Snare 13.3: Dude. Your Breath Stinks

 

Source material: Worm, Snare 13.3

Originally blogged: June 20-22, 2018


Howdy! Krixwell here, ready for another session of Worm liveblogging!

*sits down*

So.

When does the liveblogger guy show up?

Oh wait, that’s me.

I should probably go up on the stage and start liveblogging.

Hello! It’s time for me to read the next chapter of Worm, 13.3! Last time, stuff happened and it was good. This time, hopefully more stuff happens and perhaps it’ll be good too.

More specifically, I think this chapter will deal with Taylor wanting to go back to her territory to defend her gang against Mannequin. I’m not entirely sure she’ll have the opportunity to (just a minor hunch, no real reason) – though if she does, Bitch, Grue and Genesis ought to be with her to help out.

It’s also possible that Imp will show up by the end and tell the others about Cherish’s deal. Or maybe we’ll put that off for later, or the deal might be such that the others don’t need to know. I doubt that last one, though.

So yeah, that’s what I’ve got in mind going into this chapter. Let’s find out how wrong I am!


How the hell was that motherfucker that fast?

I suspect the motherfucker is–

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–no, not that Motherfucker. I suspect this motherfucker is Mannequin.

Taylor asking herself this suggests she’s either following Mannequin, or she just arrived at her territory to find him being already there.

I’m guessing the latter.

He wasn’t even trying to avoid my bugs, so I had a sense of where he was as Grue, Bitch and I tore down the street on our dogs.  I rode behind Grue on Sirius, my arms on his shoulders, while Bitch rode Bentley, Lucy’s corpse lying across her lap.

Ah, nope, the former.

And I think he’s not trying to avoid her bugs because he’s deliberately clued Taylor in on what he’s planning, and wants her to follow him, all so she can see it happen.

We’d lost a couple of minutes as we helped Bitch retrieve Lucy’s real body.  It was eerie to see.  When the dogs grew, they really appeared to be adding mass, literally growing and stretching.  Somewhere in the transformation, after they weren’t recognizable as the animals they had once been, their real bodies were reformed inside a placenta-like sac.

…huh. I suppose that’s why they can be injured and not have it carry over, and why they can shed their new mass.

So when a hellhound dies, does it not revert, meaning that to get the real body they had to get it out of the hellhound casing?

Mannequin’s gunshot had opened a hole in Lucy’s chest and penetrated that membrane to kill the real dog within.

Ahh. So is it not possible to kill a hellhound without breaking through the placenta sac?

Or more interestingly, could you kill the hellhound without killing the dog inside, allowing you to dig out a living dog from the dead flesh?

We’d used my knife and Grue’s raw strength to help pull the dog free in a grim sort of anti-childbirth.

I’m afraid she’s stillborn.


It might be seen as a waste of precious time in a crucial moment, but I doubted we would have had Bitch in our corner otherwise, and without her, we wouldn’t have a ride, so to speak.

That is a fair point. Besides, their ride is also their strongest offense against Mannequin in terms of raw power. If anything they have can crack his casing, it’s the hellhounds. Although Genesis might be able to come up with something.

I’d consoled myself with the fact that we had a pair of massive, muscular steeds that could outpace any car you’d see on the street, and Mannequin was limited to his two legs.

Yeah, but those are some incredibly long legs aided by Mannequin’s body being able to contort and move in ways a regular human body shouldn’t.

The thing was, somewhere around the point where he stopped trying to evade my tripwires and my bugs and picked up speed, when he really started moving, I realized he was actually faster than the dogs.

This is still impressive, though.

Mannequin covered a lot of ground with his long legs and seemingly endless energy, and he didn’t have any injuries.  The dogs, Bitch and Grue did.

Ah, yeah, that would slow them down a bit.

Mannequin had been aiming at the animals more than he’d aimed at Grue or Bitch, so the damage to my teammates was more or less limited to a few flecks embedded in the legs, buttock and feet.

And he may have done that on purpose, leaving them slowed down so he could get to Taylor’s territory before them but still let them catch up in time for Taylor to see him at work turning her gang into a pile of corpses.

The injuries were small, but one in Bitch’s stomach worried me.  There were way too many vitals that could be hit with that location, and it was bleeding worse than any of the others.

Ouch. And there’s no way she’s going to admit to any massive pain in it if you ask.


She wanted to press on, and I wasn’t about to try and change her mind.  I wouldn’t be able to stop her, for one thing, and I did want to help my people.

For once, Bitch’s unstoppable rage and Skitter’s desire to protect are working in the same direction.

Mannequin moved in a straight line, onto rooftops, down to the ground, or halfway down and through windows that had been stripped of glass, emerging from the far side.

That can’t be the most effective route, even with his mobility.

My bugs swarmed him where I could get them to, trying to snag him with lines and threads of silk and hamper his movements, but I could only get him with a small few at a time.

Yeeah, that doesn’t sound particularly effective.

He was approaching the edge of my effect’s reach, and I knew I’d lose track of him shortly.

Well. At least you have a decent idea of where he’s going?


Once I did, I wasn’t sure I’d catch him again.  He could apparently see my bugs and since our last confrontation he’d gained the ability to see the spider silk I was placing on him or in his vicinity.

I suspect the details of how exactly Mannequin’s senses work is going to be important to his eventual defeat, if it happens.

It was remarkably high-resolution vision for someone who hadn’t been able to notice that I didn’t have a pool of blood spreading out beneath me during our last fight.

Or someone with no apparent eyes, for that matter. He does have a way, or ways, to sense things like the letters on Scrabble pieces, but I don’t think it’s vision per se.

Or was his inability to see that because he was calibrated to see the small things?

Can’t see the forest for the trees? I guess that’s not unreasonable, though you’d think he’d see the movements of breath, then.


It wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t find him or catch up to him.

See, this is why I think it’s important. First during the first Mannequin fight, and now with this, Taylor’s been musing about his senses and then dismissing the issue as a low-priority thing. I do agree that she’s had more immediately important things to think about in both situations, but the fact that it’s being repeatedly discussed in spite of being dismissed like this leads me to believe that the tides will turn against Mannequin when Taylor finally realizes how his senses actually work.


“He’s veering left!” I shouted to my teammates, “Faster, Sirius!  He’s getting away!”

Of course, the other option here, other than that he’s leading them back to Taylor’s territory, is that he’s leading them all into a trap. A Snare.

I could feel a tremor in Sirius’ body, like the momentary tremor of a twitching muscle, but in every muscle.  My legs spread a fraction further apart as he grew larger, his ribs expanding further in either direction.

Nice work, Bitch.

