Interlude 11d: Scorpio

Source material: Worm, Interlude 11d

Originally blogged: April 4, 2018


[reblogging my intro post from the April Fool’s chapter]

Interlude 11d (Anniversary Bonus)

It’s that time again! Let’s meet our fourth Slaughterhouse member.

So, who do we have left…

  • Bonesaw
  • Mannequin
  • Shatterbird
  • Crawler
  • Hatchet Face
  • a thus far unnamed female newbie

I feel like going with the newbie this time would be a good way to create some continuity between this and the last chapter, similar to Siberian being brought up by Burnscar and possibly Jack (though now that I remember the existence of Crawler, chances are they’rethe implied human-eater). That said, it also feels a little early?

Besides, it’s entirely possible we won’t get a chapter about the newbie at all (and Hatchet Face takes that spotlight slot), and we’ll have to learn about her through the Undersiders when they’re surprised by her existence on the enemy team.

If we’re not meeting the newbie or Hatchet Face this time, maybe… Shatterbird? Just a random guess, really.

Whomever we’re meeting today, though, I’m sure it’ll be good. Let’s just jump right into it!

…for real this time!


Oh, huh, apparently Interlude 11d doesn’t have the “(Anniversary Bonus)” in the header.

I guess for any sharp readers who remembered that, me including it in the intro post might’ve been an early sign that something wasn’t quite right. On top of the date, of course.


There was a faint tapping sound.

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

A clink of something hard on metal or glass.

A beak, perhaps?

It came again, a second later.

Sir, or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you.

(#nevermore is a fantastic rapper #really good at making its lines rhyme)


Colin looked up from his computer.

Oh shit, now this is an interesting POV character to pick. Our disgraced, house arrested Vriska with the power to make MicroMachines happen and have awesome tabletop races against his girlfriend in Canada!

So if we’ve got Colin as the POV, which Slaughterhouse member are we most likely to run into? Mannequin, perhaps? They’re both tinkers, and Colin’s body armors are, uh, very vaguely related to body modification. Also, Mannequin might find Colin’s microtech useful.

That is, if Colin is the attempted recruit. It’s entirely possible that he just happens to get involved in a separate Protectorate encounter with a member of the Fellowship in spite of his house arrest.

Ears peeled, he turned his head to the left and waited. Clink. He turned his head the other way, in the hopes of pinpointing the source.

I don’t remember, did this room have windows? Maybe someone’s throwing pebbles at one.

Possibly while flying. Wasn’t this high up?


He heard a scraping noise, then the sound once more. He couldn’t say where it came from.

Hm. Could we be dealing with Crawler?

He opened an instant message window on his computer and sent a message:

To whom? Dragon?

It might be interesting to hear from Dragon again in this Interlude, but I doubt we’d learn anything about her quest to find and talk to Taylor. That’s not something I think she’d tell Colin about at this point, I think.

PHQ.Armsmaster: You have a sec?

Guild.Dragon: Reading the most monotonous data on seismic activity and Behemoth’s possible movements. Ugly code. Distract me, I beg you.

Heh.

It’s interesting that Dragon appears to be considered a member of the Guild before a member of the Protectorate, at least as far as internal IM handles goes.

PHQ.Armsmaster: Hearing something. Can you listen in?

Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea.


A few seconds passed, then it came again.

Guild.Dragon: I hear it. Wait. Changing the settings on your microphones so I can triangulate the source.

PHQ.Armmaster: Oh good, I’m not going crazy.

Guild.Dragon: That’s debatable, Colin.

As casually as he was able, he glanced towards the window. Tinted glass, bulletproof, and reinforced with a low degree forcefield.

Nice. Can’t have anyone coming in or going out, or anything for that matter.

It would be easier for someone else to go through the wall than the window, but he couldn’t see through walls.

Hehe. That does tend to be a bit of a limitation.

Nothing outdoors. Just an overcast sky hiding the majority of the moon, and a faint drizzle of rain. No person or animal, nothing else.

There goes my half-joking pebble theory. 😛

Unless of course someone’s invisible and prankish.


Clink.

Guild.Dragon: Vent, behind and above you.

Okay, yeah, I think this is Crawler. Who better to introduce as they’re seemingly crawling through a vent?

He whirled around, grabbing the model of his nanobranch disintegration weapon from the stand on his desk.

For a second, I thought “he gets to have weapons in here?”, but then I realized it’s just a model. Unless of course this means model as in a prototype.

It was miniaturized, a mere pocket knife that Piggot could use for demonstration. Still, it would serve better than any chair or tool he might pick up.

Ah, I suppose that makes sense. Not much he can do with a simple pocket knife against these safety measure, but it’s better than nothing against a threat that’s already entered the room.

Incidentally, I doubt Piggot would like the idea of a Slaughterhouse Nine member successfully infiltrating a secure PRT labpartment cell, especially this shortly after the Undersiders’ infiltration of the Wards HQ. Or, more specifically, she wouldn’t like the idea of the public finding out about those things.


He briefly debated going for the helmet with the link back to his old suit’s combat analyzer. But it wasn’t set up, it would cost him precious seconds – twenty or thirty – before he connected to the main server.

Ah, yeah, that’s no good in this situation. Not immediately, anyway.

Until that happened, the helmet would only render him blind. A blank display.

