Interlude 16a: Goblins Gonna Gobble

Source material: Worm, Interlude 16a

Blogged: March 27-30, 2019


Interlude 16 (Donation Bonus)

Oh, huh, an Interlude.

Y’know, I kinda had this gut feeling that there might be one here. My feelings on being right about that are… mildly conflicted for reasons I’ll have to elaborate on at a later date. It’s nothing negative about the story structure, though.

That’s for later, though. Right now, I have an Interlude to enjoy!

Who are we checking in on today? Let’s see…

Local options relevant to the current Arc:

  • Dragon: Had one.
  • Defiant: Had one, unless the change from Armsmaster to Defiant is significant enough for Wildbow to consider him a new character. I really don’t think it is.
  • Jirector Jemily Piggot: Had one.
  • Miss Militia: Had one.
  • Triumph: Had one.
  • Assault: Hmm. His feelings surrounding Battery’s death could be worth a look, and he was the biggest proponent for going on the offensive like this before Dragon swooped in and made it actually feasible. Sure, Assault might be a good candidate. Although Battery’s Interlude dealt with a lot of the backstory stuff for him that Interludes tend to do for their POV character.
  • Wards: Most of them have had Interludes, even though they weren’t labeled as such. I think they count against the “each character only gets one” rule. The one notable exception is Chariot, who could use some further fleshing out and definitely has secrets that we’ve been reminded of recently. An Interlude from his perspective would be good for confirming whether he’s actually in the Wards on Coil’s orders, or if I’m right about him actually being there for Cauldron. Or someone else, who knows, maybe the C in the encrypted email address stood for “curveball”. Also it’d be neat to see how noticeable the “known spy” treatment actually is to him, whether he realizes that’s why the Protectorate and Wards are more distant towards him or otherwise. I do want a Chariot Interlude – I’m just not sure this is the time to have one.
  • Travelers: Surely we’re getting one at some point? But this time I’m mainly including this one for completion’s sake. And hey, if it’s Ballistic or Genesis, it can further the overall Arc plot by showing us where they are if the Protectorate don’t have them.
  • Undersiders: All of them have had Interludes except Taylor, and I highly doubt we’re getting a Taylor Interlude. Ever. (Though I did semi-seriously suggest something like that at the end of Parasite.)
  • Charlotte: It’s unlikely, but she could be used to show how things are going on the Bugwalk while Skitter’s been chased off by Dragon.

Less immediately relevant options that come to mind:

  • Eidolon: I do suspect we’ll have one from him relatively soon, just to wrap up the Triumvirate series. He knows stuff about Cauldron’s long-term plans, which could either be a reason for him to get an Interlude or a reason to hold off on it.
  • The Doctor: It’s incredibly unlikely that we’re getting anything from her POV anytime soon. Her goals are still too mysterious for that, and will probably remain so for a while.
  • Contessa: Possibly even less likely than the Doctor, if there’s some truth to the idea that she’s the one who’s actually in charge.
  • Doormaker: Only on this list because of associations. I don’t expect to get one from him, ever.
  • The Doctor: Can the TARDIS visit the Wormverse?
  • Krixwell: An Interlude from my perspective would be a strange thing for me to read, but who knows.
  • Faultline: Coddammit, when I try to throw in something reasonable that isn’t Cauldron-related, the first character to come to mind is the leader of the group that first introduced us to Cauldron…
  • Greg or Sparky: There.
  • Mr. Gladly: Okay, now I’m basically just listing random names, let’s move on.

Okay, so I think the strongest contenders for today’s Interlude are Assault and Chariot. There’s also the possibility of a new character, like perhaps one of Piggot’s subordinates.

Let’s jump in and see what we’ve got!


February 2nd, 2001

Hmm. That date sounds familiar.

Was that when Case 01 happened? No, I think that was in 2000, and later in the year.

Maybe we’re looking at an Endbringer situation, like an early Leviathan or Simurgh attack? Not the first Leviathan attack, certainly – you guys wouldn’t have been allowed to tell me where that happened if we were going to see it – but maybe this date was when Kyushu or Newfoundland happened…?

I think Newfoundland was later, though…

*checks 8.3*

Ah, right. Kyushu was 1999, Newfoundland was 2005.

Okay, I give up, let’s try searching my blog for 2001. …no results. Okay.

So what happened February 2nd, 2001?

The helicopter’s rotors stirred up billowing clouds of dust and debris as it landed.

Probably not an Endbringer situation, unless it hasn’t started yet.

If it were one, the dust and debris wouldn’t be worth mentioning by comparison.

Evan leaned forward from the chopper’s passenger seat, hitting the button for the intercom.

