Prey 14.11: Kiss Kiss Whimper Whimper

Source material: Worm, Prey 14.11

Originally blogged: September 13-14, 2018


Concept: Parahumans spin-off set in Scotland.

Parahummus.

Well! Now that your expectations for my sense of humor tonight have been dutifully set, let’s read some Worm!

[If that joke seems not to make sense to you, don’t worry: It doesn’t. Hummus is from the Levant.]

So, what are we in for tonight? I’m thinking we’re getting a dénouement, for real this time, focused on reuniting with and curing the other Undertravelers of the miasma. Who even knows what sorts of antics they’ve gotten themselves into while they didn’t know who was who? We do know Bentley ended up at street level somehow, so tracking everyone down might not be as easy as going back to where she left them. Let alone curing them. But I think by the end of the chapter, at least most of them will be reunited. We’ll likely also get some discussion about the implications of Jack escaping the city.

Alternatively, in spite of the final line of 14.10, maybe Taylor isn’t ready to give up on making sure Jack and Bonesaw don’t get away and, to her knowledge, catalyze the end of the world. But I really don’t know how she’d find them in time without Cherish’s help, and I doubt Cherish is particularly willing to help out anymore, if she thinks Jack might schedule a stop by her place (I don’t think he gives a flying fuck about saving Cherish).

I’m strongly leaning towards the former option, largely because of the finality in how 14.10 ended.

So yeah, I don’t think there’s much to do but take a look!


I continued my search for the pair, but my tentative explorations of the trails of extermination-mist made a sweeping search all but hopeless.

This makes a lot of sense as a way to open this chapter. It wouldn’t be like Taylor to just immediately go, “welp, guess they’re gone”, even if the finality of 14.10′s ending line did imply she wasn’t going to hold on to the hope of finding them that strongly.

It felt like I was facing a series of decisions where every answer had some merit, but picking the wrong one would spell disaster.

Them delicious tough decisions.

I’d had to make the call between staying at the school in case Jack and Bonesaw were preparing a trap for Amy and Glory Girl, or leaving in case they’d made a run for it. I’d left, and I’d been lucky enough to be right.

Unfortunately now there’s no way of telling which way they actually went.

Fuck, can you even be sure they did go? I mean, like I said last time, you’re not supposed to have the ball under one of the shells at all. I meant that they may have dropped the gas to make Taylor not consider the one path they did take, but who’s to say they took one at all?

I don’t think they did stay behind, but it’s a genuine option Taylor is not considering here.

Except the Nine were now covering their tracks with a dozen decoys, mechanical spiders leaving trails of bug-killing smoke, leaving me to guess which direction they’d gone.

Yeah, nice recap.

Two solid possibilities dwelled with me.

The first was that they’d headed back downtown to rendezvous with Siberian. If I was drawing the right conclusions from what I’d overheard, Bonesaw had drawn together a cocoon for Siberian similar to the one that Amy had created for Glory Girl.

Yeah, seems like it. I do suppose they might go pick Siberian up.

They could be recovering her real body, maybe doing something to recover Mannequin or Crawler.

To do that they’d probably need to head back into the Bakuda Band. That’s probably not at all safe, even now, without the Monochrome going alone or holding the others.


It hadn’t even crossed my mind while I was under the miasma’s influence, but I also had to wonder whether Regent would have maintained his control over Shatterbird.

Fuck.

At least I feel like if this was going to be an issue, we’d get it pointed out by seeing it in action, not by Taylor’s idle musings.

I’m sure he’s going to lose control at some point, but probably not right now.

What’s a bigger problem is what he’d use her for while under the miasma’s effect.

The second possibility was that they’d gone after Cherish. My conversation with Coil had clued them in.

You’re not thinking city limits are an option?

If it were to be one of these two options, my money would definitely be on Siberian.

I checked my phone. No service.

Damn the Director. Damn her for making this so hard, and for complicating matters.

Ohhh.

Right.

Some of you were probably quietly screaming when I was speculating on Jack jamming the signal, weren’t you. I forgot Piggot said she was doing it.

We’d been playing by Jack’s rules, more or less, and she’d given him an excuse to pull out all the stops.

…at least I think she did? But it seems Taylor was talking more about the miasma being her fault.

He probably would have anyways, but she gave him an excuse.

Piggot and Jack are kind of similar on that front. Piggot would be inclined to use such excuses herself.


If I headed away from the downtown area, toward the water, I could put myself in a position to track down Cherish, or to get to another point where the satellite phone would work and make a call to Coil. If they were checking the harbor for Cherish, going by what she’d revealed on the phone, then I could get there first.

I suppose that’s worth a shot.

Lay a trap, or get in position to shoot them again. I figured out how to remove the magazine from the gun and checked the number of rounds remaining. Six.

Trap? You’re in the wrong Arc to be using that word!

The problem was that the whole reason I’d let Panacea keep using her power on me instead of giving chase to Jack was that I was supposed to cure the others. I could kill and replace the parasites that were carrying the prions. The sooner I did it, the less damage they’d do in the meantime.

Also: Don’t die. That might be bad for this process, causing you to take a lot of people with you.

Some of the damage would be permanent, and the potential victims included Brian and Lisa.

It’s kinda neat that the story doesn’t pretend all the Undersiders are on the same level of friendship with each other aside from stuff like the issues between Taylor and Rachel. It’s pretty blatant that Taylor doesn’t care about Alec and Aisha quite as much as she does about Brian and Lisa.


I wanted to head back downtown, to help my teammates and friends, but I couldn’t shake the nagging doubt in the back of my mind.

I really do doubt that Jack would bother with trying to free Cherish, but it’s certainly a possibility.

The difference between Jack and Bonesaw going downtown and their going to the coastline was that the former was almost kind, taking care of a teammate. The latter case allowed them to inflict some terrible torture on an ex-teammate of theirs.

Oh, right. That’s a thing too.

I suppose that increases the chances of them going to the coast compared to Siberian somewhat, but I also think Jack values Siberian as a useful teammate much more than he cares about torturing Cherish.

It was the most inconvenient possibility, but my gut told me they’d go after Cherish. If I had to put numbers on it, I’d have said there was a sixty percent chance they’d go that route, a thirty-five percent chance they’d headed downtown.

Do you have something for the five percent, or are you just leaving that as “miscellaneous”?

And there was always the possibility I was wrong, that they had something else in mind, so I was leaving room for that extra five percent.

Yep. I’m still thinking that it should be larger, but I appreciate that she does leave the wiggle room.


But if I was wrong, if I went to the harbor to try to get ahead of them and Jack didn’t go that way, then my friends would suffer for it.

Also: you’d risk getting too close to Cherish yourself.

Brian had been through enough, and while Lisa had seemed to deal okay after she’d been scarred, I was willing to bet she valued her mind more than she valued her face.

Fuck yes she does.

I headed downtown.

