Colony 15.2: The Chosen Targets

Source material: Worm, Colony 15.2

Originally blogged: October 19-23, 2018


Alright, time to get this show back on the road!

Colony 15.1… damn, after that Interlude last time, it took me a moment to recall what even happened in 15.1. It’s coming back to me, though.

So, the Undersiders are going up against Coil in sneaky ways. How exactly are they going about this? It seems like they do think it might come to blows eventually, but they’re focusing on more covert operations at first.

The obvious answer would be trying to sneak Dinah out somehow, but that doesn’t seem particularly easy. Especially if Coil himself is around when they try, in either of his realities. Then again nobody said this would be easy.

But no. I don’t think that’s really why that doesn’t seem like the right option. I think it’s more that it’s too obvious. If it was that simple, we’d know it by now. No, Skitter has a plan and it’s going to be a lot more interesting than that.

Maybe they’re going to undermine Coil and cause his whole setup to collapse before he can stop it with his power? Somehow? And grab Dinah in the ensuing chaos?

I don’t really know what their plan is, and I’m itching to get back to some Worm, so let’s go and find out! Probably.

(#chapter 15.2
#i wrote chapter 15.i2 #at least four times
#before managing to stop my right hand from adding the i)


One thing at a time.

Alright.

As much as I wanted to make it a focus, taking care of my territory was something I had to handle in my downtime.  I felt guilty; I’d left my people to handle things on their own, I’d failed to arrange the cleanup of the bodies Mannequin and Burnscar had left behind.  I hadn’t made arrangements for food, fresh water or accommodations.  I wanted to make it up to the people who had stuck by me, or at least the people who hadn’t left, but this wasn’t one of the instances where I could let my emotions dictate my priorities.

Makes sense, honestly. You have a lot on your plate.

We had a mess of things to do and a limited amount of time to work with.

I just don’t know what even half those things are. Just the goal and a vague idea of the style of chess we’re playing.

Oh hey, here’s another complication I just thought of regarding leaving Coil behind: Shatterbird. Alec claims he can’t control people while his main body is sleeping. Unless he was lying, that means he’s been having to contain Shatters, presumably in the cell we saw at Coil’s base. Which, if the Undersiders end up parting ways with Coil, Alec won’t have access to. So he’d either have to leave Shatterbird behind with Coil or attempt to find another way to contain her while he sleeps, without Coil’s resources.

Might be a good thing, though. She’s a huge risk factor for the team given how little it takes for her to break free. If Alec accidentally sends her too far away, or he gets knocked out in battle, she can free herself and wreak havoc in revenge. She might be reluctant to go near Alec again, but she’s got her insane range to work with.

(This might seem like a non-sequitur from the comment on the quote, but I swear there’s a connecting railway for my train of thought here. Chess, shogi, the capture of Shatterbird and Cherish, Shatterbird, the control of Shatterbird.)


After departing from our meeting, we’d taken the afternoon and evening to handle our personal affairs, agreeing to start on the major stuff in the morning.

Are we seeing that morning in this chapter or the next one?

This paragraph is all past, so if the morning is in the next chapter, this on takes place late at night. Does anything need to take place late at night right now? I’m inclined to think not, unless we’re getting a surprise visit from Armsmaster or something like that, something out of Taylor’s control.

So my guess is we’re gonna get to the morning pretty soon.

Bitch had to take care of her dogs, Regent was toying with gangs in his territory by puppeteering their leaders, and Tattletale had her various spies and scouts to keep in contact with.

Seems like Alec’s having fun, to the extent he can have fun, at least.

Things were a little less busy for myself, Grue and Imp: I’d tended to my territory, ensuring that the cleanup was going well and that the major concerns were being addressed.  Grue and Imp had taken the afternoon and evening to try to catch up on sleep.

You should probably get some of that yourself, now that you don’t have the Nine to worry about.

Taylor: “Sleep is for those without a tendency to blame themselves for every bad thing they were even slightly involved with, Krixwell!”

Oh, hey there! …so, uh, what’s with the silent treatment?

Taylor: “…what?”

I mean, I’ve been talking to you for a year and ten months now and I’m pretty sure this is the first time you’ve ever replied to me. What gives?

Taylor: “…”

Ah. Back to normal, I see. Well, then, be that way.

Hm. Maybe she refuses to talk to me because I’ve got that “sanity” thing my doctor mentioned, whatever that is.


Except we hadn’t been able to break away from planning, and just going by his participation in our exchange of texts and calls, Grue hadn’t managed to rest much.

So they’re like a D&D group, constantly messaging each other about the next session.

It’s kind of adorable.

We’d arranged plans, discussed priorities, sent messages to Coil, tracked down information from our various underlings, and in the doing, we’d managed to hash out a general game plan.

Sweet. Any chance you’re going to share any part of that plan with me before I get to watch it unfold?

Not that that would be a particularly good idea considering certain narrative tropes regarding plans and the sharing of them with the audience.

So is this the setting of this chapter? Their D&D group chat?

Or maybe a complication is about to arise before they even start executing the plan? Perhaps one that Taylor can’t tell the others about or something?

With a hundred problems we needed to handle, we’d agreed the most important thing was to deal with the most inevitable ones.

They’re just gonna go ahead and deal with the apocalyptic threat in this Arc, no big deal.

Okay, so maybe that’s not one of their immediate problems. :p

There was no point in working out a complicated and involved attack plan against Coil if we didn’t wind up fighting him.  There was a point in dealing with the Chosen; they were bound to attack us at some point, regardless of how future events unfolded.  Better to take the fight to them.

Fair enough.

This sounds a lot like the way Dinah’s aid normally allows Coil to lay his plans. It also sounds a lot like chess.

So attacking the Chosen is a priority. Alright. I wonder who’s their leader now, if they’ve filled the spot. Cricket, perhaps?


“Whatcha thinking, dork?”

“You’re still calling me that?”

This isn’t the format of text messages in this story, so Alec and Taylor are either in the same place or talking over the phone. The latter sounds unlikely from what’s being said.

And if they’re in the same place, it’s probably morning. Let’s go attack the Chosen. Maybe. Or maybe that’s high-priority but not quite first on the list of to-dos.

Regent chuckled.  He was walking down the center of the street with Imp.  I was keeping to the sidewalk out of habit, and because the raised concrete path was fractionally higher, so I wasn’t wading in quite so much water.

I’m reminded [here] of this piece of fanart by ImSkeptical:

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Though it seems like Skitter and Impgent have switched places.

And the others might not be here? At least Taylor hasn’t described their placements yet.

“Just thinking about priorities,” I told him.

“Yeah, Tattletale kept trying to rope me into the planning phase last night.  Not my thing.”

Heh. Fair enough.

Planning is not really my thing either, even though I prefer to know what I’m doing.


“I wouldn’t have minded,” Imp said.  “I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but I’d like to follow along.  And I can’t figure out my niche in the group with the trio being so… trio-ish.”

The trio! Heh. I like how the newcomer is the one who finally points out in-story the dynamic of Taylor, Brian and Lisa having the tightest connection and the most relevance, while the remaining three are the flanks of the team narratively.

