Source material: Worm, Interlude 11a
Originally blogged: March 8-13, 2018
WOO PARTY TIME
Howdy! It’s time to celebrate the first year of Worm with eight consecutive Interludes! And hey, this is my five thousandth post on this blog, so there’s that too. 😛
So, what are we in for in Interlude 11a? I think I’ve made my predictions on that clear – chances are we’re in for Jack Slash, or one of the other members of the Fellowship of the Meat (in which case I’ll be expecting Jack in Interlude 11h). If we don’t get either, though… I’ll probably be fucked as far as predicting who we’ll be checking on in each Interlude goes.
If we are meeting the Slaughterhouse in this half-Arc, we’re probably getting some brutal behavior.
Without further ado… let’s get this party started!
A howl tore through the air.
Are we dealing with Hookwolf?
It wasn’t the howl one would expect from a dog. It was ragged, with a guttural undertone that hinted at the size of the one doing the howling.
Like someone a bit bigger than a dog… like a wolf?
Before the howl had even finished, more took up the cry in answer. A second howl, then a third. More joining in, all at once. Seven or eight.
Hm. Did Hookwolf instruct his subordinates to do this sort of thing along with him, or are we dealing with actual wolves here?
Bentley raised his head and joined them, his tail wagging on his undersized hindquarters, almost prancing on the spot in his excitement.
Is this. A Rachel. Lindt. Inter–
I mean, my first though was another doggo Interlude, but it’s not written like one, so the next most reasonable assumption is that this is the perspective of someone who’d be paying attention to Bentley.
Water splashed around paws as wide around as bike tires as he landed, spraying Bitch.
Yeah, it seems this is, in fact, a Lindterlude! Nice.
It’s still a possibility that we’re getting Interludes for every Fellowship member but Jack Slash, but I doubt that.
Also, I guess those were the hellhounds howling? They’re certainly bigger than your average dog.
His enthusiasm was infectious. She bared her teeth in a wide grin, then whooped, adding her voice to the cacophony.
She hopped up his side, gripping ridges of hard muscle and bony growths so she could throw one leg over his other shoulder. A spike of bone scratched her upper thigh, beneath her skirt, but she didn’t care. It was nothing.
Also, I never really pictured Rachel as the type to wear skirts for some reason. Fair enough.
“Go, Bentley!” She urged him. He surged forward like an arrow loosed from a bow.
So what are we doing? Claiming territory? Chasing Fenrir’s Chosen out of it?
I don’t remember if it’s been stated yet, but I have no doubt Rachel will be dealing with Fenrir’s Chosen like Taylor had to deal with the Merchants. Hookwolf is just too perfect as a rival to Rachel for that not to be the case.
She could feel the heat of his body underneath her, the rippling movements of his muscles as he ran. She could smell him, like dog breath and the coppery tang of blood, that faint sweet smell of meat on the verge of going bad.
She could smell herself, her body odor. She hadn’t washed in two days, but she liked her own smell.
Did Brian and the others make sure you washed up when you were all living together?
She liked that her belongings and her place all smelled like her.
The stench is her most powerful ward against enemy infiltrations.
It wasn’t that she wouldn’t take care of herself. She would, just like she took care of her dogs. Just as she groomed each of them twice a week or more, she would tend to herself.
Just not in the ways, or with the frequency, expected from a human being?
But what did some scruff on her legs matter when she was treading down flooded streets or caked in mud up to her knees half the time anyways?
What did some body odor mean, if she didn’t even like the people who were around to be offended by it?
Hehe. I can’t argue.
Barker, Biter and the others would be at the locations she had assigned them. She had given them the most menial of tasks. Grooming the dogs, feeding the dogs, picking up shit, checking the dogs for sores, cuts, ear infections and ticks like she’d showed them.
I’m sure they’re loving that.
She had a good number of dogs in her care, now. Most had been taken from kennels that hadn’t been in a state to help the animals since Leviathan attacked.
Oh yeah, I’m sure there are a lot of those now.
She was eagerly anticipating the moment someone complained.
You mean out of your subordinates, or out of the people at the kennels?
Barker or Biter would be the ones to whine about the task first.
Subordinates, got it.
Well, at least Barker’s bark is probably worse than his bite.
They had powers. They had expected to be in charge, to be her lieutenants.
Except that role went to dogs, didn’t it.
The looks on their faces when she’d given them their tasks had made her day.
Hehe, at least she’s enjoying herself.
Nothing like putting someone in their place.
If they didn’t complain by the time they were through checking and taking care of all of her dogs, maybe they would start when the next batch arrived from the shelters, and they were told they had to do all of those dogs on top of starting afresh with all the ones they had done before.
The moment someone did complain? Or if they let one tick, one rash or one ear infection slip? She could make an example of them. Humiliate them, scare them, insult them.
Ahh, so that’s what she’s waiting for. The chance to put the fear of dog into them.
Specifically the dog named Rachel “Bitch” Lindt.
If she did it well enough, they’d leave.
…well, at least they’d still act as an example for the rest.
So does Rachel just want an excuse to get rid of the humans so she can do things on her own?
If she did it really well, they would all leave.
Hehe, sure seems like it.
Then she could be alone for a while, alone with her dogs. Nobody would be able to nag her about the fact that she hadn’t given the henchman thing a try. Fuck it.
Gotta admit, I like the line of thinking here.
She already had all of the assistance she needed. The best, most loyal kind.
The doggo kind.
Lucy appeared from a nearby street, making her excitement known with a noise that was half bark and half something else. She ran alongside Bentley.
Hang on, I’m going to go tell a friend named Lucy that she just showed up in Worm.
King Krix the Green:
@Lu Hey, Lucy, you just showed up in the Worm chapter I’m liveblogging
King Krix the Green:
Though I wasn’t aware you’d turned into a dog. When did that happen?
Maybe I’ve always been a dog.
And you just never realized it
King Krix the Green:
Hm, yeah, I suppose that’s reasonable.
I mean, this is set in 2011. That’s before we even met, if I’m not mistaken.
It’s also set in an alternate universe where Newfoundland has been sunk into the sea by a monster and people with bad days can get superpowers, but that’s beside the point.
“Good girl!” Bitch laughed, “Come on!”
She’s so much happier like this than I think we ever saw her when the Undersiders were living together at the Loft. 🙂
Lucy responded by huffing out a noise that might have been a bark. Her footfalls splashed out of sync with Bentley’s, and they were soon joined by others. Ink, Magic, Roxy, Buddy, Bruno and Socks.
These are some really good doggo names. I especially like Magic.
And also Roxy, but that’s largely because she shares that name with one of my favorite Homestuck characters.
None of the others were as large as Lucy and Bentley. This would be their first run.
Ah, yeah, can’t have them at full size when they’re not trained for it.
A taste of her power. She would give them a little more each time, keep an eye out for the ones who listened, give more training to the ones who needed to be kept in line by the bigger and more obedient dogs.
That makes sense.
But this was her territory. Her space. Finally a place where she could do what she wanted. Here, she was free, and that meant she could be dirty.
Be dirty, and play dirty?
Also, without the direct influence of the remaining Undersiders, it’s possible we’ll be getting some brutal behavior even without following the Slaughterhouse.
She could go where she wanted, hurt anyone who got in her face.
Case in point.
She could roam free with her dogs and try her power on them without worrying about people getting hurt.
Which wasn’t to say that people wouldn’t get hurt, of course. Just that it was her territory, and she was allowed to make the call.
Anyone who hadn’t gotten the message already deserved what they got.
Basically, stay indoors or you might get maimed by Bitch’s dogs.
Bentley and the rest of her pack drew towards the source of the howling. Sirius stood outside an apartment block, filling the evening with that mournful, haunting sound that carried through the air.
She hopped down from Bentley’s back, and used the back of her hand to wipe away some of the sweat, mucus and blood that had transferred from his back to her inner thigh. “Sirius! Good boy!”
Yes, a very good boy. :Å)
He wagged his tail, and the tip of it made trails in the water.
There is seriously no getting away from water in Brockton Bay these days.
“Sirius, guard!” she pointed toward the front door of the building. “Bentley! Guard!” She pointed at the little emergency exit at the side.
Hm. So is this her target, then? Or is it home?
The two dogs moved to their respective positions.
“Sit!” Her dogs all sat. She noted Magic was a little slower than the rest to obey. Would Magic have listened if the other dogs hadn’t been here?
Hm, who knows.
If she hadn’t been following along with the others? Bitch made a mental note.
I thought she already did. I guess “noted” was just meant as “noticed”, then, fair enough.
“Stay…” she ordered, drawing out the word. She could see the group of dogs freeze.
I wonder if the drawing out of the word actually has an effect on the doggos’ understanding of it.
She had a routine with her dogs. The first priority was making sure they were healthy. That meant grooming and possibly shaving them, getting their records and shots updated if they hadn’t come from the shelter, cleaning their ears, and ensuring they were kept away from the other dogs so she could check the color and consistency of their shit and track any changes.
