Prey 14.9: Musca Dormiens Nunquam Titillanda

Source material: Worm, Prey 14.9

Originally blogged: September 4-6, 2018


[Warning: If you are currently commuting towards any situation where you need to not have big red hand prints all over your forehead, you may want to hold off on reading this chapter’s liveblog until afterwards.]


Alright, looks like we’re seeing this through in this Arc.

Howdy! It’s time to play some Paranoia! Wait, no…

So, last time in Worm: Things went to shit, as they do, and Brockton Bay is now wicked cool looking covered in deadly red miasma that first makes you lose access to most knowledge of other people, causing almost everyone to have trouble trusting anyone else. Taylor has managed to meet up with and regain a shaky trust in Lisa and Brian, and thanks to Lisa’s power circumventing the miasma’s effect, they may actually have a shot at fixing this mess and saving the city from succumbing to the prions.

This time, we need to find cell reception (is it the miasma that blocks it?) or physically travel to Cherish (bad idea). Also, I just remembered, they found Cherish a place in the Trainyard, didn’t they? So she’s not quite as safe from the miasma as I suggested last chapter, though it might not have spread that far (yet). It’d be interesting to see how it interacts with her and her power.

If we have time for it this chapter, we might also track down Amy. Maybe. Oh jeez, what does she think about Victoria if she’s affected by the miasma? Or maybe worse, what does Victoria think about Amy?

I don’t really have anything else to say, so let’s get into it!


“Your powers are working alright?” Tattletale asked.

Skitter: “Yeah.”

Grue: “The darkness doesn’t trust me.”

Tattletale: “It doesn’t– what?”

I nodded.

“Bug powers, was it? Don’t want to get it wrong. Control them, see through their eyes-”

Seeing through their eyes is something she can do, but rarely does because of mental overload.

“No. I can’t see through their eyes or hear what they do. It’s mainly touch.”

You can but you won’t.

So Lisa’s power naturally tells her you can.

“Just wanted to check.” She paused. “If I asked you what my power was?”

Taylor didn’t seem sure last chapter, but that was before she was sure this was actually Lisa.

I shook my head.

“Okay. And if I said I was born in Mexico, could you tell me where I was born?”

Oh, huh. To American parents, or is she natively Mexican?

“Didn’t you just say?”

Heh. I think she means the city. Unless she’s testing short term access to knowledge gained after the miasma took hold.

“Yeah. Repeat it back to me?”

“You were born in Mexico?”

Oh, alright, it was the latter.

Good to know it’s not immediately re-erasing that kind of thing.


“Your short-term recollection is still good, at least. That would be why you can retain the information Grue and I have shared over the past few minutes. That big beetle of yours, you named it?”

She can probably remember the event of finding out Taylor named Atlas, but not the name, without using her power.

(cue clip of Steven Universe saying “You have to remember! This all happened today!”, except I couldn’t find one)

I glanced at Atlas, who was crawling a short distance away. “Atlas.”

Tattletale nodded. “That would be the short-term memory, again. Your power probably gives you enough contact with it that you don’t lose track of who and what it is.”

“Right.”

Makes sense. For many intents and purposes, Atlas is a part of Taylor. It’d be like forgetting what she named her left hand.

“So long as that keeps working, we don’t need to worry about you and Grue forgetting who we are in the middle of a conversation. But for us, we might lose track of each other if we split up, so let’s stay close, okay?”

That’s actually a really interesting point.

The miasma is still there, so even if it were a “one exposure = one wipe and then you can start learning again” type deal, they’d be getting continually wiped. This explains why that’s seemingly not happening here.

“Okay.”

She reached out and took my hand.

“Can you use the bugs to scout our surroundings? This will go more smoothly if we don’t need to worry about running into people.”

So much more smoothly.

It made sense. I sent my bugs out to cover the surrounding area.

The red mist was everywhere. Color was strained out, leaving everything a monochrome red. I could still make out the surroundings, but just enough light was filtered out that the area had settled into an oppressive gloom, with many existing shadows made nearly opaque as a result.

I suppose the more mist is generated and spreads upwards, the darker it’ll get, too.

The drifting movements of the mist and the subtle shifts in color and shadow made me feel like things were prowling in every corner and in the edges of my field of vision.

Because this situation wasn’t paranoia-inducing enough.

Okay, but seriously, this is super fitting and I love it. The monochromocity works well as a metaphor, too, for the way this mist is making it so everyone looks like the same thing – a stranger who might be an enemy. The gloom ties in with how this is a dark hour for the city, with limited hope, and the red is a really intense and sometimes unnerving color, while also making the water look like blood and thereby tying in with Bonesaw and the Nine.

Everything about this aesthetic is fantastic for this situation.


That deep, primal prey-animal part of my psyche kept telling me something was wrong, that I was in danger.

Something definitely is wrong, and if anyone other than these two (and their little dog too) shows up, you’re probably in danger. So while this is miasma-induced paranoia talking, it’s not entirely wrong.

I tried to tell myself that it was just my fear working itself up, my brain playing tricks on me. There was nothing out there.

There’s stuff out there.

The weight of the gun in my hand was both a reassurance and a burden. It would be so easy to do something I would regret for the rest of my life.

Yeeah, try not to shoot anyone you’re not 100% certain is one of the Nine.

I mean, self-defense is a thing, but you’ve got the bugs too. Go for those first if you can.

“Hate this,” I muttered.

“Me too,” Grue answered. He put his hand on my shoulder to offer some reassurance. “But we manage, we cope because we’re a team. We belong together.”

*sound of sails being hoisted in the distance*

My awareness snagged on someone who was walking a distance behind us, measuring their pace with ours.

Hello.

Ooh, I just thought of something: I wonder if Armsmaster is going to show up during this. I had kind of figured I’d have to put him in my predictions for next Arc, but maybe this is how he comes into play.

Except most of the interesting stuff about him coming back into play has to do with his history with Taylor, and if neither can recognize each other right now… honestly, we’re probably better off waiting for next Arc when it comes to that reunion.

So who is this coming up behind them? Rachel? Amy, cutting the middleman? Jack or Siberian?

Incidentally, the best way to identify the Nine right now is probably to see if they act like they know who people are. I can’t imagine they’ve subjected themselves to the mist.


“We may need to stand together as a team sooner than later,” I said. “We’re being followed.”

“By who?” Tattletale asked. She paused, then laughed. “Silly question, I guess.”

Heh, yeah.

Though a minor description might let you identify them with your power.

“Tie them up?” she suggested.

“Right.”

Good plan. Restrains them while not harming them, just like Vista did to Taylor.

My bugs gathered in out of the way spots, and the spiders began drawing out lines of silk in preparation. I didn’t want to inform this person that I was on to their tail.