Let’s go reunite!

No matter which way I chose to go, I’d have that awful feeling of regret in my chest. I tried to quiet it by telling myself that with Tattletale and the others, I’d actually be able to do something against the Nine. A gun and knife didn’t cut it, no matter how scattered or few in number they were.

And neither do bugs.

But will you, though? Will you be able to do something against them, or will they be gone before you can, leaving you with a bittersweet victory?

I couldn’t quite manage to convince myself.

As it didn’t cost me anything significant in terms of forward momentum, I let Atlas carry me higher. I was getting more comfortable flying him, and there was little difference in being a hundred and fifty feet above the ground and being five hundred stories up.

She says that like she’s been in a 500-story building.

To be fair, those may be more common in the Wormverse thanks to Tinkers, but I doubt there are any in Brockton Bay specifically. We’d have heard of it as a landmark by now.

I wanted to assess the situation. Was my dad one of the people who was depending on this cure?

Oh yeah, that’s quite possible.


The topography of the city had impacted where the miasma was spreading. As far as I could tell, it wasn’t really advancing into the north end of the city.

Huh, neat. I suppose that also contributed to Cherish getting left out.

…and that way, it’d act as another hint for the Nine to find her by.

Bakuda’s bombing campaign and the militarization of the ABB had predominantly focused on the Docks. Leviathan had arrived in the Docks, and his destruction of the city’s water infrastructure and power had hit that part of the city hardest. I wondered if this would be the first real instance where the Docks weren’t hit as hard by the ongoing series of disasters and attacks in Brockton Bay.

Let’s not forget Purity’s rampage, and the war of the Docks between Coil and Kaiser following the ABB’s defeat.

Being Docks is suffering.

I descended back to a safer distance, where falling wouldn’t be terminal, and tried to plan.

Finding Tattletale was number one. With her assistance, everything else would be easier.

Sure, that sounds about right.

As much as I wanted to make Grue my second priority, I knew that there were other things that took precedence. Siberian was a big one.

Hmm. So still going after the Nine, then.

Finding a way to distribute the cure was another. Once I started, it would set up a chain reaction, but I had to decide how to start it off.

Hey, do you reckon your bugs can pick up water droplets and fly with them? Maybe you could use that to make it spread from more places.


Also, something that just occurred to me: How is Imp taking being forgotten by those closest to her without it being her power’s doing?

Though I suppose she wouldn’t know they were those closest to her.


Tattletale first. She could help me find Siberian and figure out how to distribute the antidote.

Let’s hope her power does counteract the miasma. That’d make this a lot easier.

I tracked the trails of extermination smoke as I flew. I was faster than they were, but they were elusive, staying out of sight and moving through awkward positions. I spotted one mechanical spider moving through a trash-littered alleyway and changed my route to close in on another trail.

One down, eleven to go, and there’s a good chance it’s none of them.

My second confirmation of a mechanical spider left me with the feeling that I’d made the wrong call.

But it was too late to turn back. It would be faster to go help Tattletale and get her assistance than to turn around and fumble along on my own.

She’d be able to help with the trails too, if you get her quickly.

They were traveling on foot, I hoped, and they still had to find Cherish. She was bound to be in a remote spot, and they didn’t have many clues to work with. It would take time.

True. Though when they get really close, she’ll be able to alert them to that fact with her power, so they don’t have to check inside each building.


Things hadn’t exactly been quiet while I’d been gone.

Oh boy. Let’s see what sort of mess the paranoia and fighting have made.

“Calm down! If we all just stop fighting, then this doesn’t end in tragedy.”

[Paradox Space: Summerteen Romance panels]

Summerteen Karkat, rising from the depths between ST Nepeta and ST Vriska: Guys

(beat as ST Karkat squeezes up between them)

Summerteen Karkat: Stop fighting


So who’s talking here? Lisa?

“Why should I believe you?”

“I’ll tell you as soon as I can think of a convincing reason!”

Ahaha

At least they’re upfront about it.

Tattletale was on the street, alone, facing down Bitch, two dogs and one wolf on full-tilt mutation-mode.

Oh jeez. She’s in over her head.

It doesn’t help that Rachel is averse to Lisa’s only real weapon here – talking.

They advanced with measured steps, keeping close to their master.

I landed beside Tattletale, and the two of us made eye contact.

Is there a moment of confusion, lack of recognition, in Lisa’s eyes?

“L-mist.”

Nice. This way she checks both whether this is really Taylor like her power is probably telling her, and whether Taylor is unaffected.

“A-Carnelian,” she answered. “You understand if I don’t trust you implicitly, here?”

Oh, that was Taylor doing that.

Still a good move.

Also, I like how creative they’re getting with the things they mention to represent colors. Carnelian, huh? Not really the gemsona I’d imagine Lisa having, but sure, why not.

(#that last comment got me thinking about what I do think she’d have
#i’m thinking some kind of sapphire fusion
#not a pure sapphire though
#although maybe sapphire/padparadscha could work?
#that doesn’t quite bring in the manipulative smirky side of lisa though
#navy/sapphire?)


“I do. Listen, I’ve got a cure-”

“Who the fuck are you!?” Rachel shouted.

Time for some reintroductions, perhaps?

Or maybe you could use the cure right now.

I shut my mouth and turned to face her.

I was secretly glad the dogs hadn’t turned on her, as that probably would have meant the death of a teammate, but I was getting a firsthand look at what our enemies had to deal with.

I am not surprised that something to this effect is happening. A situation with Rachel and the doggos on the other side has been a pretty obvious eventuality for a while. The question was mostly just how it would happen and when.

The dogs were big and vicious enough that if they attacked, there wasn’t a whole lot I could have done. Heck, Tattletale and I together couldn’t have managed much of a defense against one of the creatures, let alone three.

Yeeah, the doggos are really not something you mess with.

So hey, if Rachel has all her doggos here, why was Bentley alone earlier? Was Rachel close by? Or maybe she had to round them up one by one?

“We’re teammates,” I told her. “I was just fighting the Nine, I’ve got a cure for this thing.”

I’m not sure people are gonna take kindly to the idea of letting another thing get used in the water if they’re not sure you’re really on their side.

“Or you’re going to kill me the second I let my guard down.”

I’d been conned by the Nine. Tricked into letting them get access to certain information. Bitch wouldn’t have fallen for that, but that came with the caveat that she was that much harder for us to reassure.

To be fair, she’s distrustful even on the good days.

“I can put my weapons away. Or give them to you.”

That means so little in this world, Taylor, when the person you’re talking to doesn’t know what you might be able to do without your weapons.


“I’m not that stupid,” she growled the words. “Don’t treat me like I’m retarded. I’m not. I know you have powers.”

Flying in on a giant beetle, dressed in costume (though the costume is lacking a mask for reasons I can’t remember)… yeah, this is a reasonable assumption.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to say,” I said. I kept my voice low, my tone as calm as I could manage. “I was just saying I’d disarm myself if it would reassure you.”

