Interlude 13: Denim Direction

Source material: Worm, Interlude 13

Originally blogged: July 26-28, 2018


This is actually the 24th Interlude (not counting the bogus April Fool’s ones I added), but sure.

I literally just wrote this [here] about an hour ago, but for the benefit of archival readers going back to this chapter’s tag later on:

Next chapter, I’m pretty sure we’re going into an Interlude. Who did I speculate on us reading the perspective of, again? Oh yeah, one of the Travelers. There’s been so many signs that we’re about to find out about their past that I suspect we’re going to find out before Taylor does, in the upcoming Interlude.

So what am I expecting, more specifically?

Hm. Maybe a bit of flashbacking, possibly put into contrast with how things are now among the Travelers, and a look at how they feel about having just been in Bonesaw’s clutches to save Grue. I don’t know what to expect regarding their actual backstory, but I do have my theory that it involves someone or something being after them, possibly Cauldron.

There’s also the question of which Traveler’s perspective we’d be following. I’m kind of hoping for Sundancer, though I certainly wouldn’t object to getting to know Ballistic a bit better either. Trickster seems most likely, though, since the personality underneath his facade was hinted at in the Arc.

Noelle would also be very interesting. See what all of this, and her situation, looks like from her perspective.

In short, I’d be up for anyone, but Trickster and, secondly, Noelle seem the most likely suspects.

If it’s any of them at all. If I drop that assumption, I have no clue who it’d be, though, and it’s more fun to speculate on the guess I do have.

So yeah! Let’s jump in and find out!


It’s like the world’s gone mad, and I’m the only sane person left. 

You might not be entirely wrong about that.

So who’d feel like this? I’m thinking Sundancer.

Director Emily Piggot finished the last

Oh! I guess we’re following right on from Skitter’s message, and talking about PR a fair bit.

Emily, huh?

Remember that whole thing with “JPIGGOT”, back in Parasite? Back then, I was informed that the J was likely an error [here] born from Wildbow not having finished naming her yet (which also told me that we would be finding out her actual first name sooner or later).

I’d like to suggest a compromise: She writes and thinks of her name as Emily, but her parents were jerks so legally, it’s spelled with a silent J at the beginning – Jemily Piggot – and that’s what the PRT used to determine her username back when she didn’t have the authority to object. She doesn’t like that spelling, but she never got around to having it legally changed.

of her coffee and paused to survey the enormity of the task that lay ahead of her.  The scale of it could be measured in paperwork.  Piles of it.

Everyone’s favorite thing!

Sometimes two feet high, the stacks of paper were arranged in rows and columns on every available surface, including the top of her coffee maker and the floor around her desk.

For the previous quote, I was looking for an image from Homestuck that I thought was something like this, but it seems I misremembered, because this is the best I found:

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and that’s really not that much for the comically overworked aesthetic.

There were stacks of stapled pages, each topped with a weight to protect it from the gusts and breezes that flowed through the open window frames.

Oh man, yeah, even just one of these piles getting caught by the wind would be a disaster.


She couldn’t help but notice the way that the pages at the bottom of the pile were neatly organized, tidy, everything in line.  The newer pages, the ones at the top, were the sloppy ones.

Getting more stressed as you went along?

Pages were slightly out of alignment, some dog-eared or stained.

Treating important documents like this, how could you!

(I had to put two out of three copies of my work contract in my windowsill to dry off yesterday. Turns out my bicycle bags weren’t as waterproof as the seller claimed. I’m honestly surprised I managed to save the papers.)

The same progression could be measured in the print.  The older pages were typed, printed as forms with everything in its place.  Abruptly, it all shifted to handwriting.  Shatterbird’s destruction of everything glass and everything with a silicon-based chip inside.

Ohh, right, that’d do it. I was kind of wondering why they were using so much paper.

Computer screens and computers.  The handwriting, too, grew less tidy as the rise of the piles marked the passage of time.  On occasion, it would improve for a day or two, when her captains and sergeants complained about illegible handwriting, but it inevitably slipped back into disarray.

Before she knows it, she’ll be a doctor instead of a director.

Also I guess captains and sergeants are ranks that exist in the PRT.

A strong metaphor, Emily Piggot thought.  Every part of it said something about the current circumstances.

Things getting steadily worse and by now it’s so bad that it’s hard to tell what’s even going on sometimes?


The shift from uniform typed words to countless styles of handwriting, it said something about the innumerable voices, the break down of the cohesive, ordered whole.

Oh yeah, I suppose it wouldn’t be all her handwriting.

What resulted were hundreds, thousands of self-interested voices.  One in five condemned her, two in five pleaded with her for assistance in some form, and the remainder simply expected her to perform her duties as a cog in the machine.

Sounds about right.

She looked over the sheer volumes of paper around her office.  The PRT handled cases where parahumans were involved, and these days, it seemed like everything and everyone was touched in some way by the heroes, villains and monsters of Brockton Bay.

I mean, I’m pretty sure we don’t actually know any named characters who have nothing to do with capes, but that’s a result of the story being about the capes, so from our perspective, that’s all the people we’re going to hear about. (Unless Wildbow trolls us with an Interlude about someone entirely unrelated to the plot [here], but that’s not really his style.)

In-universe, though… yeah, Shatterbird (by Shattering the city), the other Nine (by attacking lots of civilians), and the Undertravelers (by taking over territories in most of the city) have really caused almost everyone to have some aspect of their lives be affected by parahumans.

…by the way, Piggot didn’t mention the rogues.

Every time the other precincts had the slightest excuse, they would claim that it was the PRT’s responsibility.

Oh jeez.

If they had no excuse at all, they would claim it a joint responsibility.  Until she read over the cases in question and either signed off on them or refused them, the job was in her hands.

Damn, that really does put a lot of work on her.

As far as the ones passing the buck were concerned, it was out of their hands.

Regular police: *passes the buck*

Director Jemily Piggot: “Dude, I’m already holding like a hundred of these! At least give me a bag to carry them in or something!”


The first real intrusion on the average citizen’s life had been the bombings instigated by the ABB.  Frightening, but it had been easy for the average person to believe they wouldn’t be one of the victims, to shrug it off as the same background noise of heroes and villains that they’d experienced for much of their lives.

Yeah, until they stepped around the wrong corner at the wrong time.

Now, between Leviathan, Shatterbird, the fighting and the formation of territories, everyone had reason to worry and give serious thought to who they needed to support and how they were going to protect themselves.

Especially when some of the people forming territories seem to be more hostile than others, and some of them do better jobs protecting them than the PRT.

Just as the parahumans had invaded the lives of those in the city, the paperwork seemed to dominate Emily’s life.  It crept onto the walls, onto bulletin boards and whiteboards.

This story is largely about things that creep, after all.

Notes on the local players, timelines, messages and maps.

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Insurmountable.  Too much work for one woman to handle.

Yeeeah, you may want to hire some assistance.

She delegated where she could, but too much of the responsibility was hers and hers alone.  The humans outnumbered parahumans by eight-thousand to one, give or take, in urban areas.

Describing the mundanes as “humans” in contrast to “parahumans” rubs me the wrong way. Is this subtly implying that Piggot views parahumans as inhuman?

Outside of the more densely populated areas, it dropped to a more manageable one to twenty-six-thousand ratio.

Interesting. So are parahumans more likely to move to cities, or to trigger in them? I’m thinking the latter.

But here in Brockton Bay, many had evacuated.  Few places in the world, if any, sported the imbalanced proportion that Brockton Bay now featured.  What was it now?  One parahuman to every two thousand people?  One parahuman to every five hundred people?

