Snare 13.6: Half-Spoken Plan

Source material: Worm, Snare 13.6

Originally blogged: July 6-7, 2018


[pre-intro]

(I’m going to try for a short session tonight, meaning two or so hours. I might try to make that kind of session a regular thing in order to mix work and blogging better, too, doing more frequent sessions but with less time investment per session. We’ll see.)


Snare 13.6

Howdy, everyworm! Krixwell here for another chapter!

So, what all happened last time? Ah yes, Taylor and Rachel had a remarkably open conversation that may have been a breakthrough in their relationship, we got some details on Genesis’ power and limitations, and Taylor pitched her plan for attacking the Nine.

Which I suppose is what we’ll be doing today! Taylor has a plan that we’re not being told (that’s good, it increases the likelihood of success on a meta-level), and by the way these things usually go, it’s time to execute that plan. This is “then I told them what we’d be trying to do” being shown instead of told, by way of seguing into them actually trying to do it.

So, how is this going to go?

In a word, “well”. I don’t really have a clue what Taylor’s plan is besides “attack, no holds barred” – though I hope it involves the shogi tactic, which I think was set up too well in the original planning chapter to be completely dropped – but since we as the audience don’t know what it is, either the plan needs to be successful, or it needs to be spelled out what went wrong and what was supposed to happen, and the former is usually better writing. Thus, the Unspoken Plan Guarantee. That said, complications will still likely arise by the end of the chapter, after most of the plan has worked out.

So yeah, without further ado, let’s tango!


“We set up and act the second they stop moving,” Grue’s voice sounded through the walkie-talkie.  “Be ready to move the instant Cherish alerts them.

Hm, looks like we’re getting a little bit of the early work, but already we might have a problem. They’re assuming Cherish will alert the other Nine, but that’s far from guaranteed right now.

We don’t actually know how things went for Imp after we left her yet, but it’s a little worrying that she seemingly didn’t show up to tell the others about Cherish’s deal yet. But she has her reasons to be avoiding Grue right now, and she is probably not aware of this plan of attack yet. Hell, for all I know, she might be in the midst of the Nine still.

We maintain unbroken line of sight over the Nine and between our squads.  Notify us and change position if you lose sight of ’em.  Everyone knows what they’re doing?”

Sounds good. These guys are slippery. The only issue is that it might make it easy for Jack to mow them down, if they leave the line of sight too unbroken.

Also worth noting here, they’re apparently divided into squads. I’m sure there’s a lot of thought put into who’s together in each squad, based on what they’re supposed to be doing in the larger plan.

Various assents could be heard through the walkie-talkies.

“Maybe I should ask if anyone’s unsure about what they’re doing?” he asked.

Yes, that might actually be much better.

There was no response.

“Good.  Hold positions.”

I guess Taylor explained her plan well.


The strategy was mine, but Grue was more comfortable than I was as a battlefield commander.  I was okay with him taking charge here.  Preferred it.

Yeah, that’s fair.

Taylor’s a tactician, a good leader of an army, but she’s not a commander.

I raised my binoculars.  Seven members of the Nine were strolling down the street.  Jack, Bonesaw and Siberian were at the head of the group, and Jack was using his knife to try to cut down anyone he saw who didn’t get under cover fast enough.

Just doing some casual roadside murder on their walk, no big deal.

It was almost an idle amusement, rather than some mission or task he’d undertaken.  Most escaped, and he didn’t go to any particular effort to chase them down, as though he were conserving his strength.

It’s probably like a car game for him. You know, the kind children play to alleviate boredom during long car rides, except instead of “punch buggy”, it’s “cut human”.


Cherish, Mannequin and Shatterbird were in the middle of the group, Crawler behind them, trailing behind with languid, casually effective movements that resembled those of a cat.

First the curled up sleep, now this… I guess the Nine have two cats on the team.

At the very back of the group, trailing even behind Crawler, was a hulk of a man who I took to be Hatchet Face.

Well, not exactly Hatchet Face anymore.

He looked like he was rotting alive, and there were grafts of flesh and mechanical replacement parts filling in the gaps.

Hey, Taylor, take a look at his back at some point. You might see something familiar.

The majority of my attention was on Cherish.  Through the lenses of the binoculars, I focused on her face.  I watched the movements of her eyes, her facial expressions, and the tension in her hands.

I’m just imagining her eyes turning to stare right at Taylor for a second.

Nothing she’d done thus far had indicated she was aware of us. Her attention seemed more focused on the handful people Jack had cut down.  As they walked, she looked down at each of the wounded and dying with the detached interest one might have for a car accident by the side of the highway.

…I suppose you’d get numb to it after a while. Hell, I don’t particularly care about these civilians at this point.

She hadn’t opened her mouth since we’d caught up with their group.

Best to keep that shut lest she accidentally say something that lets on what she’s doing with Imp. Whatever that may be.

Incidentally, I forgot to say earlier, I think Imp might show up at some point during this chapter and let the Undertravelers know about the deal at an inopportune time. That may be the complication near the end.


so wanted to jump in and save those people.  But it would be suicide.

Of course she wants to.

But yeah, if you want to succeed and survive here, you’ll have to take those losses. I’m sorry.

Our priority was stopping the Nine.

Yeah, focus on that. It’ll save more people in the long run.

Part one of the plan was simple.  Up until the point we engaged, we stayed as far away as we could while maintaining a visual and some ability to act.

This should be fine, but don’t explain too far ahead, you’ll jinx yourself. And maybe make me look silly for explaining the reason behind the Unspoken Plan Guarantee in the intro post.

We knew Cherish’s power was more effective as she was closer to her targets.  If there was any element of surprise to be had, we’d have it by striking from a distance.

Makes sense!

I spared a glance at Mannequin, changing the focus of my binoculars to the man in white.  Again, he’d replaced his parts.  His form resembled what I’d seen the first time I’d encountered him.

I wonder what new tricks he might have this time, if any.

Last time he added the gas, in part in order to take out the bugs and prevent Taylor from attacking melee. Then that blew up in his face, literally, so he’s probably abandoned that tactic, but chances are he’s tried to come up with another way to do the same thing or otherwise prevent the bugs from being effective. He’s probably also tried to reinforce his casing more if he had the materials to, in order to protect against doggos.


I turned my attention back to Cherish.  Shatterbird was saying something to her, her lips moving in the rhythms of speech beneath the glass beak/visor that covered the upper half of her face.  She was using her hands to punctuate her words.  Cherish didn’t respond.

It’s probably nothing nice. Shatterbird didn’t like Cherish even before Cherish turned out to be planning

BETRAYAL.png

and frankly, she’s kind of a bitch.

From the length of Shatterbird’s speech, I took it to be some kind of monologue or lecture.

Hmm. Cherish didn’t get caught trying to make that deal with Imp, did she?

Not that Shatterbird wouldn’t already be inclined to do this just from her previous offense. Also, if Cherish got caught, she’d probably be dead or worse already.


“Hey,” Sundancer said from beside me, “Ten or so seconds until we lose them behind that building over there.”

Better move.

A quick check confirmed she was right.  The direction their group was traveling would take them out of sight.  I picked up the walkie-talkie, “Moving forward.  You guys have eyes on them?”

“Moving forward.” made me think of chess, and by extension shogi. I suppose that only makes sense given how those games are inspired by war tactics.

“Yeah,” Grue reported.  That would be our second squad.

Oh yeah, by the way, I like that Sundancer is in Taylor’s squad.

Although it does increase my suspicion that we’ll be seeing more of her reluctance to kill on purpose.

I suspect each squad has at least one or two of the heavy-hitters.

More specifically, I’m going to guess that Ballistic is with Grue, even if there are more squads than just these two, just because they feel kind of similar, like they’ve got almost the same… energy? I don’t fully know what I mean by any of that, but they do.

“Yep,” Trickster said, from the third.

Ah, yeah, makes sense he’d get to lead one.