And Rachel is saying she knows there’s a very good chance you physically can’t fully disarm yourself.

“The only thing that’s going to make me feel any better is getting the fuck away from here. But she wouldn’t get out of my way.”

“If you leave,” Tattletale told her, “You’ll go straight to the Trainyard, to your other dogs, and you’ll get worse.

I suppose so, yeah.

You’ll wind up isolated from the rest of us. And I think the Nine want that. They wanted people for their group, and doesn’t this set their candidates up for easy recruiting?

Oh yeah, that is what they did with Amy. So the 5% might be tracking down another one of the nominees?

Maybe this is how Armsmaster comes back into the picture, though I still think that should be saved for when he knows who Taylor is.

Separate them from their previous attachments, leave them vulnerable and lost, then give them the hard sell.”

“Not that you’re wrong,” I said, glancing at Tattletale while trying to keep the dogs in sight, “I saw Jack trying that with Panacea. But Bitch tends to see it as slimy or conniving when someone talks a lot.”

Oh yeah, good call pointing that out. That’s probably not something Lisa’s power would tell her before seeing Rachel’s reaction to her talking a lot.

It also helps sell the idea to Rachel that you really do know her.

“I see. You want to try, then?”

Bentley growled. It didn’t sound like a dog growl. What worried me, though, was Bastard. He was untrained enough that he wouldn’t necessarily listen to Bitch, and big enough to feel confident about attacking.

Yikes.


Could the Bentley Taylor saw earlier be a fake made by Bonesaw to sell their excuse for how they got down?


Not that I was positive she would stop him if he attacked. As much as she felt like she’d feel more secure on her own, Bitch might well decide she could resolve this situation by killing anyone who threatened her.

That’d be nasty business.

It wasn’t that she was the murdering type, but she didn’t have the innate sympathy for her fellow humans. She cared as little about murdering us as I might feel about killing two dogs if I felt like my life was on the line.

Don’t hurt the doggos!

I’d been in a similar headspace, trying to figure out who was friendly and who wasn’t. Jack had been more on the ball than I, and I’d fallen for his ploy. I’d deal with the guilt over what that might mean at a later point.

Hey, at least their ploy led to you too finding out where Amy was. You couldn’t have done that anywhere near as easily if not for the two of them telling you about Coil.

“A little while ago, we spent some time in one of your shelters. I’m guessing you don’t remember who, but you remember chilling out and eating Greek food with someone?”

Nom nom.

“You could have found that out through someone else.”

“I know. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just wanting you to think about that feeling. I’d like to think we got along, as far as people like you and people like me can get along with others.”

Sure, in that chapter.

“Doesn’t mean anything to me now.”

“Okay.” I let my arms drop to my sides.

“That’s it? That’s your argument?”

I think Taylor is making a point here of not trying to argue too much.

“I don’t really have much better. I know that if I tried to convince you using logic and a well worded argument, you’d feel like I was being manipulative. All I can say is that we had a good time then, we were friendly. I know we parted ways some time after that, but I’d really like to get back to that point. So I’m appealing to that emotional attachment, I guess.”

It is how Jack and Bonesaw convinced Taylor.


“You think I’m attached to you?”

Pfft. I like this wording. It makes “attached to” sound like you could replace it with “attracted to” or “in love with”.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ship it, but I like how that sounds. If it’s intentional, it’s even a pretty good way of subtly illustrating how much a simple emotional attachment to another human means to Rachel.

This again. This situation seemed to be highlighting the worst parts of people and twisting others. Amy’s paranoia, Legend’s battle instincts, Bitch’s antisocial tendencies, and my… whatever it was, that led to me trusting Jack.

Loneliness, desire for friendship and more?

“Yeah. I’m making that assumption,” I told her.

“Fuck you.”

I mean, negative emotional attachments are a thing too…

She advanced, and I stayed put. Sirius growled.

“I’m not your enemy,” I said.

Firmness.

“We’ll attack you.”

“If you do, maybe the cure will get transmitted to your dog, and then to you.”

“You’re not that stupid.”

And how do you know that?

I shook my head. “Not really. But I don’t think you’ll attack me, either.”

Callin’ the two-ton inside-out hellhound-shaped bluff!


She advanced closer. Sirius growled again, and she held one hand out to stop him.

So glad they still listen to her. This would be a disaster if the dogs were on a rampage.

Yeah, damn.

Especially considering Bentley won’t shrink until Rachel makes him.

I supposed the miasma was slower to affect them, given their mass, or the vectors it affected weren’t present or as predominant in dogs.

Makes sense.

She stepped close, until her nose was an inch from mine. She stared unflinching into my eyes. I met her gaze with that same unforgiving hardness.

Oh, oops. I’ve kinda been assuming she was on the back of one of the doggos.

Staring contest! 👀


“No way I could like someone like you.” The words were like the twist of a knife. Hostility and aggression combined with pure, petty malice.

Sounds about right, mostly.

“Just going by looks, when you can’t see half my face?” I asked. Without breaking eye contact, I reached up and pulled down the lower half of my mask. “You don’t recognize me?”

I think it was more about behavior.

She didn’t glance away from my eyes. “No. Now move. I will order them to attack.”

She would. She could.

Only question, really, is why hasn’t she already?

I leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on her lips.

what.


Well that’s certainly a thing Taylor just did.


If nothing else, it ought to leave Rachel too confused to act for a moment?


But does Taylor mean anything deeper by it?

Like, she’s long been much more set on befriending Rachel than I think Rachel has deserved, even with Rachel’s special limitations in mind. Does this seemingly impulsive course of action speak to any deeper reason for that?


I should probably take a look at what Taylor’s narration has to say about this. And Rachel’s reaction.


Her punch knocked me off my feet and sent my glasses flying off my face to land in the water somewhere nearby.

Ahahahaha

tumblr_inline_pf0c8kKDOs1sxgvvn_1280.png

This sounds about right, yes.


“The fuck!?” She shouted. One of the dogs growled, deep, as if to complement her anger with a threat of his own.

“You’re cured,” I told her. “That’s it, that’s all it takes.”

Ohhhh.

Right.

Ahahahaha

fuckin’

all the ways she could’ve done this though

and she went for the healing smooch

on Rachel

(#Steven Universe
#can tell you a thing or two about different ways of healing with spit)


She stared down at me.

If this doesn’t work, she might kill me for real.

If this does work, she’s gonna kill you even harder.

Tattletale helped me to my feet and handed me my glasses. I got my mask in place around the lower half of my face and then gathered bugs over the mask and glasses to hide my features.

It’s a pretty fetching if somewhat disturbing look.

“How’s that work?” Tattletale asked.

