Interlude 14.5: Lies Everywhere

Source material: Worm, Interlude 14.5

Originally blogged: September 26-29, 2018


Interlude 14.5 (Bonus Interlude)

Let’s see how Wildbow decided to number this one… my money’s on 14½…

“Interlude 14.5 (Bonus Interlude)”. Alright, sure! One of these days I’ll probably get to a point where Wildbow starts to get more consistent about these, but it doesn’t look like today is that day.

Anyway, howdy! It’s time for the beginning of the end of the end of the end (but not THE end)!

(That is, the beginning of this Interlude, which is the end of the pair of Interludes that make up the end of the Arc, which is (I think) the end of the larger arc that covers the Slaughterhouse Nine’s presence in this part of the story, but not THE end of the story as a whole. That makes sense, right?)

So, for less nonsensical things, what are we in for tonight?

It’s a little late and I’m eager to get into the chapter, so I think I’ll let Pastwell do most of the talking here:

So – there’s one more Interlude before we reach the end of Arc 14. I don’t know if I dare to hope that it’ll be Charlotte’s POV, though that’d be neat. She’s my favorite of the drones (Sierra didn’t manage to take over that spot in this Interlude), and there’s clearly a story to be told regarding her reaction to Sugita. And I’d like to hear how she perceives Skitter too.

But if it’s not her… maybe someone in the Chosen (Cricket in particular comes to mind) learning about Hookwolf having gone?

Or maybe someone who was deeply affected by the miasma, perhaps finding out the member of the Nine they killed in self defense was actually a family member or something? Except the Interludes usually have an impact on the main story somehow. Maybe they’d trigger in response to the realization, or something like that. But now I’m less speculating and more making up a fanfic premise (that has probably been done at least five times). What kind of power would that lead to… Maybe the power to know who anyone you see is?

The one thing Pastwell seemed to neglect in that last paragraph is that maybe such a character would be a parahuman already, someone we already know. Who would be best suited for something like that, thematically? I’d say Amy, but we already know that doesn’t work. Again, though, I doubt we’re actually getting this tonight. It’s too specific a guess, and a bit too fanfic-y.

I don’t think I have anything else to add, so let’s get into the finale of Prey! 😀


“It’s just going to be another minute or two.  The data has to compile and upload.  It’s not my work, so I played it safe and went for the slowest, heaviest compression method that I could.  It’s going to take a bit.”

Hmm.

Are we dealing with Dragon today? It’s not going to be her Interlude because she already had one, though, and the same goes for the primary suspect for who we’d see talking to her. So if that’s what we’re getting, whose perspective is it?

“my work” implies that whoever is talking has skill in dealing with data like this.

Coil had some people decrypting PRT data a few Arcs back, but surely they’ve finished that by now.

“That’s fine.  Thank you.”

My mind immediately went to Taylor here, but this really doesn’t say a lot about who this might be.

I suppose it’d be nice to get two different perspectives on Taylor in a row, though.

Kid Win shifted position uncomfortably, falling silent.

Ooh, hello!

I take it he was the first voice, given the paragraph break? Then again, that might’ve just been to make sure the name (the topic of the paragraph, in a meta sense) came first.

Ooh, could the other voice be Legend?

The other voice is almost certainly the POV character (Kid Win’s already had an Interlude, unless Interludes that aren’t technically labeled as such don’t count), and I would be very okay with it being Legend.

You don’t have to be intimidated.  I’m just a man. 

Yeah, that sounds like an issue that would be central for Legend, alright. I’m calling it with 90% certainty: this is Legend’s Interlude.


Legend stared out the window.  He wouldn’t miss this city.

Hell yes.

And yeeah, this ain’t the greatest place these days. So you’re leaving, now that the Nine are dealt with?

Have you actually received that information from the Undersiders yet? I mean obviously the miasma is gone, which would imply a few things, but I wouldn’t take that alone as a sign that “they’re gone, you can go home now”.

Also I doubt this is the last we’ll be seeing of Legend in Brockton Bay, unless he dies here somehow. Brockton Bay has even more disasters in its future, and I’m sure he’ll be back to help at some point.

He’d better be. Legend’s one of my favorite heroes in this story.

There weren’t happy memories here, and there was little he was proud about.  Most of the time, he was able to feel that he’d made an impact, that the world was a better place for his being there.  That wasn’t the case here.

Ah, yeah, I suppose he doesn’t feel great about his actions under the miasma’s effect, and most of his other actions didn’t actually accomplish that much, really.

“How long have you been in the Wards?” he asked, to make conversation.

I’ll gladly take some further exposition on Kid too, yes, thank you. 🙂

“Two years.”

Not that long, really, but I suppose you can’t expect any of them to have been there for all that long given the ages involved. Kid is among the oldest ones on the team, if I remember correctly, but even that means he’d be around Taylor’s age (16) when he started out. If he’d been there much longer, we’d soon be getting down to Vista’s age (13), maybe even Bonesaw’s (~11), depending how many years back we go.

(#bonesaw’s age estimate took a hit when amy turned out to be a year younger than previously indicated)


“I’ve seen your records.”

That’s not a great line to say if you want to not be intimidating.

Kid Win cringed.

“No, don’t act like I’m going to say something bad.  The Deputy Director in charge of the Wards, I can’t quite remember his name, he had some glowing praise for your ability to engage with the public.”

Kid’s cool in multiple ways, so this seems legit. 🙂

The thing about not remembering the deputy director’s name seems too conspicuously mentioned to not be an example of lasting memory holes left by the miasma.

“Engage with the public?  I don’t remember doing much of that.”

I suppose, while he’d be good at connecting with the public, the people in charge might not want to put the responsibility of the role on him?

There’s also passive engagement, in the sense that people like him because he looks cool while fighting villains.

Oh! Is Legend mixing up Kid and Weld?

“Something about speeches to other youths at school?”

“Oh.  That wasn’t a big deal.”

To be fair, the people who say something isn’t a big deal tend to be the ones who are good at it.

“The guy who’s rating your performance seems to think it was.  Can’t quite place his name, the suits sort of start to blur in with one another-”

That’s fair, even without the miasma.

“Deputy Director Renick,” Kid Win supplied.

“Yes.  Thank you.  He seemed to think you connected with the crowd, and you did it better than any of your teammates. You were frank, open, honest, and you stood out because of how you handled yourself when the students started getting rambunctious and heckling you.”

That sounds like Kid, yeah!

I’d actually like to see this. Especially the heckling part.


“Director Piggot yelled at me for drawing the gun.”

Ahahaha!

Oh man, I changed my mind, this is way better as a noodle incident.

“It was something that could have backfired very easily, but you struck the right tone and you defused the situation with humor.  I think that’s a good thing, and so did the staff at the school.

*gestures to entire blog* Can you tell why I relate to Kid Win, besides the ADD? 😛

I mentioned earlier that Legend’s one of my favorites. Guess who else fits that description more and more by the paragraph.

The teachers sent emails a few days after the event, commenting on the overall positive impact you had on the students, the hecklers included.  And when I say you, I mean you specifically.”

Niiice.


Kid Win shrugged, tapping a few keys on the laptop to rotate through a series of progress bars and graphs.  “Nobody told me about that.”