By the way, are they all equipped with the sort of equipment Lisa suggested getting them at the meeting early in the Arc, so she and Oliver can monitor things from behind the scenes? That would be neat, though I suppose they haven’t had much time to actually get that stuff set up yet.


I was already sitting side-saddle on Bentley, with Bitch ahead of me.

Oh, they’re on the same squad, neat.

My burned legs didn’t afford me much grip with my calves, so we’d taken a loop of the chain that surrounded Bentley and wound it under and over my lap and around my waist to secure me in place, connecting it with a carabiner in case I needed to get off fast.

Seatbelt safety, kids!

I put one arm around Bitch for further support, and scooted forward to make room for Sundancer.

Bitch, Skitter and Sundancer. Man, that combination is such a throwback to Hive. Good times.

Anyone else on the squad, or is it just these three?

“Go,” Bitch hissed the words the second Sundancer was in position.

Yeah, just these three.

Bentley lunged forward, leaping to the next rooftop and landing with enough force that I wasn’t sure I could have stayed seated if I’d been riding normally.

And this is why seatbelts are important. All of Worm to this point has been leading up to this PSA.


Bentley was more of a bruiser than the other two dogs, with his front half adding up to almost twice the mass of the rear.

tumblr_inline_pbgp1o31NQ1sxgvvn_640.png

It made him weaker at the long distance leaps than any of the dogs I’d ridden thus far, but his powerful upper body also made him a strong climber.

Ooh, nice.

It’s pretty neat that Taylor is getting familiar enough with hellhound-riding to be taking note of their stats like this.

So is this something that’s been accounted for in the plan? Did they specifically go riding Bentley instead of Sirius in case they needed to climb buildings?

It also meant he had the raw strength to carry three of us and the pair of heavy metal boxes that we’d strapped to his sides.

Ahh, that would explain it.

Our progress wasn’t fast, but we did make our way up the side of the next building, Bentley’s claws digging into the windowsills as he slowly and methodically ascended.

Ah, I suppose the climbing part doesn’t hurt either.

From that building It was one more leap and a short climb to the roof of the tallest building in the area.  I released my deathgrip on the chains and got the binoculars and walkie-talkie out.

And this is where I once again need to take a moment to process that “the tallest building in the area” is probably pretty damn tall by the standards I’m used to.

(#that’s buffsuki #it’s not canon #it’s a memetic edit)


“In position on the Demesnes Soft Tower.  Location of the Nine?”

Demesnes Soft Tower. That’s an interesting name. “Demesnes” sounds weird and also like it belongs to some Greek historical/legendary figure, and I’m not 100% sure if “Soft” connects with that (making it the tower of a company called Demesnes Soft) or with “Tower” (making it a “soft tower”, which sounds like a horrible idea).

Hmm… Looks like “demesne” (pronounced “di-MAYN” because French) is a word referring to the personal land property of a British lord of the manor. Still no clue why it’d be used in this context, but I suppose “Demesnes Soft” isn’t a half bad name for a software company.

“Lord and Tillman,” Trickster answered me.

I like Lord Street. It’s the one street that shows up frequently enough to be a decent frame of reference without a full map of downtown with street names.

If Lord Street hadn’t been one of the two here, I probably would’ve thought they were talking about buildings because I don’t regularly talk about intersections in this way.

I found the intersection.  Once I had the right general area, it wasn’t hard to spot them.

Well, at least I would’ve been corrected quickly.

Crawler was conspicuous.

Hah, yeah, I’d imagine. 😛


“Found them,” I informed the others.

Our setup put Grue, Ballistic and Sirius directly behind the Nine, along with the metal cases of supplies we’d strapped to Sirius’ sides.

Grue and Ballistic are together! Called it!

By the looks of it, it’s just the the two of them (and Sirius) in that squad. With Noelle, Oliver and probably Tattletale not being on the battlefield and Imp being forgotten, that leaves Trickster, Genesis and Regent for the third squad.

And that satisfies my prediction that each of the squads would have at least one of the heavy hitters, too.

Trickster and Regent were mounted on Genesis, who had taken a form not unlike the dogs.

Heh, nice.

I suppose actually seeing one in front of her would make it easier to imagine, so by doing this, she might’ve had more time to make the form powerful.

The trio were positioned to the Nine’s left.  By contrast, my group, with Sundancer, Bitch and Bentley, were positioned to their right.

So if I’m not mistaken the battlefield looks something like this (distances not to scale):

13.6 battlefield.png

The relative positions within each row of the Nine may be different, but the point is they’re together. Oh, and Imp might be in here somewhere.

This seems like a pretty solid setup for an ambush.


Each of us were a little over a thousand feet away from the Nine, three city blocks, give or take.

So a little over 300 meters. I’m not great with distances in general, but feet and meters are more intuitive to me than American city blocks (which is a more frequently used unit in Worm). This line actually helps me get more of a sense of how big one of those actually is. Conveniently, if a thousand feet is about three city blocks, then a city block is roughly a nice round 100 meters.

It meant my allies were out of range of my powers.  It was a drawback, but I hoped it would balance out.

Oh yeah, that might be an issue. When doubled, her power reaches about six blocks, and her closest allies are more than four blocks away right now (if we interpret “left of” and “right of” the Nine as being directly left/right).

“They’re moving with purpose,” Tattletale sounded over the walkie-talkie.

There she is!

Purpose, you say. They do seem to have a sort of formation going, even if they seem kind of casual about it.

Trickster was sending her ongoing video with a camera and directional microphone.

It’s not as fancy as the planned setup, but it’s a beginning.

“I think they’re heading to Dolltown.”

“Dolltown?”

I suppose that must be Parian’s area. I like the name.

Damn, her creations wouldn’t stand much of a chance on their own, even against Jack alone. Then again, she did put them up against Leviathan to some effect, so maybe I’m underestimating them.


“Parian’s territory,” Ballistic said.  “She controls these giant stuffed animals.  Cordoned off an area in my district before I made my claim.  I haven’t gotten around to dealing with her yet, with the Nine and all.”

Maybe if they’re lucky, they could get some backup from her.

Also apparently Dolltown is enveloped in Ballistic’s district, which means I was wrong about where Ballistic’s district actually is. Fair enough.

But yeah, Ballistic, I think you should just let her be.

Maybe Skitter could relate to Parian a bit. I mean, they’ve both been focused on defending the people of their territories, even employing similar intruder warning tactics.

“They’re probably trying to bait the heroes out,” Tattletale said, “Killing in the streets, then attacking one of the safe territories that aren’t controlled by us.”

Makes sense.

“ETA for them getting to their destination?” I asked.

“One minute,” Tattletale spoke.

Well, that’s unfortunate. I guess it’s time to attack, then!


“Moving up,” Grue reported.  “You guys maintain visual.”

Jack was still attacking everyone he spotted.  How many lives would be lost in the meantime?  Worse, would Cherish notice our presence, or would Jack look for civilians and spot one of us on a rooftop blocks away?

More reasons to attack right now.

Also I’m pretty sure Cherish knows you’re here by now. She can sense people all over town, as far as we know, maybe even further, even if she can’t manipulate them until they’re up close, and here you’ve got 7-8 (I don’t know if she can sense Genesis’ forms) noteworthy people continually following and surrounding her and her team? Yeah, she’s probably well aware that the team is about to be attacked and is keeping her mouth shut in hopes that it’ll turn out in her favor.

Going into this with the element of surprise was almost too much to hope for.

Imp may have been able to secure that for you a bit, at least. Then again, I think even if Imp hadn’t showed up, Cherish might still keep shut about the pursuers.

I put my walkie-talkie down, but I kept my eyes on Cherish.  She hadn’t spoken, and there was no change in her posture.

She might be trying her best to limit her body language too.

“Grue,” Trickster said, “Get in position fast.  I see the area where Parian marked off her territory.  If they’re going to stop, they’re going to stop here.”