Sounds quite professional. But hey, that’s to be expected. It’s the one thing she really cares about and she’s been doing it for a long time.
Shit revealed a lot about the dog it came from, from the obvious of diet to general health to mood. An unhappy dog had unhealthy shit.
Many unhappy humans also have a lot of unhealthy shit to deal with.
…in a less literal sense, perhaps.
The second step was training, and every dog got some dedicated attention. ‘Sit’ was the first command they learned, followed closely by ‘stay’, ‘off’, ‘fetch’ and ‘come’.
Very useful ones, good place to start.
Depending on the dog, it could take a couple of days before they had it down solid. These commands were absolutes. If a dog didn’t listen to each of those, it wasn’t allowed to go out, and it didn’t get any use of her power.
Yeah, makes sense. Can’t bring along a dog you can’t call off.
Once a dog had those commands down, it opened the door to other orders. A dog that would stay put while she demonstrated with another would be that much more inclined to follow suit.
Ah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
If only humans were as reliable, as easy to train.
Hehe. Yeah, we’re a rowdy bunch, aren’t we.
“Dogs, attack.” The word was quiet, but every dog present was waiting for it. Bentley and Sirius stayed at their positions, but the rest of the dogs surged into the building, the larger ones leaping through the boarded up windows, the smaller ones surging in the front door.
Yeah, this ain’t home. Figured as much, really.
Growls and barks that were twisted by the unnatural shapes of their throats overlapped into a single noise.
I can’t help but imagine their throats being, like… corkscrewed, or something now.
She waited outside the building, one hand on Bentley’s neck. He wanted to go, she knew it from the tension, but he was obedient. Good. This was a test for him.
Gotta stay here, bro.
Another howl sounded, far away, startling her. If her dogs were here with her… oh. Only one dog would be elsewhere.
She listened as the howl came again. Yes. Angelica’s howl reflected her size and the degree to which Bitch had used her power on her.
Ah, there she is!
More than Bentley, Sirius and Lucy.
And of course she’s big.
Bentley seems pretty good and Magic has a great name, but Angelica remains my favorite surviving doggo. I guess it’s a bias towards the “classics”, so to speak.
She whistled for them to come back, long and loud, and her dogs came tearing back through the building.
So, what’d you find in there?
She checked, and she couldn’t make out any blood that didn’t belong to the dogs. Good. Better to terrorize and inflict light wounds than to maim or murder.
Is this her way of establishing her control of the territory? Through sending her dogs into random civilian homes?
If the people in that building stayed in her territory, she would be surprised.
Not just establishing… clearing out.
She wants this place all to herself and her dogs.
A whole neighborhood all for the doggos.
She climbed onto Bentley’s back, then whistled twice. Come.
The good ol’ double whistle. 🙂
A jerk of the chain collar around Bentley’s neck and a kick to his sides spurred him into action. The others followed, some yipping or barking with excitement.
Gallop! Gallop, I say!
…what do you mean “they’re not horses”?
Did other people experience anything close to this? Did Taylor, Brian, Lisa or Alec? She felt like she was one with Bentley as she caught quick breaths between his jarring footfalls.
Terminology jokes aside, I am legitimately reminded of my limited experiences with horse riding.
Water splashed onto her skin and his. Her legs pressed against his body, and she could feel the expansion and contraction as he huffed out breaths. She trusted him, and he trusted her absolutely in return.
Out of context this would totally sound like a sex scene.
It varied from one dog to the next, but the same was true with the others that were following in Bentley’s wake. They believed in her, and if they didn’t love her yet, she knew it would come in time, with her patience and continued care of them. What did Lisa have that compared to that rush, this security? What did the others have?
You know, I really appreciate that now that we finally get an Interlude from Rachel’s perspective, we’re following her as she’s in a state we haven’t really seen her in before: joy. She’s having a good time, enjoying herself, and it’s very refreshing to see this side of her right now.
Why, Bitch wondered, are they happier than me?
…did I speak too soon?
Maybe it’s just because I’ve been getting more and more into MLP:FiM fandom stuff recently, but it seems to me that if this is actually the case, the answer may be friendship. Human friendship.
But with the way Rachel’s brain works, shouldn’t dog friendship be about as good, if not better?
Unbidden, the answers came to mind.
She remembered living with her mother. She couldn’t even remember the woman’s face, but that was little surprise.
Mom had worked anywhere from three jobs to none, but she spent little time in the apartment. When she was home, she was either drinking in her room or partying with friends.
I guess Rachel had to largely take care of herself even before she became homeless, then.
Little Rachel’s questions or attempts to get attention were met with anger, rejection. She would be pushed away or locked in her room.
Ew. This is the kind of parent whose face doesn’t deserve to be remembered.
Better to stay quiet, watch for an opportunity. If her mother passed out drunk, bills could be taken from her wallet, secreted away for later purchases of bread, peanut butter and jam, milk and cereal or orange juice at the corner store.
…not a bad idea, honestly, when it’s like that. Until it gets noticed, of course.
Then it becomes trouble.
If there was a party, and if she was successful in keeping from getting underfoot, she could often snatch a bag of chips, a box of ribs or chicken wings, to eat under her bed or on the roof.
I like the mental image of rooftop Rachel, even though the circumstances prompting it are unfortunate.
So she got by. Until the day her mother didn’t come home.
Welp. So what happened? Drink ‘n’ drive accident?
Somehow I feel like we won’t find out.
The food in the cupboards had disappeared, even the cans of pineapple, pears and nuts in foul-tasting syrup that had been left behind by the apartment’s previous residents. Desperate, terrified to leave the apartment in case the fifteen minutes she spent looking for food were the same fifteen minutes her mother stopped by, she’d turned to trying to cook the rice, standing on a chair to reach the sink and stove-top.
After pouring the rice into the water that had been sitting on the hot stove, she’d accidentally brought her arm down on the arm of the pot, and tipped it all over herself.
In retrospect, it was a blessing that she hadn’t known that the water should be boiling.
…ah, yeah, that helps. Still sounds like it was hot, though, even if it wasn’t quite boiling.
Still, it was hot enough to turn her skin pink and leave her screaming enough to drive the neighbors to call nine-one-one.
Yeah, ow. Must’ve been loud.
I was going to say I imagined Rachel in the last paragraph as being maybe nine, but upon further research–
(no, really, research)
–a nine-year-old girl would probably be too tall for “standing on a chair to reach the sink and stove-top” (I literally pulled out a measuring stick to compare the heights this was giving me with my kitchen sink), so I think she must’ve been even younger. Five or six, maybe?
Then the foster homes. Home one, where the parents were kind, but lacked the patience to deal with a little girl who child protective services had labeled a borderline feral child.
Her foster-sister there had been a mongoloid that stole things, breaking or ruining what she couldn’t take for herself.
Not exactly a good term to use, but this is from Rachel’s perspective. I feel like this is an example of Wildbow writing the character rather than him actually using this word himself, much like the Mrs. Knott situation back in 2.2 was supposed to be according to some of the asks I got about it at the time.
Basically, it seems a lot more clear this time why this description is here. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it’s an Interlude, and maybe the fact that I’m more familiar with Wildbow’s writing and personality at this point, but I also think the phrasing and formatting has something to do with it – it’s italicized, emphasized, implicitly made a deal out of, whereas the Mrs. Knott description was written straight as if it were completely normal to think/say/write something like that. Granted, part of Wildbow’s point may have been that to Taylor, it was, but I think that might’ve contributed to it looking like it was that way to Wildbow as well.
(Incidentally, I realized recently that it’s plausible that my liveblog reminded Wildbow to go change the Mrs. Knott section. I do know he was reading my liveblog around the time I received the news that it had been fixed.)
Rachel had responded the only option she could think of, attacking the girl who was three years older and fifty pounds heavier, leaving the girl bloody and sobbing.
Well, that answers one question: Rachel was kind of unstable even before she got her power. “borderline feral”, even before her power took that up to 11.
At least I think this is before she got her power. I would’ve thought we’d get a mention of the incident we learned about in 4.1 if it wasn’t.
That might be coming up, actually.
They found a new home for her rather quickly, after that.
Honestly, I’m surprised they ended up putting her in a family that already had a child who probably needed extra care in the first place. Unless of course Rachel wasn’t being literal with her description of her foster-sister and just using the term as an insult.
Home two, where the parents were not kind, and she had four foster siblings rather than the one.
Three years there, a long series of lessons on what she’d done to the idiot sister from the first home, taught with the roles reversed. An education in violence of every kind.
Ah yes, because after what happened in the first foster home, this is exactly what Rachel needed. More violence.
Her caseworker wouldn’t happen to be one Mr. Arthur Poe?
(#a series of unfortunate events
#i’m looking forward to season 2 of the netflix series at the end of the month
#i also feel like i should reread the books
#i don’t remember much from the later ones)
Unable to keep the feelings bottled up within her, she screamed until she couldn’t breathe any longer. Then she took a deep breath and screamed again.