Damn. And on top of the evactuation, Brockton Bay has been an easy ground for trigger events recently. Hell, I suspect one happened off-screen just a few chapters ago.

Each parahuman represented their respective interests.  She represented everyone else’s.  The people without powers.

Yeah, I feel like this is heading towards Piggot not having the highest opinion of parahumans.


The whole nation was watching.  People across America ate their TV dinners while they watched the news, seeing footage of the slaughters in downtown Brockton Bay, white sheets draped over piles of bodies.

She managed to go eight or so paragraphs before mentioning the media and public perception of the Brockton Bay cape scene.

I wonder if Skitter has made it to national news yet.

Oh man, I just realized, if Piggot gets the news of Burnscar’s death, will she be trying to twist it into being the PRT’s accomplishment, like what happened after the ABB’s defeat?

The before and after shots of areas devastated by Shatterbird.  Flooded streets.  Fundraising efforts were launched, many succeeding, while yet others leveraged the situation to cheat the sympathetic out of money.

Of course.

Honestly, I’m glad to get a look at what the outside world thinks of Brockton Bay’s situation.

The world waited to see if Brockton Bay would become another Switzerland, another Japan, another region that simply couldn’t recover.

Oh man, what happened to Switzerland? Behemoth, attracted to the slopes that would spread his lava widely? The Simurgh, appreciating the altitude?

Also I guess losing Kyushu threw Japan into chaos. Maybe there were more parahuman antics that doomed it, but I’m guessing that’s what really started it.

Ground lost to the Endbringers in their relentless campaign of attrition against humanity.

Yeah.

I mean, at this rate it’s still going to take them a long time to bring an end to humanity – way longer than it’s going to take before the bigger threat is likely to show up even if Jack does get killed in time – but it’s a slow yet steady loss.


So very few of them knew it, but they were counting on her.

Looks like someone has a high estimate of her own importance in events.

It might not be entirely wrong, but I don’t think it’s entirely correct either. The PRT, aside from arranging supplies, has been looking pretty useless for a while.

Though it’s understandable that some of that is because they’re swamped with work right as their infrastructure gets shattered.

She heaved herself out of her chair and made her way to the coffee machine to refill her mug.

“Director?”

Oh, hey, another person. What’s up…

…Weld? Clockblocker?

She turned to see Kid Win standing in the doorway.  He looked intimidated.

Dang it, he was my third guess.


“Yes?”

He raised the laptop he carried in his hands.  “The guys in CS asked me to bring this to you.”

SWEET DIGITAL RELEASE FOR WORN-OUT WRISTS

She shook her head, refusing the offer, “For now, every computer that comes in is supposed to be used for setting up the consoles and communications.”

I appreciate it… but look what you’re dealing with, woman.

You gotta draw the line somewhere. You gotta draw a fucking line in the sand, dude. You gotta make a statement.

You gotta look inside of yourself and say, “What am I willing to put up with today?

NOT HANDWRITTEN PAPERWORK


Of all the crazy situations in Worm that could prompt me to reference that speech (for the first time), I end up calmly reciting part of it in response to someone turning down a laptop.


“They’re done.  Or almost done, for communications.  They expect to be up and running in two hours, but they have all the computers they need.”

Nice.

“Good.  Access to the central database is up?”

“Everything except the highest security feeds.”

That exception could come back to bite them in the ass before they get them up.

Disappointing.  “I’ll make do, I suppose.  Thank you.”

So what did you have in mind that you wanted highest security feeds for?

Kid Win seemed almost relieved to hand her the laptop.  It meant he could get out of her presence sooner.  He was turning to leave the instant the laptop was out of his hands.

I mean, we know she’s been strict with him specifically, but he seems more skittish around her than usual. Maybe he’s had or heard of a bad experience with distracting an overly stressed Jemily from her work?


“Wait.”

Kid, internally: “fuck fuck fuck fuck”

She could see his shoulders drop, slightly, in the same way a dog’s tail drooped when ashamed or expecting reprimand.  Emily Piggot wasn’t good with kids, or even young adults.  She knew it.  Outside of the time she had played with dolls as a small child, she’d never entertained the notion of being a mother.  She didn’t even like kids.

I never suspected she did, honestly.

It was the rare youth that she actually respected, now, and those few tended to be the ones who saw her firm leadership and respected her, first.  Now she was in charge of some of the most powerful children in the city.

I suppose that is a pretty motherlike role.

I can’t help but imagine Piggot trying to take care of this little demon:

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This little baby filly, Flurry Heart, is one of the most powerful magic users in Equestria, which naturally leads to antics.

And Piggot – director Public Image – would definitely be an earth pony, so she wouldn’t even have magic or wings of her own to help her deal with Flurry. Codspeed, Public Image. Codspeed.

(#each word in ‘naturally leads to antics’ is a separate link)


“The next patrol shift is in…”  She turned to find the clock, “Twenty minutes?”

“Twenty minutes, yeah.  Vista, with Clockblocker babysitting.  Weld and Flechette are out right now, patrolling separately.”

A little disrespectful to Vista there, but I get it. She is thirteen.

“Postpone the next patrol, and tell Weld and Flechette to take it easy, but to be ready to report at a moment’s notice.  With the consoles up, we’ll be ready to act.  Pass on word to Miss Militia as well.

Oh, neat! How fitting, then, if Skitter’s message comes in just about now.

I believe she’s taking the next patrol shift.”

“Yes ma’am.”

The laptop would do little to help in her war against the paperwork until she had access to a printer.

…fair enough.

PRT divisions and precincts in neighboring cities were all too willing to send along staff and officers to assist, but her firm requests for the fundamentals -for computers, printers, satellite hookups, electricians and IT teams- were ignored all too often.

Funny how that works, huh.

She cleared space on her desk and started up the laptop.  It would be good to have access to the files on the locals and ‘guests’ alike.  She would handle the paperwork better after a moment’s break, while she focused on other things that needed doing.  She was barely registering the words, at this point.

Yeah, you do deserve to focus on something else for a bit.


This would be a battle won with preparation, and for that, she needed information.

Hey, look, it’s that good old theme again!

It took her a moment to adjust to the smaller keyboard.  She entered her passwords, and answered the personal questions that Dragon’s subsystem posed to her.  Why is your nephew named Gavin? 

Maybe her sibling was a huge fan of Rooster Teeth.

Your favorite color?  Irritating- she didn’t even know her favorite color, but the algorithms had figured it out before she did.

Ahaha! That’s not how favorites work, Dragon!

All information divined from the countless pieces of data about her that were in official emails, photographs and surveillance footage from the PRT buildings.  It was with a moment of trepidation that she typed in For Gawain, knight of the round table.  Silver.

Well, that answers my unstated question earlier about what Public Image’s fur color should be. Now we just need a mane color and style (I’m thinking denim blue, short with big buns), and a cutie mark that looks something like 📺, and we’re set!


The fact that Dragon’s system could divine these details, as always, unnerved her.  This time, in light of recent events, it unsettled her all the more.

So wait. Does it (she) pull up new questions like these each time?

She typed in the words ‘Slaughterhouse Nine’ and watched as information began appearing in lists.  News items, sorted by relevance and date, profiles, records.  Lists of names.  Casualty reports.

I wonder to what extent she’s interacting directly with Dragon without knowing it.

I mean, surely they have regular systems too, but…

Also it just occurred to me why stealing data is such a personal violation to Dragon. From Dragon’s perspective, the Undersiders stole memories from her brain.

Emily clicked through the records.  Sorting as a timeline, she found the entry muddled with Armsmaster’s simulation records on the fighting abilities of the Nine.

I suppose if it wasn’t entirely clear that it was simulation data, that could be an issue.