Depending who it is, they might have noticed anyway.

Then, just in case they decided to drop the tail and attack us, I began to gather bugs together into decoys. Human-shaped lumps and clusters of bugs gathered in alleys and at the edges of rooftops. Still more gathered in the street, standing in alcoves and in other hiding spots. I invested less bugs in the ones that were further away from our pursuer, trusting that the shadows the miasma cast would help round them out.

Seems fair enough, yeah.

There were no decoys our pursuer would see from where they stood, but there were now enough to give them pause.

Grue drifted away from our group to approach one of the decoys. He extended one hand and traced his fingers through the massed bugs. “You’re versatile.”

Very much so! But let’s not forget, she got this particular technique from you!

I felt a little uncomfortable at the compliment. “We should keep moving.”

“You’re not tying them up?”

I shook my head. A miscommunication on that front.

They’re getting… tied up in figuring out which decoy is real?

Hadn’t I recently been thinking about chemistry and intuitively understanding how your teammates operated? The miasma might be throwing us off in that department.

Oh yeah, that’s a good point.

“Sorry. Need to prep for it first, I’ll make my move in a minute. For now, we should act normal.”

“Fine.” He dropped his hand to his side and rejoined us. We kept walking. I had to admire them, the way they were confident enough to avoid looking over their shoulders.

Hmm.

That does sound like Armsmaster, among others. Or Jack, having not much cause oh wait she’s talking about the Undersiders

I had my bugs to track our pursuer with, and I was still feeling nervous having them behind me.

“Is paranoia a side effect of this mist?”

Seems like it, but it also makes sense as a natural consequence of its effects and the aesthetic it’s cast the town into.

Tattletale nodded. “Could be. As the symptoms progress, you could have fits of anger, paranoia, hallucinations…”

Knowing you might be hallucinating isn’t great for relieving paranoia either.

I swallowed.

“Or it could progress in another direction. A broader agnosia, with the inability to recognize anything, not just people.”

Yikes.


“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

She nodded.

“I’m going to bind her now.  If it doesn’t work, or if she has a way of breaking free, we should run, with the decoys for cover.”

Alright, so it’s a her.

That might be a good thing.

Tattletale just smiled.

The bugs swarmed our pursuer.  I’d minimized the number of bugs on them, just to be safe, with the drawback that I wasn’t getting a full picture of who they were.  The bugs couldn’t get to her flesh to sting or bite her, but they were telling me she was female in general shape.

Victoria?

I had them deploy the silk they had prepared.  I focused my efforts on her arms and legs.  It took only a couple of seconds to get the threads in place.

Nice work.

She tripped as the silk went taut mid-stride.  Raising one hand to try to catch herself, she found silk threads hampering those movements as well.  To avoid landing face first, she twisted herself in mid-air so she hit the ground with her shoulder instead.

There is the issue that if it’s Victoria, she should be able to fly, probably.

“Got her,” I said.  “Let’s keep going.  We can lose her.”

“We should investigate,” Grue said.  “Make sure she isn’t a threat, and deal with her if she is.”

Hell, maybe she can even help.

“With this miasma affecting us, there’s no way to be sure of exactly of just who we’re dealing with,” I pointed out.

“We have Tattletale.  She can tell us if this person’s a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

Probably, yeah.

“Tattletale’s not-”

I stopped.  Where had that come from?

Informational muscle memory! Things you’re used to saying, that come out of their own accord under certain circumstances!

If they can find more of those, they might be useful.


“What?”  Grue tilted his head as he looked over his shoulder at me.

“I was going to say she’s not always right, but I’ve still got that black hole in my memory of her, so I’m not sure where that’s coming from.”

Grue rubbed his chin.  “Something to keep in mind, but I still think we should check this person out.”

As a reader, I say go with Grue’s plan! I wanna know who it was!

“I agree,” Tattletale said, a slight smile on her face.  She tugged on my hand.  “Come on!”

We had to stick together.  I reluctantly followed, knowing that separating from the group could mean losing them altogether.

Sorry, Taylor, two against one.

We stopped a few hundred feet away from the woman.  The silk strands had formed a cord around her arms and legs, and the work of the spiders had tightened the binding as she allowed it to slack.  She hadn’t made it back to her feet after falling to the ground.

You okay there?

Grue drew a knife.

“Hey,” I said.  I grabbed his arm.  “What are you doing?”

“She’s obviously a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine,” Tattletale said.

Is that sarcasm?

“Fill me in?  Because I must have missed something.  Doesn’t seem that clear to me.”

“Think about it.  Why is she wearing a mask like that, if not to filter out the miasma?  She knew about it in advance.”

What sort of mask? Also keep in mind that regular gas masks don’t work on this.

“Maybe,” I said.  I could make out something like a gas mask or filter, now that Tattletale had pointed it out.  “Maybe there’s another explanation.  It could have something to do with her power?”

Is this Spitfire?

“It doesn’t,” Tattletale said.

Careful. We very recently had two reminders that you can be wrong when you get tunnel vision-y.

Are you absolutely sure?

Thinking about killing someone was one thing.  I’d always assumed I might have to do it out of necessity to save a teammate… I’d even come close to doing it when attacking the Nine, not long ago.  Couldn’t recall who it had been, but I’d gone all out, used potentially lethal stings and bites.

It was all of them, actually. Well, all currently living ones.

That had been at a distance.  Now we were looking at killing someone face to face.

Not quite the same thing, is it.

The mask, there was another reason for it.  The-

Tattletale interrupted my thoughts.  “If you guys aren’t going to do it, I can.  She was following us, she was prepared for the miasma, and I’m positive she’s a bad guy.  My power, you know.”

I don’t think the Nine were prepared to unleash this, though.

And “she’s a bad guy” can mean a lot, ranging from “does criminal jobs for money” to “wants to destroy every planet in the galaxy because she’s goth” and beyond.

“We can’t be certain,” I said.

“With my power, I’m five hundred percent sure.  Trust me,” she said, grinning.

Between last chapter and this one we’ve been given enough reminders that Lisa’s power isn’t foolproof that each time Lisa brings up her power as her reason for being 100% sure makes me three times more certain she’s wrong.

Taylor, you’re gonna have to step in and keep Lisa from murdering Spitfire.

She started toward the heroine.

Oh jeez, now Taylor’s going the other way, sure enough that the victim’s a heroine to call her that in narration.

To be fair, that might be the case. The heroes have been wearing gas masks today, so it could just as easily be one of them as it could be Spitfire. More easily, even.

“No,” I said.

“Skitter’s right,” Grue said.  “She could be playing possum.  Best to avoid being reckless.  Keep our distance and finish her.”

…that was not Skitter’s point but yeah, fair.

