Source material: Worm, Interlude 11e
Originally blogged: April 7-11, 2018
Interlude 11e (Anniversary Bonus)
Howdy! Krixwell here, ready for another liveblog session!
I’m not sure there’s much point in trying to speculate here – there wouldn’t really be anything I haven’t already said plenty of times, among other places in the other Interlude intro posts we’ve had – so let’s just jump straight into this. I suppose I can at least throw out a guess as to which Fellowship member we’ll be meeting today, though… Shatterbird seem like a good choice.
So yeah… Let’s jump into it and find out!
The high-pitched song of steel rang through the air as sword parried sword, struck shield and fell to the ground.
Oh, interesting. Some sort of medieval fighting classes, or something like that?
Somewhat less sweet were the guttural grunts and muffled slaps of flesh being battered and struck.
This implies that whoever is narrating likes the sound of these weapons being used in battle against each other. I suppose “song” does too.
Maybe Hookwolf is having his mundane subordinates learn to use bladed melee weapons?
A boot in the stomach, an elbow or fist striking a face.
Looks like they’re not limiting themselves to the weapons, which suggests this leans more towards training for genuine fights than for sparring.
Hookwolf walked between the groups of his sparring recruits.
Eyy, I got it right! 😀
They were tired, pushing themselves through their exhaustion. All wanted to be here. The training was too punishing for anyone who didn’t.
With small exceptions for eating and sleeping, their days were filled with exercise, hand to hand sparring, gun training, and practice with melee weapons.
Got some variety. That’s good for them. Especially the fact that they’ve got gun training and aren’t foolishly limiting themselves to melee weapons to stick with Hookwolf’s power theme.
The main adversaries of the Chosen were mercenary soldiers, police and trained heroes.
Hm, sounds like they’re not really fighting the Pure. For now, at least. I’m guessing we might learn more about the split later, quite likely before this chapter is over.
Why should the standards of his Chosen be any lower than theirs? No, if his group was to represent the true Aryan warrior, they had to have higher standards. They had to be the best.
The ideology he’s backing it up with is disgusting, but from a pure strategical standpoint, his logic is sound. If he really wants to do well against the group’s enemies, why should his standards be lower?
It was that knowledge, that commitment that drove his trainees to give their all. Too many saw the Aryans as hatemongers, failed to see the greater picture, the hope for raising humanity to a higher level.
Yeah, sure. You don’t think the massive hate crimes and, well, hatemongering might have something to do with that?
Also – and this is not a criticism of Wildbow’s writing or choices – Hookwolf saying “the Aryans” in that fashion legitimately bugs me on a personal level. Sure, it covers almost all Nazis without conforming to that term, but here’s the thing: As the German Nazis saw it, it also covers me and most people I know in real life. The Germans invaded Norway early because we – except the Jews, of course, and others on their no-good lists – were worthy in their eyes.
So when Hookwolf implicitly equates Nazis and Aryans like this? He’s dragging me down with him, saying that in his eyes, we’re equals. It’s like Kaiser staring at Bastion, but unlike Bastion, I’m not a racist piece of shit.
I do suppose he might be saying that others don’t see the difference? Still, though, it does hit personally.
He stopped at one end of the room to watch their progress, watch for the ones who had the killer instinct he needed. Stormtiger and Menja were at the other end of the room, looking for the same.
I’m sure killing people you don’t like has nothing to do with people thinking you’re all about hate.
Stormtiger had cast off his mask, and wore only face paint. He still walked a little stiffly from the gunshot wounds that he’d taken to his legs. Othala had attended to them over the past few weeks, would give him a half-hour to an hour of regenerating ability each night until he was better, but knees were slow to heal.
Hm. Sounds like Othala’s power is sort of like Flechette’s except instead of giving inanimate objects temporary reprieve from physics, she can bestow temporary powers to people. This might be limited to only a few different types, or even just the regeneration.
Also, it seems like she has a limited amount she can do this, since she’s only giving Stormtiger 60-90 minutes or regen per day. Maybe it’s exhausting, or maybe she has a limited number of uses for each power per day?
Menja wore her armor, her expression stern as she watched the form and habits of the combatants.
This is a long paragraph.
What’s up, Menja? Coping with the loss of your sister alright?
Cricket sat in one corner of the room, typing on a laptop without looking at the screen, taking notes on the trainees.
I suppose there’s no one better to do this. No reaction time, start typing the moment something noteworthy is seen.
Hookwolf looked at Menja, and she raised one hand, two fingers extended. Signalling, she pointed to two of his thirty-four recruits.
Found some with the killer instinct?
Also, what if today’s Slaughterhouse member has snuck in among the recruits?
I’m sure they’d have the killer instinct.
A bald man in peak physical condition and a twenty something girl with the ends of her hair in thin bleached blond braids. A little too much like cornrows for his liking.
Wildbow is sometimes disturbingly good at writing the perspective of awful human beings.
So, could the girl be Bonesaw? By the sound of it, she might be a little too crazy to go for the sort of infiltration tactic I’m halfway suspecting, though. Or maybe she’s Shatterbird, or the newbie, or Crawler (I don’t know Crawler’s gender). Or she’s none of them, and maybe the guy is one. Or maybe I’m just spouting a load of nonsense and it’s neither of them.
Maybe it was supposed to be ironic.
He liked her first pick, though. He’d noticed the bald man. He’d committed their names to memory on first meeting them, but he’d forgotten some. He knew the man was Bradley, the girl was Leah or Laura or something like that.
Seem like alright names. Bradley – or rather, Brad – does have connotations to jock-hood, I think, but considering “peak physical condition”, that might be appropriate.
His own pick was a lean scrapper in his early thirties, Ralph.
He wrecks things for a living.
“Stop!” he ordered.
As one, his recruits pulled away from their fights and sheathed their blunted swords. Not all of them were able to stand straight. More than a few had bloody noses or black eyes.
That seems like it’s to be expected, with how they were wailing on each other.
“You’re three days into our week of training. If you’re still here, you’re doing us proud.”
Okay yeah, I don’t think Bonesaw is hiding among them. Probably not any of the others either, but almost certainly not Bonesaw. She sounded way too impulsive to keep up a ruse like this for three days.
He could see a few of them stand a little taller at that. Hookwolf had been a fighter before he’d been a fighter with powers.