No reason to throw it out if it’s not a problem like that or the simulation being dangerously inaccurate, though.

He’d been preparing to fight them.  A double-check of the modification dates showed he’d seen the entries recently.

…coddammit, Army, did you not learn from Leviathan?


CC43 Public Image zoomed.png

Let’s step out of the story for just a moment to say hello to Director Public Image of the Parapony Response Team, division Ponyville.

(#the creator didn’t have the hair i was thinking of but this honestly fits her even better)


Actually, it’s getting pretty late and I’ve been blogging for most of the day, so I think we’re going to step out of the story for a bit longer. See you Saturday for more of this Interlude!

[End of session]


While I’m at it, here, have another one.

Meet Armor Gadget, the disgraced former leader of the Ponyville Protectorate, codename Hoofsmaster.

(The manestyle on the right is less accurate to how I headcanon his hair and more accurate to how vriska he is.)

(#this is the second time i make a -sona for this dude
#the image on the left is labeled ‘(less vriska)’ in the filename
#but he’s still got elements based on vriska
#for instance that’s vriska’s exact shade of blue
#the mane color is based on my headcanon of his hair though)


(Armor Gadget has a very pointy horn because his special talent manifests in his magic as super precise telekinesis, which allows him to construct tiny gadgets with ease.)


Work thought: I finally (I’m probably pretty late to making this connection) figured out what Amy’s daddy worries have to do with her power, how it connects thematically.

The keyword is “biological”. The girl with the power of biology worries about her biological father and about villainous tendencies being biological and hereditary.


[Session 2]

Now, where we we… Ah, yes, Jirector Jemily Piggot had just discovered that Colin Icarus “Armsmaster” Serket might be acting like an idiot again.

Might. It’s possible that he just wants to be prepared in case it comes to blows and he can’t escape.

Possible, but not bloody likely.


So when he’d escaped, he’d done it with the intent of fighting the Nine.  She’d suspected as much.

I suppose that makes sense. If it was in an attempt to stay away from them… well, he’d have been safer staying, guarded by the Protectorate.

She refined the search to remove the simulations from the results and found video footage.

How old? This group changes quickly.

A video of Winter, an ex-member of the Nine, engaging in a protracted siege against no less than twenty members of the Protectorate.

Damn.

Cold powers, I’m guessing?

She’d been killed by one of her teammates.

Are we in for a montage of S9 kills not being the Protectorate’s accomplishments?

A sighting of Crawler, shortly after he had joined the Nine.  He’d been more humanoid, then.  Still large.

I suppose joining the Nine really helps to attract attackers with strong powers.

Another member of the Nine from yesteryear, Chuckles, attacking a police station.  No use to her, beyond serving as a testament to what might happen if she consolidated too many forces in one place.

I can’t help but imagine her in a Harley Quinn outfit.

Maybe her power was causing uncontrollable laughter. That’s more powerful than it sounds.

She found a file listed as ‘Case 01’.  She clicked it.

Case like in Case 53, likely involving mysteries of parahumanity?

If this wasn’t a result of searching for the Slaughterhouse Nine, I’d think this was going to be about Scion.

Is it the first out of all the cases involving the Nine?

We’ve got her cornered?” the person in the video spoke.  Hearing the voice, noting the camera image of an apartment was mounted on a helmet, Emily Piggot knew who it was.

Colin?

She knew the video well enough.

Think so,” a man replied.  The camera focused on Legend, then swung over to Alexandria, and finally Eidolon.

Is “her” Siberian, perhaps? We know she’s been up against these three several times. This might be the first.

We’ve got teams covering the drainage and plumbing below the building, and the entire place is surrounded.

Hmm. That sounds like a very different power is involved. Unless this place has ridiculous plumbing, Siberian wouldn’t be able to use that to escape. Maybe someone who can turn into water, or shrink, or something along those lines?

She hasn’t tried to leave?” the face behind the camera asked.  “Why not?

But yeah, I don’t think this is Colin anymore. He seems to have stayed in Brockton Bay most of his career, though I suppose he might’ve gone to wherever this happened to help out.

More importantly, though, if it were Colin, I think we’d have had that confirmed by now. It’s probably someone we’ve heard of, though, for the same reason.

…oh man, maybe it’s Sphere. He seemed to have been a rogue, but perhaps the Protectorate asked for his help with containing “her”.

Legend couldn’t maintain eye contact.  “She has a victim.

Ohh. Bonesaw.

Of course. She’s where this all started, after all. Maybe the Protectorate are about to find, for the first time, that she gets protected by her fan club, the proto-Nine?


Alexandria spoke up, “You had better be fucking kidding me, or I swear-

Yeeah, it’s not ideal. And depending on who the victim is, it might spell big trouble.

Also, does Alexandria regularly swear like a sailor? That would honestly be kinda fun, this idealized bigshot having a real pottymouth when not on camera.

Stop, Alexandria.  It was the only way to guarantee she’d stay put.  If we moved too soon, she’d run, and it would be a matter of time before she racked up a body count elsewhere.

Point, though Taylor certainly wouldn’t approve of this sacrifice.

I’ll actually appreciate if Alexandria doesn’t either. We know Taylor had an Alexandria phase [here(click through for adorable fanart that deserves another look), so I really like the idea of there being parallels between the two of them.

Then let’s move,” she responded, “The sooner the better.

She’s not arguing Legend’s point, but she does rush it along in a way that’s not uncharacteristic of Taylor.

“We’re trying an experimental measure.  It’s meant to contain, not kill.  Drive her towards main street.  We have more trucks over there.”

Contain.

I’m feeling a touch more confident in the camera person being Sphere.

Emily turned off the sound as the four charged into action.  She didn’t want to hear it, but she felt compelled to keep watching.  A matter of respect.

It’s pretty clear that what’s about to happen resulted in at least one death, or worse. Quite likely that of the camera person, which would go against them being Sphere.

I said I was more confident in it, not very confident.


It was Siberian.  One of the first direct confrontations, more than a decade ago.  It hadn’t gone well.

Oh, I was right the first time.

Fair enough. I suppose Siberian would also stay put because of having a victim to eat.

But what was up with the bit about drainage? Did they expect her to dig her way through the pipes, breaking them up in the process?

The Protectorate had been smaller, then.  The lead group had consisted of four members.  Legend, Alexandria, Eidolon and Hero.

…Hero.

How fucking generic can you get??

Hero had been the first tinker to take the spotlight, so early to the game that he could get away with taking a name that basic and iconic.

I’m not sure why you’d want to, besides having little imagination or wanting to brag that you’re the Hero.

He’d sported golden armor, a jetpack, and a tool for every occasion.

Go go Hero!

…I suppose Inspector Gadget is what you’d get if Bonesaw got her hands on Hero.

His career had been cut short when Siberian tore him limb from limb in a sudden frenzy of blood and savagery.  He’d been scooped up by Eidolon, who tried to heal him, who continued to hold the man as he joined in the ensuing conflict.

“I guess I’m just too tough to cry.”
“Just today you were crying about Hero.”
He doesn’t have any limbs!


Director Piggot had seen the film before.  Several times.  It was the screams that haunted her.

No wonder she turned off the sound.

Even with the sound off, she could have put it all together from the sounds that were engraved in her memory, right down to the cadence, the pitch.  Seeing a teammate die so unexpectedly, so suddenly.

And from a first-person perspective, too!

The noises of panic as some of the strongest capes in the United States realized there was nothing they could do, adjusting their tactics to try to save people, staying one step ahead of Siberian to minimize the damage she did as she waded through any defense they erected, tossing the PRT trucks -modified fire trucks, then- as though they were as light and aerodynamic as throwing knives.

