Infestation 11.7: Not Much, What’s Cauldron With You? …Wait

Source material: Worm, Infestation 11.7

Originally blogged: February 26 – March 2, 2018


Howdy, Krixwell here!

dry hello

Uh, hi. It’s time to–

time for fun

–yeah. No need to be so ominous about it, though. Anyway, I’m here to read some more Worm!

binge

No, I said read.

depressing

Who’s even putting these… anyway.

Last time, things got really interesting. We learned more about the tesseractids, or dandelions, or karahindibas, or whatever I should call them, as a new parahuman got his power – a quite deadly one – and the brawl swiftly drew to an end. Then Faultline’s crew showed up and removed the exits… I like the direction this is taking.

This time, we’ll get to watch as the Crew confronts the Merchants and tries to keep anyone else from drinking the super juice (Seriously, it makes very little sense that Taylor wouldn’t even think about trying to do something about that. She’s genuinely lucky the Crew presumably are.), while Taylor & co. try to avoid getting swept up in it all without revealing their identities to Faultline’s Crew. That sounds like it’ll be–

that would be so cool

…fun. I was about to say “fun”. But yeah, “cool” works too.

So yeah, how are they supposed to get out of this? I suppose laying low might be the best chance they’ve got, but if it’s at all possible–

gtfo

…yeah. That probably won’t be easy, though.

So without further ado–

read or the owl will eat you

Yes, yes, I’m getting to it!

Without further ado or reaction images in this post, let’s see what the Crew has in store!

(#I’ve been gathering reaction images for my new reactions folder
#starting with an el goonish shive reread
#most of these images are from egsreactions though since i only started the reread today)


Newter dropped from the ceiling.  The main part of the mall had only the one level to it, but the roof was arched slightly, and he was dropping from one of the higher points.  I was bad at estimating distances, but what was that?  Fifty feet? Sixty?

He’ll be alright. I bet resistance to fall damage comes with his power.

Also, same when it comes to estimating distances.

He landed in a crouch, a hair behind the girl who was carrying the vial down the pile of rubble to the base of the platform.

Cape landing! Only thing missing is a shockwave.

As she turned, dust, papers, cigarette butts and fragments of rock stirred around her.

Hm. Windy power? I forget if this girl was stated to be one of the Merchant capes.

They moved in a counterclockwise orbit, rising, increasing in intensity over a span of one and a half seconds.

Okay, yeah, this is definitely a power at work. Maybe her power has to do with whirlwinds?

Whatever her power did, Newter stopped it, smacking her in the forehead with his palm, almost gently.  She stepped back, as if she’d lost her balance.  The building whirlwind around her dissipated into a billowing cloud of dust and her legs turned to rubber beneath her as she tried to step back once more. She fell.

Nice work! I guess that’s the element of surprise for you – if she’d had time to build up the whirlwind, it might end up being a lot harder to tag her out of the battle.

Spit might work, though, if Newter got lucky with where it landed. At least the whirlwind could help take out a bunch of other Merchants.


Newter’s tail encircled the vial before she could drop it, and he flicked it into his left hand.

One out of five, nice work.

An instant later, he was racing for the stage, almost casually finding stepping stones as he made a beeline for Skidmark and the rest of the group.  He was going for the case and the vials.

Woo, go Newter!

Though of course it’s not going to be that easy. And to as if to ensure that narrative near-certainty, there are still eight parahumans on the stage, though one of them can’t control his power yet.

But hey, we’ve still got a couple more Faultliners who haven’t shown their stuff yet in this chapter.

Much of the crowd was running after Newter, rushing for the base of the stage and climbing the heaps of rubble to follow.

Ah, right, looks like the mundanes in the crowd aren’t afraid of trying to stop Newter too.

In doing so, they were vacating the center of the mall where the casualties lay.  I hated to get closer to the chaos, but I suspected it would be a long time before I had a better chance to find and retrieve Bryce.

…good point, that is still the main objective of this outing.


“I’m going after the kid,” I said.

“Minor, Brooks, escort her,” Lisa ordered.

Sounds like a decent party.

Maybe we’ll get some snark from Brooks at the corpses. I don’t know if even he’s that irreverent, though.

Speaking of which, I’d better brace for some gruesome descriptions.

On the other side of the mall, Newter had reached Skidmark and pounced for him.  In reaction, Skidmark used his power to coat his cape in a layer of his power.

Ooh, that’s a very interesting use of the power. It essentially turns his cape into a weapon by virtue of it launching anyone who touches the coated side, which he can then swing at people. I like it.

Kinda risky, maybe, if it’s windy where he’s fighting (the wrong side of the cape might end up touching his own body), but he’s probably done this enough to have practiced control of the cape under windless circumstances like these current ones.

He raised it between himself and Newter.  Newter was already airborne, unable to change course, but he had the presence of mind to hock a loogie into Squealer’s face.

Huh, nice!

He bounced off of the cape, knocking Skidmark back, and fell to the ground.

I appreciate that the boost from the cape doesn’t completely erase the momentum he already had.


Skidmark used his power to saturate Newter and the ground around him.  As his power took hold, Newter was launched through the rungs of the metal railing and down into the midst of the crowd at the base of the stage.

Boing!

Skidmark shouted something, but I couldn’t make it out over the noise of the other Merchants.

Maybe something like “And stay down there, knobgrongler!”

I tore my eyes from the scene and we hurried toward the heaps of unconscious, bloodied and wounded that lay where the arena had been.  We were halfway there when the entire mall began to brighten.

Hm, what now? Labyrinth doing something, or Spitfire setting fire to the place?

The barred windows were expanding, and massive torches were lighting on the far sides.  Shafts of orange light extended into the mall’s interior, patterned into diamonds by the meshes of bars Labyrinth had erected.

Awesome.


The wall behind Skidmark and the other ‘upper circle’ members of the Merchants began to bulge inward.

Oh shit, the wall is coming for you. The wall is coming!

eeeeeeek

Features took form: a face, ten feet tall.

…you sending some sort of message here, or just trying to intimidate?

Protrusions below it, near the floor of the platform, marked emerging fingertips.

Niiice.


Labyrinth wasn’t stopping there.  Minor had to catch my arm and pull me back to keep me from being caught in the path of another effect in the mall’s floor.

Ooh…

The ground cracked and bulged upward as though a mole was tunneling at high speeds just beneath the tile.

Pull out the hammers, Merchants, it’s time for some Whack-a-Mole!

time to die

“Get back!” someone shouted behind me.  I recognized Lisa’s voice and took her advice, backing away from the hump.  Minor stopped me from backing up into another hump that had appeared behind me.

So what are you doing here, Labyrinth? Pillars, perhaps? A sort of cage?

Stone walls heaved upward from the mounds of broken tile, blocking my path and stopping at a height of twelve or more feet.

Close enough.

As more walls rose around me, I saw a door form to my right, and the corridor to my left had a bend in it.

I guess this kind of shenanigan is why she’s called Labyrinth.


A maze.  She was living up to her name.

Yep.

And here we thought it was difficult enough to get out to begin with…

The walls at the outside edges of the mall were altering, now, more faces and body parts making themselves apparent.  Like statuary or reliefs.

But… why? Are you actually going to grab people with those hands, or is it just aesthetic?

