”

Hm?

He stopped, tilted his head slightly.

I swallowed, felt an ugly feeling in my gut, “I know she’s invaluable to you. I know how useful her talent is, and the lengths you went to in getting ahold of them. I don’t like it, but I get it.”

True.

Then what do you want? Dinah to be treated better?

He didn’t respond. He just stared at me, his mask lacking eye holes, just black cloth stretched over eye sockets.

“I… All I’m asking is that you let her go when you’ve done it. When you take this city, when you succeed in your plan, you release her to go home to her family. If you do that, I’ll work for you. I’ll try harder than anyone, to get this city under your control, and then I’ll work for you for as long as you’ll have me, afterward.”

Ahh, a delayed effect. “Release her when you no longer need her.”


“I’m afraid, Skitter, that this deal doesn’t quite balance out. I intend no offense, but my initial impression is that my pet is far more valuable to me than you are.”

No. My heart sank.

Well, damn.

“But I can accept it,” he spoke. “Provided you prove to me that your talents are worth losing hers. I admit, the active assistance you can provide might prove more useful when the city is firmly in my grasp, when I have less to be concerned about in terms of day-to-day operations.”

Hm, so there’s still a chance, then.

I nodded, numbly.

“Anything else?”

I guess this is when you get a soul gem and start hunting witches.


I shook my head, then turned to leave, wordlessly.

When I went downstairs, Tattletale and Regent were already gone. Maybe they were checking out their new places. Grue and Imp were in the ‘living room’, opening crates of stuff to see the supplies they had available.

Nice.

I wasn’t up to talking to them, or explaining the recent conversation.

Yeah, that’s fair. It was a mixed success, but it not being a total success really seems to have gotten Taylor down.

Leaving the building without a word, I sloshed through the water. I realized my fists were clenched, and my glove was sticking to itself, thanks to the residual containment foam. Annoying.

Heh.

Maybe if you get some on the other glove too, you can climb buildings like Spiderman. Until the foam on each hand runs out and you’re stuck far above the ground. Whoops.

I wondered if I could scrub it off.

When I peeled my fingers away from the glove, I realized my hand was shaking.

Yeeeah, Taylor really didn’t like what just happened.

I guess it might be mainly seeing just how much Coil views Dinah as a possession rather than a person with a family. Trust me, Taylor, you’re not alone in being put off by that.

I took a deep breath, to calm my nerves. I could do this. Whatever I had to do, I was going to help that girl.

Good luck.


End of Parasite 10.6

Holy shit.

That’s the phrase I associate with this chapter, because it had two real holy shit moments: Vicious!Taylor making an appearance with what she said to Bitch (seriously, I was expecting Taylor to have some choice words for her, but I wasn’t expecting that), and Dinah telling us the end of the human species is on the way.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we also got a brief fight with Miss Militia, a rundown of the Slaughterhouse Nine, and Taylor trying to get Dinah released down the line. All in all a very content-rich chapter.

(Content-rich enough, in fact, that I think I made a mistake in not splitting it into two sessions. I think I’ve been liveblogging for about ten hours now. And here I was planning to celebrate a thing with a liveblog tomorrow, but now I think I need a break day, so we’ll have to settle for a post about that thing.)

Anyway, I just asked Sharks whether or not this was the end of the Arc, for the purposes of knowing whether I should do Arc Thoughts tomorrow, and got the answer that there are two Interludes coming up before that. So I know that the next chapter is an Interlude, but as usual with Interludes, I have no idea whose perspective we’ll be following. I’m guessing it’s someone relevant to this Arc… How about Emma, as she finds out what Sophia’s been up to? That’s a bit tenuous, but technically still relevant. Or perhaps one of the Undersiders? Imp would be very fitting to do right now.

I’m also curious about how these Interludes will be numbered (assuming Sharks isn’t just referring to regularly-numbered chapters as Interludes because they follow non-Taylor characters, like that one ask that referred to 9.1 as Weld’s Interlude). Will we skip 9 and number both Interludes as 10? That’s a legitimate possibility after what happened in Arc 8, where both Interludes were numbered the same as the Arc they were in.

I’ll just have to read and find out. See you then!

One thought on “Parasite 10.6: Division of Land

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