That’s a real shame. We know Kid struggles with self-worth. He could use the validation.

“That’s a shame,” Legend said, turning his gaze to the window to relieve some of the pressure his very presence seemed to put on Kid Win.  “The ability to manage yourself with the public is crucial if you intend to go on to make a career out of working with the Protectorate.”

So we’ve got the kid who feels like the weak link of the team he’s in, and we’ve got the leader of the team he’s likely to move on to telling him that yes, there’s something you’re good at besides tinkering and yes, that thing you’re good at is very very important.

These two are such good eggs.

“It’s kind of weird, that someone as important as you are is making such a big deal out of an event I barely remember.”

…okay yeah I can see that. That is very fair and honestly kinda relatable. I haven’t had that happen to me with someone “as important as” Legend, but it does feel weird when people make a big deal out of something you did that you don’t really remember all that well.

“I study the records of everyone I intend to work with, and I studied yours.  I try to make a note of individual strengths.  That event stuck in my mind when I was reading through your files.  It was a very easy mental picture to put together, especially the part with the gun.”

The fucking gun still cracks me up.


Kid Win smiled a little.

“You remind me of Hero.”

…ouch. We’re heading into that territory.

Is that why Kid is even in this chapter, besides whatever he’s doing on the computer?

The smile fell from Kid Win’s face.  He looked startled.  “Really?”

“I imagine he was very much like you when he was younger.”

And now this big important guy is telling Kid that Kid is similar to another big important guy (one whom Kid can also relate to on the tinker front), perhaps inspiring confidence that Kid can become a big important guy himself one day in spite of his difficulties.

I love this. It’s such a lowkey conversation for Legend, and Kid isn’t showing signs of realizing it either, but these are all things that Kid needs to hear.

Kid Win looked uncomfortable.

“You can follow in Hero’s footprints, young friend. Just don’t follow them too far. If you’re about to get torn to pieces by Siberian, you may want to turn back.”

I suppose part of Kid’s reaction could stem from the fact that those are some big footprints to fill. Maybe he’s not sure he can fill them as well as (he thinks) Legend might expect him to.


“You can talk about it,” Legend assured him.  “It’s okay.  It was a long time ago that he passed.”

“I sort of modeled myself after him.”

Ahh. He knew it might be a sore subject for Legend.

Oh hell yes. So this big important guy Legend is comparing Kid to was already Kid’s role model. Kid is already trying to be like Hero, and Legend just reinforced the idea that he’s succeeding.

Legend studied the boy.  Red and gold body armor and a red-tinted visor.  There were additions that seemed to be more recent, judging by the lack of wear and tear, but if he looked past those, if he imagined the boy with a helmet covering that brown wavy hair, replaced the red with blue chain mesh, he could see the resemblance.

So basically, the Ravenclaw version of the Wards’ Gryffindor Kid.

“I can see that.”

“I didn’t mean to copy him, or to ride off his fame or anything.  I was younger when I started, I totally meant it to be respectful-”  Kid Win stopped as Legend raised a hand.

You can just hear Kid getting slightly more frantic as he goes along here, trying to make sure Legend doesn’t think he’s disrespecting the man’s dead friend.

…friend? Legend does seem to have taken Hero’s death hard. That’s very much believable and understandable with them being good friends, but it did just occur to me that Hero might have been more than that to Legend.

“It’s okay.  I think he would be flattered.”

How does Legend keep finding all the right things to say?


Kid Win nodded, a little too quickly.

“He was the first real tinker, you know.”

What do you mean by “real”?

And are you sure? Surely there were plenty of parahumans you didn’t find out about, even back then when triggering was new and exciting and prone to creating news stories.

“Before we knew tinkers have specializations,” Kid Win added.

“I’ve thought about it.  The disintegration gun, the jetpack, the sonic weapons, the power sources and explosives that were surprisingly effective for their size.

I remember someone asked me about Kid Win’s specialty [here] after his chapter of Sentinel. At the time I speculated that it was the relatively broad “manipulation of energy”.

And honestly, all these examples Legend lists here seem to support that.

I’m just worried it’s too broad. If you get technical, you can make “manipulation of energy” cover just about everything. Hardly a specialty at that point.

I suspect his specialty tied into manipulating and enhancing wavelengths and frequencies.”

Oh, he was talking about Hero’s specialty, not Kid’s. Of course, that makes much more sense.

Wavelengths and frequencies… so electromagnetic energy, pretty much. Though not only that – any kind of wave, which is where the sonic weapons and explosives (shockwaves) come in.

I wonder how similar Kid’s power is?


Kid Win’s eyes went wide.  He glanced at the laptop.

Recognizing yourself in that description?

“I know enough other tinkers to know that look.  You just had a stroke of inspiration?”

“Sort of.  More like a bunch of half-assed ideas all at once.”

The ADD life.

“Don’t let me distract you.  If you want to take a minute to make some notes on whatever came to mind, I won’t be offended in the slightest.”

That seems especially helpful considering the ADD. It’d be so easy for it to slip back out if he didn’t take notes.

“It’s okay.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.  I-” Kid Win paused.  “I guess I’d rather keep talking to you than write down ideas that probably won’t work out.”

You’re letting it show a bit more, just how much this conversation means to you. 🙂

“Thank you.  I’d say you shouldn’t worry too much about trying to emulate Hero.  It’s heartening, if I had to put a word to the feeling, that you look up to him and carry on his legacy.  But you have your own specialization and your own strengths.”

Alright, so we are looking at Kid’s confusion over his specialty today, then. Nice.

I’m not sure whether I want him to have a really similar specialty to Hero or not, honestly. Having a similar specialty would really drive home their similarity and the fact that someone like Kid can become great, but Legend has a point. There’s emulating and then there’s letting their identity take over yours.


Kid Win nodded.  “I’m figuring that out.  I spent a long time trying to be like other tinkers and struggling.  Ninety percent of my projects just stopped before I finished it.  The stuff I finished, I finished it because it was simple.  Guns, the floating hoverboard… well, I used to have a floating hoverboard.  I sort of copied Hero’s approach.

Maybe his specialty is simple things.

…nah.

‘Board instead of jetpack, but I made the guns, tried a few disintegration rays.  Maybe part of the reason I finished that stuff was because I felt like I’d be insulting Hero by trying to copy his style and making a mess of it.”

As good a motivation as any, I suppose.

“Makes sense,” Legend spoke, primarily to show he was listening.

“But lately I’ve started to relax about that.  Maybe it helps that we’ve been working as hard as we have.  I’ve been too tired to keep to the rules I thought I was supposed to follow.

Work outside the box!

Still have to spend time in the workshop, I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t, but I’m winging it more.  I’m trusting my instincts and spending less time using the computers to get the exact numbers and measurements.”

Considering you almost certainly have superpowered instincts for these things, that’s probably a good thing.

“To help compensate for your dyscalculia?”

Oh, right.

“I didn’t know you knew about that.  I didn’t know the PRT knew about that.”

I suppose Arcadia would have discovered it and told the PRT. That or they’ve dug up a diagnosis.

“Dragon’s talents make for very comprehensive records, sorry.”

Big Dragon is watching you.