The increase in his speed was small but noticeable.

I cast a glance over my shoulder at Bitch.  Her mask had fallen off at some point when we’d been retrieving Lucy or during our ride.  She looked drawn, the lines of her mouth and the bones of her face that much more prominent.

She’s really taking it hard.

There’s no time I feel for Bitch as much as when one of the doggos die. The result is Bitch at her most sympathetic.

Had I failed to notice she was like that before, was it pain from her injuries that did it, or was it anger?

I’m guessing a mix of anger and grief.


Whatever it was, I suspected this use of her power was drawing on reserves she didn’t have.

Which says a lot about how motivated she is right now. Normally, I’m not sure she would’ve done anything to answer Taylor’s request for more speed without a direct order, and even then she might argue.

Mannequin disappeared into the penthouse floor of an apartment building, and I positioned bugs at the very periphery of my range to prepare lines of thread and to gather so they could land on him as he emerged.

If he carries bugs out of her range, do they still stick to him? I suspect they will.

Somehow, I couldn’t say how, he emerged from a lower floor, mere seconds after he’d entered the building.

I guess he spotted the bugs and busted through the floor?

He brushed past a small handful of insects, and then he was out of reach of my swarm.

Target lost.


“He’s out of my range!” I shouted.

Nobody responded.  I had to double-check that Bitch hadn’t fallen from Bentley’s back.  She didn’t look any better than she had a moment ago, and she looked out of breath.

Hmm. I’m beginning to suspect that hit to her stomach got her good.

I expected the pain of her injuries was taking its toll.  As for Grue, I couldn’t really see anything but the back of his head and his shoulders while I clung to his waist.  I didn’t get the sense that he was about to pass out, either.

At least you’ll notice it fairly quickly if he does.

No use in responding when you couldn’t spare the breath and everyone knew what the answers would be.  We’d search for him at the last place we’d seen him.  My territory.

Oh wait, they’ve already chased him out of the territory? I suppose that explains the mention of him avoiding the tripwebs.


Giant paws pounded on the wet pavement as we raced for our destination.

Let’s see how just-in-time they can get there.

How the hell were we supposed to fight him?  If we could even find him?

He’d have some countermeasure for my bugs and my cocoon strategy.

And he seems to be fairly competent against the doggos too.

There was no way he’d let himself get caught up in the same trap twice.  Grue’s power didn’t affect him.  Bitch’s dogs did affect him, but they weren’t bulletproof.

Grue’s power doesn’t affect him? More evidence that it’s not quite vision he’s using. I do suppose that speaks against my temperature idea too, though, at least somewhat, since the darkness stops more kinds of radiation than just visible light.

I suppose we had an indication that Grue’s power doesn’t affect him in that he was still able to target Bentley while he and Bitch were covered in darkness.

By the way, every chapter of Snare so far except 13.2 has used the word “trap” at some point. I feel fairly confident in my interpretation of the Arc title, and I’m beginning to suspect the repeated use of “trap” is deliberate and meant to set off subtle or not-so-subtle warning bells in the reader, especially combined with the title.

I don’t think Wildbow intends to really surprise the reader with whatever trap is up ahead. I think he’s setting us up so most of us see it coming when the characters are about to fall into it.


That was without factoring in any additional weapons he had.

One arm around Grue’s waist, I drew my phone from my utility compartment and dialed Genesis from my contact list.

Hey, at least this time she’s not the one driving.

“Genesis here.  What?”

“Mannequin en route to my territory for some kind of revenge against me for our last fight.  How fast can you pull a body together?”

A minute or so, judging by last time?

“Two minutes.”

Yeah, that’s fair.

“He’ll be there in five.  Clear people out of the way, and put together a form that can take a beating and hamper him.”

“On it.”

Sounds like a plan.


Sierra was the first and only contact I’d entered into the phone beyond the ones Coil had put in prior to giving them to us.  I contacted her next.

Charlotte’s not on the list?

“Sierra here, boss.”

“Clear people out of the area, and contact everyone you gave a phone to, telling them to hide and take cover.  Mannequin’s coming back to make trouble.”

I suppose they decided Sierra and Charlotte should just have one phone, since there was a limited supply?

“Got it.”

I hung up.  With the jostling movement of the dog’s running, I didn’t trust my ability to put the phone away in the compartment, so I held it in one clenched fist.

Yeah… I haven’t ridden a giant dog, but I have ridden a horse, and a gallop really doesn’t make for ideal conditions to start putting something like that away properly.

During the six or seven minutes it took us to cross from Ballistic’s territory to my own, my teeth were clenched so hard I thought I’d break something, my neck and shoulders so tense they felt more like stone than flesh.

Wait.

What?

Didn’t she say her territory was the last place they saw Mannequin, implying they’d already chased him out of it once offscreen (because the last place we saw Mannequin was in Ballistic’s territory)… and then Mannequin went back in the direction he came from, with the Undersiders on his trail, and now they think he’s going for the territory again? Also, only now does Skitter warn Sierra and Genesis?

It sounds like everyone’s running in circles.

I get the feeling something’s not right here and I suspect it had to do with Skitter’s territory being the “last place they saw Mannequin”.

Maybe it’s that it’s in the direction Skitter last sensed Mannequin going? That would make so much more sense.

[It’s simple, past me: The territory is a little bigger than Taylor’s range when she’s in the middle of it, and they’re not even in it yet.]


I valued my ability to come up with answers, but my mind was empty.  I wasn’t sure how I’d deal, and the worst part of it was that it wasn’t me that was necessarily going to pay the price.

And that’s exactly why he’s taking this approach instead of just killing you.

If he really is taking this approach, anyway.

As we entered my territory, I felt strangely composed for the anxieties that tore through me, a little detached from things.

That’s a common coping mechanism for intense situations. I’m sure the emotions will wash over you again once it’s done.

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. Quite the opposite, in fact.

My bugs swept through the territory, and I did my best to recall where tripwires had been set and figure out which had been broken.  I checked on my people, using bugs to make sure they were standing and that they were somewhere safe.

Nice.

Could I sweep through my territory using squadrons of flies with dragline silk stretched out between them, to the point that he couldn’t slip past them?  It would take time to set up.

Ooh, that sounds like a really cool way to catch him!

No.  There was no need.  As I approached the heart of my territory, near my barracks, I found him, standing in the middle of the road.

Ah, hi there.


“There!” I called out to my team.  We changed direction and charged toward the street in question.  We stopped when he came into our view.

Oh, right, she found him via the bugs. That implies that he wanted to be found.

Mannequin stood in the center of the road, his back to us.  Half a dozen of my people were lying on the road, unconscious or dead.  I couldn’t see any blood.