Siberian is seriously not many steps below an Endbringer.

Invincible Alexandria was struck a glancing blow and had one eye socket shattered, the eye coming free in the midst of that bloody ruin.

Damn.

Eidolon had healed her, after, but the scar was still there.  Alexandria now wore a helmet whenever she was out in costume.

In order to keep the appearance of true invincibility, I suppose.

So, with Interludes acting as bridges between the Arcs a lot of the time, does this perhaps mean the Siberian problem will be in the spotlight next Arc?


Another thing about this: This video shows that Legend, Alexandria and Eidolon were all early parahumans. Add Scion and the fact that Eidolon is still considered one of the strongest capes in the world, and it seems like there may have been a tendency for stronger capes early on.

If there was such a tendency and it’s not just a matter of me using statistically insignificant numbers to support this idea, there are a couple different reasons there could be for that.

Maybe the Dandelions need to spend an amount of a finite energy to bestow powers, and are running low after bestowing strong powers early?

Or maybe they have a regenerating energy they spend, and changed tactics at one point, going for many weaker parahumans rather than few strong ones?

Either of these theories may also explain why younger triggerers supposedly tend to get stronger powers. If I’m right that the Dandelions are equipping humanity to face the threat Dinah predicted, they might be reserving stronger powers for those who are more likely to live long enough to face this threat before dying of old age (if not killed by other things, that is).


After that telling blow, Legend’s voice would be ordering the containment foam.  Not so much to bind Siberian as to hide the wounded Alexandria from the feral lunatic.

Wow.

With the sound muted, Piggot would not have to hear Legend crying out over what he had believed was the death of two teammates.

Hm. So what actually happened?

It had always made her feel guilty to hear it, as if she were intruding, seeing someone mighty at a moment in their life when they were stripped emotionally bare.

That’s probably not inaccurate.

And of course, Siberian had escaped.  Slipped past countless PRT officers and a dozen superheroes in the chaos.

I guess the believed second death was the attack against Alexandria?

Nothing in the footage gave a clue as to how.

And the last known survivor stalks her prey in the night… 🎵


A shadow passed over her desk.  Turning, she saw a silhouette of a flying man against the light of the sun.

…hello. Legend, is that you?

I’d imagine he doesn’t like to watch this video.

Like so many parahumans, he lapsed into intrusiveness and a self-centered mindset.  Well, she wouldn’t blame him for being emotional in regards to this.

Yeah, seems it’s Legend.

Also, yeah, Legend, you should probably knock before flying into her office. But if she had her door open and you saw the video before entering…

She composed herself and spoke, “If you’d like to enter my office through the front door, Legend, we can talk there.”

Oh, ahaha! Window!

Should still knock, but yeah.

Silently, he disappeared around the side of the building.  She couldn’t see through the wall, but she heard the commotion as he flew in through the window.

I love this.

He stepped into her office with the fluid grace one had when they could use their ability to fly to carry their weight.  Blue and white costume, boots and gloves.

Some logical day-to-day benefits of superpowers are so underrated in other works and popular culture.

Veteran member and leader of the Protectorate, his lasers carried as much firepower as a battalion of tanks.  She had to remind herself that she technically outranked him.

“Siberian?” he asked.

Wait, Piggy outranks Legend?? What is she, Jirector for the entire PRT? Or do all the PRT directors just outrank the Protectorate in general, with no regard for territory?


“I’m reading up on our opposition.”  She wouldn’t apologize, but she couldn’t keep the sympathy from her face.

Yeah, she has nothing to apologize for here (if either of them has, it’s Legend, for butting in on what she’s watching), but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be respectful of his loss.

“I flew up to check if you were in your office, and I saw the video.  My fault for seeing what I did.  It wasn’t a good day.”

Yeeah.

She nodded curtly.  It hadn’t been.  One could even suggest it was when things started to go bad.  The loss of Hero, the first time a truly dangerous villain made an appearance.

Oh yeah, Siberian being another early parahuman absolutely supports the thing I was talking about re: strong early capes.

“What did you want to see me for?”

“A note delivered for you at the front door.  We gave it a high priority.”

Skitter’s message?

“You’re taking the standard precautions?”

Making sure there’s no letter bombs or powers involving writing or paper at play, I would assume?

He nodded.  “It’s already on its way to the lab.”

“Join me?”  She lifted herself out of the chair, keenly aware of the differences in her and Legend: parahuman and human, male and female, lean muscle and eighty pounds of extra weight, tall and average in height.

Casually flies around and firmly planted on the ground (more firmly than average, even).

Also I’m still getting the vague impression that Piggy doesn’t like parahumans all that much, and took this job to help protect against parahuman threats more than to support the friendly parahumans, even though public perception of the heroes is one of her main Things.

This little Piggy wanted to protect her fellow pigs against the big bad wolf.


“Of course.”

They walked past the reams of public servants, government employees and Piggot’s own people.  Emily knew she was not the only one overburdened with work, not the only one sweating, trying and failing to keep cool.

I’m also sweating, trying and failing to keep cool, but that’s because it’s currently 29°C out, in the shade.

The rest of her people were staying awake with the benefits of coffee more than anything else.

The moment the city’s problems end (which is very likely never), all the PRT mundanes are going to fall asleep at their desks at the same time.

She couldn’t turn away everyone that volunteered or was sent to Brockton Bay to assist her PRT division, but there were too many.  Space was at a premium, and there were too few places where she could establish secure offices, where buildings didn’t threaten to fall down and where assistance was actively needed.

May have to think a bit outside the cubicle.

Still, she’d sent people away when she could.

“How’s the family?” She asked.  “You adopted, if I remember right?”

Oh man, is this where we learn about Legend’s orientation, about how the guy is about as straight as his (rainbowlasers [here and here]?

From this, it really sounds like Legend is happily married, or at least has an official partnership with a loving boyfriend, and they’ve adopted a child together. If that’s the case, I’m really happy for them. 🙂

(It’s worth noting that gay marriage wasn’t legal in the U.S. yet when this was written, though it’s entirely possible Wildbow decided to use his power over this world’s timeline since the 80′s for good for once.)

“We did.  Arthur was worried that a surrogate parent would give birth to a parahuman, and if that happened, he’d be out of the loop.”

I love how casually this is established, too.

Arthur is a good name for a dad.


“The odds are still high, even with an adopted child.  It’s likely more to do with exposure to parahumans at formative ages than genetics.”

Hmm. Perhaps. That would explain why it can go sideways.

Also are we seriously having a nature vs nurture debate right in the middle of the topic of gay adoption? This seems like a very transparent metaphor. Just replace “parahuman” with “gay person” and remove the “out of the loop” bit.

“I know.  Arthur knows, but I don’t think he believes it.”

“Or he doesn’t want to believe,” Emily said.

In the “gay person” version of this conversation, the implication would be that Arthur has dealt with a lot of homophobia and doesn’t want his child to suffer the same.

In the “parahuman” version we’re getting, it seems more like a matter of relating, with Legend and their child bonding over powers and Arthur having a hard time relating to that.

Without the “out of the loop” bit, it could also be about a fear of their child getting into dangerous situations like daddy Legend. Or even, at risk of getting into the topic of Flurry Heart and other MLP babies with magic or wings again, the difficulties of raising an early triggerer with some sort of wild power. Legend and Arthur are lucky we haven’t heard of superpowered babies yet.


Legend nodded.

“He knew the price of admission,” she said.

Yeah, he did choose to do this with Legend, after all.

Legend smiled.  “You’re always straight to the point, Director.”

“But the child is good?  A boy or a girl?”