Kid Win frowned, his expression changing fractionally as he stared down at the keyboard in front of him.  He seemed to come to terms with the idea, because he moved on. “Anyways, I think it’s working for me.  I’m getting the feeling that I do have a specialization, but it’s more of an approach than a particular field.

Sure, that’s possible. After Leet, I don’t think there are a ton of rules for what can or can’t be a tinker specialization.

Equipment with multiple settings and uses, modular weapons, gear that’s adaptable to different situations, I guess?”

That’s a really good specialization! Versatility is very important as a cape, and your specialization may be making your gear versatile? That’s very, very useful.

Man, if Armsmaster and Kid worked together, they could make some really crazy stuff.

“That’s fantastic.  The fact that you’ve struggled and then found your strengths the hard way could be an asset.”

“An asset?”

“If you wind up leading the Wards or a team in the Protectorate, it means you’ll be better equipped to help out teammates who are having their own problems.”

That’s true! Also, I like how Legend says this with a tone that indicates it’s well within the realm of possibility, no big deal.

And hey, the Wards’ leadership is at least partially based on seniority, right? I think Kid is at most third in line to the leader position.

“I’d be horrible in a leadership position.”

Perhaps now.


“Hero said the same thing, and I think we’ll both agree that he was wrong.”

Niice.

That seemed to give Kid Win pause.

Yes, Kid, your role model was a human being, one who seems to have gone through a lot of the same struggles you’re going through right now.

“Think about it.”

“Okay,” Kid Win replied.  “Not that I’m not majorly grateful that you’re giving me the pep talk, but you said you were in a bit of a hurry and I think we’re done here.”

Kid seems to downplay things a bit, but he still sneaks in an acknowledgement here of the fact that this meant a lot to him.

So, what have you been doing on the ‘puter all this time? Something about compiling and uploading data… updates to the system about the status of the Nine, perhaps? Though I’m not sure why Legend would need to sit/stand around here waiting for the upload in that case.


“The compiling is done?”

“I could refine it further, try to give you some additional features, but the coding and the hardware I’m working with here is so tightly structured that I think I’d do more harm than good.  It’s like the techie equivalent of trying to put toothpaste back in the tube after you’ve squeezed it out… you can’t, so maybe you try to make more tube that sticks out of one side, but you keep doing it and you wind up with this kludgy mess that you can’t even use for its original purpose.  For getting toothpaste.”

This is a beautiful analogy.

Very relatable, actually, though more in terms of the thought processes that lead to this kind of concept than of the concept itself.

“I think I understand what you mean.  Thank you for this.  It’s already uploaded?”

“Yeah, and it was my pleasure, really.” Kid Win smiled.

Not just for the computery parts, I’d imagine.

Legend stood and stretched a little.

The goodbyes had already been made and he’d had his meeting with Emily.  Business was wrapped up here.

For now. Just wait until the Simurgh shows up. And Nilbog. And Behemoth for good measure.

Not to mention the apocalyptic threat looming in the future.

Actually, who knows, maybe the Simurgh’s arrival will make itself known before we’re even done with this Interlude, kicking off the boss Arc of this… Book, or whatever you want to call it.

He’d called home to let Arthur know he wouldn’t make it to dinner but that he hoped to be back before midnight.

I’m increasingly sure Legend won’t be leaving anytime soon, if at all.

There are few bigger death flags than “I’m leaving the story to go home and be happy with my loved one, whom I’ve already told I’m coming home, see ya”.


A light smile touched his face.  He even felt a little giddy at the thought of getting home, wrapping Arthur in a hug.

I’m getting Madoka Magica flashbacks. If these death flags get much more blatant I might just lose my head.

Or Legend might.

Growing up, he’d never thought that he’d feel giddy about his husband after six years of marriage.

This is adorable, though. :3

But he had something to take care of first.  The notion put a damper on his pleasant mood.

Alright. What’s this thing you need to take care of and how exactly is it likely to kill you?

“I’m going to go, then.  You and I,” he promised Kid Win, “Should talk again sometime.  You can tell me if you’ve figured out your specialty, and if you’re leading a team.”

They’re never going to see each other (alive) again, are they.

“Maybe the next time you’re in Brockton Bay?”

“Maybe.”  Legend smiled, but he was thinking, does he know?  This whole region might be condemned.

The whole region? Like, the entire East-North-East?


Maybe Kid Win was being optimistic.

Legend turned and opened a window, then let himself float through.

Who needs doors?

He took a second to get his bearings, to inform himself of which direction was up, down, north, east, south and west, then he took off.

I like how he needs to keep track of up and down among these. Does he feel any gravity on his body while he’s flying?

Powers were classified into categories, and the ‘breaker’ classification was used to mark those powers which were limited to one’s own body and their immediate vicinity.

Are you telling me that your flight is a result of you breaking gravity?

Though it had initially been used to cover individuals who could make themselves stronger, denser, larger or change the materials they were made of, it was slowly expanding to include others.  There was a theory that was gaining traction, suggesting that the breaker classification was one of the most common powersets, if not always the most pronounced.

I suppose there are a lot of powers that could be described that way.

Innumerable people with powers had also adapted innate defenses that kept their own powers from harming themselves.  Pyrokinetics tended to be resistant to flame. There were automatic shutoffs, biological and mental, for various other powers.  Even beyond that, there were other adaptations that were so subtle as to be almost undetectable.  His weren’t.

So… is he talking about something about the way his flight works that keeps it from hurting him? Or maybe it’s something about light?

…I should probably just let him continue.

Legend’s flight powers let him accelerate to a speed that exceeded sound and continue accelerating, to no hard limit.

Not even the speed of light?

…oh yeah, I suppose the speed of light is technically a soft limit, even if it’s hard in the sense that you can’t surpass it. It has to do with the energy needed to accelerate approaching infinity.

The soft limit was that he had breaker powers that kept the acceleration from tearing him to shreds, altering his body into something else entirely as he gained speed.

…huh. That’s a weird and pretty cool way to do it.

The drawback to this was that his brain also shut down on a cognitive level as the transformation occurred.  He had never let himself go so fast that he lost the ability to consciously control his movements.

He’s probably going to need to do that at some point. Possibly by the end of this Interlude.

Question is, though, can he then be slowed down enough to regain control without tearing down half a city?


There were other benefits too.  He was better at registering and processing light waves, regardless of which state he was in.  He could see with perfect clarity up until the point that an obstactle intervened or the atmosphere occluded his vision.

This is the exact opposite of a nearly impossible crack theory that came to mind a few paragraphs ago. That to protect Legend against his own lasers, he turned blind.

Incidentally, lasers and blindness are a bad combination. Just ask the League of Super Redundant Heroes.

If an opponent attacked and struck him, he instinctively transitioned into his energy form for a split second.  In that state, he absorbed energy of a variety of kinds, including the kinetic energy that was transferred with a punch or with a bullet.  His opponents were forced to whittle him down, each attack only a fraction as effective as it might otherwise be.

So his toughness is a side effect of the flight power’s Required Secondary Power. Are the lasers tied in like this too?

Even then, a share of that small amount of damage was healed a second later as he used the absorbed energy to mend his body.  Conversely, his enemies could try to hit him with enough speed and force that even a hundredth of a second of contact was sufficient to take him out of the fight.