Evan. Evan, Evan, Evan… Do we know an Evan? I don’t think so. I speculated on this Interlude going to an Ethan, but Ethan is not Evan. Presumably.

The interior of the helicopter buzzed with his voice, “Check!”

“Knight to D6.”

“Clear!” Lady shouted. Pyne echoed her.

Evan… Lady… Pyne… bunch of new names.

Unless Lady is short for Lady Photon, in which case Evan may be one of the members of the Brockton Bay Brigade?

“Gun up!” He told them. He followed his own instructions, unstrapping himself from his seat and collecting his machine gun.

This sounds like a group of military soldiers arriving at a battlefield.

But where? The Wormverse seems to have had some more wars than our world in the last thirty years.

Bird one landed, over,” the radio buzzed.

He pressed the button, “Squad two here. We just touched ground, over.”

Waiting on a response from three, over.

Definitely military or similar.

“Give me a few minutes and I’ll be in the air with Pyne for supporting fire,” the pilot said.

Is Pyne a cape or piloting another vehicle?

Or both? Can’t rule out vehicle tinkers.

Evan nodded. “Wish us luck.”

“Luck.”

He opened the door separating the cockpit from the chopper’s midsection. Four uniforms had been seated in the corners, and were now unbuckled and double-checking their guns and ammo, outfitting themselves with the additional gear that had been tied together and strapped down in the center of the chopper. Tieu and Coldiron carried the grenade launchers and ammunition:

There’s this strange mix of names that look like codenames/nicknames or cape names, and names that could be either that or odd regular names.

Tieu? Pyne?

grenades, flashbangs, incendiary and smoke. Holler and Shane were the guys big enough to haul the extra guns and the packs with ammo clips and supplies.

Pfft, a character named Holler shows up only five chapters after the one I titled “Divide and Holler”.

Pyne and Lady were still kneeling behind the turrets that looked out over either side of the vehicle. The pilot would be manning the guns for the front. The pilot, Pyne and Lady were the only ones certified to use the containment foam, the latest addition to the arsenal of the Parahuman Response Teams.

Ohhh! Sure, I’m down for a look at life for mundane PRT soldiers!

Ooh, I wonder if Evan is that one PRT soldier who kept getting teleported to the worst spots last chapter.

So, who are they up against?

Their entry hadn’t been quiet, and he’d expected at least one of the vehicles would see some sign of trouble quickly after they landed. Maybe it would be the terrified populace of Ellisburg, maybe their target would show up right away.

Ellisburg… Name sounds familiar. I’ve probably heard of the place at some point, though I don’t think it was in Worm.

Could this target of theirs have anything to do with the Nine or the Travelers, perhaps? Though this is a bit early for it to actually be the Travelers, unless they got started really early, and the Nine probably don’t exist as a team yet. We know at least one member of the Nine was active at this point, but the team was founded around Bonesaw, and she’s about a year old here, if that much.

He hadn’t quite expected this. It was empty, a ghost town. Rain, rain and more rain, not a light on in the small town, not a single soul to be seen.

Hm. Ominous. Something the target’s power does?

…another option for the target: The Simurgh. Except I think they’d have seen her by now, especially arriving airborne themselves.

Besides, this is a really small place for the Simurgh to target.

“Here’s the lowdown,” he spoke to his squad.

Yes please. *stands to attention*

Hearing his own voice was reassuring – the only other noise was the drum of rain on the roof of the helicopter and the sound of ammunition clips snapping into place.

There seems to be a fair bit of focus on the rain, but I doubt we’re dealing with Leviathan here.

“We have him pegged as a high level Changer. Who can tell me the standard protocol for dealing with a Changer classification?”

Hmm. Someone we know?

Well, for one thing, that containment foam ought to come in handy if used right. Changers are especially liable to get out of many other forms of containment. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the containment foam hasn’t been added to the standard protocol yet, especially with only some soldiers being authorized to use it.

“Formation is top priority, trust nothing and nobody, passwords, hit hard and obliterate,” Holler said, his voice characteristically quiet.

Pfft. Ironic nicknames, I like it.

This sounds like a solid protocol. I suspect every part of it is going to go to hell in whatever situation they’ll be facing.

“And for a Changer that’s off the charts?” Evan asked.

I wonder if Cauldron is responsible for this one.

There was a pause as his squad tried to recall if this had come up in training.

“Formation is number one priority, trust nothing and nobody, passwords, hit hard, obliterate… and pray?” Lady asked.

Ahaha, I think I like Lady.

The others all chuckled, some more nervously than others.

“Lady’s not wrong,” he admitted, “We’ve been able to piece together who he is. We got security camera footage from the early stages of the incident, just last week, and we found his face. One of the top geeks from the Protectorate then found other cases of his face around the city and found a name. Jamie Rinke.”