Limbs intertwined and nude figures decorated the interior walls of the mall, each tall enough to extend from floor to ceiling, animated so that they moved with a glacial slowness.

Whatever it is, though, it’s awesome.

With a surprising speed, the interior of the mall was coming to resemble some kind of temple.

Certainly an interesting-looking one.


I will admit Hive left me kind of confused as to how real the results of Labyrinth’s power are, even after attempted clarifications via asks, but I think I get it. They’re semi-illusory in nature, but solid and opaque – practically real for most intents and purposes – to you unless she decides to exempt you from them.

It’s powerful as hell.


I had to admit, I was spooked.  That girl’s power was intimidating when she wasn’t on my side.

Yeah, as I was just saying, she’s incredibly powerful.

so damn cool.png

She wasn’t all there, mentally, so the only thing holding her back was the person telling her what to do.

Oh yeah, I guess she would need that for some of the more advanced plans.

If she could make those giant torches, she could set the floor on fire.

It’s real even for such purposes.

Or she could have created spikes instead of walls, without leaving the rest of us any place to run.  That nobody had been hurt was purely by her choice.

Or she could’ve had the entire building’s contents get squeezed together by thickening walls, if not for Newter being in there.

Stone poles speared down from the roof.  Looking up, I saw that the edges of the crack in the roof had fanged teeth, and that figures were sliding down the metal poles.

Ooh, coming in, are you?

Two female, one obese male.  Spitfire, Faultline and Gregor the Snail?

Sounds about right. It’s probably a good call leaving Labyrinth on the outside, too.

I wonder if Faultline has made any more progress on overcoming the Manton effect since last we saw her.


I bet Lisa wishes she were in costume now. Maybe she’d enjoy the chance to mess with her kismesis a bit.


Not quite.  Faultline and Gregor, yes.  I didn’t recognize the other woman, and she was too tall to be Spitfire with her mask off.  Red haired, slender, older than Spitfire or Labyrinth had been.

Oh, huh. New member? Or perhaps someone they’re just temporarily working with.

She slid down the pole, up until the moment Trainwreck leaped from the stage and caught the base of the pole with his shoulder.

…alrighty, then. Putting on a front, or genuinely trying to help out the Merchants?

He was built like a football player in a quadruple-thick layer of cast iron protective gear, steam billowing behind him as he tore past the stone pole like it was nothing.

American football sounds pretty cool if they’re all wearing steampunk mechs like this.

They are, right?

It cracked in four places, and the girl dropped out of the air.

Well, was nice knowing you for five seconds.

No, I think she’ll be alright, but how?

One section of the pole hit the ground in an upright position, and she landed atop it with one foot, wobbling briefly.

Damn. Got a ballerina over here.

Controlling the angle the pole fell, she angled her fall toward a nearby wall of the maze.

Nice work.

Her power probably involves her feet, and balance. Landing like this gracefully and without breaking her ankle would be an incredible feat if it didn’t.


It wasn’t enough.  Trainwreck smashed the pole from under her, sending her flying through the air to land in the midst of Labyrinth’s maze.

Whoop.

Labyrinth created a short pillar below the metal case and canisters, and began to extend it towards the gap in the roof.  Skidmark used his power to force the things off the top of the pillar and onto the platform, where they rolled.  A few stray papers fluttered from the case.

Heh, this is a neat moment. We’ve got someone who can make an elevator out of the floor, and we’ve got someone who can make that elevator useless.

There was a crack of gunfire, and I saw the momentary light of the shot to my right.  I couldn’t see over the wall, but I saw Trainwreck lumbering forward, one oversized metal gauntlet raised to protect his head, the only vulnerable part of his body.

Was that the redhead shooting? Although I’m not sure she’d be able do, what with having the maze walls around her, just like Taylor.

I directed some bugs to the scene, and realized that a woman with the exact same proportions as the red-haired woman was firing at Trainwreck.

Interesting phrasing. I’d expect Taylor to just say “the red-haired woman”, but I guess Wildbow wanted to be clear on how she came to that conclusion. That, or he’s setting up a bait and switch, but I don’t see a good reason to do that with this particular thing.

She’d made it through the maze and back to the skirmish with Trainwreck so quickly?

Ohh, I see. Taylor had reason to believe the redhead shouldn’t be there.

I guess if she’s got ballerina powers, or at least foot powers, that might also make her a speedster and/or a jumper (though Taylor might spot her if she were to jump over the maze). Alternatively she might be a teleporter, but then why would she not just teleport in from the roof?


There was a brief pause in the gunfire, then a single shot fired.  Sparks marked the ricochet between his shoulder, the back of his hand, and the armor that rose behind his head.

Pew cling clang cleang cloing…

He dropped to one knee with a suddenness that suggested he was wounded.

If, again, the redhead has ballerina powers, it makes sense that it would come with great coordination. That might extend to knowing exactly where to aim the gun to get a good ricochet.

Come to think of it, Flechette would probably have a pretty good idea of that too.

I hurried to the wall.  I could use my bugs to find my way through the maze, getting a sense of the layout, but I needed something faster.

Hm… like Lisa, maybe?

Labyrinth was using her power and adjusting the battlefield with every passing second.  The way things were, given how she wasn’t aware of who I was, I was included among her enemies.

Yep.

If I didn’t go now and the battle resolved one way or the other, I might lose my window of opportunity to get Bryce.

Better hurry.


There was no way I was going back without him.

That’s a pretty absolute statement.

It’s clear that Taylor is filled with determination.

The intensity of the emotion I was feeling on the subject surprised me.

Yeah, it’s pretty intense.

Hell, you don’t even know if the kid’s still alive yet and you’re making statements that absolute.

hated the idea of going back to Sierra and telling her I’d failed.  Hated the idea of that conversation on top of the news I had about Bryce joining the same Merchants that assaulted her friend with a broken bottle.

Yeeah, no matter how you spin it, it’s going to be an unpleasant debriefing. Might as well try to avoid it getting more unpleasant.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be leader of a territory and know that someone out there was maybe telling others I hadn’t followed through, fighting that constant nagging doubt in the back of my mind that wondered if ‘my’ people were whispering or laughing at me behind my back.

Oof, yeah, that’s another good point.

And maybe a small part of it was that my meeting with my father had been a reminder of how important family was.

Aaand that’s how it all ties together! I like it.

Bryce was the errant youth, his sister the anxious family member.

Which makes Taylor… Dragon?

This paralleling is very interesting. On the larger scale we’ve got the heroes, mostly Dragon, trying to sway Taylor back to their side, and hints suggesting Taylor is not really that happy with her current role, and more than just hints that Taylor is really feeling guilt for abandoning Danny. And now on a smaller scale, we’ve got Taylor trying her hardest to retrieve a kid, someone who by her own admission parallels her, from the life of villainy for the sake of his anxious family member.

So metaphorically, she’s feeling an incredibly strong desire to save “herself” from villainy and take “herself” back to “Danny”.

Holy hell, this rabbit hole is deep. I’m glad Wildbow decided to point this out via Taylor, because I’m not sure I would’ve picked up on it otherwise, but now that I do see it, it’s a really strong piece of writing.

Damn.

Were my emotions here tied to the parallel between them and my father and me?

After the realizations you just sent me through I’d be quite disappointed if they weren’t.