Makes sense. It would be a good position for the battle to be in, too, since it’s not actually in the territory (meaning hopefully less collateral damage), but close enough that Parian might show up and help out.


I used the binoculars and found the area in question.  Yellow spray paint, rain coats and scarves had been used to form a line across a street.

You take what you’ve got.

Grue didn’t respond, but that could easily be because he was focusing on riding.  Just in case, I asked, “You have eyes on him, Trickster?”

Oh boy, let’s hope so.

“Yeah.  Grue and Ballistic are heading up to a spot where they can see everyone.  No danger.”

Good.

No danger.  It was a loaded statement.  Burnscar wasn’t here, but Tattletale was ninety percent certain that the pyrokinetic teleporter was off tracking down one of the ‘hero’ candidates or Hookwolf to give them their tests.

Hey, you’re in no position to nitpick about how the whole situation is danger, miss “I’m in no imminent danger [here] except for the two psychopaths who totally want to kill me”. 😛

Also, good to have some word on where Burnscar is, just to have that established. It’s entirely possible she’ll come back, but I don’t think she really needs to, narratively. Especially since we have all the intended targets – members of the Nine who haven’t had their turn yet – here.


My heart was hammering in my chest, and I knew that between one of these heartbeats and the next, one of the Nine could spot us.  If it was Jack or Shatterbird, we could be dead or bleeding out less than a second later.

You still think this is a good idea?

Probably.

“Set up,” Grue ordered.

I unclipped the carabiner and hopped down.

Let’s see what kind of equipment they’ve brought.

Working alongside Bitch and Sundancer, I helped bring the boxes we’d strapped to Bentley’s side to the edge of the rooftop.  We hurried back, Sundancer giving me a hand up.  I almost didn’t feel the pain of my legs with the tension and adrenaline that thrummed through me.  Or maybe that was the industrial strength painkillers Coil had provided.

…I guess the boxes are just full of the explosives?

Also I’d be wary of accepting painkillers from Coil.

I didn’t want to think about the fact that the drugs I’d taken might be the same ones that he’d used to drug Dinah.

Yeeah. At least she’s right there with me on this.


A quick sweep verified that the area around ‘Dolltown’ was largely empty of people.  The flooding was bad here, and only Parian’s place was really on high enough ground to be free of it.  Just to make sure, I asked, “Tattletale?  How many bystanders?”

Free of the flooding? That can’t be right…

“Going by the video feed?  Guessing there’s between eight and twenty people in the buildings around you.”

Not that many, really.

“Then I’m set,” I replied.  I strapped the ‘seatbelt’ chain around my waist and hips and reconnected the carabiner.  Other voices echoed mine, confirming they were ready.

So is the idea here to blow up parts of the buildings in order to trap the Nine between or underneath the rubble?

Halfway across the roof, Sundancer began forming her miniature sun.  I checked on the others with my binoculars.  Trickster and Regent were crouched at the corner of one building, and Genesis was dissolving.  Good.

Oh, I guess she’s got another form in mind for the actual battle. The doggo-like one was just better for transportation.

Doesn’t it take a couple minutes for her to show up again, though?

Grue and Ballistic were arguing.  I was pretty sure.

That’s probably not good.

I could see Grue grabbing Ballistic’s shoulder with one hand and pointing at the Nine with the other.

“What’s going on, Grue?” I asked.

“He’s chickening out.”

Ahhh. Bit more reluctant when it comes down to it, huh?

Watch as Sundancer is the exact opposite. 😛


He’s supposed to handle Cherish.  I glanced at the Nine.  No sign of anything from her.

Ah, fuck, that’s pretty critical, at least as far as Taylor knows.

She was standing apart from the rest of the group, her arms folded.

“You gonna smite the others yet or what?”

“She looks like someone I used to know,” Ballistic said, as if that was some kind of answer.

Oh, huh.

I wonder if he actually did know her specifically at some point. The Travelers used to be nomadic, so it’s entirely possible that he’s met Cherie Vasil before she came to Brockton Bay.


“Who?” Trickster asked.

“Sadie.  From seventh grade.”

Wildbow continues to heavily imply that the Travelers go way back.

But yeah, sounds like it’s genuinely just a case of similar appearances.

“Nope,” Trickster replied.  “Not in the slightest.  Your head’s fucking with you.  Get the job done.”

I suppose that’s also possible.

“But-”

Trickster’s voice was as hard as I’d ever heard it.  “Now.  Remember the deal we made.  Our promise to each other and to Noelle.  Don’t fuck this up.”

I would love to know what that promise was and how it plays into this situation. Alas, that is probably a matter for another day.

Ballistic hesitated.  Through the scope of my binoculars, I could see him holding the foot-ball sized warhead in his hands.  “She’s a human being, someone with feelings, and tastes and-”

That she is.

She’s also a fucked up mass-murderer.

Regent was the one who cut him off this time, “And she’s someone that has forced parents to mutilate and kill their kids and she made them enjoy it.  Then she left them to live with the aftermath.”

Fucking hell, Cherish.

If you want a full redemption you’ve got so much to atone for.

That’s not really how Worm tends to go, though. Her self-interested betrayal may prove critical to beating the Nine, but she’s probably not heading for a redemption.


Regent sounded remarkably calm given the situation.

“She’s my sister.  If anyone has a right to get sentimental, it’s me, and I’m saying it’s okay to off her,” he finished.

That really does say a lot. If there’s anyone here who’s gonna know what she’s like, it’s Regent.

“I-”  Ballistic broke off.

I shifted my attention to the Nine.  Jack, Siberian and Bonesaw were moving past the yellow lines.  And Cherish… Cherish was turning to look in Grue and Ballistic’s direction.

“Are you gonna off me or not?”

I could see her almost bounce in place as she got her feet under her and started sprinting, her mouth opening.

Oh, so she really did only just notice?

Or did she only just realize she was the first target?

It’s entirely possible that Ballistic’s sentimentality is the whole reason she just noticed him.

“Cover blown!” I shouted into the walkie-talkie.  Taking my finger off the button, I called out,  “Trickster, Sundancer!”

It’s go time!


And by “go time” I mean it’s time for me to go to bed. We’ll pick this back up tomorrow. See you then!

[End of session]


[Session 2]

According to the donut companies, it is time to continue Snare 13.6!

(#time is a conspiracy by the donut companies)


Sundancer sent her sun soaring around to the Nine, taking the long route so it could cut them off.

Here we fucking go.

Hey, Nine, did you remember to wear sunscreen today?

In that same moment, Trickster pointed a sniper rifle at a corpse on the street and swapped Cherish’s position with it.

That’s a really good use of the power. It can be used to put Cherish in a position that is easier to hit with the sniper rifle while at the same time surprising and disorienting her so she won’t have time to get out of the way.

Now it’s just a matter of whether a sniper rifle can actually incapacitate or kill her with Bonesaw’s protections in place.

Part two of the plan, after finding them and getting into our positions, was to remove Cherish as fast as humanly possible.  If we accomplished nothing else, our goal was to do that and then make a run for it.  It would pave the way for future attacks and it would slow them down.

Solid tactic. When she’s actually working towards the Nine’s best interests, she’s super important both as a scout/radar and as a defense against close attackers. She’s got one of the most dangerous powers on the team.

We’d left that task to Ballistic, with the idea that Trickster would take care of Jack.  Ballistic decided he didn’t have it in him at the worst possible moment, forcing us to shift roles.

Ahh, I see.

Damn him. 

I mean, yes, it was poorly timed, but are you sure you wouldn’t have similar qualms when it came down to it?

Cherish was struck by Trickster’s shot, blood spattering the pavement.  Her teammates left her behind.

That’s probably because they’re running ahead to get out of the ambush, but from just this bit on its own, it kind of sounds like they’re completely oblivious/uncaring about the fact that right in the middle of their group, one of them was suddenly replaced by a random corpse right before a gunshot could (probably) be heard. 😛


“Don’t have line of sight to Jack!” Trickster reported.