Oh, it’s worse than I thought.

Something moved in the gloom behind the vent. There was a flash of something white or light gray, and the vent rattled, a puff of dust flowing down where the screws held it in place. Again, there was the sound. Clink.

Looks like whoever or whatever this is (Crawler, I’m reasonably sure), they’re working on loosening the vent cover.

The vent exploded from the wall with enough force to fly across the room and embed in the opposite wall.

I think they got it loose. Maybe.

Also, screw subtlety now, I guess!

It was hard to make out in the cloud of plaster dust, but Colin saw a hand, all white, each joint segmented, fingers splayed, palm facing the room.

Oh, was it Mannequin after all? I guess it was a movie-sized vent.


The hand tipped forward, and then dropped to the floor alongside the attached forearm, a length of chain stretching from the vent to the ‘elbow’.

Yep, definitely Mannequin.

I’m going to count that as a win, prediction-wise, even though I faltered and switched to Crawler for a while there. 😛

So does Mannequin / his tech have the ability to make the chains connecting the parts of his body extend and retract?

Also I suppose he could get through a regular-sized vent by, uh, “crawling”. Collapsing into more of a moving pile of chains with body parts on than a body with chains making up parts of it.

Other body parts followed, each separated from the rest, encased in a white shell. An upper arm, two halves of a torso, then a head.

Howdy!

Hm, though the torso parts would have a hard time fitting through a regular vent. Medium-sized vent, perhaps, somewhere between realistic and movie?

The rest of the body followed, flowing to the ground like a liquid to pool there. The right arm and the left leg were separate, detached, with only ball joints at the end.

Oh, huh, he can detach the parts too? I suppose that makes about as much sense as anything else about his physiology.

Maybe his specialty is something that allows him to do that and still maintain control over the pieces. I mean, in addition to allowing him to live with this sort of body in the first place.


Colin noted that the flat expanse that would join the left side of the chest to the right had a clear pane to it.

As in a central glass pane, like a window to Mannequin’s core?

Organs were inside, cut cleanly down the middle, and they pulsed with activity, throbbing wet against the glass or glass substitute.

Ew. Any particular reason you felt the need to make that visible, Mannequin?

There was technology in there too. Regulators and filtration systems, and other gear that was designed to fit into the gaps between the most vital systems. Weapons, tools.

Oh yeah, I suppose he would put weapons in there. Not sure why I didn’t think of that.

By the way, I love how this clearly living… construct, whom Armmaster might recognize as a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine, just shambled into his room in pieces, and Colin’s like “I’m gonna stand here and calmly study this thing’s appearance.”


He knew this one from the briefings. Mannequin.

Yeah. I would’ve been a bit surprised if Colin didn’t recognize him.

The realization of what he was up against spurred him to action, pushed him beyond that momentary paralysis that came with the grim sight of the internal organs.

Ah, right, there we go.

You are faced with a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine in a room you can’t escape (though at least you’re on the line with one person who might have the power to open the door). What will you do?

While Mannequin was incapacitated, he charged, clicking a switch on the handle of his knife to activate the disintegration effect.

> Strife.

Considering Mannequin’s presumably here to talk, and we need the Slaughterhouse members for upcoming plot, this won’t work.

Normally I’d criticize Army for believing he was equipped to do this, but it’s not like he has many other options. Talking is his best one, but he doesn’t have much reason to believe that Mannequin will be receptive to that.

Also, wow, the knife does have the effect? Isn’t that a huge security issue?

A static grey cloud formed around the knife.

Security issue or not, this remains a cool weapon.


Colin was two paces away when a telescoping blade speared out from Mannequin’s hand, straight at him.

“Stop right there.”

It was luck as much as reflexes that let him stop his run, his feet sliding on the smooth ground, before he ran into the weapon. He dropped onto his back, instinctively rolling with the fall to reduce the impact.

See, here’s the thing about Armmaster:

He can be a douche at times, and he did some pretty nasty things. But he’s also damn cool.

Even in this moment where he’s stopped in his tracks, he manages to make it look pretty awesome, and he isn’t even trying.

The blade snapped back into Mannequin’s hand with enough force that the hand and forearm it was attached to recoiled from the impact.

Because he wasn’t actually trying to hurt Army with it, just stop the charge. If he was trying to hurt him, he could swing the blade at him now.

Unless of course he intends to use a different weapon.

It flipped into the air, and the blade snapped out again to impale the top of the door frame.

Hehe.


The chain retracted with a faint whirr, and the forearm snapped into place on the upper arm, which soon connected to the shoulder of the torso.

The finger chain’s connected to the hand chain,
The hand chain’s connected to the arm chain,
The arm chain’s connected to the shoulder chain,
Now shake dem mannequin chains!

The chain joining the two halves of the torso together reeled in and locked into place by way of some unseen mechanism, the seam between them almost invisible.

Nice.

Pull it together, man!

Colin felt a faint tug from his weapon as some electromagnetics kicked into effect.

Interesting. I suppose that might be part of how the chains are controlled?

The unattached arm and leg flew to the shoulder and pelvis and snapped into place.

Oh, or that. That works better.


The head was the last thing to join the tall, thin body. The chain slowly reeled it in, dragging the head along the floor, lifting it off the ground.