Fortunately, the only one with a good ranged attack is Taylor, unless Brian borrows something.

“That’s not what I meant.  Let’s just leave,” I said.  “I’ll make that phone call to, um-”

“Coil,” Tattletale supplied.

I nodded.  “We’ll get the information we need, get ourselves cured, or track down the Nine.”

Probably not gonna be that easy, but it’s a good chain of objectives.

Of course, Lisa’s pretty sure they’ve already caught one of them.

“Cherish could lie,” Grue said.

It took me a second to place Cherish’s name.  Names were slipping from my mind too easily.  “Maybe.  We’ll use our own judgement to corroborate her facts.”

Lisa’s power might not be flawless, but at least it’s good at lie detection.


Tattletale scowled, “Have you forgotten how aggressively we’ve been going after the Slaughterhouse Nine?  The attacks, the harassment, capturing Cherish and Shatterbird.  And now you want to leave one of them there?  We don’t have to get close to her to take her out.  You have the gun.”

You’re gonna have to convince the one with the gun that that actually is one of the Nine first.

I stared down at the weapon in my hand.

“Trust me,” she said.

For once, don’t.

“No.”

Both Tattletale and Grue turned to look at me.

I kind of assumed they were both doing that already.

“No?”  Grue asked.  “We’re a team, Skitter.  We’re supposed to trust one another when the chips are down, have each other’s backs.”

That doesn’t mean you get to bully your teammate into killing someone she isn’t sure is actually an enemy.

I didn’t like the implications of that.  Like I was failing them.

Yeah, no, that line right there was one of Brian’s ugliest moments. I’m giving him some slack because of the miasma messing with his head, but still.

But I shook my head.  “No.”

“Explain?” he asked.  He looked calm, but I could see the irritation in his posture.  Was the mist getting to him?

Probably.

“The miasma… if it makes us paranoid, it could be coloring our perceptions here.  Even Tattletale’s.”

Yeah, makes sense to me.

“I would know if it was,” she said.  She seemed impatient.

Are you sure?

“Maybe.  But I’m not certain enough about that to take another life.”

“You nearly took Siberian’s,” she retorted.

That is completely irrelevant, Lisa.

“Yeah.  Sure.  But that was different.”

“I don’t see how.”

Look around you. That’s how.


I stared at the bound woman who was prone on the ground, half-covered in my bugs.  She was looking in my direction.

“It bugs me.

ba dum tish.gif

This is too easy.  If the Nine were this easy to take out, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

That too. None of the Nine would’ve stayed down this long unless they were playing possum.

“Sounds like a pretty thin justification for backing out,” Grue said.

Look. The burden of proof is not on Taylor here.

“Yeah,” Tattletale added.

This kind of social pressure wasn’t the sort of thing I was good at coping with.  Just going by my recollection of how we’d planned many of our capers, I could usually trust some of the others to have my back when I was arguing a point.

Usually one of these two, in fact, but now they’re both against you. Welp.

Or I’d had some other motive or reason to go along with them.

“Why are you pushing so hard for this?”  I asked.

They are being weirdly pushy. This behavior is unlike them. Especially unlike Brian.

“Did you forget what they did to me?”  Grue asked, his voice cold.

…right.

Him specifically?  I had forgotten, yes.  But I could remember that scene, the emotions then, every feeling that I’d experienced afterward.  Frustration, hate, pain, sympathy for the pain he must have experienced himself.  I could remember the feeling of heartbreak, because someone I cared about was gone, in a sense.

And now he’s using what happened to him like a card to play to get someone to do what he wants, a guilt trip.

“No,” I replied.

“Where’s your anger, your outrage?  Or don’t you care?”

Yeah, this is definitely one of Brian’s uglier chapters.

“I care!  It’s-”

“Then end this.”

I shook my head, as if I could clear it.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t thinking clearly, necessarily.  It was that my thoughts kept hitting that dead-end where I couldn’t reach back for context about people, about Tattletale and Grue and the Nine.  I was in the dark.

And Taylor doesn’t even know if they’re normally this pushy, for that matter.


What I did know was that I’d done too many things I regretted.  I wasn’t about to add something as serious as murder to the list.

Good bug girl. 🙂

Grue must have seen something in my posture, because he shook his head and turned away.  “Give me the gun, then.”

That is not the point, dude.

“Just use your power,” Tattletale told him.

Fuck, he can steal Taylor’s power.

Bug control vs stronger bug control tug of war!

“I want Skitter to acknowledge that she doesn’t care enough about this team or about me to do what’s necessary.

It’s not that she doesn’t care, it’s that she doesn’t think it’s necessary!

She can do that by admitting she doesn’t have the courage to shoot and allow me to do it.”

“That’s not what this is about,” I said.  “Murder is serious.  You don’t kill without being absolutely certain it’s right.

Exactly! We’re sympathetic protagonists, we can’t just kill anyone who annoys us!

And nothing’s certain for as long as we’re under the influence of this miasma.”

Very good point, thank you.


He scoffed.  “And you call yourself a supervillain?”

Not really.

“I call myself Skitter.  If someone wants to stick me with some other label, that’s their issue to deal with, not mine.”

This. This is a very good line.

“You’re not giving me the gun?”

“No.”

I think this might be building up to blows. Brian seems determined enough to actually try to take the gun by force.

Imagine if Taylor has to shoot him in the leg or something to stop him. Though that’s probably a bad idea, since he could bleed out.

He shrugged, “So you don’t care at all, about what happened to me.  You don’t care about this team.  And you’ll even look down on us while you do it.  Your contemptible friends.”

Dude, she doesn’t even remember most of what would make her care beyond “these people can help me survive”.

And you’re not exactly being a shining example of why she shouldn’t hold contempt for you right now.

“I care.  More than you know.  But you told me, not long ago, that I should follow my heart, trust my gut.  Fine.  That’s what I’m doing.  You attack her, I’ll fight to save her.”

The terms are on the table where we can all see them.

He barked out a laugh, “You’ll fight me?  You’re a traitor now?”

Don’t tell Rachel.

Also, hey, Brian, remember how someone on your team turned out to have joined with intent to betray? Yeah, that was Skitter.

The word hit home.  I must have flinched.

“A traitor again,” he added.

Yeah, he just made that connection.


I snapped my head up to look at him in surprise.

“I wonder what it says that the notion of you being a traitor is so ingrained in my impression of you that it jumps to mind, even with the mist affecting me?”

Eesh.

“That’s enough,” I said.

“I know you like me.  I can read it on your face, I could see the way your eyes widened when you heard my name.  You’re an open book in some ways.  And I’ll tell you right now, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you.”

Fuckin’ hell, this is the worst possible way we could get to the point of him actually saying that. This ship just keeps getting more painful.