Oh yeah, he was part of an underground fighting ring or something, wasn’t he? I think we learned about this in 5.1 or 5.2.
He had spent a great deal of time around athletes, knew all too well that just a little recognition and a little motivation could make a world of difference.
Between this and apparently being able to memorize nearly 34 names over the course of three days of interacting with the entire group?
Hookwolf might want to consider becoming a teacher.
Of course, the whole wanted Nazi serial murderer thing might get a teensy bit in the way, but he might want to consider it, at least.
“Some of you have earned special attention. You’ve fought harder, meaner or better than the others. Bradley, come here.”
He’s framing it as an honor that is given because the people picked are better, not because the other people are worse, if that makes any sense.
The bald man approached.
Menja stepped through the gathered recruits to stand beside Bradley.
This is very reminiscent of what the Slaughterhouse Nine are doing.
“You two are going to fight. No weapons, no armor. Menja? You can use your powers, just a little.”
I suppose it makes sense that the mundane mooks need to be trained in dealing with enemies that can use powers, too.
Menja smiled, then she grew a foot and a half. Bradley stood at a height of just over six feet, but she still loomed head and shoulders above him.
Can Menja talk? At this point it’s starting to feel like she can’t. We’ve never had any dialogue from either of the giant sisters.
She unstrapped her armor and threw it aside.
hot uh, I mean
Of course, the natural armor that comes with the power doesn’t count.
Bradley looked at Hookwolf, a flicker of concern crossing his features.
This is unfair, but it makes tons of sense for it to be. In this world, if you do go on to fight for Hookwolf, chances are you will from time to time be up against enemies like this.
So if Menja’s pick fights her… does Ralph have to fight Hookwolf?
“Part of the reason for this is that I want to see how you do against someone bigger than you,” Hookwolf said. “You’re tired. You’ve been training and sparring all day, Menja hasn’t. Tough. If you’re going to represent the Chosen as one of our elite, you’re going to be expected to go up against capes. Things will be just as one-sided or worse.”
Yeah, pretty much.
Hookwolf is a garbage human fighting for awful things, but his training methods, so far, seem reasonable to me.
Bradley looked to his left, sizing up Menja.
I think she’s already done a decent job of sizing herself up.
“Think you can fight her without embarrassing us? If you think you can do it, you might just have a place as one of our lieutenants or as a leader of one of our warbands.”
Potentially going straight to a leadership role like that isn’t bad after three days on the team. Besides, Hookwolf didn’t even say he had to win.
“I’m no coward,” Bradley replied. He turned to Menja and adopted a practiced fighting stance.
Well, at least you’ve got the mindset. Do you have the skillset too?
Hookwolf watched with approval as the two squared off. It was clear from the start that Bradley was thrown off guard by how strong Menja was, and doubly apparent that he wasn’t used to fighting someone with better reach or more power behind their hits.
Yeah, to be fair, most opponents aren’t like Menja.
Many opponents in this world aren’t like anyone.
But he was trained, and he was familiar in how to use his body, and he adapted quickly.
Which makes knowing how to adapt one of the most critical skills in a battle, even more so than it already is in our world.
Bradley shifted to the defensive, and Menja struck with sharp kicks to his side and lunging steps forward to jab at his face. He timed a grab and quickly shifted to an arm lock, forcing Menja to bend over.
For just a moment, it seemed like he had control of the situation, but Menja snapped back to her normal size, slipping her arm free, then struck at him, simultaneously growing. He was shoved to the ground.
“Enough,” Hookwolf said.
So, how’d he do? Was that good enough to not be embarrassing?
It wouldn’t do to let the man defeat Menja, and it was looking increasingly possible that he might.
Oh, nice. That sounds like a success.
It would hurt her pride and weaken the position of his powered lieutenants in comparison to the unpowered ones.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Besides the whole Nazi thing, Hookwolf seems to be much more competent and reasonable as a leader than I was expecting. Certainly a much healthier one for his subordinates than Kaiser ever was.
“Good man,” he said from behind his mask. He offered the man a hand, and Bradley took it. “Well done. Welcome to the Chosen’s elite.”
Good job, you piece of shit.
I mean, just because he was the underdog in that fight doesn’t mean he’s not still a Nazi. There’s a reason he’s here in the first place. I doubt we’ll be meeting any decent people in this chapter.
Bradley nodded and stood at attention.
Hookwolf turned to the blond girl. “Leah, was it?”
I won’t blame him if it’s wrong. I had trouble with the names of some people after spending nearly every day of the week with them for three years, and Hookwolf’s dealing with 34 people who have been her for three days.
She looked surprised to be picked, but she nodded.
“Menja likes you. I don’t. You get one chance to prove me wrong. Menja? Who would you set her against?”
Hey, at least he’s honest.
There weren’t many options. Stormtiger couldn’t walk, Menja wouldn’t nominate herself, and it wouldn’t just be a hassle to go get Rune, Othala or Victor, but each of the three were either too powerful in a brawl or effectively powerless. That left Hookwolf himself and-
“Cricket,” Menja said. “Same reasoning. Leah’s quick, Cricket’s quicker.”
Hm, makes sense, I suppose.
Also, I’m guessing Othala is on the “effectively powerless” side of that. That would make sense if her power is to give others powers.
Do I know Victor’s power? I don’t think I do.
Cricket stood from her seat in the corner and limped forward. She’d refused the same help that Othala had granted Stormtiger, both for the injury to her leg and the damage she’d taken to her vocal chords when she’d had her throat slashed, in a time before he’d met her.
Does that make her sound like a cricket?
It would have taken a few days at most to restore her to peak condition, but she valued her battle scars too highly.
Yeah, some people do. That’s entirely fair.
“Up for this, Leah?” Hookwolf smiled. Cricket’s injury to her leg slowed her down some, but the young woman was anything but a pushover.
True. She was quite the threat back in Buzz, and I could see her not letting the leg injury change that too much.
Cricket reached to her side and picked up a small silver tube. She pressed it to the base of her throat, and her voice came out sounding distorted and digital, “Something’s wrong.”
Hm, what’s up? Did you notice something that gives away the presence of today’s Slaughterhouse member?
“With the fight?” Hookwolf asked, raising one eyebrow.
