Source material: Worm, Infestation 11.1
Originally blogged: January 28-31, 2018
Alright! Hi! Welcome back to the liveblog – who’s ready for the next Arc? 😀
Which is calllllled… *turns page* Infestation! Ooh, that’s a good one. I should’ve thought of that when I was asked about titles we might see in the future.
So what does that mean?
I’m inclined to think that the Infestation is the Slaughterhouse Nine, deadly vermin infesting the city of Brockton Bay. Granted, infestations usually carry connotations of much greater numbers, but with these vermin it seems like eight is more than enough to wreak some havoc.
That said, maybe there will be a new threat involving great numbers, to be dealt with before the Undersiders’ inevitable run-in with the Slaughterhouse Nine?
I guess there’s only one way to find out… Well, no, but the other ones are frowned upon on this blog.
I don’t think I know enough to meaningfully speculate on what we’ll be doing in this specific chapter (tends to be that way for x.1 chapters), so let’s just dive into it and see!
(#Chapter 11.1 #11.1p1
#there’s gonna be a lot of tapping on that 1 key in this session)
I stared down at the metal walkway as I caught my breath. I had one gash at the side of my head, and another trickle ran from beneath the armor of my shoulder, down my arm and to my fingertip, where it dripped almost in sync with the head wound.
Welp. Looks like we’re diving right into Taylor being hurt. Is this right after where we left off, as she finally examines her wounds from Miss Militia shooting her with a shotgun?
It should have hurt, but it didn’t. Maybe it would when the shock wore off. If so, I didn’t look forward to it.
Then again, it seems she’s still in shock about this, suggesting it’s a lot newer. Are we in the middle of combat?
Hell, did the Undersiders manage to run into the Slaughterhouse Nine before we even got into the Arc?
Also, Wildbow showed recently that he’s willing to do flashbacks. Maybe he’s continuing to experiment with that, trying his hand at an in medias res retrospective, in which we get dumped into the action and then look back at what led up to this moment.
Trickster, Ballistic and Circus lay in front of me. Another cape had fallen over the railing and lay on the concrete floor below, unmoving.
Alright, definitely got some new action.
Between the metal walkway and the people present, it seems we’re at Coil’s HQ, or one of the similar bases. Apparently there’s also someone Taylor doesn’t know the name of involved, but that could just be Coil having more protegés than just the Undersiders, Trainwreck (not Roadblock), Circus and the Travelers, or capes working directly under him.
The big question is who’s attacking. One likely option is the Slaughterhouse Nine, in which case we’ve got some serious trouble. Also quite likely is Fenrir’s Chosen, which fits well with the gash Taylor has.
…then again, it just occurred to me is that this was probably a bomb. We’ve got plenty of capes here and whatever just happened knocked down this many of them, and Taylor’s in shock? Sounds like a bomb to me.
At least we (unfortunately) know it’s not Bakuda, I guess. Could be some of her tech, though, if someone managed to get into the PRT’s confiscated weapon reserves somehow, or to a Bakuda bomb storage the PRT never found. But it’s not like she’s the only one who can make a good old-fashioned explosive.
They were all either unconscious or hurting badly enough that I didn’t need to worry about them.
I swallowed hard. My heart had climbed up so far into my throat that I almost couldn’t breathe, and my heartbeat felt oddly distant and faint for how terrified I was.
If this is indeed the Slaughterhouse, that’s probably appropriate.
And/or of parahuman origin. Maybe Shatterbird’s power is like Glory Girl’s, but supercharged?
Although, I mean, it’s not like getting bombed or otherwise attacked this hard isn’t reason enough to be terrified regardless of who did it.
Coil’s base was deserted. I knew his men were out on patrols, that the only people in here were a handful of the capes that were working for him. He’d left it almost undefended.
Well, shit. That didn’t exactly work out for him, did it.
What about his power? Is he not using it at the moment, or did the other timeline turn out worse?
If I was going to act, I’d have to do it now.
My costume’s feet lacked hard soles, so I should have been nearly silent, but the interior of Coil’s base was deathly silent and my feet were slamming down on the metal walkway as I ran. The noise of singing metal filled the dark space, echoing, seemingly louder with each step I took.
Taylor did you knock them down?
That would explain why she “didn’t have to worry about” people who would typically be on her side.
Shit, Taylor, what are you doing? Are you trying to break in and counterkidnap Dinah???
Are you on your own? Because there’s no way in hell the others agreed to this if that’s what’s going on.
But if Taylor’s shocked about her injuries just now…???
The thrum of the metal rang through the air even after I came to a stop. I’d reached my target; a reinforced door, identical to so many others in the complex. With the labyrinthine mess of metal walkways and the dozens of doors, I might have missed it. The only thing telling me I was in the right place was the smudge of ash left behind from when the soldier had put out his cigarette on the wall.
Hm, did we see that?
See, this is why you don’t put out cigarettes against walls, dammit. Coil tried to wipe the smudge away and it’s still visible enough to be used to identify the door next to it at a glance weeks later.
That and it’s just a plain gross thing to do whether it’s visible or not. Just… fuck smoking in general, honestly.
I opened the door, and it was far too loud, creaking, then banging into the wall with a crash despite my last-second attempts to stop its momentum.
The room looked like a prison cell. It had concrete walls and floor, a cot and a metal sink and toilet. Coil and Dinah were both there. I couldn’t say whose presence left me more devastated.
And even if this is the scrapped timeline, alpha Coil will now know that Taylor tried to do this. Or, maybe that’s why he’s here in the first place, since the timelines’ divergence is defined exclusively in terms of consequences of Coil’s actions in each. Perhaps he decided to be somewhere else in the base in the other timeline, found out Taylor was breaking in in that one, and used that information to go to Dinah in this timeline?
I could say Coil’s presence was the worst thing, because it meant my info was bad. His power meant I was probably fucked on a lot of levels, that the odds were suddenly astronomically against me.
It seems to me they were already against you, but you did make it this far.
I was caught. My gut told me that I wouldn’t make it out of the compound in one piece, now. He was washing his hands in the sink, he turned to look at me, apparently unconcerned by my presence.
Yeeah, if Taylor does something he doesn’t approve of, chances are he can just scrap the timeline.
But no. As I stared at Dinah and registered what I was seeing, I realized the image would be burned into my mind’s eye forever. She lay on the cot on her side, her eyes open, staring at me, through me. A bloody froth was drying at one side of her mouth and at the edges of one nostril.