Interesting. So many small attacks won’t harm him in the long run, but you can still one-shot him.

Leviathan and Behemoth had managed to land blows of that magnitude.

But still not strong enough to kill, apparently, and the Simurgh is left out, whether that’s because he hasn’t fought her enough times for this to happen at some point or (more likely the intended implication) she’s not strong enough. Which says a hell of a lot about how tough Legend is.

Siberian has as well.  He set his jaw and increased his speed a notch.

Oof, yeah, touchy subject.

He traveled over the Atlantic Ocean, moving so fast that the water appeared to be one flat plane.

Damn. Are we going all the way across to Europe in this scene?

His thoughts became a blur, and he was forced to focus on his destination, letting all other thoughts and doubts fall by the wayside.

I’m guessing the UK. London, maybe. Arthur is a very English name.

It was refreshing, in a way, cleansing himself of the responsibilities and the thousands of problems he was forced to handle as the leader of the Protectorate.  Still, it always scared him just a little.

I can’t blame him for being a bit disturbed at letting go of his mind, temporarily or otherwise. Even if he’s been doing it for 20 years.


It took him only an instant to reach a complete stop.  He let himself settle down into his real body once more.

So I suppose this is the thing he had to do first? Which apparently is going to take until near midnight, judging by the speeds involved here.

He’d wondered sometimes if his ability to fly was meant for travel on an interstellar level.

…that makes some sense. Especially with the side effect of essentially going comatose until you reach your destination, at the highest speeds.

But what was your trigger event? Could it be construed such that some alien entity would go “oh, we can solve this by letting him travel to the stars”?

What if he kept accelerating?  His breaker power would let him weather the void of space, his ability to see would be that much more powerful if there was no atmosphere to occlude his vision over miles… even the boredom of traveling for years was nothing if his conscious mind shifted into a rest state.

Exactly!

Not that he’d ever test it.

Might be a bit risky. You never know how far you’ll need to travel before you hit something that lets you pull out of that state.

He’d absorbed light, heat and ambient radiation while he flew, and he felt restored.  Even the mildest wear and tear had been tended to, his body restored to peak condition.

Something for Legend and Purity to relate over.

His mind was another matter, his emotions.  It was like waking up in a warm bed, the man he loved beside him, only to experience a sinking feeling as he came to dread the coming day.

Ouch.

What exactly is it you’re here to do?

He drifted closer to the oil rig, and settled down on a fence, using a touch of his flight ability to stay balanced.

Oil rig, huh? Interesting.

In every direction, as far as the eye could see, there was only water.

We’re a long way away from Brockton Bay now and even now dry spots are but a myth.


“Any time now,” he said.

It began as a pale square in mid-air, then unfolded rapidly, three-dimensional.

Cauldron?

When it opened up further, the interior of a building loomed in mid-air, the exterior absent.

Guys, I think we found a chunk error.

He floated forward and set foot on the white tile of the hallway.  He felt the distortion as the space shifted, felt the rush of wind as air pressure adjusted.  It took only a couple of seconds.  When he glanced over his shoulder, the oil rig was gone.  There was only more hallway behind him.

Well then. It seems we ha– oh fuck is Siberian Legend’s Nemesis

He walked onward, confident in his ability to navigate the maze of rooms and corridors.

Evidently he’s been here before and he’s not being guided even though Cauldron clearly expected him. But he doesn’t have the personality for a leader of the company – Cauldron’s amoral attitude towards putting villains into the world doesn’t mesh with Legend’s desire to make a positive impact on the world.

I wonder if he knew Siberian was a Cauldron client before he saw the tattoo.


This is getting very interesting, we’re heading into essentially a new scene, and I’m too sleepy to do that justice right now. See you either tomorrow or Friday for the next part!

[End of sesssion]


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[League of Super Redundant Heroes comic]

Suit: What is this request for increased funding about?
Scientist: I’m onto something big this time!
Scientist: If my calculations are correct…

Scientist: …I think I might be able to synthesize a complete universe within this box!
Suit: That’s fantastic! What made you think about doing this?

Scientist: Well… I really just wanted to make an apple pie from scratch, but I got carried away…

fuckin’ tinkers.

(#Kid Win’s ADD is also relevant here)


Hey, remember back in 7.3 when Rachel and Taylor talked about the idea of dogs getting powers? Check out this little comic. 😛


[Session 2]

Howdy! Who’s ready to find out what the hell Legend is doing at Cauldron HQ? I sure am. Let’s go!


For the record, when I cut myself off here:

Well then. It seems we ha– oh fuck is Siberian Legend’s Nemesis

What I was going to say was “It seems we have another Cauldron customer.”


When he pushed open the double doors and stepped into the conference room, there were a few looks of surprise.

Interesting. So clearly he’s going to some meeting, but the others at the meeting don’t seem to have known he was coming, despite the opening of the hallway at the oil rig not seeming to be meant to pick up someone else. Did Legend specifically contact the person whose makes that happen?

I’m guessing he’s here to talk about Siberian in some fashion.

“Legend,” the Doctor spoke, “I thought you were occupied in Brockton Bay.”

That’s done, so far.

Also, unsurprisingly at this point, it’s clear that they know each other. More importantly, Legend knows the Doctor. The other way around would be easily explained by Legend’s fame even if they’d never met.

“Jack escaped.”

I suspect Cauldron would be more interested in whether Siberian did. And Shatterbird.

“That’s… really unfortunate,” Alexandria said.

Hi.

They’re all in on this? Is Eidolon here too?

This raises some big questions about Cauldron’s origin and status. Is the whole thing set up by the PRT/Protectorate, or is it just the Triumvirate? Do the North American governments know? Why would they do this, especially considering the company’s willingness to deliberately create villains, including Siberian?

Maybe the Triumvirate didn’t know about the villainous part until Legend saw the Cauldron tattoo on Siberian?


“Quite,” the Doctor replied.

Legend glanced around the room.  Alexandria leaned back in her chair, her helmet on the table in front of her, a star-shaped scar at the corner of one eye.  Beautiful, Legend was sure, but more in the way a lioness was beautiful.

Majestic, with an air of power and danger?

In her black and gray costume, she was intimidating, her expression regal.

Let’s keep in mind that this is being described by one of the few people who are on roughly her level of power. And more importantly, by a man who started us out by indicating that intimidation and the fact that he himself didn’t want to intimidate people (except villains, I suppose) would be themes of this chapter.

I’m not sure how clear I made it that that was the vibe I got from Legend’s initial thought towards Kid at the beginning. That it was going to be a major theme of the Interlude, one that will also likely close us out at the end.

(It’s like Piggot thinking about the world going mad and her opinions on parahumans at the beginning of her Interlude, and those themes coming back in full force by the end.)

Eidolon was the opposite.  He had lowered his hood and removed his glowing mask, revealing a middle-aged man with thick eyebrows, thinning hair and heavy cheeks.  He looked more like an average family man who was getting dressed up as Eidolon for a costume party than he looked like Eidolon himself.

Hah, I like it.

I wonder how much that reflects his personality. I do like the contrast between how normal he looks without his mask and how alien he looks with it. Though I’m not sure the latter is an intentional textual thing so much as my opinion of how he looks in fanart.

