Infestation 11.4: Hunger

Source material: Worm, Infestation 11.4

Originally blogged: February 13, 2018


TATTLE TIME

Howdy! Krixwell here, back for another liveblog session!

Today, I’m pretty sure we’re going out with Tattle to either attend or spy on a Merchant meeting (possibly in Tattle’s territory). That sounds like a good time for several reasons, not least of them being that we’ll be spending some time with Tattle. Other reasons include that we’ll be learning more about the Merchants, maybe see how Skidmark is acting these days, that kind of thing. But mostly the Tattle thing.

We’ll probably be hearing crap from the mouths of some piece of shit people in the process. I guess that’s just the price to pay.

There’s obviously the chance of the two Undersiders getting caught, which could result in a neat fight and/or Tattletale manipulation scene, though I don’t think that’s super likely. If something’s going to cause Taylor to need to use her power, I find it somewhat more likely that Bryce turns out to be around in some capacity and Taylor decides she needs to take the opportunity. Not sure that’s super likely either, though.

If we’re not doing this today, though… I guess maybe we’ll get more Sierra? I highly doubt we’re postponing the outing, though.

Whatever happens, though, I have a good feeling about this chapter. Let’s dive in and see whether that’s justified!


Coil had put Bitch’s hideout in an area nobody wanted to be, masked with the appearance of a building nobody sane would want to enter.

Ah, I forgot to mention in the intro post that there was a possibility that Lisa had invited more Undersiders than just Taylor. Are we bringing Rachel along too?

Not sure that’s a good idea for an espionage mission. She’s not exactly subtle. Maybe this is more of a party-crashing thing? That’s not the impression I got from the way Lisa talked about gathering information, though.

It’s also possible we’re here just because it’s the closest base to where the Merchants are gathering, I suppose.

Also, “area nobody wanted to be” seems to suggest the ruins of the Docks. That was an area nobody wanted to be even before Leviathan. Or maybe the Trainyard?

Grue’s place and my own lair were camouflaged in outward appearance and set in more discreet locations. Tattletale’s place, by contrast, was in

Oh. Ohh.

It’s just a coincidence, we’re not really there. That was just Taylor setting up for introducing Tattle’s hideout by contrast to the others. Never mind all that, then.

plain sight, and it was also one of the highest traffic areas I’d come across in the past few days.

Huh. Downtown, I’m guessing, in one of the less Leviathanned areas?


The city block that hosted Tattletale’s hideout was a short distance from Lord street, and it sported only two intact buildings. The first building was a gas station that was currently hosting more than a dozen wrecked or flooded cars that had been dragged off the road.

Ah, sounds like it’s not really out of the way of Leviathan, but still downtown or close to it. Maybe it’s near Parian’s territory. Possibly even overlapping, which could get interesting.

The rest of the area had lots where buildings had once stood, each bulldozed clear of the rubble that had been left in the wave’s wake and surrounded with sandbags to keep the water from pouring in.

And apparently somewhat close to the coast, though with the size of the waves and their parapowered momentum, they could easily go quite a way in.


The second building was a sort I’d seen often enough as of late. I’d stayed in similar places for nearly two weeks before rejoining the Undersiders. The structure stood in the center of the area, surrounded by tents and communal areas that were sheltered by tarps set over metal frameworks – a dining hall, a medical bay, portable washrooms.

Sounds like a decent enough shelter. So does Tattletale live inside this now? I doubt Coil would place her in a gas station.

Each of these outdoor stations had dozens of people gathered around them. It was a shelter.

It does sound like it’s actually running as a shelter, though.

She’d told me not to dress up, so I hadn’t. She’d also told me not to wash my hair today, but it was too late for that.

I guess that would help blend in with the shelter crowd.

I’d donned a brown spaghetti-strap top, rain boots and a pair of lightweight black pants that were a little worn from the past few weeks, but had the benefit of drying quickly.

I guess that would be why they’re so worn. Quick-drying pants sound good to have, the way Brockton Bay is right now.

My knife was tucked inside the waistband of my pants, at my back. Not obvious, not entirely hidden either.

Honestly, I guess no one’s gonna question a civilian carrying a partially-concealed knife these days.


Way things were these days, cops were letting things slide as far as concealed and openly displayed weaponry went.

As I was saying.

People needed protection, and so long as the armed didn’t break the rules about using the weapons on people who didn’t attack them first, most people wouldn’t give them much trouble.