Hmmm.

Hmmmmmmm.

I don’t trust this.

There were a couple more people in nearby buildings that had fallen as well.  How had he reached them?  Why hadn’t Genesis and Sierra been able to get everyone out?

Yeah, how and why indeed.

I don’t think this is real. I’m not sure how he pulled this off, but I think he’s staged the whole thing (although the corpses might be real?) and that’s not actually him standing there.

A quiet horror ran through me like ice water.

Genesis, too, was on the road, in the process of dissolving.  She’d taken on the form of something like a stegosaurus crossed with a scorpion, all brawn and armor plating, with a long, prehensile, wickedly spiked tail.  He’d beaten her.

…okay fair enough, that’s a little harder to fake than most of the other stuff. The dissolving, I mean.


Very little of the silk I’d laid on him was still intact.  My bugs settled on him, and began to draw out more silk, binding him.

Is “he” not doing anything about that?

Though any of the silk being on him at all does muddle it a little further. I don’t know, guys, I just… don’t trust this.

He turned our way, and his mouth opened like a ventriloquist dummy or a christmas nutcracker.  It jiggled up and down, silently, mocking.  Laughter without sound.

…mouth.

What mouth.

“Fucker!” Bitch screamed.  Then she whistled, with a volume and pitch that could make crowds stop in their tracks.  Bentley charged.

Welp, time to see what happens when you run into this trap.

The bugs I had on Mannequin began to die.

Probably not a good sign.

That took me a precious second to process.  “Bitch!  It’s a trap!”

And there we have it!

And hey, if you don’t count the Interlude, I was right about how long it would take before a trap came into play, too! “Perhaps we’ll see that take shape within the next two chapters,” I said, at the end of 13.1 [here]. I’m going to count that as a win.


She turned to look over her shoulder, and Bentley took some cue from that, because he turned slightly.  Maybe that helped, because she hauled him into a hard left turn, wheeling around.

Nice, she’s actually listening.

Whatever it was that Mannequin was doing, it spread fast, knocking my bugs out of the air and reaching out past Bitch and Bentley before they realized the threat and started running away from him.

Though perhaps a little too late?

“Get back!” I shouted.

Bitch urged Bentley into a run.  They made it four steps before Bentley collapsed.

Well, fuck.

Tumbling to the ground, Bitch landed and couldn’t sustain her own weight with her injured leg.  She landed flat on her stomach, and then began making retching sounds as she gasped for air and continued to crawl forward.

Air… is he somehow removing the air around the possibly fake Mannequin (the mouth might just be an addition he decided to make to his new head), causing the bugs, Bentley and Bitch to suffocate?

I do suppose managing the air in and around his casing falls under the coverage of a biosphere specialty.

Mannequin’s mouth continued jittering up and down, and he took a step closer to us, his hands upturned at his sides.

Okay, yeah, I think this is real.

I’m honestly surprised he’d add the mouth. Isn’t he interested in looking inhuman, that being part of why he didn’t have facial features?

It seems like he might’ve added it specifically so he could “laugh” in Skitter’s face like this.


Gas.  Colorless, scentless, swift to spread and it incapacitated in seconds.

…oh yeah, that makes a little more sense.

If my bugs were any indication, it also killed its victims shortly after.

To be fair, their bodies are small, so they might not be able to handle as much as bigger victims? I guess? But yeah, not worth risking that.

Also this explains the lack of blood and the access to people who shouldn’t be in his reach. It’s coming together now.

I looked around, hoping and praying for some sort of outside assistance.  Nothing.

Sorry, you haven’t been that lucky since Gestation. Back then the deus ex machina was excusable as the story was still in the setup phase. Right now, not so much.

It was down to me, Grue, Sirius and Bastard.

Hm. Maybe Bastard could have some sort of added benefits from being a wolf instead of a dog, to reinforce the idea that it’s what her power is really meant for?

Probably not enough to take down Mannequin on his own, but enough to help.

Bastard looked unnerved.  His master and alpha were out of action.  He took a step forward, then back.  He was unnerved by Mannequin, and I suspected he could smell the gas.

Aw, poor doggo.


“Bastard!” I said.  He whipped his head around to look at me.

Bitch doesn’t like it when Skitter orders her doggos around, but this is kind of a special circumstance.

Here’s hoping that Bitch trained him well. 

Yeeeeah… I’m not sure.

She hasn’t had him all that long, for one thing.

“Get your master!  Go!  Fetch!” I pointed at Bitch.

Bastard turned, started forward, and then stopped.

“Uh. Should I be taking orders from her?”

“Go!  Fetch, fetch!”

He bolted.  Mannequin continued walking slowly towards us.  He didn’t move as Bastard approached and picked Bitch up by the back of her pants.

“Yeah, that’s fine, you can have her.”

It would be so easy for him to simply shoot Bastard and slow him down long enough for the gas to take effect.  He didn’t.

I guess he doesn’t particularly care about the dogs.


“Bastard, come!  Come on!”

The puppy ran back to us.  There was nothing we could do for Bentley.

😦

I hopped down and grabbed Bitch as Bastard came back to us.  He growled as I approached, but he didn’t protest as I took Bitch into my arms and dragged her back toward Grue and Sirius.

I suppose Mannequin wouldn’t want to actually kill Bitch before the deadline of his trial. Killing a candidate who hasn’t failed your test seems like a faux pas.

Grue didn’t dismount, but I doubted he would have managed well if he had, given his injured leg.  I tried to ignore Mannequin’s steady approach as I propped Bitch’s limp form up against Sirius’ side long enough to lift her arms up to Grue’s waiting hands.

Grue hasn’t said anything in this chapter yet. I suppose he hasn’t really needed to, but still.

Together, we hauled her up so she was lying astride Sirius’ shoulders, just in front of Grue.

“Gas,” I muttered.  “There’s a cloud of gas around him.”

Looks like it might be about to change, with Taylor talking to him.

“Fuck me,” Grue said.  “I’d hoped we could at least hit him.”

Yeeah. He’s protected himself against the only things you had that could damage him, with this.

I looked at Bastard.  Too small to ride.  He was the size of a pony, but he wasn’t built for riding in the same way, and the spikes and bony plates that covered him were too densely packed for me to find any sort of flat patch to sit on.

A pony, you say?

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Judging by a different image showing the difference between a horse and a pony, that dog actually looks like it’s an appropriate size for Bastard.

I reached for the chain that trailed from his muzzle.

Hmm, what are you going to do then?