Y’know, if I remember correctly, Mannequin was significantly taller than average. Maybe he’d have trouble getting through even a movie-sized vent in one piece.

It swung, bouncing off one leg, the stomach, then the shoulder before it finally connected to the neck, the very top of the head scraping the ceiling.

Ah, yeah, and I doubt the ceiling’s low in a PRT-made room like this.

I wonder if this reeling in of the head ever results in Mannequin getting dizzy.

Also, I’m curious to see what sort of personality he has. The power feels rather whimsical, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything for what he’ll be like. We know he’s into body modification and of course that he’s in the Fellowship, but that’s pretty much it.

Maybe he’ll be a bit… distractable and incoherent. Choppy and disjointed. A little all over the place.

There were no eyeholes, no earholes, nor any vents for air intake. There was only a head as white and smooth as an eggshell, with shallow indents where the eyes and mouth should be and a small bump for the nose.

The color and lack of an actual face appearance makes me think of Doc Scratch from Homestuck, though the fact that his head actually has the shapes of a face, rather than being just a white orb, makes him more like Slenderman.

I suppose that last part fits with his tall stature and long limbs too. Does Mannequin ever kidnap children, and have a hatred of anyone who tries to collect pieces of paper?


Mannequin raised one hand and placed it on the top of his head. With a sharp twist, he snapped it into place with an audible click.

Pfft, nice.

He tested the range of motion, tilting it forward, backward, to either side, then spinning it around three-hundred-and-sixty degrees.

I like this guy so far. 😛

If he can keep that impression up until the end of the chapter, we’ll be four for four on Slaughterhouse members I like so far. They seem to be a quite interesting bunch.

“Dragon,” Colin whispered, “Are you getting this?”

I suppose it’s possible that Mannequin could have something installed that would let him sever the connection to Dragon, but if he was going to tamper with Colin’s equipment remotely, why not do that before entering?

“Help is on the way, Colin.” The whole room was outfitted with speakers, microphones and microcameras.

Ah, nice. Though I’m not sure that’s a good idea, for the help’s sake.

Her voice came from the speaker directly behind him, so quiet that he would have thought he imagined it, if he didn’t know her.

I guess she knows how to “whisper”.


Mannequin tested the rest of his body, while Colin slowly climbed to his feet. Every joint was too flexible, and was capable of moving in every angle.

I guess that’s what happens when you’re not restricted by all that pesky meat.

For a moment, Mannequin’s fingers were like worms, each knuckle bending in impossible directions.

I’m sure some fanfics had fun with this. *fails miserably at waggling eyebrows*

I love how casual Mannequin is being in front of the guy who just tried to attack him with a disintegration knife.

Was the killer hoping to intimidate him? Nobody would test these mechanics in front of an enemy, so this was most likely a demonstration.

That’s another possibility, but mostly I think Mannequin just doesn’t see Armmaster as an enemy at the moment.


So if Mannequin asks Armmaster to come with him and try to join the Slaughterhouse Nine, what happens?

I’d like to think Armmaster cares about heroics on some level, but his attitude in Extermination suggests otherwise. What’s unclear is the extent to which he’s willing to fall from grace. If he truly only wants recognition without any thought to the morals of it, well, becoming a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine would certainly get him attention. But it might not be the sort of attention he wants.

Another thing to note is that he’d be turning his back on Dragon. How strong are his feelings for her?


Four blades sprang from Mannequin’s left forearm. The limb began to rotate, slowly at first, then faster, until the four blades were whirling like a helicopter propellor.

Ooh.

So what’s this whirling blade pitcher for? I doubt he intends to fly with it like a helicopter, considering his head is already touching the ceiling.

Colin tensed, preparing to jump the moment the limb shot towards him. He’d never wanted his suit so badly.

Yeah, you probably don’t want to touch that out of costume.

Probably not in costume either.

The propeller-like whirl of the blades gave the arm some buoyancy, and it shifted enough to come into contact with Mannequin’s leg. All at once, it ricocheted, shearing through the computer, bouncing violently off of Mannequin’s head, then his leg again, the desk, then his arm.

…whoops?

Y’know, when I said he might cut off the connection, I didn’t mean it literally.


Colin watched every movement of the bouncing blades, waiting for the moment it would fly free, or the second Mannequin charged. There would be no dodging that unscathed.

Yeah, probably not.

But Mannequin didn’t move. The spinning slowed, and the whirling blades settled into a rhythmic bounce against Mannequin’s leg, until it had stopped entirely, the arm swinging gently. The blades retracted.

So what was the point of starting it up? Was Colin onto something when he thought Mannequin was demonstrating his abilities?

Also, Mannequin is almost certainly here to talk, but can he talk, per se? He doesn’t have a mouth in the traditional sense.

Mannequin didn’t speak, he made no sound.

Long moments passed.

Well, this is awkward.

I guess Mannequin isn’t concerned about Armmaster getting reinforcements. He hasn’t visibly done anything to the cameras, and is taking his time.

“Talk to me, Dragon,” he murmured. His voice shook just a touch. Any second now, Mannequin would cut to the chase and attack, and he could die at this monster’s hands.

Does Colin just want to hear his Canadian crush’s equally real voice one last time before what he believes to be nearly certain death?

Or does he want to ensure that the connection is still working after what happened to the computer?