I’ve been wondering that too, but who knows. Maybe Legend and Arthur have decided to raise them without gender expectations. I’m pretty sure that’s a thing some parents choose to do, maybe especially those involved in the LGBT community.

“A boy.  Keith.”

Not a bad name.

“You’ve heard there are some third generation parahumans on record?”

Ooh, how easy is it for them to trigger? Is it the same as for second-gen, or is it even easier?

“For a while now.  We knew they were being born anyways, right?”

“We did.  But nothing’s official until it’s on record.  But the point I was getting at was that there was apparently an incident.”

…oh?

“Oh?”

That’s my line.

“In Toronto.  A five-year-old manifested powers.  A third generation parahuman.”

Oh dear. How damn powerful is that going to make them?

Also at least it’s not in Montréal. That would raise questions.


Legend nodded, but he didn’t respond right away.  He stepped forward to open a door for her.

“Everyone’s alright?” he asked, at last.

There’s a tendency for powers to be used by accident shortly after being gained, possibly going haywire. And this one got their power at age five. Yeeeah, better hope.

“No.  But no casualties.  The parents were outed in the chaos.”

I guess they used their powers in order to try to contain what their kid was doing, without care for the fact they were out of costume.

“Sobering.”

She nodded.  “The perils of being a superhero parent.  Your child isn’t a third generation cape, I know, but there are always risks.  Still, I envy you.”

[At this point, I embedded a GIF from The Incredibles. However, I used Tumblr’s native GIF embed feature, which gets GIFs from other Tumblr posts, and the original post has been deleted, leaving a big ol’ 404 in it’s place. I’d normally just track down a new version of the GIF, but the problem is I don’t remember which one it was. It was probably either “no capes” or something with Jack-Jack, I suppose.]

(#i haven’t gotten to watch incredibles 2 yet so please no asks about that)


Also, which part of it do you envy, Piggy? You said earlier that you didn’t want kids, so is it about the romance instead? Or are you lying?


“How so?”

“Family.  I wonder if it is harder or easier to get through the day if you have people waiting for you at the end.”

Hmm.

I suppose she did say she hadn’t wanted kids. But family goes beyond just that. Legend and Arthur could be considered a family even without Keith.

“Yes.”

Heh. Both, then?

She smiled a little at that.

They entered the lab, and Emily Piggot very carefully measured the expressions of every person in the room when they noticed Legend.  Awe, surprise, amazement.  Sometimes ambivalence.

I suppose these people don’t see him as often as some of the PRT folks closer to the action.

What could she take away from that?  If she were to promote one of them, should she promote one of the awestruck ones, or one of the taciturn?  The starry-eyed might be in the PRT for the wrong reasons, but the ones who were unfazed by the presence of one of the most notable heroes in the United States could easily be plants, hiding their emotion or simply too used to the presence of capes to care.

The former is probably safer.

“The note?”

“No traces of toxins, radiation, powders or transfers.”

Transfers? Is that a thing in real life or just their term for traces left by a power used on the paper or the writing?

“Why the priority?  We get letters from cranks every day.”

“The man who delivered the message reported a fairly convoluted series of safeguards to protect the identity of the sender.

Interesting. Did they not mention that it ultimately came from Skitter, then?

Or is this not her message? Cauldron seems more the type to get that convoluted about it, but why would they send a message to the PRT?

Apparently the man who gave him his instructions was given the note by a civilian, and ordered to find a random individual to deliver it to the PRT, all with compensation arranged.”

This does sound like Cauldron’s style. It’s just that it could very well be Cranston’s style too.


“You’ve tailed him?”

“Of course.  We doubt anything will come of it.”

Yeah, he probably wouldn’t have anyone to report to or return to unless he was lying.

“No.  It wouldn’t.  Can you make out the contents without touching the envelope?  Can’t be too careful.”

“We can and have.”  The technician handed Emily a paper.

Nice.

She read it over twice.  “Burnscar is dead, it seems, and Bonesaw won’t be in the field for the interim.  God knows how quickly she’ll recover, but it’s something.”

Yep, Taylor’s message it is.

Also Bonesaw will probably be sowing on someone else’s hands (holding the needle in her mouth) as soon as she can get her stumps on some.

“Good news,” Legend said.

Not going to question how it happened?

I suppose he’s not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

That’s a saying in-universe in MLP:FiM, by the way, which is all sorts of fucked up. It implies ownership and gifting of horses (which may or may not be just another term for ponies, it’s unclear) was a thing at some point, widespread enough for the idiom to develop. Pony slavery is already explicitly canon (along with racism, pony communism, a Y7-rated version of one of the bloodiest family feuds in American history, and straight up war with lost limbs), but that was in the context of a city under the rule of a villain, so it wouldn’t involve trade.


Emily wasn’t so sure.  “It’s… a change.”

It does mean another opportunity for the Nine to pick up a new member and shake up their tactics, unless they take out the rest first.

“Not a good one?”

“The closing line reads, ‘Thanks for the help.’  I can’t help but read it in a sarcastic tone.”

You’re reading it right, then. Maybe that’ll tell Legend who sent this.

“The bug girl?  Skitter?”

Bingo.

Emily nodded.  “Exactly.  As good as it is to have one more member of the Nine dealt with, this shifts the balance of power towards another group of villains.  It also serves to move up our deadline.”

You mean because there’ll be fewer tester rounds now before they say they’re done?

I don’t know that that’s a bad thing for Brockton Bay specifically.

It might be a bad thing for the world because it’d increase the chance of Jack leaving the city when the tester rounds are over, assuming they keep going with the game, but for Brockton Bay in particular, them leaving would be a good thing. Not so much for the next town they go to to recruit (the game only allows them to recruit one member if they lose), though.

“What do you want to do?”

“Call a meeting.  Protectorate and Wards.”

Time to attack?

“Alright.”

I guess we’re skipping to the meeting.


[Discord]

LHC:
Maybe a gift horse is a horse that delivers a gift in its mouth. 🤔

Krixwell:
But the moral is to not look it in the mouth… Are you supposed to just ignore the present? 😛

LHC:
no, you’re not supposed to check the gift horse’s mouth to see if it’s dirty and got the present dirty

Krixwell:
Heh, fair enough

LHC:
😛

Krixwell:
Earth ponies and pegasi do carry stuff in their mouths most of the time

LHC:
yeah, that sounds like it would roughly translate to “don’t inspect the delivery man’s hands”
😛

Krixwell:
Yeah, I suppose this works

LHC:
clearly to avoid the horrifying slavery implications, they need to make an episode clearly establishing as canon that a “gift horse” is a pony that delivers gifts 😛

Krixwell:
Although the gift horse in the human version of it is the gift, and the saying is about not complaining about the gift you got. Inspecting the delivery man’s hands would be about the quality of the person giving you the gift, wouldn’t it?

LHC:
it’s about looking for some way to deem a good situation bad 😛

Krixwell:
I suppose it can be spun that way

LHC:
like, that is the point of the saying in the first place

Krixwell:
But Twilight does state this with an explanation.

LHC:
!!
what???

Krixwell:
http://youtu.be/wHSzulhp2Es

LHC:
pony canon is complicated and hard
😛

Krixwell:
“When somepony offers to do you a favor – like making you a beautiful dress – you shouldn’t be overly critical of something generously given to you. In other words: You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

LHC:
So, either it’s slightly less literal than it could be, and my explanation is correct
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooor Equestrian dystopia

Krixwell:
Yup.
😛

While I was taking a short break from reading Worm, LHC (who hasn’t watched MLP yet) and I discussed some thoughts about what “looking a gift horse in the mouth” could mean in Equestria if not pony slavery.

