Interlude 11c: Addictive Inferno

Source material: Worm, Interlude 11c

Originally blogged: March 19-28, 2018


Interlude 11c (Anniversary Bonus)

Howdy! According to the donut companies, enough time has passed that I should begin reading another chapter of Worm. In reality, though, time is just a conspiracy to sell more donuts. Don’t believe their round, sugarcoated lies! Wake up, sheeple!

But I “will” play their little game. I “will” “currently” “begin” liveblogging Interlude 11c, and I “will” have fun doing so, regardless of “when” the donut companies say I have it.

So, in the previous Interlude, we got to meet Jack Slash. We also found out who his first choice for a nominee was, but we didn’t find out who he’s actually going to bring. That’s a blank that might prove relevant in a later chapter, to introduce an unexpected nominee, catching anyone who thought they’d seen them all by then off guard.

In this one, we’ll meet our third Slaughterhouse Nine member. As for who that’ll be and who our POV character will be, I don’t have much to work with. I’m just going to randomly guess… Bonesaw?

Let’s just jump in and find out!


Spitfire had often complained that having a power based around creating flame meant you faced two kinds of opponents.

Oh hey, Spitfire! This ought to be interesting. Despite her appearing in Interlude 5, we know next to nothing about her.

There were the people who burned, who were the majority. Civilians fell into this category.

That is an unfortunate side effect, yes.

So considering we’re following Spitfire and talking about burning, is this the Interlude in which we meet Burnscar?

Unless the person with the power was amoral, which Spitfire wasn’t, this actually wound up being a detriment, because of the easy possibility of life altering injuries, death and scars.

Yeah, that can be a problem.

And then on the other hand, we have people who don’t burn, people the power is useless against, right?

The kind of thing that brought heroes down on the villain’s head in full force.

Like Taylor was worried about Regent’s body control doing to the Undersiders.

The second group was the foes who didn’t burn. People in armored suits with enough covering, people with forcefields, people with foreign materials either forming or surrounding their bodies, the list wound up being fairly long.

People who burn by default and don’t take damage from it… People who can control fire and prevent it from burning themselves, maybe even turn it against you… People who are just generally fire resistant…

“Spitfire, run!” Faultline ordered.

I take it you’re up against one of those latter enemies right now?


Burnscar wore a red dress and had chosen to go barefoot rather than wear shoes.

Oh, hi. Didn’t think we’d be seeing you this immediately, though I suppose we kind of did with Jack Slash. I guess there’s no pretense of introducing the Fellowship one by one not being the gimmick of these Interludes.

I appreciate that, honestly. It’s too obvious to try to hide it at this point, even if the reader didn’t know there were eight of these Interludes going in.

Her dark brown hair was a tangled mess above staring green eyes. Her skin was pale, giving a greater contrast to the red of her clothing and the dark the circles under her eyes.

She sounds oddly elegant. Not sure why.

The round scars of what were likely cigarette burns formed individual rows down from the bottom of each eye to her jaw.

Ah, yes, the signature burn scars. Quite possibly related to her trigger event.

She strode forward through the flames she’d set on the streets outside Faultline’s now-deserted nightclub, Palanquin.

Eyy, it made it through the test of water. Now let’s hope it can withstand fire too.

So chances are Burnscar wants Spitfire – both Jack and Siberian went for people they could relate to, and I think that trend will continue – but Spitfire is apparently not amoral. Does Burnscar actually think she’s Slaughterhouse material?

Sweeping her arms to either side, she spread the flames along the breadth of the road, drew the heat into her palms, and then hurled it at her opponents.

On the other hand, maybe she just came here for a fight. I do think it’s more likely that the Crew just got ready to fight the moment they spotted her, though, without hearing her out.


Burnscar didn’t seem to have the same reservations about incinerating more vulnerable enemies that Spitfire did.

Yeah, no surprise.

Gregor the Snail caught one fireball with a hurled glob of slime, extinguishing it.

Nice.

The other landed in the middle of the group, not striking anyone, but nonetheless driving them apart. Newter was at one side of the resulting blaze in the middle of the street, Faultline and Shamrock at the other, with Gregor and Spitfire at the back, furthest from Burnscar.

I wonder how much Shamrock’s luck extends to her allies. I mean, her allies succeeding at things for the good of the team is lucky for Shamrock, right?

Spitfire turned to run, and Burnscar drew together another fireball, lobbing it forward, where it soared high in the air before it began to drop.

That ain’t good. Is this going to cut Spitfire’s escape off?

The fireball collided with Spitfire, smashing the girl to the ground.

Oof.

Flames licked off of her fireproof suit and the pavement around her, and it was long seconds before she was able to start pulling herself to her feet.

A fireproof suit implies either that Spitfire herself isn’t fireproof, or simply that she doesn’t want to end up naked in battle.

I can relate to both of those things.


Burnscar drew fire up around herself, blinding the others, and in a moment, she was beside Spitfire, clutching the girl’s throat with her fingertips, pushing her down against the ground that was still burning with traces of the fireball’s heat.

Welp.

So is she just fast, or does she have a sort of fire-to-fire teleportation?

Why couldn’t this be one of the areas where the streets were flooded? Why did Palanquin have to be on this hill?

Holy shit.

A dry place.

Ish.

“Get her!” Faultline shouted. Shamrock drew her gun and fired, and Gregor launched a stream of slime toward the spot where Burnscar crouched.

Good luck… oh wait

The slime put out the flame where it landed, and in the moment the splashing slime and the billowing smoke obscured her, Burnscar disappeared.

Hm, maybe it’s not so much fire-to-fire as a “teleport when not visible to anyone” ability?

Or maybe it’s both. Teleport from fire to fire when not visible.

“There!”

Burnscar had emerged from a patch of flames fifteen feet from Spitfire, and was striding toward the girl, ensuring Spitfire was in the way of any potential attacks from the rest of Faultline’s crew.