Her voice was quiet behind him.

Looks like it doesn’t.

As much as anything, it helped keep him calm. “Mannequin. Original name Alan Gramme. Tinker, originally went by the name Sphere. Specialty is in biomes, terraforming and ecosystems… or it was.”

That’s very interesting. Besides the internal ecosystems of bacteria and such, this specialty has nothing to do with what he’s actually doing these days. And what do you mean “or it was”??

Also, Sphere is an odd cape name, especially for a terraforming tinker. It seems more fitting for someone like Brandish.

Colin nodded slowly. He knew this, but it was reassuring to get a recap.

Oh! That was Dragon. I completely misread that first sentence. Whoops.

He meant quiet as in low volume, not completely gone. I was reading the rest as if Dragon being cut off somehow kept Colin calm and confident enough to start recapping this info at Mannequin himself. The actual course of events makes a whole lot more sense.


“He became newsworthy when he took on a project to build self sustaining biospheres on the moon.

Oooh, I want to hear more about post-cape society’s space exploration developments compared to our world’s. Tinkers in particular are very important for that, not least of all people like Sphere.

I suppose the name makes sense if it was typical for him to build his projects in that shape.

But what happened?

He had ideas on solving world hunger, and building aquatic cities near cities plagued by overcrowding. And he was putting it all into effect. Until-”

Seriously, this guy sounds like he was going to be a huge boon to the world. What the hell took that away and turned him into this?

“The Simurgh,” Colin finished.

Oh. Ohhh.

We did learn that the Simurgh tends to cause a lot of trouble after her visits, more so than the other two (and Leviathan’s visit certainly hasn’t been without aftereffects). Is this the form that takes? Changing people’s personalities, inspiring brutality, that sort of thing?


“His wife and children were killed in the attack, years of work ruined. Everything fell apart. He went mad.

Oh, I see, a bit more indirect than I was thinking.

I’m still not ruling out that the Simurgh has a passive power that makes madness like this more likely after her visit, if not necessarily one that actively, directly makes people mad.

He cut himself off from the rest of the world. Literally sealed himself away.”

Wow.

That would explain the lack of facial features.

Colin looked at the cases that surrounded each individual body part. Each body part a self-contained system. Everything nonessential stripped away and replaced.

Cut away from the world, cut away from his humanity, cut away from each part of himself as best he can manage…


Her voice was even quieter than before as she said, “He has a body count, Colin. You know…”

Of course.

But why? If his deal is cutting himself off because his family was killed and his work ruined, what led him to becoming brutal enough for the Slaughterhouse? I mean, even madness tends to have some internal logic, does it not?

She trailed off, unwilling to finish.

Hm. Personal? Or just worried about Colin?`

“I know,” he finished for her. Like other serial killers, Mannequin favored certain types of people as victims.

Ahh. Does Colin happen to fit the description?

His prey of choice included rogues, those individuals seeking to make a profit from their abilities, especially those looking to better the world… and tinkers.

People like his old self, huh.


Mannequin swayed slightly on the spot. Like a doll with a broken neck joint, his head flopped onto one side, until it was perpendicular to the floor.

Pfft. Hello, sir Alanolas de Mimsy-Grammeington.

There was a click as he slowly righted it.

Ah, I’ve got it. His personality isn’t “choppy and disjointed[above].

He’s unhinged.


“What do you want, monster?” Colin growled, “Little point in coming after me. I don’t have much of a life to look forward to. I’ve already lost everything!”

Could’ve gone worse for you. By your own words before you got busted, you should be in the Birdcage.

Mannequin didn’t move.

Gonna be interesting to see how Mannequin ends up presenting his message if he doesn’t speak.

Maybe he’ll have the means to break out of here, carrying Armmaster against his will?

“You’d be doing me a fucking favor!” Colin shouted, “Come on! Come get me, you freak!”

Oh jeez, Colin’s taking his house arrest harder than I thought, unless he’s just saying this to manipulate Mannequin.

There wasn’t a movement or sound from the killer.

Is he even listening? Zoning out seems appropriate for someone whose madness involves them cutting off ties to the world.

Can he listen?


I mean, he does seem able to sense his surroundings, and to react to things like Armmaster charging at him, not to mention to find people who fit his target-picking MO. He’s probably not deaf if he ain’t blind.


There was a sound from Dragon. In a tone that was afflicted with agonizing disappointment, like a mother who had just found out her son had been arrested for a felony, she said, “Oh, Colin.”

Relatable.

I mean, I’m not a mother, but Colin does sometimes bring out that feeling.

Colin didn’t speak. He waited for elaboration.

“The PRT got a tip from one of the villain teams. The Slaughterhouse Nine is in town.”

Uh.

Yeah?

One of them is literally right in front of Colin, I think he’d have figured that out by now, unless it’s news to him that Mannequin joined them.

Has Dragon figured out that Mannequin is here to recruit?

Also, I guess the Wards’ speculation wasn’t enough. That’s fair, I suppose, they did base it only on the number and brutality of the murders they found.


I just realized that the newbie and Hatchet Face being around at the same time might explain why there were implied to be nine corpses even though there are currently only eight official Fellowship members.


“So I gathered.”

“They ran it by some of the experts. Colin, the consensus they came to was that Slaughterhouse Nine are in Brockton Bay to replace their ninth member.”