Even though she screamed until it hurt, it was tiny and insignificant compared to everything she wanted to convey.
Seriously, though, this is arguably still more healthy than bottling it up.
Though of course, that’s not the point here. The point is life sucked for Rachel.
Home three had been the breaking point. Two foster siblings, a single foster-mother. She’d overheard her caseworker saying that the new foster-mother would be a disciplinarian, the only person that might be able to turn Rachel into a civilized human being.
And the second home wasn’t bad enough? What fresh hell is Little Rachel in for now?
And is it going to be what causes her trigger event?
Bitch’s opinion, years later, was that this had been a retaliation, a punishment inflicted on her by the caseworker for the countless trips to school or the home to deal with Rachel.
This isn’t Arthur Poe. Arthur Poe is just incompetent and worse at keeping children safe than a jar of mustard. This is worse.
If Bitch is right, of course.
She hadn’t believed that her foster mother could be more of a disciplinarian than her second set of foster parents.
Yeah, that got my eyebrows up too.
Realizing the nature of her situation had been unpleasant. The foster-mother brooked no nonsense, and had a keen eye for every failing and mistake on her children’s part, quick to punish, quick to correct.
If one of her children spoke with their mouths full, she would snatch that child’s plate away and dispose of the contents into the trash can.
Never the carrot, always sticks. Rachel was made to attend school, then after-school make up classes, with piano every other day, as if she couldn’t be bad if she didn’t have the time.
…and here I thought reminding me of Chat Noir was Taylor’s job, not Rachel’s.
But Rachel hadn’t been equipped for these things, would never be equipped for school or manners or piano. She fought back, challenged her foster-mother’s authority at every turn, and when she was punished for this, she fought back twice as hard.
Yeah, that sounds more like the Rachel we know.
She might have gone insane if it wasn’t for Rollo.
Ooh, Rollo… first dog, right? I seem to recall Rollo being brought up before. Blog search isn’t helping, though.
She’d stumbled onto the mangy, hostile puppy in an alley between her after-school classes and home. After earning his trust with scraps of her lunch over the course of days and weeks, she brought him home and chained him up at the very back of the expansive backyard, out of sight of the house.
She had stayed quiet when her foster-mother complained about the neighbor dog’s barking, feeling a confused mixture of smugness and terror every time it came up.
Hehe. Sure! Those damn neighbors, am I right?
Her lunch money went towards buying the dog scraps of food, guessing at what he needed, and this sacrifice of her lunches coupled with the frequent lack of dinner left her getting headaches and her stomach growling constantly during school.
Ah shit. I’m all for you taking care of the doggo, but you gotta take care of yourself too.
She would wake up at four in the morning to visit him and play with him, and the lack of sleep left her so tired she would drift asleep in the middle of class.
Yeeah, no lunch and little sleep isn’t a good combination for education. Which… I guess she would end up having to catch up on through the after-school make-up classes? Which may or may not cause her foster mother to find out.
But a dog couldn’t be chained to a tree, not for twenty-two hours out of every day. She’d seen him grow increasingly agitated and unhappy, to the point that she couldn’t play with him without him hurting her.
So she’d untied him to take him for a walk. He’d slipped free and headed for the house. Her blood running cold, she’d chased after him.
Is almost losing Rollo going to be her trigger event?
When she caught up to him, she found him in the pool; she couldn’t swim, and he couldn’t climb out.
At least he can’t at his current size.
If this is in fact her trigger event, then I think that might support the idea that the Dandelions are trying to help but don’t really understand humanity. Giving Hana weapons to fight back, giving Brian a way to hide from his mother’s boyfriend after the fight, giving Taylor company and awareness of something outside her confined space, etcetera.
Maybe it makes complete sense to them to give a girl who is afraid of her puppy drowning the power to turn her puppy into a huge dog monster that can easily get out of the water.
She’d pleaded with Rollo to come out of the pool, tried to run around the pool’s edge to get to him so she could pull him free, but he’d been scared, and swam away from her.
Then the plastic cover of the pool began to slide closed. When Rachel had looked to the house, she’d seen her foster-mother standing on the other side of the sliding glass door that opened into the backyard, her finger on the switch.
OH FUCK YOU
To be fair, maybe she doesn’t see Rollo from there and thinks Rachel just decided to have a random bath while fully dressed, but I kind of doubt that.
Slowly, gradually, despite her screams and banging on the locked door, the cover had slid over Rollo’s head, trapping him. For nearly a minute, there was the bulge beneath the cover of Rollo’s head as he swam in tight circles, his sounds of distress muffled.
And when that “nearly a minute” expired…?
Her foster-mother’s punishments always matched the crimes. There could be no doubt Rachel knew the dog from her pleading and shouts, and having a dog was against the rules. Or maybe it wasn’t even that. Maybe it was the fact that she was making a disturbance at five in the morning, or the realization that the barking that had plagued her foster mother for so long was Rachel’s fault.
Either way, killing the dog is not a proportionate punishment. Matching, maybe, but by no means proportionate.
Whatever the reason, the dog was to be disposed of, much in the same way as a plate of dinner was thrown out for holding a fork the wrong way or sitting at the table with her legs too far apart.
She’d woken to her power in that moment of panic. Fed by her power, Rollo had grown enough to tear through the cover.
YES! Called it!
He’d then torn through her foster mother.
Ah, yes. I hadn’t forgotten that the trigger event led to the dog killing people.
This punishment is both matching AND proportionate.
The shrill screaming of her foster siblings indoors had drawn his attention, and he went after them too, pouncing on them like any excitable dog might do with a mouse or rabbit.
These ones don’t deserve it, though. At least as far as I know, they’re just fellow victims.
He’d torn through door frames and walls, and an entire section of the house and collapsed in on her foster family. In one fell swoop, she lost the closest things she had to a home and family.
Oh, right. That’s a problem.
It hadn’t been perfect, it had been nightmarish at times, but she’d had so little for so long, she found herself clinging to the scraps she did have. She ran, then, and she kept running for a long time after that.
With the caseworker she had, being homeless might be better than wherever they’d place her next, especially after this.
She’s still running, isn’t she.
Her breath hitched as she drew in a breath. She shook her head violently, to shake away the tears. She had stopped screaming, but her dogs were making up for it as their voices had joined hers and continued long after she’d stopped, almost drowning out Angelica’s howls.
So many bad memories. Memories she wished she could purge from herself, scour from her brain with fire and bleach and steel bristled brushes.
Maybe there’s a cape out there somewhere who could help you with that.
She was unhappy because humans were pack animals, she decided.
Heh. That’s the most doggish way she could possibly come to the same conclusion I did when she first raised the question.
Though maybe she’s come to a slightly different conclusion that’s still covered by the topic of social interaction, so let’s have her elaborate.
Taylor and Lisa and Brian could smile and laugh because they had their pack, they had their family members and they had each other. Alec was more of a loner, but he could still joke and laugh with Brian. They had their pack, their dynamic. She wasn’t really a part of it.
That is true. There have been plenty of occasions with all of them except Rachel together, and when she has been present, she has often been remarkably distant from the rest. I’ve even ended up using the word “teammate” instead of “friend” [here] to describe her relation to Brian.
Also, I notice she didn’t really consider Aisha here. I suppose she doesn’t quite see her as part of the team yet.
Bitch knew that she wasn’t a lone wolf by choice the way that Alec was.
Could’ve fooled me up to this point. But ultimately, dogs are pack animals too.
There was a void there, some part of her that craved that human connection because she was a human and that’s what humans needed.
She is, in a sense, worse off than if she had been fully doggified, one could argue. Her doggification makes it hard for her to socialize with humans, but there’s still a human side to her that needs it.
Maybe this is why she was ultimately willing to accept Taylor’s deal back in Buzz.
The way things had played out, things she had no control over, she’d never had a chance to figure out how to deal with people, how to invite them in to fill that void.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this chapter drew in some Rachel fans. This seems like something a lot of people would relate to.
Friendships and family, conversations and jokes, being close to others and knowing when to speak up and when to stay quiet? They were treacherous things, littered with complicated nuances, bad associations and worse memories.
Even if she somehow got something right, she always managed to fuck it up sooner than later. Easier to leave it alone, easier to stay back and not try.
As I was saying. This seems like it would hit close to home for some people and cause them to sympathize heavily with Rachel.
And if they got in her face, if they challenged her and didn’t let her keep them at arm’s length? It was easier to fall back on what worked and what she knew than it was to try to guess how to respond. Violence. Threats. It earned her respect, if nothing else.
No wonder she was so ready to punch Taylor back in Buzz.
Then Taylor had made overtures at friendship. Taylor had invited herself into that place, that void, and had stayed when Bitch fucked up.
…oh yeah, I suppose she did.
Despite the last we saw of the two together (though we know more meetings between them have happened since) being Taylor chewing out Rachel for betrayal, Taylor was still pretty clear about wanting to stay as friendly as was possible between them, and I suppose she does remain the closest thing Rachel actually has to a human friend.