Okay, yeah, definitely seems to be fire-to-fire.


She seized Spitfire and began dragging her toward an alley, one hand around her throat.

She hasn’t said anything yet, but it seems like this is someone who knows what she wants and takes it by force.

Wherever Burnscar stepped, she left burning footprints, and the flames slowly swelled and spread to join with one another, a trail of fire forming a path behind her.

Huh, that’s pretty cool. Kind of powerful too, if her power lets her teleport from fire to fire – she’ll automatically have fire under her almost no matter what, and just needs to put an exit fire somewhere.

Newter lunged forward, leaping over the flame that separated him from Gregor and then hopping to the nearest building to grab a bag of trash with his tail. Twisting his entire body, he whipped the bag at Burnscar.

Nice!

It struck her, and she staggered back, losing hold of Spitfire.

Sweet.

Are we going to have a save like this from each Crew member? Except Labyrinth, maybe, who I’ve just realized doesn’t seem to be present.

Burnscar dropped into the flames that covered the pavement and emerged from the flames just behind the others.

Watch out!

Elle, from the second floor room of Palanquin, banged on the window, trying to alert her comrades.

Labyrinth?

Hang on.

We’ve been seeing things that should be behind Spitfire’s back, such as Burnscar coming after her when she turned to run. The narration has also been devoid of descriptions about how things felt for Spitfire, such as the throat grab hurting.

She’s not the POV character here. Elle is.


Like a flamethrower, twin streams of fire shot from Burnscar’s hands, striking Shamrock, Faultline and Gregor.

Ouch.

Catching sight of the attack at the last second, Gregor did his best to shield Faultline and Shamrock with his bulk.

Woo, go Gregor!

Newter threw more trash and rubble towards Burnscar, and succeeded in interrupting her assault on his teammates.

And Newter too!

Faultline was on fire, her costume alight.

That probably ain’t good. Sounds a little uncomfortable.

Gregor slimed her to put it out, then wheeled on Burnscar.

“Oh, you have it coming now.”


The same instant he turned towards her, the flame around her flared up, consuming her.

Aaand she’s gone again. Which flame did she go to now?

They turned to look for her, simultaneously trying to back away from the flames that spread with each of Burnscar’s attacks, and they missed seeing the crouching form in their midst.

Well, shit.

Only Elle, from her higher vantage point, was able to see Burnscar.

Would’ve been very helpful to have some sort of walkie-talkies or similar.

To say that Faultline and her crew were friends wasn’t meaningful enough. Elle saw them as family.

Aw, that’s nice. 🙂

And she was helpless to do anything to save them.

That, not so much.

I’m not sure whether or not Elle is Labyrinth. She seems a bit more clear-headed than I would’ve expected, and Labyrinth does have powers that could be used to help out here.

But I do seem to recall Elle’s name being mentioned before, possibly in a context that heavily implied she was Labyrinth. I guess I should go and do a blog search.

Okay, so Elle is Labyrinth [here], but her lucidity fluctuates and her power is inversely proportional to her lucidity. Right now she’s the most lucid we’ve ever seen her, and thus weak powerwise, and that’s why she can’t help.

Things make sense now.


Her power was available to her, but the range was too small.

Ahh, I see.

She needed time to soak it into an area, and she’d gone for a walk earlier. Two hours since she’d gotten back, and her power was limited to her room, the neighboring rooms, the upstairs hallway and the exterior walls of the building that surrounded these areas.

That is a very interesting mechanic. It might also explain the timing of the Crew’s intrusion on the Merchant get-together.

Not enough to reach the street where the fighting was happening. And if she moved beyond the boundaries, she would be losing ground. Any time she moved to a new place, beyond the limits of where her power was taking effect, her area of influence shrunk to a few feet around her, only to start gradually bleeding out once more, faster with each passing minute.

Huh. Which also means that the larger the area she has to play with, the more it takes for it to reset like this.

She tried using it anyways. Closing her eyes, she reached for the other worlds.

Hm.

How literally is this what she is doing? We know there are other worlds, including our own, so I guess it’s not far-fetched that there’s one with moving pillars in the location of the ABB hideout, or one with a temple containing a maze in place of the Weymouth shopping center.

Or a temple in one world and a maze in another.

Pocket worlds, as she interpreted them. Realities that were a blank canvas to be altered according to her thoughts, both conscious and unconscious.

Ahh. So then it’s somewhere in-between the world of Labyrinth’s imagination and real worlds.

Real worlds of her imagination, I suppose.

They were lucid dreams that were big enough, detailed enough, intricate enough to swallow her up, as they so often did.

I see.

I don’t know if I ever stated it explicitly, but it’s been pretty clear to me that Labyrinth being “in her own world” had her seeing some of the same sorts of things she can “create” in combat.

She could make new ones at a whim, but she found it better to build on what she already had.

Seems reasonable.


There was the high temple. Faultline and the hypnotist they’d hired had talked her through it, building a place that wasn’t so influenced by Elle’s negative thoughts and ideas.

High temple? Sounds like what she pulled out at the mall.

It was a place she associated with personal triumphs, with her inner strengths. At the opposite end of the coin was also the bad place.

The low toe?

Also, this sounds like a healthy practice. Kudos to the hypnotist.

Of the worlds, it was the biggest by far. Nothing she could use there, she knew. She was intimately familiar with every aspect of it. She had spent a long time there.

Ouch.

Her eyes snapped open as explosion erupted in the street.

She saw Faultline, Gregor and Shamrock tumbling through the air.

Yeeah, this ain’t ideal.


[Session 2]
It’s tomorrow, let’s go!


Elle clutched her arms to her body. The lonely hallways… no. The burning towers. Definitely no.

Burning towers just sound like another advantage to Burnscar, provided they’re real enough for her to use that fire.