Oh, okay, she didn’t figure that out on the spot, but she seems to have figured out more specifically that it’s why Mannequin sought out Colin.

He stared at Mannequin, and the realization made his blood run cold.

“Me!?” he shouted.

You!! 😀

The faceless man cocked his head to one side.

Colin roared, “I’m a fucking soldier! I made a call that could have saved millions of lives! Billions! You’re ten times as fucked up as I thought you were if you think I belong in your group!”

Army does have a point. If he had succeeded at what he was trying to do, it would have been a great boon to the world. It’s just a shame that it didn’t seem to be his primary motivation, and that he decided it was a-okay to sacrifice a couple villain lives for a plan that was never actually going to work.

The Icarus is strong in Colin’s story, right down to the element associated with his demise, or what would be his demise if not for Taylor.


Uncaring or oblivious to the outburst, Mannequin turned and examined the ruined computer. He picked up a key that had been thrown off the ruined keyboard and turned it over in his fingers.

Uh, sure, go do that, I guess.

I suppose he could use the keyboard keys to spell out things, if he wanted.

“Listen to me, you psychopath!”

“Colin!” Dragon’s voice hissed from the speaker, not as quiet as it had been. “Don’t provoke him! Help is nearly there!”

Dragon has a point.

Colin had to stop to control his breathing, and he bit his tongue to keep from saying anything further. His enemy had to have heard her, but didn’t seem to care.

Yeah, he doesn’t seem concerned about reinforcements at all.

Or about anything, really.

Mannequin fished through the broken keys from the keyboard, found another, and folded one finger back to pin it against the back of his hand. He ejected a blade from his wrist and used it to scrape the letters that were still intact off the board.

Oh hey, looks like he is planning on using the keyboard keys to communicate.

They clattered to the desktop, and a few fell to the floor.

The obvious drawback here is that he’ll only have one of each letter, so he’ll need to word things carefully, use creative spellings, leave blank spaces or move letters around while Colin is reading.


The featureless white head swiveled one way, then the other.

I wonder if this implies he actually does see through his head, or if it’s just a habit from when he did.

After a long moment, one arm dropped to the floor, the chain going slack. The hand crawled over to pick up another key, then the arm reeled in.

Useful ability, that. Might even say it’s handy.

Colin tensed as Mannequin approached, backing up as far as he was able The window was just behind him now, and he could almost imagine the crackling of the rainwater vaporizing against the forcefield.

That actually seems like it’d be a cool sound.

The villain turned and placed the keys down on the edge of Colin’s desk. The first key was the letter U.

Here we go. Time to learn spelling with Professor Mannequin. 🙂


Six inches away, Mannequin put down an M, sideways. He corrected it so it was upright. Directly beside it, the villain put down an E.

U ME

SITNG [ins] A 3

KYZ[end]

He stepped away from the desk and faced Colin once more.

“You… me?” Colin asked.

Yeah, probably.

Mannequin cocked his head.

“Is this a riddle?”

I guess he might be saying “you’re like me”? But maybe he has more to write.

Mannequin swiveled his upper body to face the other direction and reached for the shattered monitor. He picked out a piece of glass and a piece of glossy black plastic. Pressing them together, he raised it to the right side of his face, looking down at Colin.

Hm… I guess that would act as a mirror. Half his face being covered by a mirror should drive the point home. He sees himself in Colin.

…I suppose the way Colin “lost everything” appeals to him.

Slowly, Mannequin changed the angle of the shard of glass with the black backing.

It took two long seconds before the villain’s intent became clear. Colin tensed, and Mannequin froze, fixing the angle of the shard.

Oh yeah, I suppose it’d only work as intended at certain angles.

With the black backing, the glass reflected an image. With the angle Mannequin had carefully found, the image reflected was half of Colin’s own face, overlapping with Mannequin’s head.

A powerful image. Mannequin knows his symbolism.

I guess it comes with not talking.


“No,” Colin muttered.

“Quiet!” Dragon’s voice whispered from the nearby speaker, “They’re in the building, they’ll be there to help you in two minutes, maybe less! I can see them on the security cameras!”

I feel like the response time has been relatively slow, but I don’t think I actually know where Colin’s labpartment cell is relative to any other PRT buildings. At least I don’t remember.

Besides, my perception of time is fucky enough without the added restrictions of the textual medium.

“I’m nothing like you!” Colin screamed at the villain.

Mannequin stared at him with the shallow, empty eye sockets.

“Aren’t you?”

Maybe he’ll spell out the “lost everything” thing.

“I didn’t date, I didn’t have kids, because I wanted to be out there, helping! I knew that any attachments could be used against me, so I went without! I was fucking smart enough to do that!”

Oof.

Oh, Colin…

If there’s something that’s gonna provoke him, it’s probably this.


“Colin!” Dragon pleaded. Her voice was louder.

Really can’t blame ‘er.

The villain didn’t move.

“Fucking answer me! Spell the fucking words with keys if you have to!” He roared the words at the mad tinker.

Colin is an embodiment of pride, but he’s definitely got a touch of wrath in there too. He’s got quite the temper, especially when his pride is attacked.

Mannequin swayed slightly, then righted himself with a sudden, jerky motion, as if he’d collapse into a heap if he wasn’t careful.