Yeah, makes sense.

Some shelters wouldn’t let you in with a weapon, of course, but some did, and others disallowed firearms but let other weapons slide.

Seems reasonable enough, I suppose.


I made my way inside, joining the rest of the crowd. Cots filled the majority of the building’s interior, and both possessions and people made navigating between the beds difficult at best. Signs were spread out over the walls, some professionally made, others written in plain print with permanent marker:

So are the other people at this shelter Tattletale’s employees?

‘Priority Order: Sick, injured, disabled, old, very young, families.’ In smaller print below was the message, ‘Please be courteous and give up your places to priority individuals.’

Hm, sounds fair.

‘No pets’ was written on a square of white cardboard in permanent marker and triple underlined.

No dogs on the moon.

And yeah, remember how much chaos people bringing their pets while evacuating to their Endbringer shelters caused in 8.1? I can’t imagine it’d be much less of an issue here.

‘Abuse or threats directed at staff or other residents will NOT be tolerated.’

Good.

But yeah, this looks genuine. Is Tattletale running it, though?

‘Belongings go under your cot. Excess + mess may be removed from the area.’

Makes sense. Can’t have it too cluttered in a place like this. Any space that could be used for another cot should be used for that.

‘No smoking within 30 paces of facility‘ was printed on a professionally made sign, but the line that was scrawled beneath in permanent marker was not: ‘there are sick people here!’

Thank you. Fuck smoking.

So what does it say?

I found a big, burly guy that wore an orange vest and name tag and approached him.

Oh, I guess it just meant that “there are sick people here!” was not printed on a professionally made sign.

Anyway, hi there.

He was talking to someone else, so I waited.

When he turned to me, he frowned, “You wanting to stay here?”

Uh, not exactly.

“No, but-”

“Opened our doors yesterday, and we’re already nearly full. Any more space is reserved for priority people. If you want a place, you can try the other shelters down-”

Sure, makes sense, but she said no. Pay attention!

“No. I have a place. I’m just looking for Lisa.”

Let’s see if he knows who that is.


“Works-here-Lisa or Staying-here-Lisa?” he asked.

Heh, neat distinction. I’m guessing our Lisa is Works-here-Lisa, but it could go either way, and I suspect Taylor might guess wrong if Lisa didn’t tell her.

“Both?” I guessed.

Pfft.

Watch as there are two Lisas and this poor guy has to go fetch both of them, only for Taylor or our Lisa to have to dismiss the other one.

“Front desk. If she’s not there, wait. She’ll probably be in the back getting something for someone.”

Eh, fair enough. I suppose Works-here-Lisa does count as both, given that she stays here too.


I headed to the front desk where a crowd of people had gathered. The desk itself was a simple construction of unpainted, unvarnished wood. The people were wet, dirty and didn’t look to be in the best of health.

This is really a case where the people reflect the city.

Just like how people from Las Vegas are covered in bright lights and casinos.

Lisa was at the end of the front desk furthest from the front doors, wearing the same orange vest and name tag the other staffer had been. Her hair was in a french braid, with a few strands hanging free.

Hey! 😀

She was talking to a woman who might have been fifty or sixty. A large black and white map of the city had been stapled to the wall behind the counter where Lisa was working. Colored pins marked various spots on the map, and areas had been outlined and shaded in with markers and highlighters.

Hm, interesting. Used to show people where to go for other shelters, perhaps?

Words were written in the boundaries of these sections. Many areas were marked with yellow highlighter, with the words ‘Merchant Territory: Very Dangerous!’, blue marker, with the words ‘Chosen Occupied: Avoid!’, or variations of such.

Nice. I was thinking the shaded areas could be areas difficult to traverse due to ruins and such, but this makes sense too.


The Boardwalk and surrounding area? Green marker, ‘Skitter: Low threat, free supplies?’

Nice.

I looked and noted that Tattletale’s area was partially blocked in by black marker. According to the map it was contested by an overlapping of Grue’s territory and the Merchants. Red pins marked some of the areas.

Wait, Grue’s territory overlaps with Tattle’s? That seems like an odd decision.

I supposed that made sense. If she left her own territory empty, it would be conspicuous, and it would be strange to mark it as Tattletale’s when she hadn’t done anything noteworthy to claim the space.

Ah, right. Keeps people out of the territory before she claims it.

“Where did you say your house was?” Lisa asked the older woman.

“Dewitt and Pagne.”