Cricket opened her mouth and pressed the tube to her throat to reply, but didn’t get a chance. The windows shattered with an explosive force, knocking the majority of the people in the room to the ground.
Certainly knows how to make an entrance.
I wonder if her power somehow involves vibrations and Cricket could feel them due to some aspect of her power.
Hookwolf was one of the few to remain standing, though he bent over as shards of glass tore through the layer of skin that covered his metal body.
He took a moment to compose himself in the wake of the blast. His ears rang, and he bled from a dozen cuts, but he was more or less fine. His people were not.
Most people don’t have a metal body underneath their skin, so the glass can go deeper.
They groaned and screamed in pain, accompanied by the sound of car alarms going off outside.
Hm. That suggests it’s an area effect, rather than letting her target whatever glass she chooses. Makes sense.
So why is Shatterbird the one who’s presumably taken an interest in Hookwolf?
Could Shatterbird be a changer, able to turn into a bird and to have one of the most literal cape names we’ve seen in the story?
Or maybe she’s not after Hookwolf after all. I do suppose Cricket wouldn’t be a bad addition to the Slaughterhouse Nine.
But no, I’ve been predicting Hookwolf’s nomination ever since the nomination plot was revealed (though at this point it’s beginning to look like none of the nominations are going to actually work out except Bitch), and there’s got to be a reason he’s the POV, rather than Cricket.
By the way, I wonder if Cricket’s reactions are good enough to dodge the glass completely.
Two trainees and one of his graduated Chosen were dead.
…actually, this is the first instance [no, it isn’t] we have of one of the Fellowship members actually killing someone in these Interludes, other than them talking about having killed. That might be supposed to tell us something about Shatterbird. Perhaps she’s more reckless about these things than the others we’ve seen?
They’d been wearing glasses, and the glass had penetrated their eyes to tear into their brains.
Ahhh. Yeah, that risk is a thing that’s been built up ever since 10.6 (though I didn’t recognize it for what it was in that particular chapter, since it was more vague then than in 11.1).
I didn’t think of the potential for the glass to go all the way into the brain and outright kill them that way, though.
The others were all wounded to some degree or another. Some had been hit by the glass that flew from glasses others were wearing, others from the windows, and one or two others had patches of blood rapidly expanding around pockets where cell phones had been stowed.
Hm, Taylor was probably right when she suggested that the pocket might not be a safe location for Danny’s glasses either.
Why couldn’t they have put the cell phones away before they started sparring?
Such a teacher.
Why couldn’t they put the cell phones back in the box…
Leah lay dying, and Stormtiger had one hand pressed to his throat, blood billowing from a cut that may or may not have nicked an artery.
Guys, I think Leah might not become an elite.
Just a hunch.
Hookwolf tapped into his core, the ‘heart’ from which his metal sprouted inside his body. He could feel it start to churn with activity, and the metal he already had encasing each of his muscles began to stir. Soon it was lancing in and out of his pores, criss-crossing, some blades or needlepoints sliding against others with the sounds of whetted knives.
Getting ready to fuck up the source of this carnage. Someone’s gotta pay, or at the very least stop.
In a few seconds, he had covered his body, to protect himself from further attacks.
That’s important too.
“Shatterbird!” he roared, once he knew he was secure.
Ah, so he recognizes the power. Makes sense – judging by Taylor and Danny’s reactions in 10.6 and 11.1, her power seems to be the most well known among the Nine, and it’s presumably the one they use to announce their presence to the public.
There was no reply. Of course. She was attacking from a safe position.
I wonder how much range she has.
Also, is it an area effect centered on herself, or can she pick a spot within line of sight to act as the center of the effect?
An attack from her meant an attack from the rest of the Slaughterhouse Nine. Daunting, but not impossible.
Hm. If you think you, Cricket, Menja and Stormtiger, especially in the states each of the others are in right now, can take on all of the Slaughterhouse at once… Eh, I wouldn’t bet on you. I suppose you do also have the remaining mundane recruits by your side, but let’s be real, a member or two of the Slaughterhouse could probably take out most of those without much trouble. Especially Jack.
He was virtually invincible in this form. That left few that could actively hurt him. Burnscar. The Siberian. Crawler.
Hm, interesting. Burnscar makes sense, since she can heat the metal, and Crawler’s battle form is probably all sorts of weird and powerful, but why Siberian?
There was Hatchet Face, the bogeyman of capes.
Huh. That’s quite a reputation.
With the exception of Hatchet Face, the group wouldn’t be able to do much harm to him unless he was forced to stay still.
I see… To be fair, Siberian is pretty good at restraining people.
Yo dawg I heard you like Worm so I put a worm in your Worm… and that worm is me.
Which is to say I’m resuming the chapter. Let’s go! 😛
More troubling were the Nine he couldn’t put down. The Siberian was untouchable, an immovable object, invincible in a way that even Alexandria wasn’t.
Hm, interesting. We already know about the “immovable object” part, but the invincibility is new.
I guess if no part of her can be moved against her will, piercing or slicing attacks can’t force her flesh to part, and bludgeoning attacks do no damage either because they don’t push the flesh inward to squish things… I suppose invincibility to physical attacks, at the very least, is a logical consequence of this power.
Even if he were capable of hurting Crawler, he wouldn’t want to.
Interesting. So is that because of their power, or interpersonal stuff? I’m inclined to believe the former.
Although maybe it’s just that he doesn’t want to piss them off because of a scary offensive power. That doesn’t seem quite like Hookwolf though, and he’s considering this on the basis that he thinks the Slaughterhouse members are all attacking in the first place.
Mannequin, he wasn’t sure about. He knew the crazed tinker had encased himself in a nearly indestructible shell. As strong as Hookwolf was, he faced that distant possibility that any of these people could pin him down or set him up to be taken out by others.
Sounds about right, especially with the “unless he was forced to stay still” from the last paragraph meeting Siberian’s power.
Who else? He wracked his brain. Jack Slash was the brains and leader of the operation. Not a threat unto himself.
Not to Hookwolf personally, I suppose. It’d just be metal against metal.
Shatterbird couldn’t harm him, he was almost certain.
Besides the layer of skin, but Hookwolf’s dealt with that already.
Bonesaw. She was the wild card, the most unpredictable element in terms of what she could bring to the table.
Unpredictable does seem to be her thing.