Well played, Wildbow.

I felt a nervous feeling deep in my gut.  It wasn’t pleasant, at stark odds to what he was saying.

Yeah, I can feel the contrast too.

I’m scared for where he’s going with this next.

When his mind is compromised in some way, Brian can be coddamn brutal verbally.

Grue’s words spoke to that feeling of trepidation.  “But this?  It’s telling me I could never have a relationship with you, never be close to you, because I’ll always wonder if you’ll stab me in the back or fuck me over, fail to do what’s necessary in a situation like this.

You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of Parasite, Taylor and Rachel.

I’ll never be able to shake that image of you as a traitor.”

Ow.


He kept saying that word, traitor, hammering it in.

“Unless I take this gun and shoot that woman, who you’re convinced is a member of the Nine,” I guessed what he was getting at.

Oh yeah, what Brian just said was such a hammering of verbal brutality that I forgot that it’s also intense emotional manipulation and blackmail.

This is probably a chapter certain Brian haters point to, while ignoring or downplaying just how much his mind is compromised right now.

“Guess I had the wrong impression of you,” he said.  The emotion in his tone was so different that it caught me off guard.  Almost contemplative.

“Huh.”

If I thought of it as him emotionally closing down, it almost fit with the impression I associated with Grue.  At the same time, it didn’t quite jibe with what I was seeing.  Again, I felt that distinct discomfort.

I’m feeling it too and I’m not even there.

Though I may have more of a conscious idea of why.

Is this how I lose my mind? 

At least she’s not quite as compromised as Brian and to a lesser extent Lisa seem to be, just yet.

I shrugged.  “I guess you did.”

I carefully holstered the gun, as if hiding it could keep it from coming up again in conversation.

At least it’s a non-verbal statement that reinforces the message of “no, no one’s using this”.


A long pause reigned.

“I’m disappointed, but there’s nothing I can do about that,” he said.  Then he smiled.  He turned and began walking away.  “Let’s go.”

That might be the most disturbing part of this entire scene. The way he just flipped a switch back to fake normality.

I say fake because real normal Brian would apologize.

“Just like that?”  I asked.

“We’re leaving her?”  Tattletale asked.

“Seems we have to.  Tattletale, can you use your power to make sure the lady from the Nine doesn’t pose a danger?”

Yeah, he’s just being super passive aggressive now.

Tattletale nodded, smiling.

“Then let’s hurry.  We wasted too much time here.”

Fucking hell, this was A Scene™.


[Session 2]

“Please, Krixwell, can I have some more?”

Yes. Yes you can.

(#Oliver Twist
#asking Scotty to beam him up)


“Let me know when she’s not in your range anymore,” Tattletale said to me.  “I’ll try to use my power to make sure she isn’t following us.”

Sounds reasonable.

What doesn’t sound reasonable would be for the girl to follow them unless she thinks a gun wouldn’t take her out. She’s been listening to this discussion of whether or not to kill her and should know that getting caught a second time would be very bad for her survival chances.

I nodded.

She hugged my arm, “You’re stubborn, but we’re still friends, right?”

Maybe I should’ve read this bit last session. We’re winding down from the intensity of the Scene. Though I’m guessing Taylor isn’t going to be quite as keen on immediately forgetting what happened just now.

I nodded again.  I felt like I was back in school, in a situation where I couldn’t say anything without saying the wrong thing.  Strange, to recall being around the bullies rather than in the company of my team.

Yeeah, this ain’t how it’s supposed to be.


The argument weighed on me, as did the things Grue had said, the judgements.  Had I been wrong?  Were we risking letting one of the Nine get away, to murder others?

I don’t think so.

In any case, the way the others, especially Brian, behaved would be unacceptable even if they were right about the victim being one of the Nine. He was downright nasty and emotionally manipulative back there.

Was I arguing because I was still clinging to old ideals, or because the miasma was making me divisive?

Old ideals. I don’t think that scene would’ve gone all that much differently if Taylor had been unaffected by the miasma’s (narratively) secondary effects.

Even if the miasma was to blame, I hated the idea of failing the others yet again.

Just don’t mentally talk yourself into going back and shooting the girl here, or something.

Not that I think you would.

This situation was fucking with my head.  I still felt like I was in the middle of a fight, that heart pounding mode where I was ready for bullets or laser blasts to start flying, for me or a friend to be in mortal danger, where a split second response meant the difference between life or death.

I think this is because of both the overall situation and the miasma’s direct effects.

Except there was no danger here.  The only people nearby were the woman we were leaving behind, Grue and Tattletale.

Relatively no danger.

I glanced at Tattletale as we ran.  Could I trust them?  They had been in the miasma for a little longer than I had, and I was already experiencing what I could only label as paranoia.

“Can I trust them? After all, I’m paranoid.”

With only a difference of minutes, Legend had been thrust into a paranoid state where he was taking a reckless, offensive course of action, eliminating everyone from the battlefield, regardless of whether they might be friend or enemy.  How much was it affecting these two?

Again she seems to remember who Legend is. It could be a deduction based on the memories from just before the miasma set in, but she seemed to be going back and forth on whether she did or did not know Legend’s name earlier, making it look more like either an error or a writing convenience for the sake of the audience.

How would it influence their actions?

Well, for one thing it’s making Brian an asshole.

More to the point, what was my best course of action here?  If I worked on the assumption that I could trust them, would they drag me into a situation that was just as bad as what we’d gone through with the bound woman?  Or if I didn’t trust them, if I allowed myself to become suspicious and take countermeasures, would that be a slippery slope that led to me trying to kill them, in fear for my own life?

Yikes. Just, yikes.

I’m still loving this whole situation, by the way. It’s wonderfully painful.


We’d come close to fighting just now.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Tattletale said.

“Leave her be,” Grue told her, his voice low.

At least if they talk, Taylor might be able to get her mind off some of these things. But maybe it really does need to be on those things for now.

What was I supposed to do?  I didn’t trust myself to handle this alone, not with the speed at which this general unease was building up.

Except you can’t trust anyone to help you.

But I wasn’t sure I trusted them either.  Something about the argument, it felt off.  Wrong.

Yeah, I’ll say!


“She’s out of my range,” I said.  “Tattletale?”

“I’ll keep an eye out!”  She grinned.

A third eye!

Traitor.  I could almost hear the accusation.

I’d lied.  The woman was still in my range.

Ooh. Testing how much Lisa’s power can be trusted, are we?

“Is there service?”  Grue asked.  I must have looked confused, because he clarified by saying, “The phone.”

“The bugophone towers are out of my range.”

“But these are satellite phones.”

“The bugellites are also way out of my range.”

I pulled my phone out of the space between my breasts and the armor at my front and checked the display.

“Yeah,” I said.  Why does that bug me?