(#mlp #not actually #mlp:fim #this time
#this is g1 #where there were actually humans around
#there are humans in g4 but the only time we’ve seen one together with a pony is in a blooper reel
#because ponies turn into humans when they go to the human world and vice versa
#there is evidence to suggest that the top of a g4 pony’s head reaches roughly to their human counterpart’s waist though)


[End of session]


Huh. I forgot how early in the Wheel of Time series the Gray Men / Soulless were introduced. I’m listening to the audio version of the third book in the series and the concept of them was just introduced, only a few days after I read Aisha’s Interlude.


[Session 2]

Boop. Let’s go!


He growled again, vicious.

I was taken aback for half a second.  Then anger set in.  I barked, “Enough!” and I snatched up the chain.

Well, I suppose there is that whole firmness thing.

He growled again, and I hauled on it.  The way it was rigged, it looped around his snout so it would tighten around the end of his nose when the chain was pulled.

…huh. I guess that’s one way to make up for the fact that the doggos can easily overpower Bitch.

It was like a choke collar, but focused more on the sensitive snout than on the throat.  He recoiled and tried to pull away, and I tugged again.

I’m not gonna lie, though, it doesn’t sound particularly nice.

This time, he went still, resisting less.

“You’re with me, puppy,” I said, pulling on the chain as I backed away from Mannequin.  “Grue, take Bitch and get to cover.  I can’t see inside your darkness so long as that gas is wiping out my bugs, and he isn’t bothered by it, so remove it as fast as you apply it, but try to push the gas away or displace it or whatever.”

And on that day, darkness quite literally swept across the neighborhood. Repeatedly.

“We need a plan to win this,” he said.

Right now, she’s at least doing what she can to help you all survive this.


“Priority one is surviving until we think of one,” I replied.

Yes, exactly.

“Genesis will be back in action in a few minutes.”

That ought to be good. In this sense, her power is really good, since if she’s taken out, she can “respawn”, at least until she’s worn out from using her power.

“A few minutes is a long time.”

“I know,” I looked at Mannequin again.

But yeah, that’s true. It’s about how long several chapters worth of Parasite took.

He’d closed his mouth and was standing still.  I pointed.  “You go that way, I go this way.  Keep an eye on the sky.  If there’s trouble, we signal each other.”

I wonder if the mouth is completely cosmetic or if that’s how he releases the gas. I suppose it would make sense for him to have built this new ability into his new/repaired head.

He nodded once.

“Go!”

Here we goo.


We split, and Mannequin broke off, chasing Grue.

…huh. I guess maybe he wants to get rid of the interlopers first so he can really focus on Skitter when the time comes.

I headed the opposite way.

Think, Taylor, think!  Mannequin was a smart guy.  Everything he did would be calculated to achieve some specific goal.

Sounds about right. Right now, the overall goal is revenge, but his more specific way of going about that seems to go deeper than just plain killing Taylor. I think he wants to get her on her own so he can make her suffer first.

Why was he here?  He wanted to hurt me.  He wanted to hit me where it hurt, and he’d done it.  He’d killed no less than ten of my followers.  Charlotte and Sierra could easily be among them.

I certainly hope not. They both have great potential and I’d like to see their characters expanded on further in the future.

He had let us find him because he wanted to bait us into a trap.  It had worked against Bitch, for the most part.  She wasn’t dead, I hoped, but she was out of action.

Yeah, I don’t think Bitch is going to get taken out permanently just like that. She’s at risk due to her involvement in the nomination plot, but that involvement also seems to give her plot armor. If it kills her, it’s too early.

Besides, it would be an anticlimactic way to go for such an important character, though that didn’t protect Kaiser.

What about the small stuff?  The little things?  After he’d caught Bitch, he hadn’t shot her, and he hadn’t shot Bastard when the puppy was making its rescue attempt.

I think this makes sense, since I think it would be a faux pas to deliberately kill her before she failed his test.


Why?

He could have been conserving ammunition.  What was that term for ‘the simplest answer is often the correct one’?  It didn’t matter.

Occam’s razor.

I’m not sure how well it applies here, though.

It was possible.

I moved my bugs closer to Mannequin, to test his presence for gas.  Only a few perished.

then perish.png

Seems like an improvement.

There wasn’t much, if any.  His mouth was closed.  He was catching up to Grue.  Grue must have noticed, because he directed Sirius up into an alley and towards a roof.

Hmm. Now he might be conserving ammunition – he probably has a limited amount of the gas.

Mannequin stopped and raised one arm, then fired.  My bugs felt the concussion of the shot, but no reaction from Grue and Sirius. There was a pause, then another shot.  Again, no reaction.  Two misses.


Okay.  So Mannequin was shooting now, when he hadn’t been before.

There goes the conserving bullets hypothesis.

Were there other clues?  What had changed after he’d closed his mouth?

Less gas?

He’d started running, for one thing.

…hm. Is he running from something, too?

Or maybe he’s running because he’s out of gas and therefore less protected?

So he hadn’t been running, he hadn’t been shooting…  What had been holding him back?  It could have been him trying to look intimidating, but he could have achieved the same ends by shooting Bastard and making me watch Bitch die.

Another explanation re: not shooting might be that the gas could ignite.

He could have been just as scary running towards us as fast as he’d sprinted from the ambush site to my territory.

Probably more scary, honestly.


The gas.  If the gas was coming from his mouth, and he was being careful in how he moved, that meant there was something about the gas.  I even had an idea about what it was.

Hm, perhaps moving quickly in the gas might cause it to harm him somehow?

Maybe he hadn’t wanted to blow himself up.

Yeah, I was honestly still more on that train.

He’d been invested in terraforming, once upon a time.  Making inhospitable environments hospitable.  Chances were he was loaded down with custom-made organisms that were primed to generate the gas he was using, maybe even storing it in a compressed form.

Ohh, yeah, that makes sense. Now how do you use that to stop him?

Given his tinker abilities, they could be advanced enough to account for the sheer volume of the gas.  It could even be how his guns operated: with compressed, combustible gas used to fire the shot.

Sounds legit.

There was no way to say for sure, but my gut told me I was right or I was pretty close to the mark.

Taylor is usually right when it comes with an explanation like this, though that’s more of a narrative thing than an in-universe gut feeling.

His actions, both the obvious and minor ones, make a complete, logical sense if I assumed he was spewing out massive volumes of flammable gas.

Yay!

And yeah, it also answers one question Taylor hasn’t asked: Why does he have a mouth now in the first place?


Could I even take advantage of that?  The amount of gas he seemed to be putting out would make for a devastating explosion.  It could potentially hurt him, but I couldn’t say if the shockwave or the blast itself would kill me or any nearby innocents.