Well that’s unpleasant. What did he do? Poison her? If that’s the case, why? Or is this just what she’s like immediately after getting the “candy” (which isn’t that different from poisoning her)? Is she overdosing?
So far, this is questions: the chapter.
I didn’t consider myself a religious person, but I prayed for her to blink, to breathe, to give me some relief from that cold horror that was gripping me.
Is this all Coil fucking with Taylor in a throwaway reality?
I was too late.
My vision practically turned red as I charged Coil, drawing my knife as I ran. I felt him use his power, and suddenly there were two of him, two of me, two cells with two dead girls named Dinah Alcott.
Okay, that’s not right. Taylor has nothing that should let her sense that, and Coil has no reason to kill Dinah in the alpha reality.
I think this is a very vivid nightmare.
In one of those rooms, I stabbed Coil in the chest. There was no satisfaction in doing it, no relief. I’d lost, I’d failed in every way that counted. The fact that I’d put him down barely mattered.
And, in fact, it wouldn’t matter at all as long as the other Coil kept from getting stabbed.
In the other room, he stepped back out of reach of my first lunge, raised one hand and blew a handful of pale dust into my face. While I was blindly slashing in his direction, he grabbed the wrist of my knife hand and held it firm in his bony hand.
What’s that dust? Just powder he carries with him to blind attackers? Or something to do with the “candy”?
That room where I’d succeeded in stabbing him faded away. The only me that existed, now, was coughing violently. My knees buckled as I coughed hard enough to bring up my lungs, unable to get the powder out of my nose and mouth. I pulled at my hand, trying to free it from his grip. Futile.
Yeah, sorry, you’re fucked.
“Stop,” he ordered me, and my struggles stilled, though I was still finishing my coughing fit.
“Diluted scopolamine,” he spoke, his voice calm, sonorous. He let go of my wrist, and pushed at the knife in my hand. I let it drop. “Also known as Devil’s Breath. The vodou sorcerers, the Bokor, were said to use this along with the venoms of the puffer fish and other poisons. With these substances, they could create the ‘zombies’ they were so famous for.
Oh, huh. Zombie powder, to incapacitate her and make her vulnerable to suggestion.
These zombies of theirs were not raised from the dead, but were men and women who were forced to till fields and perform crude labor for the Bokor. The uneducated thought it magic, but it was simple chemistry.”
Yep! The idea of zombies as we know them today largely comes from Night of the Living Dead, despite that film calling its monsters “ghouls” and the creator not thinking of them as zombies.
I waited patiently for him to continue. The notion of fighting or responding didn’t even occur to me.
This part is much like the original zombies, though, I believe.
Let’s take a moment to analyze, on the assumption that this is a nightmare:
- Everything up to entering the room: Taylor feels like she’s fighting Coil and his lackeys to save Dinah.
- Coil kills Dinah: She feels like it’s fruitless, and whatever she does, Coil will hurt Dinah.
- Knife split: Fighting Coil directly is also fruitless.
- Zombie powder: Instead of saving Dinah, she just ends up becoming a mindless lackey of Coil against her will.
“It strips imbibers of volition and renders them eminently suggestible. As you can see, I attempted to use it on my pet, and the results were… tragic. The price of hubris, I suppose.”
In reality, this is absolutely something Coil would use his power for if he were to try it, but Taylor’s subconscious didn’t read Interlude 8b.
“Take off your mask,” he instructed me.
I did. My hair fell across my face as I let my mask fall to the ground. My cheeks were wet with tears. Was that from before, from when I’d first seen Dinah? Or was I able to cry about my present circumstance, even if I was helpless to do anything about it?
Who knows. I wouldn’t be too surprised about the latter, though.
He touched my cheek, brushed a tear away with his thumb. He stroked my hair, and the gesture felt strangely familiar. The way his hand settled on the back of my neck and gripped me there didn’t. It felt… possessive.
Only one thing missing now. The word “pet”.
“Pet,” he intoned, and fresh terror shook me to my core.
Ah, there it is.
“You couldn’t have succeeded. This was terribly unwise.”
Yeah, no shit.
“Okay,” I murmured.
No, no, no, NO.
And then of course there’s the inner Taylor, who is not “okay” with any of this.
That said, the fact that she has that inner self who is still clear-headed is just even more evidence that this isn’t real. It makes it a lot more like Regent’s body control than like a mind-altering substance. Actually, maybe this doubles as a way for the nightmare to explore Taylor’s feelings about his power?
I didn’t deserve this.
My eyes fell on Dinah. She still stared at me, eyes wide and unblinking, and I couldn’t help but see the look as accusing.
*safari tour guide voice* And if you look to the right, you’ll see a wild Skitter feeling that if something worse than what’s already going on happens to that Dinah up ahead, it’s the Skitter’s fault for not saving her in time.
I did deserve this. It was thanks to me that she’d been kidnapped. Thanks to me that she’d been made into Coil’s slave. Karma, perhaps, that I’d take her place.
No. Taylor, please. You’re not as culpable in this as you think. It’s on Coil. Hell, you were even actively trying to work against Coil when it happened, even if you were (as far as you knew then) temporarily doing his bidding as part of that. Out of all the Undersiders, I think that makes you the least culpable here.
Well, second least culpable now, though I can’t remember why.
The strength went out of me. My head hung, and I stared at my feet.
Tears streamed down my face. I didn’t wipe them away. I wasn’t sure I could.
“Look at me, pet,” Coil instructed, and I did. I was glad to, like a compliant, eager to please child. A part of me wanted more orders. In that drug induced haze, I wanted to lose myself in obeying, wanted to serve.
Alright, now the drugs are starting to kick in for inner Taylor too.
That way, at the very least, I wasn’t to blame for my own actions or the tragic consequences that followed from them.
And here we have the side of Taylor that wants to give in fully to being a villain and Coil employee. The side that wants to say “fuck consequences, fuck culpability, this shit isn’t my problem, I just want to have fun as a villain”.
Coil removed his mask, and I stared.
Yeah, this is just straying further from reality as we go along, as dream sequences tend to do.
So what will we see behind his dream mask? Static? Void? A normal face?
I recognized him. He was someone I knew all too well.
Oh boy, who is she projecting Coil onto, or vice versa? Danny? Mr. Gladly?
They were both tall, thin. How hadn’t I seen it? Coil’s costume could must have been designed to highlight his skeletal structure, make him look thinner and more bony. All it had taken, beyond that, would be an affected change to his voice and different mannerisms. I’d been unable to see it.