Well, that’s a problem. Can’t teleport him without line of sight.

“Hit the others,” I told Sundancer.

“You mean kill them,” her voice was quiet, her fists clenched at her sides.

Yes. Can you do it?

“Kill them, then.”  I could see the sun growing as it flew.  It was maybe eighteen feet in diameter now.

Oh fuck, that’s way bigger than we’ve seen it before, or at least way bigger than I imagined it before. The idea that it could get bigger than maybe a single foot or so in diameter never occurred to me.

“Just… just tell me there aren’t any civilians there, no bystanders.”

Tattletale?

I suppose Skitter could use her bugs, but I’m not sure the target zone is quite within range? It should be around the edge, unless they’ve gotten closer.

I looked through my binoculars.  The remainder of the Nine were making a break for it.  Mannequin and Siberian stood still, watching Grue and Ballistic, Crawler was barreling towards them, and Shatterbird had taken to the air.

Not so fun when you’re the targets, is it, guys?

It looks like big trouble’s heading towards Grue and Ballistic.

Heh, Big Trouble sounds like a nickname for Crawler.

Jack and Bonesaw were taking cover around a corner to stay out of Grue and Ballistic’s line of fire.

It seems like the Nine haven’t taken notice of the other two squads, including Trickster. They’ve heard the gunshot, but they don’t know where it came from, so they focus on the enemies they’ve spotted.


The thing that had once been Hatchet Face scooped up the wounded and anyone he could catch and deposited them with his group.

Is he not using his teleports? I feel like Taylor would’ve commented on that.

Bonesaw had a scalpel out and was cutting the second the people were in her reach.  A throat slashed here, a stomach cavity opened there.

I suppose it makes sense she’d weaponize her operation skills.

Intestines and muscle strung from one individual to another, connecting them together as their faces contorted in pain.  Some struggled to stand, to strike Bonesaw or push themselves away, but deft slices with the scalpel severed tendons and ligaments.  It was a kind of grim reversal, the adults utterly helpless and weak when faced with the child.

Yeeah, when you see this adorable girl coming towards you with her tools, you’re fucked.

I considered replacing “tools” with “toys”, but no. In that scenario, you’re the toy.


We’ll never have another shot like this. 

You going to ask Sundancer to bring the sun down on the bystanders Bonesaw is operating on, possibly by lying to her about them?

“No,” I said.  I even managed to sound convincing.  “No civilians!  Go!”

Sundancer is going to be so pissed if she finds out.

“Then tell me where to move it,”  Sundancer’s eyes were closed.  “I can’t see that far.”

Certainly not with your eyes closed. Is it that you can’t, or that you don’t want to?

“Out further, left, left, left,”  the miniature sun slid twenty or so feet with every order I gave as I tracked the enemy’s position and the movements of the orb with the binoculars.  “Short bit left and then out!”

Time to make them the Fellowship of the Roasted Meat.

I couldn’t look directly at the thing, but I saw Mannequin and Siberian wheel around as the blinding light of the orb caught their attention.  Mannequin ran, and Siberian lunged forward.

Wait, is “forward” here into the orb?

Siberian, your power makes you invulnerable to forces. I doubt it applies to heat.

The orb slid out into position around the mouth of the alley and then rolled over Jack, Bonesaw and Hatchet Face.

Man, if they survive this shit, then bravo, Bonesaw. Bravo.

“Report!” Tattetale’s voice came from the walkie-talkie.  “I don’t have visual.”

Brockton Bay is having a sunny day with temperatures reaching up to 5500 degrees Celsius in certain locations. There may be some rain later. This has been today’s weather report for Brockton Bay.

(#i’m using the temperature of the photosphere because i doubt sundancer’s power creates temperatures in the millions
#and because the surface is usually what people think of when talking about the temperature of the sun)


“Sundancer just hit Jack, Hatchet Face and Bonesaw.”

“Where are the rest?”

“Crawler heading for Grue and Ballistic, Mannequin running down Tillman in Regent and Trickster’s general direction.

Regent may not be able to do much against Mannequin, but Trickster may have some tricks up his sleeves.

Shatterbird’s going for the bird’s-eye view.  I don’t think she’s seen any of us except Grue and Ballistic.”

Seems like that’s true for them all so far.

“Siberian?”

“Missing.”

Last we saw, she seemed to be jumping into a miniature sun, though it was a little ambiguous which way was considered “forwards”, so I’m not sure. It would make a lot more sense for her to have bolted into a building or something.

Shit.  Assume they’re all alive, then.  Sundancer’s power still in that area?”

Yeah, that’s a good thing to keep in mind. If this is actually killing them, it’s going too well.

I especially don’t think Cherish is dead.

Alive?  “It is.”

“Then keep it there!”

Tattle may have figured out that Bonesaw’s protections are there.


I glanced at Sundancer and she gave me a grim nod.

Crawler had reached Grue and was scaling the side of the building with surprising speed.  I’d taken him for a quadruped, but apparently his joints were modular.  His proportions were more simian, now, and he was climbing up the side of the building twice as fast as I could have run it if it were laid out horizontally.

Wouldn’t he be at least a hexaped anyway, depending how you count?

Part three of the plan had been to hit them as hard as we could.  Trickster was using his rifle to take shots at Mannequin, but I couldn’t see if it was having any effect.

I highly doubt it.

Ballistic finally decided to contribute, and fired a warhead at Mannequin.  Then he reached into the box he and Grue had unloaded from Sirius’s harness and grabbed two more.

That might be a bit more effective.

I suppose it makes sense that he’d have an easier time attacking someone as obviously inhuman as Mannequin.

He fired them into the smoke cloud that had expanded around Mannequin.

Smoke? Is that from the first warhead’s impact, or does he have a new trick that’s less explosive?

I could see Crawler reaching the edge of the roof, not twenty feet from Grue and Ballistic.

Just before reading this, it occurred to me that we haven’t gotten much contribution from Grue either after the initial commander role.

At least the darkness may be good for dealing with Crawler. Crawler is immune to most attacks and grows stronger from the ones he isn’t immune to, so attacking him isn’t the solution. With the darkness, Grue can instead make escape easier, as long as Crawler doesn’t have special senses.


I suppose if Trickster were to look up from his rifle and could see Crawler approaching Grue and Ballistic, he could also move Crawler away from them. Replace him with part of a building or something.

Part four of the plan?  Avoid direct confrontation.

Ah, yeah. Direct confrontations haven’t gone great so far.

“Trickster,” Grue said, the one word buzzing over the walkie-talkies.

Oh hey, looks like I was onto something!

Crawler disappeared, and an empty pickup truck toppled from the edge of the roof to the ground.

Nice.

Crawler was back in the vicinity of the other Nine, not far from Sundancer’s burning orb.  Blocks away from Grue and Ballistic.

I would imagine he’s immune to intense heat by now, so at least it probably isn’t going to make him stronger.

The monster lunged after Grue and Ballistic again, and was supported this time by Shatterbird, who conjured up a storm of glass shards to pelt the pair.  Ballistic retaliated by firing a warhead at Shatterbird, who prematurely detonated the explosive with a thick cluster of glass, shielding herself against the worst of the blast with another wall.

This would look awesome in motion.

She drew more walls around herself and maintained her assault.

And here I thought Assault was Battery’s.


Bitch whistled, and Sirius started bounding across rooftops to head our way.  I could see Shatterbird turn and notice us.

Hi there! That’s right, there’s more of us!

That was fine.  I sent a payload of bugs her way; wasps and bees each carrying several spiders, and more expendable caterpillars and the like that were smeared in capsaicin.

Nice. Bonesaw’s protection might be dealing with direct damage, but I’m not sure it’s going to protect against venom or pain.

I wanted to make absolutely sure she knew where we were and that she wouldn’t ignore us.

So she’ll divert her attention from Grue and Ballistic?

Crawler reached the base of the building only to be switched with yet another car, resetting his position a second time.  He roared in frustration, then turned toward the miniature sun, breaking into an all out run as he charged for it.