Is her power as unpredictable as she is? Maybe it’s like Eidolon’s but random, like the power I made up for myself back in Extermination?
So often the case with tinkers.
Oh. Okay, so she’s a tinker too. I suppose that makes sense – didn’t Coil’s info on Mannequin state or imply that Bonesaw had helped out with his transformation?
As for her specialty… Medical equipment? I know that might sound weird, but a bonesaw is a surgical tool, and tinker-grade medical equipment would be a very varied category of tools (accounting for unpredictability), many of which could be used as weaponry as well. Especially if adjusted by a morally compromised tinker with her specialty in it.
He strode across the room to the windows and gazed out at the city block surrounding the home base of the Chosen. Glass was still raining down from the sky, glimmering in the orange-purple light of the setting sun.
Still? How tall are the buildings around here?
That said, this would be such a cool visual.
Every window in view was broken, empty of glass. Car windshields, streetlights and signs had all been affected, and the surrounding surfaces of wood, metal and fiberglass all bore the scuffs and gouges of the fragile shrapnel.
Seems like she’s got pretty good range on her power.
I wonder if she has more than one setting, though. Like, can she tone it down if she wants to?
Every piece of glass in the room suddenly stood on end, points facing upward.
Uh-oh. Can she control it beyond just making it shatter?
He gave it a moment of his attention, then turned to the world beyond the window, hoping for some glimpse of his adversaries, a clue about where they were.
I suppose I didn’t explicitly say this yet, but of course I think there’s only Shatterbird, just because that’s how these Interludes work. It’s completely sensible for Hookwolf to assume they’re all there, though, and it’d be smart to act as if they probably were even if he had reason to believe they weren’t. Just in case.
“Cricket,” he called out. “You alive?”
I hope so.
I mean, all of these are shitty people, but Cricket’s one of the cool shitty people.
He heard a sound, movement, and turned. She was gingerly searching through the carpet of weaponized glass shards for her artificial larynx. She found it and pressed the cylinder to her throat. “Alive.”
I like this device, too. It’s a good example of how helpful even comparably simple tinkertech can be. 🙂
“You said something was wrong. What did you notice?”
“Sound. The glass was singing. Still is.” She pointed at one wall.
Hm, yeah, sounds like I was on to something last time with the power working via vibrations.
Hookwolf followed the line to a building across the street and a little ways to one side.
His ears were ringing, but he doubted that was it. It would be something subsonic that Cricket noticed with her power, then.
“You come with me, then. Menja, Stormtiger, I leave it to you to see to my Chosen. See if Othala is able to help.”
Seems like a good plan.
But, uh, what are you going to do? Just walk over to where you believe the Slaughterhouse Nine to be and be like “hey guys wtf”?
“On it,” Menja said.
She speaks! And only six Arcs after we first met her.
Thin trails of blood ran down from the points where glass splinters had pierced her skin, but the damage hadn’t gone any further. She stooped down and picked up Stormtiger in her arms.
Sounds like she’s a bit bigger now than during the sparring match.
Orders given, Hookwolf drew the majority of his flesh into a condensed point in his ‘core’, felt himself come alive as more metal spilled forth.
I guess the fleshy bits feel a bit like a false front?
Only his eyes remained where they were, set in recessed sockets, behind a screen of shifting blades.
That sounds like a weak spot if I ever heard one.
He was half-blind until the movement of the blades hit a rhythm, moving fast enough that they zipped over the surface of his eye at speeds faster than an eyeblink.
But at least it’s protected somewhat.
Also, turns out Hookwolf’s face is a whirling blade pitcher.
He let himself fall from the third floor window and hit the ground in a state that was more liquid than solid.
Hm. I suppose that’s the main difference between Hookwolf and Weld. Weld is solid metal, while Hookwolf is more a shifting, liquid-esque pile of weapons.
Blades, spears, hooks and other twisted metal shapes all pooled on the pavement, absorbing the impact.
Case in point. With Weld, the impact would not have been absorbed, and the pavement would probably crack.
He pulled himself together, in his favored quadruped form.
Looking up to the window, he created a tall spear from between his ‘shoulders’. Cricket leaped out and caught the pole, slid down until she could hop off and land beside him, skidding on the glass covered surface.
Heh, that’s a neat way of getting down.
AU where Cricket works in the fire department.
She looked annoyed as she looked down at her shoes, raising one foot off the ground to investigate the underside. Glass had embedded in the soles.
So was all the glass out here affected too when the glass indoors turned its points upward?
He would have told her to ignore it, but he couldn’t speak. For that matter, neither could she.
Worm is generally not big on characters speaking during fights, but with these two, if they get in a fight, there’s more reason for it.
Cricket pointed, and he led the way with her following directly behind him. As he walked, he wasn’t moving his limbs quite so much as it might appear at first glance. Instead, he extended one growth of metal as he retracted another, only generating the illusion.
Huh, that’s neat.
A hundred new parts growing each second to suggest shifting musculature, a cohesive form, when he was anything but. Only the core skeleton, the shafts of metal that formed the limbs from the shoulders or hips to his knees, actually moved without retracting or extending.
He’s a rather shifty dude, that Hookwolf.
Glass rose from the ground to fit together into a window that floated in the air and he smashed through it with one of his forelimbs.
Shatterbird trying to say “stop, I wanna talk with you”?
Another barrier appeared, thicker, and he smashed that as well. The glass began to form into dozens, even hundreds of barriers.
It’s like a whole street full of people carrying glass panes during a chase scene.
He quickly found one strike wasn’t enough to clear the way.
Hm, and if she puts a thick plate behind him too, she’s got him boxed in.
Also, she can probably shatter these plates again if she wants to, likely killing Cricket, or at least wounding her.
Through the mess of dozens of dirty and wet panes of glass, he saw her. Shatterbird.
A sand n*****, going by memory and the color of her exposed skin.
…well then. That significantly reduces the chances a) that she’s here to invite Hookwolf or Cricket to the team, and b) that she’s going to succeed if she is. Though the latter does seem to be a pattern already, with Bitch being the only successful nomination we’ve seen so far.
I assume this particular variation on the slur means she’s from, or has ancestors from, northern Sahara or the Arabic Peninsula. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that – I don’t want to search this phrase and expose myself to content written by real people who would use it right now.
The upper half of her head was covered in a helmet of colored glass, and her body was covered with a flowing garment made of tiny glass shards, like scales.