The barren ruins. She’d almost forgotten. It had been her first attempt at making a world outside of the bad place. It had worked up until the moment negativity and self loathing crept in through the cracks, filling in details where she didn’t want them. Ugly details.

Yikes.

So when a world is made up of someone’s self-loathing, does that mean it will be especially hostile to that someone?

What had resulted was a beautiful, solemn landscape rigged with traps and pitfalls, as if the landscape itself was eager to hurt or kill anyone who didn’t watch their step.

But I suppose if that someone is normally the only one who can access these worlds, then the hostility doesn’t need to discriminate.

Or maybe it’s just as simple as the loathing making it more hostile in general.

Anyway, I like the idea of this place. Deceptively beautiful, surprisingly hostile. It makes me think of fairy lands.

As she focused on that world, a small part of her consciousness flew over the landscapes, an image in a second mind’s eye. Fields of tall grass, collapsed walls half covered in moss, the remnants of an old castle, a stone hut with a tree growing out of it.

Oh yeah, she did call it the barren ruins. I guess she hasn’t exactly maintained this world much.

She’d always had a soft spot for things that had once been beautiful but had transformed into a different kind of beauty as they aged.

That is pretty poetic. 🙂

She liked the look of a tree that had grown to splendor and then died, the statue worn by years of hard rain. This was the aesthetic that had shaped the ruins. Until everything turned ugly, unpredictable and dangerous.

So it’s not that she hasn’t maintained it, it’s just that this was her idea of a beautiful landscape in the first place.

I like it.


Today was a good day. She’d exhausted herself earlier in the week by taking on the Merchants on what she could easily mark as a bad day.

…makes sense. She was insanely powerful back there, and we know that scales with how bad it gets.

It seemed she was veering to the other side of things: she’d eaten, gone for a walk, even ventured to have a conversation with Faultline.

Nice.

She could only do those things because her mind’s eye, the gate to those other worlds, was nearly closed right now. The drawback was that this also meant that the use of her power was slow.

We know there’s a correlation between how badly out-of-touch she is and how powerful she is, but it’s probably not quite accurate to say that that’s a one-way causation, regardless of which way we say it goes.

More likely, there’s a third element here that is the cause of the fluctuations in general. It might be something like what’s going on with Taylor and her occasionally doubled range, where it depends on how close of a situation or mindset she is in to her trigger event, but Labyrinth’s fluctuations seem far stronger and far more frequent.

It would be very interesting to find out what her trigger event was. Given how much talk there’s been about self-loathing sneaking into her worlds, it might have had something to do with that element of her personality. Maybe the Dandelions attempted to help her avoid her self-loathing and the conditions that caused it, by giving her an escape from reality? If that’s the case, though, it seems to have heavily backfired.

As though she were looking through a spyglass, trying to find a distant detail, she could only take in one scene at a time.

So then she’ll only be able to draw one thing into reality at a time, as opposed to all the simultaneously emerging effects we saw at the mall.


And yes, my standing theory is that the powers are usually the result of the Dandelions trying to help, but not always knowing what’s the best way to do that due to not really understanding humanity.

They might also be either unable or disallowed to do much other than empower, for that matter, kind of like the immortals from El Goonish Shive (who are limited by immortal law to “guiding and empowering”, though they can interpret that rather liberally to justify their actions).


She found what she wanted. An age-worn statue of a woman in a toga, holding a large urn. Focusing on it, she pushed.

Interesting choice of verb there. I like it. It implies a sense of weight, of inertia, like the object is resisting her influence with its “mass”, “trying” to stay in its place, in its world.

It was agonizing. Not the use of her power – that was easy, unavoidable. Even on a good day like today, her power worked without her asking for it. The floor under her feet was turning into a stone tile, grass and moss growing in the cracks, as if the ruins were leaking into the real world. It was agonizing because the emergence of the statue was slow.

Yeah, like this.

Brick folded out of the way as it appeared from within the outside wall of Palanquin. It slid forth at a glacial pace of a quarter-inch every second, and it wasn’t small.

Okay yeah that’s very slow.


The fire had spread across the street and to the wall of the building opposite Palanquin. Burnscar was using it to travel great distances at a moment’s notice, simultaneously spreading the flames further with every attack or spare moment she had.

Being able to spread fire and teleporting from fire to fire are two powers that go very well together.

Newter was quick enough to avoid her attacks while hurling objects at her to attempt to distract and batter her, but he couldn’t approach to make contact with her and knock her out without her burning him, and his range of movement was quickly narrowing as the fires spread.

Yeeah, and her skin might just burn his skin oils away before they can take effect. I mean, her skin doesn’t seemto be burning, but you never know.

Not only were new patches of flame created when she attacked, but she frequently paused to will the existing fires to swell and extend further in every direction.

Oh jeez, she’s got range on the pyrokinesis too.


Gregor was hurt, but he was trying to control the spread of the flames, while protecting Faultline and Shamrock.

Faultline seems to be the one in most trouble against Burnscar, power-wise. I mean, look at this:

  • Newter can easily dodge most of the fire, but suffers from having a touch range offensive ability against a ranged enemy.
  • While he’s not dextrous, Gregor’s slime can be used to put out the fire or stop the fireballs in mid-air, and probably has the best shot at actually hitting Burnscar with anything useful. He’s also a tank, able to take some hits for the team.
  • Shamrock is lucky, which ought to help in a lot of ways, at least as far as dodging goes.
  • Spitfire has a fire-resistant costume, though she’s also Burnscar’s main target (by the looks of it) and Burnscar is immune to her offensive ability.

Faultline, however… she can cut through things. But cutting through fire doesn’t help, and the enemy can teleport so blocking the path is more trouble than aid as long as there’s a fire on either side. Her costume doesn’t protect her from fire, nor does her biology. Everyone else has defensive advantages, but besides basic armor, she doesn’t have defensive or offensive features that are particularly useful in this fight.

His skin glistened, which made Elle think he was covering himself in something that would protect him from being burned.