MLP:FiM is, on occasion, a bit darker than it might seem at a glance.


She looked at each of the capes in turn.  Legend, Prism, Ursa Aurora and Cache were the outsiders, heroes on loan.

Oh hey, the three Taylor didn’t recognize.

Prism and Ursa Aurora both sound like they have light-based powers, unless Wildbow (or Ursa) looked at “aurora borealis” meaning “northern lights” and thought “aurora” was the part that meant “northern”. Which seems uncharacteristic of Wildbow and would more likely result in “Aurora Ursa”.

More likely, Ursa Aurora is capable of summoning bears made of shimmering green light. Perhaps also other beings.

Prisms have to do with light bending and colors, so it’s likely they have a power involving colors and/or multiple (seven?) different states they can put someone in with beams of light. That actually reminds me a lot of Legend. Also, if not for it having been established that Arthur is not a parahuman (”out of the loop”), I would’ve suspected Prism to be Arthur just because of how well both interpretations – light bending and colors – go with Legend’s power.

Cache sounds similar to Battery in that they save something up and then unleash it, but that can be interpreted in many ways. Their power could be anything from speed (unlikely because Battery already has a speed power that works that way) to strength to gadgets to hammerspace.

Miss Militia’s group was more worn out.  Where their costumes had been damaged, stained or torn, pieces had been replaced from the generic costumes the PRT kept in stock.

Clearly they have been doing something to deal with the situation. Probably helping victims and fighting the Nine when absolutely necessary.

The outsiders are less worn out because they can’t help as much against the active tester.

Miss Militia had doffed the jacket but left the scarf with the flag motif in place.  She wore a black tank top and camouflage pants with a number of empty holsters and sheaths for her weapons.

Look, I can’t be the only one who imagines Miss Militia looking like a sexy badass, right?

Battery was wearing a plain black costume and goggles, while Assault had replaced the top half of his costume with similar odds and ends.  Triumph still wore his helmet and shoulder pads with the roaring lion style, but his gloves had been replaced with the same utilitarian, generic ones the PRT officers wore in the field.

Oh man, Triumph, been a while since we saw him around!


The Wards, at least, were in better shape.  Tired, to be sure, but they hadn’t been directly in the fray.  The patrol shifts were unending and they always had something to do.

I suppose they have the sense not to send kids against these bastards.

*glances over at the other kids they refused to help against these bastards* Ahem.

Weld, Flechette, Clockblocker, Vista, Kid Win and Chariot.

Hi, Chariot, you getting situated nicely?

She deliberately avoided looking at Chariot.  The mole in their midst.  Did Coil suspect she knew about the mole he’d planted?

I don’t think he does, because I don’t think he’s Coil’s mole [here].

I could be wrong, though, with Chariot acting as confirmation that Skitter’s message has been received and the PRT is acting on it.

Could she afford to assume he didn’t?

Still, it would all be for nothing if she gave the game away.  Back to the matter at hand.

Yeah, let’s leave the I Know You Know for later.


“We have three priorities,” she began.  “We take down the Nine, we regain control of the city, and we don’t die.”

Looks like she has them in order.

Of course, one of those is bound to put them in conflict with the Undertravelers after the Nine are dealt with.

She stressed the final two words, waiting to see their reactions.  Were any of her people thinking of performing a heroic sacrifice?

Well, Armsmaster isn’t in this crowd anymore.

“There’s no point in winning now if any of you die or get converted to the enemy side by Regent or Bonesaw.

Yep, definitely going up against the Undertravelers. That might be an issue.

Even if we were to defeat the Nine outright, through some stroke of fortune, I harbor concerns that we’d lose the city without the manpower to defend it.  It’s a dangerous situation.”

That may very well be true. They’re already low on people.


She picked up the remote that sat in front of her and clicked the button.  The screen showed a map of the city with the spread of territories.

Please make things a little clearer for me. Territories keep showing up where I didn’t think they were, so I think I need a refresher.

“The Nine have the advantage of power.  Not necessarily in terms of the abilities at their disposal, but in terms of their ability to affect change and shape everything that occurs.

Their powers certainly aren’t bad either, though.

They are our number one priority, obviously.  With them gone, if nothing else, I can hope that more capes will be willing to venture into the city to help out.”

Against the Undertravelers… Yeah, they might be in for a pretty big onslaught once they’re done with the Nine.

“But we’re operating with a deadline, and the Undersiders and Travelers have just moved it up dramatically.  The Nine posed their challenge, and they’re losing.  There’s now four ’rounds’ of Jack’s little game remaining.  Twelve days, depending on their successes and failures in the future.

Twelve days to kill Jack Slash.

I’ve talked it over with Legend, and we’re both working under the impression that the Nine will enact whatever ‘penalty’ they mentioned in the terms for their game.  Our working assumption is a biological weapon.”

I suppose it makes sense to assume they’ll win, given their history. Of course, the best option would be to take them out before they can. That’s even better than making sure they don’t.


There were nods around the table.

“In short, our worst case scenario is the Nine feeling spiteful or cornered, and deploying this weapon.  When we attack, we need to make it an absolute victory, without allowing them an opportunity.

On one hand, there are some of them who aren’t as into the game as Jack, but Bonesaw – the one in charge of the weapon – would probably play by the rules even if Jack was taken out.

Wards, I know you’re not obligated to help in this kind of high-risk situation.  This is strictly voluntary, and I’ve had to discuss the matter with your parents to get permission to even raise the subject, but I would value and appreciate your help on this front.”

Alright, so I know I just said it makes sense to keep them out of this, but this seems like a good compromise.

The Wards exchanged glances.

“If you could raise your hand if you’re willing to participate?”  She ventured.

I’m guessing Weld will be, and Vista. Probably Clockblocker and Flechette. Kid Win and Chariot are a little less certain.

Every hand except two was raised.  Chariot and Kid Win.

BOOM, bingo!


It did mean she had Flechette, Clockblocker and Vista.  The ones she needed.

You don’t need Weld?

Do you have a plan that specifically needs these three’s powers?

“Thank you.  Rest assured, Chariot, Kid Win, that I harbor no ill will.”

I appreciate that there’s no attempting to convince these two. Piggy explicitly stating that she doesn’t blame them also helps.

“My mom wouldn’t forgive me if I went,” Kid Win said.

Apparently she still allowed Kid Win to make the choice for himself, given that she allowed this to be brought up. Good parenting.

“I understand.  Now, the Nine are only one threat.  Let’s talk about the others.”  She clicked the remote again.  “Tattletale’s Undersiders have the advantage of information.

Interesting. It could just be because Tattletale is important to the point about information (do they know that yet?), but it seems like they’ve interpreted Tattletale as the leader of the group.

Early on, I considered Grue and Tattle as having a sort of joint leadership, which eventually turned into an official leadership by Grue after Skitter’s advice in Buzz. But right now I actually think Skitter’s second in command, the one who would take over as leader if Grue were incapacitated.

We still don’t know her powers, but we can speculate that it’s a peculiar sort of clairvoyance.  She was able to provide us detailed, verifiable information on Leviathan after fighting him, even though she was only participating for several minutes before being knocked out.”

Yeah, you’re not entirely wrong.

There’s also the information they stole from the Protectorate, which the PRT doesn’t know was shared with Coil and the Travelers.

She paused. “I believe this is why, in a matter of twenty-four hours, they were able to fight the Nine twice and win both times.  On the first occasion, they captured Cherish and Shatterbird, presumably enslaving the pair.”

While Tattletale was probably great help in the planning, she didn’t actually do much during the execution.


“So they have Shatterbird’s firepower and Cherish’s ability to track people, now,” Legend spoke.

Well, one of those things.