You’ll also need a way to set it off from a safe distance while he’s in a gas-loaded position, or a way to trick him into doing it for you.

If there was enough gas, it could even damage or destroy nearby buildings.  Some of the structures around here weren’t exactly sound.

And yeah, true. The collateral damage could be devastating.

If nothing else, it gave me a clue about what to watch for.  It also gave me a last-ditch weapon if things really went south.

I guess that’s a fair way to look at it.

I ordered my bugs into the building I’d designated as my people’s barracks and collected some small items with silk and clouds of bugs working in unison.

Oh, what are you doing now? Looking for lighters or things you can fashion into one?


A spear of darkness soared towards the sky.  When it lost momentum, it began billowing outward and drifting slightly with the wind. A signal.

A dark beacon!

What’s up, Grue? Did Mannequin catch up?

Did Timmy fall down a well?

If so, goodTimmy is responsible [here] for all the deaths in Extermination, after all. He can stay down there for a while.

“Come on, Bastard!” I ordered.  I bolted for Brian’s location.  I crossed the street, glancing at the fallen Bentley, and I headed toward an alley.

RIP Bentley.

My bugs crossed paths with me, and the items made their way into my hands.  A cheap plastic lighter and a packet of matches.

Got it in one!

Well, not the matches, but they follow the same basic idea.

I stashed the matches between my belt and my hip and slid the lighter into a small pocket in my utility compartment.

The matches are probably more useful than the lighter, since they can be lit and then thrown. To do the same with the lighter, she’d probably need to bind the button somehow. (I suppose she could do that with spider silk, but the silk doesn’t handle heat very well. Which is one of several reasons Taylor should avoid getting into a fight with Sundancer.)


I really hoped I wouldn’t have to use them.

I give it a 92+% chance she’ll have to use them.

Entering the alley, I swept through the area with my bugs, directing them to extend outward with lines of silk between them.  They were gathered close enough to one another that Mannequin wouldn’t be able to avoid them.

Nice.

I found Mannequin and the black smudge of Grue’s form at the opposite end of the alley.

Having one’s body described as a “smudge” sounds somewhat concerning, even if it’s because he literally makes a cloud of darkness around himself.

Sirius and Bitch were a distance away, both sprawled at the base of a building, covered in rubble.  I wondered how this scenario had unfolded.

Hm. Maybe Mannequin managed to get a hit in on Sirius and control was lost, causing him to tumble into the wall. Perhaps Grue managed to jump off just in time.

How had Mannequin hit them that hard?  Grue had reached the roof, the last I saw, and I’d missed what came next because I hadn’t wanted to lose precious bugs from my swarm by getting them gassed.

I suppose the alley walls make it difficult for Mannequin to really swing his chain arm.

Whatever had occurred, Mannequin had turned the tables and brought them back to the ground, hard.

Oof.

(When I first read this sentence, I briefly thought he’d brought the tables back to the ground.)


Mannequin looked at me, and his mouth was open, engaged in that same shuddering up and down movement as before.

Shake it!

I raised one hand to the fabric that covered my nose and mouth and backed away.

Probably a good call.

Were Bitch and Sirius close enough to be getting gassed too?  I could feel bugs crawling on them.  Both were breathing, though Bitch’s breaths were rapid and hoarse.

The bugs remaining alive is a good sign too.

My bugs were alive, as well, which meant they were safe where they were.

Yes, I already said that.

A quick test with my bugs told me the cloud around Mannequin was small, with a radius of about four or five feet.

I guess he already spent most of his built-up gas for the initial cloud that Bitch ran into.

There was no gas around me, either.  The bugs on me weren’t suffering, and they’d be the first to die or feel symptoms.

Smaller bodies, more susceptible. Makes sense to me.


But Grue?  Grue had surrounded himself in a thick cloud of darkness, to the point that I couldn’t make out his arms and legs in the midst of it.  From what I could gather, he was getting some benefit from it, and was pushing the gas away.  How long could he sustain that, though?

Hmm.

We haven’t really seen any limit to how much dark gas he can produce, but there might be a time limit on how long he can match the pressure from Mannequin’s gas, as Mannequin continues to produce more of it. However, Mannequin’s gas is affected normally by fluid dynamics, while Grue can control his darkness.

Was the darkness filtering it out, or was he holding his breath, slowly suffocating?

…right, that would be bad too.

“Mannequin,” I said, sounding a million times more calm than I felt.  “You’re going to back off and you’re going to let him go.”

Let’s see if Taylor can bluff convincingly and make him think she’s going to throw a match into his cloud. (At least I think that’s where this is going.)

Although, knowing the cloud is small, she actually might do it.

He cocked his head to one side.

“I am?”

I raised the matchbook and, after checking again that my bugs were gas-free, lit it.  A handful of my bugs carried it into the air.

I said “throw”, but this possibility did occur to me a little bit back. I just forgot to acknowledge it.

This is basically Taylor’s way of “throwing”, anyway.


“Or I light you up,” I said.

Could I?  I believed I could.  Maybe it was fatigue speaking.  Maybe it was the grim recognition of the fact that Mannequin had spoiled any hopes I’d had of winning Coil’s respect and saving Dinah when he’d murdered the people in my territory.

…are you sure that’s why you care?

He’d singlehandedly destroyed my reputation and dealt a grave blow to the thing that had been driving me forward.  Maybe a teeny-tiny part of it was hopelessness, knowing that I couldn’t beat him otherwise.

Look, I’m on record as saying I don’t think any of the Slaughterhouse Nine will die until at least further into the nomination game, so I think she’s either going to think herself out of it or it’s not actually going to kill him. But do I think she should do it? Absolutely.

So yeah, if he was going to snatch my hopes of saving Dinah from me, if Bitch and Grue were about to die anyways, I could turn the tables and blow us all up.

…right. That’s a bit more concerning.

She’s basically considering taking Mannequin out in a suicide attack in part because he messed with her chances of saving Dinah. Seriously, Taylor, I absolutely think this fucker needs to die, but that’s a super shitty reason to take yourself and four of your friends with you.

(Yes, four. Sirius and Bastard are doggos and thus friends by default.)

I might not save Dinah, but I could save all the people Mannequin would murder otherwise in the course of his career.  No bluffing.

This is true, though. Where was this logic when you beat him the first time, or when you considered taking out Jack?


He stepped back, and I realized his foot had been on Grue’s chest.

I don’t blame Taylor for having a hard time keeping track of Mannequin’s various appendages.

I watched as Grue stood and then began limping toward me.  Bastard growled and tugged on the chain I held.

Somehow I feel like Bastard is going to be important to whatever solution this situation has? I’m not sure how, though.