Do it and pain?

Lisa turned and found the area on the map. She held the marker so it hovered over the spot. “And they’d moved in? You’re sure?”

“They’ve been there for four days, as far as I can tell. I’m afraid to get too close, but there’s always people there.”

Ah, I see, she’s gathering information on recent Merchant movements. Nice.

Lisa colored in a small section of the map with yellow highlighter, extending the size of a nearby block of the Merchant’s territory. “I know it’s small consolation, but at least now others will know to steer clear.”

Yeah, this map – besides probably being a thing she’s also doing for Coil’s benefit – is a good idea.


“Okay,” the woman answered with a note of sadness in her voice. “That’s all I wanted.”

Sounds like you want something more, though I don’t think Works-here-Lisa can give that to you. Not without help, anyway.

“Things will get better,” Lisa promised, smiling gently.

I like your optimism. 🙂

The woman smiled back in return, glancing at the open area of cots and displaced people. With a light laugh, she said, “I suppose they have to, don’t they?”

Ehhh, I don’t wanna say we’ve hit rock bottom with no way to go but up just yet. That just sounds like an invitation for the Slaughterhouse Nine to come in and fuck things up even more. Or one of the other Endbringers, for that matter. Pretty sure they’ll show up at some points (my guess is Simurgh next, Behemoth last), though perhaps not in Brockton Bay.

“That’s the spirit.” Lisa grinned.

But yes.


She was still smiling when she turned my way. “Lost and found? Want to check how your neighborhood’s doing? If you’re looking for someone, you can leave a photo. Every night, I’ll be taking digital photos and sending them to the other shelters.”

Hehe. Sure, let’s leave a photo. We’re looking for someone named Works-here-Lisa Wilbourn.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “I’m here because a friend invited me to a party.”

A party, you say? Why, who around here would throw a party under these conditions?

She winked, then shouted, “Dimitri! Take over for me!”

Nice, let’s go.

So, Lisa, is this actually your base of operations? It seems you do at least stay here over nights, at least.


A man from the crowd behind me shouted his response. Lisa waved me behind the counter and led me through a door.

“Surprised you aren’t running this place,” I told her.

I guess either she is and part of the front it making it look like she isn’t (we know Tattle isn’t – or at least wasn’t – terribly concerned about secrecy of identity, based on Interlude 8a, so I could see her being fine with some of Coil’s employees knowing it), or she’s genuinely just working and living in a pre-established shelter, working with people who don’t know who she is. That said, Coil said she’d have pre-hired employees, didn’t he?

“Too obvious,” she answered with a smile. She threw one arm around my shoulders. “And this lets me be right at the center of things. Information from the people who are out there every day, watching.”

Makes sense.

“Good setup.”

“And it gets better, because I have this.” She opened another door.

Ooh…?

The room was small and it was hot with the running computers that were crammed into it. Six people were seated at different points in the room, each with their own computer. Two more computers sat unoccupied. The walls were scattered with photos, maps, printouts and post-its.

Yeeah, there’s no way everyone who works here, in the shelter as a whole, isn’t a Coil employee.

Black tape joined these elements together in a bizarre configuration that looked like part tree and part maze. All of our enemies were up on the wall: The Merchants, Fenrir’s Chosen, the Pure, the Protectorate, New Wave and the Wards.

I thought it was traditional to use red threads for things like this.

There were pages relating to something Lisa was calling Case 53. Dragon was up there, as was Scion.

Ooh, Lisa knows about Case 53 now. That could have some interesting implications – if Wildbow wants Upsilon to take on a more of a direct role later in the story, this detail could be useful.

The Slaughterhouse Nine were on a bulletin board, but Hatchet Face’s picture was crossed out in red marker.

Oh. Huh. Are they down to seven now? Although it’s also possible that they’ve got new recruits bringing them back up to eight or nine.

“Impressive.”

“I’d like to think so. With word-of-mouth and gossip from the crowd out there and the web info and the concrete data in here, I’m pretty in touch with all that crap.

No one is more in the loop.

Except it’s tiring. I’m feeling the beginning of one of those headaches I get when I use my power too much.

Ouch.

So you and I are going out for some fresh air.”

That sounds good to me!


“Knowing where we’re going, I doubt the air’s that fresh.”

Heh, good point. Probably gonna be quite a bit of drug stench, and other unpleasant smells.

“It’s a saying, kiddo,” she smiled.