Which is actually reflected in the piece I brought up in the previous post, with Alec, Aisha and Rachel being literally in the flanks (though Rachel is a bit more in the foreground than the other two).

Anyway, I officially predict that this is going to be Aisha’s arc in this, well, Arc. She’s probably going to be critical to success. Which makes a lot of sense considering the way Coil’s power works – it’ll be far less useful to him if he doesn’t know there’s a threat. That’s one of the main reasons for the sneaky planning in the first place.

“Trio-ish?” I asked.

“Tattletale, you and my brother.  Making all the plans, you’ve got the nemeses…” Imp paused.  “Is nemeses a word?”

Yes.

“Yeah,” I said.

And you three have the brains, of course,” she stabbed a finger in my direction, as if it was an accusation, “Which leaves Regent, me and Bitch, following along, expected to obediently do as we’re told.”

She’s absolutely right.

Though some of that seems to be because they haven’t tried very hard to contribute in the same ways the trio does.

I suppose it’s a good thing Brian and Rachel aren’t here. I don’t think either of them would like to hear this. Though Lisa would be fine with it, I think.

“Let’s quit and start our own group!”  Regent said, throwing one arm across Imp’s shoulders and gesturing dramatically with the other as he continued, “Regent, Imp, and Bitch, the Othersiders, a spin-off team.

Ahaha!

There are plenty of fanfics about the Othersiders, right?

And we’ll stick with Coil while the others turn traitor, and we’ll have this epic fight…”

I mean I was pretty much theorizing that exact thing for a while there.

Minus Imp, I suppose, but that’s because I literally forgot she existed while I was theorizing on it.

Imp took his cue, “And Brian and I will go head to head, and it’ll end in this dramatic moment where he says something pretentious-”

You know, I’ve said before that I like these two together, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually put it like this: I think I ship it.

“Et tu, sis?”

Ahahaha!

“And then I’ll say ‘Yeah, it’s me’ and finish him!  No mercy.”

They were playing off one another, joking.

Yes, thank you, Taylor, I could tell.

And it is delightful.


And he calls me the dork? 

Hah.

I ignored them up until we met up with Tattletale.

“No Grue?” she asked.

He was so broad-shouldered today, there was no gruem for him on the street.

“He’s tired,” Imp said, shrugging free of Regent’s arm, which had stayed in place since they began their play-acting.  “Not sleeping these days.”

I suppose he’s not having a great time after his, um, encounter with Bonesaw.

“We should address that soon,” Tattletale said.  “We’ve seen how mistakes happen when some of us get too fatigued.  With the way things are stacked against us, we could wind up with another few days of concentrated activity, and running on empty from the start could spell bad things.”

The saying in Norway is that without food and drink, the hero doesn’t function, but that absolutely applies to villains too.

She glanced at me.  Fine, I’d own up to it.  I’d fallen into that trap.  I nodded an agreement.

Hehe.

I for one know nothing about fucked up sleep schedules and certainly don’t have an entire gaggle of people over on Discord telling me to sleep at any given time of day, no sirree.

[I find it very fitting that I’m mirroring this comment at 2:15 AM.]


“And you?” she asked me.  “You’re good?”

“Guilty about leaving my people to their own devices,” I admitted, “But I’m glad we’re working through this stuff.”

You’re not answering what she seems to really be asking from the context here, but it’s still a refreshing bit of honesty. It really is nice that they’re working through this, too. Maybe we can lighten Taylor’s burden of guilt for a few seconds.

“Speaking of,” she said.  “We’ve got the mayoral elections coming up in a week and a half.  They were thinking about canceling them, but with the Nine gone, they’re apparently wanting to get things closer to normal.”

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“What does this mean for us?” I asked.

I caught a glimpse of Imp nudging Regent, in a ‘see, see?’ kind of way.  She muttered something about the trio.

Hehe. Yep, the trio members are talking now, kids.

The mayoral elections are relevant because Coil wanted to semi-legally take control of the city, right?

“On the upside, Coil has two agents as mayoral candidates, so he’ll be focused on that.

Ahh. That makes a ton more sense than he himself running for mayor.

On the downside, it’s another thing we have to take into consideration.  We could throw a wrench into that situation, to slow him down in his takeover and buy ourselves time to leverage the situation to our advantage, but I’m wondering if it’s really worth it with our other time constraints.”

How much power does the mayor even really have over Brockton Bay in its current state?

And that’s without considering the whole condemnation thing.

“The primary one being Dinah getting her powers back,” I said.  I turned to the other two, “Are you wanting to chime in instead of poking fun?”

“Nahh.”


“I’m good,” Imp said.  Regent chuckled a little.

Tattletale said, “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been happening with the Chosen and Purity’s group.  The white supremacists keep losing leaders.  Kaiser got offed by Leviathan, now we’ve got a brainwashed Hookwolf running off with the Nine.

FUCK. I literally thought of that exact thing earlier tonight. Why the hell didn’t I mention it?

I even specifically thought about how they both got taken out of the immediate story by the major, massive-killcount threats.

The natural thing for the group to do would be to fall in under Purity, but there’s some snags.”

Was there another reason why E88 split into E44s, besides differing opinions on who had the right to become the new leader?

“Some Chosen thinking they want to be leaders?” I asked.

This sentence suddenly reminded me that the Forsaken, a group of 13 major antagonists from the Wheel of Time series, call themselves the Chosen. They’re Chosen by the Dark One, and Forsaken by the Light.

I’d be a lot more concerned about the Undersiders going up against that lot than against the confused remainder of Hookwolf’s gang.

Anyway, do the Chosen – the ones in Worm – even know what happened to Hookwolf?


I’d do an “Undersiders vs the Forsaken” post, but I’m far from done with my Wheel of Time re-experiencing, so there are a bunch of them that I don’t really remember that well yet, especially what they’re like in combat.

There’s also the issue that they’re not limited to about one to three main powers like Worm characters – they’re among the strongest and most versatile magic users in the series, due to being big-shot magic users before a ton of magic knowledge was lost in the Breaking of the World. That versatility makes comparisons much more difficult.

The Undersiders’ only advantage here is that the Forsaken are a disjointed bunch that usually work individually and can be manipulated into turning on each other.

Other than that, they’re fucked.

…wait, did I just accidentally do a rudimentary “Undersiders vs the Forsaken” post while explaining why a proper one would be difficult for me to do right now?


“There’s that.  Stormtiger and Cricket have been Hookwolf’s followers for a while.  I could see how they might feel that it was their due to get a turn.

Let’s have some E22s for a while, shall we?

But when you get down to E11s, it’s time to stop. Not because having that many white supremacist groups in the story would be a bit much, but because E5.5 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

There’s also the fact that Hookwolf was probably engaging in some propaganda against Purity, in case she tried poaching from his team.  So you’ve got the overall group split between the Chosen and the Pure we’ve had for a few weeks now.

Ah, yeah, makes sense.