Taylor’s efforts are starting to pay off.
The scrawny kid had stood her ground instead of running when Bitch called her out on something.
And she called Rachel out on something herself and still indicated wanting to stay.
And maybe, just a little, in some small way, Bitch had gotten a glimpse at what she’d been missing out on.
…in a sense.
Their relationship isn’t exactly something to write home to Princess Celestia about just yet, but it’s more than Rachel has had with anyone in a long, long time. If ever.
Only to find out it was a ploy. An act, so that Taylor could get the group’s confidence.
Oh for f–
So that’s why she was so much more pissed about the whole thing than anyone else.
And now the others had forgiven her? So easily? She could see them fawning over the little traitor. And there was nothing she could do about it. They liked Taylor more.
Honestly, this is fair. Rachel has every right to not have forgiven Taylor, even without her lonely past and doggified brain.
They would keep Taylor on the team and make Bitch leave if it came down to it. She knew it in her gut.
It really does seem that way at this point.
So she’d done something stupid. She’d tried to get rid of her teammate, and she’d done it in a way that haunted her. More than anything, more than all of the people she’d hurt, the people she’d accidentally killed, or the days she’d scrounged in the trash for food when she’d been homeless, wandering the cities on her own, she hated herself for what she’d done to Taylor.
Yeeeah. That was low.
So what did you think of Taylor’s spiel afterwards?
She had acted like the people who haunted her memories, using what should have been a position of trust to try to hurt someone.
In retrospect, even besides the lonely past, I find it rather appropriate that Rachel was the one most hurt by Taylor’s betrayal, the least willing to forgive her, and the one who is now feeling awful about betraying Taylor in turn, even if it was just a taste of Taylor’s own medicine.
After all, which trait is most responsible for the dog’s title of “Man’s Best Friend”?
And yes, that realization was partially brought on by the MLP:FiM joke I made in the post before it. So if the Undersiders were all to represent the Elements of Harmony, who would be what?
I doubt this is going to fit all that well, but I’m going to try. 😛
- Loyalty: Rachel
- Generosity: Lisa
- Honesty: Brian
- Laughter: Alec
- Kindness: Taylor
- Magic: Aisha?
[I find some of these choices interesting in retrospect. Why didn’t I put Lisa as Honesty, for instance? She’s not perfectly honest (just like Rachel is not perfectly loyal), but nowadays I think it’s the Element most closely tied to her character… actually, I think Rachel’s is the only one here I still agree with.]
And she didn’t know what to do about it.
A gunshot startled her from her thoughts.
Oh, hi there, present day plot!
“Go!” she shouted. “Go!”
More cracks of gunfire echoed through the night as her pack arrived on the scene.
So someone’s decided to fight back? Or are these gunshots not aimed at her?
Angelica was there, her form hulking and rippling with muscle to the point that she couldn’t move as fast as she otherwise might. That was fine. Angelica couldn’t move as fast these days, anyways. Not since Fog had hurt her.
Poor doggo. 😦
She was more comfortable like this; she was big, strong and able to move without pain.
Well, that’s good at least.
Angelica flinched and backed away as the shots came, striking her flesh.
Don’t shoot the doggo!
There was another shot, and Bitch saw a flash from the window, a glimpse of a face. Her face twisted with rage. “Attack!” her voice was shrill. She leapt off Bentley’s back so he could go too. “Fetch them! Fetch! Go, go!’
Fetch? Sounds like Rachel wants to have some words with whomever’s attacking.
Hm… civilians with the guts to fight back against Rachel’s “reign” of terror, or Fenrir’s Chosen?
As they’d done at the previous location, her dogs tore through the building. This time, though, they came back with people in their jaws. Arms, legs and torsos in fanged grips. Men, women and children.
Some screamed where the dogs didn’t know their own strength and bit too hard.
She found the man she’d seen in the window and stalked over to him.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” the man repeated the word.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
“You insulting me? You trying to act big?’
At least he seems to have realized his error.
(Also, are “ and ’ next to each other on an English keyboard or something? That’s two instances of the apostrophe showing up instead of an end quotation mark over the span of three lines of dialogue.)
“What?” The man’s eyes widened. Was he staring at her, challenging her? Was it a fear response? Was he rallying to fight, trying to get a wider sense of his surroundings?
Maybe he’s not the one responsible for the gunfire after all.
She could only guess.
“No,” he said, his eyes moving around, as if searching for help.
Hm, or maybe he didn’t realize there was a human in charge of the monsters outside his home.
Defiance? Sarcasm? A lie?
“I don’t think you realize how badly you fucked yourself. You. Shot. My. Dog.” She looked at Angelica.
Do. Not. Hurt. The. Doggos.
Her baby wasn’t acting too hurt, but he’d shot her. He could have killed her, if the bullet landed in just the right place.
Interesting. That implies the hellhounds do have weak spots.
She kicked him in the face, and his head rocked back. Blood fountained from his nose.
If this were a comedy anime, it’d be a 50/50 chance on whether he was actually hurt, or just turned on by getting kicked in the face by a supervillain in a skirt.
Actually, Worm as a comedy anime sounds… interesting in general.
“I didn’t know,” he managed, huffing out air, blood spraying at his words, where it had run down to his lips. “Didn’t know she was yours. She was scary, I- I reacted.”
Honestly a pretty bad idea. For all he knew it might just agitate her and give her a target.
…also, it seems he can tell which sax hellhound!Angelica is (Rachel didn’t mention or use pronouns). I’m not sure I would, without specifically looking to see if she had a dick. Even then, I probably wouldn’t be sure.
I’m used to quotation marks being apostrophe+shift
Ahhh, that makes sense
On my keyboard it’s shift+2, whereas the apostrophe is on the other end
Here’s a typical Norwegian keyboard layout for reference:
Looking at results for English keyboard layouts, it seems that some have quotation marks on the apostrophe like LHC’s and some have it on the 2 like my Norwegian keyboard.
…anyway, this isn’t important right now, let’s get back to the story.
Was he lying? She couldn’t tell. She’d grown up with so many good liars, it felt like everything that sounded honest was a lie.
Which helps to explain why she’s so quick to distrust.
If he was lying, and it was obvious, she’d look weak if she fell for it. Others might not get the message about this being her territory, about her dogs being off-limits.
…which means that the way Rachel thinks, she has to treat him like he’s lying, just in case.
If he wasn’t lying… well, he’d still shot Angelica.
“Nobody hurts my dogs.”
I’ve been saying “Don’t hurt the doggos” for so long now, but no one ever seems to listen to me.
Coddamn fourth wall.
“Please. I have a wife, kids.”
As if family somehow made you better than someone else?
That particular defense does seem kind of weak at times. I guess the idea is “please don’t hurt me, I have people who depend on me and who would be sad if I died or got hurt”, but that’s not particularly helpful if the person you’re pleading to doesn’t care more about sparing your family’s feelings than about you.
The idea nettled Bitch. Life experience had taught her that it was all too often the opposite. People were assholes, people were monsters.
And, yeah, it doesn’t exactly help that we literally just had Rachel reminiscing about how family is a touchy subject for her.
The exceptions were all too rare. Far too many of those same people started a family just because they thought it was what they should do, and then they were assholes and monsters to a captive audience.
The sad thing is she’s right. I don’t think it’s as frequent as she’s implying, but this is definitely a thing that happens.
She kicked him again, in the stomach.
The dude may have just unwittingly turned himself into a punching bag for Rachel to take out her family issues on.
He screamed as the kick made his arm, still in Ink’s jaws, wrench the wrong way.
Or kicking bag, I suppose. So far it seems that’s more Rachel’s style here.
“Angelica,” she ordered. She kicked him in the stomach again. “Paw!”
What’re you doing now?
Angelica stepped forward and placed one paw the breadth of a truck tire down on the man’s pelvis.
Oh. So that’s where the paw goes.
He howled in agony, his words rapid, desperate and breathless, “Heavy oh god please stop please let me go make it move itscrushingme!”
It’s basically like having a car parked partially on top of him, isn’t it.
She looked at him with distaste. It bothered her that the only time she could be absolutely sure what someone meant, what someone wanted, was in circumstances like this.
Yeeah, I kinda doubt “Heavy oh god please stop please let me go make it move itscrushingme!” means anything other than “Heavy oh god please stop please let me go make it move itscrushingme!”.
“Angelica,” she ordered, ducking beneath Angelica’s outstretched limb, kicking him in the kneecap, “Take it.”
Is it sausage time for the doggo?
Angelica bent and gripped the man’s legs in her teeth, twisting his body further. His body was pressed to the ground by her paw, his arm and legs pulled up and away from it.
Okay so if I’ve got it straight, Ink is holding him by his arms, and Angelica is holding him up by his legs but pushing him down by his torso. So he’s practically in a U shape now, or something close to it, and if the doggos start pulling, they’re probably going to rip the dude’s limbs off.
She stepped close to Angelica, burying her face in the slick muscle and hard tissues that layered the dog, wrapping her arms as far as they would go around Angelica’s shoulders and neck.