“The effects are being generated by a parasite. Panacea changed the parasite to some kind of symbiotic species that overrides the effects of Bonesaw’s work and heals the effects on the brain. My bodily fluids are carrying it. That means that right now, the parasites in Bitch’s bodies should be dying or getting replaced or transformed or something. I hope.”

Thanks. It does help to get it recapped in a more laymannish way like this.

I dusted myself off, wiped at my costume where I’d landed in the water, and made sure none of my belongings had dropped from their positions in my armor or my belt.

I didn’t hurry to meet Bitch’s eyes, because I knew that when I did, I’d have to maintain that gaze.

It’s gonna be one hell of a gaze.

Only when I was done did I meet her eyes.

She took her time responding. “I was going to have Bentley break you.”

i will break you.png

[El Goonish Shive panel]

Mr. Tensaided: I WILL BREAK YOU.

“But now I’m going to have all of them do it.”


It worked.

“Glad you didn’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to be broken?”

Why had I done it? I’d tried to explain it to her so many times. I couldn’t bring myself to do it again.

“Doesn’t matter.”

I mean, if the question is “why did you bother to heal me”, there’s plenty more explanations to that beyond “because you’re my friend whether you like it or not”.

Such as “you were going to have Bentley break me”.

Tattletale pointed down at the water just behind me. I turned around and looked. Where I’d landed on my back, the water was changing from red to a relatively clear state. ‘Relatively’ only because the water hadn’t been that clear to begin with. “Guess it’s working.”

Nice!
When Taylor turns back to Lisa, she sees her standing there with her lips puckered.


“Good,” I said. The last swirls of red disappeared from around my feet, and the water around me began to change back to normal. With increasing speed, the water around us began to transition back to normal at nearly the speed the effect had spread in the first place.

Success! Woo!

It extended out in every direction, promising to revert most or all of the affected bodies of water.

“You couldn’t have waited until after you’d cured me before you put the bugs on your face?” Tattletale asked.

Ahaha!

This is exactly what I was just joking about with the puckered lips – Lisa wants some hot mind-healing action too.

Though to be fair, Taylor didn’t make it entirely clear that she doesn’t need to go around kissing everyone in the city to heal them.

She was smiling as she asked it. “Unless you want me to drink that water.”

This too was part of why I made that joke.

“Sorry. No, I’ll help you out.”

This situation is starting to sound like the blurb for a harem anime. “When all the water in the city turns red and dangerous miasma threatens the citizens of Tokyo, one school girl discovers that her passionate kisses are the only cure.”


She gave me a stern look, pointed at me, and said, “No tongue.”

Ahaha

This scene is delightful.

I rolled my eyes, scattered the bugs, pulled my mask down and leaned over to give her a quick peck on the lips.

“Now fill me in. I’ll fill in the blanks as you explain, and hopefully it’ll work fast enough that I can catch up.”

Sounds like a good plan.

Seriously, though, it’d be fun to see how the shippers reacted to this chapter when it first came out. :p

If we add 7.5, Taylor has now kissed three out of five other Undersiders. She’s making good progress towards that harem ending.

“Jack and Bonesaw tricked me and Coil to figure out where both Cherish and Amy were. I gave chase, and Jack left before he accomplished anything more than head games.”

Pretty decent summary.

“State she’s in, head games are pretty serious.”

True. If there’s anyone here who knows a thing or two about how head games can affect people, it’s Lisa.

“Maybe. But at least she didn’t cave on his demands.”

“Sure.”

At least for now.

“The bad thing is… Jack knows about Dinah’s prophecy.”

Tattletale looked as though I’d slapped her. “Shit.”

Yeah… I think Taylor has been underestimating how bad that is.

Granted, I also think everyone’s overestimating it, but I think she’s underestimating it in the context of that overestimation.

…does that make any sense whatsoever?


“I mean, her numbers weren’t that good as far as our mortality rate going up against the Nine, so maybe she’s wrong about-”

I stopped as Tattletale shook her head.

“Depends how you interpret it,” she said. “The kid sounded pretty certain. Anyways, keep going.”

Weren’t there some flaws I found in the wording when they asked for those mortality rates? Something like that?

“Siberian’s somewhere downtown, her real body in some kind of case, maybe.”

“I think we might have run into her,” Tattletale said. “I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to details, mostly just trying to avoid trouble. But I’m pretty sure she was hauling around something big.

Ohh, yeah, I suppose he’d be able to do that.

Fuck, I think she might have had a friend.”

“A friend?”

That’s worrying. Someone we know? One of the nominees, perhaps?

“Hookwolf.”

Fuck, I should’ve written it down before continuing. He was my first guess out of the nominees, but then I started thinking about how he didn’t really want to join the Nine. But none of the nominees did, at the start, not even Rachel.

I nodded slowly. “Where was she headed?”

“North.”

“Where did Coil stick Cherish?”

North.

And Hookwolf has been working with Coil so he might– no, Coil wouldn’t give up the information that he knows where Cherish is. It’d reveal his connection to the Undertravelers.

Tattletale made a face. “North.”

If there had been a wall in reach, I would have punched it. “Wonderful.”

“Explain?” Bitch asked.

Is she not putting two and two together between “the Nine know where to look for Cherish” and “Siberian is headed in that direction”, or is it Taylor’s sarcasm she’s not getting?

“They’re heading over to Cherish’s location, I’m almost a hundred percent positive,” Tattletale explained. “If Siberian’s heading there to rendezvous with them, then any further encounters with them are going to be ugly. Doubly so if they have new blood on their team.”

I guess the Nine aren’t quite done yet.

But are they done with Brockton Bay, now that Jack knows about the prophecy?


“Hookwolf’s under the influence of Bonesaw’s miasma,” I added. “Don’t know what his reasons were for staying here, but the miasma seems to have eliminated that. He’s with the Nine.

Oh right, good point.

Maybe permanently. Bonesaw will keep it from killing him, I guess.”

Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking too.

“So they got their candidate?”

I suppose to some extent they might still follow the rules. Every member of the Nine has either died or had their turn… except Jack. If the nominees survive a round of Jack’s testing, then the Nine take one volunteer and leave.

“And,” I addressed Bitch as I spoke, “They might be looking for more candidates to round out their group. If they left Siberian behind to try to recruit Hookwolf, and they tried a pretty aggressive strategy against Panacea, then they might make another stab at recruiting you. Or Regent.”

Or Armsmaster.

“Or Noelle,” Tattletale added.

Noelle is also an option, but she’s safer than most of them, especially now that Crawler’s down.

Why did that give me such a bad feeling?

Fuck.

What if it’s Noelle that becomes the final threat and the prophecy about Jack is because he manages to bring Noelle with him in every timeline in which he leaves the city?

Though that last part seems odd. Why would he be able to do that in every timeline?


If Noelle is set to become not an Endbringer, but something far more dangerous, it’s possible that even the Endbringers think that’s a bit much. That might be why Leviathan seemingly homed in on her. Alternatively, it might be the exact opposite, that Leviathan wanted to retrieve this massive threat they’ve been waiting for.