“I know. I’m just a little worried about there being trouble. I…” I lowered my voice, all too aware that Lisa’s computer guys could see me unmasked.

Oh yeah, good point. I didn’t even think of that. Better keep your exact relation to the boss on the down-low.

I didn’t want them to connect the dots. “…just feel uncomfortable without my stuff.”

Yeah, that’s fair, whether you mean here or in the Merchant den.

I guess going without gear means we are indeed going for the “attending” route. I approve. That’s more interesting to me than spying from a distance.


“This is strict recon.”

“And the people we’re doing recon on are dangerous.”

True.

“True. But we’ll have escorts,” she led me into another room: hers.

Escorts? In the form of more Coildiers?

A quick glance around showed that a section at the back was curtained off, while the front had a desk with a computer, a bank of phones and two television screens.

Sounds like an alright place. Not as cool as the Hive, but not bad.

“Escorts?” I asked, as the door closed behind us.

“Like dates for a really fucked up prom.” She worked her cell phone out of the pocket of her jeans and dialed. She held one finger up for me, telling me to wait and be silent.

Or maybe she’s in touch with some existing Merchants, asked them to guide her and her friend into the meeting? But I guess there’s no reason to trust those to be any less dangerous than the rest of the Merchants once they’re in.

It took a moment before she spoke, “Minor? I want you, Senegal, Jaw and Brooks in my office. Civvies.”

Sounds like employees, yeah.


I suppose this is another case of Tattletale taking risks on others’ behalf without consulting or informing them. She doesn’t seem to have informed Taylor about the identity risk of this mission before taking Taylor into a room where the risk was in full effect.

Which also ties back to what I mentioned about Tattle herself not seeming to care much about her own secret identity in the past.


As she put the phone away, she shrugged at me. “I know you’d rather Brian come with, but he’s got his own thing going on, you know?”

Yeah, Brian and Aisha are the ones we knew from the phone call couldn’t be in on this. At least Brian.

“Oh, no. I’m ok that he isn’t coming,” I told her. “Things are bad between us.”

Oh yeah, I suppose these two haven’t really had a chance to talk about Taylor’s relationship with Brian in a while, have they.

“I totally didn’t know you’d confessed to him, you know? I saw the awkwardness between you two, and the distance, but I assumed it was because you’d used him as a shoulder to cry on.

Right, the whole gang did find out about the confession recently, so that’s something at least.

My power filled in those blanks all wrong.”

Seems like it, yeah.

“Yup. Confessed. Not sure what sucked more. Him saying he thought of me in the same terms as he thought of Aisha, that he considered me a friend, knowing I’d fucked said friendship up, or him implying he’d only been nice to me because he pitied me.”

Ouch.


She frowned, “I’m going to kick his ass, for being that-”

I appreciate Lisa’s protectiveness of Taylor. 🙂 Although for what it’s worth, Brian did try his best to not let her down too hard. I don’t think he deserves an ass-kicking, having the full picture from Taylor’s perspective.

“No!”

Lisa frowned at me.

Pfft.

“Can’t I kick his ass just a little bit? For you?”

I went on, “Don’t interfere, don’t make things worse than they already are. He’s mad at me, he’s hurt by what I did, and, um,” I bit the corner of my lip between my teeth, tried to think of how to gracefully state what I wanted to say, “We’re already separated. You get what I mean? We’re each in our own territory, doing our own things. If something happened to push us further apart, I dunno if I’d even ever get his friendship back.”

Ah, yeah, very good point.

“Oh, Taylor, no-” Lisa started. Before she could launch into any reassurances, there was a knock on the door.

I guess it’s time for reinforcements rather than reassurances.

Hm. Honestly, I’m not sure I like the escort thing. It’ll make for fewer opportunities for Taylor and Lisa to really talk, like they were doing just now.


Here’s an idea: What if word somehow makes it to Danny that Taylor was spotted at the Merchant party?


“Come in!” Lisa called out, then she told me, quickly, “We’ll get into this later.”

Sounds good.

Seeing the first three men come into the room, I was left with the distinct impression that Lisa had picked out the biggest, meanest looking men in her retinue. Then I saw the fourth guy. Where the first three were in the neighborhood of six feet in height, physically powerful, the fourth was an inch or so shorter than I was, though he was still in good shape. Better shape than me, for sure, but not someone imposing, like the rest.