Just as her dogs came to trust her as she cared for them, fed them, and nurtured them, she grew closer to them as they shared experiences with her, as they learned and accepted their training. Angelica was one of the dogs she was closest to. The only dog she was this close to. Brutus and Judas had passed, the only dogs she had been with for years.
R.I.P. Brutus and Judas. May they be as good dogs in death as they were in life.
Her heart broke a little every time she thought about it.
Yeah, I feel you.
And this man? This family man? He’d thought he could take Angelica away from her?
Yeeeeeeah I have low hopes for this man continuing to have limbs at this point.
Without looking at him, her head still pressed to Angelica’s neck, she gave the order, “Hurt him.”
At least that’s not “pull”, but who knows how Angelica will interpret this.
She felt the vibration rattle through Angelica’s head and neck as bone snapped and crunched between her teeth.
Hm. Maybe he’ll keep his limbs. Feet are a whole other issue, though.
The man shrieked, there was no better word for it, and others in the vicinity echoed his shrieks with their own.
Oh yeah, lots of witnesses, in the mouths of hellhounds themselves.
Somehow I get the feeling none of them are going to want to mess with Rachel.
She gave the hand signal and an order, “Drop him. Dogs, drop them!”
Even after being dropped.
Angelica let the man drop. His shins were cracked, the ends of his legs bent at odd angles. One by one, the other captives were dropped to the ground. Each of the man’s noises of pain was a little smaller and quicker than the last.
Yeah, no, who knows whether he’s ever going to walk again.
At least there’s Panacea, I guess, but she probably has more pressing cases to treat.
“Why can’t you fuckers get it through your skulls?” she called out. “This is my territory!”
“If you want to be safe, go live in someone else’s damn territory!”
“We didn’t know,” someone said. A woman who was clutching a bloody arm to her chest. Her daughter beside her.
Let’s hope Rachel sees it that way, though.
“You fucking challenging me on this?”
“No! No. We- we just… how were we supposed to know?”
Yeah, this isn’t “no it’s not”, it’s “oh”.
“Are you retarded or something? It’s obvious,” Bitch couldn’t believe the woman’s stupidity.
How is it obvious, though?
Were you counting on word of mouth on the doggo attacks?
“How were we supposed to know!?” the woman raised her voice, sounding plaintive.
She absolutely has a point, but she doesn’t know how the girl with the dog monsters is going to interpret her behavior.
And at this point it is challenging Bitch, just not on whether or not it’s her territory.
Rachel, please tell me it’s not supposed to be obvious because you’ve gone around marking your territory with your scent.
“The howling. If you can hear the howling, you’re too fucking close. Leave.”
…well, at least that seems like a decent rule of thumb, now that they know it.
“You could probably hear that halfway across the city!”
“No fucking shit,” Bitch retorted. The woman was challenging her authority. She had to respond to it, or the woman would keep talking, Bitch would say or do something that made her look stupid, and others would stand up to her.
Ah, yeah. Gotta keep up the retorts.
Best to stop that sooner than later. “Socks! Come!”
Or do that, that works even better.
The woman shrank back, clutching her daughter, as Socks advanced to Bitch’s side.
Yeah, time to step down.
“Stop,” a voice ordered.
Either we’ve got someone ordering Bitch around, which might suggest a cape, or we’ve got someone trying to give an order to her dogs.
Either way, she ain’t gonna like it.
Bitch turned and saw two capes. From New Wave, weren’t they? Brandish and Glory Girl.
Huh, I hadn’t really thought about it before, but this whole territory thing makes the Undersiders a lot more vulnerable to heroic intervention. They’ve been known as the masters of the getaway because they were working together to accomplish that (especially Grue, Bitch and Tattletale), but now they’re working for the most part separately and with far more visible locations as they claim their territories. If the heroes really go in for it, the Undersiders (except Imp) will be far easier to defeat and capture like this, especially before they’ve recruited.
Also, hey, Brandish, you’re still in action? Did the New Wave shutdown happen yet?
Brandish spoke, “Glory Girl, call your sister. At least one of those people needs medical attention, fas-”
When I brought up Panacea, I didn’t actually think she’d be an actual option presented in the chapter.
She stopped as Bitch whistled as hard as she could. Barking and snarling, her massed dogs charged the heroes.
Have we learned what Brandish’s power actually is? I don’t think we have. I guess this is a solid opportunity to find out.
After being ambushed and taken captive by the ABB, she’d learned her lesson. Hit first, assess the situation later.
You do you.
Heh, this is about as anti-Taylor as it can get.
Besides, what was she going to do? Talk to them?
Yes? Except that might not turn out well given Rachel’s social skills.
You know what, maybe she’s right. This might genuinely be her best bet. I mean, attempting to flee wouldn’t help much, and after fighting, talking and that, the only remaining option would be to stand there wordlessly like an idiot.
Brandish flicked her hands out, and beams of light drew into vague sword shapes.
Oooh, summoning light weapons! Cool!
Finally her name makes sense. It’s what she does with the weapons, she brandishes them.
As the dogs stampeded towards her she flicked them out to double the length.
They drew closer, almost reaching her, and she reconsidered, banishing the weapons to condense herself into a beachball-sized ball of orange-yellow light.
The dogs hit her, there was a spray of sparks, and the ball was sent careening down the street and through the wall of a building.
Glory Girl was flying over the stampeding dogs, a cell phone pressed to her ear, in Bitch’s general direction.
I read this as the cell phone being pressed to Glory Girl’s ear in Bitch’s general direction at first.
Ink and Bruno leaped to the side of a building and then leaped from that point toward Glory Girl.
Glory Girl should know that flying doesn’t necessarily help you that much against the hellhounds. I mean, she was present at the bank robbery… then again, if she was paying enough attention to notice the coddamn cape battle happening in front of the bank she was on top of, maybe she should have gotten involved earlier.
She struck Socks across the head, sending him flying to the ground, and Bruno slammed into her, knocking the phone from her grip.
Don’t hurt the doggos!
She brought her knee up into the dog’s side and pushed herself away before he could drive her down into the ground.
Not bad, though.
Alright, time to return to the hound, the angel and Samus!
The heroine went for Bitch, who had only Angelica at her side. Angelica positioned herself between enemy and master, and Glory Girl hit the dog broadside.
Seriously, no one listens.
Angelica barely reacted, turning instead to snap at Glory Girl. Her teeth rebounded off the heroine’s outstretched arm, and Glory Girl darted backward, to hover in the air.
Incredible jaw force versus forcefield. Looks like the forcefield wins, at least for now.
Catching her breath? Watching the situation?
Giving her forcefield time to regenerate? It sounded like that happens fairly quickly in Agitation, though.
That wasn’t how you were supposed to fight. Bitch whistled hard, then shouted, “Magic, Lucy, Roxy! Come!”
I mean, not throwing everything you’ve got at the opponent at every moment can be a valid strategy.
As the three dogs barreled toward her, she used her power. She felt it extend outward like a vibration from deep inside her. She felt that power shudder and reverberate, as if to let her know it was making contact with them. She could see the effect.
Could see them grow larger, see bone and muscle swell and shift.
Unlike powers like Taylor’s, Lisa’s, Alec’s or Coil’s, this power doesn’t really have that much of an active psychological feedback on use, but it’s still neat to see how it feels to use it.
In moments, Glory Girl was contending with four dogs.
Forcefield or no, this is going to be troublesome.
Angelica advanced implacably, Bitch following at a walking pace. The other three were attacking from every direction, cutting off escape routes, leaping onto the side of the building, leaping down, running behind her, or flanking her from the sides.
This is badass. You can tell she’s in control.
“Mom!” Glory Girl shouted, a note of panic in her voice.
And Glory Girl isn’t.
“Run!” Brandish called out her response. She was facing much the same situation, unable to attack with the relentless pressure the dogs were putting on her.
Huh. I was ready to comment on Glory Girl having backup, but it actually seems like Bitch has already won.
Question is whether she’ll leave it at that.
Instead, she changed herself into that ball form where she couldn’t be touched or hurt, flying away with every hit she took, or controlling the direction so she could make her way for an escape route.
This is a fairly impractical type of invulnerability. Sure, she can’t be hurt like this, but there’s not a lot she can do either, is there?
Apparently she has some control, at least.
She managed to find enough pause to lash out at one dog and shout, “Get the wounded!”
Oh yeah, that’s still their main priority here, getting the wounded back to Panacea. Which I think Bitch doesn’t want them to do, because she sees the wounds as rightful punishment.
Glory Girl caught Roxy around the snout as the dog lunged for her, and threw her down at Lucy.
My mental images get weird when the names cause me to picture the dogs as other fictional characters. In this case, Glory Girl grabbed
this great gal by the nose and threw her down at
this asshole on the right.
(I think I liked it better when the name Lucy just reminded me of my friend.)