Mr. Gladly does have wildly different mannerisms to Coil, and I could see him speaking with an affected voice even if he’s not a supervillain trying to hide his identity.
So dumb, so stupid.
I could understand it, too. He’d been struggling to fix things, watching people failing to find work, knowing it was the city government that was to blame.
Ah, no, we’re going for Danny. Alright! That’s good too, a really good dream punch in the dream gut.
Man, I feel sorry for anyone who made it this far in without catching on.
Also, damn I’m gonna look dumb right now if this isn’t a dream sequence. That’s okay, though, I’m used to looking dumb. 😉
I could remember him telling me how he’d make the city work again, how he had all the answers. I knew how hungry he was to do it.
Huh. Good work, Taylor’s subconscious. Even her dreams think things through thoroughly and make it kinda work, even though the nature of dreams is such that someone would usually just accept whatever.
He’d gotten powers. He’d started to put plans into motion so he could do just that.
It actually makes sense, to some extent. Wow.
“Welcome home, pet,” he spoke, and he didn’t speak in Coil’s voice. The voice I heard was my father’s.
Yeeah, this isn’t exactly how I was expecting to see Danny again for the first time since 6.9. 😛
I woke up, and for a long moment I stared up at the ceiling of my room and reassured myself that it was all a fabrication of my own scumbag mind.
A mind that is remarkably creative and vivid in its fabrications, holy hell.
It had been a nightmare or a terror dream; I wasn’t positive on the differences between the two.
If there are differences, I’ve never heard of the latter, I think.
It was my brain drawing together all my guilt about what we’d done to Shadow Stalker, the role I’d played in Dinah being kidnapped and leaving my dad; knitting it all into some convincing, disturbing scenario.
Ah, yeah, I guess I was on the money about the zombie powder having to do with Regent’s power.
Not the worst I’d had, but there was at least some repetition and familiarity with the usual ones.
It had felt way too real, and it had sucked. My shirt stuck to me with the damp of my sweat, the room was warm, but I still shivered.
It was really damn convincing to me too. How long did it take before I figured it out?
*counts* About 11-13 paragraphs, depending how you count and where you stop.
It was written largely like Taylor’s narration of real events, except with these smaller and bigger inconsistencies with what we know, peaking with Coil killing Dinah, Taylor sensing Coil’s power, and Coil being Danny. Even at those points, it was still being written the way it would be if it had been real.
If I’d been a bit dumber, I could’ve ended up genuinely thinking that Wildbow had just killed off Dinah, put Taylor in Coil’s service as a zombie and revealed that Danny was Coil.
I honestly think this is a fantastic way to write a dream. It’s not how you remember a dream afterwards, but while you’re in it, it does feel quite convincing, and this is first person narration.
My alarm clock sat on the ground by my inflatable mattress. I picked it up and turned it around so the I could see the green numbers of the digital display. Five forty in the morning.
Almost time for a morning run, perhaps?
Maybe she’ll run into the watchful gaze of the dragon.
Time to wake up, I supposed. There was no way I was going to be able to fall asleep again in the next few hours. It wasn’t just the idea of having another nightmare. The dream had left me with a feeling of an impending deadline.
Ah, yeah. I did mention saving Dinah in time.
How long could Dinah be expected to hold on? I doubted Coil was taking bad care of her, so she wouldn’t die of malnutrition or overdose on whatever drugs Coil was giving her. Still, there was a limit to what the human mind could handle.
How long until Coil pushed her abilities too far? If she was getting headaches from the use of her power, there was a chance she could suffer more severe issues if pushed to use it more often.
Ah, yeah. Good thing Coil can do half his questions in one reality and half in the other, I guess.
Pain generallysignified something was wrong.
She does have a point. That’s literally the entire reason we have pain, and just about all other parahumans we’ve seen have no apparent trouble using their power, even if some uses can lead to sensory overload or backfires.
I guess maybe the headaches could be the beginning of a backfire, with a power that’s got little wiggle room before getting to that point?
I was also worried I wouldn’t earn Coil’s trust and respect. Until this was resolved, I wouldn’t be able to rest, take it easy, or have a day to myself. Not in good conscience.
Any minute spent taking it easy is a minute spent not working to save Dinah?
Depending on what happened, it might be a long, long time before I could relax again.
This really isn’t healthy, Taylor.
What worried me more than anything was the idea that I might save Dinah, only to find that Coil had broken her spirit or her will to the point that she couldn’t go back to her old life.
I worried that, like in my nightmare, I would be too late.
Too late to save her from major irreversible consequences, including but not limited to death.
With this in mind, I sat up and tossed the sheet aside. I reached for my glasses, by the alarm clock, then stopped.
Instead of putting on my glasses, I stood and made my way to the bathroom adjacent to my room.
Gonna put on your mask instead?
Alongside fresh supplies of toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, tweezers, shampoo, conditioner and all that, I had a small box with packages of disposable contact lenses, daily use.
Oh! Huh. Ditching the glasses, are we?
Why? Just because you feel like it, or is there some deeper reason, like associating the glasses with your old life?
Or maybe it’s to throw off facial recognition software? Taylor by default doesn’t know Dragon knows her face and is looking for it via that kind of tool, but she might’ve guessed something like that based on Dragon’s parting words, or maybe Lisa found that out with those same parting words as basis. (If there’s any chance Taylor can guess something based on something, there’s a bigger chance Lisa’s power, supercharged Sherlock, can tell her about it.)
I hated contacts so, so much. I’d tried them in middle school, at Emma’s recommendation, and they had never felt comfortable.
Well, that rules out personal preference.
That, and I had never figured out how to put them in properly. It seemed like ninety-nine out of a hundred times, they flipped inside out to cling to my fingertip instead of sticking to my eye.
I’ve never tried lenses, and I don’t want to. Besides feeling like glasses are part of my identity, this is one of the reasons. I don’t trust myself to put them on properly and I really don’t want something on my eye, especially if it’s not properly placed. And then there’s the stories of lenses getting stuck under eyelids and such…
Just, no thanks.
True to form, it took me four minutes to get the contacts in, and I found myself blinking every two seconds after I did have them in.
Sounds about right.
[So… Taylor Hebert, who thinks most things through carefully, has the sense to stop wearing her glasses when she knows Shatterbird is around… but still keeps said glasses next to where she sleeps at night. And next to a similarly dangerous alarm clock. Is she underestimating the threat here?]
