Prey 14.2: Watching Us All With the Eye

Source material: Worm, Prey 14.2

Originally blogged: August 4-7/8, 2018


Howdy!

So, last chapter we figured out where Siberian is, and whom she’s mostly likely chasing. Let’s hope his idiocy takes time to kick in and he stays on the run for some time.

Well, idiocy might be the wrong word. Armsmaster is prideful, but he’s not a complete idiot. He probably has a plan, just not one that’s as likely to succeed as he thinks. And he might be ungrateful to the Undertravelers for messing with that plan.

That is if it doesn’t turn out I’ve been bamboozled. Or b-amy-boozled. :p

As for Siberian, I suspect they’ll be far harder to take out than the Undertravelers expected. The best tactic would be a surprise attack on their real body, but I think that would fail (possibly because Bonesaw has protected the real body against things like Taylor’s bugs), alert Siberian to their attackers, and cause the monochrome body to come to the real body’s defense.

Incidentally, this surprise attack is apparently supposed to be done by Taylor, who half-heartedly said she’d be able to deal with it at the end of the last chapter, so we’ll be running into the question of whether or not Taylor can bring herself to directly kill someone, even when the person in question is a monster.

So yeah… Let’s go hunting!


Amy Dallon ran for her life.  It wasn’t the kind of run one saw in marathons or anything like that.

Damn it.

Well, on the bright side, this means more Amy! For now, anyway. It might also mean no more Amy if things go bad.

It was mindless, panicked, like a herd animal in a stampede.  She took the easiest and most obvious paths available to her, stumbling as often as not, her sole and all-consuming purpose being to put distance between herself and her pursuer.

Amy isn’t the POV character here, right? That would be unprecedented in at least two ways. This description is what Taylor is seeing or (more likely, as they want to stay out of Siberian’s line of sight as long as possible) sensing through her bugs, I’m assuming.

Her left hand was cradled against her chest, the very ends of her pinky, ring and middle fingers missing.  Was that intentional?  Harming the healing hands?

Ohh, is it like hangman, in that Siberian eats you bit by bit each time they catch you?

That would explain why Amy’s still alive.

Siberian didn’t even have to run to keep up.  The chase was something she’d honed into an art.  Amy had to run around buildings, hurdle over piles of debris, and climb fences.  Siberian anticipated her movements, pushed through walls of stone, brick, wood and plaster as though they were tissue paper and ultimately took the shortest, most direct paths.

Fuckin’ cheater.

Well, at least she’s handicapping herself by not using her ridiculous speed.

If Amy happened to get a little too far away, Siberian would use a short hop to cross half a city block, often crashing through a wall or the side of a truck in the process.

It’s just a hop, skip and a jump!


She could have closed the gap and gotten her hands on Amy at any moment, but she didn’t.  She was a cat with its prey, and Amy didn’t have anything that could help her get away.

Right. After Crawler’s adorable side, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that Siberian is also catlike.

Well, tigerlike, but there’s not much difference, and it might be partially an act to make the monochrome stripes make thematic sense.

Amy ran and created some distance, getting just far enough that she might think she’d escaped, then Siberian would appear in front of her, or to one side.  It happened once, twice, then three times.  Each time, Siberian drew closer.

Siberian also has another trick on her side: She can, for many intents and purposes, teleport. Though she might only be able to go back to where their real body is.

I’m not sure if I actually mentioned this yet (I don’t think I did), but not too long after it was revealed that the monochrome decoy was her power, it occurred to me that this would be how she got past the blockades unseen in the Case 01 video: She’d dismiss the decoy and resummon it, like Grue did at one point.

Though in retrospect on the retrospect, it is possible that their power is constantly on, and Grue just severed his connection to the power and then reconnected.


The fourth time she closed the distance, she leaped up to a spot behind Amy and caught hold of Amy’s wrist.  Amy jerked as the hold interrupted her forward momentum.  She screamed, her legs buckling under her.

Well, fuck.

Siberian took her time, grabbing at Amy’s other wrist, then prying at her fingers.  Three were already missing segments, and Siberian seized the index finger.  Slowly, inexorably, she guided the finger to her mouth, her lips parting.  Amy thrashed, but couldn’t free herself from Siberian’s grip.

Looks like Siberian is getting the point.

“Shouldn’t we do something?”  Sundancer asked.  Her hand trembled as she lowered the binoculars.

Ah, okay, so this is visible.

I wasn’t sure how useful Sundancer was going to be, on several levels.  Our group consisted of Trickster, Grue, Tattletale, Sundancer and myself, with two of Bitch’s dogs to get us from A to B.

I mean, Siberian’s monochrome body is immune to Sundancer’s power, and it’s prone to causing collateral damage, but maybe something about her knowledge or personality could be worthwhile.

What I’m curious about is why Ballistic isn’t here. He sounds very useful for taking out Siberiman if the bugs fail, like how he was supposed to take out Cherish.

Maybe they don’t trust him to go through with it after that failure, not realizing he was being manipulated?

The seven of us were gathered behind the wall of a ruined building, a considerable distance from Siberian.

Oh, good, so they’re not completely without cover.


Wait, are they just split up, like in the assault where they captured Cherish and Shatterbird? That would make sense. I started this post to question how they got Bitch to let them have two of her dogs without Bitch herself coming along.


I glanced at Grue.  He was tense, rigid enough that I could see his stillness through the darkness.  Anything I’d say to him would hurt more than it helped.

Ah, yeah, I can’t imagine he’s too happy about another assault like this, after how the last few went for him.

I turned my attention back to Amy and Siberian, looking through the binoculars.  Instead of addressing Grue, I told Sundancer, “Nothing we can do.  But I think Siberian is going to-”

Bite a finger off?