It just occurred to me that I’ve been imagining both the Simurgh and Shatterbird as being bright yellow all along (at least since I learned the nature of the Simurgh), and I don’t really know why. I don’t think either of them have been described like that… I guess it’s just what my mind defaulted to.
Maybe Paige has something to do with it? Also possibly Zapdos.
Anyway, that glass garment sounds really nice. It reminds me of Elsa’s ice dress from Frozen.
He rose onto two feet, standing straight, and reconfigured his arms. With spears as big around as telephone poles, he punched through thirty or forty panes of glass all at once, then did the same with his opposite hand.
Oh yeah, that works a lot better. Nice.
It was slow progress, as the glass constantly reformed and pieced itself back together a few feet ahead of him, but he was closing in.
Reforming barriers, such a pain.
She abruptly dropped the barriers and changed tactics. The majority of the glass in the area formed into one shape, a cone of solid glass, pointing towards the center of the purple-red sky, two and a half stories tall.
What’s the plan here, Shatterbird?
Raising one hand, she shot it straight up into the sky above, until it was just a speck.
I mention Elsa and all of a sudden Spotify serves me two Frozen songs in a row.
(#for the first time in forever #and the credits version of let it go)
Hookwolf lunged for her, only to find that the residual glass that remained on the ground was denying him traction.
This is a pretty versatile power, apparently.
His metal claws failed to find grip, failed to crack the glass, even with the heavy impacts and his impressive weight. Closing the distance proved slower than he’d hoped.
I’m sort of torn between POV bias and the fact that this is a dark-skinned woman versus a Nazi racist with a long list of homicides to account for (it’s quite possible that’s why she’s here), as far as who to root for. The fact that Shatterbird is also a super deadly member of the Slaughterhouse Nine doesn’t help.
Let’s just see how this plays out, I suppose.
The massive spike of glass plummeted from the sky. He knew it was coming, had kept an eye out for it, and timed a leap to coincide with its descent.
Oh. I thought she was going to blow the spike up in mid-air and let the glass rain down on the battlefield, or a larger area. Seems she’s going for something more like a Skrillex storm, though.
No use. It veered unerringly for him, speared into him with enough force that it nearly sheared him in half.
Ah, the tip of the spike is pointing downward! The shape makes a lot more sense now.
Cricket uttered a strangled scream as she got hit by the fallout of glass shards and scraps of metal.
“Stand,” Shatterbird said. Her voice held traces of a British accent, and her body language and the crisp enunciation made her sound imperious, upper class.
Neat, we’ve got a fancy one over here.
“I know you survived.”
Lots of people wouldn’t, but this is a man made of metal, and she knows that. Though Shatterbird did find a good way to get around that – replace her trademark piercing damage with crushing damage.
Hookwolf struggled to pull himself together. He used hooks to pull the metal back towards his core, where it could be reabsorbed, recycled. It didn’t take much of his reserve of internal energy to create and move the metal, but it took some, and he’d rather not run out.
Hm, another potential weakness, in that you can wear him out, although he probably still has more endurance than most people.
It was a risk, he knew, but he needed a few moments to pull himself together and rebuild his body. He let his head and upper chest emerge from the core, taking form in the hollow metal ‘head’ of his canid form.
I suppose his brain is in the core, then?
And all of a sudden we’re back to the discussion of brains and their locations.
“What do you people want?” he asked.
“Person. Singular. I am the only member of my group here,” Shatterbird informed him.
Yeah. No surprise here, of course, but it might be a different story with Hookwolf.
Hmm. I suppose as long as you assume the goal was attacking and defeating Hookwolf and his Chosen, it could come across like that.
“You can be arrogant when you’re strong enough. You should know, Hookwolf.”
…oh yeah, the kettle’s got a point about the pot. Though Hookwolf doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as arrogant as Kaiser was.
“You here to make trouble?”
She shook her head, her helmet sparkling in the light cast by the setting sun. “I’m the Nine’s primary recruiter.
…smells like a lie.
Also didn’t she already make trouble?
I have an eye for people who can thrive among us, and I have brought more than five individuals on board. I thought long and hard before settling on you. I am not about to let you turn me down.”
I guess she really doesn’t care that he’s a racist, and if he tries to turn her down – because of the racism or otherwise – she’s bound to create more trouble.
So that was why she hadn’t hit the entire city with the blast, shattering the glass and maiming or killing hundreds.
Holy shit, does she really have that large a radius??
She hadn’t wanted to kill any prospective members, wanted to reserve her power for when it would be most dramatic.
Hm, I think it’s beginning to dawn on me what sort of bird she is – a peacock. Bold, dramatic and not to be messed with.
(Well, peahen, going by her gender, but a peacock is better for the metaphor. Don’t mess with a peahen either, though.)
(#it’s not like the most likely suspect for the peacock in miraculous ladybug isn’t female)
“I’m fine where I am.”
“This isn’t a request.”
She’s far more forceful about it than the others we’ve seen. With a bossy attitude like this you’d almost think she’d be the one in charge of the team.
“Is that so? You going to make me?” He was nearly restored. He could fight now if he needed to.
I wonder if Shatterbird was the one who recruited Burnscar.
Forcing someone into the team like this is probably a bad idea, honestly. Unless the recruit really does “thrive among” them, they’re not going to be giving their all, and may look for ways out, including tactics like selling the rest of the team out to authorities or otherwise sabotaging them.
“Yes. I know who you are, Hookwolf. I spent some time researching your history.”
“Not that interesting.”
We know a little of it, and I’m with Hookwolf on this – what we know so far isn’t all that big.
“I beg to differ. You ally with the Aryan groups. Run one, but your motivations seem to be different. I have guesses as to why, but I’d rather you tell me.”
We did get narration suggesting Hookwolf was indeed a Nazi earlier, but I suppose it could’ve been misdirection.
“Tell you? Why should I? I think we’re done here.”
I mean, fair. She did just attack your base, kill and/or maim some of your people, and hit you with a spike of glass from the sky. She hasn’t exactly done anything to warrant you telling her your secrets for nothing.
Shatterbird raised one hand, then frowned, her lips pursing together. “Hm.”
Cricket climbed to her feet. She was bleeding badly where she had exposed skin, and chunks of glass were partially buried in her arms and legs.
