Snare 13.2: I’m Not a Hero

Source material: Worm, Snare 13.2

Originally blogged: June 12-13, 2018


BANANA POWER, BANANA POWER, BANANA POWER

wait what?

uh

hi?

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Hi there! It’s time for some more Worm!

Last time, plans were laid, teammates were mixed, webs were spun and Imps were pissed off. Well, one at least.

This time, we may be focusing on getting Grue, Genesis and Bitch settled in or near the Hive, unless Wildbow decided what we saw at the end of the previous chapter was enough on that front. Hopefully there’ll also be some focus on getting to know Genesis. There’s also a decent chance we’ll be going on a tour of the nearby territories.

Alternatively, we might skip right ahead to Mannequin’s trap. There are eight Slaughterhouse testing rounds to get through unless something/someone interrupts the game, so we might see some faster pacing in order to get through it all.

The best way to find out is to jump in, so let’s go get ensnared by this next chapter of Worm!


But seriously, imagine being a cape with a banana-based power.


“Aisha’s not here,” Grue informed us.

Who’s Aisha?

Jokes aside, I feel like this being focused on right out of the gate is a good sign for the continued relevance of Imp and Grue’s conflict in this Arc. I stand by my suggestion that Imp is going to go against his wishes and try to spy on the Nine anyway.

Hell, maybe she’ll end up as bait leading the Northern Undertravelers right into the trap I think the title refers to.

He locked the door to his headquarters and climbed on top of Sirius. Bitch and I were astride Bentley and Lucy, respectively, and Bastard was on the end of a chain that Bitch held.

Oh hey, it’s the base tour.

Also, it seems like the difficulty in noticing Imp only works if you’re not actively looking for her – for instance, Taylor, once reminded of Imp’s existence and alerted to the fact that she’s somewhere in the room, usually finds her quickly. So since Grue would be actively looking for her, he’d probably see her if she was there. And then he’d promptly forget her entirely if she didn’t want to be found, probably.

Although if it worked that easily all the time, there wouldn’t be a risk of the Slaughterhouse Nine doing something to Imp – “oh, you’ve noticed me? just forget that”. Maybe it’s based on “out of sight, out of mind”? I didn’t see anything about Aisha leaving the room before her power took effect last chapter, but Taylor may just have forgotten that before she even had the chance to narrate it.


“Did you give her a job before you left for Coil’s this morning?” I suggested.

He shook his head, “No. I make notes, and I make her take notes too. Keeping track of that girl is a nightmare.”

Heh, I can imagine.

So this means that once her power has erased the memory of her, the most recent stuff doesn’t come back by itself, even after some time of the power being inactive (we already knew it didn’t immediately come back, from Taylor’s experiences in Parasite). Nobody except Imp (and maybe Tattletale) remembers the spat Imp and Grue had at the meeting, and Grue doesn’t even seem to remember that she was even with them to the meeting.

“Tattletale’s working on her idea,” I said. It felt ineffectual as reassurances went. In the hopes of elaborating on the thought, I added, “Maybe she’ll be able to keep track of Imp and stay in touch with us, to keep us informed.”

That does sound good, yeah.

Y’know, I wonder how Coil feels about Imp. How does he feel about having a major piece on the board that he sometimes can’t remember even exists?

“Maybe. You done a sweep of the area?”

I shook my head. “Need another minute. I’m trying to be thorough in how I check each area for enemies, and Mannequin can see my bugs, so I have to use silk lines to try to catch him.

Right. Can’t have him dodging them again.

It’s slow, and I definitely don’t want to miss him. Also, it would be nice to grab some bugs to build up and replenish my stock.” I let bugs gather on Lucy’s back, depositing spiders and large beetles. The dog didn’t seem to mind.

“Just as long as they’re not fleas, small human.”


“Right. Good.” Grue looked at Bitch, “We’ll finish checking out my territory, stop in yours to help you with whatever you need to do for your dogs, then we’ll pass through Tattletale’s area on the way back to Skitter’s.”

…wait.

Am I getting the geography wrong here? I thought Skitter’s territory was somewhere in-between Tattletale’s and Bitch’s. The way I’ve been picturing it, this would take them way north, quite a bit south, and then a bit north again.

“I don’t really care,” Bitch said, looking off into the distance. I was pretty sure she was deliberately looking away from me.

I believe her. She’s probably not particularly invested in keeping herself away from the testers, after all. Though she would probably object to her dogs getting seriously hurt.

It was as though she wanted to pretend I didn’t exist.

Seems accurate enough.

Grue looked at me and shrugged.

This wasn’t going to work. She was too distant, and that was dangerous. Not that it wasn’t risky to try to address the problem. It still needed to be done.

…uh-oh, what are you about to try?

Making sure Bitch wasn’t looking, I tapped two fists together and then pointed at her.

Is that supposed to be a signal to Grue?


He shrugged again. He didn’t get it?

Sorry, Taylor, I’m with Grue. What was that supposed to mean? Knock her out??

Drawing from the bugs I had stored in my costume, I drew out words in the air with the bugs flying in tightly controlled formations. ‘Confront her’.

Ohh.

Right.

This could be seen as pawning it off on Grue, but he is the de facto leader of the team, and Taylor being the one to confront Bitch about anything is a bad idea right now.

He hesitated.

Really can’t blame ya, pal.

‘Be leader,’ I wrote. Then I changed the words of ‘leader’ to ‘honest’.

“Be leader. Be honest.”