Maybe because whatever reason there was for the service being out in the first place probably shouldn’t have changed without you leaving the mist?

Something’s fucky about the phones.

“Call Coil,” Tattletale reminded me.  “We need to know where Cherish is.”

Maybe it’s also because a part of her still remembers that she doesn’t want to trust Coil.


I found him in the contact list and made the call.

“Speaker phone?” Grue suggested.

Does Taylor trust you enough for that? Do you trust Taylor enough to let her talk to Coil without speaker?

I nodded, selected the option and hit the button.

As the first ring sounded out, my swarm sense alerted me to the bound woman breaking free of the silk strands, as if it was effortless.

Interesting. I guess she figured it was in her best interests to stay down.

I don’t think it’s Spitfire anymore. Spitfire would probably get out by making the silk shrivel, which would also kill the bugs. Whoever this is, she’s getting out through strength. Was I right that it’s Victoria? Although then we’d probably hear something about her state. Maybe it’s Alexandria?

Had she been playing possum after all, hoping we would get close?

Maybe.

I looked at Tattletale, trying to see if had any inkling that this supposed member of the Nine was free.

Yeah, no, she kinda needs something to go off.

Nothing.  Tattletale turned to me and grinned.

“No trouble incoming?”  I asked, as the phone rang again.

None at all.

She shook her head.  “All good.”

Was her power not working as well as she’d thought?  I couldn’t even recollect what it was, but she’d said she would keep an eye out… and there was something alarming occurring this very moment.

To be fair, she said she’d keep an eye out for the woman following them.


“Skitter,” Coil answered the phone.  “I’ve been made aware that Bonesaw has deployed the ace she had up her sleeve.”

“Bonesaw is one of the Nine?”

“Yeah.  Agnostia… Agnosia-inducing mist.  Permanent, according to Tattletale.”

It makes you agnosic, not agnostic. Big difference.

“I see.”  I could hear the sounds of typing on a keyboard.  “Agnosia… Panacea can’t reverse the effects?”

I like that we’re getting essentially confirmation for my other thought that I failed to mention: That Coil might have to look it up.

“She’s not here.  We’re trying to find her.”

“And you need Cherish for that, I suppose.”

Looks like Coil is on point today with understanding the plan.

I was grateful that he was supplying the names, because it meant I didn’t have to bog down the conversation by remembering or asking.  Grue, Tattletale and I had brought them up recently enough that it wasn’t a huge leap to remember their names.

Coil, helpful as ever.

The woman who I’d tied up with the spider silk was walking towards us.

Alright, now this is what Lisa was supposed to pay attention to.

It kinda seems like the miasma has caused her to trust too much in her power. “My power says so, so she’s definitely a member of the Nine! Oh yes, I’ll certainly know if she follows us. I know everything!”

Her progress was hampered by the decoys.  I kept my mouth shut.  It wasn’t an imminent problem, and I was more interested in gauging just how far gone Tattletale’s power was.

Does she do anything to the decoys?

Also, another possibility that’s been nagging at the back of my mind is that this is Cherish, but that doesn’t make much sense. Cherish would use her power to change Brian and Lisa’s minds away from killing her, and she’s not the type to effortlessly break out of the spider string.

…incidentally, I’m not sure whether or not the woman being Cherish would count towards her being one of the Nine like Lisa’s power said. I haven’t really been considering her and Shatterbird members of the Nine since not too long after it was made clear the Nine wouldn’t take them back (as long as Regent lives, anyway).


“Except that with the agnosia, we can’t remember where she is and go meet her.”

“Meeting Cherish would be a grave error,” Coil spoke.

Very much so, yes.

“Just put us in contact with her, then?”

“Tattletale informed me of your code.  You remember how it’s put together?”

The one that’s like “frog A”, “leaf C”?

“Yeah.  My memory’s fine, it’s just my ability to identify people and remember stuff about them that’s fucked up.”

Tattletale glared at me.  Right.  She didn’t like swearing.

Which is still interesting, seeing as she doesn’t make a fuss about it when unaffected by the miasma.

Did she not like swearing before becoming a villain, but stop bothering people about it because of something about one of her teammates that she can’t remember now?

“Then, using a name we’re both familiar with, D-gangrene.”

*looks up gangrene*

*immediately regrets decision*

Why the fuck is that your go-to for this?? What color does that even mean – it causes skin coloration to change to red or black, but the image has a lot of green too…

(Also, I’m assuming D is for Dinah.)

“I can’t remember names.  I don’t think I can use the code.”

“Troubling.  You must understand my predicament.  For all I know, you’re a third party using Skitter’s voice to make the request.

Right, that’d be an issue.

With shapeshifters, empaths and other methods of coercion, I have to be very careful about the dissemination of information.”

Yeah, that’s fair.

Maybe you can ask Taylor about her important deal? She ought to remember making one, even if she can’t remember whom it was with and whom it was about.


“I know.”

The woman was still approaching.  Tattletale and Grue weren’t talking.

Whoever this woman is, she seems calmly determined to do something with the Undersiders. Possibly talk, but who knows. She didn’t pipe up while bugtied.

Something was wrong.

It is kinda strange that Lisa and Brian are so silent now. Especially Lisa. This call seems like the sort of situation that’d get her blabbing.

“What if we kept you on the line?”  I suggested.

“That will suffice.”

Fair.

There was a pause, then the sound of background noise.  A ring sounded, different from the one before.  It was interrupted as Cherish picked up.

Howdy! Do you have any idea who anyone is?

“I have never been so sorry to miss out,” Cherish said.  She sounded a bit hoarse.

Heh. On what exactly, the agnosia or watching people with agnosia tear the town and each other asunder?

“We’re requesting your help,” Coil spoke.

“Oh, you need my help in more ways than you’re aware of.  Not that I’m going to provide it.  Skitter’s on the line, I believe?”

Are you suggesting you could fix this with your power?

Or that there’s another threat brewing?


“She is.”

“I’m here,” I confirmed.

“And Tattletale and Grue, of course.”  She chuckled.  “How amusing.  Seems like I’m in high demand.”

Why, yes, your services are needed.

Now, the troubling thing is that high demand and low supply means high costs.

“They’re looking for Panacea,” Coil said.  “Identifying her for us would be one way to achieve revenge on the Slaughterhouse Nine for turning on you.”

“Revenge?  Not my interest in the slightest.  I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve become the poster child for team loyalty.”

Pffft.

Coil paused, then said, “I’m prepared to offer you some enticements.  I imagine your current quarters can’t be too comfortable.”

She’s in the Trainyard, right? So yeah, sounds about right.

“Don’t suppose these enticements will be hand delivered?”

Hah. Nice try.

“They will be provided by remote control, as your food has been.”