At least I could see.
I walked through my new base of operations wearing an oversized t-shirt and a pair of underwear. Not exactly fitting attire for a supervillain.
Oh jeez, this makes it so Taylor’s gonna need a lot more time to change in and out of her costume, doesn’t it. Her mask lenses are prescription – where before she could just take off her regular glasses, she now needs to start wrangling contact lenses in order for the mask lenses to not be all wrong.
Anyway, more to the point – looks like we’ll be spending some of this chapter exploring the Skittercave.
No… the Hive.
My new abode was three stories tall, which made it taller than Grue or Bitch’s places, which were the only ones I’d seen thus far, but it was narrow.
It’s not shaped like an S, right?
A cafe had stood here, before, but it had been flattened by one of the first waves to hit the city.
Now the only thing on the menu is pancakes.
Coil owned at least one of the companies that was managing the restoration and reconstruction efforts, and over the past two and a half weeks, as his crews had started clearing and rebuilding on the Boardwalk, he’d had them set up some buildings, all squashed together. When the Boardwalk was fixed up, these same buildings would be at the westmost edge of the same block that had the stores, restaurants and coffee shops.
If the Boardwalk ever got going again, they would be prime real estate.
And one of those buildings is your base, did I understand that correctly?
Ostensibly to protect these new buildings until people started buying up the properties, each had been set up with heavy metal shutters to seal the windows and wall off the front. It made the building dark, with only faint streams of light filtering in through the slats at the top of each shutter.
Well, good for illicit activities, I suppose. Or for sticking tons of bug swarms in.
The topmost floor was mine and mine alone. Taylor’s. It was living space, with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.
I take it the lower floors are for your eventual employees, then?
The bedroom was spacious enough to serve as a living room as well as a sleeping area. The first things I’d done after Coil’s men had unloaded the furniture and supplies was to hook up an internet connection and computer and get my television mounted on a wall and connected to a satellite.
*accidentally types “#arc 110″*
(#muscle memory is a strong thing)
The second floor, as I liked to think of it, was Skitter’s. It was for my costumed self.
Ahh, I see. You’ve got the first floor for employees, second floor for the boss’s offices and such, and third floor where the boss can be her civilian self without risking (too much) that the employees come upstairs and catch her unawares.
It still needed more than a few things to complete it. I flipped a switch in the stairwell, and tinted flourescent lights lit up on the undersides of the shelves that ran along two adjacent walls, floor to ceiling.
Each shelf was lined with terrariums and backed by strategically positioned mirrors so that the light filtered through the front of the terrariums and into the room. Only a few were occupied, but they each had the same general contents – a layer of dirt and pieces of irregularly shaped wood.
I like this. Seems fitting to surround the bug girl with decorative bugs like this. 🙂
Maybe Coil should try something similar himself, keeping a large snake in his inner sanctum. It’s cliché for a reason.
I hit the second switch, and chambers in the lid of each occupied case opened to release their inhabitants. As they crawled through the case, the spiders were lit up by the lighting so that their shadows and the strange shapes of the wood were cast against the panes of hard plastic, distorted and larger than life. I’d seen a picture on the web of the same thing, done on a far smaller scale.
This is pretty cool!
I had hopes that the effect would be suitably impressive and intimidating once all of the terrariums were full.
It sounds sweet.
It would be doubly impressive once Coil’s special effects technician stopped by and outfitted a case with a series of switches that a large bug could move – a beetle or something. If I could direct the beetle to release the bugs, turn the lights on or off or even open the lids of the terrariums, all while appearing to sit motionless in my chair, it would be that much more effective for any audience I happened to have in the room.
Terrariums aside, the room was sparse. Six empty pedestals sat just beneath the shuttered window, each standing just a little beneath knee height.
Six, huh. Any relation to there being precisely six Undersiders?
After touring the place yesterday morning and spending some time browsing the web to see what was available, I’d gotten in contact with Coil and named every possible thing I could think of that I could use for the space. The current contents of the rooms on this floor and upstairs had been delivered last night. The stuff I was waiting on was harder to come by, and it would be unreasonable to expect it to be available and in place within this short span of time.
Yeah, that’s fair. Especially with the state of the city right now.
I did have a chair, here, way too large for me. It was positioned in one corner, so that it was framed by the two walls of terrariums.
On one hand, a large chair can be imposing, look like a throne… On another hand, it might make you look smaller as you sit in it.
It was black leather, and broad enough that I could comfortably sit cross-legged on it. I’d loved the idea since I’d seen one like it in Brian’s apartment. It was the one concession I was making in regards to atmosphere and appearances. A series of smaller seats were positioned so they faced the larger chair and the terrariums.
A large abstract painting hung above the stairs on the right side of the room. I’d seen a similar one online and had liked it, so I had found the artist’s gallery and stumbled onto this.
Ooh. I wonder if Wildbow had a specific one in mind?
It was the first thing I had asked Coil for, and he’d delivered a large framed print far faster than I might have expected. I liked how it tied into the room and echoed the shapes cast against the front panes of the terrariums.
The black lines were painted on the background of reds and yellows in a way that seemed spidery.
Sounds very fitting indeed!
I stared at the painting for a minute, seriously worried that I would see the abstract image from a different angle and realize I’d had Coil get me a eight-foot by five-foot painting of a hairy wang or a headless chicken or something.
Making my way down the stairs, I found the ground floor surprisingly cool. The weather was warming up, and with the shutters closed, I’d found my room warm, sticky in the humid air.
It really is becoming summer in Brockton Bay.
I’d foregone pajama bottoms, had slept with just a single sheet, and had slept with my feet uncovered. Goosebumps prickled my bare legs as I stepped on the cool hardwood floor.
The ground floor here wasn’t much different from the one at Grue’s place. There was an area with bunk beds, albeit fewer than Grue’d had, a bathroom, a small kitchen and an open area that didn’t yet serve a purpose, stacked with boxes.
Right, sounds nice enough.
All this was mine. My lair. It felt so empty.
That’s why you need to ask your five friends to come decorate for you while you go out to the spa, only for them to royally mess up by each decorating according to what they like, realize their mistake and come up with something actually good at the last minute while a sixth friend (Angelica, perhaps) deceptively keeps you from coming back to the lair too early.
No, of course I didn’t watch a reaction video to an MLP:FiM episode with that exact plot earlier today, why do you ask?