(#a couple pieces of irony:
#roxy is depicted without a nose to throw her by #and is associated with cats
#and rhoda – the girl lucy is consistently mean to despite being in the same group – is the one here who is associated with dogs)
She used the momentary reprieve this granted her to fly straight for the man who’d shot at Angelica, who lay in a heap on the ground.
I do sort of root for the New Wavers, as far as getting the wounded to Panacea goes. There’s something about reading from a character’s perspective that naturally skews which one you’re going to side with most of the time, though. Besides, Bitch has been arguably a protagonist for a long time.
So it’s hard to really pick a side here, even though one of the sides is almost indisputably morally in the right.
She stopped mid-flight.
Uh… why? Dogs guarding the target?
A woman stood over the man’s mangled body, her long hair blowing slightly in the wind.
This isn’t Panacea, right? Bitch would recognize her, probably. Though not as easily as Taylor would, I guess. She also probably wouldn’t describe Panacea as a “woman”.
Which seemed wrong. With the light rain, her hair should have been wetter.
This woman’s trigger event was having to go outside in a storm immediately after a visit to the hair stylist, and the Dandelions helpfully gave her the POWER TO HAVE DRY HAIR!!
What if this is one of the Slaughterhouse Nine? That would be quite the twist to this chapter.
If it is, I guess it’d be Burnscar, since the dry hair seems potentially indicative of heat-based powers.
Glory Girl looked over her shoulder to see the dogs, looked back to the injured man and the woman, and then flew straight up, disappearing into the gloom of the night sky. She’d left him behind.
It seems odd for Glory Girl to have this reaction to just a civilian checking on the victim. Even under the impression that the civilian would get the victim medical help – which is stupid, since Rachel might just attack the civilian too – Glory Girl would have reason to want Panacea to help him, with her power being far superior to mundane medicine.
The only mitigating factor to this oddness would be that Glory Girl might no longer believe she can help him without the dogs taking her down.
In short, this reaction reinforces the impression that this isn’t just anyone. She might not be a Slaughterhouse Nine member, but she’s almost certainly a parahuman.
And if she were recognizably on Glory Girl’s side, she might’ve tried to make contact and team up against Bitch, not… flee.
The barking and snarling ceased as the fight drew to a close. Each of the dogs returned, and Bitch noted a few injuries.
At least those heal when they turn back, right? Or did I get that backwards?
A shattered plate of bone here, a gouge where Brandish’s blades had made contact there. Surface damage. It was only the damage that penetrated deep, past the layers her power applied, which risked hurting the dogs or doing permanent damage.
Basically, don’t put Bitch up against Flechette.
Nothing so serious. Bitch breathed a sigh of relief.
She stalked forward, her dogs joining her to form a loose circle around the woman. The crazy bitch was naked from head to toe, and her skin and hair were painted in alternating stripes of white and black, like a zebra… no.
Well, I was wrong about which one.
Hiya, Siberian, what’s up?
Paint would have washed off, and dye wouldn’t be so crisp around the edges. It was a natural coloring.
I wonder if Siberian is a case 53. On the other hand, we know that minor physical changes can happen without that being the case, such as with Paige’s hair.
When the woman looked up at Bitch, her eyes were yellow and bright, reflecting the ambient light like the eyes of a dog or cat might.
So we’ve got hellhounds and a tiger. Big dogs and big cats.
I don’t know who would win. Bitch does have the advantage of numbers, at least.
But remember what I said when the hellhounds were first introduced and described as lizard tigers?
You should always bet on the tiger.
She smiled, and there wasn’t a trace of tension in her body, as though she’d just woken up in a safe place.
I suppose these two might end up getting along, actually. Maybe even relate to each other.
Man, imagine Bitch coming back to the Undersiders and telling them that she made a friend in white and black.
“Who the fuck are you?”
Supposedly, Siberian doesn’t talk, so I doubt you’ll get an answer to that from the tiger’s mouth.
I wonder if setting up this was part of why Bitch was absent from Coil’s exposition about the Fellowship of the Meat.
The woman didn’t reply. She crouched down beside the man, then shifted her position so she was sitting sideways, her legs stretched out beside her.
Paint me like one of your French tigers…
Her fingertips traced the man’s injuries, almost lovingly.
Because of course she appreciates that.
“Answer me,” Bitch ordered.
The woman reached over and pressed her index and middle fingers to the man’s eyes. Pressing down, she penetrated the orbs, sliding her fingers down until they were two knuckles deep.
Yeahhh. This guy’s definitely gonna need Panacea, and maybe a cleric with a 500 gp diamond, by the time Siberian is done playing with her food.
“Hey! Fuck off!”
Seriously, Rachel, you don’t know it (and I don’t blame you) but you really don’t want to antagonize this gal. Especially if she decides to bring her friends.
The woman removed the fingers. Vitreous fluids and blood flowed from the open wounds in the man’s eye sockets.
Hm. Maybe she’d get along with Taylor too, now that I think about it… :j
The woman turned towards her. She didn’t meet Bitch’s eyes, instead looking down at Bitch’s feet. It struck Bitch that the woman was making herself small, was being inoffensive.
Interesting. She does seem to be making attempts to be friendly with Rachel.
And while dogs and cats do have their differences as far as body language goes, which is supposedly the usual cause of the classic “dog chasing cat” scenario, that’s probably still easier for Rachel to understand and relate to than human body language.
It made her feel better, strangely.
Slightly calmer, her words measured, she called out, “I’m going to ask you again. Who the fuck are you?”
I’m sorry, I think she would’ve answered by now if she could.
“Siberian,” the woman spoke, her voice barely above a whisper. Barely audible.
…oh hey. She could. Never mind!
So does she normally not speak by choice, or does she have trouble actually putting the words together, with spoken human language being difficult for her in similar ways to how human body language and social subtleties are difficult for Rachel?
“What the hell are you doing here? This is my territory.”
“I’ll leave soon. I just wanted to talk.” Again, the whisper.
I guess she was watching the whole situation with Rachel, the now blind and broken-legged man and the other residents of the building he was shooting from. Witnessing Rachel’s actions might’ve caused her to recognize something of herself.
Y’know, the Slaughterhouse Nine are allegedly down a member. Maybe she’s recruiting.
Talking, always talking.“Not interested. Go.”
I get the sense that talking isn’t exactly Siberian’s favorite activity either, at least.
Siberian looked down at the man, who was still writhing and twitching, making small noises of pain.
“Go!” She shouted. The woman didn’t budge. Bitch glanced at her dogs to see who was the biggest, the least injured. Lucy. “Lucy! Attack!”
Time to see what Siberian can do, I guess. And also maybe say goodbye to Lucy.
Lucy pounced on Siberian. Bitch saw Siberian stretch out her arm, saw Lucy’s jaws clamp down on the limb.
There was no reaction. Lucy tugged, the full force of her body behind the movement, and the woman didn’t move a hair.
I guess she has the power to freeze in place? Is that all, though? I don’t really see that connecting with the tiger theme, for that matter.
With great care, Siberian stood. She looked at Lucy, her bright eyes roving over the dog’s face and the length of the dog’s body.
Ah, okay, not quite frozen, but not movable either.
“Beautiful,” she whispered. She pressed her lips against Lucy’s nose in a kiss, as if uncaring that the dog had seized her arm between jaws that could crush a motorcycle.
I know I’m repeating myself, but it really does seem like Rachel found someone to relate to.
Except she doesn’t know quite how brutal Siberian can be.
Lucy snorted in response.
Then she looked at Bitch. This time, she made eye contact, and despite her whisper, there was no-nonsense in her tone. “Your dog lets go of me now, or she gets hurt.”
Ah, yeah, there we go.
The confidence in the tone, the authority, the fact that the woman’s eyes didn’t waver in the slightest, they made it abundantly clear to Bitch that the woman was telling the truth. She was certain enough about it that it was worth weakening her position here. “Lucy, off. Come.”
Lucy let go and backed off, moving to Bitch’s side.
“They’re beautiful,” Siberian whispered, looking at the dogs.
In their own twisted way, sure.
Bitch nodded mutely in response.
Siberian approached her, walking with a great deal of care. There was grace in her movement, and she walked on her tiptoes, each foot carefully placed a measured distance in front of the other. Her eyes shone through the curtain of her white and black hair.
Very catlike in a multitude of ways.
Bitch felt a moment’s trepidation.
“What…” She regretted opening her mouth the instant she did, but it was already too late. “do you want?”
I accidentally scrolled a little too far while copying this, so I know the answer is a single short word, but I was already going to guess something along the lines of “you”.
In part because I was half expecting part of the reason Rachel regretted opening her mouth to end up being that Siberian kissed her, before I finished reading what she was saying.
“I don’t understand,” she tried to inject more confidence into her answer.
Yep. It seems we have a smitten kitten, and/or a recruitment attempt.
And you know what? I could almost see this ship working out.
“They told me I should pick someone. Someone they can test. I read about you, I heard about you. I want you on our team.”
Recruitment it is. At least partially.