Don’t attack, Cricket.
…actually, you may want to run. Shatterbird might try to take you as a hostage, although your powers could make that difficult.
There was the quiet rasp of her laughter.
“Pride goeth before the fall,” Hookwolf said, striding towards his enemy.
That it does.
“Seems as though Cricket can use her subsonics to cancel you out.”
Oh, huh! That’s really neat.
“Seems so,” Shatterbird answered, rapidly backing up to maintain some distance from Hookwolf.
Yeeeah, good call. As long as Cricket is canceling Shatterbird out, she’s (presumably) practically powerless, at least if it also covers the movement of glass rather than just the shattering.
“And here I was thinking you’d won the lottery with powers. Incredible range, fine control, devastating force, versatility… and all it takes is the right noise and it all falls apart?”
It really is a pretty damn awesome power!
“Guess the men who bought my power should ask for a refund.”
…oh? Did you get this power from Cauldron? Or conversely, sell “samples” of it for them to develop into a mass-producable form?
If Cauldron is capable of mass-producing powers that are this strong… That’s pretty scary, honestly.
“No. Not interested in being conned into a game of twenty questions to figure out what you’re talking about. Not giving you a chance to figure a way out.” He punched one of his massive spears at her, and she threw herself to the ground, rolling beneath the impaling weapon.
For the first time, I’m uncertain about whether a Slaughterhouse member will make it to the end of the Interlude.
I mean, she probably will – otherwise we’d have two open spots – but this is the first point where it’s genuinely seemed like one of them might not.
As she stood, she drew a gun from the folds of her glittering dress.
Ah. Good to have backup, I suppose, in case of just this sort of situation.
She fired between Hookwolf’s legs at Cricket, the noise of the shots ringing through the air.
Shit. Good tactic, though – best to attack the one who a) isn’t nearly invulnerable to your weapon, and b) is the one messing with your power.
Then again, Cricket does have her reactions, so it’s not going to be easy to hit her either, as long as the subsonic fuckery that cancels out Shatterbird’s power doesn’t prevent Cricket from using that.
Hookwolf didn’t even need to look. He laughed, “No. Afraid my lieutenant is a little too fast for you.”
Yeah… though are you sure you don’t need to look?
“Look out,” Cricket’s said from behind him, the artificial sound of her voice detracting from the inflection and urgency.
Okay, good, looks like it worked.
So what now?
A tide of glass slammed into him. Standing on only two limbs, his balance suffered, and he wasn’t able to keep from being pushed onto his side.
Looks like I was right, sort of – she can’t dodge bullets and cancel the power at the same time, but she does have good enough reactions to do the former at the cost of giving Shatterbird a moment without the latter.
“Wasn’t aiming at her,” Shatterbird said. She fired several more shots, simultaneously releasing a shard of glass from her free hand.
…oh. Or she can use the gun to destabilize the glass that’s already there.
Hookwolf turned, saw Cricket clutching her throat. She’d dodged the bullets, but Shatterbird had controlled the flight of the glass shard she shot at Cricket much in the same way she’d controlled the descent of the massive spike of glass.
Or maybe it’s my first explanation and she’s just using the gun to distract Cricket without shooting at her. Or maybe she’s using the sound of the bullets to deafen Cricket’s subsonics.
Anyway, doesn’t that turn into a match of reactions? Cricket reacts to Shatterbird shooting the glass, Shatterbird reacts to Cricket moving and adjusts the glass’s path, Cricket reacts to the glass’s path changing and moves further, etc.? I would think Cricket would win such a match, unless Shatterbird correctly predicted her movements and didn’t have to rely on reactions.
It had struck its target. “Just needed to break her concentration.”
Oh, okay, it was the third one, then.
[End of session]
The music video for Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, but Taylor Swift is replaced by Alec.
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break…
(#Taylor Hebert replacing Swift works too but is less specific to this particular song
#not that the song itself #besides that one line in the chorus #fits either of them in the least)
Who’s ready to continue Interlude 11e? I am!
(#there’s a new link at the top of the page #which i’ll talk more about after the end of the chapter)
Cricket collapsed, large quantities of blood spilling through her fingers and around her hands, where they clutched her throat.
And Shatterbird just had to hit the throat, too. As if Cricket didn’t have enough problems with that.
“Now it’s just you and me,” Shatterbird said. She dusted herself off, not giving any concern to the sharp edges of the glass shards that made up her garment. “We talk.”
I wonder if Shatterbird ever uses her ability to move glass on her garment to let her fly.
“I think I’ll kill you instead,” Hookwolf growled.
It’s weird how reasonable this sounds at this point.
“What’s the rush? In fact, any moment we delay, you have a chance of reinforcements arriving. Your Stormtiger, your Othala, your Menja, they could all do a little something to assist you. It’s in your advantage for us to delay the fight.”
She does have a point, or would if Hookwolf hadn’t asked them to do other things. I suppose they might come after him when they were done, though.
“Except I’m more than capable of putting you down myself.”
And unlike the three mentioned, he’s not easily vulnerable to the glass.
He adjusted his form, dropping to four legs once more. The aesthetic suffered, but he created two needle-tipped limbs at his shoulders, poised like scorpion’s tails.
The aesthetic suffers from becoming a wolf with dual scorpion stingers growing from the shoulders?? I don’t know what world you’re living in, Hookwolf, but in mine, that’s super cool.
“Ah, that’s much better,” she said, “But you’re still too attached to conventional forms. Why have legs at all?”
Oh, you’re a connoiseur of unconventional body shapes?
I suppose there’s something psychological about it. Hookwolf doesn’t seem to need legs, but he very much prefers the quadrupedal form. So is it just “I prefer the aesthetics of having legs”, or is there more to it?
“They’re enough.” He pounced. She leaped to one side, and almost glided to a position across the street. She was using the glass of her costume to levitate herself.
Eyy, called it!
From her new vantage point she told him, “I did say I had my suspicions about your motivations. I think I’ve come to understand you. Jack encourages this, you know.
Encourages what? Trying to understand people’s motivations?
Understanding our targets, be they recruits or victims. You learn a lot being with him. I believe you, Hookwolf, are a born warrior.”
Jack’s right. I believe we’ve been over this quite a few times now: knowledge (and understanding) is power.