Hm. I guess what he lacks in size and intimidation, he makes up for in some other way. Also, I imagine there are no points for guessing which one of these guys is “Minor”.

Of the four, I noted the guy who was wearing the most wrinkled clothes, with the thick beard and the broad gut. He wasn’t imposing because he’d packed on muscle like the others, but because he was big, looking like a grizzly bear that was dressed up like a person.

Niice.

What caught my eye, though, was the ironic fact that this same guy was having the hardest time at shrugging off that stiff-backed, square-shouldered military bearing that had been hammered into him at some point during his onetime career.

Hehe.

I’m guessing this is… Senegal. Or Brooks. I doubt it’s Jaw, at least, since that’s a nickname you’d think would be given to a guy with a noteworthy jaw.


These guys were soldiers. Coil’s, and now Tattletale’s.

Indeed.

Lisa pointed at one of the taller men, a blond guy with a long face. Not long in terms of being sad, but in terms of how genetics had put it together. “Minor. Team captain.”

Ah, alright, I guess Minor got his nickname for ironic reasons. And here I was about to say this was probably Jaw.

The next guy, darker haired, with unshaved scruff on his cheeks and chin, she identified as Senegal.

Which means either the grizzly guy or the small guy is Jaw, and the other is Brooks.

I’m gonna guess grizzly guy is Jaw, then. Unless the small guy is called that because he’s got a way with words to weigh up for his lack of intimidating size.

She smiled as she turned to the burly, overweight man. “Jaw. I’m still waiting to hear where he got the nickname.”

Heh, alright. 😛


“No comment,” Jaw rumbled.

Maybe Tattle does Know, but knows Jaw doesn’t like to talk about it and likes to tease him about it by bringing up how she’s “waiting to hear” it.

That left only the smaller guy. “Brooks,” she told me, “Our field medic, though I’m hoping we won’t be needing his services there, and ex-airforce. Handy with radios and computers. Also pretty good with a gun.”

Ah, neat. That would be the ways he makes up for his size. 🙂

Jaw nodded assent to that.

“These four will be our lookouts, bodyguards and helping hands on our little errand. We can pose as couples.” She grinned at that.

Hehe, got some fake dating in here. Might be fun. Did you have some pairings in mind, Lisa?

Although let’s be real, it sounds like there’s quite a bit of age disparity. You sure it wouldn’t be more believable to do fathers and daughters?


“Hey, Danny, you know how I said I wanted to attend a Merchant meeting just to see what they’re like? I actually did it, but here’s the thing – I ran into that girl you were talking to the other day, your… daughter, was it? Anyway, she was there with her six-foot ex-soldier boyfriend… seriously, the dude looked like a grizzly bear.”


Brooks spoke, and his voice had a hard sing-song accent I had a hard time placing, “Couples? Four guys and only two girls?”

Newfoundlander, perhaps? 😉

Also obviously two of the guys will go as a gay couple, what did you expect? Won’t that make for a nice triple date, going to the Merchant party together?

…though considering how many shitty people they’re gathering in one place, there are bound to be a bunch of homophobes. I guess that’s a good reason to have it be the buff guys.

“Minor escorts me. Senegal escorts my friend. And…” she took Jaw’s hand and placed it on Brooks’s shoulder. “You have your date.”

Alright, that’s the opposite of the arrangement I just suggested, but fair enough. I guess the muscle is more here to keep the girls safe anyway.

Jaw laughed, and Brooks turned red, anger etching his face.

What can I say, dude. Should’ve seen that coming!

“The fuck?” Brooks growled.

Calm down, please. It’s not that bad.

“Watch it,” Minor spoke. He didn’t raise his voice or add any inflection, but I could see Brooks react as if he’d been slapped.

Right, you don’t question the boss’ decisions, especially that rudely.


“I could have brought Pritt,” Lisa admitted, “But I’m more comfortable with there being more guys in our group. Chances are good we’ll get in a minor scuffle somewhere along the way, and way the Merchants operate, they’re going to respect guys more. Ready to head out?”

Yeah, I do think this logic is sound. A group like the Merchants is going to be rife with sexists.

She looked at her cell phone’s display. “Party starts soon, and we’ve got to walk.”

Wouldn’t want to be late!

Lisa removed the orange vest and name tag and then walked around to her desk to retrieve a series of colorful elastic bands. She snapped one around her left wrist, then handed two to Minor. She wore one yellow. He wore one yellow and one black.