That on top of what I just mentioned? Gregor is definitely the MVP here as far as powers go.


Her power was still so slow. Only half of the statue had emerged. Not enough. She needed the entire thing.

Careful. I have a feeling overexerting yourself might be bad.

What are you actually going to do with the statue, anyway?

Burnscar had noticed the statue, and paused to pelt it with fireballs.

Well, at least it can be a distraction.

Elle winced as the head broke free, felt a momentary despair as one arm shattered.

RIP.

So does it retain this damage when it’s sent back to the other world?

But the rest was intact. Just two or three minutes.

That’s a long time in a situation like this. Could easily be the rest of the chapter, even – just look at Parasite, when we had about 2-5 minutes pass over the course of two chapters, if I recall correctly.

Gregor caught Burnscar with a stream of slime, and the young woman disappeared in a swirl of fire.

WOO!


Burnscar had appeared just behind Gregor, Shamrock and Faultline. Before they could notice and react, she drew a ball of flame into a condensed point between her hands and released it in a violent explosion of heated air.

Jeez.

Time to go flying again, I guess.

“No!” Elle screamed, banging on the window.

I don’t think that helps. In fact, it might cause Burnscar to notice you and attack.

Faultline wasn’t moving, and Elle couldn’t quite tell through the smoke that covered the street, but she might be burned. Gregor… Gregor wasn’t moving either, and he lay in a patch of fire. However fireproof the slime he’d coated himself in might be, he wasn’t immune to being roasted.

Yikes. How about Newter? Do we have a TPKO here?

Shamrock was limping away, limping towards the statue, and Newter was evading a fresh series of attacks from Burnscar.

Oh yeah, Shamrock too.

At least two of them are still up.


Only Spitfire was largely untouched, helpless to do anything against an opponent that was not only fireproof, but who could walk through fires as easily as anyone else might use a doorway to move from one room to the next.

Spitfire has the benefit that Burnscar probably wants her unharmed, but the problem that Burnscar wants her.

This wasn’t right. Her team, her friends, her family were all moments away from being obliterated.

Are you sure this is a good day?

I have a feeling we’re going to see what a bad day is like for Elle by the end of this chapter, her power getting stronger by her grasp on reality weaker, as a result of the events that are unfolding.

Bonus points to me if it happens when Elle’s thoughts turn to self-loathing, beating herself up about not being able to help and, ironically, becoming more able as a result. (That wouldn’t exactly be a great moral, but morals are not what someone should read Worm for in general.)


She had to focus. The statue wasn’t enough. She needed a mechanism. The one that was attached to the statue in her mind’s eye didn’t work.

Well, that’s unfortunate. What else do you have?

Something else. She searched. A portcullis with a wheel… no, too rusted, the chain too prone to snapping. Ah, there. A math puzzle, where a ball was set to roll down a series of tubes, with its path being determined by a series of levers, each moving a paddle that would adjust the ball’s route.

Neat. Burnscar doesn’t seem like the type for math puzzles, but maybe that’s a good thing here.

So frustrating. On her worst days, the days when her view of the other worlds was so expansive that she could barely register the real world, she didn’t have to put things together like this. She could shape things as she made them come into the real world, and they emerged as quickly as she wanted them.

Much like we saw at the mall, right?

Fitting everything into the statue, she had to use some of the math puzzle, the lever, some of the statue’s existing mechanism, positioning it all so that they fit together as she pushed it into existence.

Hm, interesting. She’s mixing and matching and making a new mechanism from the pieces. Who knows what this will result in? Maybe the statue will be able to move around like a mechanical robot?


A fireball caught Newter in the stomach. He was knocked from where he clung to the wall, falling to the ground.

Ouch.

He had to roll out of a patch of ground that was licked by orange flame.

A perfect example of stop, drop and roll.

Burnscar turned to Shamrock, who was waiting for the lever to emerge.

I see, so Shamrock has figured that the lever is going to do something beneficial? That, or she’s just willing to take her chances.

And hey, who better to do so?

A fireball was flung at the red-haired woman, who ducked too slowly. The flame clipped her in the shoulder in its route to punch a hole in the wall, directly where the lever was.

So wait, did the shoulder hit cause it to not hit the lever? Because that could be construed as luckier than not getting hit, depending on what the lever does.

Pieces of the mechanism tumbled around Shamrock.

Ah, no.

You know, I’m generally not seeing much of the luck Shamrock is supposed to have in this fight.

…what if the powers that control hers have decided it’s luckier to be defeated (but left alive)? Possibly because of the risk of Slaughterhouse retaliation if they were to defeat Burnscar?

Gears, levers, paddles and fragments of the switch.

Shamrock narrowly dodges a screen and two JoyCons.


“No!” Elle shouted, “No!’

Her effort had been for nothing. Could she cobble something else together? Would it matter?

Elle continues to get more and more upset. I feel about 70% confident in my theory for how this’ll play out.

Incidentally, I do think that even with Elle putting up a strong fight by the end, Burnscar will make it out with Spitfire.

Their opponent had an idea of what Elle wanted to do. She wasn’t going to offer the opportunity.

Hm, yeah, sounds about right. I guess you only really had the one shot.

The last piece of the math puzzle emerged within the brick walls of Palanquin. Two inches across in diameter, the ball fell along its set route.

Hm, but without the lever, it can’t be led to where it needs to be?

Rolling down a slight slope, dropping through one spot where the paddle was pointing down, landing on the next slope, rolling in the opposite direction, over two paddles.


Elle grabbed her chair and shattered her window.

Woah, drastic measures time.

Gripping the sides of the window, ignoring the glass that bit into her fingers, she screamed, “Shamrock!”

What can she do?

Both Shamrock and Burnscar looked up at her.

And yes, now you’ve alerted Burnscar to your location. Now she can stop your contraptions with much more efficiency.

She slapped the wall with her hand, leaving bloody fingerprints where the glass had cut her, “The ball needs to go right!”

