Colony 15.3: Talk It Out

Source material: Worm, Colony 15.3

Originally blogged: October 26-27, 2018


Wheretoefojefioj.

Yes, that sounds like a good, coherent way to start an intro post.

So, what are we in for today, besides finding out which of the Chosen the Undersiders have, well, chosen? Hmm… We’re probably going to be taking a moment to discuss why Lisa and Alec didn’t tell Taylor about their plan (whether it’s between the characters or just in Taylor’s narration). Maybe we’ll also get some more cracks in the group.

That seems to be the progression we’re going to see in this Arc. We started off with a chapter where the Undersiders seemed more whole than ever. Even Rachel and Taylor got along. Then we had an Interlude about a family breaking, and a chapter where a) Alec and Aisha pointed out the gap between the main trio and the, uh, background Undersiders, b) the same pair went on to joke about the “Othersiders” and the team splitting up, and c) the chapter ended on a note of dishonesty between teammates. Everything points to an increasing amount of fissures between the Undersiders as this Arc goes along. Little things that add up, mostly.

Oddly enough, I could see Rachel being the only one on Taylor’s side at some point. Now wouldn’t that be quite the inversion from what we’re used to.

I don’t think this is going to be permanent. The question is just how far it’s going to go before they manage to pull things together, and how long that’s going to take.

They’ve only got a few weeks if they want to get it together in time to take on Coil.

(…well, this is clearly a post I need to review in the Arc Thoughts. I hope I remember to do that.)

So yeah, without further ado, let’s take a look at what this chapter has to offer!


“To use a cliché, you can do this the easy way or the hard way,” Tattletale said, a light smile on her face.

I assume she’s talking to whichever Chosen they’ve chosen, telling them to choose whether they want to cooperate willingly or get Regented.

So this line is my last chance to guess who it is. Hmmm.

It’s not Fog. His power wouldn’t work well with Regent’s, and he could escape Regent’s torturous assimilation process pretty easily.

Night would be an interesting one, because we’d get an indication of how that body feels to control when she’s out of sight. But Night is one of the Pure, not the Chosen, which is also another point against Fog too.

Othala? Othala’s power is incredibly good, especially with Grue on the team as well. Yeah, I think that would be the most useful to the Undersiders overall. I think I’ll go with her.

Othala, is that you?

“Fuck you,” Othala snarled.

Booyeah!


Tattletale hadn’t told me. I could understand if Regent didn’t inform me that they were hoping to enslave someone else, but I counted Tattletale among my few real friends.

Ah, yeah, here’s that thing about Taylor being less okay with doing this [here] to a Nazi than to Sophia.

The issue of information flow is still at the forefront, but this does carry the implication that she doesn’t like the enslavement too.

I had something of a sore spot when it came to being betrayed by friends.

Ouch.

…and yet, it took her four Arcs to decide not to betray the Undersiders.

They’d planned to do this at some point today, and I hadn’t been filled in. Was that accidental? We’d exchanged so many calls, I could almost believe that I’d been forgotten, or that everyone had assumed someone else would be the one to fill me in.

I appreciate that Taylor takes the time to consider this genuine possibility.

It’s entirely possible, but if that is what happened rather than the two of them deciding that asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission (when it comes to Taylor, they may have been wrong about that), then Taylor’s likely to draw the wrong conclusion or at least continue to agonize over it.

Except I really don’t think that’s what’s going on. Everyone looked shocked, apparently including Aisha. Taylor isn’t alone in not being informed here.

Well, unless she had forgotten about Aisha right then. I started making that point before remembering that Brian and Rachel weren’t there at the time.


But I couldn’t shake the other possibility. They could have left me in the dark because they knew I’d object. And now that I was filled in on this plan, I couldn’t object without making the group look weak. Tattletale would know that.

Yeah… Lisa’s a friend, but she can also be quite manipulative.

She would know I wouldn’t screw us over, even with my objections, and this next part of the plan would go ahead whether or not I agreed or not.

Biting my tongue, I walked around until I stood at the very back of the scene, where I could see Night as well as everyone else that was present.

Nice, that’s a good wide angle perspective for us to be able to see everyone’s reactions.

“Victor,” Tattletale said. “You’re the tax payment, so to speak. Your call.”

Oh! So I was accidentally right about Othala being the person who was about to speak, but wrong about her being the chosen Chosen. Fair enough.

And I suppose “the easy way or the hard way” was more about the classic “come with us voluntarily or we’ll take you by force” than the more Regent-specific variant of that.


Victor’s eyes narrowed.

Victor has an interesting power that I think would very much come in handy. There are a lot of non-power skills they might need to take down Coil, and guess what Victor has? Skills!

I like how his power, which is very similar to Über’s, was introduced in a chapter that also made fun of Leet.

Ooh – this also ties in with Taylor’s desire for a tinker. Victor isn’t a tinker, but he may very well have sucked one or two dry of the talents that come as side effects of their power.

To clarify with Taylor as an example: I don’t think Victor would be able to take Taylor’s sensing and control of bugs from her. That’s her power. But he might be able to take her talent for multitasking, which is in a gray area between power and regular ability. Though… it specified learned skills, didn’t it. Hmm.

In any case, tinkers are likely to have a lot of learned skills related to their field, and Victor has probably taken some of those. Also, a big part of why Taylor wanted a tinker was their versatility, and Victor sure has that.

Whether all of this means that this whole thing is a direct result of Taylor’s concerns regarding tinkers or not is up in the air (though that would raise the question of when Lisa and Alec talked this over, if Taylor is right that they did), but in any case it’s a very appropriate red thread.

And hey, you know what else this ties in with? Aisha’s unwillingness to work with the Nazis. That’s the clincher for the thing I was considering a couple posts back: I don’t think Aisha knew about this. She would almost certainly not be okay with it, unless she saw it as a punishment for Victor.

I kinda love how this situation ties into everything the group was chatting about on the way here even though it, on the surface, has nothing to do with most of it.


“Consider it an opportunity. You’re bound to pick up something you can use, talent-wise.”

Sure! Let’s drain Coil of his chessmastery, for example.