Oh, yeah, nice thinking. I figured they’d just go as new recruits, but since you already have bands, why not use them to make things go a little smoother.

That done, she led the way out of the shelter, giving a sloppy salute to her ‘boss’ at the front desk. Together, we walked as a crowd.

Except she only gave herself and Minor bands, so I guess the narrative is that that Minor went to one of the arrangements, then brought his girlfriend to the next, and now the couple of them are bringing the rest of their friends along for a third.

We were a block away from the shelter when Senegal put one hand on my shoulder and pulled me closer.

DATING START!


Uncomfortable, I looked up at him to see his expression, and I didn’t like what I saw. It reminded me of a look I’d seen on Bitch’s face from time to time. That look where I could see that animal that had been at the core of any of us since before we walked upright.

Yikes.

Let’s, uh, hope he’s just a good actor.

Let’s really hope that.

Just like Bitch, the animal at Senegal’s core was vicious. The difference was that he was much better at pretending to be normal, and his animal wasn’t angry.

Maybe it’s a bit of both, in a bad way.

It was hungry.

Lisaaaaa!


As I was saying about Lisa taking risks on others’ behalf… the escorts might actually be more danger in their own right than they’re worth, particularly Senegal. Eesh. Let’s hope he doesn’t lean into the role of “Taylor’s boyfriend” too much.


He wore a polite smile and wasn’t doing anything more offensive than holding me, but something in his demeanor told me that Senegal wasn’t bothered in the slightest to be a thirty-ish guy with a teenage girl in one arm. Just the opposite.

I actually had to go back to Interlude 8b after that last paragraph and check whether the guy Coil was talking about at the start of that was called Senegal. He wasn’t, that was Creep, but I do think there’s a good chance Senegal is receiving a similar form of payment.

“Hands off,” I told him. I didn’t want to remove his arm because I knew that if I failed, if he resisted me, it would only reinforce his position over me.

Might as well be upfront about being aware of this, I guess.

He didn’t budge. “Your friend there is the one calling the shots, and she said we’re a couple. Until I hear different-”

Yeeah, I’m not convinced even that would dissuade him in the long run.

“Knock it off, Senegal,” Lisa ordered him.

Thank you, though.

The soldier backed off, raising his hands in an ‘I’m innocent’ gesture.

Yeah right.

That fake smile was still plastered on his face. Would I even know it was fake, if I hadn’t spent the time around Bitch? Or would I just think he was a slightly awkward guy with poor sense of boundaries?

This… hits close to home, having dealt with a pedophile on Discord who for over a year just came across to everyone as a sweet, slightly awkward guy with a poor sense of boundaries.

I wasn’t one of the victims, I was one of the mods involved in dealing with that situation once we found out about it. Still was a stressful and upsetting situation that lasted a while.


Coil’s guys were supposedly all ex-military. My gut was telling me that Senegal hadn’t finished his tour or whatever the terminology was. I couldn’t picture it any other way, having seen what I had. He’d been relieved of duty.

Quite likely, yeah.

“The rest of you walk ahead,” Lisa instructed, “I want a few words in private with her.”

Yes, please.

“Who is she, anyways?” Brooks challenged her. “Far as I can tell, she is dead weight.”

Well, I mean, Lisa did say your main specialty hopefully wouldn’t be needed on this mission. Who’s really dead weight here?

You might want to shut your mouth and respect the boss and her friend before she decides you’re not worth the hassle.

“I’m saying there’s a reason she’s here,” Lisa spoke, her voice firm. “That’s good enough for you.”

It really should be.

“But-”

“Brooks,” Minor cut him off. “Come.”

Unlike Brooks, Minor knows when to shut up.


Lisa and I let the others walk a bit ahead.

“Doesn’t look like things are perfect here,” I muttered.

Yeah, no.

I guess it’s gonna take a while before everyone accepts their new leader, or refrains from being creepy, etc.

“I might have made a move for my territory sooner, if I wasn’t trying to wrangle this.”

That’s fair.

“Why’d you stick me with Senegal?”

She frowned. The others had gotten far enough ahead of us that she felt ok to start walking. I joined her.

Lisa explained, “Logistics. I needed Minor around so I could have words with him about our long-term plans, and because I want to build a rapport.”

How about Jaw, then? He seems alright.

I nodded. I wasn’t going to argue that point.