Sounds like an Engrish slogan for something. I don’t know what for, but definitely a slogan.


“Bitch,” Grue spoke.

“What?” She snapped her head around to face him. Her eyes flicked over to me and narrowed slightly before they returned to him.

Well that’s certainly not an ominous response when you’re about to confront someone about something, no sirree.

“This whole thing with you not talking? It’s not working.”

A bit more general than I expected, but it does cover not talking about the nomination.

“So?”

“So cut it out. Or at least explain what’s going through your head.”

“What I think is my business.”

“No,” I cut in. I couldn’t help it. “You’re a member of the team, and if you’re thinking about joining the Nine, then that matters.”

Taylor’s got her number. I don’t think Bitch is going to like that Taylor’s caught onto that.

Or that she’s getting involved at all, but still.

And yeah, there are a lot of cases where what Bitch thinks can be important to the team. Hell, a few Arcs ago, her thoughts on Taylor almost lost them a team member.

“I’m not!” She snapped.

Right.

To be fair, she may really not be thinking about joining them so much as letting the tests happen, but it amounts to just about the same thing in practice.


“But?” I added.

“What?”

“You’re not thinking about joining them, but…?” I let the question hang for a second. “Something is eating you up.”

Yeah, I think Taylor’s right here. It’s probably something to do with Siberian and the dog vs wolf thing, though.

“Did you not hear what I said about my thoughts being my business?”

“Bitch,” Grue warned.

“What?” She clenched her fist, and I think the dogs could see something in her body language, because they tensed too. She said, “Fuck it. Pisses me off when you get on my case. Leave me alone.”

“that’s my case, don’t get on it”

She kicked Bentley lightly in the sides, and the dog began walking. She kicked him again, and he started running.

Two chapters, two Undersiders running off ahead of their peers (after a confrontation with Grue and Skitter).


Lucy and Sirius wanted to follow, so it thankfully didn’t take much effort to get them moving. Bitch wasn’t riding as fast as she could, so it was clear enough that she wasn’t trying to escape. She wanted space, and she was angry.

That’s fair. I don’t get angry easily, but when I do, my first instinct is usually to get away from it and cool down.

It’s certainly somewhat healthier than some of Bitch’s previous anger responses, at least.

I glanced over my shoulder at Grue. How the hell were we supposed to handle this situation?

Maybe you should’ve given that a little more thought before you started it.

Unless by “this situation” you mean the broader “Bitch is bottling up something, keeps quiet and gets mad if you ask her what’s up”.

My phone vibrated at my back, and in my effort to avoid falling off Lucy, I wasn’t able to get at it. I fought to make her obey me and stop by pulling on the chains and wrenching her right, then left.

I was a little confused until I remembered the satellite phones.

Don’t talk and ride hellhounds!

I was joking, but that really does seem like something Taylor would be concerned about, what with her mom. Though I doubt the accident that took Annette Rose Hebert’s life involved her riding a hellhound.

She finally halted, and I took the opportunity to grab my phone. I’d missed my window.

Better that than running your hellhound into a tree or oncoming traffic.


So, who was the caller? I’m guessing Coil or Tattletale. Maybe Genesis.

Or perhaps Sierra or Charlotte.

It started vibrating again.

“Yes?” I answered.

“You guys busy?” Lisa asked.

Hiya!

Kind of, how so? Slaughterhouse sighting to take care of?

“Just patrolling our territories to make sure that the Chosen aren’t up to anything,” I said. A droplet of water fell on the lens of my mask. I looked up at the overcast sky. Rain?

Rain rarely means anything good in this story.

“Listen, you know that I’ve got some people working for me, passing on info, right?”

Yes?

“Sure. Bryce is one of them, right?”

“Right. Well, I’ve got all of them keeping an eye out for capes and known faces.”

How about unknown faces?

That’d probably be a bit impractical. :p

“Known faces? Like the members of Empire Eighty-Eight who were outed?”

“Like them. Or Jack, or Bonesaw. But that’s not what this is about. Senegal just dropped by Coil’s base, and he’s passing on information from one of my scouts. They saw Panacea at one of the shelters in Ballistic’s territory.”

Ooh! I like where this seems to be going.


“I’m not entirely sure I follow.”

“All of New Wave live southwest of the Towers, the nice part of downtown. Neither of their houses were hit by the worst of the waves, and none of the Chosen or Merchants are stupid enough to attack them, and they wouldn’t succeed if they were. You following me, now?”

Tattletale: “They weren’t forcibly evicted by Leviathan or the villains, so why…”

Power, maybe: “Nominee.”

“Sort of. You’re wondering why she’s there. She could just be there giving medical help to the injured.”

I wouldn’t be too surprised if she’s doing that too, although I could see her not wanting to use her power for some time after what happened with Glory Girl.

“My scouts say she’s keeping to herself, trying to avoid attracting attention.”

And if she’s a) avoiding being asked to use her power and/or b) avoiding the Nine, this would make sense. Especially since her identity is public and anyone might recognize her out of costume.

“Curious.”

“Exactly. Want to go pay a visit?”

Hell yes.


I used clouds of bugs to get the attention of my teammates, then waved for them to come my way when they stopped and looked my way.

Imagine if school teachers did this to call students in from recess.

“I’m not the best person to talk to Panacea. She kind of hates me. Remember the thing at the hospital? The bank robbery?”

Yeah, and she hates Tattletale even more. But it’s true, almost anyone else on the team would be a better pick (just not Bitch).