I guess Shamrock’s luck manipulation is active, and she needs to know what is the lucky outcome for it to work?

Burnscar launched another fireball at Shamrock, and Shamrock leaped to one side.

Nice dodge.

“What ball!?”

Elle couldn’t tell her, not without letting Burnscar know. She could feel the ball making its way down the last slope, dropping down the far left, to where the mechanism and the lower half of the puzzle had been devastated by Burnscar’s fireball.

Well. That didn’t work.

Shamrock would get a glimpse of the ball through the hole in the wall, as it dropped down… now.

Hm, or maybe it still can.

Elle felt the almost imperceptible influence of Shamrock’s power. The woman was a telekinetic and clairvoyant on the smallest of scales, capable of making small changes and knowing how to use them to make big things happen.

Ohh.

Her luck hasn’t been working because it wasn’t luck. That’s just how she portrays it, much like how Grue claims his power is just darkness on the wiki (”It’s not wrong, but it does catch people off guard when they think they know what you can do, and there’s something more to it.”) [here], or how Taylor made the Empire goons think turning into a bug monster was part of her power.

Makes sense.

The ball moved a few millimeters to the left, hit a splinter of wood and bounced toward the right, spinning. It landed, and the spin of its rotation coupled with the help of an additional nudge carried the ball to the right, and down into the chamber behind the statue.

Nice work.


There was a rumble, and water began pouring from the stump of one arm and the urn the statue held.

Oooh, elemental advantage! Good call using this, Elle.

It poured down around Shamrock, flooding out onto the street to quench the fires on the ground level.

You know what this means, right?

It means this is no longer a dry place. It’s like rule 35, but for water – if there isn’t a bunch of water there already (as per rule 34, but for water), there will be soon.

Soon it was only the patches of flame on the walls that remained.

Teleporting to those seems like a bad idea. That is, if she even can teleport when it’s like this. She can create her own from-fires, but can she keep one up for long enough to teleport when the statue is continuously pouring water?

Incidentally, I wonder if Elle made sure the ball went the wrong way to solve the puzzle and a flooding room would’ve been the punishment for messing up back in the other world it came from.

Shamrock raised her gun, aiming at Burnscar, and fired.

This gonna work?

Are they going to need two new Fellowship members instead of just the one?


Once, twice. It was hard to tell if the shots hit home, because Burnscar was already wreathing herself in flame, disappearing to appear from the burning wall nearest Spitfire.

Oh, huh. Well, I suppose falling from the wall is preferable to getting shot.

Spitfire ran, and Burnscar chased her. Elle could see Shamrock hesitate, then leap through the curtain of water that poured from the urn, giving chase, hoping to help her teammate.

Good luck.

I don’t think you’ll ultimately succeed, though.

“No!” Elle shouted. But her voice was drowned out by the sound of the water. Soon the pair were gone.

Hm, looks like we won’t be finding out how that went right now.

Would be a shame if it turned out Shamrock was a charred corpse next time we heard about her.

Her phone. She needed to phone them, let them know. Where was it?

Let who know what, exactly?

In the kitchen. Stupid. She’d been in one of her momentary fugues when they’d been gathering dinner, she had to have left it there.

Welp. Fetch quest?

And if she ventured any further than the upstairs hallway, maybe the ledge above the dance floor, she would be losing any ground she’d gained with her power here.

Jeez, the limit really is quite small right now, huh.


A horn… some kind of noisemaker. A bell? There was a bell in one area of the barren ruins, if she could only find it.

Not a bad idea, pulling an item out from one of the worlds to help her.

Burnscar dropped from the burning wall opposite Palanquin.

Oh hey, welcome back.

Did you leave Shamrock and Spitfire behind down the road? Or maybe Spitfire turned and ran back?

Retracing her steps. She looked up at the window that Elle stood behind.

Does she really stand “behind” the window when, unless this is a different window than the one we’ve been looking through all this time, it’s shattered?

I guess you could just consider the hole in the wall to be a window, regardless of the state of the glass, but can you stand “behind” a hole like that?

She’s not after Spitfire. She’s after me, Elle thought, with a moment’s despair.

Oh shit.

Labyrinth is pretty damn powerful on her bad days. I could see why they might want that on their side.


Burnscar trudged through the expanding pool of water to enter Palanquin’s front door. The club was empty, there was no power, no music. Even the employees were attending to their personal lives. It was just Elle and Burnscar.

Uh…

Hi.

Sorry about the, uh, bouncers.

It was a minute before the door to her bedroom opened.

“There you are,” Burnscar said.

Elle looked away.

There she is, yes.

Time to find out what Burnscar’s all about, personality-wise.


Except there’s plenty of chapter left and that seems like a very good stopping point. It’ll be time to find out what Burnscar’s all about on Thursday. See you then!

[End of session]


Sickness update

I’ve been mostly lying in bed for the last two days. Coughing hard, having headaches and fevers, that kind of thing. It hasn’t been very pleasant.

Today I went to the doctors, and they concluded it was most likely pneumonia. I was prescribed some antibiotic medicine that I’ll start taking tomorrow, to help my body get through this faster. Without the medicine, the expected timeframe for me to get over this naturally would be 2-3 weeks. While I don’t know how much shorter the medicine makes it, it should at least be shorter.

So yeah…

I’ll be back.


Additional updatery

This medicine has been working a lot harder, better, faster, stronger than I was expecting. I’m still coughing a lot (and hard) and somewhat feverish from time to time, but throughout today I have been feeling much better than I have the last two days. If this keeps up I might be back to blogging over the course of the next few days!


Apart from a little coughing, I’m feeling pretty good. Definitely liveblogging tomorrow (Wednesday) unless something changes drastically for the worse! *knocks on wood*

[I like how I ended up reaching these particular posts in the migration on the day I returned to migrating after a different round of sickness kept me from it for almost a week.]