Rubberbanding is such a frustrating form of video game lag.

“Sundancer, switch off!”  I called out.

You think he hasn’t faced heat before? I suppose maybe not this intense heat.

The orb disappeared, and Crawler crashed through the alleyway, only barely avoiding Jack, Siberian and Bonesaw.  The edges of the alley were unrecognizable, and the walls were on fire, but the trio were untouched.

Bravo, Bonesaw. Bravo.

Siberian had Jack draped over one shoulder  and another hand clasping Bonesaw by the back of her shirt, holding her high.  The pavement was a molten liquid beneath them.

At least it might be difficult to run in? Though Siberian’s power would probably make it easier.

I clicked the button on the walkie-talkie and informed the others, “Siberian’s granting her invulnerability to Jack and Bonesaw!”

Oh yeah, I forgot that was a thing she could do.

Also I guess she is invulnerable to heat. Fair enough!


Tattletale said something, but I missed it over the roar of noise that came with Sundancer using her power.  She was forming another orb.  Everyone else was busy with their own things.

Better ask her to repeat that, it might’ve been important.

Siberian was protecting Jack and Bonesaw.  That was both good and bad.  We’d planned this strategy under the assumption that Siberian would come for us and we’d use the dogs, Grue’s Darkness, my bug-decoys and Trickster’s teleportation to keep our distance from her until we decided we needed to make a run for it.

No plan survives contact with the enemy, at least with the Unspoken Plan Guarantee apparently not being in play. Wildbow went for the other option I mentioned in the intro post, continually explaining what was supposed to happen.

All of that was in line with part four of the plan, maintaining our distance and avoiding a toe to toe fight.  In the meantime, we’d intended to use our ranged abilities to take out Jack, Cherish, Bonesaw and Burnscar.

So Siberian isn’t acting the way you planned for and she’s protecting two of your main targets. What’s the good side of this? That she’s not chasing you down?


She was protecting them, which we hadn’t anticipated, but she couldn’t do that and come after us.

I wonder if she’d do the same if Bonesaw hadn’t been one of them.

Or maybe she can.  I saw Siberian virtually toss Bonesaw in the air, the girl wrapping her arms around the woman’s neck as she landed.

Dammit, I just decided against adding “also, are you sure?” to that last section.

Holding her two teammates, Siberian sprinted for Trickster and Regent.  She was fast, but it was a speed borne of her peculiar powers, more enhanced strength than augmented acceleration.  Not so different from Battery on that count.

I guess? I had assumed it was that she’s ignoring air resistance and any other effects that would slow her down.

Air resistance and inertia didn’t hamper her in the same ways.  More than that, whatever it was that made her invincible and untouchable to any outside force, she had the ability to snap it out to affect any surface she touched.

Ohh, that makes sense. She’s essentially hardening the surface under her feet.

Her strength was virtually limitless, and the pavement didn’t shatter with her footfalls because she made it as untouchable as she was.

I suppose the “unstoppable force” part of her power description is actually a thing, not just an extension of the “immovable object” part.

So Siberian’s feet are applying an unstoppable force onto the pavement, which she’s turned into an immovable object. The reaction to that force, which is going to be equally unstoppable, drives her forward. She too is an immovable object, but she’s letting that reaction force move her.

No wonder she’s fast.


Shatterbird, meanwhile, was drawing closer, using the glass-storm to bar Ballistic’s access to the crate of explosives.  Grue’s power was serving to counter hers, and any glass that entered the darkness seemed to drop straight down like rain, bereft of her abilities.

Oh! Since her power relies on ultrasound, which doesn’t penetrate the darkness!

Momentum still carried, however, and any glass shards that entered at a high enough velocity seemed to exit at roughly the same speed.

I wasn’t sure about Ballistic, his costume was among the best money could buy, but I wasn’t sure what that entailed.  Grue, at least, should be able to endure a beating.

Yeah, he may have a low-budget costume, but he picked good things to make it out of. Not as good as Skitter, but that’s a bit of a special case.

Beneath his motorcycle leathers, he was wearing the costume I’d made for him and nearly finished.

Oh! Well that’s even better!

It wouldn’t protect his head, but his helmet would serve in a pinch.

Yeah, I was honestly mostly thinking about the helmet.


Even if they wouldn’t be cut to shreds, I wasn’t sure they would survive if Shatterbird detonated that case of rocket launcher rounds with a shard in the right place or a large enough impact.

Eesh.

“Bitch,” I spoke.  “The boxes!”

Bitch was sliding off of Bentley’s back, opening the first metal box and stretching out the contents.

Oh right, I suppose it wouldn’t make sense for them all to have explosives given how it turned out they wanted to use them.

So, whatcha got?

The case was a piece of camping gear I’d noticed ages ago, when I’d first been buying things for my costume.  A watertight case for luggage with a metal frame inside that campers could stretch out to use as a drying rack for clothes and towels.

…nice. How does it help here?

We didn’t have luggage inside.  No, the box held parts of the mannequins I’d been using for costume design.

My question still stands.

Strung together with silk, two mannequins dangled from the frame.

Bitch adjusted the way one mannequin hung and headed over to set up the other case.

The one use I can think of is as decoys, but we’ve already got the bug decoys and the shadow decoys, neither of which needs a skeleton.

My bugs had reached Shatterbird and started attacking her.  Brown recluses, capsaicin, wasps, hornets and bees.  I’d never attacked someone like this.

Even Lung didn’t have to feel the capsaicin on his dick.


Not someone who couldn’t heal.

Oh, yeah, that also excludes Lung.

I could see her thrashing, trying to stay aloft even as her concentration faltered.  The brown recluses were insurance of a sort.  If we happened to take out Bonesaw, it could mean Shatterbird was out of the equation as well.

Maybe!

The darkness Grue had generated around the rooftop disappeared all at once.  Grue and Ballistic crouched at the far corner.  Canceling the darkness was a signal.

It doesn’t sound like a good one. Retreat?

The mannequins hanging from the first rack disappeared, replaced by the two boys.

Ohh.

That’s their use! And canceling the darkness makes it so Trickster can have line of sight to them.

Grue and Ballistic disentangled themselves from the metal frames and hurried to our side.

Trickster and Regent appeared soon after the other frame was up.  I could see Siberian on the rooftop.

Did Trickster just use his power on himself? I guess that’s a thing he can do.

They’d escaped just in time to avoid being caught in a melee with her.

Yikes, that would be unpleasant.


Trickster rolled his shoulders, stretched his neck and adjusted his hat.

Heh. “Well, that was a nice morning workout.”

“Don’t waste time,” Grue growled.  “Do it.”

Oh boy, what next? Sounds like they’ve got a big finisher ready.

By the way, is Genesis on her way back in a more battle-ready form yet?

“Times like this call for a certain flourish,” Trickster said.  Trickster withdrew a small remote from his pocket and depressed the button.

Boom?

The rooftops the other two teams had been situated on virtually shattered with the explosions.  The bazooka rounds had also carried a small collection of plastic explosives.

Boom.

Since Trickster’s team had only needed the sniper rifle, their case held a hell of a lot more.

Part five done.  Baiting the hook, reeling them in, then hitting them as hard as we could.

Nice work! Now did that actually work?


It wouldn’t stop them, of course.  The only ones that explosion might have hurt were Shatterbird and maybe Mannequin, if he’d survived Ballistic’s attack and slipped around through some other angle.

Yeeah.

Ideal world, it would also slow down Siberian.  More realistically, I was hoping that they’d get pissed, and they’d get sloppy.

“slow down Siberian” is a hard phrase to process, much like “dry spot in Brockton Bay”.

I chanced a quick look through the binoculars.  Crawler was stampeding towards the site of the explosion, Cherish was still prone on the ground, bleeding out from Trickster’s sniper fire, and I couldn’t make out the others.

Hm. Lost/blurry visuals. That’s bad.