Then you’ve got another split within the Chosen, with the loyal and the brainwashed, and the, um.  Not sure what to call them.”

…hm?

The… forced?

That doesn’t seem like Hookwolf’s style, though. That was Bakuda.

“The free thinkers?” I offered.

“If you can call a neo-nazi a free thinker,” Tattletale conceded.

Ah, the ones who are not so loyal or brainwashed anymore?

“So it’s a prime opportunity to strike, then,” I concluded.

“Maybe.  Or maybe they’re in the same straits as us.  They could be feeling the same kind of pressure from multiple directions.”

Potentially causing them to lash out?


“Something to keep in mind,” I said.

“Something to exploit?”

I glanced at her in surprise, and she shrugged.

What, you’re surprised that Lisa would suggest this?

“Elaborate?  You’re not suggesting we ally with them, are you?”

“Fuck yes!” Imp skipped halfway across the road to join us.  “Finally, an argument I can get into.  No way are we allying with the skinheads.”

Hah! Reading that line by line, scrolling down on a narrow portion of screen was… interesting.

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[screenshot of the above quote, cut off after “across”]

But yeah, I’m with Aisha.


[Session 2]


“Are you taking this seriously?” I asked her.

“Totally one-hundred-percent serious.  I’m not cool with working with them on any level.  I’ve put up with their racist asshole kids giving me a hard time at school, I put up with their racist asshole adults throwing slurs and swear words at me when I’m walking down the street.”

Oh yeah, that’s right, she’s black too. That does tend to be the case when you’ve got a black sibling and black parents, most of the time.

“I’m not talking about working with them,” Tattletale said.  “I’m talking about a ceasefire.  We broker a deal, agree to leave them alone if they leave us alone, they can hold their own territory without worrying about us, and they extend the same civility to us.

That’s fair enough.

It gives us a chance to do what we need to do.”

“Still not cool,” Imp protested.  “It gives them a chance to do what they want to do, which is making life hell on anyone that isn’t straight, white and Christian.

…true. While that’s not necessarily your responsibility to prevent, I can absolutely see why you’d want to. And this seems like logic that would sway Taylor.

Or whatever you call people that worship those viking gods.  They like naming themselves after those guys.”

Hmmm. I’ve heard of that kind of neo-Norse religion, but I’m drawing a blank on what it’s called too.

And yeah, we’ve definitely seen some Norse influence in the supremacists’ cape names. Like Allfather being one of Odin’s nicknames.


I looked at Tattletale, “I can’t argue with her point.  The first part.”

Tattletale frowned.  “I’m trying to think about what’s easiest to achieve while clearing up the most problems.  I already got in touch with New Wave and got them to chill out for a bit.”

Of course she let them find her on purpose.

“How’d you pull that?” Regent asked.

“Lady Photon was wondering where her nieces went.  I told her that Panacea was healing Glory Girl but she still wanted her space.”

Healing. Yes.

“Hmm,” I offered, to give an indication I was listening.

“It isn’t true, or I should say it isn’t the whole truth, but we tried to reach Panacea and she turned us down again and again.  It’s a shame, but what can you do?”

Ahh… she knows.

And she’s not outright telling it here either, by the looks of it.

Well, sooner or later they’re gonna need Amy. If Taylor doesn’t find out before then, Lisa might have to go “oh yeah, forgot to tell you, she went to the Birdcage a few weeks ago for turning her sister into a monstrosity of flesh and beauty.”


Amy had crossed my mind as I’d reflected on the various encounters with the Nine, and I’d thought about going to look for her.  Having her in the group would be invaluable, no question.

Not to mention awesome.

Even touching base with her could leave us options if someone got hurt or if we needed resources.  That said, the major issue was that I couldn’t be sure she’d actually join or even listen, and we were trying to operate with certainties.  I couldn’t afford to go when it meant potentially wasted time.

Yeeah, that’s fair. She’s been doing some… unpredictable things, lately.

Better to be in my territory, for morale, for organization, and to keep working on the costume bits.  It also let me eat, sleep and take care of Atlas – stuff I tended to forget about.

Hey, eating and sleeping, fine, but don’t forget to take care of Atlas.

Thinking about Atlas reminded me of one thought I’d had during our downtime.  “It’d be fantastic if we could get a tinker in the group,” I said.  “Between Bakuda, Armsmaster, Mannequin and Bonesaw, I’m sort of starting to appreciate what they bring to the table.”

Oooh, yes, that would be good. Tinkers are pretty awesome.

This is a bit of a turn-around… I can’t find it, but didn’t Taylor recently say she was getting really sick of tinkers? But it makes sense that she’d start thinking about what they could do if they were on her side.

Now, acquiring a tinker would be the tricky part. I think Armsmaster is likely to eventually seek out the Undersiders if he’s still alive (I hope he’s still alive. Otherwise, what was the point of keeping him in the story?), but the reason for that is that he probably holds a grudge against them. And, dick or not, he’s interested in being a hero, not a villain. The same things applied to Amy, but converting her failed, and doing the same for Armsmaster sounds much more difficult. And less appealing.

What other tinkers do we know? There’s Kid Win, but I don’t think he’ll be leaving the Wards anytime soon.

Chariot? He’s in the Wards on the orders of a third party that is probably Cauldron, and so is more likely to be convertable. And hey, Piggot already thinks Chariot is affiliated with Coil, causing him to not be trusted in his current team. He might work, though I’m not sold enough on his personality to really want it like I did with Amy.


“What you see there are the end results,” Tattletale said, “You have to realize how much time they’re spending building stuff, or time spent building tools to build better stuff.”

Hm. That’s a fair point. A lot of time and resources goes into what they do.

“Bonesaw did plastic surgery on seven people, performed brain surgery on Cherish and then trapped her inside a pod that could keep her alive for years or decades, and as far as I figure it, even if they got their hands on an all-terrain vehicle, they can’t have had five or ten minutes to do it in.  That doesn’t amount to much prep time.”

…true.

“Some to build and program her mechanical spiders, but yeah.  She probably wouldn’t need as much time as you’d think.  Probably didn’t even have to put Cherish’s head back together after doing what she needed to for the surgery, for example, if she was going in the pod.”

That doesn’t cut it down that much.

You’re almost a tinker,” Regent told me.

What? That’s… are you just talking about the versatility? And the costumes?

“Not really.”

“You made these rags,” he pulled down his collar to show me the skintight costume beneath.

Heh. Of course he calls them “rags”, even while ostensibly complimenting her on them.


“Rags?  If you don’t want them, I can use the material.”

He laughed.

“I don’t think I’m anything like a tinker, though.  I just realize my power’s not that strong, so I wrack my brain to think of ways to expand it.

The tinkeriness isn’t part of her power. I think. It’s just what she’s like.

I make the most of the possibilities available to me, while a tinker creates possibilities.”

Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Although maybe a tinker more sees possibilities and how to make them come true?

“I’m getting what you’re saying,” Tattletale smiled.  “You liked having Panacea around as a pseudo-tinker, huh?  The way it expanded your options?”