I was in the process of reaching out for Grue to help steady him when I saw Mannequin move.  He closed his mouth, raised one hand, and I could see a hole appear in the base of his palm.  The barrel of a gun.

Here we go again!

Wait. Is he threatening to do it himself, implying “come on, like I wouldn’t survive that better than you”?

“No!” the word was as much a grunt as anything else as it came from my throat, too choked for me to say anything normal.  I grabbed for Grue as I’d planned and I shoved him to the ground.

Good move if he’s actually doing it.

Hmm… What if Bastard being a wolf means Bitch’s power makes him more bulletproof than the other doggos?


In a movie, that might have been the heroic sequence that occurred in slow motion, where the lunatic villain missed the pivotal shot by a hair and blew himself up in the process.

And I shot. And I missed. And I shot again. And I missed again.

Now, if this isn’t that scene… not blown up, hit someone?

We’d be left bloody but victorious.

But Mannequin didn’t fire.  He was too collected to do any of that.

Fair.

This possibility is why I said “if he’s actually doing it”, if that wasn’t clear.

So now Taylor and Grue are both prone. That might be bad.

He adjusted his aim, directing his hand-gun to where I’d pushed Grue to the ground.

“No!” I said, and the sound wasn’t a grunt this time.

I mean, unless he extends his arm, wouldn’t the result be the same that way? At least if the bullet does ignite the gas. Otherwise the difference lies in killing Grue first, like I already suspected he wanted to.

I stepped in the way, putting myself between Mannequin and Grue, arms spread, half-kneeling.  Bastard tugged on the leash again as he stepped forward, and I almost fell on my face.

This super cool protective pose, and then Bastard almost removes the dignity. Heh.

I could let him go and sic him on Mannequin, but he’d almost certainly die like Lucy had.

Probably, unless I was right about him being a wolf causing him to be better protected.


“Bastard, back,” I said, tugging him to one side.  I wasn’t about to let a dog take a bullet for me.

Bitch so wouldn’t approve of that.

Besides, a part of me suspected that Mannequin was going to let me live so he could make me watch while he killed my friends and followers.

A part of me thinks that is absolutely correct.

I stared at his blank, featureless face, praying my instincts were telling me the truth.

The first rule of making yourself a human shield when you’re not actually that defensively tough (Skitter’s armor is tough, but we still don’t know if it’s bulletproof): There’s gotta be something keeping the attacker from just killing you first.


The second rule of making yourself a human shield when you’re not actually that defensively tough: Don’t talk about making yourself a human shield when you’re not actually that defensively tough.


Then he shrugged, and my heart fell.

“Eh. This is getting too complicated and I’ve got a time limit. Let’s just get this over with.”

Three things happened all at once.  The first and most painfully obvious was that I got shot full in the chest.

Time to finally answer that old questio–

Wait a minute.

We do actually know that already. Miss Militia shot her in Parasite, and if I’m not mistaken, the bullets went through – so it’s not bulletproof, at least in the softer areas.

…let’s hope this hit the harder parts.

The second was that I realized Grue was using his power to shroud us in darkness.  He’d probably started the second Mannequin shrugged.

Nice, throwing off the aim, maybe. Though apparently Grue’s power doesn’t work against Mannequin’s senses, so… maybe he’s trying to ward off the worst of the explosion that’s probably the third thing that’s happening?

The third was the explosion.

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Long, disorienting seconds passed in the aftermath.  The pain hit me like a summer rain.  There was a second of nothing at all, I realized it was starting, and then I was treated to buckets of it.

Heh, that’s a good metaphor.

Very relatable.

I writhed, my ribs screaming in agony, trying to find some position where the pain would be less and failing.  I felt like a hot poker was being shoved into the spot on my ribs where I’d taken the hit the previous night.

Owww.

“Hey, hey,” Grue said, “You’re okay.  You’re in one piece.”

Are you?

…is Mannequin?

I shook my head, unable to catch my breath.  Each time I inhaled, it seemed to double the pain.

She’s in one piece, yes, but unharmed, no. Besides, there’s not even a single bit of super-valuable pirate loot here, what the hell?


“You gotta stand, T-  Skitter.  Stand up.”

Hm. Sounds like there might be someone else around besides Grue and Bitch – otherwise he might not have caught himself like this, rule of using cape names while they’re in costume or no.

More through Grue’s efforts than my own, I was helped to my feet.  Every movement exacerbated the pain in my chest.

Except it also sounds like next to no time has passed, and Grue seems to be acting like Mannequin’s not there anymore…

I gingerly touched the site of the gunshot.  Flecks of what looked like glass fell as I ran my hand over the cloth.  Still couldn’t breathe.

Glass…?

Hm.

So here’s a thought that started forming in the back of my head a couple quotes back: What if the bullet was special in some way? Mannequin’s a tinker, he could absolutely come up with special ammunition, especially if it’s some sort of biocapsule.

The explosion had ignited every piece of rubbish at this end of the road that stood taller than the inch-high water level.  Grue and I weren’t, thankfully, blazing.  My hair hadn’t been ignited either, and perhaps most importantly, we hadn’t been pulverized by the shockwave.

Considering how close you were to the source, you’re probably quite lucky. Although I can’t imagine Grue’s darkness doesn’t have something to do with it.

…in fact I could see the darkness completely countering the shockwave, because it works similarly to sound. In a sense, the shockwave is sound.

It hadn’t been a huge explosion, but it had been substantial enough.

Yeah, seems that way.


I looked for our opponent, and I saw Mannequin virtually unscathed, lying in the shallow water.

…of course. That can’t be regular ceramic he’s using.

The blast had knocked him sprawling, but he’d disconnected his parts so only lengths of chain attached each.

I suppose it makes sense. Less resistance to the movement might reduce the damage.

An application, perhaps, of that martial arts principle.  How did it go?

“When two great forces collide, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.”
– Lao Tzu

An oak is broken by the hurricane’s winds, but the supple willow only bends?  He was already pulling himself together.

Yeah, that sounds like a good one too.

There was barely a mark on him.

“Run,” Grue said.

Good plan, but can she run after the gunshot?


I was about to voice an agreement when I saw Bastard lurch to his feet.  The chain leading to his muzzle wasn’t in my hand.

Ooh, now what’s he going to do?

Remember what I said about thinking Bastard would be important? I think that’s about to come true, somehow.

Bastard pounced on Mannequin, taking one of the villain’s arms in his jaws.  Clenching, he began whipping Mannequin around like a rag doll.

Whoo, go Bastard!

Twice, Mannequin’s lower body was bludgeoned against the nearby wall.