They also have a versatile power you don’t know about yet, in Grue. Oh, and Imp, which you’ve probably forg– actually, no, the PRT would know about Imp because Dragon was immune to her power. They might not know exactly what her power does, though, for the same reason, though video footage combined with the Wards’ memories of the battle ought to help them figure it out.

Piggot nodded.  “Skitter contacted us for assistance, as some of you will remember, and when we refused, the Undersiders took the fight to the Nine a second time.  Burnscar is dead, Bonesaw injured.  She’s invited us to attack them in the meantime.”

Gonna take that invitation? RSVP.

“Why would we do that now when we turned down her offer to cooperate?”  Weld asked.  “What’s changed between now and then?”

Well, for one thing, Burnscar and Bonesaw.

For another, this seems to be a bit less tight of a cooperation.

“Communications will be up shortly,” Piggot replied, “We now have the consoles and trained employees ready to man them, and so long as we’re going into this as a unit, we don’t need to worry about other groups stabbing us in the back at any point during the battle while we engage the Nine.”

Oh yeah, that too.

“Would they?”  Legend asked.  “I have a hard time assessing their motives and morality.”

The Undersiders wouldn’t, no. The Travelers probably not. Out of all the groups in town, these are probably the least likely to backstab you, followed by Faultline’s Crew (even though they can be bought into backstabbing you).

“I don’t know.  Could they?  Yes.  And that possibility is too dangerous, especially given what Regent can do.

That’s fair.

The Undersiders do not pull their punches.  The Travelers, oddly enough, are more moderate, but they do have sixteen kills under their belt, due in large part to the sheer power at their disposal.”

…fuck, it sounds backwards, but she’s right. The Travelers are more powerful and more capable of lethal force, accidentally or otherwise, but they hold back against the good guys (as seen in Sentinel). The Undersiders, on the other hand, have limited power, but have used what they do have to the fullest ever since Arc 3.


“Let’s not forget the incident in New York,” Legend said.  “Forty individuals disappeared in one night.  Investigation confirmed the Travelers were occupying a nearby location.  Chances are good that they were involved.”

Woah.

But how, and why?

I doubt this was actually their doing, though they may have been involved.

“They’re complicated, no doubt,” Emily confirmed.  “But for now, they’re one knot in a very tangled weave.  The Nine have power, the Undersiders have information.

You don’t even know how tangled.

Coil has resources that may even exceed our own, including a precog of indeterminate power.  Last but certainly not least, Hookwolf’s contingent is one and a half times the size of our own, and he’s absorbing the whites from the Merchants to his own group.  He commands a small army.”

And Coil, the Undersiders and the Travelers are essentially one big and powerful group.

Also commanding a small army sounds like Hookwolf’s dream.

Well, no, that would be commanding a big army. It’s a start, though.

“It’s a considerable series of obstacles stacked against us,” Legend answered.

Yep!


“And few capes are willing to step in to help defend the city.  Credit to Legend and his teammates for joining us.  Thank you.”

That certainly ought to help.

The group of guests nodded.

“There’s more.”  Time to see how much information filters through to Coil, and how he reacts.  With luck, we might be able to pit one problem against another.

Oh boy.

If Chariot is Coil’s man, whatever she’s about to say might cause some internal trouble. Although she doesn’t know that the Undersiders, Travelers and Coil are allies, so pitting Coil up against the former two might not work as well as she thinks.

“Armsmaster’s confinement was technically off the record, to protect the PRT in this time of crisis.  He escaped, and thus far, Dragon has not been able to track him.  Without official record or reason to arrest him, our measures are limited.”

Ahh, right. “Nothing’s official until it’s on record.”

“It’s impressive that he got away from Dragon,” Kid Win said.

This seems like the sort of line that’s meant to make us think a little harder about what was just said and realize that Dragon is probably helping Colin. She probably personally let him out, even. Though she might not like his plans.

“It is.  Thus far, he has eluded every measure she had in place.  Either he is much more crafty than even Dragon anticipated, keeping in mind that she’s a very smart woman, or Dragon helped him.”

Okay, look, I got there, alright? 😛


That gave the others pause.

Yeah, that kind of betrayal is not something you accuse Dragon of lightly.

Especially since nobody wants to think about how much trouble they’ll have if Dragon turns on them completely.

Not that she can, but they don’t know that.

“Dragon’s record of service has been exemplary,” Legend spoke.

“It has.  And we’ve put an inordinate amount of trust in her as a consequence.  How many of our resources are tied into her work?  If she had a mind to oppose us, would we be able to deal with her?”

Well, nobody except Piggy, I mean. And she’s right, Dragon would have a lot of power if she could turn on them completely. And she could probably work around her limitations to at least inconvenience them a bit if she really wanted to.

“We have no reason to think she’s done anything.”

Maybe that’s exactly it, maybe she hasn’t done anything to try to track Colin.

Emily waved him off.  “Regardless.  Very little of this situation remains in our control.  Armsmaster is gone, the other major players are members of the various factions, and we remain in the dark about who many of them are.”

Not to mention how the factions interact.

There were nods all around.

She had them listening.  “I have a solution in mind.  The higher-ups have approved it.  Clockblocker, you’re going to be using your power defensively if things go south.

Makes sense. For one thing, he’s the only one here who could stop Siberian.

They aren’t patient enough to wait for it to wear off.  You can protect yourself by using your power on a costume you’re wearing, yes?”

Huh, that’s pretty clever.

I wonder if he thought of that before or after Agitation. Maybe it was inspired by Skitter trapping him in a case of his own power.


Clockblocker nodded.

“Vista, I’m counting on you to help control the movements of the Nine.  Siberian is immune to powers, but not to external influences.  The timing will be sensitive.”

Makes sense. Maybe manipulate the space she’s moving through to send her straight into Clockblocker’s hand?

Although if she’s straight up immune to powers, I suppose even he can’t stop her.

She clicked the remote, then turned her head to look at the result.  It was a warhead.

Ballistic, somewhere else: *sneezes*

So the plan is to control the Nine into a specific spot and then hit them all with a warhead to blow some of them the fuck up?

Also, how does Clocky factor into this? You said you needed him, but so far you’ve only given him a task that involves freezing himself in place for 30 seconds to ten minutes as a defensive tactic. If that’s all, he might as well stay behind in a safe location.

“On my command, a stealth bomber is prepared to drop payloads of incendiary explosives at a designated location.  We evacuate civilians from the area or lead the Nine to an area where evacuation is possible or unnecessary, then we drop a payload on site.

“And where is the Giant, Mansley?”

If they move, we drop another payload.  Clockblocker, you protect anyone that’s unable to clear out.

Ahh, there we go, that makes sense.

Legend will ferry you to where you need to be.  Cache can rescue people as the effects wear off.”

So does Cache collect people in hammerspace? Can they do it to items or just people?


“That’s… still not reassuring,” Flechette spoke.

Oh yeah, and Flechette was supposed to be important, too. What do you have for her?

“You’ll be equipped with fire resistant suits.  I ordered them in anticipation over fighting Burnscar, but the plan has been adjusted.  You’ll all look identical, except for agreed upon icons, colors and initials on each costume.

Initials seem counterproductive, unless it’s just random letters instead of their actual first letters.

Ones Jack and the other members of the Nine will not be able to identify, please.  There’s a team ready to prepare the costumes at a moment’s notice.

The biggest problem with this is that using their powers will give them away, and the colors make it easier to keep track of who’s who. But I suppose that’s necessary since they themselves will need to keep track of that.

It will help mask the identities of those involved, and postpone any reaction from Jack over our having broken the terms of the deal.”

Oh right, since they’ll be having the outsiders in on this.