I’m not sure Amy would appreciate being called a pseudo-tinker. It hits too close to home with Bonesaw claiming they were alike. It’s true, though, in a sense.

I shrugged, “Goes without saying, doesn’t it?”

“But you especially, given how you think.  It’s a shame that there’s not really any tinkers around that aren’t already committed.  Unless you want to make a point out of recruiting Leet?”

Pfft.

Wait. Isn’t he also already committed? Or did Über go off and die or something while I wasn’t paying attention?


There was a bit of a pause as we all considered the idea.

Ahaha

We simultaneously broke into laughter.

I love this.

Get dunked on, Leet. :p

“Come on,” Tattletale said, “Let’s get down to business.”

To defeat the Huns!

Beyond our short detour to meet up with Tattletale, we’d primarily been focused on heading towards Regent’s territory.

As if they knew Regent didn’t have the forces to retaliate or respond in kind, the Chosen had decided on an underhanded means of attack.  If you could call it that.

…alright, what did they do?

The Chosen’s wolf-head gang tag and swastikas marked every available surface.

Ah. Petty mass graffiti-ing.

This is basically the human equivalent of pissing everywhere to mark territory.


Surely the business the Undersiders have here isn’t just cleaning up this mess. They need to get that done eventually, but doing it now doesn’t mesh with anything that’s been said about priorities in this chapter.


A snub, an insult.

To me it honestly just seems kinda pathetic.

Shatterbird descended from some distant point high above us, landing in the middle of the College, Regent’s territory.

Oh hey, a new location name. Nice. It’s not a new location, but at least it’s got a name now besides “Regent’s territory”.

Are we going to learn some history of the area too?

It was the middle ground between Downtown and the Docks, and the buildings were a mix of quaint housing and stone buildings.  Or they had been.  Most were ruins now.

I suppose Leviathan tore through here, given his path from the Docks to Lake Heroic in central downtown.

Dust and sand stirred around us.  It coiled around Shatterbird, then streamed against the offending pieces of artwork.

Ooh! Looks like Taylor isn’t the only one using powers creatively. Regent is using Shatterbird’s control over sand to wipe off the artwork as with sandpaper.

Housepaint and whitewash peeled and disappeared, flecks of spray paint were gradually worn away, and concrete was chipped.

Don’t underestimate a good sandstorm.


In less than a minute, the area was clean.  Not only was it free of the spray paint, but walls were left looking cleaner and newer than they had in years, maybe decades.

Maybe a little too new, even?

“Nifty,” Imp commented.

“Why spend a few hundred bucks on a sandblaster when you have a Shatterbird?  Who’s a good little power tool?”  Regent gave Shatterbird a pat on the cheek.  “You are.  Yes you are.”

I know he’s joking around. And she’s far less innocent than Dinah.

That’s the main reason I’m a little more okay with this than Coil’s completely serious “pet” thing.

“Stop that,” I said.

“What?”

“That’s uncalled for.”

Taylor is roughly on the same page as me, it seems.

Also, maybe try not to anger Shatterbird too much, Alec? You’ve indicated that her anger combined with her willpower was part of why it wasn’t easy to keep hold of her. Granted, some of that might’ve faded to hopelessness now, but still. We don’t want her breaking loose.


“It’s totally called for.  Are you bothered I’m calling her a tool, or are you bothered I’m mocking her?  Because she is a tool, you know.  In more than one sense.”

Heh.

“You don’t have to mock her.”

“Why?  Because we should be respectful of the poor widdle mass murderer’s feelings?”  He snapped his fingers, and Shatterbird covered her ears, shutting her eyes.  “There’s a reason I’m doing this, believe it or not.  You aren’t the only one who can have ideas about finding some special angle in your power.  Her best bet at breaking free is if she has a strong enough emotional reaction while being far enough away from me.  I’m irritating her because I want to keep her emotionally drained.  That way she won’t be able to put up a good fight when she does get a chance.”

Oh, so I was warning him against this for the exact same reason he was doing it.

…fair enough.

“There’s got to be a better way of doing that.”

“Sure.  Tell you what.  Next chance I’ll get, I’ll take her to my lair, sit her down and torture her until her mind breaks.

I kinda love the deadpan way Alec says things like this to make a point.

Heck, it wouldn’t even be that hard.”

“You-” I started.

“He’s being facetious,” Tattletale interrupted.

He is, but at the same time, it’s something he could do. He chooses not to, which is part of why he’s sympathetic despite everything, but he’s not entirely above it.


Regent rolled his eyes.

“The alternative is killing her,” he said.  “But that seems awfully wasteful when she’s giving us some much-needed firepower and deterrence.”

Yeah, she’s way too useful, and while I probably should feel kinda bad for her, she’s completely unsympathetic from what we’ve seen. I can’t really muster up that emotion for her.

“I’m not saying torture her, and I’m not saying kill her.  I’m just asking you to treat her with respect.”

Shatterbird spoke, startling me.  “Hi!  I’ve killed hundreds of people and maimed thousands.”

Yeah, no, I’m actually with Regent here. She falls into the same category as Anders Behring Breivik: people who have willingly signed away their right to any sort of respect through their actions and attitudes.

“I get your point, Regent.  Stop that.”

Shatterbird smiled wide, the expression so fake and cheery it was disturbing to see.  I tried to ignore her as she continued staring at me.

Shatterbird, internally: “Damn it, I don’t want to smile!”

You know, with how Regent’s power works with regards to muscle memory and such, I could see this smile being genuinely trickier than most facial expressions on Shatters. She didn’t seem the smiley type.


As an idle thought, I noted that her teeth were in surprisingly good shape.  It made me wonder how the Nine took care of their teeth.

Cherish claimed Bonesaw did something with them, right?

Did they threaten some dentist and force him to do fillings and whitenings?  Or did Bonesaw handle that?  It was odd to think about.

The dentist idea makes for a very amusing mental image, though. :p

“Okay, we’ve got Shatterbird for some firepower, you’ve got a swarm, Skitter?”

With the snub unsnubbed, it’s time to strike back?

My bugs weren’t condensed into a swarm, but I had a good number.  “I’m set.”

“Can you find them?”

My bugs searched our surroundings.  “There’s people, I’m just not sure they’re Chosen.”

Well, if you choose them as your target, they will be.

“Where?”

I pointed.  “Six there, belowground.  Eight there, on the far side of the building where it isn’t caved in.  Five there, front room, drinking alcohol, I think.”

Turns out every team in the city just happens to be hanging out here, unaware of each other’s presence.


“That group,” she gestured to the first one I’d indicated, where people were gathered in a basement or cellar.  Some stone building with sandbags around it to keep the floodwater at bay.  “Ages, genders?”

“I can’t say about ages, but two are below average in height, smaller across the shoulders.  So probably younger.  Two female, one male.”

This group is where the remainder of New Wave is hanging out.

“Are they agitated, busy?”

“They’re annoyed because of the houseflies and mosquitoes buzzing around them, but I don’t think they’ve realized it’s me.”

Relatable.