I think I’m going to start aiming for more consistency in when I break up my liveblogs, and for shorter sessions. I can’t keep doing eight-hour sessions.
As such, this is where we’re stopping for tonight. See you tomorrow!
[End of session 1]
And then after ending the session I ended up watching the same reactor’s video for the MLP:FiM episode after the one I mentioned, an episode that is like 80% nightmare sequence.
(#not done as well as in this chapter of worm though)
Alright, let’s get back to Interior Decor with Skitter Hebert!
#a little bit less 1-mashing this time but now i gotta remember to switch to 2 on the last one
#so i don’t know if that’s a good thing ;))
Let’s hope no one (who’s not an Undersider or, well, Dragon) comes into the building while Taylor’s walking around the ground floor in her civvies.
I knew that would change as it filled with furniture and necessities. The place was already something of a luxury. More than half of Brockton Bay was currently lacking plumbing or electricity, with more than a few unfortunate individuals having neither.
Yeah, this place is pretty nice compared to just about every building we’ve seen since Extermination, with the exception of the Wards HQ.
In the process of setting up these buildings, Coil had ensured I was provided with both. Trucks would be coming and going through this area as clearing and construction continued, and Coil had informed me that these trucks would be discreetly resupplying me with water, ensuring my water heater had propane, emptying the aboveground septic tank and refueling the generator.
As the city was rebuilt and standard utilities were put back in order, these special measures would be set aside, I’d get hooked up to those, and my lair would be lost in the surge of urban growth. Ideal world.
Sounds like a good plan.
It was nice to be able to enjoy those luxuries, but the Dinah situation took all of the joy out of it. I had hot showers and the ability to wash my dishes because Coil had provided them.
Ugh, right. Not exactly the guy you want to feel grateful to right now.
I grabbed a cell phone from the kitchen counter and dialed Coil. I didn’t give a fuck about the fact that it was 5:45 in the morning.
I suppose we’ll find out whether this is important enough for Coil to keep his sleepless night. I’m guessing not.
It bothered me, calling him, relying on him. It made me feel complicit. Inconveniencing him, even a little, felt good.
Maybe you should team up with Imp and play some pranks on him.
“Yes?” His question was curt.
“What is it, Skitter?”
“I need a loan of some guys.”
What do you have in mind? Furniture-moving muscle? Company?
I looked around the living room, “Eight? A truck would be a good idea, if you can get one here.”
“I can. These men you require, are you needing gunmen or-”
“Just regular guys, anyone up for some exercise.”
Sounds like the former.
Or maybe she just wants an entourage on her morning run? ;P
“I assume there’s no rush?” He was being more curt than usual. Maybe I’d woken him up. I didn’t really care.
Sounds like it, yeah.
I wonder, since Taylor making this call isn’t dependent on Coil’s actions (unless he did something involving Taylor in the other reality), is he currently having this conversation with two Skitters at once?
He could deal, if I was working on something that helped him.
“Then I’ll have them there in an hour.”
“An hour, then.”
He hung up.
It was a lot of time to kill. Free time sucked when you didn’t want to be alone with your thoughts.
An hour is too long for lunch. (It’s a bit early, too.)
I wanted to run, but it was awkward. The fenced off areas, construction zones and flooded streets of the Boardwalk didn’t really make a sprint around the neighborhood that doable. Besides, it was dangerous enough I might stand out.
Ah, yeah, that’s fair.
Hm. An hour may be too long for lunch, but maybe you should at least take some of this time to eat breakfast.
In the end, I went against my better judgement and decided to go for a run.
Oh, alright. Guess we’re doing this now!
I dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top, donned my running shoes and ensured I had both my pepper spray and my knife.
Still sticking with the safety precautions, as taught to by Danny. Though I’m not sure he’d approve of the knife.
But yeah, that’s especially important when there’s a legitimate risk that someone might figure out that you’re Skitter, or at least, that you’re a reasonably high-ranking Coil officer (that much could be deduced by surveilling the building for a while).
I unstrapped the knife’s sheath from the back of my costume, then threaded a belt through it so I could strap it around my waist. I put the sheath itself under my waistband and the handle of the knife under my top.
Nice. Concealed, but not that hard to pull out if needed.
I stood in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom to check how visible the weapon was.
It wasn’t exactly hidden, but it wasn’t conspicuous either.
Ah, fair enough.
I adjusted it slightly, then called a small collection of bugs to me. It was a little creepy, having them crawl on my skin, beneath my clothes into my hair, but that stopped when they reached their destinations – above my socks, in my hair and between my bra and my top.
A somewhat unusual way of making one’s boobs look bigger and a bit more… animated-at-will.
I was cool with it so long as they weren’t directly on my skin.
Yeah, sounds more comfortable this way.
Did I look different? My skin had a light tan, now. I’d spent more time outdoors in the past few weeks.
Taylor’s descent to the dark side, also known as “the ancient demonic realm of outdoors”, is beginning to show physically.
In the week and a half I’d spent in the shelter, I hadn’t exactly had books or TV, so I’d walked during the day, making my way across the city to check on the loft and to see the state of my dad’s house. I’d walked at night, too, when I’d been unable to sleep, but people hardly tanned doing that.
I wouldn’t know. What’s “the day”?
Also, good to hear Taylor’s taken the time to check on her old home. How is it doing? And more importantly, how is Danny doing (when he’s not busy being Coil in Taylor’s nightmares)?
I couldn’t pin down exactly how or why, but the definition in my face and body had changed. It was possible I’d had a growth spurt.
Perhaps. On top of that, you’ve gotten a lot of exercise.
Some of it was perhaps the tan giving more accent to the features of my body or face. Maybe it was that I’d been eating a pretty lean diet when I was staying at the shelter, coupled with the fact that I’d been so active over the past two months. I hadn’t spent six hours every day sitting around in school, I’d been in fights, I’d been running, and I’d ridden the dogs.
I had some muscle definition in my arms, now, and I thought maybe I was standing straighter.
That one might be more mental than anything. This whole adventure has really boosted Taylor’s self-confidence.
Or maybe it was all those minor things helped by the simple fact that I was dressing differently, that my hair hadn’t been cut in a while, and that I wasn’t wearing my glasses.
Our little Taylor is growing up, guys.
To say I barely recognized myself was.. how could I put it? It was true, but I could also remember myself months ago, when I’d look at my reflection and I would be so focused on the flaws and the things I didn’t like about myself that I never felt familiar with the person I was seeing in the mirror.