This is a more entertaining pick, though.

I wonder if Skitter’s heroic intent being revealed to the witnesses at the hospital changed Panacea’s opinions about her at all? I’m not sure if she actually saw/heard that, though.

“But you have talked to her before. She was there to hear Armsmaster talking about you being a wannabe hero, betraying us.

Heh, well that answers that! 😛

If nothing else, maybe the idea of getting answers about that will get her listening so you can move on to a real conversation.”

It might work. I get the feeling she’ll have other things on her mind, though.


“Maybe. I don’t really think so. Wouldn’t somebody else work better? You guys aren’t far from that spot.”

“Who would you send? Sundancer and Ballistic are threatening by their very nature. I’m not up to it, and she hates me more than she hates you. I wouldn’t trust Bitch, Regent or Trickster to handle it, I think you’d agree with me there.”

“Genesis?”

Genesis, maybe – I don’t know her well enough to tell either way, but she seems nice enough.

Grue shouldn’t be too bad either, though he might not have the subtlety required to deal with Panacea’s emotional state, which I suspect will be a lot less… okay than before Interlude 11h. Plus, he’s not that great at communication, especially with girls, and his outfit is spooky.

Huh. Skitter might genuinely be the best option.

Lisa sighed. “We could send Genesis. Is she with you?”

“She’s resting. Or at least, she’s recuperating from using her power. If something comes up, she told us to call her, and she’ll have one of her creations with us in a minute.”

Ahh, I see.

“Your call. The Travelers seem decent, but they’re hiding something, and I really do think you’d be a better person to talk to her.”

Hiding something they sure are. It’s not like the Undersiders don’t have secrets too, but Lisa knows better what secrets Taylor has than what secrets Genesis and co. have.


“Okay. Text me the address. I’ll ask the others and we’ll call Genesis in if necessary.”

“Cool.”

I like this development a lot. Skitter and Panacea have one of my favorite dynamics, and now Skitter is about to try to connect with Panacea on a whole different level.

Maybe it will give her some insight into how she can deal with Bitch, too, pulling these threads together.

I hung up. Grue and Bitch had already returned to me.

“What is it?” Grue asked me.

“Panacea’s in a shelter, and she shouldn’t be. Tattletale finds it strange, and I agree with her. She wants us to check Panacea out.”

Nice summary.

Why?” Bitch asked. “None of our business.”

It might be more of their business than she thinks. But I can absolutely see where Bitch is coming from here – from her perspective, they’re about to do the same thing to Panacea as they just did to her, namely be nosy about her behavior.

The parallels are fairly strong, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether Panacea acts like Bitch when someone she hates comes asking if she’s okay, or if she’ll open up easily due to a vulnerable state of mind.

“It could mean answers. We’re looking for a sixth candidate, and we can’t protect candidates like you if we don’t know who they are. Maybe Panacea is the sixth, maybe someone she knows, like Glory Girl.

Bullseye.

If nothing else, I can raise the subject of whatever plague Bonesaw has that’s supposed to scare the candidates and the local heroes into playing along.”

Eesh.

“It also means I have to wait before I check on my dogs and the rest of my territory.”

I was going to say she didn’t necessarily have to come along, but splitting up is probably a bad idea right now. Especially considering she’d want the others’ main mode of transportation back.


Grue looked my way. Should I capitulate and tell her that we could send Genesis, to give her what she wanted, or would it be better to get her to agree, and risk angering her?

The team should not play to the whims of Bitch for fear of her outbursts. They should consider the points she’s making – which are actually not that bad this time, though self-centered – fairly, absolutely, but just giving her the right of way because she’ll get angry otherwise is a bad habit to get into.

As odd as it might be, I gravitated toward the latter option. Bitch responded better to firmness.

That too.

“She’s supposedly in Ballistic’s territory, which is close. Five minutes there, up to five minutes to talk, five minutes to get back,” I said.

Oh yeah, that’s not too bad.

“Fifteen minutes out of our way,” Grue said. “And anything we find out about the Nine or their candidates can potentially help you, Rachel.”

Nice one, Grue – turning it into a benefit for her specifically, to suit the self-centered nature of her own arguments.


She scowled. “Whatever.”

I took that for assent and turned Lucy around. With a shout, I got her moving. I kept the phone in one hand while I rode, waiting for Lisa’s response.

Yeah, as far as assent goes, that’s probably the best you’ll get.

Also, Taylor! Don’t use your phone while riding! It’s unsafe! Do something safer, like fighting some of the country’s deadliest superpowered psychopaths.

It didn’t matter. She found me before I found her. Or, to be more specific, she found my bugs before I found her.

Oh, hey. So did she deliberately step into a bug swarm to alert Taylor or something?

There were enough flies in the city that most people didn’t give a second thought to one landing on them, especially if it landed on their clothing. I habitually used my bugs to check people nearby for weapons or masks, and when I checked the people in a building three blocks away, one of the bugs brushed against Panacea.

Oh – Panacea, not Lisa!

Well, then. If she pulls a similar trick as at the bank, I guess Taylor’s in for a headache.

She must have been able to tell it wasn’t an ordinary bug. As she’d done at the bank robbery, she used her power to scramble them and force whatever mechanism my power activated in their systems into a feedback loop.

Feedback loops can be pretty nasty.

Before it could incapacitate me and my power, I swept up the bugs with larger dragonflies and flying beetles and promptly murdered them, feeding them to other bugs in the area and pulling them apart.