Wait, no.  I could see rubble shifting as Siberian shrugged it aside.  It was enough debris that Crawler would have been hampered, but even with her hands tied up in holding her teammates, she cast the chunks of concrete and brick aside with the same sort of ease that I might walk through a pile of balloons.

I don’t think walking through a pile of balloons is always as easy as it sounds, but fair.

She shook her head, and her hair fanned out behind her, draping partially over Bonesaw, who was riding her piggy-back.

This arrangement is still adorable.


Jack wasn’t folded over her shoulder anymore.  He was standing, holding her hand, a wide smile spread across his face.

That is probably very bad.

He said something, some exclamation, without dropping his grin for a second.

And Shatterbird?  I looked through the rubble that had been cast over the street around the building.  She was lying on the ground, struggling to her feet.  The glints of glass shards sparkled for a hundred feet around her.  I quickly tossed my binoculars aside.  They’d be a liability if she attacked us, now.

Oh yeah, don’t want parts of them entering your regular oculars.

Here was the gamble.  We’d hurt them, injured their pride, we’d maybe killed Mannequin and we’d incapacitated Cherish.  If Ballistic had been on the ball, he would have blown Cherish to smithereens.

Hmm. You know who hasn’t done much in this battle? Hack Job. With his teleports, he could’ve been a major threat, though I’m aware his range is probably significantly smaller than line of sight.

As it was, a stray bullet wouldn’t cut it.  Bonesaw’s known talents included the ability to raise the dead.

I know, right? She’s so talented! ❤


Grue used his darkness to form a dozen false-images of shadow-shrouded silhouettes on nearby rooftops.  I did the same with my bugs, but mine were animated, moving.

Grue could do that too, but probably not as precisely or multitasking…ly.

We’d have to run pretty damn soon.  There were seven of us, but only two dogs.  It was less than ideal.

Seriously, Genesis, where are you? Why’d you go and dissolve?

I’d tried to get Bitch to bring another dog, but she didn’t feel any of the others were trained well enough to bear riders.

That’s fair.

The remaining members of the Nine charged, Shatterbird rising from her position to fly straight for us, barriers of glass surrounding her.  Siberian carried Jack and Bonesaw with leaping bounds, while Crawler headed for us.

Well, that’s terrifying.


I crossed my fingers, watching intently.

I think Genesis is about to return and cut them off with some awesome form.

Two ways this could go for the final phase of our plan.

Well, three ways.  But I was hoping the third possibility -my team getting caught and slaughtered- wouldn’t happen.

Yeah, let’s try to avoid that one. So is one way that Genesis returns in time, and the other that they’re forced to run?

The first way this could play out was that Shatterbird’s flight over the buildings would make her faster than Crawler or Siberian, who had to climb or circumvent the obstacles.

That sounds unfortunate.

When I’d brought this up during the meeting, assuming it would happen, it had been Tattletale who pointed out that I was maybe underestimating how fast Crawler and Siberian could be.  She was right.  Despite her ability to fly, Shatterbird was falling behind.

Yeah, Siberian’s pretty quick and can burst through the obstacles, and Crawler’s no slouch for his size.

Which meant we went with plan B.

Maybe the B stands for Badass?

We’ll see.


“You up for this, Grue?” I asked, “I could do it.  My plan, and I was first to volunteer.”

So whatever it is, it’s something both of them could do. Something to do with the decoys, I guess?

“No, you can’t run fast enough with those burns.” Grue replied, as he hurried to the side of the rooftop furthest from the Nine.  He glanced down. “Trickster, I’m ready!”

Ah, alright.

“Just need an opportunity,” Trickster said, watching the incoming members of the Slaughterhouse Nine.  They were closing a little too fast for comfort.  Sirius had arrived, and we were all getting saddled.

Is Trickster going to replace Grue with someone? I don’t see a benefit to that, though.

Bitch, Sundancer and I on Bentley, and Regent, Trickster and Ballistic on Sirius.  At Regent’s orders, Sirius moved to Grue’s side.

Hmmm. Is it going to be something to compensate for the lack of enough dogs?

“Sooner than later!” Grue said.

“Do you want to die?” Trickster asked.

He’s just a little impatient at times. Though I guess there might be an advantage to going sooner here?

“No, but I’m willing to break something!”

So are they switching Grue and Shatterbird, resulting in Grue falling from the sky?

Again, I don’t see the benefit to that, but it sounded like Plan A relied on Shatterbird being ahead of the other two, so maybe this is their way of setting that up?


“Your call,” Trickster said.  “Three, two, one!”

Grue leaped from the edge of the roof.  In that same instant, Trickster swapped him with Shatterbird.

Hm, I suppose that might at least cause Shatters to hit the wall. Or get turned around, depending on how this works.

Wait, what if Trickster were to teleport her out of her costume? The costume is how she’s flying, so that would result in her falling towards the ground.

Also Grue would end up in a pretty glass dress on top of his regular costume (Trickster can’t teleport Grue out of his costume because he doesn’t have line of sight to Grue’s skin, making it an uneven swap where Grue would have both outfits), so that’s neat. It might be upside down, too.

She tumbled for a second, got a grip with her flight, and then steadied.

Aw.

So why did plan A require her to be ahead of the other two?

Then Regent hit her with his power.

Oh! Range considerations!

Shatterbird flew into the corner of the roof, was thrown off-balance and tipped into the gap between buildings.

Hell yes.

Wait, how is moving her body involuntarily affecting her flight, considering she’s using her brain to do that? Did Regent mess with the nerves in her brain? Can he do that?


And Grue?  I cast a glance backward.  He’d dropped out of the air where Shatterbird had been flying, landing on a rooftop a distance below.  I could see him struggling to his feet.

Ow.

“Go, go!”  Trickster screamed the words.

Hang on, just gotta wake someone up first.

So are they just leaving Grue behind? Is Genesis supposed to come pick him up?

Our mounts leaped down into the same gap where Shatterbird had fallen.  We made the usual zig-zagging descent down, leaping from wall to wall, and landed on either side of Shatterbird and Genesis.

Oh hey, there you are.

So is Shatterbird getting captured so Regent can do his thing and take control of her?

If so, that’s a good choice of a shogi piece.


Genesis looked like a cartoon caricature of a sumo wrestler, grotesquely obese and yellow skinned with eyes like black buttons.

That’s a bit racist, Genesis.

She was hairless, unclothed and sexless, and her skin was translucent and oily.

She sounds like a mixture of a gorilla and Gregor.

Through the skin, I could make out the vague figure of Shatterbird, pounding on the walls of the stomach, her mouth opening in a scream that didn’t reach us.

Pfft! That’s certainly one way to capture her!

Glass shards were stirring around her, a blender whir cutting at the insides of Genesis’s belly.

They presumably thought of that and made sure she could make a glass-proof stomach.

“She’s going to cut through,” I said.  “Bitch, Regent, get the chains.  I’ll try to stop her.”

Or, maybe not?


Using my bugs, I formed words against the surface of Genesis’s belly.  ‘Stop’.

Not gonna lie, this is not how I pictured “stopping her” going. At least it’s more pleasant for Genesis than the alternative.

Shatterbird only intensified her attempts.

Of course.

I gathered some black widow spiders and pressed them gently against the shiny, translucent skin.  They were absorbed, drifting inside, and were soon crawling around the inside surface.

Oh yeah, I suppose there’s no need to go through the mouth, if Genesis’ form even has one. It would actually be smarter for it not to.

Genesis obliged me by opening her mouth, giving me a direct route for the bugs to travel.

Well, never mind.


“Hurry,” Regent said.  He was winding the chain around the jello-like yellow hand.  Fingerless hands gripped the chain for further traction.

So, uh. How does this help? I mean, restraining Genesis?

Is Genesis going to pull the chains into her body to tie them around Shatterbird?

Shatterbird noticed the spiders.  Her eyes widened as the volume of deadly spiders trapped in the bubble with her increased.  I raked my finger beneath the message I’d drawn with the bugs, as if to underline it.  ‘Stop’.