Wait, does that count as a talent or just as intelligence?

“I won’t betray my team.”

Well, not willingly at least.

But hey, maybe you don’t have to? They never said they were going to use you against your own team. Being temporarily allied with the Undersiders isn’t necessarily a betrayal.

Regent chuckled, not raising his eyes from Night. “Not really getting a choice.”

“The PRT trains its squads in resisting and reacting to master-category attacks. I’ve picked up some things,” Victor’s chin raised a fraction.

Huh, neat.

Didn’t help Sophia, but neat.

I like how he seems kinda fake-humble about his skills. “Oh, I know a thing or two about that.”

Victor had a kind of easy arrogance to him. It wasn’t just the arrogance of someone who thought they were better than everyone around them. It was the arrogance of someone who’d been born and raised thinking they were better, only to have that confidence reinforced and enhanced over the course of their lives.

So Chloé Bourgeois, then.

Watch out for butterflies, guys.

…hey, did I ever compare the way trigger events work in Worm to the way Hawkmoth empowers people in Miraculous Ladybug? Because if not, how the hell did it take me this long to realize that what happens to people in ML is basically a lite version of trigger events, with the Dandelions replaced by a supervillain?

(#Miraculous Ladybug #i need to catch up on that)


Even bound by the spider silk, he managed to carry the demeanor of a prince from one of the monarchies of old, transported to the modern era.

So far this guy sounds like a mixture of Prince Blueblood from MLP and Chloé from ML (not P). So now I’m imagining Prince Blueblood with Chloé’s hair and… hang on.

It’s not even a big change. Well, saves me that editing job.

He had the look, too: a cleft chin, close-cropped hair that had been bleached to a platinum blond and a stare that managed to look simultaneously condescending and angry. He would beangry, obviously, but I’d seen him in situations where he wasn’t trussed up and lying on the ground, and he’d looked the same then.

Fuck, Victor even looks the part!

His costume reinforced the image of someone between eras, with a simple black-painted breastplate with a sharp stylized ‘v’ around the neck, a blood-red shirt and black slacks.

I like how he, as a member of Hookwolf’s gang, also has the “between eras” thing going on. Hookwolf the warlord, Victor the prince.


The color scheme extended to Othala, who wore something decidedly more traditional as superhero costumes went. Her bodysuit was skintight and tomato red, with a single icon in the center. Like the swastika, it featured a circle with a black border and white center, and a rune in black. It wasn’t a swastika, though, but a diamond with two legs extending from the bottom point, each turning up at the bottom.

*looks up the futhark on Wikipedia*

That would be the rune for O:

Which is called Odal or Othala. Nice use of the symbol she’s named after in her costume.

That’s the only part of this costume I like so far, though. The tomato red fits her allegiance but it’s such a jarring color.

She’d taken to wearing an eyepatch with the same icon on it in white. Her hair covered enough of that side of her face that it wasn’t obvious.

Okay, I can’t argue with an eyepatch. Eyepatches are just cool, especially when there are neat symbols on them. She’s hiding it, though, which is a shame.

(Why yes, I am actively ignoring the fact that the only cool parts of her costume involve her appropriating my people’s history as a Nazi symbol.)


Looking at the Wikipedia page for the rune Othala, the name of the rune and the roots of that name have a bunch of meanings that fit Nazi ideals. No wonder she picked that one in particular.


She couldn’t heal herself, of course. She granted powers to others.

To heal herself, she’d have to go through Grue.

There would be no other reason for her to be kneeling in the water, bleeding from a hundred papercut-thin lacerations.

Rune, for her part, wasn’t much older than Imp. Her long blond hair streamed out of a pointed hood, and runes lined the edges of a long, dark blue cloak.

The cloak reminds me of one of my D&D characters, and the Wheel of Time character she’s based on.

Neither is a Nazi.

…though I could actually see both of them being fairly easily converted if sufficiently convinced that Jews and other people the Nazis didn’t like were a threat to the safety of the world.

(They wouldn’t be the type to follow blindly. They’re very much the type that takes charge and expects to be obeyed.)

(#for any wot fans wondering i’m talking about moiraine)


“I’m kind of hoping you’re right,” Regent shrugged, “Nobody’s ever resisted before. I could learn a lot.”

“Oh, that’d be interesting.”

Tattletale asked, “Seriously, are you going to cooperate?”

“No,” Victor replied. He rolled onto his back and set his head down so he was staring up at the sky.

“Fine. Imp?”

“Who’s Imp?”

I turned and saw Tattletale pointing toward Othala.

What?

…is Imp going to threaten Othala to get Victor to cooperate?

I suppose Lisa could know about some deeper relation between them than just teammates whose powers work well together.

Imp was there, behind the villainess. Imp planted one foot between Othala’s shoulders and kicked the girl face first into the street

“Hey!” Victor shouted. “Don’t touch her!”

Yeah, looks like he’s invested here.


“Anything we do to you or Rune, you’ll always know in the back of your mind that Othala could heal it,” Tattletale said. “But anything we do to her…”

Ohh. That’s a good point.

And that’s why we just had Taylor narrating about that restriction on Othala’s power.

…speaking of restrictions, there seem to be some limits on what powers Othala can give people. For instance, she can give people regeneration, but not the ability to heal others. Maybe it’s that she can only bestow powers that target the wielder?

Imp took that as a cue, kicking Othala in the gut.

Ow.

“Your issue is with me!”

Tattletale was as calm as he was angry. “You’re surprisingly upset. You’d think you’d be used to seeing your teammate taking some lumps in the course of your supervillain careers. You two are involved, aren’t you? Makes sense, given how closely you’ve worked together.”

Yeah, it’s not surprising.

“You don’t know the littlest thing about where we come from,” Victor snarled.

And you don’t know who you’re talking to.

Still, this implies we’re going to eventually learn some interesting backstory. I’m down with that.

“I’m figuring it out. Give me a second. Judging by what you’re saying, there’s a loss in there somewhere. Group like yours, bound to be pretty insular. Making friends with similar beliefs, dating people with similar beliefs.

Friends with benefits, you say?