That might just be the case.

He used his hand to shift his back into place with an audible click.

Colin went on, “I was out there every day, helping. I took steps to fight evil and take down criminals every day, small steps, baby steps.”

But was that your goal?

Or was it the thanks you’d get for it?


“Colin, stop, please!”

Dragon’s words didn’t matter. He was going to die anyways. He’d known the moment he recognized Mannequin.

No faith in the reinforcements, huh? Sounds familiar.

He’d go down fighting, hurt this motherfucker the only ways he could.

But yeah, if he thinks he’s gonna die anyway, this behavior makes much more sense beyond just pure wrath and recklessness.

“You want to compare us, freak? Maybe we both had bad days. Days where nothing went right, days where we were too slow, too stupid, too weak, unprepared or tired. Days we’ll look back on for the rest of our fucking miserable lives, wondering what we would have done different, what we could have done better, how things could have played out. The difference between us is that I actually did something with my life, and I’m still trying to do more while I serve my sentence!” He stopped and took a breath.

Oh jeez. Mannequin better hope whatever he made his casing out of is fire resistant, because Colin is really turning up the heat.

“You started your big projects, got every fucking person in the world to get their hopes up, and then you failed to finish anything because you couldn’t hack it when your fucking family got killed! You insult their fucking memories every motherfucking second you exist like this!”

I’ll give him that last one. It’s not exactly a good way of honoring their memories.


Mannequin slammed him into the wall with more strength than he might have expected the artificial body to have.

And there we go.

You officially poked the bear.

Or, uh, verbally assaulted the mannequin. Doesn’t sound as good, though, and it might cause a floating training dummy to attack you later, if you survive this.

…wait, he’s already being attacked by a “Mad Dummy”.

The blade came next, springing from Mannequin’s hand to pierce the shoulder that led to Colin’s stump of an arm and stick through the wall behind him.


The villain withdrew the hand, then punched the blade into Colin’s stomach. Once, twice, three times.

And to think, he didn’t come to kill you.

Oh, Colin.

Dragon’s scream came from every speaker in the room.

Yeeeah, this is the last thing she wants to happen.

A slash of the blade caught Colin across the face, blinding him in one eye and tearing through the bridge of his nose.

Wait, did he just take on another Vriska trait?

Losing an arm and an eye is a thing in Homestuck, and Vriska, whom I’ve previously compared Armmaster to, even in this very chapter [above], is one of the characters it happens to.


None of it hurt as much as it felt like it should have. More serious wounds didn’t tend to, odd as it was.

Tiny papercuts, on the other hand…

Colin tried to laugh, and found he couldn’t. He could feel blood flowing into his mouth and throat through the gaping wound in his face.

He let his head hang forward, so the blood could mostly flow out of his mouth.

He tried to move forward, lunge with his knife, but he couldn’t pull his shoulder from the wall, even though the blade was no longer pinning him there.

Huh, that’s odd.

Was it a lack of physical strength, or something mechanical, flesh and bone shoved into the hole in the wall?

Could very well be the latter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Couldn’t lapse into that kind of thinking.

I guess he’s better off focusing on the enemy?

Still had the knife. One hole in the self-contained systems that were one of Mannequin’s vital body parts would cause a leak of fluids, an introduction of pathogens that Mannequin surely wouldn’t be able to fight off.

…I suppose that does make sense.

By the way, I guess the electromagnetic attachment of some of his limbs might be results of some of his chains getting severed, though it ought to be possible for him to repair that.

He tried to speak, but there was too much blood in his mouth, and he only managed to start coughing violently, spraying blood on the white of Mannequin’s chest. His vision was getting hazy.

You fucked up, pal.


He wouldn’t be able to distract the lunatic with words while he acted. He could only pray.

Good luck, I guess. I don’t think you’ll be able to kill him, but I guess you might be able to severely hamper him.

Don’t do it for me, God. I probably don’t deserve the chance. Do it for every soul this motherfucker would kill from here on out if I fail.

I guess he does care on some level. Good to know. 🙂

He thrust out the knife, swept it towards his opponent’s chest cavity. His hand stopped.

Hm?

With his vision in his good eye failing him, it took him a second to see why. Mannequin’s hand gripped his wrist.

Ah.

He pushed, as if he could beat this monster in strength. By some miracle, his hand moved a fraction closer to his enemy’s chest. He redoubled his efforts, and it moved still closer.

To beat this Mad Dummy, you gotta have DETERMINATION!


A blade stuck out of Mannequin’s upper arm, near the elbow joint. The upper arm fired like a small rocket to stick in the wall, and for a second, there was slack in the chain.

Knives and then rockets? This Mad Dummy is doing things backwards.

Colin thrust the knife forward, came within inches of making contact with Mannequin’s chest before the chain reeled in and the metal links went rigid.

You tried.

The chain started to gradually reel in, and Mannequin started pulling his hand backward, toward the wall where the section of arm had stuck.

Ohh, so that’s why he did that. It’s acting like a winch.

Then, as if to taunt Colin, Mannequin dropped to a crouch, moved his face less than an inch from the blur that marked the edge of the blade’s effect.

Pfft.

AU where he accidentally gets a little too close. Whoops!

(#and yeah i realize he technically opened with a rocket move

#but that was long before the proper fight)


No!