I sighed. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I think we should give chase.”

“Head to where Cherish is?”

Sure.

I nodded. “It hasn’t been too long, so they won’t have much time to prepare any counterattack. It does still leave the problem of finding the others and curing them before something bad happens.”

Yeah, you should probably do that too. At least Lisa’s power might help you find them.

“If the cure is contagious… Bitch, you think you could work on finding and curing the others?”

On one hand, good idea, outsourcing it like that.

On the second hand, are you sure you want to give up your strongest offensive player short of Ballistic and Sundancer in the meantime?

On the third hand, you may have just asked Rachel Lindt to go around kissing people and I’m not sure she’ll take kindly to that. :p

“How?”

I spoke up, “Cure your dogs. Spit in their mouths, whatever. Then see about tracking down the others, ambushing them, and having the dogs lick their faces?”

That is the best way to get cured.

“AHHH HELLBEAST ATTACKING ME IT’S GONNA TEAR MY FACE OFF wait what it’s licking me OH hi rachel what the hell?”


She scowled. “I haven’t trained ’em to do that.”

Of course. Too friendly.

“You’ve got ten minutes to teach them,” Tattletale grinned.

Pfft.

“Unless you’d rather go and kiss people?”

“Whatever.”

“You’ll see about curing the others?”

“Yeah.” Bitch pointed, “But it won’t work with my dogs. They kill any parasites while my power’s working.”

Oh yeah, good point.

Wait, “while [your] power’s working”. What about Bentley? Does him being stuck in hellhound form until you specifically revert it mean you can not be using your power on him at all times and thereby have it not kill the parasites?

Right. I could remember curing Sirius of heartworm.

I shrugged. “Another way? Maybe if you dose some fresh water with the new parasites, spit in it, then splash people?

I suppose that might work.

Let’s also take a time-out to consider that not everyone has costumes that allow skin access.

People are going to start getting better fast, with the water changing, but let’s make sure our side is okay?”

Bitch nodded once, curt.

Sure, this sounds like a decent plan.


“And can you loan me Bentley?” Tattletale asked.

“I’m starting to wonder why I’m on this team,” Bitch grumbled.

You provide them with mounts! And go around splashing people! Isn’t that fun! 😀

“You have to ask?” Tattletale grinned as she approached Bentley.

“I know it’s just words,” I told Bitch, “But I’m glad you’re back.”

Y’know, I’ve been hard on Rachel for a long time in the context of her relationship with Taylor, but recently? I’ve finally started seeing actual hints of friendship coming from her. Occasionally. Outside the miasma’s effect, she’s nowhere near as hostile towards Taylor as she used to be, after the events of 13.5.

Apart from the punch, but honestly, Taylor had that coming in the moment. :p

She stared at me like I was speaking Klingon.

Qu’vetlh mu’ ‘ach jIQuch wItI’nISmo’ ‘e’ vISov.

Klingon spelling looks weird as fuck.

“Let’s go,” Tattletale said, as she climbed onto Bentley. He growled, but she didn’t seem to mind. Maybe his bark was worse than his bite and she knew it?

He’s a hellhound. Pretty sure his bite could crush a steel plate if he wanted to.


Either way, I decided to trust her and took off.

I’d done my part, and I’d have to trust Bitch to complete the task.

Good luck, Rachel.

I was making more forward progress than Tattletale, though I could feel Atlas fatiguing. It wasn’t the same as the fatigue I experienced, but he was slowing down fractionally in his wingbeats per second.

Ah, yeah, he’s been through quite a bit today.

It stood to reason. He was big, and he hadn’t eaten since he was created. That was compounded by the fact that he’d been going full-bore with minimal chance to rest.

Still, we had the advantage of being able to fly over obstacles, which was something I was gaining a greater appreciation of since I’d gotten the hang of flying him.

Man, where was Atlas in 12.5?

With Atlas being tired, not wanting to lose track of Tattletale, I kept our flight close to the ground.

“Where is she?” I called out, as I met her pace.

Any clues?

“Boat Graveyard. Beached ship, she’s in the hold.”

Oh wait, they’re talking about Cherish, not Siberian.

“Coil told you this?”

“No, but he’ll forgive me for figuring it out, given circumstances.”

I’m pretty sure I knew this already (though I misremembered it as the Trainyard rather than the nearby Boat Graveyard), but if Taylor didn’t, I can’t recall why we do.

Maybe she just forgot.

“If you’re sure.”

It wasn’t a short trip. Our destination was north of the market, and the market was a distance from my house. We were making our way from downtown to the Boat Graveyard.

Yeah, that’s pretty far.

tumblr_p1j9u9CTIL1w3ic6qo2_1280.jpg

Oh hey, I forgot the Market was one of the waypoints that got erased [here] on this version of Ridprime’s map. I suppose we’ll likely be traveling through the remains of that on the way to the Boat Graveyard.


When the local industry had collapsed, the Boat Graveyard had been something of a staging ground for the irate dock workers. Shipping companies based in Brockton Bay saw the signs of what was coming and trapped other boats in the harbor as a form of protest, to ensure they weren’t walking away empty-handed.

Huh.

I like these bits of local history.

Police had made arrests, but actually moving the ships out of the way required sailors, and the move had mobilized enough of them that clearing the upper areas of the docks of the ships became all but impossible. Things capped off with fights, gunfire and a deliberate sinking of a container ship by one of the protesters.

Damn!

Opinions varied on whether the incident had been a symptom or a cause of the collapse. Either way, the result was the Boat Graveyard- an entire section of the coastline where boats had sat for so long that they’d rusted or taken on water.

I kinda love it now.


We paused at the top of a hill overlooking the scene: forty or fifty derelict ships, some bigger in sheer mass than the skyscrapers downtown.

Woah.

Leviathan’s waves had slammed them all into the coastline, smashing them against one another and turning more than a few into something unrecognizable.

Oh look, they found a way to move the ships!

Even with Tattletale’s hint, I wasn’t sure I could have found where Cherish was lurking.

Which beached ship?

“How do we find her before she finds us?” I asked.

Oh, I’m sure she knows you’re coming already. But you need to stay out of her power’s range.

“We don’t. She knows where we are.”

I scanned the wreckage with my eyes. Would Siberian pop out? Hookwolf?

“They aren’t attacking.”

Hm.

Did they leave already? I mean, Siberian is fast, and Cherish would be able to know where they are, like Lisa says, from the other side of town.

Tattletale shook her head, but she didn’t speak.

My bugs began searching for signs of life.

Maybe Cherish killed Siberian and/or Hookwolf, having planted the info about her whereabouts in order to draw them into her power’s range now that there weren’t too many of them to handle?

“You outrange her,” Tattletale spoke. “You detect them, you attack before she can whammy us.”