As if she’d heard, Siberian closed her mouth.  Amy recoiled with her whole body, pulling away, and Siberian let her go, giving her a little push.

“Go, try again!”

Also Siberian is one of very few parahumans who could get away with this. It’d be so easy for Amy to fuck Siberian up as they went for the finger if not for Siberian being immune to powers.

(Which presumably only applies to the monochrome body.)

As her quarry stumbled and started to run, Siberian simply stood there, waiting.

So, how high do they count?


She wanted to give Amy a head start.

Amy wasn’t bleeding as much as she should have been.  I knew she couldn’t use her power to affect herself, or this fight would be playing out much differently.  But maybe she was using her power to affect microbes on her hands?

Oh man, that’s a clever way to get around this problem.

Changing them into something that could breed, coagulate, and staunch the wounds?

It was what I’d be doing.

Yeah, it’s a very Taylor solution. And we do know Amy can manipulate microbes (or at least sense, but there’s no reason to believe that doesn’t indicate she can manipulate them like any other living being).

This probably prompted at least one fanfic writer to think “what if Taylor had Amy’s power”. Although I’m guessing that was already a thing, since you guys have told me that alt-power Taylor is a common Worm fic trope, Amy had been around for a long part of the story, and she was almost one of the main characters.

In fact, I’ve got a good feeling that if she were, she’d absolutely be using her power in clever ways like this. It’s something Wildbow is good at writing, and I suspect he’d want his main protagonist to be doing that kind of thing regardless of who it was.

Hell, maybe Taylor was partially inspired by his practice run with Amy in Guts & Glory. They’ve got a lot of both similarities and contrasts. (If Guts & Glory didn’t have bits from both of their POVs, I’d bet it’s mainly Amy’s.)

Fuck, I’ve just talked myself into very much looking forward to the day I read Guts & Glory.


She wanted to give Amy a head start.

Amy wasn’t bleeding as much as she should have been.  I knew she couldn’t use her power to affect herself, or this fight would be playing out much differently.  But maybe she was using her power to affect microbes on her hands?

Oh man, that’s a clever way to get around this problem.

Changing them into something that could breed, coagulate, and staunch the wounds?

It was what I’d be doing.

Yeah, it’s a very Taylor solution. And we do know Amy can manipulate microbes (or at least sense, but there’s no reason to believe that doesn’t indicate she can manipulate them like any other living being).

This probably prompted at least one fanfic writer to think “what if Taylor had Amy’s power”. Although I’m guessing that was already a thing, since you guys have told me that alt-power Taylor is a common Worm fic trope, Amy had been around for a long part of the story, and she was almost one of the main characters.

In fact, I’ve got a good feeling that if she were, she’d absolutely be using her power in clever ways like this. It’s something Wildbow is good at writing, and I suspect he’d want his main protagonist to be doing that kind of thing regardless of who it was.

Hell, maybe Taylor was partially inspired by his practice run with Amy in Guts & Glory. They’ve got a lot of both similarities and contrasts. (If Guts & Glory didn’t have bits from both of their POVs, I’d bet it’s mainly Amy’s.)

Fuck, I’ve just talked myself into very much looking forward to the day I read Guts & Glory.


Or maybe Siberian was waiting for Amy to break, mentally.  How long could she put up with this before she lost all hope and surrendered herself to a fate of being eaten alive?

Fuck, that’s also quite possible.

Using my power, I began to gather a swarm around Amy.  Her initial reaction was to freak out.

Reasonable.

Not everyone’s super used to having swarms of bugs flying around and automatically thinking “oh that’s just my friend Skitter messing around”.

And right now, for all she knows, Skitter might be trying to mess her up for some reason, and she really can’t afford to get messed up.

She thrashed, stumbled, and fell.

Y’know, like that.

She landed in the shallow water with her good hand thrust out to prevent herself from landing face first.

Hoo boy, better get out of the water quickly.


Her second reaction, beyond the knee-jerk fear, was to use her power to start shutting mine down.

Wait, you meant you put a swarm on Amy? She’s got touch range to the bugs, that’s way closer than I was imagining.

Idiot,” I hissed the word.

Seriously, Taylor, what are you even doing? Are you going to put decoys around, make it a shell game?

You’re not selling the “trust me and stop fighting me” very well.

“What?”  Tattletale asked.

“I’m trying to save her life, and she’s turning my power against me.”

Really, Taylor, look at what you just did from Amy’s perspective.

Two ways this would go.  Either she clued in that I was trying to help, or she died.  I was really hoping it wouldn’t be the latter.  I didn’t like her, but she didn’t deserve to die.

I do!

So maybe make it a little bit clearer to her what you’re doing.

There were very few people in the world who deserved to die like this.

That’s true, even in a world like the Wormverse.


I could feel a not-unfamiliar headache building as I leveraged my power to draw more of a swarm around her.  Siberian was watching, uncaring.  As was so often the case, my timing had to be specific.

Is Siberian still counting?

She wouldn’t let Amy go as a matter of principle, but she’d let hope dangle in front of both of us.  That penchant for offering hope and then dashing it was a weapon she and virtually every other member of the Nine had at their disposal, but it was also a tendency we could exploit.

I crush all your hopes and then I watch you cry! 🎵
‘Cause I’m the bad guy

A weakness, if you could call it that.

This would have been easier if we’d had another mannequin like we used in our first victory against the Nine, using Trickster’s power to evacuate Amy, but we hadn’t been near my lair and we’d used every mannequin we had in that fight.

That would’ve been great.

Anything else you could’ve used for that nearby? A heavy bush or something?

We could have kludged something together, something vaguely Amy-sized and Amy-shaped, but time had been tight, and we hadn’t found anything that would serve that would also fit on the dogs.