“The problems are Senegal and Brooks. They’ve become friends, and Brooks is the kind of guy that’s influenced easily by his peers. He’s good, he’s useful, but he wants to be in Senegal’s camp, and he’s not smooth enough to pull off what Senegal does, even if he’s smart enough to see what Senegal’s all about, so all you get is a dick who could be dangerous if things go the wrong way.

Ahh.

I wanted to keep them separated, so I couldn’t pair them together, and things would be worse if I stuck you with Brooks, on a lot of levels.”

Yeah, I can see that going wrong.


“Okay. But you have other guys, right?”

Doesn’t really sound like it, but we did see the research team and the guy who gave Taylor directions to Works-here-Lisa, so I guess she does.

“Pritt and Dimitri. Dimitri’s second in charge of the group, and he’s the only one other than Minor who I trust to run the shelter and everything that goes on in the background. Our stuff.

Which means Dimitri has to stay back.

I got the impression that Pritt was a woman from the way they were brought up earlier, but maybe not.

Pritt’s good, she’s capable, but she’s a hardass in a way you see with some women in a job dominated by men. CEOs, high-end lawyers, police officers…”

Oh, okay, she is.

Which in its own right is an issue, as explained earlier.

“And soldiers. Right.”

“Right. Compensating for something. She’d do more harm than good if I left her behind without someone else to supervise, and I already said why I didn’t want her along in our group. So long as our guys outnumber the girls, we’ll look less like potential victims.”

Yeah. Just gotta keep it looking that way to the guys within the team as well.


“Okay.”

“Put up with Senegal. Hell, if you’re uncomfortable around him, use it. Not everyone that’s at the Merchant’s party will be a willing participant.

Good point. I suppose it could help her get into character, so to speak.

We’ll fit in more if you act skeeved out by him.”

And as I indirectly pointed out when the skeeviness started, he’ll fit in more by acting skeevy.

I crossed my arms over my chest and brushed at my shoulders, as if it could shake the feeling of Senegal’s arm resting on me. “I don’t like showing weakness to a person like that.” To a bully.

And we’re back to that term that’s haunted Taylor throughout the story.

Bullies. Those preying on the weak. That’s really what all of Taylor’s fighting has been about, isn’t it?

“Play along, and I’ll make sure you never see him again after tonight. We just need him for this one errand. He’s got that look that can scare people, without being too obvious about it. Between him and Jaw, we actually kind of look like Merchants.”

Yes. Yes, you do. *shudder*


“Okay,” I spoke, jamming my hands into my pockets.

“Tell me about your territory grab?”

I did, going into detail about the play I’d made, dealing with the Merchant who had tried to cut me, encountering Battery, then returning to my lair to fend off my enemies from a safe vantage point.

Neat story, huh?

“…Problem is my range only extends eight hundred feet or so around me. My territory’s larger than that, which means I can only cover part of my territory at a time. It bugs me, because I know I can reach further, I’ve had times where I could.”

Ooooh

This reads like it’s leading up to Tattletale’s take on what’s going on with the overdrive!

Also, nice to have a value on the range not given in blocks. American blocks are a unit I can’t really relate to.

“Right. I remember you asking about that, but I was distracted.”

“Any ideas?”

“One theory, and there’s a good bit and a bad bit to it.”

Does the bad bit have to do with it being uncontrollable? Or is it something worse?

“Yeah?”

“Just going by how my own power fluctuates, hearing what you’re saying about yours? You got a range boost that day of the hearing, right? When you went to your school to talk about the bullies, and everything fell apart?”

shit.

That, and on the day of the Endbringer, immediately after the Undersiders had a falling out.

Yeeah, that’s a bit of a steep price to pay for extended range.

So does this have to do with the power starting to crave being used when she gets enraged?


“Right,” I said. “And the day Leviathan came. It wasn’t just range. The bugs were responding just a bit faster. Maybe a tenth of a second faster, but yeah.”

Interesting.

“Ok. Here’s my theory then. I think your power’s strongest when you’re closest to the situation where you had your trigger event.”

…I see. That does make some sense.

If the powers are indeed “granted” to those who seem to need them in a moment, then it makes sense that whatever is behind this all might grant more power when the parahumans are in similar situations again. It’s what the powers were meant to help with.

“What?”

“Honestly, I’m highly suspicious that it’s true for any cape out there. Whenever you’re in the same kind of mindset or same sort of physical situation you were in when you got your powers, your powers get stronger. The bad news is that you probably can’t leverage that to your advantage. Your powers would operate off of hopelessness and frustration, because that’s what drove you to get your powers in the first place.”