I’d get on Taylor’s case about attacks to certain lower parts again, but a) Mannequin probably doesn’t have those parts, and b) this ain’t Taylor’s doing, Bastard is doing this on his own initiative.

Yeah, didn’t expect us to be that tough, did you? 

Hehe. They really are a lot tougher than they look.


Mannequin turned the tables in a second.  Between one of Bastard’s shakes and the next, the villain stopped flopping around.  I realized he’d ejected the knives from his toes and staked them in Bastard’s neck and snout for leverage.

Well that sounds just delightful for Bastard.

His one free hand dangled at his side.

Moving was agony, but I was lurching towards them in a half-run before I fully realized why.  Mannequin raised his free hand and pointed it at Bastard’s left eye.

Wha– oh, going for the brain, are you.

I’m… not sure that actually works with the hellhounds? Judging by Lucy, it seems like that’s not really how their anatomy functions.

I caught his arm and hauled it back in the same moment he fired.  Bastard repaid my kindness by whipping Mannequin to one side, striking me.

This is getting into intense melee. Not quite as good as the first Mannequin fight (notably, Mannequin is making less use of the more interesting parts, combat-wise, of his design), but I like it.

Both Mannequin and I fell sprawling to the ground.

No sooner had I fallen than Grue was there to help me up.  He was slower than I was with that granular buckshot in his leg, so he’d only just caught up.

Teamwork!

Mannequin on the ground, Bastard off to one side, largely untrained with no master and nobody holding his chain, Grue and I both helping one another stand.

This is looking… kind of like a victory in the making? ‘,:?


That vibrating mouth of Mannequin’s was going again, puffing gas into the air, maybe to buy himself some breathing room from the dog.

Hey, Taylor, I’d actually be fine with you stuffing a bunch of insects into this mouth. Maybe if you stick enough in there, the corpses will clog the system?

I doubt he has a spitting functionality or a gag reflex, so he’d probably have to double over forwards in order to get them out.

“Bastard, stay,” I said.  What commands had I heard Bitch give her dogs?  “Off!”

Yes, good, speak the language he understands.

Couldn’t say whether Bastard obeyed or if he just didn’t want to attack anyways.

Heh, that’s fair.

I had to check twice to see that there wasn’t anything burning in Mannequin’s immediate vicinity.  No stray garbage to ignite the gas, sadly enough.

Do you still have the matches?

I looked behind me, and saw that the flames were raging.  Even the water’s surface was on fire.  How?  Had there been some chemical nearby, or something in the gas that transferred to the water’s surface?

Ooh…

Our avenue of retreat was shrinking.

Yes, but maybe it could be useful somehow?

I don’t know. I’m not the one making the awesome plans here.


Whatever.  I reached behind my back and retrieved two items.  The change purse was the first.  I popped it open.  A variety of quarters, dimes and nickels, all kept in place with wadded tissue, and a few small paper packets of smelling salts.

…alright. So are the smelling salts the important part here?

It was stupid to be carrying change around, really, but I’d wanted to have some on hand since it had crossed my mind during my first night out in costume.

You never know when you’ll have to change out of costume in a public bathroom with a coin deposit slot.

I grabbed a tissue and tore it, once, then twice, until I had a series of strips.  Then I ignited them with the lighter, the item I’d grabbed with my other hand.

Ah! She doesn’t have the matches anymore, but she can’t throw the lighter and expect it to stay lit, so she’s using the paper strips as “matches” for the bugs to carry.

Dragonflies gripped the burning tissues in the instant I let them fall from my fingers.

Dragonflies have got to be the most appropriate bug she could possibly use for a fire-based move, just for their name.

In English, anyway. In Norwegian they’re more appropriate for the kind of thing she did to Lung and Clockblocker, being called eye-stingers.

I know they don’t actually sting, let alone sting eyes, but hey. As far as I know they don’t exactly breathe fire either.


Mannequin shut his mouth, stepping back.  Half of the tissues went out or were dropped by the burned dragonflies before they got close enough.  Which meant that the other half made it.

Well, I guess it won’t result in an in-mouth explosion, but it should still be pretty near him.

The gas ignited for a second time, but I didn’t get to see it.  Grue shielded us with his darkness once more.  Whether it was to dampen the shockwave or keep us from being blinded by the light or something else, I didn’t know.

Possibly both.

I could only trust that it worked.  The darkness dissipated, we were standing, Mannequin wasn’t.

Good job, both of you. 😀


A whistle from Bitch’s direction and a signal that was too brief for me to catch sent Bastard forward.

Oh hey, sounds like someone’s awake!

With Bitch’s condition, I couldn’t imagine how she handled it, but she managed to pump Bastard up.  He grew to half-again the size he’d been, roughly as large as a small car, and when he bit down on Mannequin’s arm this time, he broke the material.

Nice.

If that’s not a milestone against this guy, I don’t know what is.

He adjusted his grip until he had Mannequin’s lower body and legs in a hold, but the material there proved sturdier.

I guess it would have to be, carrying his body most of the time.

Two arms in two fights, I thought, with a grim satisfaction.  The flames at our back were getting a touch too close for comfort, so I stepped forward, supporting Grue.

Maybe someday you’ll get one of his legs, too!

His arm around my shoulder, we approached as close as we dared to Bastard’s mayhem.

I think this is a victory at this point. Which means Mannequin, assuming he gets out of this alive, just lost another day. Which I suppose in turn means the time limit for his test is now outside his alloted turn.

Cherish is up next, and she’s going for a deal. I think the next few days are going to be interesting.


Sirius was hauling himself out of the rubble, with Bitch in the arch that formed with his front legs, chest, and the ground.  She stood, shaky, still breathing funny, making rhythmic facial motions like she was swallowing convulsively or gagging.

It might not be deadly unless she spends more time in it, but the aftereffects of being in a gas that knocks you out that quickly probably ain’t pleasant.

Grue limped over to Bitch’s side.  She couldn’t stand without Sirius’s support, but Sirius was shoring up the rubble with his body.  Grue gave her the support she needed and the pair of them made their way towards us.  Sirius stepped away from the wall and the rubble he’d been holding up tumbled to the ground, and he returned to his master’s side.

Good doggo.

“Bastard,” Grue said.  “Monster.  Freak.”

Uh, careful, don’t want Bitch to think you’re talking about her puppy.

Grue took Bitch’s hand and placed it on my shoulder.  She didn’t pull away.  Once he was sure we were both standing, he stepped away.

I think everyone’s too woozy to be worrying about how well they get along right now.

Bending down with an excruciating slowness, Grue picked up a piece of rubble that had to have weighed fifty or sixty pounds, roughly cone-shaped.