“Just trying to figure it out.  The quality of the lodgings here is pretty miserable compared to some areas close by, then if I go by the graffitti and the placement thereof… yeah, it’s them.”

Ah, alright. How about the other groups?


“All of them or just some of them?”

“Everyone present is a member of the Chosen.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah.  Nobody’s going to hang out here otherwise.  Doesn’t fit.  Even if I discount some of the evidence that’s leading my power to the conclusions it’s finding… yeah.  I’m sure.”

Good to know.

“Then cover up,” Regent alerted us.

They’re already in costume, so that’s not what he means here. How do they mean to cover up, exactly?

I pulled the short cape over my head to cover my hair.  I could see Imp wrapping her scarf around her head with the same idea in mind.  Tattletale, for her part, pulled on the spider silk balaclava I’d made as a trial run at something for my minions, then donned a pair of goggles.

…ohh. It’s not covering up as in hiding from sight.

It’s covering up so they don’t get blasted with sand or glass. Which is why it was Regent who said it.

“Go, Skitter,” Tattletale spoke.

We attacked.  My bugs flowed into the spaces where I’d found the people.  In one moment, they were simply crawling on them, the next moment they were under attack, being bitten, stung, scratched and smothered.

Taylor intends to make this entire town distrust innocent insects if it’s the last thing she does.


As usual, I kept the wasps and bees from contracting their abdomens to force the venom out.  It would hurt, but the risk of anaphylactic shock would be minimal.

That’s good.

They fled, running for the outdoors.

I gave them a second of reprieve.  A few seconds where they could catch their breath and think they’d escaped.

“Your turn,” I told Regent.

Hoo boy, here we go.

Shatterbird versus the Chosen, round two.

Shatterbird attacked, calling forth a light flurry of glass shards.  There weren’t many, far less than I had in the way of bugs, but our enemies couldn’t defend against them.  My mosquitoes could smell blood as the shards sliced thin papercuts into their skin, impaled their cheeks and hands.

Ow.


“Don’t hit any vital organs,” I said, “Or arteries.  Keep it confined to the outer edge of their body.”

“You’re so finnicky,” Regent commented.

Hehe.

I remember how I used to wonder if Regent could sense nervous systems like Taylor sensed bugs. It’s still not impossible that it could be the case, though no mention was made of it in his Interlude, but the reveal of his true power recontextualized the way his lesser use worked a bit to make it less likely.

Anyway, my point is, if that were the case, he’d be pretty good at telling where people’s outer edges were even when he couldn’t see them.

“If you kill them, this situation becomes something totally different.  They’ll have a vendetta against us, and any friction within their group is going to take second seat to getting revenge.”

That’s a good point.

“I’m not saying I won’t be careful,” Regent sighed.  “I’m saying you’re being picky.”

A section of building floated across the street to land at the midway point between Shatterbird and our targets.

Hm?

That sounds like Rune. But Rune’s in the Pure, not the Chosen, right?

Are we dealing with both groups all of a sudden?

There were nearly twenty of them, and one of them was Rune.  Okay.

Looks like it.

You might’ve accidentally tried to pick on them during, or after, peace negotiations between the E44s.


I nodded.  We’d made our point with the glass shards.  I set my bugs on them once again.

No point in playing fair, really.

True. They don’t deserve that.

One by one, they collapsed, losing their balance and falling, or simply giving way under the pain.  The second one of them went limp on the ground, curling up in the fetal position or trying to cover themselves in their clothes, I let up.  For everyone else, I made the bugs a little more aggressive with every passing moment.

Slowly but surely ramping it up. I like it.

“They’re going to retaliate soon,” Tattletale informed us.

A cloud of mist erupted and began to expand, squashing my bugs.  That meant Fog was here.

Yeah, Fog’s definitely a Pure.

And if he was here, Night would be too.  Night and Fog, Nacht und Nebel.

I suppose Wildbow found this to be a decent occasion to make their names’ origin a bit more explicit.

I remember being informed about this by an ask, back when we first met them. Nacht und Nebel, the Nazi directive to disappear people in the night.

I could sense someone who could have been her, running away from the collection of people.

Trying to get out of sight?


“Rune, Night and Fog so far,” I said.

“That’s two different groups.  Rune could be looking to join the Pure,” Tattletale spoke.

So… I was wrong about Rune being in the Pure, but through getting that wrong, I accidentally predicted the Pure being here before that became clear to those who actually kept their E44 members straight?

…screw it, I’m counting that as a success.

“Purity’s not here or she would have responded already.  You’re not sensing anything that could be Crusader?  Your bugs wouldn’t be able to pass through his astral clones.”

Good to know. That means he can use his clones against the bugs.

“No Crusader.”

I sensed someone my bugs were unable to hurt.  He ran forward through the swarm, the hail of glass and Fog’s cloud.  “Incoming.  Not Night.”

Stormtiger? Except I suppose Taylor would be able to tell his particular brand of immunity to the bugs apart.


Victor.  He was a talent vampire, stealing people’s trained skills, keeping them if he held on to them long enough, and leaving that person temporarily bereft of whatever skill they’d spent their lives learning.

Keeping them!

This is an awesome power on its own but imagine if he teamed up with Über!

Assuming this power works on skills that are gained through Über’s power, Über would be able to feed Victor mastery over a ton of skills, one by one, in their downtime. Victor would then be able to keep all of them at once.

People like him had a tendency to pick up martial arts, parkour, weapons training and other combat skills.  He tended to pair up with Othala, the girl who could grant powers, meaning Victor also had super speed, super strength or invincibility.

Damn, that’s another good combination. Othala can give him powers, and he can steal the skills needed to use those powers effectively.

If he was wounded, she could give him regeneration instead.

But her power demanded that she touch whoever she was using it on, and it limited her to granting one power at a time.  If he had invincibility, it meant he didn’t have super strength, pyrokinesis or any of that.

Right, good point.

There’s also the time limit on it, meaning that if you keep him away from Othala for long enough, he loses the invincibility.


I started tying him up in silk, drawing the lines out with my spiders and carrying them with flying insects.

Ah, right, a tried and true approach to invincible enemies.

He didn’t make it halfway to us before stumbling.  A minute later he was caught.  I began layering it on him, thicker.

Nice work.

Let’s hope he hasn’t stolen some talent from a Houdini-esque stage magician.

…I wonder if there are rogues using their parahuman powers for stage magic. I mean, we’ve had one who used hers for a singing career, so why not?

“Victor down.  Othala’s somewhere, only big problems are Night and Fog.”

Last time they went up against Night and Fog, Angelica wasn’t in a particularly great state afterwards.

Which reminds me, why isn’t Rachel here?


“Okay.  How confident you feeling?”  Tattletale glanced at me.

“I could try my hand at dealing with Night.  Not sure about Fog.”

“Regent?”

What is Alec supposed to do about Fog? He seems like he should be immune to both what Shatters can do and what Regent himself can do, in his fog state.

“That’s cool.”

“Going to see if I can bait them,” I responded.  “You guys get back some.”

“Play safe.”