Ahh, fair enough.

Deploying on the one job with the explosives, mannequins and two or three people riding each dog had been our limit, before.

Yeah, I can imagine they wouldn’t carry much more.

Siberian took hold of a length of her long hair and combed her fingers slowly through it, her back twisting and arching a little as she reached behind her head, the flank of her body exposed to the diffuse light of the overcast sky above.

*deadpan* Sexy.

If Cherish wasn’t fucking with us, the real Siberian was a middle-aged man.  What, then, was the projection?  Why was it female, when Brian’s had been male and so very similar to him?

I’m sticking to my guns. Diversionary tactic or trans female, and I’m leaning towards the latter.

As perhaps evidenced by my being more okay with occasionally calling the monochrome Siberian “she” than with calling the original body “he”. It’s not just a matter of habit.

I would have asked Grue something to try to shed light on the subject, but I didn’t want to get him thinking about what had happened back then.

Fair enough.


My head was starting to pound, my power getting more sluggish.  Where possible, I used my bugs to find, catch and kill the bugs Amy had altered with her power.  It wasn’t enough; my power was still getting steadily weaker.

“God d’Amyt!”

Amy fell again, climbed to her feet and swatted her good hand through the swarm, disabling those bugs who stayed on her skin for any longer than a second.

Quick work!

Man, Siberian is being downright civil at this point by not seizing this opportunity.

Maybe they’d see letting Skitter help her catch the prey as a form of cheating.

It was also making it harder to sweep the area for Siberian’s real body.  There were pockets of people here and there.  I needed to keep tabs on the ones who fit Cherish’s description; middle-aged, male, probably unkempt, thin.

Found anyone fitting that yet?

Unfortunately there might be multiple. That ought to throw a spanner in the works a bit.

What made it trickier was that I had to find him without him catching on and sending Siberian after us.  There was one man nearby, but he was fit.  Another there: fat, startling and trembling at the distant sounds of Siberian tearing through the landscape in her pursuit of Amy.

Clues like that last thing would be useful for telling them apart from the other middle-aged thin men around, though.

I found another, but he was clutching a small child to him, and she clutched him back.  Father and daughter, no doubt.  The little girl wasn’t Bonesaw, either.  Too small.

Aww.

In the next cluster of people-  I had to stop and press my fingers to my temples.  It hurt.  Damn that girl.

Use your ability to talk through the swarm, Taylor! Tell her that you’re trying to help!

Maybe not loud enough for Siberian to hear, though.


I had to cover her, though, so having my bugs near her was unavoidable.  Amy needed to be one-hundred percent out of Siberian’s sight before we acted.

Why? What are you planning?

As if she was actively seeking to make things harder on us, she took a route that carried her out of sight of our binoculars, behind a building.  Not that she knew we were there.  It was bad luck.

Yeah, she’s probably just trying to escape the bugs.

And Siberian, of course.

I focused my binoculars on Siberian, instead.  Her hair drifted in the wind.  The length she wasn’t holding in her hand fanned out, briefly.

You need wind to get the badass hair in the wind effect? Amateur.

“If the wind moves her hair like that, is that a clue?” I asked, looking at Tattletale.  “Like the dust on Glory Girl’s clothes hinting that she wasn’t covered by her forcefield?”

I dunno, is there any particular reason for it to be?

“Ninety-five percent sure I’m right on this score, but her power probably copies her real body’s physiology to some degree, molding all the internal organs and whatever else with whatever reality-scrambling-stuff she’s made of.

So the hair… is probably so that it can be blown by the wind because the same applies to their real body?

Her call about what parts of her are affected by what, so I don’t-”  She stopped, “Heads up.”

Ahh, which means they do have some control. For example, they could decide that their form shouldn’t reflect their secondary sexual characteristics (it already doesn’t reflect the primary ones, if Grue’s monochrome form is anything to go by, unless that’s optional too).

Is it weird that I wonder whether or not Monochrome Siberian has nipples, about whether those are removed because the form is sexless? Honestly, I’m inclined to think they wouldn’t be, because female nipples aren’t naturally sexual.

just sexy


Siberian was letting her hair fall from her hands.  She flicked the last strand back over her shoulder.

Go time?

I collected the swarm into a dozen decoys in the same instant Siberian started striding forward, then scattered them.

Nice. I was on the money, I suppose!

I guess that would be why they needed Amy out of Siberian’s sight.

Siberian stopped, pivoting on the spot, then lunged for one side of the street.  She threw herself through the side of a parked pickup truck, shearing through the fiberglass and metal, and landed in a crouch on the far side of it.

Rude.

tumblr_inline_pcydf38qr61sxgvvn_250.png

[El Goonish Shive panel]

George: MY CAR!

She gripped the two sections of the vehicle, tearing where they were still connected on the underside, and then spun in place, holding each half out to one side.

Gonna throw those at different decoys?

Considering your speed it might be faster to just dash right through each one.

I couldn’t be sure, but as I looked through the binoculars, I was pretty sure that I caught a glimpse of her holding one half of the truck by a glass pane of a side window, index and middle finger on either side of the broken glass.

tumblr_inline_pcydioN9Ch1sxgvvn_400.png

[El Goonish Shive panel]

Student: Why are you crying, dr. physics professor?
Dr. Physics Professor: I… I’m not sure

So I guess they’re able to extend their invulnerability to objects as well? The glass pane doesn’t break under the weight of the rest of the truck-half because they’re making sure the whole thing is indestructible until thrown.

In most cases, a cape trying to pick up a car by anything but the undercarriage would find it falling apart, the weight of the vehicle pulling it free of whatever section the cape was holding.  Siberian didn’t have that problem.