There were others around the table.  The Doctor: dark-skinned, hair tied into a prim bun with chopsticks stuck through it, wearing a short white dress beneath a white lab coat.  The Number Man, with his laptop set in front of him, looking more like a businessman than one of the most influential and lesser-known parahumans on the planet.

I can’t help but imagine Richard Osman on Pointless.

tumblr_inline_pftdvepLTj1sxgvvn_640.png

So what kind of numbers does the Number Man deal in? On a related note, what would his power be? Surely it isn’t fast math, but it presumably has to do with the numbers somehow.

Maybe he rates powers? But I’m not sure how that would make him influential.

There was also the woman in the black suit, who had never introduced herself or been introduced by name.

Rude.

Maybe a direct subordinate of the Doctor?

Whenever Legend came here with the others, the woman was there with the Doctor.

Yeah, sounds like it. That or the exact opposite.


Insurance, he thought.  The Doctor thinks that woman can face us if we turn on her. 

I suppose that makes sense. That would imply the woman is very strong, though. Like, almost Siberian-level.

Would she win?  Legend harbored doubts.  He’d met a lot of powerful individuals over the course of his career, and he’d learned how to measure them.  This woman didn’t relax for an instant, where someone who was assured of victory would be more willing to let down her guard.

Legend does have a habit of trying to read and understand people. I like that about him.

But don’t forget what you told Skitter before the miasma.

More likely that she’s supposed to stall or stop us if there’s a problem, buying the doctor time to escape. 

Fair enough. She’d still need to be plenty strong, but not necessarily strong enough to defeat them.


So these meetings aren’t entirely casual and peaceful. There’s an air of forced cooperation here, not one of the Triumvirate being higher-ups for Cauldron somehow.

But what are they cooperating to accomplish, and why?


“Jack escaped.  What about the other Nine?” the Doctor asked.

“We suspect that Bonesaw and Siberian also escaped, with Hookwolf as a new member of their group.”

“What about Shatterbird?”

“I see.”

“It’s unusual for you to show any interest in what’s going on outside the realm of your business and research.  Any reason for the curiosity?”

I think Legend knows exactly why she’s interested and just wants to see if she’ll admit it.

The Doctor smiled. “Hard to keep track of what goes on beyond these walls, sometimes.”

Legend nodded.  He took a seat to Alexandria’s right.  He considered for a moment, then spoke.  “There are some things that concern me.”

Which she won’t, supporting my hypothesis from earlier about Cauldron not having been upfront about their amorality.

That or she considers it a confidential matter.

“Is this tied to why you came here today?”

“Yes.  Let me begin by saying that there’s apparently a precog in Brockton Bay that’s pretty damn certain that the world’s going to end shortly.”

Ah, yes, that’s quite important to put on the table where they can all see it.


“Precogs are notoriously unreliable.  I tell many of my customers that when they express interest in seeing the future.  I think I even told you.  Or was it Alexandria that I discussed it with?”

“It was,” Alexandria replied.

True, given the choice-based futures in this setting. Dinah is one that sees (as far as we know) all the various branches rather than just the most likely one, though.

“You’re right,” Legend said, “Most precogs are vague.  They have to be, because the future is vague.  But all reports point to this precog being very specific.  Jack Slash was mentioned as the catalyst for an event that occurs in two years.  More specifically, she said this occurs if Jack escaped Brockton Bay alive, which he did.”

That’s not quite what she said. There’s a correlation, sure, one that’s a bit uncomfortable for my theory due to the amount of time between Jack talking to Theo and Jack leaving the city and the various times he could’ve been killed before leaving (if I’m right, many of the timelines where that happened should still lead to the apocalypse… though maybe not if the news made it back to Theo in time). But that’s not necessarily a causation.

There were nods around the table.

“What do you mean when you say the world ends?” Eidolon asked.

“Thirty-three to ninety-six percent of the population dies in a very short span of time.  I assume the aftermath of this scenario leads to more deaths in the long run.”

Probably, yeah. Just the population reduction in itself might cause that (hospitals getting understaffed, etc.), but the aftermath of the thing causing the population reduction almost certainly makes things worse. Post-apocalyptic settings are rarely very comfortable.

The Number Man spoke.  “Depending on the circumstances of death, the demise of even one in three individuals would lead to further casualties.  Lack of staff for essential services and key areas, health, atmospheric and ecological effects of decomposition on a massive scale, destabilized societal infrastructure… The best case scenario is that Earth’s population drops steeply over twenty years, until it settles to forty-eight point six percent of where it currently stands.  Three billion, three hundred and ninety-one million, eight hundred and three thousand, five hundred and four.  Give or take.”

Well, I see why they call you the Number Man.

So is his power feeding him this info, in a manner similar to a cross between Dinah and Tattletale?


“That’s the best case scenario?” Alexandria asked.

It’s interesting that he seems to think a 51.4% population reduction is better than a 33% reduction. Maybe he’s accounting for overpopulation? (Someone get Thanos in here.)

The man shrugged.  “It’s unlikely it will occur.  The bare minimum of people would have to die, there couldn’t be any bodies, and there wouldn’t be anything left unattended that could cause uncontrolled fires or nuclear incidents.

Oh wait, I see what he means now. That best case scenario is what would happen after a third of the population dies to the apocalypse.

If I were to ballpark a number, talking about events that could kill one-third to nearly all of the world’s population, I’d say roughly seventy-two percent of the earth’s population are likely to die.  That leaves one billion, nine hundred and fifty million alive.

Damn.

Also, while I don’t think fast math is the full extent of his power, it does seem to be a part of it.

More than half of those individuals would die over the following twenty years, and more than half of those who remain would die in the ten years following that.  Keeping in mind these are estimates, of course.”

So then after thirty years we’re down to a quarter of 28%, i.e. 7%.

“Of course,” The Doctor said, “Precogs are unreliable.  I’m surmising this girl doesn’t know exactly how this occurs?”

I think I’ve got a better idea due to the kind of future vision I try to avoid.


“No.  Her employer didn’t say anything on the subject.”

“We’ll take measures,” Eidolon said.  “Evacuation, we’ll also push for automatic shutdown controls on power grids and nuclear facilities.

Evacuation? To where? Mars?

With the Endbringers out there, it would be sensible to do it anyways.  We can reduce the potential damage.”

Yeah, I don’t know about evacuation, but this part is a good idea.

“Unless,” Alexandria said, “The numbers the precog provided are already accounting for us having this conversation and taking the extra measures.  If she does view the future, it’s very possible she saw this very meeting and everything that followed, in a manner of speaking.”

Right. That’s a good point. Things always get tricky when you try to circumvent prophecy.

(If this is a trope you like, go read both Homestuck and The Wheel of Time.)

That was sobering.

“We’ll do it anyways, of course,” Eidolon said.

I mean, yeah. The numbers may not be able to go below 33%, but you should still push towards that end of the range.

Legend and Alexandria nodded.

“Let’s remember,” the Doctor said, “The numbers already pointed to an endgame situation at the twenty-three year mark.  If the Endbringers continue doing the damage they’ve been doing at the current rate, things won’t be sustainable.