[Session 3]

Since it’s been a week since I last liveblogged Interlude 11c, I’m currently rereading what I’ve seen of the chapter so far in preparation.

Power-wise, Burnscar is really cool. She basically seems to have all the coolest and most useful fire-based powers – fire resistance, firewalking (teleportation between fires), fire generation, fire beams, fireballs, explosions, ranged pyrokinesis (the last three might count as being this mixed with fire generation), fiery footsteps… And she seems fairly strong with all of them, too.

Pretty much the only showy fire-based powers she hasn’t demonstrated are changing the color of the fire (which I believe would most likely also involve realistically increasing the heat of it in this setting, so chances are she’d be using blue or violet fire if she could), and literally turning into fire.

Besides those missing or unseen powers, Burnscar is basically a perfect fire element parahuman.


“Hello, old friend,” Burnscar said.

You know, I feel like I should’ve read this line last time. This would’ve been a much better note to leave off the session on.

So are the Slaughterhouse Nine responsible for Labyrinth’s mental problems and institution, and/or her trigger event? Or is Burnscar being more literal here?

Hm… I feel like if there was at any point a positive relation between these two that Labyrinth knew about now, then she’d be acting very differently and probably not be surprised that Burnscar was after her.

She wasn’t good at talking, even on a good day. “Mimi.”

Oh, huh.

Interesting. So… were they “friends” before Burnscar became a Slaughterhouse member, or…?

I know Mimi is a name, or nickname, but I’m just gonna go ahead and imagine Burnscar wearing nekomimi on a regular basis.

“Long time.”

Elle nodded.

“Sup?”

“Oh, not much, just defending our home from murderous intruders. You wouldn’t happen to have seen one of those around, would you?”


“I’m… I’m sorry about your friends. I didn’t come here planning to do that. It’s just… you know.”

Are they all still alive, at least? It hasn’t escaped my notice that the last we saw of two of them was them going off-screen together with a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine.

I do find it more likely at the moment that Burnscar simply led them away and then abandoned them with her firewalking, but only slightly.

Anyway, Burnscar seems a lot more apologetic than I was expecting from any Slaughterhouse member. Is she like this usually, or is it just because of Labyrinth?

Elle nodded, trying to keep her outrage off her face.

“I- Fuck. I’m really sorry, you know? I can’t help it.”

Anger management issues? That would be very suited for a fire-themed character. As would not being able to restrain her power from going all out with every attack.

Fire is chaotic, passionate and deadly, after all.

You can. You just don’t try hard enough.

This suggests Labyrinth knows her rather well.

Why was she so sure Burnscar was there for Spitfire?

But Elle didn’t voice her thoughts. She nodded.

Yeeah, might not be worth the risk of burning the room down.


“I don’t think I did any permanent damage. They’re alive.”

Ah, good. Thank you.

Let’s keep the Crew alive while we can. They’re one of my favorite groups at this point.

“Thank you,” Elle managed. She couldn’t entirely suppress the bitterness in her voice. Burnscar didn’t seem to notice.

“Thank you for not killing my friends, old pal. Very nice of you.”

“I- I wanted to talk. Like old times.”

Alright? What about?

Also, I’m going to give Burnscar a bit of benefit of the doubt here: It’s entirely possible that her side of the battle out there was self-defense. She may have attempted to approach Palanquin mundanely, but then been recognized by the Crew, who decided to attack immediately to defend themselves and their home from the known person butcher they saw incoming.

Neither party would be really at fault in that scenario.

That said, even with this apologetic, meek attitude and that benefit of the doubt, I’m still wary. There’s gotta be a reason this girl would become and remain a member of the Fellowship.


Old times. Elle couldn’t help it. Her thoughts turned to the bad place, the biggest of her worlds, the world she had spent the most time.

Ah, yes, old times weren’t all that great for Elle.

Is any of that because of Burnscar and her friends?

“Back when we were both having our good days? We’d talk, and I really liked those times. I look back on them fondly. One of the few moments I treasure.”

Was that before your respective trigger events, or are you in denial about how bad things were for Labyrinth?

Elle nodded. Behind Burnscar, the door to her room was changing to metal. A tiny window was expanding, bars already closing down like teeth. The wall around the door was growing tatters of cloth that rippled like they were blowing in the wind.

A metal door, a tiny barred window… is Labyrinth reflexively pushing a copy of her old asylum cell into reality?

“Fuck,” Burnscar said, “I don’t even know where to start. Since I learned you were in this city, and the group wanted to come here, I’ve been looking forward to this, seeing you again, but now I don’t know what to say.”

It really sounds like Burnscar was very close with Labyrinth.

The other way around is up in the air at the moment.

“The weather?” Elle tried, lightly joking. The wrong thing to say.

Heh.

I bet Burnscar doesn’t like rain.


Either that, or she likes it a lot.


“I don’t want to talk about the weather!” Burnscar snapped the words, in a mixture of desperation and anger. Her eyes flashed orange and flame flared around her hands, then it all faded.

Power tied to anger, sounds about right. Was I onto something with my anger management spitball?

“Sorry.”

“I… um. How are you? How have you been, since you escaped?”

Hm.

Maybe that’s how it all ties together: the asylum. Burnscar as a clingy fellow inmate?

“Been… been good. Good people.” So hard to articulate my thoughts, even on a good day.

She’s been good people.

Wait, no, that’s Regent’s job.

“They take care of me. Faultline helped… more than any doctor I’ve had.”

This is one of the things I like about the Crew, besides simply the fun characters – they’re a bunch of misfits who, while outwardly all in it for the money, focus on helping each other with their various hurdles and mysterious backstories. They’re so inwardly supportive and it’s great. Elle is right to call them a family.


“The doctors,” Burnscar scowled.

“You?”

I guess Burnscar didn’t have a great experience at the asylum either.

Hell, was it even really an asylum? Maybe it was a front of some kind for shady parahuman research.