Yes, precisely.

She simply extended her power through whatever she was holding to keep it intact.

It takes a bit of the punch out of it when I’m proven right immediately, but knowing how bad I can be at this sometimes, it’s still nice when these moments come along to prove that yes, I can pick up what’s being put down from time to time. :p


With a throwing motion, she whipped one section of the truck over her head, hurling it forward so it crashed through no less than five of my decoy swarms.

Damn, nice shot.

She did a tight spin as she stepped forward and made the second throw into a smooth continuation of the first.

She’s done this plenty of times before, clearly.

Her accuracy wasn’t quite so good for the second hit.  It crashed through the water and hit the ground before it rolled out of my line of sight.  It was only through my swarm that I felt it hit Amy and my decoy swarms.

Oof.

Wait a minute.

Did I ask Amy to get out of the water, earlier? In Brockton Bay??

I’m sorry for demanding the impossible, Amy. I meant getting up and away from the particular spot in the water you were at.

Most of the momentum was lost in the initial impact, and it didn’t pulverize her.  She was in one piece, at least.

That’s good. A start.

In retrospect, that might have been intentional on Siberian’s part.

Don’t want to break her chewtoy that quickly!

Also, “in retrospect”… is that Taylor in the moment realizing that just long enough after the fact to call it “in retrospect”, or are we briefly dealing with the Taylor who’s telling the story of her past here?

“She’s advancing,” Tattletale reported.

“Yeah,” I replied, absently.  I was focusing on getting my bugs on site.  The bugs that had surrounded Amy and formed the decoys in her immediate vicinity were still there, and I gathered them into humanoid shapes again.

Fortunately, bugs are good at avoiding big things that are coming towards them.

I didn’t have line of sight to her, but I could feel them rising in what must have looked like a very human way.

Niice.


So I’ve got LumiRadio playing Homestuck music to me as I blog, and right now, while I’m reading about Siberian and her challenge, they’re playing a song from a fan album named “Running For Eons”.


I’d known that using the decoys would provoke Siberian.  She wanted to drive home that inevitability of her target’s fate, and that meant she would stop playing around the second she thought Amy might really escape.

Ah, yeah, wouldn’t want the target to get any funny ideas about having a chance of Siberian attacking a decoy instead.

That was the bad.

The way you say that makes it sound like there’s “a good”? Maybe even an ugly?

I suppose the ugly would be Siberian’s real body.

The good side of things caught me by surprise.  As though a switch was flicked, my power suddenly surged back to its normal strength.  Amy was killing the bugs she’d fucked up, so they weren’t scrambling my power anymore.  She’d realized I was trying to help.

Nice!

Now let’s see if we can’t find the ugly and put an end to this.

“Should I attack?”  Sundancer asked.

“No,” Grue almost barked the word.  “You’ll give away our location.”

Yeah, I suppose it’d be hard to miss where the literal miniature sun came soaring from.

Sundancer is going to prove useful by the end of this, somehow.

“Let me,” Trickster said.

While Trickster unclipped grenades from the belt of his costume, I focused on Amy.  She was standing, slowly, masked by a swarm.

What are the grenades supposed to accomplish, exactly? Or the sun, for that matter?

Distractions? Making the ground a little less runnable?

If I sent a decoy running in one direction, I was almost positive it would get Amy killed.  She couldn’t run faster than Siberian, and however much I scattered the decoys, Siberian could dispatch them all and get her hands on the real Amy in a matter of seconds.

Bad idea.

If I moved a decoy too fast, it would be a dead giveaway as a fake.

Because the real Amy would not be able to run fast enough for Siberian to not catch her immediately.


“Really need a distraction,” I said.

“Are you still looking for the real Siberian?”  Tattletale asked.

“Of course I am!”  I snapped.  I might have gone on to point out how we were also here to save her.

And finding the real body is probably the best way to do that, but you gotta keep Amy alive long enough to find it.

To save Amy Dallon.  I kept my mouth shut: pointless to waste my breath or dedicate any focus to arguing when I could be trying to deal with Siberian.

This is a two-front battle, and Taylor is largely fighting both sides alone, with a slight bit of aid from the rest of the team.

Trickster was looking through his binoculars, holding one grenade.  I saw him pull the pin a second before the grenade in his hand was replaced by a fragment of building.

Ohh. That way he can cause rubble to fall down and mess things up for Siberian.

Briefly.

An explosion erupted a matter of feet from Siberian.  The smoke cleared quickly enough, and I saw her turning her head, looking for the unseen attacker.  I ducked my head low to get more cover from the ruined wall we all lurked behind.

And distract her, right.

“Grue?” I asked.

He hesitated.

Oh damn, do you intend to make this a monochrome-on-monochrome fight?

I mean, yes, Siberian is way stronger that Grue’s monochrome, but that’d still be awesome. Might even get past Monochrome Siberian’s invulnerability like Siberian did with Alexandria. And if it doesn’t, Siberian might not be able to get past Grue’s monochrome’s probably somewhat weaker invulnerability.


“Please.”

“Right.”  His darkness began to flow from his hands.  I climbed up onto Sirius’s back, and Grue was a step behind, taking a seat in front of me.

“Any luck?” Tattletale asked.  She’d seated herself on Bentley, her hands on the chain around his neck, and both Trickster and Sundancer were behind her.

So where are they riding off to now? Direct confrontation is the last thing they want.

I suppose they might have to move around a bit to find Siberian’s real body, depending on Siberian’s range.

My bugs were still searching for the real Siberian.  Or her creator, depending on how one wanted to look at it.  I was reaching the edges of my range and I hadn’t found anyone suitable.  I did find two adult men that were together.  Could she have made a friend in her real identity?