“Help me over,” I ordered Minor.  There was a crash not too far away as Trainwreck tore through one of Labyrinth’s walls.

I wonder if the walls are thick enough to run around on top of.

“Can give you and Brooks a boost, but not sure if I can follow,” Minor told me, “Maybe if I find a place with something to stand on-”

Hm. Maybe Taylor is about to say she should go alone, for some reason, but I mean, if they could both get up, that might be useful.

“That’s fine.  Look,”  I drew an arrow on the wall with my bugs, “I can give you directions.”

Ah! Giving up on keeping your power away from the bodyguards, are you?

There was little surprise on his face at the demonstration of my power.

“Well, there had to be a reason she was here.”

And hey, how many girls of Taylor’s build is the villain Tattletale known to hang around?

He gave me a curt nod, dropped to one knee, and wove his fingers together to give me a stirrup for my foot.

Make sure to lead with the correct foot.

At least when mounting a horse. Maybe not so much when climbing onto a wall. 😛

I sheathed my good knife, stuffed the spare between the sheath and the strap that attached it to my midsection and stepped inside the bridge of Minor’s hands.  He heaved me up, almost throwing me.

Nice work.


The cut on the back of my arm burned as I found a grip, then hurt twice as much as I hauled myself onto the top of the wall, my toes scrabbling on the untextured surface for traction.  I reached down for Brooks, but he shook his head and waved me aside.  He wanted to come up on his own.

Of course.

Fine, whatever.

Can’t just do something silly like accept help, right?

I hopped down into the next corridor.  The far left had an archway leading into one of the more open areas, a circular area that was serving as a clearing for Trainwreck and the red-haired girl to fight.

Might want to avoid that area, but at least this gives us an opportunity to actually watch for a moment, see what the red-haired girl is doing.

I crouched down as I reached the doorway, peeking out and trusting my bugs to give me the fuller story of what was going on.  Brooks appeared behind me and crouched, gun raised, his back to the wall.

This is oddly badass.

His breathing was quiet and controlled even after his recent climb and jog.

Huh, nice.


Trainwreck and the new girl on Faultline’s team were facing off on the far side of this area.  Behind Trainwreck, I saw a section of wall toppling, spotted Faultline dashing through the obstruction as though it were barely there.

Hiya.

So wait, is she not able to just run straight through Labyrinth’s walls without cutting through them? Maybe I’m still not fully understanding Labyrinth’s power.

She ran up behind Trainwreck and slashed her fingertips across his heel as he was stepping forward.

Hey, Achilles! Nice work with the

As he set the foot down on the marble floor, his ankle shattered and his foot broke free of his calf.

heel!

He caught the ground with the stump of his mechanical leg, and she darted in close to cut through the knee of his other leg.

Trainwreck and Dragon might be some of the best people for Faultline to go up against.

He fell onto his back as she slipped between his legs, and she quickly turned to begin using her fingertips to cut down the wall, like a jungle explorer using a machete to hack through brush and vines.  The red-haired woman joined her.

Good job, Faultline.


The ground rumbled as sections of the black marble floor rose to form into broad, shallow stairs, leading from the two young women to Skidmark’s stage.

Quite handy!

Interestingly, this implies that Labyrinth is aware of their position and status. Can she or Spitfire see them, or does Labyrinth’s power come with an awareness of everything in the affected area?

The capes in Skidmark’s group were struggling to find ground to stand on, as they were crowded back to the edges of the platform by the statue that was still emerging from the wall.

Niice.

I take it none of them can fly.

A head and two forearms with reaching hands, all in dark stone.

Beautiful.


It was eerie, to see the changes that had occurred in our surroundings in the time it had taken me to cross the wall and wait for the fight to pass.  If the attentions of the Merchants had erased any familiarity I had towards the Weymouth shopping center, Labyrinth had cremated the remains and erected something else in its place.  It was a cathedral, dedicated to a goddess that was very real and having a very active hand in current affairs.  Labyrinth.

thumbs up.png

Seriously, I’m loving this.


Which reminded me of the fact that I needed to get through this maze.  Labyrinth’s power was drawing many of the crawling bugs down into the ground as it refurbished the floors and consumed the piles of trash or rubble.

That’s kind of inconvenient.

I still had the bugs on the ceiling, but I didn’t want to give our presence away.  Of the relatively few bugs I was willing to use, a share were being used to direct Minor and placing them in strategic locations to get a sense of the layout.

Which leaves not many for other uses should the need arise.

As the maze took shape in my head, I showed Minor the way.

Nice.

I stepped into the clearing and, double checking nobody was in earshot, I approached Trainwreck.

What, are you going to ask him whether he works for Coil or not?

Brooks followed just behind me, watching my back.

Trainwreck didn’t look like much, just going by the face.  He had a round face, small eyes, greasy hair tied back in a ponytail and scarred cheeks.  He looked like a homeless guy who hadn’t had a shower in a long time.

I guess Coil didn’t provide him one. More evidence he’s not currently working for Coil.

The only thing setting him apart from the Merchants were the gunshot wound near the corner of his jaw and the steam-powered armor that rendered him strong enough to pound the crap out of Armsmaster.

Oh yeah! Good times.


I asked him in a low voice, “Trainwreck.  Are you still working for Coil, or did you leave?”

I guess she is, huh. Fair enough. It doesn’t actually tell him much about her given that Coil has plenty of employees in civilian guise.

He tensed, and his eyes turned my way, though he couldn’t turn his head with the hardware around it.

Also if he can’t get a good look at her, that helps.

The tensing doesn’t tell me anything, really. He’d have reason to tense up either way.

I stepped back as he used one arm to prop himself up and get a better look at me.

Oh right, arms are a thing.

“No idea what you’re saying,” he said.  He gave me a level stare, and I was almost convinced.  But I’d seen him in the parking garage when I first found out Coil was the Undersider’s employer.

Good poker face. Handy for moles.

“Right, total nonsense, sorry,” I said.  I tried not to show fear as he tried to get to a standing position with his ruined mechanical legs, looming over me.  “But if you were working for the man, maybe you could find some excuse to knock over that wall over there…”

Hehe. So that’s your angle.

I pointed at the nearest section of wall.

“You’re fucking nuts,” he told me.  He raised his arm, and my legs tensed, ready to leap towards him if he took a swing at us.  As big as he was, without him being able to use his legs, being in close would be safer than trying to leap back out of his reach.

So is he saying she’s nuts for suggesting it before going ahead and knocking down the wall for her anyway, or…

He brought his hand down on the wall I’d pointed at to heave himself to an upright position.

That works as a nice excuse.

The wall fell as he rested his weight on it.  Using his other hand to help balance himself, he gripped the wall in his heavy gauntlet and flung the section of wall at Faultline and the red-haired girl.

Nice.

So I guess he is working for Coil, then. Either that or Taylor just happened to give him that idea.

The girl turned and stepped out of the way as the wall rotated in the air, bounced between her and Faultline with mere inches gap between them, and slid back down the stairs.

Nice dodge.

He didn’t pay any further attention to us as we ran for the gap he’d opened.

See ya!


My power let me get a general map of the people who were still unconscious or prone, and the bugs wouldn’t stand out too much as they checked the bodies.

Makes sense, given bug behavior around corpses.