Brutal, but I suppose it had to be done, to stop the feedback loops.


Panacea was waiting in an alley when we arrived, arms folded. Her brown hair was tucked underneath an army green mosh cap, the brim pulled low.

Well, at least approaching her won’t be too hard, if she’s willing to just stand and wait. She doesn’t seem happy about her company, but she does seem to accept that they’re arriving without trying to run away or anything like that.

She looked exhausted, worn out. She had that same devastated look in her eyes that I had seen in her cousin and aunt on the day of the Endbringer attack.

Makes sense. She’s practically lost her family, like they had that day. Even if in her case, it was a choice, she’s not going to be happy about it.

“I see you’ve got the two other horsemen of the apocalypse with you. Where’s number four?”

Heh. Still got a bit of dry wit, good to hear.

I shook my head. “Horsemen of the apocalypse?”

“Nevermind.”

Is Taylor not familiar with them, or did she just not expect to be likened to one?

Hm…

  • Pestilence = Skitter
  • War = Bitch
  • Famine = ???
  • Death = Grue

I hopped down from Lucy’s back. “I just want to talk.”

“I can’t outrun those dogs, you’ve got me outnumbered and you’ve probably got more weapons than me. I think you’re in a position to do whatever you want.”

Yeah, I suppose that’s true.

Panacea does seem a bit dejected. There’s less… spite in her voice. The Panacea we met at the bank robbery would likely try to do something rather than just accept defeat without a fight.

“Good,” I said, “Because like I said, I just want to talk. I could get rid of my weapons if that would make you feel any better.”

“It wouldn’t, really.”

Even besides the sense of apathy here, the dogs are weapons enough regardless of how many smaller ones they throw to the sides.

I saw her step back a little, and I could tell she was ready to bolt. We were in a position to catch her, for sure, but it would be more detrimental than anything. If we chased her down, any dialogue I had with her afterward would be an interrogation, not a conversation.

Does she feel like she can run after all?

I suppose at least she could keep her distance from Taylor right now, now that she’s off Lucy, but otherwise bolting wouldn’t do much unless Panacea went somewhere the dogs couldn’t follow.


“Okay. Grue, Bitch, you want to give us some space? Stay close enough that we can hear each other with shouts?”

“Sure. You checking the area?”

I would assume so at this point, honestly.

“Yeah. No trouble yet.”

He nodded and the pair of them led their dogs away.

“What’s going on?” Panacea asked.

From Panacea’s perspective, these people shouldn’t have much reason to want to seek her out to talk to her, so why are they here?

“That’s what I was going to ask you. Why are you in a shelter, Panacea?”

“Don’t call me that.”

Abandoning the name? I suppose that makes sense if she’s abandoning her family, rejecting her healing duty and maybe avoiding the use of her power beyond what she has to do.

I raised my hands a bit to stop her. “Okay. Why are you in a shelter, Amy?”

“Why is that any of your business?”

That’s what they’re trying to find out.

“Because two of my teammates were picked by the Nine, and Jack Slash just started a messed up version of Survivor, with the candidates as the players.”

Hah! That is pretty much what this is, isn’t it.

Who’ll be voted off the island next?! Find out in the next episode of Survivor: Slaughterhouse!


“Survivor?”

If I’d been pressed to say, I would have said her body language shifted fractionally on hearing that. Concern for herself? Her sister? Someone else?

I haven’t actually watched Survivor myself, only similar shows such as the Norwegian Robinsonekspedisjonen (derived from the same Swedish show, Expedition Robinson, as the American Survivor is), and not much of those, so I couldn’t say exactly how well Survivor in particular fits as an analogy.

From what I do know, I don’t think the formats match up very well at all, but the core point, that it’s been turned into a game with elimination, does shine through.

(I’ve also seen this episode of Ultra Fast Pony that parodies Survivor, as well as a bit of Total Drama Island.)

“They didn’t give you the info? You didn’t get a paper with a list on it?” I asked.

It seems not. Good thing she didn’t leave the city, then.

“I was staying somewhere else last night, I heard from a classmate that my aunt was supposedly looking for me. So I legged it.”

Ahh, I suppose they may have dropped it off with her family. Not that her family wouldn’t look for her anyway.

Also, this ought to tip off Taylor to the fact that Amy is avoiding her family.


I could have pressed for more details there, but I suspected she’d keep to the conversation better if I gave her the info instead of demanding it.

Probably true, yeah. I like how Taylor is handling this so far.

“They’ve set themselves a time limit to test and eliminate the six candidates. Their goal is to test the candidates and kill the ones who fail, until there’s only one. Our goal is to save them. So when Tattletale figures out you’re here instead of with your family, and when we know that the sixth candidate is apparently a hero, it gets our attention.”

Honest and to the point. That’s good.

I give it a 78% chance that Panacea is about to deny being a hero.

“Who- who are the other candidates?”

“Regent, Bitch, Hookwolf, Armsmaster-”

Alright, not immediately at least.

Also I guess she’s about as surprised to hear Armmaster listed as Sierra? Although she was there for him being confronted about his actions in Extermination, so who knows.

Alternatively, Taylor might be stopping because she’s unsure how to mention Noelle.

“Armsmaster?”

“Yeah. Though it might be like Cherish is doing to Regent, more to screw with him than for legit reasons.”

Nah, this one’s legit. It’s nice to see Taylor seemingly giving Colin some benefit of doubt now, though.