Good point. The End was already being Brought.

We’ll be forced to withdraw from damaged and dangerous areas, populations will condense, the Endbringers attack those pockets…  and that’s without considering the possibility that they achieve something big in the interim.

The Endbringers are the slow way of destroying humanity and even they’re making some big dents over time.

We’ve talked about the crisis scenarios: Behemoth triggering a nuclear winter, Leviathan obliterating or tainting the world’s renewable water supply.”

Nuclear winter from Behemoth? How exactly? Just by destroying nuclear plants, or does he have another element on top of earth and fire/lava?

(#Homestuck #The Wheel of Time
#reading both will take a while)


“You’re saying we’re already facing an end of the world situation,” Alexandria said, “And this is just accelerating the timetable.”

Yes.

“Yes.  Any measures we take are still vital.  They’ll help here, with this scenario, but if it never occurs, it will still help against the Endbringers.”

That is a very good point, yeah.

“Are we assuming the Endbringers are at the core of this end-of-the-world scenario?” Eidolon asked.

I do think they might be related somehow (especially if the threat comes via Noelle rather than Theo, though Jack has no known connection to Noelle besides Noelle being Crawler’s nominee), but that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

“Likely,” Alexandria said, “But let’s not rule anything out.”

“Provided this is really occurring,” the Doctor spoke.

“We can’t afford to say it’s not,” Legend said.  “You have precogs among your staff and customers?”

“Unreliable ones.”

“Some,” The Doctor answered.  “I can ask them about this end of the world scenario.”

Legend nodded.  “Good.  Eidolon, you want to try your hand at it?”

Oh yeah, he could just give himself the power of precognition, couldn’t he.

I’d like to learn what Eidolon’s limits are. Maybe he can only prepare so many powers per day?

“If my power lets me.  It only gives me what it thinks I need, not what I want.”

Oh… Oh, that is good. That is a really good power, both in practice and narratively.

Especially if the power is anything like my impression of the Dandelions, not really understanding humanity.


“We need all the help we can get.  Let’s see if we can’t figure out how this happens, so we can stop it or mitigate the damage.  There’s a lot of capes out there with the thinker classification.  Get the word out, call in favors, offer favors.

Just try not to cause too much panic.

Anything to get more information on this.”

There were nods and noises of agreement from his fellow Protectorate members and the Doctor.

Seems the nameless black-clad lady is staying quiet.

Legend quietly cleared his throat, glancing around the table.  “Speaking of great minds… there was another point I wanted to address, that came up during my stay in Brockton Bay.”

Hmm. It sounds like he’s either seguing into something about great minds that think alike (Hero and Kid Win?), or more literally talking about thinkers. But what thinkers would he want to talk about? Tattletale?

Or maybe it’s about Skitter?

He had their attention.

“Alexandria, I expect you read the reports already.  You didn’t seem that surprised when I talked about the precog and her end-of-the-world scenario, you’ve probably read up on my notes here.”

Alexandria had originally named herself after the Library of Alexandria, though she’d ceased mentioning that, choosing to leave enemies in the dark instead.

Just don’t crash and burn on us.

Was I onto something about Alexandria and Skitter being similar?

As strong as she was on a physical level, her mind was equally formidable.  She never forgot a detail, absorbed information quickly, reading two pages of a book with a glance, and she learned quickly, retaining everything she picked up.

Awesome.

She knew most commonly spoken languages, no less than ten styles of martial arts and she could match some of the best non-tinkers in the world when it came to computers.  Not only was she rated well in the brute classification, but she held high scores in the mover and thinker categories.

She signs her high scores ALX.

So basically what you’re telling me is that Alexandria is really coddamn amazing.


“I read what you provided, though I’m not sure what you’re referring to specifically.”

“Siberian.”

Ah, here we go. A great thinker in the sense that he’s a scholar. With a bonus thinking alike because Alexandria is also a scholar of sorts.

He saw a change in her expression, saw Eidolon flinch as if he’d been slapped.

“I’ll explain for those of you who lack access to the PRT records or the time to peruse them.  Siberian is not a brute-class cape.  Siberian is a ‘master’, and the striped woman is a projection.

I suppose Master is appropriate, considering he controls the projection.

I caught a glimpse of the man who is creating the projection before they retreated.”

Keep an eye on the Doctor’s reaction, Legend.

“And?”

“And he had Cauldron’s mark tattooed on the back of his left hand, a swan on his right.”

With the exception of himself, the Number Man and the woman in the suit, everyone present reacted with surprise.

Even the Doctor?

Is she surprised at Legend having caught this? Or maybe she’s just acting.

“You don’t think that was William Manton?”  Alexandria asked.  “But why the mark on his right hand?”

Ahhh. There were three scholars to choose from.

Also, I thought the right hand mark, the swan, was the one Legend recognized him by. Apparently not. So Manton may have had something to do with the early days of Cauldron before disappearing to become Siberian.

(It didn’t occur to me until now that this all means Cauldron is at least twenty years old.)


“I don’t know.  It doesn’t fit on a lot of levels.  A top parahuman researcher becoming one of the Nine?”

I mean, so did Sphere.

“It happened to Alan.  To Mannequin,” Eidolon said, his voice quiet.

Eidolon and I are on the same page here.

“There’s nothing in the records,” Alexandria said, “Nothing saying he was present at any of the places the quarantine protocol was put in effect.”

Did Manton disappear after Siberian started appearing?

She would know.  She read every record, could call them to mind with perfect accuracy.

Useful when you’re in combat against someone you wouldn’t normally remember the records of.

“He could have stolen someone’s identity.”

Alexandria nodded, “True.”

“We have confirmation he’s alive,” Eidolon said, his voice quiet.  “We suspected, but-”

It seems Eidolon is affected by this. Was Manton a friend of his, back in the day?

“We made assumptions, and we were way off base.  That’s what concerns me.”  Legend leveled a hard look at the Doctor.  “See, we’ve been going by the assumption that William Manton, from the time he left Cauldron to the present day, has been continuing his work.  We’ve been assuming he’s traveling across the world, experimenting on human subjects, giving them powers with physical mutations as a side effect, then releasing the victims back into society with Cauldron’s symbol tattooed on their bodies.  Or at least, that’s what you told us.”

Oh. Oh shit.

Doctor, you may have a couple things to answer for.

Also, this seems to suggest that what Cauldron does is possible because of Manton’s research. That, or he was trained in their craft.

“You’re implying I lied?” the Doctor asked.  She didn’t look bothered in the slightest.

Perhaps. He’s certainly implying you no longer have a good explanation for the Case 53s.


“I’ve looked at the timelines.  It’s not likely that William Manton could be conducting experiments to give some poor girl tentacles in Illinois at the same time Siberian’s busy attacking people in Miami.  Not to mention he barely looked capable of taking care of himself, let alone conducting research.”

Yeeah.

Besides, Siberian is scary enough without the prospect of him going around giving people powers at the same time.

He glanced at the others.  Eidolon’s brow was creased in concern, while Alexandria looked pensive.

“The pattern doesn’t fit,” he said, to drive the point home.  He looked at the Doctor, “Which leaves me to wonder just who is conducting experiments on human subjects.”