I went by body types, trying to find people of Bryce’s height and build.  The path Trainwreck had opened gave us avenues to two people who could have fit the mark, with a third over the next wall.

Excellent. If it’s any of them, I’m guessing he’s the third.

Good news?  The first of the prone bodies I went to was Bryce.

Oh nice.

Bad news, he’s dead or badly injured?

Bad news?  He was injured.

Yep.

Not a huge surprise given what he tossed himself into.


Scrub’s power had torn through the clusters of Merchants during the fighting, and Bryce’s new ‘family’ was no exception.

Ouch.

The girlfriend was dead, her head and shoulders gone, muscle and fluids flowing out where the flesh had been annihilated.

♪ Head and shoulders, knees and void, knees and void. ♪

The girl’s mother was a goner too.  She lay on her back, her face missing.  Had she been behind her daughter, holding her, hit by the same blast?

Man, where’s that Greenfire guy from 8.3 when we need him?

Then again, it sounds like this one’s already pretty symmetrical [here].

‘Thomas’ was still alive, the black man with the scar on his lips.  The man who had hurt Sierra’s friend from the church, who had literally torn the guy a new asshole, if I’d gotten Sierra’s meaning right.

It’s a bit of a different thing, morally speaking, when you’re not doing it on an Endbringer.

Thomas crawled slowly for the nearest arch, breathing hard, his face drawn with pain.  A slice had been taken out of his arm, shoulder, and a section of his back, as though a guillotine had grazed him from behind.

ouch

I wasn’t quite sure how he hadn’t died yet, with the amount he was bleeding.

Maybe he too is filled with determination.


Brooks stooped down to help Bryce, who had gotten off lightly compared to the others.  He was missing a large portion of his right hand, and he’d had the presence of mind to try to loop his belt around the injury to control the blood loss, pulling it tight.

Huh, not bad, Bryce.

He seemed like he’d lose consciousness any second.  Brooks retrieved some medical supplies from his backpack and began tending to the boy.

Oh right, we have a medic! Time to work your magic, Brooks.

He’s probably not going to be happy about it considering the kid did willingly enter the fray to escape them, but he’ll do it right.

I watched Thomas struggle towards the door.

Seriously, where are you even trying to go? I’m not sure that door’s gonna help you.

Minor arrived fifteen or twenty seconds after Brooks had started to work on the boy, standing guard while our medic took care of Bryce’s hand.

Nice, looks like Taylor’s maze directions worked decently well.


Brooks helped Minor to get the boy to a standing position, while I watched Thomas struggle on.  He was getting weaker, fast.  The blood loss had been too severe.

So… just gonna stand there and watch this man die?

I mean, I don’t think you can help him, and whether you should is highly questionable, it’s just that I find this behavior somewhat surprising coming from Taylor.

Skidmark had several parahumans working for him, and I didn’t know all their powers.  Maybe Thomas would get care.

Do you really think he’ll make it much further? It sounds like he’s about to collapse completely.

Maybe Skidmark would attend to his people.

Yeah, I’m sorry, Taylor, but no. Just look around you. Remember who ordered this carnage in the first place.

Skidmark doesn’t give a shit.


Probably not.  I knew that by leaving him here, I might be leaving him here to die, but the chance of him surviving anyways was pretty slim. Besides, bringing him would slow us down, and I wasn’t sure we could afford that.

That is true.

I shook my head a little, as if it could cast away the layers of little justifications and excuses I was putting together.

At least she recognizes her rationalization.

I was searching for a rationale, a reason to leave him behind.  Also, maybe, I suspected I was trying to give a reason to the fact that I had almost no sympathy for the man.

I mean… when all this started out, I think I made it pretty clear that I didn’t have much sympathy for just about anyone in the ring who was at this meeting in the first place by their own volition and with full awareness of what it was (the last thing is the point Bryce gets off on, and I don’t have that much more sympathy for him either). To be fair, at the time I didn’t expect it to get quite this gruesome, but still.

I really don’t care for most of those injured or killed in this.

I feel like this says a lot about how thoroughly unsympathetic Wildbow has made this group.

If I was going to leave him there, I’d own up to what I was doing.

This is a good development, though. Taylor is realizing her tendency to rationalize things and taking a conscious step to being more honest to herself.


Sierra had wanted Thomas and his followers to suffer, and I’d agreed to make it happen.  I couldn’t do anything about Bryce’s girlfriend or her mom.  They were dead, and it had probably been instantaneous and painless.  Thomas, though?

Thomas gets to suffer.

time for fun

Brooks followed my gaze to Thomas.  In his accented voice, he asked me, “You want me to bandage him up?  Don’t know how much I can do.”

Not much, I’d imagine.

Thomas heard and stopped crawling, dropping onto his belly.  He didn’t look toward me, but I knew he was listening.

“yes please”

“It’s fine,” I told Brooks.  “Focus on the boy.”

And Thomas gets to have his hopes lifted up and then dropped to the floor to shatter.

He nodded, then helped hold Bryce’s prone form while Minor got a better grip.  Thomas didn’t move, react or say anything.

Seems that prompted him to give up crawling for the door.

“Let’s go,” I said.

We ran, and with Brooks keeping one hand on my shoulder to guide me, I glanced behind us to get a sense of what was going on.

And now Taylor stomped on the shards of Thomas’ hopes.

If he’s still alive, that is.


The battle was still ongoing.  Gregor the Snail was here, but unlike the others, he wasn’t operating in Labyrinth’s world.  He passed through the walls of the maze, spraying streams of slime at Trainwreck, who had apparently advanced halfway up the stairs by using his hands to help him walk.

Oh. So Labyrinth does have the power to pick and choose who’s affected by her changes. She just hadn’t set Faultline to pass through it for some reason.

Trainwreck retaliated by throwing a chunk of stairs at Gregor with one hand while trying to block the stream of slime with the other.

But do those stairs exist for Gregor?

The section of stairs hit the wall of the maze just in front of Gregor, some of it bouncing over to pass through Gregor.  Not real, as far as he was concerned.

Nope. Judging by Hive, he couldn’t even see what Trainwreck thought he was throwing.

What did this look like to Gregor?  Was he standing in the mall as it had been, while Trainwreck seemed to stand on thin air?  Or was Trainwreck on the ground?  I couldn’t parse it.

If I remember correctly, Oni Lee seemed to stand on thin air while affected by Labyrinth’s power… then again, he also teleported and promptly fell down. Was Labyrinth toggling whether the power worked for Oni on and off so that his footing disappeared the moment he teleported to it, only to reappear a moment later?


My internet connection seems to have stopped working for some reason (posting this using mobile data) and shows no sign of coming back right now, so I’m copying the last post into a Word file and stopping here. Fortunately, I was about to stop anyway, as it’s getting quite late and I’m hungry.

[End of session]


[Session 2]


Mush had started pulling himself together, but Labyrinth was making his job into a struggle.  His right arm had divided, stretched, forked out and reconfigured until it looked like a mass of reaching veins and arteries.

Wow. And when someone can conjure up a bunch of obstacles to get those things back over or past… yeah, that could be troublesome.

He plunged it into one of the trash cans that Labyrinth was absorbing into the floor, and when he withdrew it, the tendrils had formed the connective tissue for an oversized hand crafted out of garbage.