Wait, no. She didn’t say that. I misread “beliefs”. Fuck, now my joke doesn’t work at all.

Did your daddy give you some strong encouragement to date this little lady?”

Um.

Okay?


Victor looked away, his lips twisting into an expression I couldn’t interpret. He shook his head.

“Not quite, huh? It wasn’t your dad. You were on your own, a lost soul recruited by a big, proud family. Proved yourself, and you were told you’d earn a proper place in Kaiser’s Empire if you married in, so to speak.

…I see. So does that mean Othala held an important position, then? Hell, maybe even a blood relation? Is she Theo’s sister?

Not an arranged marriage in the strictest sense, but the idea was that you’d date one of the lieutenant’s girls and marry eventually. Except it wasn’t her you were supposed to date. Her sister?”

Alright, so not a blood relation to Kaiser, I think, but to one of his higher-ups.

Lieutenant is the position Purity got when she came back, right? (I’m not saying Othala is Purity’s (elder) daughter – she’s definitely not – I’m just making sure I’ve got the right idea of where lieutenants were on the rank ladder.)

“Cousin,” Victor spat the word, “I’m getting tired of hearing you fumble your way to answers. It was her cousin.”

Sure, this’ll go a lot smoother if you help out, thanks.


“There we go. Something happened to the cousin. So you two got paired together instead. And you two work so well together, it’s a kind of kismet. Only there’s a little heartbreak on both sides.”

On both sides? Is there someone Othala wants to be with, but can’t because she’s promised to Victor?

This is your plan?” Victor sneered. “Hate to break it to you, but we’ve talked this shit out. It’s called communication. You won’t be revealing any big secrets to break us up.”

Honestly, I think she’s just curious.

Communication, huh. You should tell the Travelers a thing or two about that.

“No. You two are totally honest with each other. Kudos. Thing is, you’re just not very honest with yourselves. You know why you’re getting so angry at Othala getting hurt? You’re really quite insecure in your attachment to her.”

Oh, is she matchmaking? Trying to get them to realize that they have grown to genuinely care for each other?

“Oh god, this is lame.” The water rippled as Victor let his head drop down to rest on the flooded street.

I love how done he sounds.


“You’re playing up your own anger because you’re afraid that if you don’t make yourself care, you won’t care at all.”

Ahh.

That’s.

Kind of relatable? Except not quite?

“Okay, sure.”

“You tell yourself you’re growing to love her, but you’re a very good liar, Victor, and you’re very good at lying to yourself.

So the opposite of what I said.

You know that, so you’ve found yourself wondering if maybe the feelings you have for Othala are just the head games you’ve been playing with yourself.”

Or not.

This part’s definitely relatable.


“Easily possible. But there’s two other possibilities. It could be that I’m not lying to myself. Let’s not forget that. Another possibility is that it really is just me lying to myself, but that lie will become truth over time. People all over this city feign confidence, and that becomes something concrete. You can become the mask you wear on a day-to-day basis.”

Does that sound familiar, Taylor?

Something about that bothered me. I spoke for the first time since Tattletale had declared her intentions. “Seems kind of hollow.”

“Because it’s not a fairytale romance? It’s not. But I’ll tell you I enjoy her company, I trust her, I respect her, and I’m even attracted to her. We’ve got a foundation, bug girl. There’s nothing forcing us to stay together anymore. Empire Eighty-Eight is gone. We’re a pair because we want to be. Right, O?”

That’s a good point.

Also, I like the nickname O for Othala, because it’s not just the first letter of her name. It is, in a sense, what her name means too.

…let’s also take a moment to appreciate that Lisa has turned this whole gang battle situation into a romance discussion. To get at Victor’s insecurities, but still.


“Right,” Othala’s voice was quiet. She’d pulled herself up onto her hands and knees. She glared up at Imp, then looked down.

She doesn’t sound too enthusiastic, but to be fair, she’s recently been mass shanked and then kicked in the face and the gut in relatively quick succession. She’s probably not feeling too good right now.

Tattletale stepped forward, “Or because your names and faces are known to the public, and instead of being part of your group by choice, you’re part of the group because nobody else will have you?”

Oh yeah, that’s still a thing. It hasn’t been relevant since Buzz, and even then it was largely just a motivating factor, so I didn’t really think much of it.

Anyway, it’d be kinda cool if Lisa managed to manipulate them so that even though they’re officially only taking Victor as the tax, Othala came along and helped too.

Victor laughed a little. “Somehow I expected better from you, Tattletale. This is pretty feeble. Attacking our relationship? We’re strong enough, and no matter what you try to pull, you won’t change the fact that we have what it takes.”

“Sure. But I don’t have to. Your relationship is doomed. You don’t have that same lovesick, infatuated feeling for Othala that you had for her cousin. The chance for that moment has passed. And it’ll eat away at you. You’ll crave that kind of feeling, and feel like you missed out on something by throwing yourself into a relationship out of duty rather than love.

Yeeah, duty relationships aren’t great, most of the time.

You’ll cheat because you’re searching for that and because it’s easy for you to get women. You’re good-looking, and you have access to all the little tricks, how to approach them, how to win them over.

You just know he’s stolen some sex skills at some point, too.

And Othala over there, she’s still head over heels for you. It’ll kill her when you betray her.”

And by saying all this in front of her, she’s planted the seed of doubt in Othala too, one that would last for decades if she buried it deep enough. “Is he cheating on me yet?”


The smile slipped from Victor’s face. “You’re not saying all this to fuck with me. You’re fucking with her.”

He’s a sharp one.

I glanced at Othala, who was staring down at the ground.

“Why?” he asked. “Why do this?”

“What other options do we have, if we want to pressure you? You’re invincible for at least a little while longer, but even without that, if we beat and tortured you, I think we’d come out behind, just by virtue of how far we’d have to go before we got past whatever interrogation resistance techniques you’ve stolen. Wouldn’t be much different if we beat and tortured Othala. We’d piss you off, but I don’t think we’d break you. So at the very least, this is a more civilized route of attack.”

Fair enough.

“You don’t need my agreement, and I’m not about to give it. Not betraying my teammates.”