I felt especially justified in pulling out that Undertale screenshot in the previous post because, like Undertale had a previous mirror near the beginning of the game that said “It’s you!”, Worm also had a mirror scene in the beginning, all the way back in 1.1. I think there’s a sort of connection between then and now, just like with the mirrors in Undertale.
However, maybe the other possible text for the later mirror is more appropriate here: “It’s me.” In which “me” is not the same as “you”. Without going too much into spoilers, this signifies that the protagonist doesn’t recognize themself in the mirror anymore, because their actions over the course of the game have changed them so thoroughly that the flavor text claims that it’s the narrator in the mirror.
In this way, mirrors can be damn effective literary tools for allowing a character to get introspective about the ways they’ve changed over the course of the story.
All that said… it actually sounds like Taylor approves more of what she’s seeing now than what she saw before.
It was as though it was always a stranger I was looking at, and I would be left vaguely surprised at the combination of features across from me.
Or at least not much less. She’s just…
She didn’t get the “It’s you.” on the first mirror.
This was not recognizing myself in a very different way. There were still things I didn’t like, like my wide mouth, my small chest and the lack of curves or any real femininity.
At least bugs can help with a couple of those, at least to outside observers.
My scars stood out with my slight tan, a teardrop shaped mark on my forearm where Bitch’s dog had bitten me, a wavy mark on my cheek where Sophia had dug her fingernails in,and a line by my earlobe where she’d tried to tear my ear off.
Ow, yeah. Man, imagine returning to Danny and trying to explain away all those things.
“Leviathan got into the shelter I was in and tried to tear my ear off. It didn’t work, so he left me alone.”
But my physical flaws no longer consumed my attention when I looked at myself. I felt comfortable with my body, like I’d somehow earned it, the way it was, and it was mine now.
At least as long as Regent keeps his hands off.
I wasn’t sure if that made any sense, even to myself.
That’s fine, as long as you’re happy with it.
If there was anything about myself that I didn’t like, it was primarily psychological. Guilt was a big one. The idea that my dad might dislike me if he got to know me, now? That was another. That my mom, were she alive and showing up at the door, might be disappointed in me? Sobering.
Oof, ow, ouch…
Who let Wildbow coat his words in bone hurting juice?
As he’d done with his own underground base, Coil had set my lair up with a discreet entrance and exit.
Makes sense. Never know when enemies might be blocking off the front door.
Leaving through the front door would be conspicuous, if I started working with anyone beyond my teammates.
That too. As I mentioned, surveilling the building for a while would quickly reveal that Taylor worked for Coil if she’d kept using the same door as the more obvious of Coil’s folk.
Skinny teenage girl with black curly hair entering and leaving the same building that the skinny teenage villain with black curly hair was operating out of? No.
I made my way to the building’s cellar, opened a hatch and entered the adjacent storm drain. The same builders that had put the building together had blocked off the drain so the water flow wouldn’t make it impassable, and I was left with a clear route down to the section of beach where the storm drains emptied.
Also, seems reminiscent of the old shortcut to the Loft.
I wasn’t sure if Coil had plans to keep the city’s workers from trying to unblock the drain, but I supposed that was the sort of thing we could rely on him to handle. In the meantime, a third of the storm drains were too clogged with rubble and detritus to drain, and another third didn’t connect to anything anymore.
Considering Leviathan’s antics, it’s no surprise the storm drains in particular are out of order.
Add the fact that most of the storm drains were a little out of the way of regular foot traffic, and it wasn’t too conspicuous.
Yeah, sounds good.
I started running the moment I reached the beach, glad for the chance to resume my routine.
So here’s the question for the grand prize: Will this be when Dragon finds her target? And if she does, will she try to get in touch immediately?
It was a strange environment, eerie. The wooden pathway, the literal boardwalk that had run in front of the stores, was now a skeletal ruin that loomed above the piles of trash that the bulldozers had all pushed to one side, twice as tall as I was.
The beach had been cleared, which was a feat unto itself. The work of the bulldozers and the crews with rakes had revealed the packed, dirt-like layer from beneath the loose sand.
I guess they needed to clear that away a bit to start rebuilding.
Opposite the trash piles, by the water, there were mounds of irregularly shaped pieces of concrete, set to break up the waves and prevent the highest tides from dragging the trash, debris and machinery into the ocean.
That would be an unpleasant déjà vu.
Opposite the trash piles, by the water, there were mounds of irregularly shaped pieces of concrete, set to break up the waves and prevent the highest tides from dragging the trash, debris and machinery into the ocean.
This place could definitely not recognize itself in the mirror these days.
A scene up ahead caught my attention. Two pieces of machinery lay in a heap just below the lip of the boardwalk above. A bulldozer and an eighteen wheeler with a crane-mounted claw attached had both been driven or pushed over the edge of the boardwalk and onto the beach.
Huh. What happened here? Villains afoot? Slaughterhouse, perhaps?
Or maybe this just happened and Dragon did it by accident with a high-speed mech after recognizing Taylor on the surviving surveillance cams (also known as survivance cams)?
The cab of the truck with the claw had been partially crushed by the bulldozer.
Sounds like a scene out of a demolition derby, or the Blues Brothers. Same thing, really.
Though it was barely past six in the morning, a group of laborers were already there, some on the ledge above, others down on the beach, all gathered around the trucks.
Spray paint had been used to draw the same crude symbol on both the side of the eighteen wheeler and the concrete wall separating the beach from the Boardwalk above. A capital ‘M’, with two taller lines drawn vertically through it much the same as you’d do with a dollar sign. The Merchants.
Ahh. Those villains afoot.
What do they want here? Just generally mess with the restoration efforts, or is there some sort of blackmail going on?
It fit their modus operandi. They had been bums, drunks and addicts, looked down on others, before Leviathan came. In the wake of what Leviathan had done to the city, leaving everything in shambles, with social services gone or in chaos and even basic utilities in short supply, everyone else had been brought down to their level.
…which would be why they had a membership boost. I see.
The Merchants were even, I suspected, thriving.
Yeah, judging by what Piggot told us, that would be accurate.
With strength in numbers and virtually nothing holding them back, they had become like pack animals. They roamed the city in bands of three to twenty, robbing, raping, pillaging and stealing.
They were settling in some of the better areas, the neighborhoods that still had power or water, and forcing the existing residents out.
I mean I get that many of them got the short straw, but that doesn’t justify stealing the long straws.