Entirely possible, I suppose.

Also, while I’m willing to go along with the flesh and meat being their real body, I’m not willing to assume their real body has their “real identity”.

Just to be safe, I set my bugs on the pair of them.  I didn’t use anything deadly, but I had bugs biting and stinging without flexing their abdomens to inject the accompanying venom.  Siberian didn’t react to my assault of the men.

Well, sucks for the two of them, then. :/

I put each of them down as a ‘maybe’, planting bugs in the folds of their clothes to mark them.

“Can’t find her maker,” I said.

Keep in mind that by using this terminology, you’re signing away any right to use one-liners about “meeting your maker” to Monochrome Siberian while killing them.


“My power’s not detecting him either,” Grue replied, “But my coverage is bad.  Give me a second and I’ll let you know the second my darkness connects with him.”

Ohh, I see, that’s why he did that.

Also, the slowing of the darkness’ generation is rearing its head as a weakness. Though apparently it spreads faster, doesn’t it, so that’s something.

Siberian had noticed the darkness, and I could see her contemplating coming after us, striking at the source of the darkness.

Uh oh.

I guess that’s part of why he was reluctant to use it.

Instead, she turned and began making her way toward Amy.  The darkness continued to flow, low to the ground, tendrils rising to bind together and fill in gaps, and my view of Siberian was soon blocked.

Well, at least you’ve got bugs, but somehow I feel like they’d have a hard time hanging on to her.

There was another explosion as Trickster deployed another grenade, but it wouldn’t serve as anything but a split-second distraction.

A bit higher up than the darkness, I’d imagine.


I could feel Siberian.  Through my bugs, I could tell the darkness hadn’t reached around that corner to where Amy, my newly reformed decoys and the two sections of truck were.

But Siberian has?

It was as good a time as any.  We needed to delay, so I wrote the words ‘run in 3’ in front of Amy, along with an arrow.  The three transformed into a two.  Then a one.

A countdown in shifting bugs sounds like it’d look cool.

I sent the decoys off in different directions.

Sweet. And by making sure Amy knows when and where to run, it’ll look more like she’s in sync with the decoys.

Siberian lunged just as I’d expected her to, crashing through the decoy that was moving fastest.  She plunged her hands into the nearby wall and ripped out a chunk of brick and mortar, flinging it.

You know something that’s going to suck in any ‘verse where superpowered fights are common?

Insurance premiums.

Of course, Brockton Bay is currently so bad off even for a superpower setting that the insurance companies have probably declared the city dead to them by now, voiding any insurances they could of things located there and jacking up the premiums further on those they couldn’t void.

It broke apart as it left her hands, forming a scattershot spray.

Yikes.

More than one fragment of brick hit Amy, judging from the way she stumbled.  None of the hits had been too serious, at least, because she managed to keep moving.

Ow, ow, oof.

Using my swarm-sense, I formed a mental map of the area.  Buildings, cover, features of the terrain.  What was a good option?  Should I drive her to keep running or to find cover?  Would Siberian be able to second-guess my suggestions?

Find out next time on Ultimate Doctor Tag!

(#if you’ve never played doctor tag
#it’s a variant where while you’re ‘it’
#you have to hold a hand on the spot where you got tagged
#so for example if you get tagged on the back of your heel
#you have to be touching your heel while trying to chase after people
#it’s good fun)


…no, seriously, find out next time. It’s time for bed. See you Monday!

[End of session]


Amy and Siberian are playing doctor tag wrong. When Siberian eats one of Amy’s fingers, it’s Amy’s turn to run after Siberian while holding a hand on the wound.

Seriously, girls, this game is not that hard to keep track of the rules for.


[Session 2]

In other news, we’re back in business!


She was experienced in this sort of thing, and would be an experienced tracker.  The water that layered the street was something of a blessing, I suspected.  Even as it slowed Amy down, it meant there weren’t tracks of mud or anything for Siberian to follow.

For once it’s helpful!

At worst, there would be clouds of muck stirred up by Amy’s footfalls, and there was little enough sunlight that I wasn’t sure how much of it Siberian would be able to see.

I mean, if the tiger aesthetic is actually something their powerset is going for rather than something they made up to explain the stripes, low-light vision is not far-fetched.

I waited, tense, as Amy ran.  I felt the darkness roll over the bugs I’d gathered on and around her, and crossed my fingers that Siberian didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve.

Of course, even low-light vision won’t help against Grue’s darkness.

Needed a way to communicate with her.  Shifting a small group of bugs onto Amy’s right hand, I felt her shake them off.

Oh yeah, given Amy’s acute life-senses, spelling things out on her skin might work.

I tried again, and she left them there.  I moved them gradually, until they were gathered on the tips of her ring and pinky fingers.  She moved her hand to the right, and I shifted the bugs to her middle and index fingers.

So you’re making them act like a sort of compass towards where you need Amy to go? Neat.


Would she figure it out?

She moved her hand again, and I adjusted the placement of the bugs.  From the way she picked up speed, I could tell she was taking my directions.  The bugs would serve her as a compass.

Sweet.

She wasn’t running as fast as she might, otherwise, but she seemed willing to trust that I wouldn’t direct her straight into a wall.

Right now, trusting Skitter is pretty much all she can do.

That left the problem of Siberian and whether she would come after us when she lost Amy’s trail.

Ah yes. That might be a slight issue.

“Let’s go,” I spoke.  “Let’s check the twelve o’clock position from Siberian to see if we can’t find her creator further on.  Loop around.”

Seems like as good a direction to go as any.

Grue and Tattletale kicked the dogs into action.