He’s right. Why are they doing this? Are they that intent on making him a semi-willing subject?

I suppose it might be like with Alec mocking Shatterbird, that they’re trying to break him to make him easier to control?


“Your agreement would make all of this a lot easier. Don’t play dumb and say we don’t need it. You and I both know you’re a master of martial arts that you could use if we cut your legs free. Capoeira, I imagine. There’s certainly others you could draw on, and I’d bet you’ve blended all those styles together. You’d kick our faces in, maybe distract us long enough for Night to bounce back.”

Provided Regent doesn’t take control first, anyway.

Victor smirked.

“Regent and Skitter would stop you without a problem, but that’s a lose-lose situation. You and your buddies end up dead or seriously injured, and we don’t get to borrow your talents. But you’d do it, to deny us what we want and because you hate it when someone else comes out on top.”

Like a true dickprince.

“And what makes you think you’re going to change my mind?”

“The fact that that was just a sampler. I’m just getting started. We’re not in any particular rush, so we can sit here until I’ve completely fucked up your group. I’ll find every little chink and weak link there is and leverage them until you break,” Tattletale shrugged.

[El Goonish Shive comic snippet]

Magus: Because you can’t hurt me, I never sleep or run out of breath, and I have nothing better to do than follow you around and incessantly babble about anything and everything.

(beat panel as Sirleck considers)

Sirleck: I will listen.
Magus: To my plan or incessant babbling.

Sirleck: Your plan, so both.

“You think on that while we go take our pick of your stuff. There’s bound to be some juicy clues in your living space. Imp, come on.”

Are you leaving the perspective Taylor back here?

I guess it’s time for an intermission from the Tattletaling, during which Taylor and Alec can talk without Lisa and Aisha. Refreshments will be sold in the back.


Tattletale and Imp headed off to collect the spoils. I settled down, silently fuming, keeping one eye on Night.

Silence lingered for a good minute.

“You can cheat,” Othala said.

Ooh.

They’re using that spell Victor mentioned. The communiwhatsit.

I bet this was half the reason Lisa left.

“Not now, O.”

“We open up the relationship. You do what you need to, just promise that if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you come back.”

Poly is absolutely a valid solution here.

I spoke up, “Not sure if it’s really true, given who you’re associating with, but don’t you deserve better than that?”

The way Othala described it doesn’t quite sound like a healthy poly relationship, though. Then again, I’m no expert on those.

Mostly it sounds like a concession. “Just keep me in mind, okay?”

“Shut your mouth-hole, heeb,” Othala snarled. “Butt out.”

It’s Hebert, actually.


I felt my heart skip a beat at the ‘heeb’. She knew my last name?

No. Heeb was short for Hebrew, not Hebert.

Ah, makes sense.

Yeah, I didn’t really think it was because of her last name, but the thought did occur to me. :p

…also, I might have been internally mispronouncing Hebert. I’m not entirely sure now, but I think I’ve been thinking “HAY-bert”. Or maybe “HEH-bert”. Possibly both.

I’m not Jewish, I thought. How had she come to that conclusion? I could believe someone would make an assumption like that if they’d seen my skin tone and hair, but my costume covered my skin.

It’s because you’re opposing her.

I’d spent some time wearing a mask that did show some skin, after Bonesaw had cut up my good mask, but Othala hadn’t been there for any of those incidents.

Oh right, that’s what happened to her mask!


I had ideas about what that could mean, but I kept my mouth shut.

Ah, fuck, looks like Taylor’s right, and right to be giving this deeper thought. This is relevant somehow.

So… how would Othala end up drawing this conclusion? Hrm.

Has someone been taking pictures of Spiderman Skitter that Othala would end up seeing somehow?

Maybe the Chosen have been spying on her in her territory? Except Taylor would probably sense them with the bugs, unless they used someone who already belonged there…?

If it’s not because of the skin color…

Yeah, no, I’m sorry, I’m stumped. I guess I’ll have to wait for Taylor to explain it to me.


“Don’t stress about it,” Victor said. “She’s trying to get to you.”

“No shit,” Regent muttered.

“I’m just thinking if we can find a solution to this, then I can be more confident we’ll find solutions to the other stuff.”

I do actually like the relationship these two have. The focus on communication endears me to it a lot.

Hell, I like them too, aside from the whole Nazi thing. Especially Victor, since I don’t know Othala very well yet.

Victor shook his head. “Just relax. There’s no rush. Any problem Tattletale brings up, every issue, it’s something we can work through. If you get panicked, if she starts making you think that whatever she’s talking about is suddenly a crisis and it has to be addressed right now, you’re playing into her hands. She’ll use that to make you say or do something you’ll regret. So take-”

It might be a little too late, Victor.

“Regent, keep an eye on Night?” I spoke, interrupting.

I would recommend two.

Four is much more ideal, though. Leaving Night to one person is a bad idea. This better be worth it, Taylor.


“Sure.”

…it just occurred to me that Regent does have four eyes to keep on Night.

Victor stared at me as I approached. I held out one hand and let a spider drop from each fingertip, dangling from threads.

What’s this? An incentive to shut up and let Lisa’s words sink in?

“The hell?” He squirmed in an attempt to get away, but his arms and legs didn’t afford him much room to move. I slowed their descent enough that he could see the spiders clearly. Black, orblike abdomens, stamped with a red hourglass marking. If it wasn’t for my wanting to do this to make it clear what spiders they were, I would have just used the spiders I’d employed to wrap him in silk.

That’s the black widow, right?

I wanted the drama and to make it absolutely clear what I was doing.

I moved my hand and let the spiders swing a little to the left to make sure they were in place and let them settle on his face.

Hey, Victor, you’ve got something on your face.


“Hush,” I told him. “Now close your eyes. You don’t want to startle them or they’ll bite.”

Why have him close his eyes when you can use his gaze as another safeguard on Night?

One of his eyes fluttered in a reflexive action as the spider touched his eyelash. He growled “You psycho,” scowling, before shutting his eyes.

Ah. That’s why.

Hey, at least they’re over the eyelids. You’re lucky.

I moved more spiders into positions on his lips.