Gonna use that to keep Mannequin down?

Bitch seemed to follow his line of thinking.  “Sirius, hold!”

The dog lurched forward and placed both front paws on Mannequin’s body, pinning his arm and chest.

Nice. He’s still something of a threat, thanks to his extendable limbs, but he seems to be down for the count for now.

Bastard growled at the one who was intruding on his quarry, and Sirius growled back.

You’re a good doggo too, Bastard.

Bastard quieted.  It seemed he didn’t fully realize that he was bigger, more dangerous and less injured.  He was too used to being the puppy, with Sirius as the full-grown one.

Makes sense. Dog/wolf instincts probably aren’t meant to accomodate these drastic size changes.


Grue limped around the scene until he stood over Mannequin’s body.

“Ignore the head,” I said, quiet.  “Nothing important in there.  I’m not joking.  It’s a decoy.  Get him in the chest.”

Right, not just hold him down, but hurt him. Got it.

Grue nodded and hefted the chunk of rubble until it was over his head, point facing forward.

s t r o n k

Would it puncture?  Hard to say.

Worth a try.

Yeah, let’s see how it goes and take it from there.

“Do it,” Bitch growled, beside me.  “Killed Lucy.”

“Bentley too, maybe,” I said, quiet.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t know if he made it.  There was no way to save him.”

😦

I was expecting Taylor to fill in with her own reasons, but this is sadder.

“Do it,” she repeated herself.

Grue didn’t get a chance.

Fuck.

I mean, I did expect him to survive, but this is ominous.

An eruption of fire tore through our surroundings.  Not an explosion.  There was no shockwave, and barely any noise.  It was more like a push, intensely hot and brief.

…Burnscar to the rescue?

We were knocked sprawling, dog and human alike.  The agony in my ribs hit me worse than ever as I was knocked flat onto my back in the water and a huff of air was struck from my lungs.

Taylor’s torso is not having a good week.


“No,” Grue said.  “You can’t interfere!”

Not with the testing, at least, but I’m not sure the rules said anything about this?

The Protectorate?

It would be disastrous if the Protectorate-

Nah, my money is still on Burnscar. The Protectorate doesn’t have anyone local that could… hm. The rules do specifically say the Triumvirate are in town and can’t interfere, and that includes Eidolon, who could absolutely have this sort of power today. But why would he interfere with Brian attempting to shut down Mannequin? To make sure they could arrest him?

But yeah, mix in Taylor getting cut off here and I’m fairly sure it’s Burnscar, not Eidolon.

No.  I fixed my eyes on the scene.  Much worse than the Protectorate.

Burnscar tapped her finger to one side of her nose.  “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

Bingo.

Also why wouldn’t they tell, if they survive to do so? Of course, that part might be easier said than done.


“You can’t assist him.  They’re your rules.”

Hm, let’s see how the rules put it…

4.  Each tester operates independently, with no hands-on assistance from other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine.  Assistance may be bought, bartered or otherwise rendered in a hands-off manner, possibly including medical assistance, information, provided equipment and suggestions. 

Ah, yeah, I suppose that would cover non-testing confrontations too.

It’s also worth noting that against Burnscar, the Triumvirate could step in if they were here, since the rule that limits them only applies to confrontations with the active tester, i.e. Mannequin.

“Jack’s rules, not mine.  But fine,” Burnscar said.  Something about the tone in her voice: it sounded casual, but there was something in it that reminded me of Shadow Stalker and Sophia.

The casual disdain for the rules she has to follow, perhaps? The sense of “ugh, I wanted to be violent but okay”?

Also, I like how Taylor is separating Shadow Stalker and Sophia. It’s like she’s still not comfortable with thinking of that breach of the boundaries between her civilian and cape lives, the fact that they’re the same person.

Granted, I sometimes imply there’s a difference between Taylor and Skitter (it’s been getting less pronounced), but I don’t usually do it like this.

It wasn’t angry like Shadow Stalker was, but it had the same emptiness.  I just hadn’t really picked up on it in the past.

…emptiness.

Hm.


Burnscar gave Mannequin a hand in getting to his feet.  Cracks marred his lower body, and his left arm was a mess of cracked ceramic and pale gray organic pulp.  I heard her murmur something.

Maybe something about letting himself get beaten up again?

Burnscar’s a bit less open right now than the last time she had much relevance, but that’s to be expected. Last time she was visiting an old friend. This time she’s in front of enemies and a fellow member of the Nine.

Mannequin shook his head.  Burnscar said something else.

Ah, having a whole conversation.

Maybe she’s asking him to not let Jack know she helped.

He raised one hand, and Burnscar slapped it in a lazy high-five.

Heh.

She turned towards us.  “There.  He just tagged me in.  Forfeited his turn.”

Wait, what?

Well, then. I guess it’s her turn now, despite Jack’s wishes of Cherish going next.

Which means attacking the Undersiders is no longer assisting.

Fuck.

…yay they made it through the first round?


She cracked her knuckles, and every flaming piece of debris on the street became a pillar of fire, stretching vertically for the sky.  The fire snaked over the surface of the water to cut off our avenues of retreat.

In retrospect, the focus on fire in the latter half of this Mannequin battle has made for a fantastic transition into Burnscar’s turn.

“My go.  I’m taking round two.”

Well, this is a thing now!


End of Snare 13.3

This was really good.

Mannequin put in a very interesting new weapon for the Undersiders to work around, and watching Taylor figure out how to deal with that, and the teamwork between Taylor, Brian and Bastard as they blew Mannequin’s ass up a couple times, was quite satisfying.

I do feel like Mannequin could’ve made more use of some of his other abilities besides gas and gun, but to be fair, we’ve already had the first fight against him to highlight those and he did end up fighting with limited space on the sides (though exactly how limited is unclear). Also he may have been unable to protect his arms from Taylor’s spiders while extended.

And then there’s the twist at the end – Burnscar taking over Cherish’s turn in order to be allowed to fight the Undersiders right now. Welp. None of them are feeling particularly well after the Mannequin fight and now it’s right on to fighting Burnscar? And, as I mentioned in this chapter before it reminded me of Burnscar’s existence, Skitter’s costume is made of spider silk, which supposedly isn’t good against heat. Though it does seem to have survived the fire sweep Burnscar did near the end of this chapter, as well as the battles with Lung, so maybe I’m giving it too little credit.

Anyway, better hope Genesis can find the alley soon, because damn, the Undersiders need her help.

So yeah, next chapter:

firey ellen

It’s time to turn up the heat.

It might also involve barbasol, for reasons.

See you then!

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