So, in this scene involving a psychotic naked mass murderer and a socially stunted dog girl with a penchant for brutality, let’s talk about ponies.
Earlier in the chapter, I was talking about Rachel being analogous to Rainbow Dash as the Element of Loyalty in MLP:FiM terms. Here we have her facing a challenge of loyalty, which is pretty much half the reason the Elements of Harmony are a thing in MLP:FiM – each Element’s episodes tend to have them facing lessons involving the side of friendship they represent.
Hell, the whole situation is similar to the very first scenethat showcases Rainbow Dash’s loyalty, in which the villain for the initial two-parter tried to tempt her into abandoning her friends to join a dark version of the flight team she aspired to become part of. Granted, it’s a little different in that Siberian inviting Bitch to the Slaughterhouse Nine isn’t meant for the specific purpose of fucking over the Undersiders (probably), but it’s still the same basic problem.
Will Rachel be like Rainbow Dash and pick her existing team – which she believes doesn’t want her – over the chance to join a more brutal team with a member she might actually be able to relate to, or will she give in to temptation?
I don’t know. Either would make for some interesting stories – setting aside the possibility of this being a trap, either a) Rachel becomes a Slaughterhouse Nine member and the remaining Undersiders potentially end up fighting her along with the rest of the Fellowship later, or b) she doesn’t, and Siberian potentially calls in the rest of the Fellowship to get rid of the reason Bitch wouldn’t join them – the other Undersiders.
It’s also worth noting that if she does take this offer, she’ll be disqualifying herself from Coil’s help securing this territory. Not that it seems like she really wants his help.
Yes, I am legitimately making comparisons between Worm and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Deal with it. :p
Seriously, Rachel Lindt and Rainbow Dash? That’s a comparison I never thought I’d make before this chapter, but here I am.
Truly the face of brutality.
Anyway, let’s get back to the less hooved side of things.
“Team?” She hated the short answers that were coming out of her mouth, the way that they were uncertain and they put her on weaker footing.
Ah, yes, confusion. Not a good emotion when you want to appear strong.
The woman’s response carried over the flooded street, through the growls that slowly ratcheted up from the dogs as the stranger approached their owner, “The Nine. We have only eight, not enough. So some of us are picking people. Then we test them. I picked you, and I like what I’ve seen. I’ve been watching you for weeks, now.” She smiled again.
That’s… how long has it been since Sentinel?
Also, I’m beginning to catch on to Siberian’s speech patterns. She can speak well enough, but she does tend towards simple sentences.
Thirdly, it sounds like there’s going to be some competition here, with multiple people being picked as potential ninth members. It’s entirely possible that’s what the testing is – a battle much like the one at the mall, but with fewer people and more powers. Last one alive gets to be the new member.
Has to be a lie, Bitch thought. Her dogs would have noticed someone following her, wouldn’t they?
I dunno, tigers can be pretty damn stealthy.
The woman was only a few paces away. The question was, should Bitch retreat and put herself in an even weaker position, or did she stand her ground?
I have no idea.
She stood her ground. The woman stepped closer, within arm’s reach, then another two paces, until her chest pressed against Bitch’s body. She met the woman’s gaze, unflinching, until Siberian wrapped her arms around her, holding her close, resting her chin on Bitch’s shoulder.
…kward for Rachel. 😛
“Aren’t you tired of pretending?”, the woman whispered in her ear.
Pretending what? That she’s a human?
“What?” Bitch tried to pull away, so she could ask the woman the question to her face, but the limbs were unmoving, more resisting than steel bars would have been.
Hm… this power might be more useful than I thought. It seems fantastic for restraining victims.
“Acting like one of them. Playing and losing their games, decorating yourself in their clothing and their symbols, following their rules?”
Ah, so that’s why she’s naked.
“I-” Bitch paused, “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Are you sure?
The pause was telling. She knew it was telling. The woman understood her, she knew.
Didn’t think so.
The woman understood her.The thought clicked.
There we go. It’s beginning to occur to Rachel what this woman could be to her.
The way the woman moved, her body language, everything, she was making sense to Bitch in a way that so few people did.
I definitely think something similar is at play here between the two of them, not just in how they act but also why. Siberian has definitely made note of this as well. Rachel’s brutality is not the only reason she was picked.
The idea left Bitch shaken. How? Why? Was it some power? From the start, she’d known what the woman wanted to express as easily as she did with her dogs.
Yeah, I do think “some power” is at work here. A power similar to your own. Or rather, a side effect of a power, similar to your own.
“You’re an animal, Bitch.” The woman gave special treatment to that last word. Bitch stiffened.
Not completely accurate, but not wrong either.
The woman pulled away, one hand remaining to caress the side of Bitch’s face. Her eyes were lowered again, Bitch noted.
I really do feel like this might end with a kiss at some point or other.
She was smiling lightly, her lips pressed together, teeth hidden. Playful, gentle. Bitch let herself relax. It hadn’t been meant as an insult.
More “you’re like me”.
The body contact was intrusive, but she could grit her teeth and bear it, at least until she figured out who this person was and how she could fight back.
It does seem like Bitch didn’t catch on to what Siberian was talking about when she said just “The Nine”.
Besides other reasons she might not get “Slaughterhouse Nine” from “The Nine”, I guess it’s entirely possible Bitch hasn’t heard of them.
“We’re all animals,” Siberian murmured. She walked over to Bentley, and Bitch hurried to give the dog the hand gesture for ‘stay’, then ‘off’ before the woman moved to touch him. “Some more than others. You and I, more than others.”
…she ain’t wrong.
More like biology, I guess.
Siberian smiled, her hands tracing Bentley’s snout, the exposed muscles and horns. “Philosophy shit. Yes. Touché. An idea given meaning because people think it should have meaning. But it’s just words, isn’t it?”
Now that’s philosophy shit.
But she has a point. The universe doesn’t give a crap about what we do or don’t define as “animals”. That’s all in the human mind.
“Join me. Stop pretending to be like them. You know you’re bad at it.”
“I’m fine where I am.”
Are you really? What was that earlier about being so much more unhappy than the others, then?
“Mmm,” the woman smiled, her eyes lowered. She clasped her hands together and pressed them to her chin, squishing her breasts up against her chest.
I wonder if the seductive-like behavior is just normal for Siberian or if she’s genuinely trying to seduce Rachel.
She turned, taking in the neighborhood, assessing Bitch’s territory. “Maybe for now. You have freedom to run, to do as you like. It’s nice. But you’re going to chafe at it sooner or later. You’re going to realize that you’re still in a cage they made. You’re still following their rules, in the end.”
Bitch looked around the empty, flooded streets as Siberian was doing. She didn’t answer.
Is the mention of the streets being empty perhaps supposed to be a metaphor for Rachel’s life in the territory being empty in a different way?
Maybe I’m overthinking, though.
“Maybe you can be happy like this. A dog, collar around your neck, a fenced in territory. You’ll never really understand what they’re all talking about. The best you can hope for is a pat on the head when you’re good, when you do as you should, maybe some companionship whenever you’re a good girl.
Do you want to be a dog, or a wolf?
But maybe that’s what you want.”
To be fair, in Brutus’ Interlude, the dogs seemed quite genuinely pleased with being good boys and good girl.
That probably doesn’t quite apply to Rachel, though.
“As opposed to what?”
“Being wild. Being free. Truly free. It’s exhilarating,” Siberian breathed.
“Drop those human morals and laws. Do what you want with no care for others. Take the step from chaotic neutral to more-chaotic evil.”
Bitch frowned. Words that sounded nice, but that was all they were. Just words.
And we’re back to that phrase.
So you don’t believe her? Freedom, oh, freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’?
(Your priiison is walkin’ through, this world all alone.)
“I’m going to give you two presents, Bitch,” Siberian whispered. “One will be waiting for you when you go back to your… what do you call it?”
It’s not gone, is it, as a misguided gift of freedom?
Bitch didn’t answer.
“Let’s call it your den. I like that.”
I mean, that works.
Siberian closed the distance to Bitch with a surprising speed, her steps less controlled, carrying her long distances forward as she zig-zagged over the flooded street. Before Bitch could react, or before the dogs could step in, she was next to Bitch, stopping.
Siberian put a hand on her collarbone. Bitch was lifted into the air and pushed down into the water, soaked, landing hard enough that the air was forced out of her lungs.
Sounds like Siberian is strong too.
Hm… I wonder if the rigidity is in part due to being far heavier than she should be, to match the mass of a tiger? That and a tiger’s grip.
As she struggled to breathe, Siberian whispered, “The second gift is special, a treasure for a kindred spirit.”
I’m still not sure this isn’t going to be a kiss.
Bitch coughed, struggled, but she couldn’t move the hand.
“As of this moment, you’re the only one to hear me speak and live afterwards.”
Huh, neat. That would explain why she’s on record as not speaking.
Wait. Is the doggo shooter still alive and conscious, or did Siberian’s eye-poking kill him somehow? Because if so, then he’s currently among those who have heard her.