“Some headphones and music would be nice,” she said.  “The sound of the waves banging on the hull is driving me crazy.”

Oh man, that’s relatable as fuck. Music is a necessity.

“Such could be arranged.”

“Nah, I’m totally fucking with you.  Music, as if.”

You should totally throw that in, though, if your other enticements aren’t meant to lead to your escape.

There were too many things that seemed off.  Cherish’s tone among them.  I glanced around.  The woman was still following us, throwing herself after decoys, verifying they were false, then retracing her steps.

Cherish’s tone seems normal to me. Maybe it’s just the paranoia and lack of familiarity making it seem off.

She was slowly closing in.  I positioned Atlas so he would be ready to distract her if it came down to it.

Good call. Hell, you might even find out if she can fly, that way.


“You’re stalling?”  Coil asked.  “I don’t see the point.”

“Just trying to see if I can provoke a reaction from you.  There’s only so many times I can read the labels of the shipping containers before I lose my mind.  Have to amuse myself somehow.”

That ought to be enough for Lisa to figure out where Cherish is, in case tracking her down in person should actually turn out to be a necessity.

“What will it take for you to tell us where Panacea is?”  Coil asked.

“Oh, I’m feeling generous, and I want to see what happens.  I’ll tell you that as a freebie.  They’re at Arcadia.  Somewhere in the top floor.”

They’re – Amy and Victoria? Let’s hope they haven’t clashed.

A freebie.  Something was going on, and I wasn’t aware what.

Yeah, if she’s giving a freebie, there’s something else she has up her sleeve that won’t be free. She’s already implied as much, too.

I had to piece it together, but I had so little information.

I suspect it may have something to do with the person following them, somehow. We may have to let her catch up in order to find out.

Wildbow is clearly keeping her identity from us until a reveal. Back during the Scene, that made total sense. The audience, while most likely meant to be on Taylor’s side like I was, needed to feel the same sort of uncertainty about who this woman is as the characters did. That mattered much more than who it actually was. But now, she’s been pretty clearly established as “important somehow”. The question is just how she’s important, and that ought to become clearer when we find out who she is.

“And maybe could offer you something, in exchange for some goodwill.  Maybe you’ll even want to let me go free, no obligations.”

That’s gonna take a hell of a playing card. What’cha got?

The feeling of dread that had been following me wasn’t getting worse as the woman approached.  It was staying steady, like someone had a gun pointed at me, and they’d had it aimed my way for some time now.

Oddly enough, I’ve been more and more getting the feeling that the woman isn’t actually a threat, though this particular paragraph doesn’t help reinforce that.

“I’m listening,” Coil said, “But if this is frivolous or another waste of our time-”

“Nah.  Critically important.  I’ll trust that you’ll take it for what it’s worth and repay me in kind.”

So spit it out already.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s simple.  Going by what I’ve been able to observe around the city, there seems to be a major concern.  Si Jack effugit civitatem, mundus terminabitur.

Fucking Latin? She’s not gonna make this easy for them, huh.

Fortunately, though, I’m able to tell what it says without looking up any translations: “If Jack leaves the city, the world will end.” So the other information she has for them is that he’s doing so?

I’m still not sure averting this is still on the table (in-universe – out of universe I’m pretty sure it never really was), but it’s worth a shot.


“I’m not versed in Latin,”  Coil spoke, sounding annoyed.

“For shame, Coil, for shame,” Cherish said.  Her voice was too cheerful. “You can’t sell the cultured supervillain image without the ability to make quips in an ancient language.

Pfft.

I had the benefit of my power, languages are easier to learn when you can get a sense of what the other person’s feeling.”

Huh. That actually makes a lot of sense, assuming you’re not trying it on a language teacher spouting pre-written lines. I can’t imagine this works nearly as well on someone who doesn’t mean what they’re saying.

“That was something about Jack?”  I asked,  “Repeat that in English?”

Yeah, no, she’s dead set on being difficult.

“Doesn’t matter anymore,” she replied.  “The message was delivered.  I’ll leave you to think about it.”

Doesn’t matter anymore? Do you mean that literally? Well, shit. Bye, Jack.

I assume the others went / are going with him. In which case Brockton Bay may finally be rid of the Nine.

Well, unless you count Cherish, Shatterbird and/or their lingering miasma.


If only I could have blamed the miasma for my idiocy.  Everything clicked into place.

I kept my voice level, “I don’t think you’ll get much goodwill if we don’t understand what the fuck you’re talking about.

Fair point!

Coil?  We’re moving out now.”

“Report back when you’ve found the healer,” Coil told me.

Good luck.

I hung up before Cherish could speak, then I glanced at the others.  “Let’s go?  Arcadia high?”

They nodded.

So, Taylor didn’t elaborate on what “clicked into place”. Did she figure out what Cherish had said, saving that translation for the end of the chapter?

My heart pounded with such force that my vision wavered.  I turned to head toward Arcadia high, joined by the two members of the Nine.  Stay calm, don’t let on that you know. 

Ah, fuck.

Fuck, she might actually be right. Damn it! No wonder they were so eager to kill earlier, if that’s true!

Wait. But Lisa, if that is indeed her name, definitely knew things Bonesaw and Jack shouldn’t, even with Cherish’s help. Then again, she didn’t help out with the disgusting toe code.

And Cherish mentioned Brian and Lisa being there, and while she absolutely enjoys making things difficult, I don’t believe her when she claims to be a paragon of loyalty now… but then again, maybe she said that specifically to fool Jack and Bonesaw?

I’m gonna have to reread this entire chapter before I move on to the next one, aren’t I.

Another issue: Where’s Siberian? Do they want Panacea in order to heal him up?

And then there’s the girl/woman who’s been following them. Lisa? Except she’d need to get a gas mask somehow, and the effortless escape from the bonds doesn’t match her either.

So many questions. Well played, Wildbow, whether these are Jack and Bonesaw or not.

Fuck, I just remembered “Lisa” suggesting that “Brian” could use his power to do it, which I questioned for a moment before reasoning that he could steal Taylor’s power. But if he’s actually Jack, his power would be perfect for what he’d be trying to do – ranged murder. He might even get away with it by virtue of Taylor not remembering Brian’s actual power.

Was this even the ending line of the chapter?

If I could direct the woman to us…

No. No it wasn’t.

And yeah, if you’re right which is very much unclear right now, you’re probably better off letting the woman catch up.

Unless she’s Siberian, but that’d just raise even more questions.


The miasma’s effects had almost made me lose track of her.  She was fighting, grappling with mechanical spiders.

Ah, I see Bonesaw’s put her minions to work.

It’s looking like Taylor is right.

She went from fighting like an ordinary individual to moving at high speeds and throwing crushing punches, then back again.