Huh.

I suppose we did know the Merchants are garbage people.

His other arm and much of his lower body had already gathered some garbage around it, letting him stand several feet taller than he had before.

So is his power literally to bolster his body with garbage?

The skin of his head and body was peeling off into more tendrils, reaching for more trash and distributing some from his arms to his torso.

And incorporating it into his body, for that matter?

(#technically written at the end of p1)


From what I could gather, he needed some kind of loose matter to form the body of his other self.

Oh… Less Weld, more dual self. It sounds like he can make a trash copy of himself and maybe control both bodies like a hivemind.

Dirt, compost, trash, maybe even sand.  Problem was, however fantastic his surroundings might have been for this five minutes ago, Labyrinth was screwing him over by cleaning things up, maybe inadvertently.

Neat!

One upper arm, his naked upper body and his nearly bald head were all exposed and vulnerable.

Sounds good to me.

Scrub had climbed up to one corner of the platform, and was keeping to the edge of the fight.  His intent was clearly to be close enough to Faultline’s group to possibly tag them, but not so close that one of his uncontrolled blasts would catch a fellow Merchant.

Yeah, Scrub is going to be incredibly dangerous to go up against when he gets control of his power, but for now he needs to move tactically to make sure he hits the right people.


My bugs told me we were close to Lisa, Charlotte, Jaw and Senegal.  I caught Minor’s attention and pointed, and he put Bryce down long enough to give me a boost up to the top of the wall that stood between us.

Nice.

I straddled the wall and waited for Brooks and Minor to figure out how to get Bryce up to me so I could pass him down to the others.

Hm. Any particular reason you want to do this? Just so you can have only one or two people taking the long way around?

From my vantage point, I could see more of the battle unfolding on the far side of the mall.

One powered Merchant charged Faultline and collapsed through the ground she had strategically weakened.

Huh, that’s a neat use of her power.

She kicked him several times in the face before the next member of Skidmark’s group tried to take her on, drawing and pointing a gun.

The great equalizer… but Faultline can just cut it in half, can’t she?

Faultline drew her feet apart, and then dropped through the floor of the platform in a spray of splinters.

…alright. Won’t that just put her next to the first Merchant cape, though?

To her right, the red-headed woman was striding towards Scrub.  He aimed a shot and missed by a fraction, and she didn’t even flinch.

Badass.

Another try, another miss.  As she got close, he let his power go haywire, and a dozen flashes erupted in close vicinity to him.  None touched her.

This seems to be far more than just agility.

She had her gun drawn, but she didn’t shoot him.  Instead, she grabbed him by the collar, then wrenched him to one side so he tipped over the side of the platform and fell the twenty or so feet to the ground below.

See ya.

It wasn’t enough of a fall to guarantee that he was out of the fight, but she seemed confident enough to turn away and move on to the next target before he’d even finished falling.

Out of the fight or not, it’s going to take him a little bit of time to get back up, and his range seems to be relatively short. 15 feet, maybe?

It’s worth noting that he does seem to be getting better at controlling it now.


Gregor was keeping up his steady pressure, alternating between blasting Trainwreck and blasting Mush with one hand and aiming at Skidmark with the other.

Damn, Gregor, taking on three at once!

Skidmark used his power to push away the worst of the slime, but it was clear he was losing.  His power wasn’t strong, it didn’t have much more push to it than a strong wind.

Unless layered, of course.

Any attempt to get it as effective as it had been at the edge of the arena took time and multiple layers of the effect.

Yeah.

In short, Gregor could make the slime more easily than Skidmark could get rid of it.

Good job, Gregor. 🙂


A knotted bandage tied around Bryce’s good arm was thrown up to me, and I used it to draw his arm up while the others managed his lower body.  Once I had his wrist, I gripped it firmly in one hand, my upper body hugging the top of the wall to keep myself from being pulled off.

This seems like a solid way to do it.

Minor gave Brooks a boost and the medic straddled the wall facing me.  We worked together to raise the unconscious boy over the top of the wall and pass him down to where the others waited.

I do wonder how much remote awareness Labyrinth has of what happens inside the area she’s affecting. For instance, would she have seen the arrows Taylor made out of bugs and maybe recognized Skitter’s presence?

I glanced back towards the fight.  Faultline had emerged from beneath the platform and moved around to the side, and using her power to draw hand holds into the side of the platform.

One thing I love about Worm is how creative just about everyone gets with their powers.

The cape who’d been aiming at her with the gun stooped over the hole she’d dropped into and looked down to see if she was still down there.

“Anybody home?”

He was oblivious as she hauled herself over the edge of the platform and attacked him from behind, striking him with one elbow, then reversing the turn of her body to sweep his legs out from under him with one extended leg.

w h o o p

I guess this is why she went into the hole in the first place instead of just destroying the gun.

Then again, this was one of the capes… What’s his power?

The sweep of her foot had apparently coincided with a use of her power, because there was a cloud of stone dust as he collapsed onto broken, uneven ground.

Nice.

From my angle I couldn’t see for sure, but I thought maybe he’d fallen head first into the hole she’d first descended into.

Faultline: *scribbles a “2” onto her golf card*


Brooks and I hauled Minor over, and I waited while he climbed down, since I was already fairly secure where I was.

Oh, okay, we’re getting everyone over this time. Fair enough!

Skidmark was losing.  It was obvious from where I sat, and I could see his changing expression as he saw Mush collapse beneath Gregor’s sludge and realized he had no friends left.

Good. I want to see the Merchants lose.

Hey, maybe you could’ve gotten somewhere if you hadn’t had a large portion of your mundane muscle beat and/or kill each other right before this!

Gregor, Labyrinth, Faultline and the red-haired woman were all in action, and Skidmark was pretty much alone at this point.

Excellent.

I hadn’t seen Newter or Spitfire, and I couldn’t be sure if he was okay or not.

Yeah, Spitfire hasn’t showed up at all. Maybe she has a stealthier task? Although I think my working hypothesis last session was that she’s the one staying behind with Labyrinth to make sure she sticks to the plan.

Sure, the Merchants could have hit him with weapons rather than their bare hands, but he was quick, he had his tail, and he only needed to touch someone to drug them out of their minds.

Not to mention his wall and roof crawling ability. Or the fact he can spit at those too far away for touching.

Yeah, Newter’s fairly capable of defending himself.

Spitfire might be the one babysitting Labyrinth somewhere out of the way.

Yeah.

In fact, Spitfire being the one to take care of Labyrinth is probably a standard thing for the Crew. They did share a room.

Hm, I wonder if Palanquin survived Leviathan.


It had to suck for Skidmark, losing like this.  He’d risen to power based on a streak of good luck and momentum rather than any talent, deed or ability.  Now it was falling apart.  He’d lost, he’d had his ass kicked in front of the bulk of his followers, and he would likely never regain what he’d had.

Of course it sucks for him.

And I’m very glad it does.

Not that I felt bad for him.  There was a kind of justice to it.

Yes. Thank you, Taylor. He deserves every bit of this.

He didn’t even have a power that would let him go down in a blaze of glory.  No, his final act here would be one of petty spite.

Hm? What’s he about to pull?

Well, maybe he can’t go down in a blaze of glory, but at least he could blow the crowd away.