Curve them up at the ends, give him a goofy face on top of his regular one!


“Careful,” I said. “I’m focusing on watching Night, so I’m not really bothering to suppress their instincts. Don’t move.”

Yeah, that’s an outright fabrication. She could absolutely do those things at once if she wanted to.

I looked at Rune and Othala, “You two be quiet, too. I can handle you the same way.”

I can’t decide if this is an example of why Taylor should be a school teacher or why she really, really shouldn’t.

Othala only stared, while Rune offered a slow nod.

It took five more minutes for Imp and Tattletale to come back, each loaded down with bags. Given the variety of labels, I guessed the bags contained things looted from stores downtown. Imp put down a spray can, and set to spraying the glass cube Shatterbird had imprisoned Fog in. Filling in the gaps, cementing it together.

Nice.


“I’d step back, Skitter,” Tattletale said. “His power works by proximity, among other things. Physical contact, eye contact and active use of a skill lets him leech them off you.

Oh, huh. So if he’s just close to you, he’s gotta do the thing to leech your skill, but he can also do it without using the skill if he’s either touching you or looking in your eyes?

The stronger the contact with each transfer point, the more transfer points he’s maintaining, the faster the drain.

Ah. So if he’s touching you, looking in your eyes and doing the thing at the same time, he’ll drain it much more quickly.

He could suck away something essential, or make you just a little bitworse at everything you do.”

“Hey, I’m really good at walking now. Oh, and you’re not.”

This power could be interesting translated to a D&D spell…

Leech ability
7th-level enchantment
Casting time: 1 action
Components: S
Range: 5 ft.
Duration: 1 hour, concentration.

Make a melee spell attack against a creature within your reach. On a hit, you temporarily reduce any combination of the target’s ability scores by a total amount of 4, to a minimum of 1. Your own scores in the same abilities temporarily increase by the same amounts, to a maximum of 20. If either limit is reached, no more points can be drained from that ability.

If you maintain concentration on the spell for its full duration, it becomes permanent. This may only be done once per caster.

When cast with a higher-level spell slot, the total amount of points you can leech increases by 2 per level above 7th: 6 at 8th level, and 8 at 9th level.


It’s past midnight, and I just spent way too much time on turning that power into a spell, suggesting certain effects of sleepiness are kicking in. I think it’s time to call it a night. See you tomorrow!

[End of session]


I kinda wonder how Wildbow would use the power Tyki Mikk from D.gray-man has.

He has the power to be very selective about what’s solid to him (as well as to what he’s wearing or holding). Most notably, that means he can do things like reach into your chest and grab your heart, pulling it out without damaging your skin.

[D.gray-man manga snippet]

Allen: !!!
Tyki: Don’t worry, you won’t feel any pain.

Tyki: My body can pass through anything…
Tyki: Except for what I want to touch.

Tyki: So let’s say that perhaps, while I’m pulling out my hand…
Tyki: I think to myself that I want to touch your heart, boy.

(Though in Worm, that particular use of the power might be prevented by the Manton effect, to whatever extent the effect is actually a thing.)

He can cause liquids and gases to be solid for himself, too, to the point of being able to walk on water or even in the air (by only making the air below him solid).

And finally, he can “reject” things, pushing them away from himself or others – once, he rejected the atmosphere around an opponent, creating a vacuum to suffocate him in. (I think this would count as a separate power in Worm.)

It’s a very cool power. It’d be interesting to have something like that in Worm, just to see what Wildbow would do with it. The heart grabbing is already a very Worm-like move, if you ignore the Manton effect, but I’m sure Wildbow would come up with some other really creative uses.


[Session 2]

Alright, let’s see if we can’t break this asshole.

(#i like him but he’s still an asshole by default because of his allegiance
#same goes for purity
#wildbow is good at making likable assholes)


I just realized that to “break this asshole” sounds like a very unpleasant and somewhat lewd thing to be aiming to do.


I stepped away, silent.

“So, have you made a decision?” Tattletale asked Victor.  “Because I’m all geared up to carry on with the discussion here.”

I wonder how many juicy details she picked up in there.

Victor didn’t respond.  Couldn’t.

Oh right. I’d say you should probably inform Lisa about that, but I’m pretty sure one look at Victor’s face would tell her everything she needs to know about that.

Tattletale turned to look my way, and I met her eyes.  I left the bugs in place.

Taylor seems to be getting a little passive-aggressive here, presumably because of the whole “didn’t tell me” thing.

“Could you please move the spiders?”  She asked.

“Of course.”  I dismissed them, but I didn’t break eye contact.

Look, Taylor, I’ve got negative six degrees Celsius outside right now. I like the cold, but it’s frosty enough.


She was the first to look away, turning her attention to Victor.  “Well, Victor?”

He looked over at Othala, then stared up at Tattletale.  He managed to look confident despite being bound and lying in the floodwater.  After a long moment, he said, “I’m undecided.”

…well, sounds like progress, at least.

“That’s a step forward,” she said.

“Maybe you could provide me some incentive?”

He needs to win on some level if he’s going to make a concession, I thought.

Tying in with the whole “if someone else comes out ahead” thing from earlier. Nice.

Regent shrugged.  “I could keep you for seventy-two hours, if you don’t cooperate, or thirty-six if you do.”

I… suppose that’s an incentive.

Victor turned to look at Regent.  “That’ll do.”

Good enough, apparently.


“Can you cut him free?”

I had my spiders start severing the threads.

“You leave the others alone,” Victor said.

Sure.

That does include not cutting them free, right? 😉

“Skitter will keep an eye on them until we’re a safe distance away, and then she’ll give them the signal that it’s okay to move,” Tattletale said.

I nodded.  I didn’t agree, but I would play along for the sake of the group’s image, and because I wasn’t willing to sabotage a plan in progress, even if I didn’t agree with it.

That’s a good thing. Doing that would really create tension in the group.

I brought Atlas to me and was in the air a few seconds later.

Between Imp and I, there was a pretty slim chance that we’d both blink at the same time and leave Night free to use her power.

True, but don’t take too many chances.