“Ok.”

“I can see it, though. I’ve interacted with him. He really did cross the line during the Endbringer attack.”

“And the fifth?”

I do wonder how much of this softness is Taylor wanting to avoid Panacea being put off by Taylor’s old antagonistic view of Army.


“A non-cape. I don’t know the details, but she’s in a secure location.”

That’s a pretty decent way to put it.

Amy fidgeted. “I’m getting out of here.”

Aaand this is where she needs to be told about rule 8.

“Where?”

“Away. I don’t want to be a part of any of this.”

“You can’t leave.”

“Why not? I can find a place to hole up and hide until it blows over.”

It needs to be in Brockton Bay, though.

“So long as you’re in Brockton Bay, they’ve got someone who can watch you. Can watch any of us. She reads emotions, and apparently uses them to find us from half a city away. It’s probably how they found the candidates in the first place.”

Yep, and you can’t go out of Brockton Bay, or they’ll consider the game won for them.

“Then I’ll leave the city. I was going to anyways.”

“Fuck, I wish I still had the list.” I muttered. At a normal speaking volume, I said, “No, you can’t leave town, either, because Bonesaw prepared a plague or something. If you are a candidate and you leave the city, they’ll use it. They explicitly said they were using it as an incentive for the two heroes that they picked as candidates.”

Oh right, now I remember! It was mentioned in the encounter with them by Ballistic’s base last Arc.

Wait, shit, that would be one of the main reasons why that Arc was called Plague, wouldn’t it.


“I… I don’t want to strike a nerve, or say the wrong thing. I’m not very good at picking the right thing to say. But I forgive you. I know you were tired. You were overworked. You had no reason to like me or to do me any favors. And you healed me anyways.”

For someone who claims to not be good at picking the right thing to say, she’s absolutely on a streak of picking the right thing to say.

I think she’s gotten better at it, honestly.

I could see her tense. Would she storm off? Lash out at me like Bitch would?

Hmm, I don’t think so. I think she might actually appreciate that Taylor acknowledges this. Especially since one of her long-standing problems has been that few others did.

Not gonna lie, I’m beginning to see this as a potential ship on the redrom (love) side rather than just blackrom (romantic hatred) like before.

She just fell silent, avoiding eye contact with me.

“I don’t think you’re a monster,” I said.

Damn, Taylor. I’m this close to just straight up revoking your right to say you’re not good at picking the right thing to say.

I think this is exactly what Amy needed to hear from someone, anyone, right now, and Taylor just backed it up with reasons that show that she’s not just saying it, she actually understands.


She laughed briefly, and it was a dark utterance with no humor in it. “No?”

“Everyone knows how you visit hospitals. How many people have you helped over the past three years?

Uh-oh. Sensitive topic.

How many lives have you saved, how many people have you rescued from a lifetime of misery?”

Taylor has a point, but she should try turning her own logic towards herself. Yes, she failed to save four people when Mannequin attacked. But she did save a lot of other lives. Maybe if she thought to ask herself this question, she could start looking at her own accomplishments positively.

“I hated it,” she said. “It was such a burden. So many long hours spent around sick people, and I got numb to it, I stopped caring. Do you know how many hours I’ve spent awake at night, wishing my powers would just go away, or that some circumstance would come up where I’d make some excusable mistake where they would eventually forgive me, but where I couldn’t visit the hospitals anymore?”

This is something Amy has needed to admit to someone for so long. She did, once before, but she still needed it.

And it’s one thing to open up to Gallant. He was the kind of guy who just forces you to open up by looking past your defenses in the first place. Now she’s opening up to Skitter, a villain who doesn’t have that quality and whom Amy hated up until a minute or two ago.

Maybe it does make it easier that she’s already abandoned that life, but still.


It caught me off guard, hearing it, but I managed to get my mental bearings. “You didn’t ask for your powers. I’m sure even doctors get worn out, they hate their job, they have bad weeks. Except doctors have fellow staff members, they have friends and everything to go back to, and they’re adults. You’re still a teenager. You started doing what you were doing at a time when most people didn’t.

That’s it. Give me that “bad at picking the right thing to say” badge, Taylor.

You didn’t have the maturity and the defenses against the pain you were seeing that doctors pick up over the course of the first twenty-five years of their lives.”

I’m sure people regularly underestimate how much mental pressure doctors deal with on a daily basis.

She shook her head. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t make me feel better, I deserve to wallow in misery”?

“Don’t make me out to be a good person. Bonesaw has a better idea of who I am than you do. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought so, three days ago, when she first met me, but then I fucked up. I proved her right. Every fear I had about being like my dad came true.”

Ah, yes, the final piece – the Glory Girl situation.


[End of session]


[Tumblr post]

iguanamouth:

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anyway dont use any of these theyre not gonna work

bonus reject design

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[reblog] randomitemdrop:

Item: cache of terrible weapons

At least three of these, right in a row, remind me of Worm

(#I’m also reminded of #Paranatural #and #Steven Universe
#there’s some overlap between SU and Worm)


[Session 2]

continuation.png

Let’s get back to it!

(#i’ve been continuing my reaction-gathering reread)


I didn’t have a reply to that. I couldn’t pry, and I couldn’t elaborate.

Yeah, seems wise. She may be more open than usual, but I doubt she’d appreciate being asked about the Glory Girl situation.

“So you’re the supposedly good person who was pretending to be a crook, and I’m the monster who was pretending to be a hero, but when the dust settled, we both wound up being villains. Funny how that works.”