Or, worse, I could imagine that some were moving in and keeping the residents around for their own amusement. It was not a pleasant thought. The kind of people who had gravitated towards the Merchants tended to have a lot of resentment.
Specifically, they had resentment towards people who had what they didn’t. If they happened upon a family with Kate the soccer mom, Tommy, the kid with more video games than teeth, and Joe the blue-collar worker with a steady job? If they weren’t letting them go? I was guessing that hypothetical family would be in for a hell of a rough time.
Yeeeeah that doesn’t sound pleasant.
It might have sounded silly, that line of speculation, but I’d spent time in the shelters. I’d heard about how vicious and depraved the Merchants were getting.
They were depraved to begin with, too. There is nothing good about this.
Anyways, this? This whole situation? They liked it.
They wanted to keep things this way, and that meant they were going to stop anyone else from fixing it.
Ahh, I see. That explains the airport, too.
They would intercept supplies, attack rescue workers and they would push construction vehicles into a heap on the beach.
I’d have to deal with these guys. It wasn’t just intercepting any groups that made their way into my territory. That was easy, all things considered. No, I also had to deal with the small army that would come marching through here wanting retaliation over my having kicked the asses of any groups that had made their way into my territory.
Oh yeah, that’s right, this is part of Taylor’s job description now.
Also, it looks like we’ve found our Infestation.
I could call on the others, if such a situation arose, and I expected them to call on me if the same thing happened. But people would take time to get here, and the Merchants, the Chosen or whoever else was making trouble could keep making trouble until the reinforcements arrived.
True. I guess that’s why you’ll need employees.
It was tricky, and I didn’t know for sure how I’d handle things if-
Danny? Please tell me this is Danny. We’ve had a fair bit of buildup surrounding him in this chapter, and it sounds like him and… I just really want it to be him.
The second option to come into my mind is Dragon, of course, but I think she’d still refer to Taylor as “Skitter”, or at least “miss Hebert”.
Of course, it could still be one of the other Undersiders (Grue’s the one most likely to talk to her like this), but I really doubt it.
My reaction wasn’t much different than if someone had stabbed me in the stomach with an icicle.
You know how I like to be certain about things… but I’m willing to take this as confirmation.
I’d thought of that mental image in particular because of the cold, horrible feeling in my midsection; fear, guilt.
Guilt is a really strong theme of this chapter.
My thoughts immediately went back to my nightmare from earlier. I turned to look.
“It’s you,” my dad spoke, “Wow.”
Hi, Danny. It’s been a while.
Good to see you, man. 🙂
I have been waiting so long for this reunion. Seriously, I’ve missed Danny.
Let’s find out how he’s holding up.
He stood on the ledge above me. He was more tanned than I was. He wore a short-sleeved button-up shirt and khakis and held a clipboard.
Oh, huh. I suppose he would end up working as a manager for a part of the rebuilding. I probably should’ve seen that coming, but I never thought about what his job situation would be after Extermination.
It set him apart from the other laborers, and the man who stood just behind him, wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans. I knew in an instant, my dad was in charge around here.
Yep! The clipboard alone made that clear.
Looking at him, I couldn’t imagine how I might have thought he was Coil. Even in a dream.
Hehe. Yeah, he’s not quite that bony, is he.
“Just out for my regular run.”
Oh, sure, Taylor, it’s the first time you’ve seen your dad in… over a month, I think, and the last time you saw him was during an argument. Sure, just act as if nothing’s changed.
Surprise etched his face, “You’re running during this…?!”
He made a visible effort to close his mouth.
Pfft. Yeah, things kinda went to shit around here.
It made me feel uneasy. What thought process or concern was keeping my dad from opening his mouth about my running? He’d been worried about it when the streets were relatively safe. Was he that spooked at the idea of scaring me off again?
I really can’t blame him for being worried about scaring Taylor off at this point. Seriously.
He looked at the man who was standing near him, murmured something. The man walked over to join the others in observing the damage around the damaged vehicles.
Time for some privacy, I see.
We were left more or less alone.
“You got my messages?” I asked.
Oh, she’s sent messages… Did we hear about that in 8.8?
Either way, it’s a good thing. Assuming the messages were after Leviathan, I’m glad Taylor spared Danny from having to wonder whether the Endbringer had gotten her.
“I’ve listened to that answering machine so many times-” he stopped. He was a good distance away, but I could see the lines in his forehead, “I miss you.”
There’s a decent chance this chapter might make me cry. My eyes are already getting wet with this paragraph.
“I miss you too.”
I’m so glad Taylor is being honest about this. Danny doesn’t deserve any less. She might have some trouble explaining why she’s not coming home, though.
Speaking of which, I wonder how much Danny has pieced together. What he thinks might be the reason she left in the first place, what she was hiding in 6.9 that she was so unwilling to tell him that she straight up fled and didn’t come back.
I wonder how much he knows about the villain named Skitter, whether he’s seen footage of the Undersiders and thought that one of them looked awfully familiar, whether he’s kept questioning whether there was actually something there or he was just imagining things because he missed Taylor…
“I… I don’t know how to ask. I’m afraid to ask you to come home, because I’m not sure I can stand to hear you tell me you won’t.”
“Actually, dad, I’ve got this fancy new villain lair now with electricity and plumbing and cool terrariums, how about you come home to me instead?”
“I’ll take that… wait, villain lair?”
He paused, for a long moment. Waiting for me to jump at the opportunity. I stayed silent and hated myself for it.
I guess that’s one of the only ways to really say it without saying it. Taylor doesn’t want to say something Danny “can’t stand to hear” (which is somewhat guilt-trippy, but I think he was just going for honesty, not guilt-tripping her on purpose), but she doesn’t see actually going home with him as a viable option, due to the whole Coil situation, not to mentioned the continued masquerade.
“Well,” he said, so quiet I could barely hear him, “You can always come home. Any time, any reason.”
“Okay,” I told him.
What do you put in that word right now, Taylor? Do you intend to visit? Are you just saying it to make him think you might?
“What are you doing with yourself these days?”
Welp. Here goes the honesty.
Unless Taylor decides that he does deserve to know at this point.
I honestly think he does. He’s not gonna like it, but he deserves to know. This poor man has been wrecked by uncertainty since long before the story began. It’s about time to put some of that uncertainty to rest.
I struggled to find an answer, and was saved by the bell. One of the men by the wreck shouted, “Danny!” and my dad turned.