Makes sense.

“Yeah.” Fat lot of good it’ll do with Siberian there.

I was getting a sense of why there wasn’t any foot traffic here. Even on land, the force of Leviathan’s tidal wave had sent age-worn sheets of metal flying over the landscape. Ragged edges of rusty sheet metal waited under every step I took, scraping and stabbing against the soles of my costumed feet.

“16… female… seeking any gender… likes long walks on the beach with painful metal everywhere…”

Tattletale was relying on Bentley’s weight and durability to handle anything that waited underfoot. He was still panting hard from the run.

Looks like Atlas isn’t alone in needing rest.


[Session 2]

LET’SA GO


My swarm sense alerted me to life in the hold of a ship.

Well, either that’s them, or there are more people exploring the various ships of Brockton Bay to their heart’s content.

So odds are even on whether Taylor just found the Slaughterhouse Nine or the Parahumans fandom.

The space was half-filled with sand, and water had leaked in through a hole in the side of the ship. If supplies were delivered by way of remote control, that was a likely route.

Makes sense.

Seven people. Three male, four females, one of whom was young.

Oh, looks like it’s the fandom after all. Which ship are you guys on?

Jokes aside, either the Nine managed to bring in a couple more nominees and/or hostages, or this is an unrelated family who have decided the hold of a ship is a pretty decent hideout from the Nine.

A child, long-haired. That would be Bonesaw.

Yeah, most likely.

“There?” I pointed at the location. It was barely visible from where we stood; two ships had been slammed against one another, nose to nose, and they formed a precarious arch over the ship in question.

That’s a pretty cool look.


“Yeah.”

“I’ve found them, I think. I think Siberian’s there. There’s a lot of people, anyways. Seven.”

Jack, Cherish, Siberian, Bonesaw, Hookwolf and, optionally, another Siberian account for six.

Who else did they get? Armsmaster?

“How much damage do you think you can do?”

“Not enough.”

Damn. And you forgot to tell Rachel where to head after she’d cured the Undertravelers. Sundancer would make this a lot easier, if they didn’t mind killing Hookwolf and whoever the seventh person – who I just realized must be female, so not Armsmaster – is.

We paused.

“Cherish should be alerting them,” Tattletale spoke. “I’m surprised they aren’t mounting a counterattack.”

…interesting. Are they not giving her the treatment she wanted?

Is she still plotting some form of revenge?

“Maybe they can’t? If they split up, Siberian won’t be able to protect everyone,” I said.

Good point.

I was going to bring up that the Nine can’t be sure Sundancer isn’t with them, but they totally can.

“Well, getting closer is a pretty bad idea.”

True.

“Do we have a choice?”

“We hang back, we follow them, we strike if we spot an opportunity.

You do have a choice. Getting closer is very likely gonna lead to death with nothing accomplished, so that’s not the better option here.


Between Bentley and Atlas, we can keep at a distance.”

I shook my head. “Bentley’s tired, and I don’t know how long Atlas is going to be able to keep flying.”

Right, that’s an issue.

“They’ll manage.”

I have a bad feeling about this, if they do in fact try to push their mounts’ limits.

“You sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

A very bad feeling.

Pretty sure. So she wasn’t positive.

“There’s another possibility,” she ventured.

What’cha got?

“Do tell.”

“Cherish might not be saying anything because she wants us to attack the others.”

It’s a tactic she’s employed before, though it backfired on her.

“Or,” I pointed out, “The Nine are giving us that impression because they want us to think that so they can turn the tables.”

…also possible. Fuck.


“That line of thinking leads to madness.”

“Call me crazy, but I’d rather not gamble.”

She’s n[o]t a gambling lady.

But if she were, I w[o]uldn’t bet against her.

(Most of the time.)

“So? What’s the plan?”

“We wait? At least a little while.”

“Sure.” She gave the bulldog a pat on the head. “Give Bentley a chance to rest. You can feed Atlas.”

Fair enough. Time to roll some hit dice and all that jazz!

“Pretty narrow window of time,” I added. “Bitch’s effects on the dogs don’t last that long. Figure twenty minutes, and we took at least fifteen to get here…”

Bentley’s currently not going to shrink without Rachel actively doing so, remember?

Unless that wore off at some point?

“But she gave them more juice than usual. I’d say roughly ten minutes before he’s too small to carry me,” Tattletale said.

Looks like either it did, or Lisa forgot too.

“Ten minutes.”

We settled into a position behind cover, and I began drawing bugs to me to feed Atlas. I wasn’t positive about his diet, and Grue had said that he’d given Atlas a more human digestive system, which left me uncertain.

Um.

Mushroom sandwich?

That said, Atlas was made of bugs, I figured he required the nutrients they provided on a sheer logical level, like how humans would generally get most of the nutrients they needed by eating other humans, if they had to.

That makes way too much sense.

That, and I’d pointed out to the rest of the group how bugs were something we could eat as humans, so his digestive tract could probably manage them.

…this keeps making way too much sense.

But hey, if there’s anything Taylor can get plenty of without issue, it’s bugs.


It was also the easiest thing to provide.

Yeah, I already said that.

“You have eyes on them?”

“Minimal. My interpretation via the swarm’s eyes and ears is still garbage, as always. And I didn’t want to have so many around them that they get suspicious.”

That’s fair.

“Can’t make out what they’re saying?”

I shook my head. Still, I could tell that they were talking.

Seven of them. One of the men was garbed in smooth body armor that covered everything. Mannequin.

Ah, fuck. Lisa was right.

There was another man who could have been Siberian’s real self or Hookwolf. Long haired, shirtless.

…hmm.

Hm.

Mh?

Oh. “could have been”. I managed to read that as “couldn’t have been”, so I was trying to figure out who else it’d be.

My bugs traced the edges of knives at one man’s belt: He was the quietest, and was pacing without cease, sitting down, then pacing again. Jack.

He sounds frustrated. What is he pondering?

Or maybe he’s just bored and restless here? Even though it can’t have been long since he arrived.


Three women, none of whom were Siberian if I accounted for the presence of clothing and the texture of their skin.

Alright, if the Monochrome isn’t out, we seem to have an excess woman here.

I need to count over this again.

Three men: Mannequin, Jack, Siberian

Three women and a girl: Bonesaw, Cherish… apparently not Siberian…

We need two more women.

Well, they’re clearly not among the nominees. The female nominees were Rachel, Amy, Noelle and maybe an unspecified pony. I don’t think any of them qualify as “women” rather than “girls” as far as Taylor’s bug sense is concerned, and Rachel and Amy definitely aren’t in there.

Maybe they’re Protectorate members? Or hostages and/or Bonesaw victims?

Rounding out the group was a little girl with long hair. One of the women was doing most of the talking.

Cherish, I suppose.