Actually, I’m pretty sure the “monster who was pretending to be a hero” would be Shadow Stalker. To be fair, though, she did start out as a villain and wasn’t pretending very hard.

Meanwhile, Madcap/Assault seems to actually have become a hero, even if he was just pretending to begin with.

“Maybe because doing the right thing is hard,” I offered.

Amen to that.

She shrugged.

“But you can do the right thing. We need your help. I don’t know your circumstances for leaving home. I won’t pry. But I think you’re one of the few people who can stop Crawler, maybe even Siberian too.

Hmm. I do suppose it makes sense that the way to stop someone with freaky biology, like Crawler, is to use someone who can manipulate biology. And if Siberian can’t be beaten from the outside, beat her from inside.

The main problem is that Panacea’s got a Striker power. In direct combat, it’s going to be easy for Siberian to avoid getting Struck by an otherwise mundanely moving Panacea. Though Siberian would have to avoid tactics like she used on Bitch, locking the victim in place with her immobility.

But the question of course becomes “would Siberian know about Panacea’s power?” …I suppose that’s likely considering Panacea is a candidate, and especially considering she’s Bonesaw’s candidate. Bonesaw would probably talk about her candidate to the others, especially Siberian.

We need you around in case they start winning and we wind up with injuries or death, and we need you in case we start winning, and they decide to use that plague out of sheer spite.”

Ah, yeah, that’s another good point. Under these circumstances it would absolutely be good to have a healer on board.

…man, I hope this results in Panacea staying at the Hive.


“More burdens, more pressures and demands,” she said, her voice quiet.

Yeeah, sorry. Nobody likes this except the Slaughterhouse Nine.

“Yeah. That’s the way things play out. But we can help to protect you in exchange. You watch our back, we watch yours.”

This really does sound like it’s heading towards her staying at the Hive.

I am so in favor of that.

“I don’t know if my conscience can handle taking that final step over to the dark side. Or if I can handle being in Tattletale’s company.”

Well, you’re in luck!

“We’re operating as two distinct groups. Tattletale’s with Regent and most of the Travelers. It’s me, Grue, Imp, Genesis and Bitch here in the north end of town. Absolute-”

Absolute(ly) what? Absolute separation from Tattletale? Absolutely fine?

I didn’t finish my sentence. Something constricted around my throat, fingertips digging into the windpipe, and the air ceased to flow.

What.

Bitch, is that you?


I struck behind me, hoping to catch my attacker, but there was nobody there.

I realized what was happening too late, when my feet were hauled off the ground.

Hmm. Is this Mannequin using his chains to put his hand away from the body Taylor would otherwise have struck?

In the span of a second, I soared up six or seven stories, the counterweight to a nine-foot tall man in featureless white armor who plunged downward to land in a heap on the ground.

Hiya!

I doubt there’s much Panacea can do against Mannequin so long as his casing stays intact.

Taylor mentions being “counterweight”. Does that mean Mannequin wrapped the chain over some form of construction beam up there?

Also, if I’m not mistaken with my calculations, Mannequin just pulled Taylor with a force of around 1500 newtons by her neck, while choking her. That kind of lifting probably ought to be deadlier than the dropping from that height. There’s a good chance Panacea will be very necessary after this.


Mannequin.

He’d repaired himself this fast? Did he have spare parts lying around?

I mean, he expects to get into fights. It’s only reasonably to keep spares around if you can make them.

But if all his parts contain pieces of his old regular body, there’s a limited stock of true Mannequin pieces.

Anyway, it’s probably a good sign that Taylor is thinking about this rather than “ow ow my neck”.

I reached up and tried to wind my arm, wrist and fingers around the chain, to alleviate the pressure on my throat, and to give me a grip in case he decided to let go.

I think there’s a good chance he will. Not only is that the obvious course of action, but dropping Skitter from a height isn’t too different from his previous M.O. of launching her into stuff.

Mannequin hauled himself to his feet and the chain that stretched from his arm to the rooftop and back down to me made me bounce with every small movement. He advanced on Amy, who backed away.

Ah, right. Testing her is another thing on his agenda. Bitch, too – speaking of which, are Bitch and Grue still watching?


I had to do something.

At least Skitter is the one here with a ranged power.

Calling on the bugs that had covered Lucy, I stirred up a cloud to grab Grue and Bitch’s attention, then pulled all of the bugs into the alleyway where Panacea and Mannequin were.

Wait, they were far enough away that they wouldn’t immediately notice Taylor getting pulled up by Mannequin, and/or hear him land?

The way I was hanging, with Manneqiun gripping my neck from the back, I had a vantage point to witness what came next. If my bugs weren’t enough of a signal to the others, Amy’s scream of pain was.

Fuck.

Mannequin caught up to her and plunged a knife through her hand, pinning it to the wall.

…am I the only one who’s reminded of stigmata here? Especially if it were to happen to the other hand too.

He left her like that, in enough pain that she couldn’t stand, but unable to drop to the ground because her hand was impaled. Turning, he faced the incoming stampede of Grue, Bitch and the four dogs.

STAMPEEEDE

While I struggled to escape, drawing my knife with my free hand while gripping the chain with the other, I sent my bugs in to assist. Same tactic as last time. My bugs drew out lines of silk and plastered them around him.

Let’s see how this goes. Taylor suggested that Mannequin would add countermeasures, and I doubt that line would even be there if she was going to just try this immediately and find out she was wrong.