That ought to drive the point home.

She did.  Glass shards fell into a pool around her feet.

Good girl.

“Go!”  I shouted.

We ran, the two dogs side by side, pulling Genesis behind us like a chariot.

Ahh, I guess she didn’t put much effort into making the form mobile on its own.


Drawing my bugs together, I covered us as best as I was able, creating other decoys, vague chariot-shaped lumps here and there, huddles of figures.

Nice. Just covering them up in bugs while still being oddly shaped, without making the decoys oddly-shaped, would make them way too obviously the real one.

It would all be for nothing if they returned to Cherish, revived the girl and tracked us down.

Hmm. Maybe only if they revived her properly, rather than leaving her a husk like Hack Job. Hack Job can use his powers because they’re fairly physical, but Cherish’s power probably requires a functional mind.

“Left!” I ordered.

Bitch steered left.  Regent hadn’t heard, but as the tension on the chains pulled Sirius to one side, he caught on and turned as well.

Time to get out of here!

My bugs served as a navigation system, feeling out the shapes of our surroundings so I could work out a suitable path.

Arthropod Positioning System (APS), for when GPS is too mundane.

We charged onward, with me giving occasional directions, until we found Cherish lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

Hi there!

So are they going to pick her up so she can’t be revived?


“Get her!”

Bitch rode just to Cherish’s left, Regent rode just to the right, and Genesis rolled right over the girl.  Cherish caught like glue, suffered an unfortunate few seconds of being dragged over the road’s surface, and was then drawn into Genesis’ bubble of a body.

Shatterbird: “Ugh, I have to be in here with her?”

My bugs gave me a sense of the Nine’s locations, and my decoys gave them pause once or twice.  We could track them more easily than they could do the reverse, and we were soon far enough away that I couldn’t sense them.

Excellent!

Well, that was a success!


We only slowed when we got to Coil’s underground base.  We parked the dogs and then headed for the series of barred and locked doors.

Wait, aren’t the dogs the main things moving Genesis and the two members of the Nine in her stomach?

Also, I like the idea of them actually parking the dogs in parking lots.

I glanced at Shatterbird and Cherish where they knelt in Genesis’ rotund body.  We weren’t really giving away information here. Crawler had apparently come this way, not so long ago.

I can imagine his tracks would be quite visible.

It was a fifty-fifty chance whether Siberian and the other Nine would come this way.  Cherish wasn’t around to give them information, but she might have provided details at an earlier point that Jack or one of the others could use to connect the dots.

Hm. Certainly possible.

We’d cross that bridge when we got to it.

Or when the Nine get to it.


Coil was there to greet us with a Tattletale and a contingent of armed soldiers.  We waited patiently as one of the soldiers scanned Shatterbird with a plastic wand.  He looked at Coil and shook his head.

Hmm. Metal detector, to check for mundane weapons?

“This way,” Coil ordered.

How did he set this up so fast?

Hm. Lots of manpower? Or maybe some shenanigans involving his power?

Shatterbird’s cell was large, twenty feet by twenty feet across, and the walls had the same textured black rubber soundproofing as the sound recording booths I’d seen in movies and on TV.

Nice!

I couldn’t see the speakers, but there was a noise similar to radio static filling the room, so loud I wouldn’t be able to hear if someone spoke.

In other words, good luck doing anything with your power, Shatters!

I wonder if doing something similar to Cherish’s cell would work, considering that her power manifests as sound to her? Assuming she’s alive enough to get a cell.

I don’t think it’s actually sound, though, just that sound is how her brain processes it, so I’m guessing not.


With our weapons trained on Shatterbird, we stood by while one of Coil’s soldiers reached into Genesis’s stomach and hauled her out.  She was chained to the ceiling with her arms stretched out to her sides, then divested of her costume, left only with a silk camisole and slip.

Her costume is made of glass, so it would’ve been a weapon if she managed to get past the radio static.

Coil’s people wheeled in an x-ray machine and a tank of containment foam.

What’s the x-ray machine for? Checking for broken bones after the battle, or perhaps Bonesaw implants that might cause trouble?

Shatterbird glared wordlessly at us until we’d exited the room and the heavy vault door blocked our view of her.

You lost, Shatterbird. Time to be a shogi piece.


“She will be cavity searched and x-rayed to identify any hidden weapon or any devices Bonesaw or Mannequin might have implanted in her,” Coil spoke, after the doors were closed and the white noise was blocked out.

Close enough. I did think of the hidden weapon option, but I forgot about the possibility of sticking them inside herself, so I dismissed it because her remaining clothes didn’t give her a lot of places to keep them.

“Regent, we have a protective suit waiting for you.  In the event that she does acquire something she can use her powers on, or if she has concealed anything on her person that is small enough to avoid radiographic detection, the suit will shield you until you’ve finished.”

Good plan.

Regent nodded.

“She was bitten by brown recluses,” I said.  “I’d give her a full physical examination every thirty minutes, to be safe.”

Regent: “You just had to make my new toy start rotting, didn’t you.”


“I’m afraid I don’t know standard treatment for bites of that kind,” Coil said.

Brooks stepped out of the crowd of nearby soldiers.  “Sir?”

Oh hey, it’s Brooks!

I suppose it makes sense that he would be familiar with that kind of thing, as a military medic.

“Brooks.”

“I’m familiar with the treatment for the more dangerous spider bites,” he looked at me, “It’s a protein-based venom?”

So the jerk is useful sometimes.  I hadn’t liked Brooks since Lisa had introduced me to him, but I could respect someone who knew his job.  “Yeah.”

Yeah, he’s not a great guy, but he at least seems to know his stuff.

“Seems I can leave it to you, then,” Coil said.  Brooks nodded.  Coil added, “Failing everything else, it might serve as incentive to cooperate.”

Hm, yes. “Hey, if you don’t cooperate, we won’t treat your rotting flesh.”

“Or cause to get desperate,” Tattletale said.  “She might do something stupid if she thinks she’ll die or suffer lifelong effects if she doesn’t get back to Bonesaw.”

Good point.


By the way, I noticed between some of the latest posts that when they arrived, the narration said Coil was there with a Tattletale.

I think that might’ve been an error (Wildbow writing “greet us with a contingent”, then realizing he should mention Tattletale there too and not erasing everything he should before writing her name and continuing), but still, it’s a cute little touch.


“Let’s not give her the opportunity.  Regent, how fast can you seize control?”

Wasn’t it very variant, like for example 15 minutes to four hours?

“A few hours.”

“Start now.”

were doing it man

were making this hapen

Regent headed off to get changed.

“That leaves our unexpected guest,” Coil said.  “Cherish.”

Yeah, how do you deal with her? I mentioned a cell earlier, but they didn’t know they’d be bringing her, so they wouldn’t be able to set one up customized for her, unless they set up for each member who might get captured (which would be a lot of overnight work).

Regent hadn’t yet escaped earshot.  He turned back to us.  “She’ll have a trap on her.  Small explosive looped around her neck with a lock and a deadman’s switch.”

Oh, right! That might be an issue.

“Thank you,” Coil said.  “Tattletale?  See to it at the first opportunity.”

“Not a problem.”

At least if they didn’t have miss all-knowing over here to solve it for them. 🙂


We approached Cherish and Genesis. Cherish knelt in the small pile of glass shards that sat at the very bottom of the bubble.  Her hands were pressed against the inside of the stomach, causing it to bulge like a small child in a womb.  She was awake, but bleeding severely.

How you doing in there?

And is the only reason you haven’t tried using your power the deal you made or tried to make with Imp?

Coil gave the order, “If anyone acts out of character, take them out of action as swiftly as possible and shoot the girl.”

Harsh but necessary. OOC is serious business around Cherish.

There were nods all around.

Cherish’s mouth moved, but the sound didn’t reach us.

“I did not expect her, and I did not take measures for containing her,” Coil said.  “Keeping her on the premises may prove exceptionally dangerous.”