Actually, I suppose if she’s a woman as far as Taylor’s concerned, these other three might be too. It is possible Noelle is among them, then. Though they’d have to break into Coil’s place in order to do that, which they definitely didn’t do before tricking Taylor and meeting with Amy (Coil would be way less composed – also, no time) and certainly had no time to do after.

…it’s a really good thing the miasma would have a hard time getting to Noelle.

Would that be Shatterbird or Cherish? Who was the third? Had the Nine gotten their hands on Noelle?

And yeah, I forgot to mention it, but it did occur to me a little bit back that Shatterbird might’ve gotten away from Alec and rejoined the team (likely being protected from the miasma the same way Bonesaw and Jack were).


It unsettled me that Jack wasn’t taking more of a lead in the conversation. Maybe Cherish was just dishing out the dirt?

Maybe.

This just makes it look even more suspicious.

So what’s on your mind, Jack?

“The dynamic seems wrong,” I said. “Something’s off. Not sure if Siberian’s present or not, Bonesaw’s quiet and Jack is mute.”

…what if Jack isn’t there? What if that’s a separate form for the Monochrome, outfitted with knives to fool Taylor?

And then there’s Mannequin. Is he really alive, or is this a fake?

Are they all fake?


“Maybe Cherish took control?” Tattletale ventured.

Hm, I suppose she might have. But it still doesn’t feel quite right. If she could do that to them so effectively, why didn’t she do it before?

It was a scary thought. The Nine were strong, and one of the only reasons they weren’t a bigger problem was that they were their own worst enemies. Most of our victories to date had been because we exploited their character weaknesses. Under a leader…

I mean, that’s exactly what Jack brings to the team. Just in a more mundane way.

“No. Bonesaw took measures.”

Yeah, sounds about right.

“Maybe Cherish found a way around it?”

I didn’t have a response for that. Minutes passed, and the Nine lapsed into silence. Some were resting. Or pretending to rest.

Something is definitely fucky, at least. That much is sure.


“They’re napping or something,” I said.

“Could be baiting you.”

The exact species of the worm is unclear, but it’s clearly attached to a hook of some variety.

“That’s what I was thinking.”

“And Bentley’s getting too small to help me make an exit.”

Things are really leaning towards “don’t poke the hornet’s nest” here.

“Atlas can manage with just me,” I told her.

“Going alone? No. Grue would kill me. It’s senseless.

Heh, he would.

I can call Coil, so we can get a squad of soldiers in place to try and take someone out. Or maybe we get the Director to bomb the area.”

I’m not sure they have any bombs left. And that’s a very… collateral damagey plan. Though I suppose not a lot of civilians live up here.

As for the soldiers, they’d probably take too long and not be able to do much against most of the people in there, as badass as they might be.

“Because that’s worked so well this far.”

Tattletale smiled a little. “What would you rather do? Going in is suicide. You’d be opening yourself up to Cherish’s power.”

Not to mention all the other killers who are supposedly in there.


Another point towards at least some of the people in there being fake: Jack didn’t seem to be aware of Mannequin’s supposed death, which would be why there’d be a fake of him in there even if he did die.


“She’s resting.”

“You think.”

Resting, or sleeping? There’s a big difference here.

“Not sure which person she is, but her breathing is really regular, has been for a while.”

Yeah, but is that because it’s restful, or because it’s fake?

“And she could be faking it, a hundred percent aware that you’re thinking what you’re thinking.”

“Yeah,” I admitted.

Another good point.

“Why are you so fixated on this? On going in?”

“I want to end this.”

That’s really all Taylor has wanted for a while.


“That’s not your real reason.”

There is also the whole end of the world thing, but that’s not what this is about either, is it.

Hm…

Guilt over getting fooled by the Nine earlier?

“And I feel like something’s wrong. The details don’t jibe.”

“That’s a less than stellar reason to put yourself at that kind of risk.”

It’s actually a damn good reason not to.

“There’s a chance Siberian isn’t here, or isn’t in a state to defend her allies. But… I can’t bring myself to attack.”

Is Cherish actually within range?

But if she’s closer to Taylor’s current position, why would she keep Taylor from attacking the people or fake people in the ship?

“This is a shitty time to have an attack of conscience.”

I don’t trust that that’s what it is.

“You sound like Jack. He tried to push me to kill while I thought he was Grue.”

Oof.

But… this seems like a slight overreaction to what Lisa said. And Lisa’s line sounds like she’s about to start arguing for the opposite side to what she was just arguing for.

How much is Cherish messing with them, and to what end?


“You’ll have to explain how all that happened at a later date. Jack’s good at fucking with people’s heads. It could still be a trap.”

Alright, looks like she’s sticking to her side.

“It could.”

“But?”

“I’ve got this feeling in my gut, like I had when I was around Jack and Bonesaw, and I wish I’d trusted it then. I don’t want to doubt it now.”

Ahh. Just don’t go the other way and get overconfident in it.

Hmm. Maybe the amount of people in there, real and/or fake, is meant to dissuade attacks?

“A gut feeling?”

I nodded, once.

Admittedly, Taylor’s gut has been right before.

She sighed. “What can I do?”

“Get out of here. I don’t want to hurt you if I fall under Cherish’s control, which is supposed to be pretty short-lived. In case she plans to make it more long-term, maybe call the PRT director and arrange a firebomb if I don’t report back?”

Yikes. Taylor is asking Lisa to arrange for her to very likely get killed if she’s compromised.

Tattletale made a face. “This is dumb.”

“I’ve done dumb things. I somehow don’t feel like this is one of them.”

The possibility that Cherish is closer than they think and messing with Taylor’s head is still on the table, but it’s increasingly unclear whether she’d be pushing Taylor towards attacking or away from it.


“Go, then. Call me as soon as it’s safe.”

I nodded.

Safe? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within the Boat Graveyard?

…may I see it?

She headed out of the graveyard with Bentley. I waited a few minutes, until she was out of my power’s range.

See ya, Lisa.

So, Taylor. Do you have a plan?


Atlas and I crossed the gap to the ship. I waited for the hit of Cherish’s power, but it didn’t come.

But is that because she’s unaware, because she wants you to come, or because she’s not there?

My bugs sensed more of Bonesaw’s traps – areas heavy with fog, or where vials had been thrown, placed or dropped. I was glad there wasn’t any of the extermination smoke.

I suppose she probably spent her supply on that shell game in their escape.

I set foot on the tilted deck and began slowly making my way into the ship. My soft soled costumed feet were quiet, barely audible to myself.

Nice.

I drew my gun, readying myself to fire the second I was in range. If Cherish was setting up the Nine for me, I was pretty sure I could hit one and get away before trouble arose.

Yeah, but how much would it accomplish? Probably not enough to be worth the risk just for that.

It was a feeble thought – even Jack, one of their most vulnerable members, hadn’t fallen to gunfire. Still, it was reassuring.

Fair enough.