Battery?

I couldn’t think of how to help her, and she was obviously unable to help me.

Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn’t rate her all that highly against the Nine, even if it’s just these two, but she’s got a chance.

Cherish had been engaging in double-speak, saying one thing to us, while addressing the two people with me the entire time.  She’d told them about where she was being held captive, and she’d offered the most valuable information she had to avoid getting tortured to death after they’d freed her.

And Jack is totally the kind of guy who’d learn Latin for the hell of it.

But what does Jack want to do with that information? Leave the city? He ought to be thrilled at the chance of having such an impact.

From the way she’d talked about the message being received, one of the people with me had to be Jack.

Yeah, I don’t think Siberian’s in any state to be playing this game right now.


Jack was slated to bring about the end of the world if he left Brockton Bay, and now he knew.

Ahh, I see Taylor figured out what it was she said.

Couldn’t meet their eyes, didn’t want to speak, in case I let on that I knew.  I could barely breathe, I was so afraid of letting my emotions show.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the bug girl you’ve always had to be

My gun was in the compartment at my back.  I’d put it away at the conclusion of our argument, and with the compartment broken in my fall from Atlas’s back, I’d been forced to put it in a place where it wasn’t easy to draw.

Ahh, so that’s the relevance of that getting broken!

I couldn’t be sure I would be able to draw it and fire.  I was still handicapped, unaware of their powers.  I was fighting blind.

I’m not sure a gun would even do much against Bonesaw’s protections.


The fact that Taylor didn’t seem nearly as affected by the miasma as “Brian” and “Lisa”.

“Lisa” being as adamant about swearing as a certain other blonde.

All the fucking signs!


If Jack or the girl killed Amy, just about everyone in the city would die violently from the miasma’s effects.

Oh yeah, that also works as a reason for why they’d want to find her.

But I couldn’t stop them without letting on that I knew.  Fighting them put me at a clear disadvantage, and-

“Skitter,” Jack spoke.

Did she stand around thinking for too long?

I didn’t waste time turning to face him.  I gripped the hair of the blonde girl beside me and virtually hauled her off her feet as I dragged her around to a position between Jack and myself.  Jack was already swinging his knife.

Oh boy, here we fuckin’ go.

Human shield Bonesaw, go!

(#i almost made a homestuck reference
#’bonesaw aegis’
#but with aegis being the name of a worm character that would be very confusing
#hey maybe ‘beagle aegis’ could be a bitch x aegis ship name)


The knife cut the girl more than it cut me.  I could feel it raking across the exterior of my costume, failing to penetrate, but he was swinging it underhand, and it caught me in the chin, slicing through the side of my cheek and up to my temple.

Ouch.

I tried to keep a hold on the girl for the sake of using her as a human shield, but I saw her reach into her dress and withdraw some vials.

Oh jeez, what does she have now? More stuff to put in the water?

I shoved her toward Jack, then stepped forward to kick her square between the shoulder blades.  She collided with him, interrupting his follow-up swing.

You’ve got some nice moves here, Taylor!

For good measure, I drew the bugs from beneath my costume and sent them chasing after her.  Some capsaicin-laced bugs, just the few I had remaining.

Awesome. I’m not sure how well that’s gonna work – Bonesaw has a history of not giving a flying feather about the bug stings – but at least it reduces visibility for the Nine and increases Taylor’s sensory abilities.

Jack caught her shoulders and spun her around so she faced me.  The vials were already billowing with a chemical reaction.

Uh oh.

Hm. Would she do the same thing she did in Dolltown again, to ward off the bugs?

Or is this gonna be something new? That seems more like Bonesaw.

She threw them at me.

I backed away, and they hit the ground between our two groups, black smoke joining the crimson mist around us.

If it were the same thing she wouldn’t throw them. Probably best to stay clear of the smoke if you can.


“You’ve outlived your usefulness, Skitter,” Jack spoke.

To be clear, yes, I have figured out that the reason they’d string her along like this would be so they could get in touch with Cherish and figure out where Amy was. So this statement comes as no real surprise, especially after Taylor attacked.

If I’d just had a minute or two more to decide on a course of action.

She thinks this just as a shooting star crosses the sky. Suddenly a random Clockblocker ex machina runs by and freezes Jack and Bonesaw before continuing down the street.

“It was fun.  I almost wish I’d nominated you for the Nine.  You’re versatile, and there’s so many weak points I could have exploited if I’d had more time.

Hey, told you she has what it takes [here] to be a nominee.

If she didn’t have those pesky morals, she’d be a great addition to the team.

If Cherish’s information on you wasn’t so misleading, I think I could have made you shoot the heroine.  To corrupt you like that, it would have been amusing.”

Of course.

And that’s why he took the charge in that scene and “Lisa” stayed quiet – she was deferring to her leader and surrogate father.

I fumbled for the gun, using my bugs to get a sense for where it was.  In the same motion that I pointed it, Jack slapped it out of my hand with two slashes of his knife.

Expelliarmus!

He was a dozen feet away, but the knife nonetheless connected with my weapon.

Yep, that’d be his power at work.


My bugs began to gather like a dark cloud, their mass casting a shadow on the already gloomy surroundings.

There’s a storm a-brewing.

“So I end the world?  Interesting.”

You’re more like a catalyst, somehow, but yeah.

“The source is a little unreliable,” I lied.

You think that’s gonna deter him, Taylor? I’m pretty sure that’s just gonna make him more intrigued.

“Still, I would love to see how that comes about.”

I’m interested in that too. I think I’ve got a fairly decent pet theory on it that doesn’t actually require you to leave the city (”in every timeline where Jack leaves the city alive the threat is catalyzed” doesn’t mean that every timeline where he doesn’t leave the city alive is safe), but who knows. That theory doesn’t fully explain it anyway, so exactly how that would play out is also interesting.

Actually, I should probably recap in case some of my readers have forgotten this theory: I think Jack already did the thing that catalyzes the threat, all the way back in Interlude 11b. He set Theo on a path to become a cape in two years, and I suspect that this somehow leads to the threat. Perhaps if Jack hadn’t done what he did then, Theo would’ve triggered later, explaining the difference in timescales. Exactly how Theo becoming a cape leads to the future threat is a bit up in the air, but there are certainly ways it could happen. The simplest of them being that his power is ridiculously strong and uncontrollable.


“You won’t live to,” I told him.

Very possible, especially if I’m right.

“I’ll make sure he does,” the girl informed me.

I mean, living as a zombie of sorts doesn’t count.

My swarm could feel others approach from the heroine’s direction.

But have they managed to trust each other?

Incidentally, could Battery somehow have avoided the miasma’s effect and successfully identified the members of the Nine?

They were the size of dogs, and they skipped forward on mechanical legs.