When Tattletale and Regent were out of my range, I turned to leave.  Night didn’t turn into a monster, but I took that to be a result of her being unconscious.  Or maybe the taser’s effects.  Either way, I wasn’t complaining.

Interesting.

Sounds like it might help her when she wants to go to sleep. Just get someone to watch over her until she’s asleep, and she won’t turn into a monster until she wakes up the next morning.

Then again, there’s a difference between sleeping and being unconscious, and I’m pretty sure being unconscious for as long as Night has been by now really isn’t healthy.

It gave me more of a head start.  When the Chosen were at the limits of my power’s range, I drew words in the air to let them know it was safe to move.

Green light!

I caught up with the others a short distance away from Regent’s headquarters.  Victor was being loaded into a van, hooded and heavily shackled.  Another truck was parked a short distance away.

Having fun, Victor?


The moment the door was shut, I stabbed one finger in Tattletale’s direction, “What the fuck was that?”

Ah, here we go. Confrontation time.

“Woah,” Regent said, “Relax.”

“I’m not going to ‘relax’.  You two deliberately left me in the dark, there.  Or it was an exceedingly stupid oversight to forget to mention it, and I know Tattletale isn’t stupid.”

I like how she leaves Regent out of the last bit.

“It was only sort of deliberate.  Regent didn’t have any part in that.”

“Explain,” I told her.

“I didn’t realize you had such an issue with Regent using his power until you brought it up before.  I could have mentioned our secondary goal then, but I was worried that would start something.  Or that it would discombobulate you before we got into a thing with the Chosen.”

Ahh. That would still be a bit late, though.

“As opposed to finding it out right after.”

“I’m sorry.  Again, I really underestimated how much you’d care.”

I don’t think it’s that she really cares about here. Sure, she’s not exactly comfortable with Regent’s power, but that’s not what riles her up in this situation so much as the fact that she wasn’t told about this.


“I was okay with Shadow Stalker because she’s a legit psychopath, and sure, there was some personal bias in there.  Whatever.  I’m also cool with Shatterbird because I don’t think there’s a shred of humanity in there.  This is different.”

I appreciate that she acknowledges the personal bias, even if she dismisses it as irrelevant.

“See, that’s what throws me,” Tattletale said.  “I don’t see that big a difference between Victor and Shadow Stalker.”

“I’ve spent more than enough time around Shadow Stalker to feel confident in making the call.  I haven’t spent any time around Victor.  I didn’t know if he’s a psychopath, if he’s just deluded, or if he’s being forced into what he’s doing.”

Fair enough.

I wonder if Lisa’s power told her some things about that?

“I could have filled you in.”

If you’d told Taylor about your plan, sure.

“You’re right,” I said, “You could have.  That’s all I wanted.  I just wanted you to ask.”

She frowned.

“And, of course, now we’re locked into this thing, and I can’t help but wonder if I can trust you in the future.”

Coming right out with it. Looks like Victor and Othala aren’t alone in trying this “communication” thing in this chapter.

Even if this is a bit harsher.


“That’s rich,” Regent said, “Coming from you.”

Pfft.

I shook my head.  “I’ve played along.”

“Bullshit.  You’ve demanded concessions and compromises from us every step along the way.”

He’s right.

“And I’ve made concessions and compromises.  I accepted it when you revealed your real power, I agreed we should capture Shadow Stalker for the one job.”

“Let’s call a duck a duck.  You agreed to capturing Shadow Stalker because you wanted revenge.”

What if I want to call a duck “ei and”?

I shook my head.  “No.  Remember when I first brought up the bullying?  I was pretty clear about how I didn’t want any of that.”

Oh yeah, that’s a good point.

Except that was in part because the Harpies were, despite being menaces, powerless. Defenseless.

Then you learned Sophia wasn’t.

“You said it, but that’s a long ways away from meaning it.”

“I say what I mean.”

Do you, Taylor? Do you really?

Sometimes I’m not sure you know what you mean.


“Says the most dishonest members of the group,” he retorted.  Before I could reply, he raised both hands, as if to ward me off.  “Not really intending to get on your case, not accusing or insulting you.  Just saying: the whole undercover operative thing, I don’t think you have much ground to stand on.”

He has a point.

I looked away.  “I’m not proud of that.”

“Sure.  That’s fine.  But let’s be honest about all this.  You spent a whole lot of time saying one thing while doing another.  I think we all rolled with that pretty damn well.  Even went the extra mile on some occasions.  Well, Rachel excepted, but yeah.  Are you saying you can’t return the favor?”

“If we’re talking mind control-”

I want to guess the next line: “Body control.”

“No,” Tattletale cut in.  “We’re not.  We’ve already established a precedent when it comes to using Regent’s powers on the legitimately fucked up.  And I already knew Victor fit that label.  Your issue is with my neglecting to fill you in.

Alright, I was wrong. But I bet Alec still wanted to say it.

And yeah, good on Lisa for bringing us back to the true core of this.

I’m willing to admit I was wrong.  It was a bad call on my part, to leave you in the dark.  It’s your call if you want to accept that apology and move on.”

What apology?

You’re admitting fault here, which is good, but you’re not apologizing.


“And how often can this happen before I can say we’re taking it too far?  Regent’s power is going to get us in trouble, one way or another.  If our enemies decide that the threat of being mind-controlled is too big, and band together against us, it might be creating more of a disadvantage than an advantage.”

That’s a fair point, one that’s been raised before. It’s worth noting that she’s no longer pointing to moral issues with this, too, but rather tactical ones.

“It’s body-control, not mind-control,” Regent said.  “I don’t touch the grey matter.”

Hah, I knew that was bothering him.

Also, the way he’s phrasing it here reminds me of Amy. I wonder if he could go after the nerves in the brain if he wanted to?

“Semantics.  My point stands.”

“Then let me raise my own point,” he said.  “What am I supposed to do, if I’m not using my power?  The whole bit with tripping people up, knocking them down, making them drop shit?  It’s not exactly grade A material as superpowers go.”

More useful than it sounds (I remember someone describing it as the power to “make you make mistakes” in an ask about how the power is underrated, way back when I first learned of it), but fair point.