I suppose it might’ve been more “is it okay if she goes in there”?

Our last run-in with Night and Fog had been ugly.  That had been months ago, and we’d basically lost.  I wasn’t content to simply lose, though.  I’d replayed the scene over and over in my head since it had happened, doubly so since I’d found out Coil’s power.

Oh yeah, since she was told they had lost in the other reality. Or at least had an even more pyrrhic victory.

If he could create alternate timelines and choose the results, and if he’d used his power to save us, what had happened in that other timeline?  Had we died?

I don’t think so, because I was informed that the other timeline was the original version of the chapter before it got replaced. “Still canon in a lot of ways.”

As such, what happened in it needs to be something that could happen at that point in the story and then allow the story to continue. Wildbow may have decided to replace it because he was writing himself into a corner or because it went too dark (I suspect Brian might not have made it out), but I don’t think he would’ve uploaded it in the first place if it completely, obviously broke the story progression.

Point is, that would be a really weird point to kill off the main protagonists as a whole, even if that’s a thing Wildbow might be willing to do at some point. So Brian might’ve died, but I highly doubt they all did.


I hated the idea that I owed my life to Coil, because I hated him.  I hated that he’d turned something I could almost make peace with -being a villain- and he’d turned it into something that I was deeply ashamed of, something that gnawed at me.  He’d used me, and he’d done it to abuse, manipulate and take advantage of a young girl.

I guess this might be the real reason Night and Fog are appearing in this Arc. To give Taylor a reason to think about her past experience with them and the way it interacts with her hatred of Coil, seguing nicely into an exploration of exactly why she hates him.

That irritation had been one more nudge to get me thinking about how I could have handled this.  With every new trick, strategy and technique I came up with, I tended to think about how they could apply to previous encounters, especially those encounters where we hadn’t come out ahead.

Then again, it didn’t last very long. Setting up this entire situation to justify two or three paragraphs of introspection would be kind of overkill unless those paragraphs were really important.

Meanwhile, Taylor is indicating that she’s about to use a technique or strategy she’s learned since Buzz. Hm, what has she learned that would be good against Night…

Hrm.

My bugs gave me a way of tracking Night.  I could sense her change as she escaped the line of sight of both her allies and our group.

That’s not new, so it’s not what she’s thinking of.

I didn’t hurry after her, but I kept my attention turned in her direction as she transformed into that multi-legged, hyper-agile, lightning quick death blender of blades and claws and moved to flank us.

I don’t think we got this much of a description of her monstrous form last time. It sounds pretty cool.


I called Atlas to me.

Time to get a bird’s eye view of her so she can’t sneak behind you?

I would suggest making Atlas keep her in sight, but there’s no reason for that to work any better with Atlas than with the other bugs.

So long as I could see her coming, she wouldn’t be able to maintain that form as she closed the distance.  That didn’t mean her human self was a non-threat.

True, but she’s far less of one.

She was prepared to use any possible method to blind or distract so her opponents would take their eyes off her.  Flashbang grenades, smoke canisters, a cloak that doubled as a net, complete with hooks to catch on costumes and hair.

Ah, right, forgot about that.

Taking flight really ought to help.

Fog was in his cloud form, advancing inexorably towards us.  He had the ability to adopt a gaseous body.  He was capable of making the gas semisolid, even maintaining a crude hold on objects.  If someone happened to breathe him in or swallow that smoke, and he made it solid while it was in their bloodstream, it was capable of doing horrific internal damage.

Ahh, that makes a ton of sense as an explanation for how the internal damage happens.


Shatterbird stopped driving the glass shards at our enemies and began collecting the nearby glass instead.  She formed it into a barrier.  The join wasn’t perfect, and Regent apparently lacked the fine touch the real Shatterbird had, because he didn’t strategically break the glass to make the joints fit better or create smaller pieces to jam in the holes.

You just know Shatterbird is judging him for it.

Fog was slowed, but not stopped entirely.  He seeped through the cracks.

That’s part of the problem with gas people. They’re a bit difficult to block the path of.

Fun fact: I’m actually going to play a D&D character with this ability soon, in a Halloween oneshot my group is planning. He’s a fire elemental, allowing him to squeeze through anywhere as long as there’s one inch of space to pass through. I kinda hope it’ll come in handy at some point.

The high-pitched sound of glass slapping against glass filled the area as Regent patched up the holes by pressing larger pieces of glass over the gaps.  Still imperfect, but it was as good a barrier as we might hope for.

Still sounds like it won’t stop him.

Night had paused.  She’d clearly wanted to use the smoke cover or the distraction of Fog’s approach to attack, but with his approach delayed, she was slowed down as well.

Right, that’s fair. That helps.

I was already prepping my bugs, readying with a response of my own.

I was nervous, I had to admit.  I’d fought against Leviathan, I’d fought the Nine, but Night was never going to be an opponent I could laugh off.

There’s a reason the Weeping Angels are among the scariest antagonists I’ve seen in Doctor Who.


Fog managed to get enough of himself through the glass that he had leverage enough to break it.

“This power is so hard to use,” Regent complained.  “So much to focus on.”

Do you, through Shatterbird, sense each of the glass shards like Taylor does the bugs, but not get the help of her power to handle all that input?

“You’re doing fine.”

“I’m doing fine because she’s helping.  I think.”

I suppose she doesn’t want to get killed by Night either, even as much as she hates being stuck in there. Whether it’s consciously or instinctively.

“Be careful then,” Tattletale said.  “Don’t rely on her power.”

“Kind of hard not to, unless you want to let him approach?”

Would Shatterbird cease assisting at the most critical juncture, getting us all killed?  It would fit.  Unless she was helping only because she didn’t want to die.

Hm, I suppose that kind of suicidal tactic is also possible.

“I’m going,” I told them.  “Hold down the fort, run if you have to.  We’ve basically scored a victory here, it’s just a question of driving it home.”

I climbed on top of Atlas and flew away from my companions.  If my plan failed, I could fly, but Tattletale and Regent couldn’t.

Regent kinda can, but it’s a bit… dangly.

Better that she chase me with the others having a chance to escape than a scenario where I led her straight to them.

Makes sense.


My swarm swamped Night, catching her alien, angular legs with strands of silk.

Lots of legs, only so much silk.  It wasn’t really working.  It might have been doable if I had a sense of how her body moved, or how the legs bent, but any time I looped silk around what I might consider a knee-joint, it turned inside out, the silk dropping to the ground.

…heh, nice.

Irritating.

My bugs weren’t finding anything I could identify as a sensory organ, no eyes or anything of the like.  Nothing that pepper spray would have an effect on.

Interesting. So how do her senses work? Is she blind, like a reverse ostrich? If you can’t see her, she can’t see you?

Or does she just have visual organs that are completely unidentifiable as such to the bugs?

Okay.  Something else.  I held back with the bugs that had the silk lines, rearranging them as I closed the distance.

The second I rounded the corner to spot Night, she was human again.  She pulled her cloak around herself, glancing around until she spotted me.

“Wait, what, who can see me– oh, it’s her.”