Oh. Those don’t sound friendly.

The mechanical spiders.  Dozens of them, coming straight for me.

If I was judging right, they were running faster than I could.

Welp.

I sent the swarm after Jack and the girl, massed into thousands of bugs.  Some groups clustered so tight together that they looked like massive, amorphous black entities, amoebas floating through a cityscape painted in shades of red and black.

Cod damn, the aesthetic of this whole section of the Arc is so cool.

Atlas heard my call and headed my way from the place I’d positioned him, too far away to join the fight for a minute or two.

Hey, how did Bonesaw know Taylor had named Atlas? Was that just a guess?

The girl was already mixing something else together.  Plumes of white smoke billowed around her, almost luminescent after so long spent in the crimson mist.  My bugs died on contact with the gas.

Ahh, here go the anti-bug measures.

Everything I’d learned about my enemies had been blocked.  I had no information on them, no sense of what to expect.  They weren’t so handicapped.

Having the information blocked like this is a very bad thing in this story. Knowledge is power and right now Taylor can’t access much of it.


She tipped half the vial’s contents into an empty container and handed it to Jack.  Both protected from my power, they started backing away.

I’m sorry, I can’t help but imagine them moonwalking, and from there the image of Jack Slash in the role of Michael Jackson just springs into my mind. Especially him using those weighted shoes MJ had that let him dip really far forward.

tumblr_inline_peniuuPO9C1sxgvvn_1280.png

Jack would rock the dark version of that outfit, too. I suppose Bonesaw could join in with a small light version.

I moved to edge around the cloud of black smoke, but Jack struck me with the knife.  I had to use my forearms to cover my unprotected face.

Why was her face unprotected, again? I forget.

I just had my glasses, some bugs, and a layer of cloth protecting it.  Nothing that would guard against Jack’s cuts.

Yeeah, might wanna keep that out of line of slash.

All the more reason to get rid of the white smoke. If she can use her bugs to sense what she can’t see while protecting her face, she’ll be much better off.

When I’d lowered my arms, they had already turned a corner, running in the general direction of Arcadia high.

Time to take ‘em to school.

Wait, no, that’s where we don’t want them going.

Running around the cloud of black smoke cost me a precious minute.  I made my way around the same corner they’d rounded, and stopped short as I came face to face with another black cloud.

I suppose they anticipated her following the same way.


Couldn’t match their speed, not with these noxious clouds slowing me down.  With the heroine lying unconscious in the street, several blocks in the wrong direction, I had no allies to turn to.

Hell, you don’t even know that Battery would trust you if you did meet up with her.

Worse, anyone I came across was as likely as not to be a threat. It was down to Atlas and me, and Atlas was especially vulnerable to both of my opponents.

…he is? I mean, Jack’s good against flying, but how is he vulnerable to Bones-oh, the gas, got it.

I couldn’t even fly after them without risking being cut down in midair.

I had minimal information on my opponents, while they knew enough about me to completely counter my powers.  Topping it all off, the mechanical spiders were steadily, inexorably closing in on me.

Would be great if her power decided the spiderbots were “close enough”.

I’d lost my last fight with the things, and there were dozens more this time around.  Couldn’t fly without exposing myself to Jack’s power, couldn’t stay on the ground without getting swarmed.

…hover?


I swallowed hard and held out one hand to grab Atlas’s horn as he landed.  In a moment, we were in the air, giving chase.

Looks like exposing herself and Atlas to Jack’s power is the way she’s going. Fair enough, I suppose.

At least there are buildings to use as cover.

I wasn’t thinking about winning anymore.  I was thinking in terms of minimizing the damage when we lost.

Honestly, at this point, that’s fair. I’m not usually one to condone defeatism, but I get it.


End of Prey 14.9

AND I THOUGHT THE LAST ONE WAS AMAZING


[reblogging the above]

The best twists are the ones that, in retrospect, make you feel blind for not managing to put the massive clues together, or alternatively, make you feel awesome for figuring it out ahead of time. This was one of the former for me and I loved it, even as it made me feel stupid.

And it was all hinted towards at least as early as the last line of last chapter, which I found really weird. Someone smarter than me could probably tell from that line what was going on (rather than look at the line like a joke that didn’t land mixed with a dramatic ending line that also didn’t land), and end up having a completely different experience of this chapter than I did. I think I would still enjoy this quite a lot if that were the case.

Sometimes it feels great to feel like an idiot.

This was extremely well crafted, with all the alternate options being available for the reader to explain away the various clues as other things, and the way everything comes together when the truth is revealed. Good work, Wildbow. Good fucking work.

The scene with “Brian” brutally manipulating Taylor in order to make her kill Battery was really well done too, though it’s not quite the same with the knowledge that it was actually Jack rather than a heavily mentally compromised Brian. Still, that was fantastically painful.

Cherish was pretty great, apparently trying to worm her way back into the Nine. The Nine could certainly use the numbers right now – they may be down to just the core members, Jack and Bonesaw, unless healing Siberian in ways Bonesaw can’t is part of why they’re tracking down Amy. In retrospect, that’s unlikely, since Bonesaw can do a lot.

The fight at the end had some good moves on both sides – the initial Bonesaw shield was a particularly good one – and really helped to set up the tension for the next chapter.

Next chapter, it’s time to visit Arcadia High, Taylor fighting the Nine as they move bottom to top in search of Amy and presumably Victoria Dallon. How tall is it, I wonder?

Obviously the Nine aren’t going to succeed here. We genuinely do need Amy to survive and I’m sure Wildbow isn’t going to let this mist kill off most of his characters. (I’m working off the assumption that Bonesaw was telling the truth about what the prions would eventually do, because Bonesaw would be compelled to brag about her art.) We also need a way to get rid of the mist, for that matter. Maybe Bonesaw has something on her that can remove it, if you can get it?

I’m thinking Bonesaw will die soon, but Jack may escape and make a break for the city limits. I don’t think it matters as much as everyone in-universe thinks whether he gets out of the city or not (in fact it might be worse if he doesn’t, as the characters get lulled into a false sense of security for the next two years), but he thinks it does and wants to see how. It also becomes a matter of survival when the girl who’s gonna “make sure he [survives]”… doesn’t.

Hm. I suppose if the news say that Jack’s dead, that would remove Theo’s motivation to become a hero quickly. Maybe it’s not as irrelevant as it might seem.

Of course, that’s all assuming my theory is correct. If it isn’t, well, then it matters a lot whether Jack gets out or not. In which case I’m pretty sure he’ll get out.

So yeah! Hella good chapter, A+. See you next time!


[postscript]

Heh. Michael Jackson.

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One thought on “Prey 14.9: Musca Dormiens Nunquam Titillanda

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