She kissed Bitch on the forehead, like a mother would with a child.
I knew it.
I knew there’d be a kiss at some point. Though I was picturing it as being on the mouth, to Rachel’s surprise, but this counts.
Bitch tried to twist away, and only succeeded in getting water in her eyes and nose. She sputtered as she struggled to draw air into her empty lungs.
Careful, Siberian. Much longer now and that last thing you said could turn into a lie.
Although I guess she did say “as of this moment”, like it could change in the future. But trying to recruit a kindred spirit and then murdering them for no reason makes no sense.
Is this perhaps a preliminary test? To see if Rachel can get out of this herself?
When she could see again, Siberian was gone. Her dogs were looking up at a nearby rooftop.
Shaken, she gestured for Bentley to come to her, and climbed up onto his shoulders.
Well. At least she gave you time to think about it.
Let’s see what the other gift is, at the den, I guess.
Coughing, snorting water from her nostrils, she gave the order, “Home.”
Looks like Rachel has the same priorities.
Her thoughts were chaotic as she rode Bentley down the streets, a dull roar of too many things all at once, all too important to be ignored.
There’s a lot about Rachel that’s chaotic, but probably not quite in the same sense. 😛
At the same time, she didn’t want to think about them, didn’t want to put those pieces together, because she wasn’t sure she liked where they would lead.
Betrayal. Leaving the Undersiders. Breaking her loyalty to the team.
Joining a team with a crazy kindred spirit.
The gift Siberian left her. Some of her henchmen were at her den. More important, some of her dogs were there. Every minute the trip took left her more worried.
It’s entirely possible the henchmen are all dead.
Siberian probably left the dogs alone if she did do something like that in a way that allowed for her to.
She hopped off Bentley as they arrived at the building, shoving the doors open.
At least the building’s still standing. That’s a good sign.
Blood. Trails leading to Barker and Biter, who were on the ground floor, unconscious, still breathing.
Yeeeah, she totally did try to give Rachel the gift of freedom by cutting her Coil-provided shackles.
One of the girls, the one with veterinary training that Coil had sent to her, was sitting in one corner, nursing an arm that dangled at the wrong angle from the elbow, sobbing.
That’s, uh, not supposed to be like that.
This was recent. Siberian had done this in the time it took Bitch to get here.
Damn, she’s quick.
That much was to be expected given her tiger theme, really, but still.
More blood, one of the boys, a dog groomer with years of experience, lying beside the kitchen counter, his shirt wadded up and pressed to his face.
At least she seems to have left everyone alive, though injured.
Around the shirt, she could see the four parallel tracks where Siberian’s fingernails had left gouges running across his face.
None of the dogs were hurt. She had to double-check them to see. Most were cowering in the corners. Some had retreated up the stairs.
Yeah, no surprise there. Siberian seemed to genuinely like the dogs, and with this being framed as a present, it wouldn’t make as much sense for her to hurt the ones even she can tell Bitch actually cares about.
The blood had a pattern to it, as though Siberian had painted a picture with the spray. A line drawing from each of the injured to the center of the room, where a box sat, faintly dusted with flecks of blood.
She was nervous as she opened it, but she couldn’t not.
AND THAT’S WHERE I’LL END TONIGHT’S– no, I’m kidding
Let’s see what we have here.
A furry bundle tried to escape, and she stopped it. It bit for her fingers.
A puppy? Perhaps some sort of monster puppy?
She pulled her hand back, gripped it by the throat and forced it down to the ground, making her dominance clear.
Fortunately, Rachel knows how to handle creatures like this.
A husky puppy? No. The physical makeup was wrong. The smaller ears, longer limbs, and markings around the jowls and muzzle.
Is this a Siberian tiger kitten? :3
A wolf pup. Where had Siberian found this?
(Also I guess a tiger kitten wouldn’t have a muzzle. Silly me.)
There was a card in the bottom of the box, stained with urine.
Bitch picked it up with the very tip of her finger and thumb. She’d never properly learned how to read, so she had to work out the individual sounds, moving her lips to try to piece it together.
Ah, yeah… I remember the name spellings from 8.8.
“Ah… air yoh… you. Air you a…” That letter, she didn’t recognize it.
Are you a…
After it was… “oll… wolf.”
Hah, called that [above]. Are you a dog, or are you a wolf?
She gave up. She could guess, anyways.
Are you a wolf, or are you a dog?
Oh, hehe, I wasn’t expecting the rest of the sentence to be there. 😛
The rule was to call Coil at a time like this. To let him know what had happened.
Of course. But will you follow the rules?
At this point, I have a feeling she won’t.
She found her phone in one of her jacket pockets and she fumbled with the keypad to find him in her contacts. Her finger hovered over the button.
But it comes down to this moment.
What was she holding on to? Who was she protecting? Her friends? Were they really her friends? It wasn’t that she wanted to betray them, she wasn’t about to repeat that mistake, but…
But is this really a betrayal in the same way?
She couldn’t articulate the thought, but it was Taylor’s face that flashed into her mind’s eye when she put the phone away.
Wait, that wasn’t the end of chapter line either?
So because of Taylor… Rachel has decided at least to give Siberian’s offer some time.
I’m down for this storyline. 🙂
Maybe she would see what this test was about. She wasn’t about to back down. But in the end, she‘d make the call about where she went and what she did.
Though I guess Siberian would support her on that, no matter how much she personally wants Rachel to join.
“You,” she told the man with the gouges in his face, “Go to a doctor. Take anyone here that needs it. But I don’t want you telling Coil, I don’t want you using his doctors. Got it?’
Not being very subtle about your decision to actively keep secrets from Coil, huh? Better hope you can trust these people to be more loyal to you than to Coil.
I’m not sure you can.
The man looked up at her, staring for long seconds. Finally, he nodded. She didn’t know if he would, or if he’d be able to hide it, but if he did inform Coil, it would at least be an excuse to get rid of him and the others.
Also worth noting: It’s possible for the guy to inform Coil without knowing it himself. Without it actually happening.
She looked down at the wolf pup, who was still struggling to bite at her fingers. She let it go, waited until it tried to attack her again, and pushed it down onto its side once more.
“Little bastard,” she smiled.
Almost without thinking about it, she used her power. Just the smallest amount. She felt almost none of the vibrations or shudder she experienced as a visceral feedback on her power with the other dogs. It was only when she saw his skin splitting that she realized it was actually working.
Uh. You sure you wanna do this? This puppy isn’t exactly trained, by the looks of it.
Also, the difference between dogs and wolves in the feedback… is the power actually designed to work primarily on wolves, and just works on dogs because they’re the same species but domesticated? And the domestication and/or genetic differences from breeding causes feedback?
Faster, quicker, with so little of the temporary exhaustion she so often experienced on her end.
Huh. Yeah, it really does sound like this is what her power is really effective on.
The Dandelions probably can’t tell the difference between a wolf and a dog.
Was it easier with him? What did that mean?
Well… for so long we’ve known you as “the dog girl” because your power works on dogs.
Now it seems it’s more natural for you to be “the wolf girl”.
This is an interesting note to end the chapter on, especially after:
She couldn’t articulate the thought, but it was Taylor’s face that flashed into her mind’s eye when she put the phone away.
But it’s not a bad one. It’s just different and a bit more… metaphorical.
End of Interlude 11a
That was a good time. A very interesting chapter with… way more talk of My Little Pony on my part than one might’ve expected regarding a chapter about Rachel and Siberian. 😛
In order, this chapter gave us:
- Seemingly happy Rachel
- Seemingly happy Rachel questioning why she’s less happy than the other Undersiders
- A look at Rachel’s feelings about Taylor and the events of Parasite
- A look into Rachel’s backstory and why family isn’t among her top values (fuck Rachel’s third foster mom)
- Bitch dealing with a civilian thinking he could get off with shooting at Angelica (what’s gonna happen to that guy anyway? is he dead? or is he just going to be lying there until someone dares go get him and take him to a hospital and/or Panacea?)
- A short but entertaining fight between Brandish & Glory Girl and Bitch
- Cut short by our first meeting with a Slaughterhouse Nine member
- Siberian, who is great, freaky, and freakily great (and I love the angle of Rachel finding someone she can relate to in a Slaughterhouse member)
- Rachel choosing to fail her challenge of loyalty and go see what the Slaughterhouse’s test is all about
- wolf pupy
So basically, lots of really good stuff.
Next up… maybe more Rachel? If she’s going to the Slaughterhouse’s test, then she might act as our POV to get to know the rest of the members as well, allowing us to have a Slaughterhouse Nine Interlude half-Arc without actually looking through the eyes of the members we’re examining.
Then again, maybe Wildbow has done pretty much all he wanted to do from Rachel’s perspective for now and we’ll have another POV next time. I do feel like we’ll still be checking out Fellowship members, though, so it’s just a matter of who we’ll be following and whose perspective we’ll see them from.
I guess I should throw a wild guess out there… maybe we’ll find out about Hatchet Face next?
So yeah! This was fun. See you next time!