“I’m saying we discuss it as a group before enslaving someone.”

“And if there’s a window of opportunity?” he asked.  “A chance to capture someone on the fly?  Do we just let it slip by because you want to host a debate?”

I mean, it takes you some time to be able to control them anyway. Capture first, decide whether or not to control them later, perhaps?

“No,” I sighed.  “You could capture the person in question, we hold them for long enough to talk it over, then we let them go if it isn’t appropriate.”

Yes, exactly what I was thinking.

He shrugged.  “Which doesn’t do a damn thing to ease people’s suspicions if everyone’s watching their friends, seeing if anyone’s dropped off the map long enough to have been captured and converted.  I’ve been there.  Maybe not on this scale, but I’ve seen it happen, the paranoia.”

Hmm. I guess.

“Right.  And your little plan here has started that ball rolling.  Whatever we do from here on out, people are going to be spooked enough that they’ll see the mind controlled where they don’t exist.”

Bonesaw didn’t help, either. After the miasma, I suspect a lot of people are going to be afraid of anything that might make them lose control of themselves and their actions.

Same would go for Cherish if she’d actually done much to earn the public’s awareness.


“Fear is good,” Tattletale said.

Until people get sick of hiding from you and try to get rid of you instead. You know, like you just did to the Nine.

“Paranoia isn’t.  If our enemies are backed into a corner, they might do something stupid.  You yourself said how Victor was willing to attack us if we cut him free, even if it put himself and his teammates in grave danger.  And he’s not dumb.”

“He’s not brilliant either,” Regent said.  “Just saying, but having a power that gives you brains doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart.”

…suddenly I’m reminded of Matrim Cauthon from The Wheel of Time.

Victor has probably drained a bunch of tactical skills and the like, which would presumbably be what Alec is talking about here. Mat, on his side, has a head filled with the memories of historical generals, remembering battles and such that he was never a part of. That gives him a knack for battle plans, evaluating the defensibility of structures, directing armies, and so on.

But I don’t think any of the 2782 named characters in the entire series would ever accuse Mat of being smart.

[I realized some time after writing this that I’d accidentally included Mat himself in the character count, but I also concluded that doing that wasn’t actually a mistake.]

Tattletale gave him an annoyed look, then turned to me.  “I can understand your frustration.  You feel like we just set ourselves back on a city-wide scale for a relatively minor gain.”

I shrugged, “Pretty much.”

“Except our enemies are already banding together to attack us.  Having Regent as a target doesn’t change anything except taking the focus off of more important members of the team,” she said.

…fair enough.

Also, is the implication that Alec is a less important member of the team a revenge jab for the comment about brainsy powers and smartness? :p

(I did catch that it could also apply to Lisa, but forgot to mention it because of the Wheel of Time tangent.)

“I see what you did there.  A little quid pro quo,” Regent muttered.

Hehe.


Tattletale stuck out her tongue at him, then turned back to me, “And people are going to be scared to take him out if it means releasing Shatterbird.  Picture yourself in their shoes.  It’s not a comfortable position to be in if you’re itching to retaliate.”

Oooh, that’s a really good point.

I’m still not convinced she’s not going to get loose at some very inconvenient point anyway, but for now she can act as a deterrent.

“It’s not a comfortable position to be in anyways, even with him on the team,” I said, glancing over at Shatterbird.  Not that we hadn’t taken countermeasures, but… yeah.

Ah, yeah, looks like Taylor is on the same page.

Though honestly, the repeated acknowledgements of the risk kind of reduce my certainty that it’s going to happen.

…not by much.


Tattletale looked as well.  “But the main thing I was getting at is that we’re working towards something here.  We got Victor.  Bully for us.  But you’re probably wondering why.”

Plan exposition! Yes please.

It’ll be nice to have a little more to base my speculations on.

“Just a little.”

“Remember our attack on the PRT headquarters?  We walked away with data.  Data Coil and his best people couldn’t crack.”

Oh! So they want Victor to crack it?

I nodded.

“I think Victor could pull it off.”

“Okay.  Still not convinced.”

“Hear me out.  I told Coil that, and that got his attention.  I had something of an idea that Victor, Rune and Othala were looking to leave the Chosen, so I floated the idea to Coil that he could make them an offer.”

Ahh, all three of them were meeting with Night and Fog to discuss them joining the Pure, I see.

So do you actually intend for Coil to hire Victor?

Ooh, maybe you’re going to have Regent pretend to be an uncontrolled Victor, so you can get one of Regent’s bodies on the inside for some time? Except there’s no good reason why Coil would allow a new recruit more inside than he does Regent himself.

“I’m not so sure I’m a big fan of that idea.”

“I don’t think they’ll accept.  But if they do, I think it’ll work out for us anyways.  But I’m getting off topic.  The important thing isn’t recruiting them, but letting them know in a roundabout way that we’re involved with Coil and Coil’s involved with us.”

Ah, I see. And this helps how?

By causing other groups to start targeting Coil more?

I nodded.  Outing Coil and his relationship to our takeover, maybe possibly.  There were advantages to that.  It would divert attention from us and maybe distract him.

“Point three.  Just a theory, but what if Grue could borrow Victor’s power and get some permanent boosts?”

Hm, might work. Hell, what if you steal skills from Victor?

I do suspect that it’d be a lot slower to get permanent boosts for Grue than it is for Victor.


“Just as an idea?  It’s interesting.  You brought this up with him?”

“No.  Imp said he was resting when I called to ask.  I figure it can’t hurt.”

I nodded.

“So we’re getting the data, we’re possibly outing Coil, and we’re putting a skill vampire in a situation where he’s surrounded with some very skilled people.  Like a kid in a candy shop, I doubt he’ll be able to keep from drooling.  Coil won’t let Victor get in situation where he can pick up anything special unless he agrees to join, that’s obvious enough.

Makes sense.

Except I’ve talked to Minor, Senegal, Pritt and Jaw, and they’re willing to give him a little something in the way of exclusive skills he wouldn’t otherwise have access to, in exchange for a few small favors.”

Taking one for the team!

They would have a bunch of soldier (and medic; useful for helping Othala) skills that would probably be quite tasty, yeah.