His power streaked from his hand to the ground where the canisters and metal case sat.

Ah shit.

Where’s he sending them? Into the labyrinth?

I could see Faultline’s expression change behind her mask, saw her set her feet and start sprinting for the case before Skidmark’s power even took hold.

If the vials smash, that’s probably bad for Faultline’s Crew.

Not as bad as some vengeful Merchants getting them, but still bad.

The metal box and canisters launched out over the edge of the platform and into the air above the crowd.  Only a few papers escaped the case at first, but his power had saturated the insides of the box.

Papers? Possibly with information the Crew wanted, I’d imagine.

So he’s saturated the insides of the box? That’s bad for the health of the glass vials.

Just after reaching the apex of its flight, his power seized the contents and the case expelled everything from within.  Papers slid off one another and into the air, forming a small cloud.

R.I.P.

Oh wait, so there’s a box and canisters, and the vials are inside the canisters, not the box. The vials are possibly fine, but the papers – which are probably more important to Faultline’s Crew than the vials – are getting scattered to the winds.

“Taylor!” Lisa shouted.

What is it? Time to go?

I knew what she wanted.  I drew clouds of my bugs from the ceiling, catching the papers that weren’t saturated with Skidmark’s power, collecting my bugs on them.

Oh. Using bugs to catch the papers was actually my first thought, but I was like “nah, why would Lisa care”. But I do suppose she’s interested in the information on those papers too.

(This kind of thing is why I have a policy of writing down just about every thought, but sometimes I fail to. Sorry.)

I could have maybe carried them directly to me with enough bugs, but I found it easier and more discreet to use the bugs and nudge the papers into floating on the air currents, like paper airplanes without the ‘airplane’ aspect of things.

Hm. Looks like the Undersiders, at least Lisa, are going to learn a thing or two. And if the Crew finds out the Undersiders got the papers, that’s setting us up for some interesting future interactions between the two groups.


As they got close, I took a firmer hold over them and moved them directly to us.  The papers crumpled as my hands closed around them.  Four or five pages. I couldn’t be sure two might have been stuck together.

Not too much, but far better than nothing.

“We need an exit,” I said, as I hopped down from the wall.  I handed Lisa the papers.

Yeah, before Faultline comes after you. I highly doubt she wasn’t paying close attention to where the papers were headed.

Lisa nodded, “I’ve been thinking on that.  Look.”

She pointed at one corner of the mall.  It looked like any other section, heavily altered by Labyrinth’s powers.  The shops had been almost entirely consumed by Labyrinth’s powers, and were further shrouded by the floor-to-ceiling statues of human figures that stuck out of the walls.

So did you find a hole in the Matrix?

In the corner Lisa was pointing at, there were male and female figures, expressions solemn, hands reaching, moving so slowly I might have thought it was my imagination.  The shop below was nearly gone, the entrance nearly covered up.

Hm. But not completely… is that the ticket out?

“Not seeing it,” I said.

“Look at how they’re standing.  The male figure is sticking out of the left wall, reaching with his right hand, the female figure is doing the opposite.

Seems riddle-y… Is it a requirement of Labyrinth’s power that she provides some way out? Or maybe it’s for Faultline and anyone else on Labyrinth’s side who need to get out but are under the power’s effect.

Look past them, at the corner.”

I did.  Between the figures was the point where the two exterior walls of the shopping center joined… nothing jumped out at me.  The walls were bare.

Hm. Maybe that’s the point.

“I don’t see it,” I repeated, as she tugged on my arm and started running forward.  As a group we started moving toward the corner.  “What am I looking for?”

Maybe it’s more what isn’t there, namely wall decorations.

“Nothing!  There’s nothing there because her power isn’t extending to that corner.  She’s too far away, on the roof at the other side of the mall. Which means the interior of that shop isn’t affected by her power!”

Nice! I got the pieces right, just didn’t think to put them together.

So are you gambling on the shop having a back door or emergency exit?

To be fair, Lisa is very good at gambling.


However ominous the giant statues were, they didn’t react to our passing.  The exit was small, barely three feet across.  If Lisa hadn’t given me her reasoning, I wasn’t sure I would have had the guts to go through.

Yeah, that would be fair.

Also, I guess the shop doesn’t need to have a back door or emergency exit. Leviathan might’ve made one for them.

It was spooky to think about putting myself in a smaller space like the store interior and having it close tight behind me.

This whole situation reminds me of the Undersiders’ exit in Parasite.

Also, I think this is the first we’ve seen of Taylor being uncomfortable with a smaller space, and though I think this is a fair, rational concern under these circumstances, it does remind me of a recent comment of mine (that I can’t seem to find, please let me know if you do): I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor turned out to be claustrophobic, given the nature of her trigger event.

[WordPress blog search works better than Tumblr’s. Here it is.]


The bodyguards had to go through the doorway in a crouch,

I misread that as “cronch” for a moment.

and Minor dropped Bryce to let the others drag him inside, just so he could fit.

Nice.

As Lisa had suggested, the shop interior was largely unaffected by Labyrinth’s abilities, though it had been trashed by looters and the effects of Leviathan’s attack.

Of course. Many of said looters are probably outside, in the labyrinth, too.

Leviathan hopefully isn’t.

We found the back rooms, and Jaw kicked the door open.  From there, we made our way to the emergency exit, cleared rubble away and escaped into the parking lot.

Yay!


A handful of others had found escape routes too, I noted.  Merchants were crossing the parking lot at a run, or helping wounded buddies limp away.  We weren’t so conspicuous.

Let’s hope we don’t run into Spitfire out here.

Hell, it’s entirely possible Spitfire is actively looking, if Faultline did indeed spot Taylor catching the papers.

I hurt.  I’d been cut on the arm, and I’d taken my lumps in too many other places to count.  My knuckles and fingertips were scratched raw from climbing the walls of the maze and moving rubble, my cheekbone throbbed where I’d been elbowed, and my fucking contact lenses were still irritating.

Oww.

Never ever something I could get used to, even with other things taking up my attention.

Heh, yeah, sounds about right.


But we’d made it.

😀

Far more successfully than I thought you might have to settle for at certain points, too. You’ve got Bryce, for one thing.

We moved at a light jog for a good distance before Brooks called us to a stop.  We lay Bryce down for him to look at, and he decided we needed call for a pickup to get the boy more serious medical attention.

Makes sense. Sounds good for transportation, too.

While we waited for the car to arrive, Lisa, and I sat down on a nearby set of stairs.  The other bodyguards were still on duty, still watching for trouble.

We about to get some private talk between the two of them?

Charlotte stood a distance away, hugging herself.  She looked like she wanted to leave, but lacked the courage to go alone.

I can’t blame her. Hell, maybe going alone is how she got caught up in this mess in the first place, for that matter. Even if it wasn’t, though, this is very understandable.


I was going to go reassure Charlotte, but Lisa retrieved the papers I’d given her and smoothed them out against her leg, and the widening of her eyes caught my attention.

Time to Learn™!

“It’s a letter or contract from the people who made the stuff, talking to the guy who’d bought this stuff.  Let’s see, we have… page two.  Pages eighteen and nineteen.  Page twenty-seven.  Page sixteen.  Wonder if we can put a narrative together.”

Well, at least you know where to start.