I swallowed, backing away slowly while keeping her in plain view.  My bugs gathered, but not to the extent that they blocked my view of her.

Don’t. Blink.


In one fluid motion, she wrapped her cloak around herself and then cast it out so it billowed.  She had a canister in her hand, whipping it in my direction.

Is that going to work as well when the target’s flying?

I caught it in a net of silk strands buoyed by nearly two thousand flying dragonflies, beetles, wasps, hornets and cockroaches.

Hah, neat!

Now get it out of the way before it blows.

Night watched as the canister floated off into the air a distance away.  I readied two more nets, placing them in the air to the right and left.

Now I want to see pony Taylor play buckball. In the unicorn position, but – regardless of whether she has a horn or not – using parasprites to carry the basket instead of telekinesis.


[End of session]


[Reddit post]

u/Bs170699 on r/WritingPrompts:

[WP] Through selective breeding we managed to turn wolves into pugs. For the last 1000 years a secret cult has also been selective breeding, but not with wolves but lizards. Crocodiles, monitors, sneks. The largest and most dangerous, into finally they created their perfect monster… A Dragon.

So this is a cool writing prompt, but here’s the thing:

Worm has made it so that while I was reading this header, I fully expected the second sentence to end with “not with wolves but humans”.

And now I’m morbidly fascinated by that concept.

This is what you’ve done to me, Wildbow. Thank you very much.

(#i can’t really tell how sarcastic I’m being with that last bit)


[reblogging the above post]

Now that I think about it the next morning, I do actually know a series that takes a look at this concept. The humans aren’t quite as deeply and uncannily changed as you’d expect after five thousand years, but it’s a thing.

I wonder if anyone who hasn’t watched the show would be able to guess that I’m talking about Steven Universe.

(#you’d think it’d be something like Black Mirror but nope)


Wait. Didn’t the Nazis actually try selective breeding of humans?

Not for anywhere near as long as the prompt suggests, but I’m pretty sure that was a thing.


So I came across an ongoing conversation about the tabletop RPG setting Eberron and the character Mordain

[Discord]

Beard Cutter is Best:
One of the only other people with 9th level spells who is mortal (well, “mortal”) alive right now is Mordain the Fleshweaver.

PHP:
oh boy
with a name like that you can’t go wrong

Beard Cutter is Best:
You know why owlbears exist?
His undergrad senior thesis.

PHP:
a
amazing

Beard Cutter is Best:
You want to meet him? Go into a lawless land withing Droaam, a part of the “nation” of the Daughters of Sora Kell. Note that they don’t dare take him on or bother him because he’d probably win.
You’ll know you made it to his homeland once you enter the forest of flesh.

PHP:
jesus
his name is apt, then

Beard Cutter is Best:
Make it past and you’ll find his tower.
Pro-tip: don’t use True Seeing
Just enjoy the illusion.
Have you ever seen Naruto?
You know Orochimaru?
He reminds me a little of that guy.
Including the whole “they tried to execute him like a ton of times and he just wouldn’t die” thing.
For more inspiration on his antics, read Franken Fran.

PHP:
jeez

Beard Cutter is Best:
Eberron has a TON of fun stuff
Lots of great villains. From the Warforged magneto-expy the Lord of Blades, to Erandis d’Vol and her Order of the Emerald Claw, to the Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, cults to the Dragon Below, the Daelkyr…

Sneezing Panda Face [me]:
Mordain and a couple of my favorite Worm characters should get together sometime

PHP:
oof
that would be a rough board game night

Sneezing Panda Face [me]:
Hehe
Let’s invite Fran too, for that matter
(I’ve been meaning to read that ever since someone compared one of those Worm faves to her)


[Session 3]

Nap that for once didn’t go on two hours longer than intended? Check.

Delicious pizza safely secured in my stomach? Check.

Let’s read some Worm!


I knew what she would do next, but that was mainly because I hadn’t been able to come up with a good way to deal with it.

That doesn’t sound promising.

I could trust Grue to handle it, but he wasn’t here.  I could use my bugs, with some luck, but even then I wasn’t sure it would have an effect.

Hmm.

I’m not entirely sure what technique Taylor thinks Night is going to use. I don’t remember the details of their last fight that well.

What could she do that Grue could handle if he were here? The obvious one there would be a flashbang, but that’s what Taylor just handled… right? Or was the canister supposed to release some kind of gas? I assumed it was the flashbang, but it didn’t seem to go off once Taylor had caught it, and I don’t believe flashbangs require an impact to go off after you’ve pulled the pin?

She used a flashbang.

Alright. The canister was something else, then.


Night: *throws Mark Dallon down in disgust*

(#> Mark: Level up.)


Close my eyes or stare dead on into the flash, I’d be momentarily blind either way.  I opted for the former, covering my eyes and flying both up and away.

Up, up and awaaay!

But yeah, at least this way it’ll blind her for a slightly shorter duration.

With my swarm sense, I could feel her creating some distance, breaking away and heading for the general direction of the others, moving faster than any car, with far more raw mobility, turning on a dime and easily navigating obstacles.

Huh, interesting. Looks like Night is playing this defensively.

Though it’s worth noting that regrouping includes getting close to Fog, with whom teaming up would make her far more effective.

(Interestingly, the effectiveness of their combination means that however Fog’s senses work in his fog state, they do not count as sight. At the very least, he can’t see the inside of the cloud.)

Even before the flashbang went off, I was turning to follow.

I could tell the others were distracted by Fog.  Even some of the other members of the Chosen were slowly pulling themselves together.

Don’t let her sneak up behind them.

I stepped up the assault with my bugs to make up for the fact that Regent and Shatterbird were otherwise occupied.

That left me to catch Night.  She was taking the long way, favoring alleys and going through the ground floor of buildings, which simultaneously let her maintain her monstrous form while forcing her to take just long enough that I could keep up.  The fastest path between two points was a straight line, so I had that advantage at least.

Nice.

So long as I had eyes on her, I could slow her down, keep her from assaulting my teammates.  If I could catch her in human form, I might be able to bind her, or at least keep those flashbangs webbed to her belt.

The problem isn’t binding her as much as it is keeping her bound. You’d need to either make sure she couldn’t go monstrous while bound, or find a way to bind her that can actually hold the monster form too.


There was the worst case scenario that she’d get close enough to kill someone in the span that a flashbang blinded us-  I wasn’t oblivious to that.

That would really not be ideal.

I was gaining on her, slowly but surely.  My heart pounded in my chest as I sensed her closing the gap between herself and the others, my eyes and my bugs scanning the surroundings so I could calculate the best position.  It wouldn’t matter how close I got to Night if there was a building blocking my view of her.

Night is actually a very interesting enemy for Taylor considering that Taylor can usually fight effectively from a distance – she’s had some enemies she never even saw – but Night’s power forces her to try for line of sight. And that’s in addition to the fact that Taylor’s one of the best perspectives for us to see Night from, due to the swarm sense circumventing the usual inability to witness her monster form.

She stopped.