Lucky break, Taylor. Lucky break.
My dad ran his fingers through his hair, “I need to go handle this. Can I… How do I contact you?”
Yes, please start keeping in touch. Please.
“I’ll leave you a message on your answering machine,” I said, “With my cell phone number, and my email in case I’m in an area where cell service is down.”
“Email?” he asked. “Where are you that you have access to a computer?”
A fancy new villain lair with electricity and plumbing and cool terrariums.
A few blocks from here.
“Just outside the city limits,” I lied, “Not far from the Market.”
Not the worst of lies.
“So you’re out of the way of any trouble,” My dad noted, with a touch of relief.
Maybe even one of the better lies. This man needs fewer reasons to be worried, even if his reasons not to be worried are untrue.
There was a noise as someone began prying one of the truck doors open, and my dad turned his head, frowning. “But what are you doing here this morning?”
Ah, right, I suppose it’s a bit of a long way to run.
“I was going to stop by the house, see if it was in okay shape,” I lied again. Was this the extent of my interactions with my dad? Always lies? “Keeping up with my running.”
I was right, the moment Danny asked about Taylor’s life, the honesty went out the window.
“I see. Look, I have to go, but I do want to talk again, soon. Lunch, maybe?”
It’d probably end up being another awkward lie-fest for Taylor, though.
“Maybe,” I offered. He offered me a sad smile, then turned to go.
I am so glad to see them reconnect a bit like this, even if Taylor can’t quite allow a full reconnection due to her secret.
I moved my hand to adjust my glasses, and wound up waving at my face. I was wearing my lenses.
Having tried lenses or not, this is relatable.
I wonder what Danny thought about the difference in Taylor’s appearance, not least of all the lenses instead of glasses.
Especially considering he would probably be the first to know about how much lenses didn’t work out for Taylor in the past.
Wait a minute, I don’t think we found out why Taylor was using the lenses earlier in the chapter.
“Dad!” I called out. He stopped. “Um. I’d heard the Slaughterhouse Nine were around. Be careful, warn others.” I pointed at my face.
…oh. Does one of their powers have to do with glass?
[Seriously, dude, one of them literally has “Shatter” in her name. It’s not hard to figure out. This isn’t even putting 2+2 together, it’s 1+1.]
His eyes widened. I could see the thought process, the realization. He took off his glasses and hung them from his shirt’s front pocket. I wasn’t positive that was much better.
Evidently it’s dangerous to have them near, at least.
“Thank you,” he said, squinting slightly at me. He raised a hand in an awkward half-wave, and I returned it with one of my own. As if by mutual agreement, we turned to leave at the same time, both of us going in separate directions.
He hurried to where he was needed, and I turned to run back to my place. My lair. I hadn’t run nearly as far as I’d wanted, but I wasn’t up to continuing.
It was very good to see you.
I checked the kitchen clock as I entered from the cellar. I had thirty minutes. I took the time to shower and don my costume – my sleeve was still crusty and stained yellow-white where it had come in contact with the foam, but at least it wasn’t sticky anymore.
Still not eating breakfast, huh?
I guess maybe that can wait until after the Coil guys’ visit.
My mask wasn’t wearable with the contacts. I’d taken lenses out of an old pair of glasses and set them into the construction of my mask.
I debated it for a few moments, then I decided to use the remaining time to fix it. With my knife’s point, I set about undoing that particular piece of work, prying the lenses out.
I guess that’s necessary, as long as the Fellowship is around. I suppose the mask lenses weren’t any safer than the regular glasses anyway.
This does leave Taylor’s eyes visible, if I’m not mistaken, but at least we don’t get someone manipulating glass into blinding her permanently (assuming no Panacenanigans).
I finished with enough time left over to grab and eat a breakfast bar. Coil’s people were punctual, rapping on the metal shutter at six forty-five.
Oh good, she got around to eating something.
Alright. This was it. I pulled on my mask.
Time to claim my territory.
So then we’re not doing more decorating with these guys… Are we going out to put out signs or something, like the ones I joked about Bitch putting out to claim her territory and enforce good treatment of dogs?
If it was about fighting the Merchants, Skitter would’ve asked for gunmen, I think, not “anyone up for some exercise”. I don’t think that necessarily means she won’t run into them, though.
End of Infestation 11.1
That was quite the chapter! We got a super vivid and creative nightmare sequence, a tour of Skitter’s base (which I have chosen to call the Hive – not to be confused with Arc 5 – unless Skitter comes up with a better name), and last but certainly not least, we finally got to see Danny again!
The theming of guilt throughout this chapter was really thorough, as was the buildup to Taylor running into the subject of some of it. The nightmare was prompted by guilt in several ways – over Danny, over Dinah, over Shadow Stalker… Taylor doesn’t like being alone in the Hive because it leaves her thinking about that guilt… and, as mentioned, she managed to run right into one of those three, the one we haven’t seen since 6.9.
And damn am I glad to see him again. If it’s not clear enough yet, I really like Danny as a character – I’d go so far as to say that he’s my favorite mundane. And even on a list that included the parahumans too, I don’t think he’d fall that much lower than Tattletale. He’s not really the kind of character I usually find myself enjoying, but he’s so damn sympathetic.
Interlude 1 did a really good job of showing us why we should feel for Danny, and with it, showed us how much he didn’t deserve any of what he had to deal with in later Arcs. I really don’t think 6.9 would’ve hit anywhere near as hard as it did without what Interlude 1 did for Danny’s character.
I suppose in a lot of ways I like Danny for the same reasons Joyce Byers made it to my favorite character spot in Stranger Things. Without getting into too many spoilers, Joyce is the mother of Will Byers, the latter being the kid who disappears in the first few minutes of the series. Over the course of the series, Joyce’s desperation and more importantly resolve to find out what happened to her son and get him back home if possible makes her an incredibly sympathetic character. I guess there’s something about parents who are desperate to help their children but don’t know how that really resonates with me.
Anyway, this was a chapter that’s been a long time coming. The reunion didn’t, ultimately, make me cry like I thought it might, largely because the two of them still remained sort of distant, but it was damn good nonetheless.
Next chapter… it’s time to claim some territory. Exactly how Skitter intends to do that, I’m not sure, but I don’t think the Merchants are going to like it. Judging by what was said about them in this chapter, I’ll think they’ll be the primary antagonists of the Arc, or at least the first ones. The Fellowship of the Meat can have their turn afterwards.
So yeah, see you next time!