I focused on his free hand and his legs, aiming to hamper his range of movement.

Something was different from last time. I wasn’t sure if I would have known just going by the naked eye. But I knew almost right away by the lengths of the silk I was drawing around him. His arms were bigger, and the weight of them was making his body hunch forward a fraction.

Both arms? I guess he added something to the one he kept too – he doesn’t seem the type to replace both arms just because he lost one of them.

I tried to scream, to call out a warning, but I couldn’t breathe to do it. I would have used my bugs to draw words, but the pair were moving too fast to read anything I threw their way.

Oh yeah, how is your oxygen supply doing?

I drove the knife at the hand that held me instead.

I’m not sure that’s going to do anything.


Bitch ordered Bentley to pounce, Mannequin raised his arm, and the deafening boom of a gun firing filled the alley.

Shit. Don’t shoot the doggo!

The shot was powerful enough that Bentley was knocked off course. Mannequin simultaneously leaped and retracted the chain that still stretched to the rooftop, swinging across the alley and escaping collision by mere fractions of an inch.

At least these doggos are a bit more bulletproof than most.

Bentley and Bitch sprawled on the ground.

I hacked at the hand that held me again while Grue threw darkness over the pair of them.

Well, this is going just peachy.


My swarm-sense gave me a picture of what happened next. Grue dodged to one side, and Mannequin followed him, his arm unerringly moving to follow his target. My bugs were then blown out of the air as another shot was fired at Grue and Sirius. I could feel it spread out, hitting multiple points on the pair of them.

Ouch.

A shotgun?

Lucy pounced from where she’d been moving in Sirius’ wake, and she landed half-on top of the chain that held me.

I’m not sure that’s a good thing?

I surged another three or four feet up, and the hand caught where it fixed on a loop of metal that had been sunken into the corrugated metal of the roof. This was where the chain was threaded.

Ah, I guess he placed that there in advance himself.

I hacked at the hand again, while gripping the metal loop.

Oh, nice, she’s got a way to avoid immediately dropping if Mannequin lets her go.

The knife caught inside a joint, and I worked at it, trying to bend it or pry the joint apart. I couldn’t really see what I was doing, and the bugs I had on the surface of the hand weren’t as useful as I’d hoped.

Mannequin, spelling with Scrabble pieces: “STOP BRKING MY HANDS”

Skitter, spelling with bugs: “nah”


Below me, Lucy and Mannequin fought, the smaller Bastard dancing around the edges, trying to find an avenue for attack, or hampering Mannequin’s movements. Lucy managed to get on top of him.

The doggos have by far the best chances out of anyone here to actually deal damage to Mannequin.

A third gunshot sounded. There was a long pause, where nothing and nobody moved, and then a fourth gunshot. Lucy slumped over, crashing on top of Bastard.

Shit.

Is she dead or just incapacitated? They’re only somewhat bulletproof, after all. Or, not exactly proof, per se, more… spongy?

Mannequin stood, taking a moment to use a knife to cut at the threads that wound around his arms and legs. When he was done, he disconnected the chain that ran to the hand that held me aloft. I was left hanging from the metal ring.

Well. It’s pretty clear who’s winning so far. How do you turn this around, Taylor?

I suppose the first step would be making your way to a less precarious position.

He watched me for several long seconds, his head raised. He abandoned his grip on the back of my neck, and his arm dropped into his waiting hand.

“I’m not letting you keep another one.”

The chain fed through the metal loop, running over my fingertips, before it was gone.

A few seconds passed, and I realized he was still staring up at me, one finger pointing at me.

“You. Come down here already. Splat into the ground for me.”

Or just about anything else. That point could mean a lot of things.


Me? He wanted something from me?

No, he turned away, striding past Amy, who was still impaled to the wall by her hand, and stopped when he stood over Bitch.

Maybe the point meant the exact opposite of what I suggested. “Staaay. Good worm.”

Drawing another knife from a point I couldn’t see on his body, he stabbed Bentley in between the eyes.

Welp.

Hang on, weren’t Bentley and Bitch covered in Grue’s darkness? Can he sense through it? Is he stabbing the right head?

He turned to look at me one last time, and then he was gone.

Well, then. That happened.

I’m really not sure what he was trying to accomplish here. Just prove that he could beat Skitter and co.?

Either way, I doubt Bitch is going to be pleased.


My hands were tired from riding the dog, and while my gloves afforded me some traction on the metal loop, the fabric seemed to slide under my sweating fingers. I tried to haul myself up enough to get one leg over the edge of the roof, and nearly lost my grip.

And on the rooftop stands Lung.

My hands wouldn’t give me enough of a hold, and I didn’t trust my knife to bite deep enough into the concrete to serve any better. I let it fall and raised my other hand to the metal to get a better grip.

Again, I tried to swing one leg up. This time I got it over the roof’s edge.

You can do it!

I ran pell-mell for the door that led into the crowded building below me, using bugs to get the general shape of the hallways and find my way. Some people shrieked as I ran into and through the crowd, out the front doors and back to the alley.

Heh. “Just passin’ through, don’t mind me, just a supervillain in motion, y’know. See ya!”

Grue was standing, pulling the knife free from Amy’s hand so she could slump to the ground. Bitch knelt on the ground beside Lucy, while Bentley lay on the ground, the knife still embedded in his skull, and both Sirius and Bastard hung back, limping as they moved, blood leaking from a dozen dime-sized wounds in their flesh.