A warrior, huh? As in he fights just for the sake of fighting? I suppose that makes a lot of sense with the fighting ring background.
He pounced once more, driving both foreclaws at her and following up with two quick jabs with his needle-tipped limbs. She dodged all three hits, then swept a carpet of glass beneath him as he pounced quickly after her.
Not bad on either side – neat attacks avoided by excellent dodging.
He landed and skidded on the surface like one might with a carpet of marbles, falling onto one side, and she threw a tidal wave of glass shards at him, driving him across the street to distance him once more.
Yeah, it seems like keeping distance is generally what Shatterbird is trying to do here – stay far enough away from Hookwolf that she can talk to him without being interrupted by a set of claws to the face.
He stopped to draw his head and upper body back into the core. The wave of glass had come too close to penetrating the head of his form and cutting his flesh. It was dangerously vulnerable.
Ahh, I see.
I suppose this might please Shatterbird, with the whole “conventional forms” thing.
A warrior at heart, she’d said. He’d thought, sometimes, that he was born at the wrong time. Had he been born in Rome’s heyday, the Crusades or any of the great wars, in eras where martial pride and strength were valued, he thought he might have been a great person, a soldier feared on the battlefield.
You’re out of my league
I’m out of my mind
Thinking I was born
In the wrong time
I do like the idea of Roman centurion Hamus Lupus. Actually, a Roman AU in general sounds kinda neat, but Hookwolf and Dauntless probably fit in better than most (Dauntless taking the role of a traveler from a Greek city state).
He would have relished that life. Here, now? Even with powers, he wasn’t so notable. People with a tendency for violence and a thirst for blood just didn’t thrive.
Yeeah, humanity just had to take a turn for the more peaceful right before people started getting powers that are largely geared towards combat, huh.
“What I can’t figure out-” she paused to throw herself up to the top of a four-story building, then raised her voice to be heard on the ground, “Is what you’re doing with these ‘Chosen’ of yours.”
Do his plans even have anything to do with the Nazi ideology people think they’re joining for?
Hm… It’s worth noting that the name “Fenrir’s Chosen” has a rather apocalyptic bent. Fenrir is supposed to be freed from his chains at Ragnarök, the end of the world as the Norse people knew it, and contribute to the fall of the Æsir by killing Odin. The name “Fenrir’s Chosen” suggests people who are in the wolf’s favor at the end of the world.
Does Hookwolf believe, or even know (Dinah is probably not the only source by which someone might find out), that an apocalypse – the future threat that may or may not be a giant worm more powerful than the Endbringers combined – is coming? Is he literally gathering these “Aryan” people together in order to attempt to bring them safely to the other side of the apocalypse and repopulate the world with Nazi genes and ideals?
Armmaster, Allfather (who is already dead), Legend, Myrddin and even Tattletale can all be construed as tying into Odin somehow – I don’t think any of them are supposed to be an exact match, though.
If anyone is, though, I guess it’d be Allfather – the one we know least about and the one whose name is literally one of Odin’s.
He couldn’t speak to answer her, and only climbed the building’s face. He was three-quarters of the way up when she leaped down, soaring toward the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Always keeping her distance.
Heh, frustrating, isn’t it?
A gale caught her, and her lateral movement stopped. As wind twisted around her, she was driven down into the street, hard.
Stormtiger to the rescue?
Hookwolf would have laughed if he could. He looked at his headquarters and saw Stormtiger crouching by the front door, clutching a blood-soaked rag to his throat. Stormtiger wouldn’t interfere where it counted, but he would give Hookwolf the opportunity to confront his opponent.
Nice. Seems like he knows his boss well.
He adjusted his position and fell to the street next to Shatterbird. She held one leg while laying on her back. She’d fallen badly.
Hm, I guess with a power centered on glass, it’s thematically appropriate if she can’t take much in terms of hits.
The best part is that considering her massive offensive ability, that makes her officially a Glass Cannon.
Stalking towards her, he heard she was still talking, “You call them Fenrir’s Chosen. I’m a scholar, believe it or not. I know Fenrir was one of the beasts that brings about Ragnarök, the death of the gods. Fenrir was the beast who slew Odin, Allfather, king of the gods. Fenrir was a wolf. Too coincidental for that to be an accident on your part.”
Oh nice, she’s providing a little recap for all the readers who didn’t know all the stuff I just talked about off-hand like I do.
Not gonna lie, that makes me feel a lot more confident in my theory.
Something I didn’t mention in the post about who would be Odin: If Allfather represents Odin here, and already is dead, then that suggests he might’ve been killed by Hookwolf, and Hookwolf possibly believes the apocalypse is already happening. And if I’m on to something about why the Dandelions started empowering people, he might be right. You could argue that the apocalypse began thirty years ago.
Also I suppose if we’re going with the Ragnarök parallels, then I suppose the threat which I believe to be the titular Worm would be Jörmungandr, the world serpent, which kills Thor. Hmm, do we have any good fits for Thor yet? (Kaiser doesn’t work, he’s dead – though he did die to a sea monster…)
Ultimately, Fenrir is killed by one of Odin’s sons in retribution, I believe. Which one was it again… Ah, Víðarr. I don’t know if there’s a parallel to be found there, so maybe I’m stretching this too far.
It’s not like this is a parallel that the story is necessarily bound to follow exactly, either.
“A sword age, an axe age. A wind age, a wolf age. A world where none have mercy. I can believe this is your goal, your ultimate objective.
Sword and axe make sense, but wind? Also, are these in order, or describing the same age? I can’t really tell.
If they’re in order, I suppose we might currently be in the wind age?
Do you crave to reduce this city to darkness, blood and ash, so that only the strong will survive? Do you tell your followers that it is only the pure will rise to the top in the new world order?”
If Hookwolf doesn’t know about Jörmungandr on the horizon (no pun intended), this is probably the best bet for an alternative explanation that still ties in with the apocalypse. Just a smaller apocalypse.
He set one clawed foot down on her. He could feel some blades on the underside of his foot bite into her flesh. She didn’t fight him or resist.
I’m guessing she still has plans for how to get out of this situation if she has to, but for now she just seems to want to continue talking.
“Join us,” she said, her voice strained.
He formed a head and mouth. His voice echoed from within his metal skull, “You describe me as a warrior, why would I join petty killers?”