I judged that Amy and Siberian were far enough apart, now.  I used my bugs to direct her to a door that was ajar, leading her into a small shopping mall.

now why would you make her hide inside a jar, that’s obviously gonna be way too small

I tapped hard on Grue’s shoulder, and the darkness immediately around us began to fade.  I asked, “You can tell where Amy is?”

Oh! I just realized how they’ll be able to fix Amy’s hand. It’s pretty obvious in retrospect, but I needed this reminder of Grue being able to use his new power on her to realize it: He can borrow a fraction of her power and use it on her.

Unless the power just doesn’t let anyone use it on her rather than not letting them use it on whoever is casting it, but that seems unlikely.


So are they going to steer towards Amy so as to pick her up on the doggos?

“I have a bit of her power.  Don’t trust myself to use it,” he grunted.  “Missing something in the interpretation and analysis part of it.”

Fair enough. This one’s super easy to fuck someone up with by accident.

“Clear the darkness around her so she can find a spot to hide.”

Seems reasonable.

He grunted a response, and the darkness folded around us a second time.

I was focusing on four things at once: staying seated behind Grue, guiding Amy, tracking Siberian’s location and trying to find Siberian’s real body.  I could sense her as she made her way up the side of a building.

Man, it’s really good your power seems to improve your multitasking skills.

Which is not just convenient for Taylor’s tactics, it’s also quite thematically appropriate. Taylor’s mind reflects a swarm, where parts of the swarm can break off and act independently.

Grue’s darkness was heavier, now.  It sat lower on the streets.  From her vantage point, Siberian couldn’t see us, couldn’t see Amy, but she could see the tops of taller buildings.

At least leaping up to them wouldn’t help all that much.

What was she looking at?

Ooh, do we have a clue to where her creator / real body is?

Through my swarm-sense, I could feel her dropping back down to ground level.  I expected a splash or shattered pavement, but there was nothing.

…soft kitty landing?

She was snapping her invulnerability out to affect the surface she was landing on.

See, I thought of that, but I was confused as to why Taylor wouldn’t expect it.


She was heading in Amy’s general direction.

Fuck.

I reached up and pulled on Grue’s right arm.  He veered in that direction.

Couldn’t find Siberian’s real body.  Was it really close, like Cherish had said?  I noted one man who fit the general description, but he was barricaded in his room, surrounded by cans of food.

Honestly, if apocalypse preppers decided to treat the Endbringer attack and subsequent reign of terror by the Nine as an apocalypse like the ones they’ve prepped for, I wouldn’t blame them.

There was no reason for Siberian’s real persona to situate himself here.  Even so, I tested him, attacking him with bugs to see if it got a response.

And yeah, the barricading would be odd for someone who’d need to move around quite a bit.

Not that I was sure that there was a link connecting his real self and her projected form.  It was an assumption, and maybe a dangerous one.

Hmm, true. You’d have to ask Grue, I guess?

I wasn’t sure exactly how much control Brian had managed with his own projection when he’d borrowed that fragment of Siberian’s powers.

No.  My gut told me Siberian wouldn’t operate like this if there wasn’t some link.  There had to be some kind of range limit on the projection, or he wouldn’t have any reason to follow Siberian from city to city.

Yeah, they could just stay at home while terrorizing the world if there wasn’t a range.

The fact that he was supposedly in this area meant it might even be a fairly short range.  If he was an unwilling participant, a recipient of a power with unfortunate side effects, like Labyrinth, then she’d have to direct him from one place to another with threats.

Maybe it’s worth trying to lure Siberian out of range while keeping an eye out for men trying to follow?

It would require more interactions between her selves, and that would mean something would have been given away.

Good point.


Along similar lines, if she depended on him to keep her going, then she had to keep him safe from the other members of the Nine.  There was infighting in the group, apparently, though I’d seen no sign of it with the team thus far.

Which is why I don’t think anyone except Cherish, Bonesaw and maybe Jack know about it. Maybe not even Bonesaw.

Notably, this means the real body must be kept out of the way of the Nine’s general rampage, not just out of the way of members going specifically after Siberian. That’s a point that’s been lurking in the back of my mind for a while, actually.

Keeping the ordinary man safe wouldn’t be a problem if he shared Siberian’s senses like I shared those of my bugs.  She could keep an eye out for trouble and he could slip away or hide if a member of the Nine came around.

I mean, yeah, it’d be less of a problem. There’d still be a lot of Nine to keep track of.

Until Cherish joined the group.  I wonder how that had played out.  Some sort of deal?  Threats, overt or implied?

Hmm. So how long would Cherish be able to manipulate Siberian before she was torn to pieces?


Siberian was on the far side of the two-lane road that stood beside Amy’s hideout.  She didn’t walk straight for Amy, but walked down the street with an almost casual slowness.

Tiger’s on the prowl.

She had one arm out, a hand tracing the side of the building she was walking by, as if to guide her through the effects Grue’s lightless world.

Hm. Can she sense the shape of the building through the part of her power that lets her extend her invulnerability to her surroundings?

My swarm felt dust shower onto them in her wake.  It was unexpected, and it demanded investigation.  I moved them across the wall, and felt a gap.

Rude. Can’t you use the door every once in a while?

She wasn’t just putting her hand on the wall, but her hand and forearm through it.  What did that mean?

Oh, I see.

It means you’d better hope that wall isn’t too critical to the structure.

My bugs felt more dust fall from above.  A moth was bludgeoned by a rock that fell from above.

And down it comes.

I felt realization hit me like a bucket of cold water.

Her hand was punching through the exterior wall of the building, but it was also tearing through the supports and load bearing areas.  She’d made her way halfway through the ground floor.

Yeah, this wall is coming down, at the very least.

By the time she finished, part of the building was going to collapse and fall.