This… could’ve gone better.

I’m not sure how convincing this is going to be on the “we can protect you” front.


A low growl tore free from Bitch’s throat. But I knew before I looked that Lucy hadn’t made it. Two shotgun blasts directly to the chest cavity.

You’ve done it now, Mannequin. When Bitch is through with you you’ll be down a lot more than just a hand and a head.

I didn’t know what to say.

“You led him right to me!” Amy accused us, sounding more than slightly hysterical.

Pretty sure he could find you easily anyway, thanks to Cherish, but it’s a fair enough reaction.

“I… he slipped past the silk tripwires I put around the area. And they can find you,” I said, the words clumsy, made worse by my sense of disorientation over the surprise attack and the distraction of the pain in my neck. “Anyways. They can find you anyways, with Cherish.”

Yeah, that’s what I said.

“My hand. Hurts,” Amy said, ignoring my fractured explanation.

Real shame she can’t heal herself in this situation.

“Heal yourself,” Grue said. He wasn’t looking at her. His attention was on the knife he’d pulled from her hand.

Did you even hear what I just said, Grue?

…wait.


“I can’t! I’m immune to my own power.”

“Calm down,” he said. “Panic won’t get us anywhere.”

That’s true. Honestly, it seems to me that panic would – in addition to its mental effects – worsen whatever bleeding there may be.

“Fuck you! Fuck you all!” Amy said. Then she ran. I didn’t have the air in my lungs or the heart to chase her, and both Grue and Bitch were too hurt to give chase. I could run and catch up, sure, but what would I accomplish?

We were so close.

Hm. I guess maybe Mannequin stepped in because Taylor was trying to help Amy? If disrupting that and admonishing Taylor for trying was his goal, I suppose he succeeded.

For now, it was better to be here, with my teammates, and make sure they were okay.

“She’s dead,” Bitch said, quiet.

Lucy, or Amy?


“I’m sorry,” I replied. “We’ll get them, okay? We’ll fuck them up.”

She looked at me, and the anger and hatred that had colored her expression before was gone. She looked forlorn.

😦

Sad doggo.

Grue handed me one of the knives, then handed one to Bitch.

It was short, only four and a half inches long, and there was a word inscribed on the steel with a smoky texture, so the six large capital letters and the row of smaller characters were pale against the gleaming, bloodied steel.

Ohh. Messages in knife form.

I guess they’re what you call sharp words.

CHANGE.
2200/2012164

I guess this is his way of telling Amy and Bitch what his trial is? “CHANGE” seems straightforward enough, but what’s with the numbers? I could see it as a time and date – 22:00 on the 16th of April, 2012 – but that time is almost a year in the future, so it’s surely not the deadline for his trial.

“Bitch has her deadline for her test, and Amy does too. Ten in the evening, and I think it’s for tomorrow. Jack said his test always involved someone changing themselves in a way that costs them something.”

Alright, so I guess I was sort of onto something with my reading of 2200, but what’s the rest?

“I’m going to kill him,” Bitch growled. “Fucking tests. Killing Lucy, stabbing Bentley.”

Sounds like she’s not so interested in seeing what it’s all about anymore.

(#or perhaps the 20th of January 2164)


A minute passed as we pulled ourselves together, checking our injuries.

Would’ve been nice if Panacea hadn’t run off, huh.

“He left me alive,” I said, as the realization dawned on me. “He didn’t kill any of us, but he had an excuse and the ability to kill me. Why didn’t he?”

Hmm… maybe he’s got a more brutal, perhaps personalized, revenge in mind?

“The world revolves around you, doesn’t it?” Bitch snapped.

You’re one to talk.

I was trying to think of how to reply to that when the thought struck me. The world, my world. My people.

Yeah, that’s something that came to mind re: personalized revenge, too. I should’ve mentioned it, and probably would make a followup post on it after this one if it hadn’t come up.

Killing the people of Skitter’s territory while she’s off to other places would be the most Mannequin-esque thing to do to get back at someone who helped them survive and clearly cared a lot about keeping them alive.

Mannequin had been nearby when I was in my territory.

Waiting for Taylor to leave, perhaps?

“He’s going to hurt me by going after my gang.”

I was thinking less specifically than that, but it’s the same idea.

This neatly ties things together, too, giving further Arc relevance to the look we got at Skitter’s expansion last chapter. Chekhov is pleased. 🙂


Re: 2012164, it’s worth noting that even if it’s a mistake on Wildbow’s part, caused by writing the chapter in 2012 rather than 2011, the only parsing that works when treating the 2011/2012 part as the year gives a date that I’m pretty sure is much closer to Gestation than to Snare.


End of Snare 13.2

Manny, I got your number
I need to make you mine
Manny, don’t change your number
201-2164
201-2164
201-2164
201-2164

(don’t call that)

…wait… what if that’s actually what it is? Although it’s not like Mannequin can actually answer over the phone.

Anyway, this was a neat chapter. Some minor development on the Imp-Grue conflict, a skirmish with Mannequin that went super well (depending on whom you ask), and most importantly, we got some excellent development between Amy and Skitter! Just a shame Mannequin had to ruin the moment.

Next chapter, I guess it’s back north to deal with the threat Skitter believes Mannequin poses to her gang – which legitimately seems like something he’d do, but let’s not forget the Arc title. I’m sure there’ll be some form of trap sooner or later, whether it’s set up by Mannequin, Cherish or Skitter.

So yeah! See you then!

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