She shifted her position, huffing out sentences between gasps of pain. “Only a matter of scale. Need more like you in our number. Frontline combatants. Capable of carving murder through the ranks of the innocent. Through our enemies. We could be great warriors.”
“We could create your Ragnarök more than any number of Chosen.”
That is if she’s right about her interpretation.
But also, she might not know how right she is, given Jack’s apparent involvement in bringing about Jörmungandr, or whatever the threat actually is.
Hm. Trickstery behavior, doing things just to see what happens or doesn’t happen… Is Jack Loki in the extended metaphor, perhaps? I mean, considering Loki is the father of both Fenrir and Jörmungandr (and the mother of Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir), he’s pretty crucial to the coming of Ragnarök.
“They are my people. I won’t turn my back on them.”
“Then kill me.” A thin smile crossed her face, though her expression was drawn with pain.
Is that why she attacked them in the first place? To test his loyalty to them?
By asking Hookwolf to kill her, she’s asking him to prove that they matter enough to him that he’ll kill her for that attack.
When she spoke, it was in more short sentences. “But know that your dream is over. Unless you come with us. Once nominated you’ll be tested. By others, whether willing or not. I have left notes. Urging them to kill your soldiers. To raze any place you might call home. To bestow fates worse than death.”
Ah, shit. That would be a problem.
He raised his claw from her. She was bleeding from wounds in her stomach and pelvis.
He’d had a hard enough time killing this one. If the other seven arrived? No, he wouldn’t be able to stop them alone, and his lieutenants were not strong enough to hold them off.
Yeah, makes sense.
Also, intellectually I know that they’re one person down, but it still feels weird to see the “Slaughterhouse Nine” split into “one” and “seven”.
“And you won’t rescind these orders and requests?”
If he joins, maybe?
“I will. If you join. You give me your word, I leave. You will be tested. Your people left alone. When the test is done you’re… either dead or one of us.”
Sounds about right. Most of the Fellowship members seem the type to go quite intense on their tests.
Now let’s take a moment to consider that this presumably applies equally much to Bitch.
I wonder what happens if they both succeed. Do they duke it out over the open spot?
“What is it you want?”
“Make history. Names in books. Taught to schoolchildren for years. Centuries. Our goals…” she winced, pressed one hand to her stomach, “Coincide.”
Huh, I suppose they kinda do.
Also this is perfect for a group led by Jack Slash.
He pondered for a few moments. Could they escape? No, you didn’t escape the Nine. He’d already considered fighting, but that option was out.
There was a possibility he could lay a trap for them. Or buy time for his people to escape.
Hmm. Gotta be smart about it, but it ought to be possible.
Another thin smile crossed her face. She used her power to raise herself to a standing position, her toes only barely touching the ground. “So loyal.”
Man’s best friend, huh?
It’s kinda funny, we’ve got a dog-themed girl (though it turns out her power works better on wolves) and a wolf-themed guy, and the latter is the one that’s better at being friends with humans.
“But I won’t forget what you’ve already done. If you survive, I will wait for the right time and place, and I will kill you. One day.”
Yeeah, ain’t gonna come completely quietly, this one.
“Already thinking like… one of us. Rest assured. I will survive.”
I’m torn between chanting “ONE OF US” over and over, or embedding a video of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”.
I guess the only reasonable solution is to attempt chanting “ONE OF US” to the tune of “I Will Survive”.
Glass drifted towards her to fill the injuries, cracking in the right spots so each fragment fit the wounds perfectly.
Hah, nice, that’s a really cool side of the power.
A power that’s versatile as fuck, that is.
The smallest particles of glass, a fine cloud of dust, flowed forth to fill the gaps.
Then she rose into the sky. Hookwolf signaled for Stormtiger to hold his fire.
He wasn’t going to accept this. They’d insulted him, hurt his people. They wanted to subvert his mission and twist it to their own ends? No.
And this is why you don’t hire people in this fashion.
If they don’t come of their own free will they’ll find a way to make you regret it.
His face twisted into a scowl as he looked over the glass-strewn street, and at Cricket’s prone form. He’d told Shatterbird he’d kill her sometime in the future, had hopefully led her to expect something further down the line.
No, he would go through the motions of their ‘test’, even join them for the short-term. But he’d kill them sooner than later. Before they left the city.
Niice. Good luck with that, though. Probably won’t be easy.
Especially Jack. Jack’s not going down, I’m 99% sure of that.
He looked at his people, saw Othala hurrying over to Cricket’s side to grant the young woman regenerating abilities. Rune was hurt, the right side of her face torn up, healed only enough to close the cuts and stop the worst of the bleeding. Probably Othala. Everyone else was injured to some degree, many gravely.
Oh hi, guys.
Yeeeeeah. Shatterbird really didn’t care who she hurt as long as it got you on the team, it seems like.
Or rather, she cared about it as a matter of effectiveness.
He’d need help from elsewhere.
Ooh, who you gonna call?
End of Interlude 11e
That was another good chapter!
I think Shatterbird is my least favorite Slaughterhouse member so far, but that’s not because of any real fault on her part, just because the others are so good in comparison. Shatterbird just isn’t quite as interesting in terms of personality – she’s got a commanding presence, a great willingness and eagerness to hurt and kill, and a bit of an ego, but that’s pretty much it, fairly standard stuff. She’s still neat, just not as neat as the others.
Powerwise, though, she’s fantastic. It’s as Hookwolf described – “Incredible range, fine control, devastating force, versatility…”. She’s incredibly powerful, though not that greatly protected on the defensive side, making her an excellent glass cannon.
Hookwolf, on the other hand, we got to see from another perspective, namely his own. It turns out he is far less brutish than I thought, and actually a quite competent leader. It’s just a shame what he fights for. I came out of this chapter liking Hookwolf, but it’s best not to forget what he stands for.
We also got some insight into what the name Fenrir’s Chosen actually means (which I mostly caught onto a couple posts before it was spelled out, thanks to knowledge of Norse mythology), which was a fun sequence to liveblog.
Oh! Also, we learned that Shatterbird’s power has been sold to some men. Whether that means Shatterbird sold her power or bought it, it almost certainly implies that Cauldron has access to this incredibly powerful ability, which is a terrifying prospect.
So yeah! This was entertaining. Hopefully the next one will be just as good. 🙂
See you then!
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