Unfortunately there aren’t many better places to keep her.

“The alternative being?” Trickster asked.  “Letting her go?”

“In the euphemistic sense.  Her value as a captive is minimal and we have no way to secure her until Regent can finish using his ability on her.”

I mean, if she cooperates, she can be pretty useful, and I do think she has reason to cooperate.


Seriously, I wonder where Imp is. Is she right here, considering stepping forward with her information? Is she off somewhere else, watching her mom again or something? Is she lying sliced in twain in a burnt-down building (I doubt it – too little narrative influence so far to be killed off off-screen at this point in the story after being upgraded to main cast)?


“He’s resistant to her power,” Tattletale said, “But that goes both ways.  Don’t know how well he’d be able to control her.  She might break free.  Benefits of being family, I guess.”

Kind of, yes.

“Then I would suggest, as Trickster said earlier, ‘letting her go’.  We execute her and remove her from the equation,”  Coil stated.

I looked at Cherish, and her eyes narrowed.  She knew exactly what we were saying.  Killing someone in cold blood?  A little different than killing someone on the battlefield.

I like the use of “stated”. It really helps to emphasize the coldness, the way that’s just a completely value-neutral thing to say for him.

“Not giving you the go ahead,” I said.  “But I’m not about to stop you.  I’m washing my hands of this.”

“I don’t fucking care anymore, do as you please.”

“The intent was to remove individuals from the Nine before they could conduct their round of tests, yes?  This seems to be the most expedient route.”

“Not disagreeing,” I said.  “But I didn’t sign up to be an executioner.

Fair points on both sides.

I manage my district and I help defend your city from outsiders, right?”

Those were the terms, weren’t they.

“Quite right.  No, I think your service this morning has been exemplary.”

Uh oh. Careful, Taylor. I think he might be trying to raise your hopes of freeing Dinah from the dead.

I only barely managed to avoid bringing up the deal about Dinah.  No, it was premature, the wrong people were listening, and I was worried he would point out the fact that my territory had been torched by Burnscar.

And it’s working.

I mean, sure, it might not be the entire reason he said that. He might be genuinely complimenting her. But I don’t trust that that’s the entire reason either.


Best to keep quiet for now.  Rebuild, re-establish myself as leader of my territory, then raise the topic.

Fair enough. Coil really knows how to keep people working for him.

Whatever happened, I needed his respect.

We turned our attention to our captive.  She had raised her hands above her head in a surrender position, despite the hole in her shoulder.

To the tune of Imagine Dragons’ “Believer”:

Hey
You teared me down and I became your captive
Never acted
Hey
Like a slave until the chains were active
That’s your tactic
Heyyyy
Are you proud of what you gave?
I guess there wasn’t a better
WAY
You teared me down and I became your captive
Your captive

(source video, contains major spoilers for the MLP audio drama Remembrance and MLP:FiM itself)

(#not to be confused with the sfm oneshot that inspired it)


“Do we risk it?” Trickster asked.  “Letting her out?”

“Nothing she can’t do outside the bubble that she couldn’t do inside,” Tattletale replied.

Uhh, I think you may have misspoken a little, Tattle. Surely you meant “Nothing she can do”. The way it stands, you’re saying that she can do literally anything outside the bubble that she was unable to inside it.

Coil nodded, and that seemed to be signal enough.

Genesis began to dissolve, and in moments, Cherish spilled out, wincing as she cut her hands and knees on the glass that Shatterbird had detached from her costume and weaponized.

Oops.

Tattletale bent down and looked at the device that hung around Cherish’s neck.  “Small explosive, combination lock.  A bit paranoid?”

A bit Vasil, aware of her brother’s capabilities.

“No such thing as too paranoid,” Cherish said, glaring.  “Between my brother and the crap that Bonesaw and the rest of the team want to subject me to, knowing I’ll die if I leave that thing alone long enough actually helps me sleep at night.”

Makes sense to me, especially with the attitude Cherish has towards suicide.


“Can’t have that,” Tattletale said.  Changing the topic, she asked, “You like computers?”

The more information she can talk out of Cherish, the closer she can get to extrapolating the combination.

“Computers?” Cherish startled.  She seemed to intuit what Tattletale was doing.  “Not saying.”

Probably too late.

“Clever girl, but even that’s enough of a clue.  Let’s see… four, five, four five.”  Tattletale tugged on the lock.  “Nope.  Three, seven, three, seven.”

Looks like she’s at least figured out a pattern to it.

The lock popped open.  Cherish’s eyes opened wide.

Yeah, pretty good power, right? 😀


“There goes your bargaining chip.”

“I’ve got more,” Cherish said, her chin rising a fraction.

Lying?

“Do tell,” Coil said, dryly.

“Certain teammate of yours paid me a visit.  Imp, I think her name was?  So hard to remember.”

Oh, more bargaining chips. I thought she was talking about explosives. 😛

So are the others going to remember Imp? I suppose Tattletale would.

“What did you do to Imp?” I asked.  Grue is going to freak out. 

Alright, they do.

Cherish smiled, “She decided to help me get back at the Nine.  They’re planning on inflicting a fate worse than death on me, you see.  There was a reason I pretended not to notice you were all waiting in ambush.

Called it!

Thought maybe the brat passed on word somehow, until you used that sucker-teleport on me and shot me.

Yeeah, she hasn’t been back, as far as we remember. Do you know anything about that? The “somehow” seems to suggest you wouldn’t expect her to get word back to them by now.

Suppose you’ll have to give me medical attention and keep me alive if you want the rest of the story.”

Dammit, she really does have a bargaining chip with this. Not just over the Undertravelers, but over the audience.


“And your other bargaining chip?” Trickster asked.

“Grue.  I can sense him with my power.  I can also sense my team.

Well, at least that means he’s alive, for now.

They got their hands on darkness boy.”

for now.

Not that I think he’s going to die, but this is still bad news.

I swear my heart stuttered mid-beat.

Cherish smiled, but her glare didn’t fade in intensity.  “My teammates and I already talked on the subject of Jean Paul, aka Hijack, aka Alec, aka Regent…  You got Shatter, and you got me.  We’re compromised.

Dammit, of course she would’ve informed them on that.

No way they’re going to accept us back with open arms.  They’d kill us first.  So no, don’t get your hopes up.  My teammates aren’t going to agree to a hostage exchange.”

However, the Nine don’t necessarily know where Shatterbird went. It might be possible to convince them that she got separated from them and couldn’t… nah, fine, that’s too much of a stretch given the likely existence of a predetermined rendezvous point.

Though maybe they could get Cherish to tell them where that is.


Huh. I did not expect that to be the final line. Fair enough!


End of Snare 13.6

This was a pretty solid chapter!

I was a bit surprised by Wildbow’s decision to partially eschew the Unspoken Plan Guarantee, but what was left of it still allowed things to go well. And hey, complication at the end, as expected, though I didn’t think the end would be after the ambush.

My remaining predictions came true too: Reluctance to kill came into play (though Ballistic’s turned out more troublesome than Sundancer’s, and may have been a blessing in disguise) and we’re still shooting for the shogi plan. I’m very pleased with that last thing, though Cherish may have made that difficult.

We still don’t know where Imp is or what she’s doing, but we have learned that she was supposed to “help [Cherish] get back at the Nine” and that Imp did respond to Cherish in a way that Cherish could hear. Cherish implied that it would be surprising for Imp to have found a way to get this information back to the rest of the Undertravelers, though, which might mean bad things if she wasn’t just implying that to increase her bargaining power.

Next chapter, the Undertravelers are going to need to figure out how to circumvent the fact that the Nine know about Regent’s power and also how to get Grue out of the living hell that is being captured by a team that includes Bonesaw and five other sadistic pieces of shit. I feel like the answers to both things may lie in the words “as soon as possible”.

We might also learn more from Cherish about Imp’s fate.

So yeah. See you then!

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