More traps forced me to make slower progress through the labyrinthine ship’s interior. It was a while before I could stop at the outside of the door at the lowest point of the ship.

Skitter: *knocks twice*
Jack: “Who’s there?”
Skitter: “Skitter.”
Jack: “Skitter who?”
Skitter: “Skitter Rose Hebert.”
Jack: “Oh, that Skitter! Please, come in.”


I heard sobbing.

One of the people Bonesaw used to fake the Nine breaking down?

Or maybe it’s Cherish, trying to paint herself as the victim.

I stepped through the doorway and took in the room’s interior.

The floor sloped one way. Half of the room was metal flooring covered in sand, the lowest half was submerged.

This city in a nutshell: Even in places specifically meant to keep water out, nowhere’s dry.

And if anyone says they found a dry spot, they’re lying. Just hallucinations caused by the miasma, surely.

Three men, three women and a girl. The man with knives in his belt stood, then began the ritual pacing once again. His feet were raw where the rusted metal deck had cut at them. The others sat and stood in various points around the hull.

By “stepped through the doorway”, it sounds like Taylor should be in plain sight here. Which only reinforces the idea that that ain’t Jack, along with the fact that Jack wouldn’t walk his feet to bloody pulps if he didn’t have to. Whoever or whatever this “Jack” is seems to be pacing like he’s been programmed to do so.


I withdrew my phone and called Tattletale.

“That was fast.”

“It’s not the Nine. Decoys.”

Yep.

I stared at them. The disguises had been rushed but thorough. Jack and Bonesaw had clearly changed clothes with the people in question, and Bonesaw had whipped up something approximating Mannequin’s armor for one of the men.

Because she didn’t know Mannequin is supposed to be dead.

“Call Coil, get medics here. It’s Bonesaw’s work, so he might need to call on some expert surgeons to undo whatever she did. I’ll use my bugs to mark out the traps that Bonesaw set up inside.”

Sounds like a good plan. Let’s help these poor fuckers.

So was Cherish making sure Taylor would go in there so that she’d find out about this? I don’t imagine that would be out of compassion for the victims, though.

“On it.” She hung up.

Paralysis, compulsive movements. Puppets. Decoys. Had this been Jack’s attempt to make me betray my morals? Setting up decoys with the idea that I’d attack first and check later?

Makes sense. He might’ve taken some interest in that now, since he failed to do that a couple chapters ago.

If I’d gone with my first impulse and tried to kill them, I’d have seven civilian deaths on my hands.

Which raises the question of why you didn’t go with your first impulse. What gave you that gut feeling? Or rather, who?

“Help is on the way, guys. I’m sorry about this.”

“Thank you,” the twenty-something woman I’d guessed to be Cherish spoke. The others were mute.

I see. They needed one of them to be speaking because all of them screaming or none of them talking would be even more suspicious.


I saw drag marks in the sand, leading to the water. Who had that been?

…did one of them decide to drown themself to get out of this? Or attempt to swim out while partially paralyzed?

The knife was the last thing I spotted. It had been slammed into the metal hull of the boat. I stepped over the chain and collar that had probably been attached to Cherish.

Ah, so it was the right place, then?

I pulled the knife free of the wall and used my bugs to catch the note before it fluttered to the floor.

Ooh, this sounds interesting.

We concede our loss to you, Brockton Bay. As per my agreement with Miss Amelia, we’ll be leaving your fascinating city. It was fun.

VICTORY!

Except, y’know, the end of the world.

But VICTORY!

Don’t worry about Cherish. She’s sleeping somewhere at the bottom of the bay.

Oh.

…literally or figuratively? Bonesaw could make the former happen.

Bonesaw was kind enough to crank up her receptive range toward negative emotions and remove her filters. The girl will personally experience every awful feeling Brockton Bay’s inhabitants do- and with the benefit of Alan’s tech, she’ll get to do it for a very, very, very long time.

What a wonderful life she’s going to have from here on out.

Alan’s tech… did they have bits of it, or did Mannequin actually survive?

At this point, though, it’s looking like it won’t matter too much whether or not he did (unless Taylor gets into a fight with the Nine while trying to stop Jack from leaving the city), which leans the odds towards him being dead.

A departure marked not with a bang, but a whimper. I’m sure you understand.

I mean, the miasma was a bit of a bang, but I suppose you didn’t see that as marking the departure.

Yours truly,

Jack.

Goodbye. It’s been fun.


End of Prey 14.11

Not a bang but a whimper.

This chapter… didn’t add much, except an opportunity to find this note, a fate for Cherish, and the kissing scene. (The kiss-punch moment with Rachel was wonderful.)

Okay, so it added a bit. Still, though, I’m not sure the whole tracking down the Nine was entirely necessary? I don’t know, it feels a little weird, like this is a dénouement but not really?

But to be fair, it’d be strange for Taylor to give up on it that easily, and leaving the note wouldn’t work as well with the more dramatic escape we had last time.

Also, I’m not even entirely sure this is the end of the Arc. For all I know, we might have another chapter, of the Undersiders trying to figure out how to take this, especially with their knowledge of the prophecy in play. I guess I could check the link later in this post.

If there is a 14.12, it’ll probably be characterized by bittersweetness. They won, didn’t they? So why isn’t Taylor happy about it?

That’s if it’s not Taylor trying to stop Jack from leaving. Though I feel like we’re not going to see the Nine again before they leave – it’d mess with the finality of this letter.

If it’s an Interlude… fuck, Interludes are so difficult to speculate on. Maybe we’d have a look at what someone else has been up to under the miasma’s effect? Ooh, maybe we could get Legend’s perspective on the miasma and his head clearing? Though I do feel like if Wildbow had had a Legend Interlude planned around the time of Interlude 13, he might’ve saved the details on Legend’s family life for Legend’s own Interlude.

Another option is that we might follow one of the Nine – Bonesaw, Siberian or Mannequin if he’s alive – and seeing how they feel about the retreat. That feels wrong, though, due to the finality issue.

Alright, let’s take a look at the link.

Interlude 14.

Good. I think adding another dénouement chapter to this Arc would drag out a bit, and this letter deserves to be the end of an Arc.

So yeah! See you in the Interlude!


[postscript]

FUCK. I just remembered, while making the post-chapter Patreon post, what quote the “not with a bang, but a (…)” bit comes from. Jack, you sneaky fucker.

So this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

…and while I knew the quote, I didn’t know where it was from or how it’s actually supposed to end. The last word was a blank for me – I think it’s through Cards Against Humanity I’ve picked it up, actually. Anyway, I just looked it up, and apparently this is how it originally ends. So it’s not quite as subtle as I thought if you know the whole original quote.

Still, though. Jack totally managed to sneak that reference to his departure meaning the end of the world past me for a few minutes. It’s a really neat way of saying it, too.

One thought on “Prey 14.11: Kiss Kiss Whimper Whimper

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