He couldn’t say where, but he found some reserve of strength. The knife inched closer. Hairs away. He could see the material of the casing smoke just beneath Mannequin’s ‘eye’, a dark patch revealing itself beneath.

Huh. Armmaster had more Determination than I thought.

…seriously, this reserve of strength plays into my Undertale references perfectly.

Mannequin’s head fell, tipping over backwards to strike the ground, dangling from the chain, out of reach of the blade.

“Okay yeah he’s getting a bit too close now, let’s get this head outta the way.”

Still holding Colin’s wrist, the headless villain stood straight.

He was toying with me.

I suppose that’s also an appropriate personality trait for someone who looks so much like a giant featureless action figure.


Mannequin wrenched his hand back, as if to make it clear that he had let him get that close, that Colin had never really stood a chance. Colin was pulled to one side, and he didn’t have the strength in his midsection to keep from falling over.

It seems like Colin’s getting more ragdoll-y himself.

His knife clattered from his grip as he fell to the floor.

The villain picked up the knife, examined it, then pressed the button to test it.

Uh oh.

You may have given him some ideas, Colin.

The last thing Colin saw before darkness consumed his vision was the bastard using the weapon on the wall beside the window, dust billowing where it made contact.

Oh, okay.

Hey, I told you that was a security threat! For this exact reason!

In the last seconds of consciousness, he heard Dragon’s voice, as if from a far away place. “No! No, no no! Colin! Stay awake! I need you!”

Awake? He’s barely staying alive right now. Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, staying alive, staying alive.


Her voice was the first thing he heard when he woke. “Welcome back.”

I suppose the reinforcements saved him?

“I survived,” his voice rasped. He’d had a tracheotomy.

Tracheotomy *looks up*

Oh right, that procedure, where they basically make you a second breathing hole. I think I’ve looked that up before, though I don’t remember if it was for the blog.

The only explanation for his throat being this sore would be having a tube rammed down it. Looking around, he saw a laptop propped up beside him, and a get well card from Miss Militia. She must have put the laptop there when she left the card.

That’s nice of her. Now Army can go surfing the web while he recuperates, or work on some of his projects.


“Your heart stopped nine times on the operating table,” Dragon said, “A lesser man wouldn’t have made it.”

Wow. DETERMINATION.

Turns out Armmaster is both Vriska and Frisk.


“How?”

“Artificial parts. I supplied your headquarters with a 3D scanner of my design weeks ago. I had them make the parts I specified.

When Vriska lost her arm and eye, she had the former replaced by a robotic one. Colin doesn’t seem to have had that done, or at least he hasn’t noticed it if they decided to do that too while they had him on there, but these artificial parts elsewhere in his body still kinda count towards his Vriska parallels.

The on-site doctors kept you alive long enough for the scanner to make the necessary components, and they followed my instructions in installing them.”

Nice work!

“Good girl,” he told her, with genuine affection.

Heh.

(But yeah, careful with the pet-like address. She may be virtual, but she’s not your Tamagotchi.)

(#i know he doesn’t know she’s virtual #what was i supposed to do

#not get to use the tamagotchi line??)


“I’m sorry about your face.”

He tried to raise his hand, but found it attached to IVs. He had to maneuver it carefully as he lifted it to his face, so as not to tangle the wires.

Maybe Dragon could send him a picture on the laptop, in lieu of being able to hold up a hand mirror in front of him.

Almost seamlessly, his flesh transitioned into a smooth plastic and back to flesh again.

“The wound was pretty bad, so we called in this one guy who makes green fire to burn the rest of your face off. You know, so it’d be symmetrical.”

I suppose plastic is just about the most ironic way they could fix this wound, really, with the wound being a result of Colin’s spiel about not being like Mannequin.


“It’s alright,” he said.

“Your new eye doesn’t work. I think I know what’s wrong with it, and I can get you something that will work, I just need time.”

Vriska didn’t get a cybernetic eye along with her robot arm, though another character who lost an arm and an eye (I told you, it’s a thing) did.

…Well. Technically it was probably just a piece of red glass, but who cares about details like that.

“You have better things to be doing.” He coughed and regretted it as pain ripped through his throat with the movement of the muscles.

…fair. I don’t think efficiency is her primary objective here, though.

His stomach felt strange. He started to speak, cleared his throat, then said, “I think I could pull off an eye patch.”

…you know what, I’m not even gonna say it at this point. Here, have a picture instead:


But yeah, Armmaster with an eyepatch actually sounds pretty cool. Yarr!

(#he just keeps becoming more vriska by the paragraph seriously)


And yes, Vriska is associated with the color of Armmaster’s armor, too.


I swear if we learn that Colin is a Scorpio…


“The parts won’t last. All of this is prototype stuff. Some of it I revised and invented while you were in surgery. They’re temporary, but I can make better. I’m afraid you’re going to need to go under the knife a few times. More than a few.”

That seems reasonable enough. Better that than dead, right?

“That’s fine. Thank you for all this.”

There was a pause.

“You’re a fucking idiot, Colin. That was the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

Hah! Let him hear it!

He really fucked up back there.

And hell, depending how much direct connection Dragon had with the armbands, how much she could sense through them, this might be competing with going up against Leviathan solo for “stupidest fucking thing [Dragon’s] ever seen”.