This kinda reminds me of the horror game subgenre where you go around a creepy place and reading notes and pages scattered everywhere, such as Amnesia.

…I suppose bringing up a game series called Amnesia is oddly appropriate given that this is almost certainly connected to Case 53.

“You probably could,” I said.

She glanced over one page, then handed it to me as she moved on to the others.  I read it.

Excellent, I think we’re about to actually see what the pages say. I’m down with this.


client one, and clients two through six for confidentiality purposes.  For clarity, and to help ensure that the proper clients receive the intended products, we must restate facts for client one to double-check.  Client one is the negotiator for each of the clients, guardian of clients two and three and is not intending to consume the product. 

Hm, alright. “guardian” implies clients two and three are probably underage, and client one is making sure they get powers. Are clients two and three in on this willingly? Do they know what they’re doing?

This cannot be stressed enough.  Client one is not to share or use any of the product intended for other clients.  

They evidently lost it somehow, at least.

Also, I wonder what the relations between client one and clients 4-6 are.

It kind of seems like someone is trying to set up a cape team by gathering the people first and then giving them powers.

Ignoring this warning or failing to adhere to any other warnings or directions within this documentation will compel Cauldron to carry out the countermeasures and call in all debts noted in sections 8b and 8c on pages seventeen, eighteen and nineteen. 

Cauldron. Decent name, fits the icon. I suppose it also fits the idea of brewing, making magic potions to give people powers, which is a neat touch.

I’ve actually been semi-spoiled on this. I’ve been meaning to make a post about this, but didn’t get around to it in time for the reveal: I’ve become aware of the existence of a Discord server called Cauldron, and it wasn’t hard to guess that it was the same server some people have referred to as Upsilon while talking to me. I couldn’t be quite sure it was the actual name of the organization, though.

But yeah, looks like that is indeed what they’re called.

Also worth noting here: It seems the vials were sold not by the Dealer, but by Cauldron itself. Unless of course the Dealer did work for Cauldron and was killed by someone else.


Clients two through six are noted here in as much detail as is allowed given the agreed-upon confidentiality.
■  Client two is the elder of client one’s two relatives noted here, female. 

You know what would be crazy? If it turned out these clients happened to be New Wave kids. Doesn’t really fit with what we know about New Wave or about Cauldron’s victims, though, but that would’ve been a bit of a twist.

Client three is the younger of client one’s two relatives noted here, male.
■  Clients four and five are client two’s friends.  Client four is female.  Client five is male. 

Alright. Is that relation actually relevant to the contract? It seems a little odd for the contract to make special note of the fact that some of the clients are friends.

■  Client six is the friend of client three, male. 

It is pretty neat that 2 and 3 got to bring their friends along, though.

Both vials and protective containers are noted with the numbers specific to each client, each containing the requested upon products from the catalogue. 

There’s an entire catalogue? That has some implications, mainly that Cauldron is pretty serious about merchandising these vials, and that they can customize the powers in the vials to some extent.


I wish to give written evidence of the verbal exchange between Cauldron and client one on February 18 2011. 

Timeframe!

And hey, that’s not all that long ago either. Just a couple weeks, give or take seven years.

Client one is informed that client four scored a borderline failure on the psychological testing and that results may lead to a Deviation scenario

Deviation? Interesting…

Maybe not all people who get powers this way end up with monstrous forms and amnesia (though the amnesia might be something Cauldron deliberately give them when they drop them off anyway). Maybe those that do are referred to as having deviated, and in the case of test subjects, those that deviate are dropped off somewhere because Cauldron doesn’t want them? Though doing that instead of further testing does sound like bad science.


“What’s on the other pages?” I asked.

“Sixteen is accounting.  Bank statements, confirmation of money exchanged, a list of what was bought.  Seven figures base price, more for this Nemesis program, still more for some powers.

Nemesis program… hm. Not sure what to make of that. It’s probably not literal – I doubt Cauldron sells custom-tailored enemies for their new parahumans.

Don’t have all the pages I’d need to get it, but I’m getting the sense the more unique powers and the stronger ones cost way more.”

That makes sense. It’d make sense for those to be harder to make, but even if that isn’t the case, hiking up the prices for the good stuff is sound business.

‘The sense’, she’d said.  Her power filling in the blanks.

Yeah, I got that.

“Pages eighteen and nineteen refer back to something called the ‘Nemesis program’, potentially revoking it, they’re talking about debts, services required by this ‘Cauldron’ using the clients’ powers.

So then… the Nemesis program means they pay for their powers by way of serving Cauldron with their powers?

There’s a bunch of specifics on how the time, effort and risk of said services would factor in with one another.”

Makes sense. Gotta quantify that stuff if the Nemesis program is what I just described.


“People can buy powers?  How many people are doing this?”  I felt a touch offended at the idea.  I’d earned my powers through my hardships. Most of us had.

It’s even more easy-street than being born with the potential to get them from much lighter trigger events, like children of parahuman parents are.

“My whole life, really has been a ‘no’, and I fought through it. I’ve been– and, you know, I talk about it. It has not been easy for me. It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brockton Bay. My father gave me a small loan of a superpower. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started fighting people, and I did great.”


“Enough that there’s a whole enterprise here with a private army.  There’s this bit that very politely notes that breaking the rules will get you hunted down and executed by Subjects, capital S.

That would be what happened to the Dealer.

So how many vials did the Dealer buy? Or did he, as I had thought, steal them?

Clients are warned that these guys are entirely loyal to Cauldron, will not accept bribes.  And these Subjects are apparently something different from Deviations.”

I’m thinking Deviations are the Case 53s, and Subjects are test subjects that didn’t become monstrous.

“Cauldron calls us Subjects.  The PRT calls us Case 53s,” a voice said from above us.

!

Newter?

“Regular people call us monsters.”

Ouch.

Somehow “monster” feels more insulting than “monstrous”. I assure you, I’m only using “monstrous” as a value-neutral description for lack of a better one (”Case 53s” doesn’t count, I’m lacking an adjective, not a noun).

What presumably-Newter is saying here does seem to imply that the Case 53s are not Deviations, though.


Our bodyguards wheeled on the spot, a set of guns training on Newter, where he clung to the side of the building.

He seems to be coming in peace. Especially if he has figured out who Taylor is, he might be inclined to talk it over and explain that the girls should give the papers to him.

They had been covering the possible approach points from the ground.  They hadn’t been expecting trouble from directly above us.

Heh. Bit of an oversight there, considering the group knew they had something Faultline’s Crew wanted and the Crew had Newter, but we can’t expect everyone to think of everything all the time.

“I heard of the Case 53 thing,” Lisa told him, backing away.  “The rest is new.  You work for them?  No.  But you’re related to this.”

I like how Lisa immediately answers herself in the middle of this.

“Gregor, Shamrock and I were test subjects.  Guinea pigs to test the new formulas, so the buyers don’t get fucked.  According to Shamrock, three in five of us don’t even survive.

Ohhhh!

That’s who the redhead was! I forgot about Shamrock, the super-lucky gambler in Vegas, but I do remember her pretty clearly now that the name was brought up.

It seems Shamrock knew a bit more about the whole thing. Is she also how they got the vials in the first place? Assuming of course that stealing from Faultline’s Crew was how the Merchants got them.