“Like?”

“Like getting a read on Coil’s talents and skills, perhaps.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m thinking Victor could tell us what Coil’s day job used to be.  Enough of a starting point that I can dig up more details.  Know your enemy.  And with a guy that versatile, I can think of several ways he could be useful.”

This story has always put an emphasis on knowing your enemy. As a bonus, Coil backstory. Which hole did this snake slither out of?


“Okay,” I said.

“Okay?”  She asked.

“Okay.  Yeah.  I wish we could have talked about this before, but I’m willing to accept that we’ve been through a hell of a lot, and you’ve put up with a lot of demands from me.  If you think this is a good idea, if you’re certain about this, I can accept that.”

tumblr_inline_ph9t06eHqz1sxgvvn_500.png

She nodded once, “Thank you.”

“And me?” Regent asked.  “No ‘I have faith in your judgement’?”

I… don’t think she does.

“I really don’t,” I admitted.

Ahaha


“Pshh.  After everything I’ve done for you.”

“Hm?”

“Nevermind,” he said, chuckling.  “I’m going to catch a ride to Coil’s and handle this next bit.  Wonder how long he’ll hold out.”

Hehe. I think he was just kidding there, Taylor.

Alright, have a nice trip!

“I’ll come too,” Tattletale said.  “I want to see how this plays out.”

“If you don’t need me, I’m thinking I’m going to head back,” I said.  “Take care of my people.”

Colony time, huh?

Tattletale nodded and gave me a short wave as she climbed into the back of the second truck.

I wasn’t thrilled, but I could deal.  I felt relieved to have a window of time to do what I needed to do.  It wouldn’t be relaxation, but more moving on to the next point on my priority list, handling the stuff that absolutely positively needed to be handled.

If “stuff that absolutely positively needs to be handled” is priority number two, how many adverbs were there for priority number one?

Making sure my dad was protected from Coil was a big one, making sure my people were both protected and equipped to protect themselves from the Chosen was another.  I needed to get my equipment in order, and the costumes finished, make sure I touched base with Bitch so our recent good relationship didn’t fall apart, and maintain the lines of communication with Tattletale and Coil so I was up to date on upcoming events.

Ah, I suppose “stuff that absolutely positively needs to be handled” is just the entire priority list.

I appreciate that she’s got “maintain friendship with Rachel” in there. I wonder if she’ll succeed at that.


“Do me a favor?”  Someone asked from behind me.

Hm? Hello?

This sounds like Lisa. Did she not leave yet?

Except Taylor should recognize Lisa’s voice by now… Alec, through Shatterbird?

I spun around, drawing my knife.  It was just Imp.  Damn it.

Ah, right.

I forgot she was here too.

I love how often that happens to me, honestly. It’s really good for immersion.

“What?” I asked.  “Where’d you come from?”

“I stayed behind to keep an eye on Night.  Winking instead of blinking so I didn’t lose sight of her.  And you don’t even remember that I was doing it.  Fuck.  Ungrateful bastards.

Hah. That’s a nice solution to the blinking issue, too.

So this explains why Night didn’t turn back into a monster, then.

I had to run the last block so I could be sure you didn’t fly off before I could ask.”

“You could have phoned.”

So what is this favor you have in mind? Something to do with Brian? Or maybe Victor and his Nazi-ness?

She shook her head.  “You heard what Tattletale said.  Coil might be listening in over the phones.  We don’t mention anything we wouldn’t want him to overhear.”

“And you don’t want him to overhear this favor?” I asked, hating myself even as I opened my mouth.

Fair enough.


How was I supposed to get a handle on everything if I was posed with two more crises every time I got something done?

That’s… an odd point to end this chapter on. And an odd line in itself, with the “favor” apparently counting as a crisis.

But yeah, I suppose that means that whatever this favor is, it’s going to keep Taylor away from her territory a bit longer. Maybe this Arc is called Colony because she’s kept away from it and then she has to deal with the territory getting wiped off the face of the Earth somehow? But that sounds like a retread of the territory subplot we had while the Nine were here, just in a different order, so I don’t think Wildbow would do that right now.


I suspect one of those crises is eventually going to be fissures in the team, even if Taylor and Lisa did at least superficially talk out one of those fissures in this chapter.


End of Colony 15.3

The Pure and the Chosen have, since before they became the Pure and the Chosen, had a bunch of characters I didn’t particularly have any reason to care about. This chapter helped to flesh out two of the Chosen’s quite a bit.

I like Victor and Othala. They’re a Nazi dickprince and a Nazi dickprincess, but they have a very interesting and somewhat commendable relationship, and Victor’s personality, aside from the whole Nazi thing, is… entertaining. It was fun to see him react to Lisa’s manipulation.

(I still don’t care about Rune, and Night and Fog are really just their movesets in battle so far. I suppose they might have their time later.)

Communication was very much a theme in the chapter, between Taylor being irritated that Lisa hadn’t communicated her plan to Taylor, Victor and Othala’s relationship being built on it, and good, honest communication helping to mend the rift between Taylor and Lisa towards the end. I like that.

So, what’s up next chapter?

Well, Aisha’s got a favor to ask of Taylor. I have roughly zero clue what it is. It’s something she personally needs Taylor to do, something Coil shouldn’t know about, and probably something that will keep Taylor away from her territory.

It’s probably not checking on her family using the bugs. She can do that herself, and better. Besides, Coil knowing about that would probably not hurt.

Maybe it has to do with Victor, in some way? She’s not too keen on working with the Nazis, and even if she did help Lisa make a point about hurting Othala, well, Taylor helped out back there too. And Aisha would be inclined to want to hurt Othala anyway. Maybe Aisha wants Taylor to do something about this?

Then again, she might not see it as working with the Nazis so much as taking a captive.

Thus far, this Arc has a nasty habit of leaving me stumped. I suppose I’ll have to find out next time. See you then!


[postscript]

I kinda accidentally timed this session nicely: The music compilation video I put on around the beginning of the session ended while I was making the #next post at the end.

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2 thoughts on “Colony 15.3: Talk It Out

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