If the building tipped in the direction of the shattered area, it could easily fall on the mall where Amy was hiding.

Not to mention that there might be people inside.

My bugs formed a picture on a wall near Amy.  A rectangle to represent the skyscraper Siberian intended to bring down, a squatter rectangle to represent the mall, a ladybug for Amy and a moth to represent Siberian.  I demonstrated what was about to happen.

“Get out of there, now.”


Faster and easier than explaining with words.

Still, I included one word for good measure:  ‘RUN’.

Honestly I’m not sure you needed more than that.

I could feel Amy making a break for it.  She headed in the wrong direction at first, northwest instead of northeast, and I used a giant arrow to direct her.

“No, that way!”

The building began to collapse only ten or fifteen seconds after I’d transmitted the message.  Grue’s power didn’t do anything to stop the rumble from reaching us.  From what my bugs could gather in the chaos that followed, the building seemed to slump, the lower levels buckling and crackling.

This wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem if the city didn’t have 6+ story buildings around everywhere.

Just when I thought it had settled, the upper portion tipped over, crashing into the small parking lot and the entrance of the mall.

Malls do not get treated well in Worm.


Amy wasn’t in the impact site, and she probably wouldn’t have been even if I hadn’t warned her.  Still, it was a demonstration of power, it was intended to scare an already terrified Amy, and it served both purposes.

“I may not be able to find you right now, but if I have to, I can bring down this entire neighborhood on your head.”

She was running directly away from the site of the devastation, ignoring the bugs I had on her hand.  In her pell-mell run , Amy stumbled into a post meant to keep carts from being taken out of the mall and fell hard.

Whoops.

“Right,” I spoke into Grue’s darkness.  He obeyed.

Siberian was giving chase, entering one end of the mall at the same time Amy made her way out of the opposite side.  Siberian had guessed the most likely hiding spot and then used the falling building to dash Amy’s hopes of safety and get her out of hiding and running.

It keeps coming down to malls…

With the way the roads funneled together into one four-lane road, Amy would either have to take a left, take a right, or go straight.  Chances were good she would take the latter, because it put her the furthest from Siberian.

Makes sense to me.


[Session 3]


With my directions, we looped around the mall and made a beeline for Amy.  Siberian was advancing too, but while she was in the right general area, she didn’t have a means of finding Amy, specifically.  Instead, she leaped from one area to another, pausing for a second or two at a time.

Yeah, gonna be a bit of trial and error here. Hopefully.

What was she doing?

It seems like she might actually have something she expects to be able to detect Amy at a short range, whether it can get past the darkness or not. Maybe something like super-scent?

I swept the area with my power, but I couldn’t find anyone resembling Cherish’s description of Siberian’s real self.

Damn, this is getting kinda suspect. Did Cherish mislead them for some reason?

Or maybe Siberian’s real body has been stowed away in a bug-proof location, anticipating an attack by Skitter somehow?

Was I missing something?  If Cherish had been lying outright, I was under the impression that Lisa would have caught some tell.  There had to be something else to it.

Good point.

Something I could use to identify the man behind the monster.

What was she?  Unstoppable, a deceptively strong, deceptively tough juggernaut of a woman.

And that might be reflected by the other body looking similarly frail but being stronger than one might expect?


Something caught her attention.  A vibration in the road?

Hmm.

Maybe that’s what she’s been stopping to sense for?

Or had she used her power to protect the ground, and sensed some impact as the dogs walked on it?

Which would also work to find Amy.

Either way, she started to chase us.  We could have turned at a right angle, to hopefully throw her off, but both Grue and I knew that if we did, and she continued straight, she’d run straight into Amy.

Well, fuck.

Fast.  She was fast.  Not as much as Battery or Velocity might have been on a good day, but highly mobile.

…maybe the real body isn’t. Like with Genesis, a trigger event involving that kind of thing could result in a power that lets you move around in a separate body with incredible mobility and strength.

Maybe look for wheelchairs and the like?

It is worth noting that Siberian needs to be able to have their real body follow along without it being significantly slower than the Nine overall.

The thought clicked into the blank I was looking to fill.  How was her alter ego getting around?  I’d assumed he was traveling on foot because that was how ninety-percent of the city was getting by.  Very few cars on the road had access to gas and the ability to traverse the broken, flooded streets.  But if there was a range limit to the projection, how was he keeping up with the woman who could ignore air resistance and leap across a city block in a single bound?

Also a really good point! That’s why I’ve suggested trying to get her to the edge of the range, though I’m not sure what it’d accomplish.


I shouldn’t have been looking for people.  I should have been looking for vehicles.  Had I overlooked anything like a truck or a van interior he could be hiding inside?

Now we’re talking.

Or was he still in a location outside of my range?  Or -I wasn’t ignoring the possibility- had Cherish lied or misled us?

This is the kind of thing I do on this blog: Even if I think an option is unlikely (Taylor already mentioned that she doesn’t think Cherish lied), I still try to acknowledge it and keep it in mind.

Damn it!  The extra possibility threw my hopes of finding the man totally out of whack.

You can do it!

My respect for Grue grew a hundredfold as he veered straight for Amy without my asking him to.  We swept past her, and I caught her around the shoulder.

YES

Grue offered one hand, and we lifted her together, kicking and struggling, onto my lap.  I wrapped one arm around her chest, to keep her securely in place.  She was breathing hard, almost hyperventilating.

really can’t blame her one bit.


It took her a few seconds to realize we weren’t Siberian.  She might have calmed down at that realization, but she didn’t get a chance.

I hope at no point during pulling her up did you touch her skin. That might’ve ended badly, before she could complete the thought “I can sense their biology, so they’re not Siberian”.