Who indeed.

“We have no need for human experimentation.  The Number Man can calculate the odds of success for a given formula.”

“Maybe that’s the case.  But just who is conducting experiments on human subjects, who knows enough about Cauldron to tattoo or brand them with the mark while simultaneously having access to these kinds of resources?”

Why do they even put the marks there?

“It’s not us,” the Doctor spoke.

Legend stared at her, studying her.  “And you don’t know anything about how William Manton is connected to all this?”

Not a thing, and definitely don’t ask Battery.

I wonder if Legend knows that Battery is a Cauldron customer.

“I’m as mystified as you are.  If it would assuage your suspicions, you can examine this complex,” the Doctor suggested.

Oh, so you do this part somewhere else, or in a well-hidden part of the complex.

“You and I both know this place is far too large to explore in one lifetime,” he answered.

Wow.

“True.”

“And if we were to surmise that you’re the culprit here, there’s nothing saying you couldn’t have your doormaker maintain a path to another alternate reality where you have captives stashed away.

Alternate reality? I thought this place was in the Congo or Cameroon or somewhere like that. I’m inclined to believe it is and the Doctor has been feeding the Triumvirate more false information.

It would even explain why there haven’t been any real missing persons cases that we can link to the case-fifty-threes, if you’re simply snatching them from another reality and depositing them in our reality when you’re done.”

…except that’s a good point. Maybe it is indeed an alternate reality.

Would this third reality Legend is suggesting the Case 53s come from perhaps be Earth-Bet? Our world?


She spread her arms wide.  “I don’t know what I can say to convince you.”

“You trust me, don’t you?” Alexandria asked.

Hm?

“Yes,” Legend said.

“I’ve trained myself in kinesics.  I can look at a person’s face and body language and know if they’re lying.  And I can tell you the Doctor is telling the truth.”

Huh.

Either this case really is more complicated than it seems, or the Doctor is a fantastic actress. Despite less-than-stellar defenses.

I’m inclined to go along with the former.

Legend sighed.  “Right.”

“We’re okay, then?” the Doctor asked.

Legend nodded.  “I’m sorry to accuse you.”

It was a very reasonable accusation.

And it’s not like the Doctor doesn’t have things to hide, even if they’re not behind the Case 53s. They definitely knew about Siberian.

“It’s understandable.  This situation doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

“I can’t add anything here, and my power’s not volunteering anything that could help to solve this particular mystery,” Eidolon spoke.  “I guess we have yet another unanswered question on our hands.”

Which powers do you have right now? Something similar to Tattletale’s, which seems like something the power might decide you need for these meetings?


Legend sighed, “More than one.  William Manton and his link to Siberian, the tattoo on his right hand, our end of the world scenario and the role Jack plays as the catalyst.  Too many to count.”

Yeeeah, there’s a lot to consider here.

“None of this has to be addressed today,” Alexandria said.  “Why don’t you go home?  We’ll consider the situation and come up with a plan and some likely explanations.”

Cod knows you deserve some rest, Legend.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten those death flags, though.

Legend nodded.  The thought of holding Arthur and Keith in his arms energized him.

The Doctor turned to Eidolon, “You want another booster shot?”

…what? Is that something that temporarily increases his power’s, well, power?

“Probably another Endbringer attack coming up, it’s best if I’m in top form.”

Ah, yeah, I’ve been getting that feeling too. You might be surprised at where the Simurgh decides to strike, though.

While the others talked and planned, Legend stood and left without a farewell.

An opening between realities unfolded before he was half of the way down the alabaster white hallway.  He stepped through the opening to the oil rig, and then began his flight back to New York City.

But he didn’t go home.

Okay, so I guess he does live in NYC, then, not England. Makes sense, I suppose. Why would he be in the Protectorate if he lived in England, even with the reduced commute time?

So where is he headed now? Protectorate HQ?


Instead, Legend descended on the rooftop of the NYC Protectorate offices.  A tinker-made scanner verified who he was and opened the doors for him in time for him to walk through.

Yep. Protectorate HQ.

Is this where he finds out the Simurgh is swooping down towards Brockton Bay?

He nodded a greeting to everyone he passed.  When people asked him how things had gone, he offered them a response that was polite but short enough that it was clear he wasn’t looking for further conversation.

Relatable.

He reached his office and closed the door.

He was careful to start up a virtual operating system preloaded with the standard PRT databases and software.  Nothing that would leave a trace on his regular OS.

…alright. Secrecy required?

He unplugged the fiber-optic cables and disabled the wireless.

The precautions were little use if he was already being watched, but it made him feel better.

Who’s watching you? The PRT?

Once his computer was isolated from outside influences, he withdrew a USB cable from one drawer, plugging one end into the keyboard.  He reached up to one ear and withdrew an earbud.  The other end of the USB cable connected to it.

ASCII art of Kid Win’s face popped up as the earbud connected to the computer, along with the text, ‘thank you’.

Oh right, this part of the chapter’s plot. The thing he had Kid doing.

I love how cheeky Kid can be sometimes. 😛

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But also… he’s saying “thank you”, not “you’re welcome”. He took a moment to add this thanks for their conversation before saying he was done. Aww.


He couldn’t bring himself to smile.

Problems of self-confidence aside, Kid Win had produced an interface that was easy to use.  Legend clicked on the yellow button and waited.

“The interface is easy to use, except for when it struggles with its self-confidence. Then it starts asking you why you’re using it rather than some other interface that’s surely way better, and you have to take the time to comfort the interface before it continues with its job. Four stars out of five.”

Voices played from the computer’s speakers.  He adjusted the volume and listened.

“We suspect that Bonesaw and Siberian also escaped, with Hookwolf as a new member of their group.”

This is what Legend told the Triumvirate… but who’s talking here? This is not a recording of their meeting, surely (Kid Win talked about putting data into this thing, not preparing it to record stuff), so was Legend quoting this? Is this a message from Skitter?

“I see.”

“Any reason for the curiosity?”

Alright, apparently it is a recording. Why?

“Hard to keep track of what goes on beyond these walls, sometimes.”

Text appeared, transcribing what was being said.  The program paused, the image of the yellow button popping back out.  A red word appeared below the last statement: LIE.

Ohh. That’s why.

And when Kid said this wasn’t his work… This is based on Armsmaster’s work, isn’t it.

A vague lie, but not a damning one.  His pulse was pounding as he hit the waiting yellow button to resume the record.

“We have no need for human experimentation.  The Number Man can calculate the odds of success for a given formula.”

LIE.

It seems Alexandria was fooled easier than this device.

He clicked again.

“…Who knows enough about Cauldron to tattoo or brand them with the mark while simultaneously having access to these kinds of resources?”  His own voice was the one playing from the speakers.

“It’s not us,” the Doctor’s voice answered his.

LIE.

Yep.

How about Alexandria talking about being able to tell lies from truth? Can you trust her?

He sat staring at the screen, horrified.

Cauldron had given him his powers, had given him what he needed to be at the very top, to lead the largest collection of superheroes in the world.  They hadn’t wanted much in exchange.

That’s very unusual for them, but maybe they operated differently back then.