What’s up, Night? Did something unexpected turn up?

Or, more appropriately, she shifted gears from zig-zagging from one piece of cover to another to running at human speed.

Such as someone who could see her.

Is it just a random civilian, or someone more important to the story?


I caught up a few seconds later, stopping Atlas so we circled directly above her.

She glanced around, looked up at me, then bolted for a restaurant with a tattered canopy over what had been an outdoor patio.

It didn’t sound like Taylor was the one observing Night, but Night appears to think she was. If I’m right, this suggests that whoever did observe her is somewhat hidden.

She disappeared from my sight for an instant, but she didn’t change.

Yep. Someone else is looking, and their position isn’t obvious to Night. Or even Taylor, by the looks of it.

Could there be someone who’s hidden by a power, or is it just a civilian peeping from a window or something like that?

The smoke canisters came out, but my bugs had lagged behind.  Anticipating another rush for my teammates, I piloted Atlas to a position between Night and the others.

Smart. Might as well get the head start if you can.

The smoke spilled out around her, but again, she didn’t change.

Alright. Honestly, I half expected this, even.

So whoever is watching can see through the smoke in some way. It’s not even that they can sense through the smoke – Taylor can do that – they can see through it.

Or maybe they don’t need to. Maybe this person can turn into a small creature of some variety and is actually on Night.


She collapsed to the ground.

Well then.

So… venom?

I suppose it’s possible that Night’s power is just exhausted, but Night didn’t seem to know what was going on.

Wary of a feint, I approached with care.

Imp stood over Night, holding a taser.

Ohhhhh.

Nice work, Imp. This is the kind of thing you’re really good for, your niche on the team! Assassinations and confusion.


“Got her,” she said, “Fuck yes.  You can’t tell me that wasn’t awesome.”

“Good job.  Now don’t take your eyes off her.  She heals back to pristine condition the second you blink.”

Oh right, I forgot about that. That’s really troublesome.

“We take turns blinking?”  She asked.

“Sure.  Blink on five.  One, two, three, four, five…” I said.  I waited until the second count and started blinking on three.

This is good in theory, but sounds difficult to keep up in practice. At least with two people here it’s gonna take more to get them both blinking at once.

We draped Night across Atlas and hurried back toward the others, continuing the count.

Shatterbird had Fog trapped in a box of glass, layers upon layers.

Hah, nice! Contain that fucker!

Every time a puff of smoke escaped, a layering of glass shards covered the gap.  My allies were all standing, and our enemies were soundly defeated.

Good job, guys! You’ve come a long way since Buzz.

After a quick exchange to ensure we were sharing the duties of watching Night, I freed myself to check the scene with my eyes, rather than my swarm-sense.

Looks like we’re slipping out of line-by-line narration here, to save some time on the wrap-up of this attack.

But what are we fast-forwarding to?


Rune was kneeling, bleeding from shallow cuts across her face, chest, ribs, stomach and thighs.  She was using her power on a scarf to bind the wounds tight.

Interrogation?

Othala was standing off to one side, hurt as well.  Victor was bound.

None of them were meeting our gaze.  We’d won to the extent that it was embarrassing to them.

Fuck yes.

You don’t mess with the Undersiders anymore.


Right now I’m pretty much just waiting for the other shoe to drop. This would be a strange feel to end the chapter on, especially with it getting drawn out a bit.


“You’re in our territory,” Tattletale told them.  “Get out.”

“You’ve taken this whole fucking city as your territory,” Rune retorted, scowling.

Yes, exactly.

“Your point being?” Regent asked.

“Where are we supposed to go?”

Somewhere else.

“Leave the city, retard.”  Imp said.

“You can’t just take the whole city.”

I didn’t feel like Imp and Regent were giving the impression of strength.  I spoke before they could.  “We already have.  We fought the Nine and played a pretty big part in taking out more than half of them.”  I pointed at Shatterbird, “Case in point.  You took advantage of that to try to claim some territory for yourselves.  Not only is that awfully pathetic, but you proved yourselves hypocrites, doing exactly what Hookwolf accused us of doing.”

That they did! Verbal salt on the wounds, here.

“We staked out our claim.  It’s our right.”

“Your right?  On what grounds?  Strength?  We have you beat there.  Did you earn it?  No.  I think my team has you beat on both points.”

“We’ve got a destiny to manifest.”

“Now,” Tattletale stepped forward, “Here’s the thing.  We can’t let you get away with this unscathed.  So we’re taxing you.”

Ooh, what’s Lisa’s idea of a fitting tax here?


“Tax?”  Othala asked.

“Tax.  Imp and I are going to step into the basement of that building over there,” Tattletale pointed, “And relieve you of every valuable we can carry.”

How can you be sure there are val– oh, right.

“You assholes!” Rune growled.  She started to stand, then fell to the ground, hard.  Imp had pushed her.  I tried to hide my own surprise at the girl’s sudden appearance.

Hehe.

The others looked somewhat intimidated as well.

“But that’s not enough, is it?  So there’s another tax.  We’re borrowing one of your teammates.”

Oooh, now this is the kind of interesting shit I was looking forward to.

So would this teammate be getting controlled by Regent, or are they expecting whichever one it’d be (Night, perhaps? Or… who would be most helpful against Coil?) to cooperate willingly?

The Chosen weren’t the only ones who looked shocked at the declaration.  I snapped my head around to look at Regent.  There was no surprise there.

I suppose Lisa might’ve planned this with him ahead of time. That, or he’s just too used to this kind of thing.

Fuck them.  They’d planned this, and they hadn’t told me.

Uh oh. Let’s keep the internal tension low, please.


…that was the ending line? Dammit.

That both frustrates me because I wanted to know which member they were borrowing, and worries me because it suggests that this point of tension is important. Lisa, what are you up to?


End of Colony 15.2

Well, that went well.

This chapter is very much a foil to the Undersiders’ previous encounter with Night and Fog and their teammates, clearly meant to emphasize how much they’ve grown. How much more powerful the Undersiders are now. It does this fairly well, with the Chosen being soundly defeated now that the Undersiders really know what they’re doing and have a few more resources available. Notably, Shatterbird and Imp were important for finishing this.

The chapter did feel a bit odd at the end. I guess I’m just not used to this kind of decisive victory, after three and a half Arcs of dealing with the Nine, but also, the final stretch really just had me thinking “alright, so they won… what next, when does the other shoe drop?”

And it turns out that the other shoe was the fact that Lisa and Alec didn’t tell Taylor about a part of their plans. That’s worrying, because secrecy and tension internally are two of the last things the Undersiders need if they’re going to take on Coil.

Next chapter, we’ll probably skip ahead to the Undersiders doing something with whichever member they’re borrowing alongside them. I suppose now that the Chosen are dealt with, the next item on the list might be… uh… yeah, no, I don’t know. The cards are pretty close to the Undersiders’ chests right now.

Maybe I’ll have some better speculations, on that and on whom they’re borrowing, by the start of the next chapter.

So yeah! See you then!

One thought on “Colony 15.2: The Chosen Targets

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