One in five Subjects are retained and brainwashed so they can protect the business and enforce the contracts.  Shamrock was going to be one of them, but she escaped.

Ahh, I see.

The rest of us have our memories removed, and we’re released as part of the ‘Nemesis program.‘”

Looks like I had it backwards. The Nemesis program is for the ones that don’t serve Cauldron.

But why do they do that? To normalize the idea of monstrous capes, preventing customer complaints?


“Which is?”

Newter glanced at the papers, “I’d really like to know.”

Still some open questions, I see.

“So you followed us.”

“Something about the way that one moved,” Newter pointed at Jaw with his tail, “Reminded me of some other mercenaries I’ve come across.  Don’t bother shooting, by the way, I’m too quick.”

Ahh. The bodyguard was a little too bodyguardy. I guess he’s figured out they work for Coil, too.

Lisa gestured, and the bodyguards lowered their weapons.

Newter frowned, “I gathered you were mercenaries, decided to spy, but finding you’d taken the papers was a surprise.  Who are you?”

People with an interest in information, just like you.

Lisa looked at me, without a ready answer for once.  I looked over at Charlotte and sighed.  She’d already put some of the pieces together.  She could probably figure it out from here.

Yeah, and Minor showed no surprise, either. Chances are more of the bodyguards have figured out who Taylor is, too.

I might as well control when that happened, so I wouldn’t get caught off guard further down the road.

Yeah, that’s fair. Seems like a decent idea. We don’t want Charlotte approaching Taylor on street shouting “Holy shit you’re Skitter?

I raised the piece of paper, as if to hand it to Newter, and I directed bugs to cluster on it.  In moments, the half of the paper closest to him was dark with various flies and creepy crawlies.

Heh, this is a neat way of telling him.


Charlotte’s eyes widened.  This was apparently her putting the last piece into place.

Yep! I wonder if she’s aware of Skitter? I mean, Skitter’s turned into a much more public figure now, but that’s a pretty new development. As in literally this morning. Charlotte probably doesn’t know about that.

“Ah, Skitter,” he said.  Apparently my having saved his life once and gifting him a paper bag filled with money didn’t do much to ease his wariness.

Eh, it was a truce situation. You guys were working alongside Kaiser too, for example. Granted, saving someone’s life still counts for something under those circumstances.

Though I’ve said it before, having your life saved by someone is less of a sound reason to trust someone blindly than it might seem.

He wasn’t any less guarded when he asked, “Why are you here?”

Besides, either way, Skitter did just interfere with Newter’s goals by catching the papers.

Oh, and yet another reason for Newter not to trust her blindly: He’s working in a Crew that, as a whole, can’t be trusted not to turn on you for the right amount of money. That sort of thing can change how a man feels about trust.

(Relatedly, I’m currently playing a D&D character who doesn’t trust anyone because he himself is a deceptive charlatan and he’s aware of how there are many people like himself.)


I pointed at the unconscious Bryce.  “An errand.  Didn’t mean to get in your way.  I only grabbed the papers as a spur of the moment thing, and because they would’ve been ruined if they’d just drifted all over in there.”

And of course because Lisa wanted her to, but it’s probably best not to mention that.

But yeah, as far as recovering the papers goes, the Crew are lucky Taylor was there.

“That wasn’t much of a concern.  One of my teammates is collecting the papers as we talk, and I expect she’ll find nearly all of them.  The ones that she could find with some luck, anyways.”

Hah, good point.

Luck is a really good power.

“We’re honestly not looking for trouble, and  I have no problem with giving you these.” I banished the bugs on the paper and stepped forward to extend it towards him.

Yeah, this is a good, peaceful way to resolve this situation.

Lisa followed my cue, offering the others, “Wouldn’t mind copies of whatever you’ve got.”

Hehe, of course.


Newter frowned.

Before he could say anything, Lisa hurried to add, “I’m good at figuring stuff out.  I’m a fountain of knowledge.  I want to know more about this stuff, and I could help you guys in exchange for what you’ve already got.”

I think “fountain of knowledge” is the closest we’ve seen to Lisa actually telling someone outside the Undersiders what her power is.

But yeah, this seems like a really good deal for the Crew, though they might not realize how good.

“I’d have to ask Faultline.  She doesn’t like you.”

Oh, okay, he has figured out who Lisa is. To be fair, that’s not too hard given the information that Taylor is Skitter.

I do want to see some interactions between Faultline and Tattle. They sound like they’d have a fun dynamic. ♤


Lisa grinned.  “And I don’t like her.  But she’s not stupid, either.  She knows this is mutually beneficial.”

And hey, Faultline does generally seem willing to strike deals with people she doesn’t like.

Lisa drew a pen from her pocket and scribbled on the back of one page.  “My number, if you’re interested.”

He took the sheets, looked them over, then rolled them up and stuck them in his back pants pocket.

Lisa just gave Faultline her number. Let the kismesissitude bloom!

“We’ll be in touch one way or another,” he said.

Sounds good to me.

Then he was gone, around the side of the building and up to the roof in heartbeats.

See ya! 🙂


I looked at Charlotte, and she shrank back, as if I could hurt her by looking at her.

Hm. Seems she hadn’t considered the possibility that Taylor would be a villain.

Which was dumb.  It was fairly obvious to anyone who considered my power that I didn’t need to look at people to hurt them.  Not that I’d hurt her, anyways.

Pfft.

She’d done nothing to deserve any such thing, beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And maybe just a little bit obnoxious about Taylor’s trigger event, but she clearly didn’t mean to be and she’s stayed quiet since then, with the exception of reacting to Taylor and Lisa being parahumans.


Charlotte, Bryce and Sierra.  The civilians.  I still had to figure out how to deal with them.  My heart sank.  Social interaction: not where my talents lay.

Yeah, this is a bit of a mess. And the list of people who know what the face under Skitter’s mask looks like keeps expanding:

  • Brian
  • Lisa
  • Alec
  • Rachel
  • Coil
  • Aisha (even before she became an Undersider)
  • Dragon
  • Charlotte
  • Minor
  • Brooks
  • Jaw
  • Senegal
  • Newter
  • probably Bryce, soon enough

End of Infestation 11.7

That was a pretty good one. As expected, it was not quite as interesting as the last one, but that said more about last chapter than this one, and this one was certainly not bad. Faultline’s Crew were pretty great in this, especially Newter, Gregor and Labyrinth. We also got to meet Shamrock, who was very cool.

In the end, things resolved peacefully between Lisa’s group and Newter, with every side except the Merchants pleased with the outcome. I quite liked that scene. It also provided us with a bunch more information about Upsilon, which I now know to be called Cauldron. It seems to be far more mercantile than I was expecting.

Judging by the cliff we ended on, next chapter will be about Taylor dealing with Charlotte knowing her identity, and bringing Bryce back to Sierra. That last part means more Skitter and Sierra interaction, which I’m looking forward to, but it also presumably means informing Sierra about what Bryce did to her (I consider Sierra a victim of Bryce’s actions)… Honestly, the only way to go about it that won’t get Sierra upset, however briefly, at Skitter is probably to have Bryce tell her himself, but I doubt he wants to.

No matter what, I expect upset Sierra.

So yeah. That’s all for tonight – see you next time!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s