“I… did you know I escaped at the same time you did?”

Interesting. I think that implies the Crew are responsible, if I remember the story correctly.

Elle shook her head.

“I did. But I had no place to go. I had some bad days. I was lonely, scared. Some guy tried to convince me to be his whore, earn some cash, get fed… I refused, but he kept coming after me.”

Eesh, fuck off.

So that’s one major difference here – Labyrinth found a home with her rescuers. Burnscar didn’t.

In an alternate timeline, Burnscar could’ve been a Crew member all this time.


“Sorry.”

“I… I really wanted to be good. I’d told myself I wouldn’t use my power. But I had to protect myself, you understand?”

Yeah, but there’s a big difference between that and Slaughterhouse.

Elle nodded. The cloth around the door had started to settle into a shape. Padded walls, lined with barbed wire and jagged rows of glass. There were stains of shit and blood on some of the cloth, now, growing and swelling. She tried to will it to stop, to focus on her high temple.

So is this copy of the asylum “the bad place”?

Her safe place. But looking at Burnscar, that place felt so far away. It was out of her reach.

Yeeah, Burnscar’s feelings about this reunion are… kind of one-sided. I don’t think she realizes that.

Is she going to force Labyrinth to be her nominee?

Burnscar went on, “So I used it to scare him off… but you know how it works. You know what happens with my power.”

It’s hard to restrain?

“I remember.”

“I… the doctors say that using my power, it adjusts the chemical balances and connections in my brain.

Ahhh.

It’s not hard to restrain, directly. It makes you want to not restrain it, or not want to restrain it.

It’s addictive.

This is super appropriate to the element. Fire wants to be free, to spread wildly and consume.

Empathy, impulse control, my emotions, they disappear as I use my power, and I can’t help using my power if there’s fire nearby.

I’ve speculated before on the idea of powers wanting to be used. This is an extreme variation on that, though one that is easily explained as being part of the specific power rather than a detail about powers in general.

Then again, there’s also the connection between fire and passion. It’s not out of the realm of plausibility that this power is especially passionate about some of the default features of powers. Maybe, for example, Burnscar’s trigger proximity power boosts are especially strong, too?

Incidentally, I wonder whether the TPPB applies to the addictive pull of the power, making it much harder to resist when she’s in a state of mind similar to during her trigger event.

Speaking of which, I wonder if she may have been trapped in a burning building or something? Giving total control over fire and the ability to teleport from fire to fire is one way the Dandelions could decide to help someone out of that situation. It’s almost reasonable, even.

It snowballs, because I use my power more when I don’t have that self-control, when I don’t care about the people I’m near, and when I’m in that headspace I don’t want to leave it.”

Yep. Textbook addictive power.


“Yeah.” And you retreat into that state to avoid facing the guilt over things you’ve done. You use it to hide from your own fears. If I blame you for anything, it’s for that.

There’s clearly history here.

Before we got to Burnscar approaching Labyrinth, I characterized her as a confident woman who knows what she wants and takes it.

I think that’s true, but only when she’s high on fire.

Things are coming together: When not using her power, Burnscar is an apologetic, guilt-ridden girl who doesn’t want to be a bad person, but once fire gets involved, she turns into the kind of person the Slaughterhouse would want. She becomes a city blaze, a raging storm of fire that destroys anything in its path not because it cares about destroying those things, but simply so it can keep going.

High Burnscar is terrifying. Sober Burnscar has to deal with the guilt, the knowledge of what she did when high on fire, and apparently often becomes high Burnscar again to avoid that.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s actually pretty sad.


Burnscar shook her head. “If you hadn’t put out most of the fire out there… I dunno what I would have done.”

Ohh… I didn’t think of that.

I wonder if that factored into why Labyrinth did it the way she did, on a subnarrative level.

I have a pretty good idea.

What did Burnscar do to you and/or people you loved, Labyrinth?

“So I burned the pimp to scare him, then I burned him to hurt him, for payback over his hounding me, and then I couldn’t really stop myself. I burned him to death. Fuck. That was the start of a bad few weeks.”

Whoops.

“Sorry.”

“I- before I knew it, the Slaughterhouse Nine had found me. Shatterbird recruited me. And now I’m stuck. I’m trapped.

I see… I guess there’s no real quitting the Slaughterhouse, is there?

You know there’s a kill order out on me? If I try to quit, either the Nine or the cops will off me. So I keep going, I work for them, and it all just gets worse.”

Fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t… bit of a pickle, huh.


“Surrender? Go to the birdcage?”

“They’d find me. You don’t even know what these guys are capable of.

In the Birdcage?

I mean, sure, I’m guessing they’ve got people on the inside, but can they communicate with them in any way?

I guess if they got themselves caught too, that’d be one thing, but that’s not something I think they’d do on purpose.

Our newest member, she replaced Hatchet Face, though he’s still around… kind of.

…interesting. We’ve got a member replacement – meaning we can expect to meet someone in these Interludes who wasn’t on the list.

I should probably have seen that possibility coming, but I figured they’d fill the one spot before they got another.

So what happened to Hatchet Face, and does that mean we’re not going to meet him? Seriously, best name, I wanna know the character carrying it.

She can find people. There’s no place secure enough to keep me safe until they took me to the Birdcage.

Ahh, right, the transitional period. I didn’t think of that.

I almost think they’d be able to get me in there, if they wanted to. Siberian? She’d be able to get me. Even in the Birdcage. She always gets her prey.”

Fair, but could she get out afterwards?


“Can’t keep hurting people, Mimi.”

Stopping that would be preferable, yes.

The problem is that this is a lot like telling an addict “Can’t keep using cocaine.”

“I have to. I- I can just use my power. Stay in that headspace where I don’t feel bad, where I act the way the Nine expect me to.”

Yeah, no, this argument ain’t gonna appease Elle. She brought this up as a thing she hated before you even got to mentioning it.