Meanwhile, someone whose state of mind during their trigger event can be easily recreated in a combat situation would potentially be able to use it to their advantage. This might be the case with some of the stronger parahumans, like Eidolon, Scion or even Regent. Maybe Regent was already a broken kid by the time his trigger event happened, and has trouble not being in the same state of mind as then?

Fuck. It fit, more or less.

Yeah, I’m afraid I have to agree.

“The really scary part is that it might be doing us a disservice, because it works like a Pavlovian trigger. Like how the dog who hears the bell ringing every time he gets food starts to drool when he hears the bell, this might be subtly urging us back into ugly, violent or dangerous situations with the benefits of having our powers temporarily boosted.”

Between what we’ve seen with Taylor, Kid Win and Chariot, there does seem to be a sort of craving to use one’s powers, or a craving by the powers to be used.


I wasn’t sure I liked the implications of that. “Then what’s the good news?”

“It’s kind of like a defense mechanism. The worse a situation gets, the stronger you’ll get. It’s probably happened before, to small degrees, but you haven’t noticed it.”

Yeah, sounds about right.

Good to know there was a sort of logic to this. I mean, I always assumed there was, but it’s good to know it’s not random and just conveniently happened to take effect during Leviathan’s attack. Instead, it was the sheer hopelessness of the situation that made Taylor stronger.

I wonder what the upper limits on this are. What would Taylor’s range be in a moment of utter crushing despair?


“You said you saw evidence of it in your own powers? Can I ask?”

Lisa looked back over her shoulder, as if checking nobody was following us. She sighed.

“I don’t want to press,” I hurried to tell her.

“Another time?” she asked. “I don’t want to get into a bad headspace just before we do this thing, tonight.”

So close to getting more hints about her trigger event…

“That’s fine,” I answered her. “Really, you don’t have to say.”

“I said no more secrets, didn’t I? Just give me time to figure out how to explain.”

Yeah, that’s fair.

“Of course.”

She gave me a one-armed hug.

Aw 🙂


I realized where we were going well before we got there. Even hearing the music and knowing who the Merchants were, I was still shocked to see it.

That bad, huh?

Music… The mall? A church? A concert venue?

Weymouth shopping center, the mall I’d gone to all my life, was now a rallying point for Merchants.

Eyy, got it in one!

Hundreds of them, it looked like, all gathered together for one grand, debauched festival.

I’d joke about the Dark Carnival, but juggalos get enough shit already without me associating them with these fuckers.

Half of the Merchants I could see wore a fresh band around their wrists, or hanging from their clothing, like badges of honor.

Probably got them at the entrance, I’m guessing.

Lisa had noticed it too. “Yellow bands were for a test of courage, black for near death experience. The red ones they’re handing out at the door?”

“Blood?” I guessed.

“Bloodshed, yeah. Something ugly’s going to happen tonight.”

Welp.

That’s… kind of expected, to be honest, but still. Welp.


End of Infestation 11.4

That was a very interesting chapter. We got to see Tattletale’s hideout, which was rather… different than the Hive, we met their less-than-perfect escorts to the Merchant meeting (the country of Senegal does not deserve this blight upon its name), and we finally got an answer – probably a correct one – to what determines when the overdrive happens, if not explicitly what makes it happen in the first place.

I enjoyed it, though I do wish we’d gotten more private time between Taylor and Lisa. Maybe we’ll get some of that after the meeting.

Anyway, next chapter, it’s time to find out what a redband Merchant arrangement is like. It probably ain’t good. It’s entirely possible that Taylor will find it necessary to step in with her bugs, even though she’s out of costume and at risk of being figured out by one or more of the escorts.

Hell, maybe the Merchants intend to make a larger-scale attack on the construction sites, or something else that could harm Danny. That would be a neat way to motivate Taylor and tie everything together with his appearance in 11.1.

See you next time!


[postscript]

You put the coil bitch, the apartment, the surroundings, the don’t want people dressed in the Form of buildings, anyone in their right mind, I would like to enter (Enter). Grue and place of the cave were masked phenomenon and install hidden in different places. Registry Mechanic, there is a place, on the contrary, was with normal eyesight, and he was also one of the largest in the busy areas, I have met in the last few days.

I’ve been messing around with bad translation today and yesterday…

(#…did it turn ‘Tattletale’ into ‘Registry Mechanic’?)

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