He laughed. His breath caught with the pain each laugh produced, but he couldn’t help it.

Heh… but seriously.

“Yeah, I hope that hurt.”

“Wanted to provoke him. See if I couldn’t find an opening.”

Sure, pass it off as mere tactics.

“I repeat: Stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

I mean, it’s not that it’s not genuinely a valid tactic to provoke someone to make them let their guard down, but it was a stupid as fuck tactic in that particular situation, and I’m skeptical of tactics being the main concern in the first place.

“Was going to kill me anyways.”

“Was he? He could have killed you there. He didn’t.”

That is true. He could’ve done a lot of disturbing things to Colin even if all he had was the knife.


“He tried.”

“No, Colin. Look.”

The laptop screen on the table beside him lit up, and a browser page opened. An image loaded.

An image of Mannequin holding back? Or maybe of what happens to those he doesn’t hold back on? The weaponry he didn’t use?

A photo. Mannequin had left a message. 3 keys, again, on the edge of the desk. BR8.

Huh.

CUL8R, Mannequin.

The eight, Colin supposed, was meant to stand in for a second B. ‘BRB’, an acronym used by countless denizens of the internet and innumerable cell phone texters.

This narration is so… Colin’s generation. But at the same time, I see why it’s necessary – depending on the audiences this story reaches, not everyone is going to know what BRB means.

Be Right Back.

Yeah, that.


“Could be meant for you guys.”

I highly doubt that.

“Or it could be for you.”

“He left me for dead. He couldn’t really expect I’d survive.”

Keep in mind the man is mad, and that he initially stopped you from attacking by way of a blade that you almost ran into, even before he intended to hurt you. He may not be fully aware of or able to restrain his attack damage.

Dragon didn’t reply. He thought of Mannequin. Despite the silence, despite the uncanny behavior and the dramatic self mutilation, Mannequin was a brilliant man. A man who could have looked at the resources that were available in the building, who could have figured out Colin was in touch with Dragon, done just enough damage to push him to the brink of death.

Hm. I mean, he’s pretty much done that to himself already. He’s probably got a very good grasp of anatomy.


“Shit. He probably could,” Colin conceded.

Yeeah.

He stared at the photo for several long seconds, then turned away.

Hoping to inject some levity into the grim conversation, he smiled and asked her, “What was this I heard when I was passing out? ‘I need you’?”

Hehe, nice.

The silence stretched on for so long that he knew he’d made some faux pas.

But then there’s Dragon’s hangups regarding her virtuality and romance. She can’t bring herself to elaborate because she knows where it would lead and she doesn’t trust her emotions to be real and she doesn’t think Armmaster could truly love her if he found out what she is.

…yeah. No wonder the attempt at levity didn’t land.

He just wasn’t sure what. Stupid. This was the kind of thing that had cost him his position, started the dominoes falling in such a way that they’d led him to being prisoner in that room, led to him being an easy target for Mannequin, to him being here, in this bed.

Hm, yeah, I suppose it was in part the informality that caused it. Mostly Colin overreacting to his demotion by attempting to go out, or prove himself, in a moment of true glory, but in part the informality that caused the demotion.

Never knowing what to say, or how to say it, or who to say it to.

To be fair, that’s very relatable.


He was about to apologize when Dragon said, “Those prosthetics I gave you? They were part of a bigger project. Something I’d intended to use for myself.”

She was trying to make herself a body. A human-like body.

And she’s taking this opportunity to tell the truth about what she is, isn’t she?

I’m sorry, Dragon. I underestimated you.

She was a cripple? He’d known she had survived Leviathan’s attack on Newfoundland, was it such a surprise that she’d gotten hurt then?

I suppose this is a quite reasonable first guess at what she’s talking about.

It would explain her aversion to showing her face. One of the things she’d given him was a facial prosthetic.

True.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know.”

“No, it’s not that,” she paused. “There’s something you need to know about me.”

This is a big moment in their relationship and I hope we’re not about to cut it off before Armmaster’s reaction.

*scrolls down to see chapter navigation*


End of Interlude 11d

Oh, Colin.

That was another fun ride! We got to meet Mannequin, who has an interesting backstory and a kind of whimsical body that… actually doesn’t have anything to do with the main focus of his tinker power. It seems like, in theory, almost any tinker might be able to do something like what he did, if they were mad enough to do it.

Honestly more interesting than Mannequin himself, though, was Vriska, our POV character for the day. We didn’t really learn much new about him, really, though we got reinforcement of the idea that he isn’t all about his reputation. He does try to help people. Maybe the focus on reputation came second, after some time as a bigshot hero?

On top of an awesome but insanely stupid display of his reckless, wrathful side against an enemy who claimed they were alike, we also got some delicious development for the Dragonmaster ship. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Vriska’s reaction to Dragon revealing her true nature, but I recognize that ending the chapter like that is good writing. For now, I’ll trust Vriska to be good enough that it went over better than Dragon had feared.

So yeah! That was fun. See you next time!

…potential romantic relationship with a character associated with drAGONS MISTER COLIN SERKET YOU COME BACK HERE RIGHT NOW AND EXPLAIN YOURSELF–


[postscript]
I want to clarify that I do not actually believe Armsmaster to be based on Vriska Serket in any way, but damn the amount of parallels is getting ridiculous.

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