Siberian closed the gap in a single bound, crashing into Bentley, Lisa, Trickster and Sundancer and shoving them forward into the rest of us.

shit

We sprawled, and I felt my leg bend painfully as Sirius rolled over it.

Yeah that’d do it alright. Most legs don’t deal well with being rolled over by cars. Or car-sized dogs.

Fortunately there’s a healer around, if you can keep her and yourselves alive.

Grue banished his darkness.  I could see the six of us and the two dogs, lying on the road. Nobody dead.

Wait, you didn’t banish it entirely, did you? Even if Siberian’s found you, you don’t want her to see you more than absolutely necessary to get your own bearings.


And there was Siberian.  Faintly glowing eyes, black and white striped skin, straight hair in similar variations of black and white, trailing to her tailbone.

Why did you dismiss the darkness, Grue? Did you think it made it too difficult for everyone to get their bearings before Siberian found them anyway?

“Thank you, Grue,” Tattletale said.  Had she asked him to cancel out his power?  It wasn’t like he was borrowing any power that would work on Siberian, and as for the concealment effects, they wouldn’t do much.

I still suspect Siberian’s own power might work against her, but she’d be way more powerful in that mirror match.

And, as it turned out, she wanted to talk.

Right. Let’s Tattletale this bitch.

Better hope she’s more willing to listen than Jack was.

She pulled herself up to a standing position and raised one hand, palm facing Siberian.  “Hold on.”

“Hey, infamously unstoppable monster, could you stop for a sec?”

Siberian stopped.

Turns out the key to stopping her was simply asking nicely.


“I think you should know,” Tattletale smiled, “We’re here for three reasons.”

Three…

  1. save Amy
  2. stop Siberian
  3. ???
  4. profit

I suppose “help Cherish” might count, but that’s more like a coincidence and tool than a goal.

So what do you have in mind, Tattle?

Siberian’s eyes narrowed.

“Reason number one, we’re trying to save that girl.  I mean, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know if I would have risked it, but we do have some more compassionate people on our team.”  She glanced at me.  “For better or worse.”

Bit of both, yeah, depending on your point of view.

I could see Siberian flex her fingers.  Her nails were long, and they were sharp.

Usually it takes a couple more personal lines before people start physically showing a desire to strangle Tattletale.

There wasn’t anything special about them, on an aesthetic level, but they did have the benefit of her power.  If she raked those across a surface, they would leave gouges.

Yeah, absolutely.

Didn’t matter how hard or dense the material was.

The Mohs scale crumbles at her touch!


“Reason number two, we’re aiming to kill you.  See, we know about your… other self.”

So, why are you letting her know that you know?

There wasn’t the slightest reaction from Siberian.

I wonder if she would have reacted if Taylor had indeed found her real self with the bugs earlier.

“And the third reason, I think you should know, is sort of tied into the first.  We’re making you waste time.  Longer you take to kill Panacea, here, the better off we are.

Ah, yeah, I suppose that’s true.

Awfully arrogant of you to leave your team and go off to pick off candidates like Amy.  The rest of your team?  Crawler, Jack, Mannequin and Bonesaw?  Right this second, they’re getting a surprise visit from the rest of our team.  What do you think-”

Ohhh. Well that answers that lingering question!

So is she getting cut off because Siberian lunged? Or ran towards “home”?


Siberian flickered and disappeared.  Tattletale’s jaw dropped.

Close enough. She’d have run instead if they hadn’t let on that they already knew her secret.

So was the entire point of this to reroute Siberian’s focus so this part of the team can escape with Amy?

Shit,” Trickster cursed, “She-”

“Just get a phone!  Warn them!”

Or did you not expect her to go to her teammates’ (Bonesaw’s) aid?

I mean, at first it seemed they didn’t expect her to go that quickly, but it sounds like they didn’t have their immediate response to her going planned out.


Wrap-up post tomorrow. We just had a death scare for Mozart (my cat), and while we just now determined (to our massive relief) that the hairs we thought had fallen off him in droves during a fight were actually dog hairs, probably brushed off, we still don’t know where he is. I haven’t quite recovered from the scare yet, and probably won’t until I actually see him.

So yeah, I’m not exactly in a blog-wrapping mood. See you tomorrow for wrap-up and asks.


HE’S HERE

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End of Prey 14.2

This was quite solid! Siberian was kept at bay for the most part, but the sense that she was a big threat was nicely kept up throughout the chapter. 🙂

I was bamboozled, but I’m not complaining. I’m all for more Amy (to a much larger extent than more Colin), and while she didn’t get the chance to do much besides run and hide, the third thing she ended up doing could lead to some excellent developments: She had to trust Skitter and let herself be saved by other villains. I wonder how that’s going to make her feel when it comes to her hangups about heroism and villainy, but first and foremost I’m hoping it’ll lead to more amycable relations between Amy and the Undersiders and, through that, more Amy.

Next chapter, we need to keep Siberian from fucking up the other half of the Undertravelers. I’m interested in how this will be presented. We’re definitely not just going to make a phone call and wait to hear how things went, so we’re probably looking at either a) the group we’ve been following arriving at the scene at the beginning of the chapter with Siberian already making a mess of their plans (especially anything that targets Bonesaw), or b) an Interlude from the perspective of someone on that scene before and after Siberian’s arrival. Probably a Traveler if that’s the case, though it is worth noting that Trickster and Sundancer are out of the running since they’re in the wrong group. Genesis, perhaps? Ballistic would be nice too, but Genesis’ power would be more interesting to get a first-person description of.

Of course, there’s also the rest of the Nine to watch out for.

So yeah, that ought to be fun. See you next time!


[postscript]

Ooh, another option for the Interlude scenario: Siberian themself. That’d be cool.

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