He kept an eye out to make sure nobody got too curious about Cauldron, diverted them if they did.  He’d greased the wheels for some of Cauldron’s top customers.  He was also ready to defend Cauldron if and when it became public knowledge.  It was for the greater good, he told himself.  There was no way for Cauldron to operate otherwise, lest the world’s governments fight over the ability to create whole armies of people with powers and interfere with the organization’s ability to operate.

Yeeeah, Cauldron might not be as good a thing as you thought.

It would operate, he knew, it obviously wasn’t in a location where it could be raided or seized by military forces, but it wouldn’t be able to reach nearly as many people, and capes would come under scrutiny with the possibility that they’d purchased their powers.

I recall Taylor wasn’t thrilled to find out that was possible.


He’d committed to this because Cauldron was essential.  With the rise of the Endbringers and threats like the Slaughterhouse Nine, the world was in need of heroes.  Cauldron produced more heroes than villains, because there was none of the trauma of a trigger event to throw them off.

I suppose that makes sense. And apparently Legend did know about the villains.

Even for those individuals who turned to crime, Cauldron was able to leverage the favors that were part of the contract in order to guide their path.  More superheroes meant better chances for everyone when it came to fighting the Endbringers and dealing with the big threats.

And, hell, many of the villains help out in those cases too.

But Cauldron doesn’t always do great things with those favors, either.

It struck him that this wasn’t necessarily true.  If the Doctor had lied about human experimentation, she could have lied about those details as well, too.

True.

Human experimentation on a large scale.  Unwitting, or perhaps unwillingto connect the dots, he’d helped it happen in a way.

His hand shook as he reached for the mouse.  He clicked the button once more, hoping there would be something he could use to convince himself that this was a mistake.  A false positive, a clue that Cauldron was really a force for good after all.  Hadn’t Armsmaster said that his lie detection system was imperfect?  Or maybe Kid Win had generated errors in the code.

Maybe this is where he finds that Alexandria was lying about being able to tell whether the Doctor was lying?

I mean, I don’t want her to be secretly bad, but it’s a distinct possibility.

The alterations had been minor but comprehensive:  Legend hadn’t wanted to be informed in real-time about the lies, lest he give something away.

Makes sense.


“And you don’t know anything about how William Manton is connected to all this?”

“I’m as mystified as you are.”

LIE.

Yeah, they definitely knew this one.

He knew what came next, with the conversation fresh in his memory.  He didn’t want to press the button again, but there was little choice.

“I’ve trained myself in kinesics.  I can look at a person’s face and body language and know if they’re lying.  And I can tell you the Doctor is telling the truth.”

The red text popped up as the last four and a half words appeared.  LIE.

Called it!

So why is Alexandria backing up the Doctor? Did she also get her powers from Cauldron, for that matter? Did they all?

Alexandria knew.  Of course she had.  Her ability to read people, her vast troves of knowledge, her ability to see patterns.  And she was the most willing of their group to take the hard, ugly road.  Had been since Siberian had hospitalized her.

Ouch. Before that, she was the one who seemed most reluctant to harm Siberian’s victim.

I can’t say this doesn’t also feel like a parallel to Taylor’s development, even if Taylor does surround herself with others that are more willing to take the hard, ugly road than herself.

Click.

His own voice.  “I’m sorry to accuse you.”

Hah. I was kind of thinking it too that I wasn’t sure he actually was sorry.

LIE.

Had he been lying?  He supposed he had.  He didn’t like the Doctor, and he hadn’t truly felt sorry for his suspicions.  Ever since he’d seen William Manton with the Slaughterhouse Nine, he’d harbored doubts about what was going on.

It’s the kind of lie almost everyone tells from time to time, just to be polite.


Those doubts had become quiet conviction after he’d gone to see Battery in the hospital.  One of Bonesaw’s mechanical spiders had cut her suit.  He knew exactly the kind of disorientation, hallucination and waves of paranoia she would have experienced as the gas took hold.

So he found out about Battery’s secret mission, did he?

While she reeled and tried to get a grip on reality, she’d likely left herself open for further attacks.  Whatever the case, one of the spiders had injected her with a poison Bonesaw had devised.

Uh oh.

Her death had been slow, painful and inevitable.

Fuck. RIP best Brockton Bay Protectorate member.

It had been engineered to strike those notes in a way that millions of years of evolution had yet to refine a plant’s toxin or an animal’s venom.  Lying in the hospital bed, still delirious, Battery had used halting sentences to tell him about Cauldon, about buying her powers, and about Cauldron asking her to help Siberian and Shatterbird escape.  She’d planned to pursue the Nine, to offer assistance and then kill one or both of the villains.

So she didn’t intend to go along with their mission, even if that meant Cauldron would come after her. Nice.

Battery had begged him for affirmation that she’d tried to do the right thing, that he would find the answers she didn’t.  He’d reassured her the best he could.

You did, Battery. You did.


She’d died not long after.

He almost couldn’t bring himself to click the yellow button again.  Alexandria had been lying to him.  And that only left…

Eidolon…

Click.

Eidolon’s voice came from the speakers.  “I can’t add anything here, and my power’s not volunteering anything that could help to solve this particular mystery.  I guess we have yet another unanswered question on our hands.”

Well then. So he does know something he didn’t want Legend to know, or something he didn’t want the Doctor to know that he knew.

The word was in red letters on the screen.  It could have been his own pulse behind his retinas, but the letters seemed to throb with a heartbeat of their own.  LIE.

“All lies,” Legend whispered the words to himself.

There seem to be a lot of those going around.


Hmm. Did the Doctor just send some of Cauldron’s enforcers after Legend, to keep him from spilling the beans on his suspicions? That would be one way for the death flags to come into play here.


Oh, end of chapter. Guess he’s not dying just yet.


End of Interlude 14.5

In which Legend continues to be great as he says all the right things to Kid Win, learns some things we already knew while showing us things we didn’t and raising an alarming amount of death flags. Don’t think I didn’t notice that he still hasn’t gone home.

This was a very interesting one. Cauldron has been working with the Triumvirate, and two of them have apparently been helping to keep Legend in the dark about Cauldron’s true neutral alignment. Well then.

Eidolon also brought up that an Endbringer attack is likely to happen soon. I think we’re getting close to learning more about the Simurgh. I’m not sure if it’ll be next Arc, though, considering that that’s the only mention of such a thing in this Interlude – we’re not leading right into it like the end of Buzz did to Extermination. But the question of what’s up next still stands. Maybe the alarms will indeed go off in 15.1.

More on this in the Arc Thoughts, I suppose. See you there!


[postscript]

[reblog of a post from here]

Oh yeah, before I finish up, I had a work thought yesterday that I forgot to post about:

What’s going to happen to Battery if Cauldron determines that being controlled by Regent while the rest of the Nine leave means Shatterbird hasn’t escaped the city like Cauldron asked. Maybe they don’t count that as a failure until Shatterbird’s actually dead, though, expecting Battery to make an effort to free Shatterbird from Regent?

If she fails in Cauldron’s eyes, does she get another task, another chance to pay up her debt? Or do they send out agents immediately to get rid of the debtor? They do seem relatively agreeable, if amoral, so I feel like they might give her a chance, at least.

Well, I guess this is a moot point now.

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