The bad place was intruding on the room further. Elle spoke up, “Mimi… Can I touch you? Anchor you? Don’t want my power to hurt you.”

Ahh, anchoring, that’s a good term for making someone immune to her ability. It’s like tethering them to reality, keeping them from truly being pulled into the liminal space created by Labyrinth’s power.

“So you want to keep me out of your world?” Mimi smiled and shook her head. “No way. Half the reason I came here was because I heard you were making beautiful things these days. I have to see it. The things you can make, now.”

You don’t realize the effect you’re having on Elle at all, huh.


Then she turned and looked around. Her face fell as she saw the padded walls, the bed that had become a cot, the shit stains, the blood, the needles in the corner, the broken glass and the razorblades that were embedded in every surface, waiting to catch anyone unsuspecting that put their hand or foot in the wrong place.

Yeeah. Welcome to the bad place.

“No,” Burnscar said.

Elle tensed. “Sorry.”

Burnscar’s face fell. “This… this isn’t beautiful. I remember this.”

The asylum, right?

“Would show you the others… if I could.”

Burnscar’s voice was choked. “But you can’t. Because I remind you of the asylum. I remind you of the bad times, the times you were most miserable.”

Now you’re getting it.

Jeez, this is sad.

Elle looked down at her feet, swallowed past the lump in her throat.

“I thought we were friends. We had our moments, didn’t we? Only a few times, when we were both allowed out of our cells, when we were having good days. A few jokes, stories. I mean, I know that some of the time I was coming off a bad spell, so maybe I snapped, or I called you names, or threatened you…”

The slow realization that it wasn’t always good times, at least not both ways…

Burnscar trailed off. Elle stayed silent.

“It. It wasn’t, um.” Burnscar stuttered. Her eyes flashed orange. “Did you see me as a friend? Don’t you dare lie to me.”

And there it is. The big question.

And I don’t think she’s gonna like the answer.

Elle couldn’t come up with a reply. They used me as an enticement to get you to cooperate.

Ouch.

“I saw you as a person I was being used as a tool to control.”


“Oh fuck. Fuck me, I’m sorry,” Burnscar said. She turned away, fumbled with the metal door. Elle realized it had locked, adjusted things to allow it to open. Burnscar pulled it open, then stopped in the doorway. Her back turned, the girl said, “I’m sorry about your friends. I really hope they’re okay.”

This… visit didn’t exactly go how anyone wanted, did it.

Seriously, I didn’t expect this to get sad of all emotions.

I kinda love it, though. It’s sad in so many ways, but it’s well-written, creative sadness.

“I do too.”

“I’m glad you’re doing well. I hope I didn’t fuck everything up.”

Burnscar is my favorite Slaughterhouse member right now, I think. Jack is great personality-wise, and there’s no doubt I have a weak spot for the charismatic ones, but Burnscar has a fantastic story and an awesome power.

It took a bit of courage, but Elle hurried to cross the room and wrap her arms around Burnscar, hugging her from behind.

Hey, Mimi… Elle may not have seen you as a friend back then, you may bring up bad memories now, and Elle might have a couple disagreements with your way of going about life… but maybe you could still be friends now.

It’s not too late.


“We had some good times,” Elle lied. “Take care.”

You’re a good kid, Elle.

Burnscar pulled away, and Elle let the girl go. She saw Burnscar find the door to the indoor balcony that overlooked the dance floor, heard her run down the stairs.

Elle sank down against the wall, pushing away the sharp things that would cut her with a use of her power. She put her head in her hands and closed her eyes to the sights around her. She’d wait a few minutes. She’d take a few minutes wait until she could be sure Burnscar was gone, then she would leave to check on the others.

See ya, Mimi.

And yeah, waiting a couple minutes and checking on the others sounds good.

It would be weeks before she had made up for the ground she had just lost, in terms of her mental health, in pushing past the bad memories and the bad place.

Ouch.

She reassured herself with the thought that she would get better, in time. She’d gotten there once, she could get there again. If the others were okay.

That is a good thought to hold onto. 🙂


As for Burnscar? There would be no helping that girl.

I guess not. At least not from you. It’s not something you should focus on, given the effect it has on your own health and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anything you can really do for her other than provide company.


End of Interlude 11c

This was a really solid chapter. We got to learn a little more about Elle/Labyrinth and to a much lesser extent Spitfire and Shamrock, Gregor got to be the MVP putting up a strong but losing fight alongside his allies, and perhaps most importantly, we were introduced to two new characters: High and sober Burnscar.

Burnscar, Mimi, is a victim of circumstance and addiction who believes that to survive, she needs to continue hurting people, to keep herself in the fiery high that comes with her power. (I don’t even know if I mean that last thing as a reason or as another thing she thinks she needs to do, but I think it might be both.) In her intoxicated state, she becomes, well… evil, by some definitions, dropping her moral and empathetic inhibitions and losing herself in the swirling inferno of her power. But when she’s sober, she’s a pretty decent person, really, one wracked with guilt that she goes back to the fire to avoid.

Anyway, point is: She’s a fantastic character, and far more sympathetic than I expected any of the Fellowship to be… Hey, Slaughterhouse, how ‘bout we trade? Rachel for Mimi?

No? Fair enough.

Another interesting detail we’ve learned: Hatchet Face has been replaced, though he’s still “kinda” around. So we’ve got someone in the mix who wasn’t on the list, with a power that helps her “find” people. Maybe we’ll meet her in one of the upcoming Interludes.

So yeah. This was a good time, up to and including the sad final part. 🙂

I think it’s time to give up the idea that we’ll be learning who the nominees are just yet, by the way, since neither Jack’s nor Mimi’s chapters ended up actually telling us. Other than that, though, we are definitely keeping up this pattern of meeting Slaughterhouse members one by one, and it’s working very well so far.

Next time… another POV character, another Slaughterhouse member. See you then!

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