That’s… risky.


“But we are breaking the deal.  Even if Legend’s team doesn’t get involved-” Miss Militia started.

Hmm. How exactly? I mean, in the hypothetical of Legend’s team not getting involved.

“The incendiary deployments will serve three purposes.  They’ll forestall any biological attacks Bonesaw attempts, they’ll force Siberian to stay put to protect her allies and they’ll kill Jack or Bonesaw if she isn’t able.

Hopefully.

Humans aren’t biologically programmed to look up, and whatever else Siberian is, she’s still human at her core.”

That is a good point. We don’t have reason to look up very often, so we haven’t evolved the habit of it.


“And if Siberian does protect her allies?” Weld asked.

“Flechette will see if her enhanced shots can beat Siberian’s invulnerability.  Failing that, Clockblocker contains the woman.

But I thought– oh! Right, he might not be able to stop her, but he can make immovable obstacles. Then we’ll really get an answer to the famous thought experiment.

His power won’t work on her, but we can cage her in thread or chains that he can then freeze.  If we can do the same with Jack and Bonesaw, we can starve them out, or wait until they let go of Siberian.

Oh man, the thread/chains make it even better, since she wouldn’t have the opportunity for a running start.

If you’re prepared, Clockblocker?  We can support you with relief teams.”

“If it means stopping them, I’m down.”

We’re counting on you, pal. Don’t die on us.


“Unless she’s able to walk through that,” Weld spoke.

People have been trying to figure that out for a while.

“It’s inviolable,” Clockblocker said, leaning back in his chair.  “I’d sooner expect her to fold the universe in half.”

*glances at Vista*

Yeah, it’s inviolable, but does it stop the unstoppable or does the unstoppable violate the inviolable?

I’m inclined to think the former, though, because Clockblocker makes it so time doesn’t pass for the thing or person he pauses. Things can’t move when time doesn’t pass for them–

Wait, no, that’s not strictly true. Time doesn’t pass for light (light speed causes division by zero in the equation that, among other things, determines the amount of time that passes for something at a given speed in comparison to an observer), and that moves. Not from its own perspective, but from an observer’s.

But the way things have been portrayed in Worm, so far, it does seem like “things can’t move when time doesn’t pass for them” holds true.


“You’re sure?”

“It’s what the doctors say.”  Clockblocker said.

Heh.

But the doctors aren’t Siberian.

I should hope.

“And Crawler?” Legend asked.

Piggot spoke, “Legend, Ursa Aurora, Prism, Weld, Assault and Battery will occupy him until we can contain him.  He’s still vulnerable to physics.

Knock him over and stop him from getting up?

Also, are you sure? He acts so catlike, I almost wouldn’t be surprised if physics are merely a suggestion he likes to follow. :3

I’m hoping the white phosphorous explosive will keep him in the area long enough for us to put measures in place.  As I said, we can’t afford to do this halfway.  If they get cornered, or if they think they’ll lose, we run the risk they’ll lash out.”

This seems like a fairly solid plan, but there’s no way it’s going to go perfectly. I don’t think the Protectorate are going to clean the board for the Undertravelers that easily.

She glanced around the room at the fourteen parahumans present.

“We carry this out this evening, before any of our opponents catch on to our intentions and complicate matters with their own agendas.  That will be all.  Prepare.  See to your suits in the lab.”

She said this for Coil, didn’t she.


She watched everyone file out.  Legend stayed behind.

Yo.

“You’re not saying everything,” he murmured.

“No.”

Does Legend know about Chariot?

“Fill me in?”

“Some of that is to mislead the spy in our midst.  We have a follow-up measure.”

“Does it pose a risk to this team?”

A follow-up measure? To deal with Coil messing with things, or maybe just to see how he reacts?

“It does.  Unavoidable.  I suspect Coil will inform Hookwolf and encourage the Chosen, the Pure and even Faultline’s group to act.  Tattletale, I suspect, will know something’s going on, and I intend to leak enough information to pique her curiosity.

But why would Coil do that? To stab the Protectorate in the back?

The Undersiders and the Travelers wouldn’t, not while cooperating with them, but Coil absolutely would.

It’s in the moment that the villains enter the situation that the risk to our capes occurs.”

Right.

“But?”

“But we have a store of equipment we confiscated from Bakuda when we raided her laboratory.

I jokingly brought this up very recently in relation to the Protectorate stepping into a fight between the Undertravelers and the Nine, in my Worm/SU crossover crackfic [here].

If me dragging that old nitpick back up and making the entire “plot” of the fic a weird consequence of the Protectorate using Bakuda’s equipment didn’t tip you off, I still don’t think it’s a good idea. 😛

Miss Militia deployed a number against Leviathan, but we have more.  Once the other factions have engaged, we bombard the area with the remainder in a second strike.  Our research suggests that several of these explosives can bypass the Manton effect.”

…holy fuck.


No, seriously, holy fuck.


What Piggot is suggesting is that they dump a ton of very likely lethal blasts of many different powers on any and all villains who show up, including a bunch of kids who are barely even villains compared to the other fuckers.

Talk about not holding back.


“This breaks the unspoken rules between capes.  And the truce against the Nine.  I don’t like this.”

Yeah, this would be a major dick move.

It’s a world gone mad.  Do I have to join the madmen to make a difference? 

Isn’t that kind of what you’ve already done, if by madmen you mean the parahumans?

“Don’t worry.  I’m the one who’s going to push the button,” Piggot answered.  “And I’m not a cape.”

You’re still representing the capes. The Protectorate, the Wards, the PRT. The protectors. The fucking government. What do you think the public will think of the heroes of Brockton Bay if they learn that their organization is willing to do something like this?

…and that’s the end of the chapter. Well then.


End of Interlude 13

Well, that was interesting. Certainly less PR-focused than I was expecting.

We got some insight into what makes Jirector Jemily Piggot tick, though her apparent distaste for parahumans ultimately stayed more implicit than I thought it would.

Siberian is likely in the spotlight next Arc, I think, given her importance in the Case 01 scene. It was neat to see a bit of the original four-person Protectorate in action, and hear Alexandria speak. I think I’ll like her if she gets to speak in the future.

We learned about Legend’s orientation, which I had been spoiled about, and more importantly the fact that he’s happily married or partnered and has adopted a son! Regardless of the genders involved, this is so far the purest ship we’ve had since the needle gals. 🙂

Skitter’s message arrived, but she might’ve been unlucky with who made the plan for the attack she invited them into making. Piggot turned scary at the very end with her plan to cluster Bakuda bomb the villains of Brockton Bay when they come to help against the Nine. Holy fuck, Piggot.

Next up… I don’t actually know if there’s another Interlude here, or if it’s Arc Thoughts. Hang on, people who don’t actually need to hang on because I’m posting this and the next paragraph together.

Fuck, I tried to check the link of the next chapter for the word “Interlude” without looking at it and almost succeeded. I should’ve gone for my original plan of asking Sharks or LHC (since Sharks seems to have gone to bed) after all. But I didn’t, and now I know the title of the next Arc, unless it’s been changed like seemed to be the case with Sentinel.

Prey. A title that could refer to a lot of people right now.

I’ll have to speculate more on that in the Arc Thoughts post tomorrow. Honestly, I’ve thought about moving the Arc title speculation to those posts anyway.

Oh yeah, Arc Thoughts tomorrow.

This post is breaking down fast. So yeah, see you soon for that!


[postscript]

Man, between Jemily Piggot (with a silent J) and Colin Icarus Serket, this chapter contains some of my best name headcanons, if I may say so myself. 😛

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2 thoughts on “Interlude 13: Denim Direction

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