I don’t think I’m supposed to recognize the name.

Sounds like an ice-skating mailman.

I wonder if that “top geek” is Dragon. This is in line with how she found Taylor’s identity.

His briefing was interrupted as the pilot buzzed them over the intercom, “Chopper three just landed, cap. You’re clear to move out.

“Can we get a picture of the guy?” Tieu asked.

Might not help if he’s a Changer?

Depends on the specifics.

“No point. After his first appearance, he started changing his costume for each job, as well as adjusting his body size, body shape and apparent powers.”

Eidolon? …wait, no, that’s not right, Eidolon was around long before this.

Are you sure it’s one person, and not multiple?

“His powers change?”

The captain nodded. “Off the charts, I told you. We’ve got him down as a tentative changer-seven, trump-four. The geek was able to dig up some background.

Trump was one of those older classifications that are now deprecated, right? Was that what Hatchet Face was? Except I don’t recall any time that would’ve come up.

Maybe it’s a subcategory of Changer that rates you by how orange you can turn your face.

Thanks to his accounting info, credit card statements, phone bills and emails, we know he worked as a banker, made more money than any two of us sorry losers put together. But he was a loner, no family, no friends, never went out unless it was for the Christmas party at work, and he tended to leave early.”

At least he went to the Christmas party. Otherwise he’d be remarkably like Ebenezer Scrooge pre-haunting.

“So what happened?”

“Got downsized. Stayed at home for something like three weeks, then the bills started rolling in and he realized he wouldn’t be able to pay them all. He sent out job applications, dozens by email, but he didn’t have the references. Faced homelessness, a disruption of his boring, lonely life. We think that was his point-zero.”

Point-zero sounds like an older name for trigger events. Sounds like a decent, if less descriptive, way to refer to the concept.

“His trigger event,” Lady answered.

Oh, apparently that’s also in use.

He nodded confirmation. “Followed by a crime spree. Span of a few days, quaint little Ellisburg disappears from the grid, communications and power cut, no cars or people getting out.

And apparently no people staying in either.

Maybe he’s not so much a Changer as a body-jumper? As in, snatches bodies but discards the old ones in the process. Having secondary powers follows along with him but those powers are personalized to the bodies he snatches…

Guys upstairs sent some heroes in, we got a brief report before they defaulted to radio silence. Report doesn’t tell us anything except they think the whole crime spree was all the one guy.”

Sounds like things went badly for them.

“And we don’t know how he operates?” Tieu asked.

The captain shook his head. “They sent in cameras, cameras got taken out before they got an image. So they’re doing the sensible thing. They’re sending us.”

…right. The heroes didn’t make it, so sending you is sensible

I mean, sure, at least the soldiers have numbers and weaponry on their side, but I feel like there may be some “we’re better than the parahumans” in this statement.

“Great,” Coldiron said, his voice thick with sarcasm.

Coldiron recognizes the other potential meaning, I think: That Evan is suggesting the suits think they’re more expendable.

“We’re not alone out there, so be careful about where you’re shooting. This place’s got a population of about five thousand.

Supposedly. Maybe they’re all hiding indoors?

Sort of town that has only the one movie theater. But whatever this bastard Rinke is doing, we think he’s operating from somewhere near the middle of the area. Three helicopters in the air, three squads of six, and a team from Toronto’s Protectorate division backing us up.

*lives in a town with only one movie theater*

Toronto. That’d explain Tieu’s seemingly French (nick)name.

We move in a spiral pattern to close in on the center of this podunk town, see if we can’t squeeze him out of hiding, and we maintain radio contact with the other squads at all times so everyone knows what’s going on.”

Also possible: All of the 5000 people in town are Rinke, wrapped up in a hivemind like a supercharged Regent. Including the heroes that went here previously.

The problem with that concept is the “supercharged Regent” part. It’d kinda cheapen both of them to have this guy’s power just be Regent’s but stronger. I suppose I’d have Rinke’s hivemind variant affect the mind rather than the body, but like Taylor would say, that’s largely semantics.

It could work, though.

Lady had started pulling on her pack, with others watching out the tinted window around the turret. She buckled it on and then gripped the hose-sprayer. The display on the nozzle would be showing her the amount of foam remaining, as well as the settings for spray volume and distribution. She gave him a thumbs-up.

Neat.

He gave her the smallest of nods. “Let’s move out.” He raised his radio to his mouth, “Squad two moving out. Where’s our capes? Over.”

Ooh, they do have capes along too? Anyone we know?

Capes are with squad three, over.”

“Pass on word if they break rank. I really don’t want to shoot a friendly, over.”

Will do, over.

He hit the button, and the side of the helicopter folded up. Moisture from the rain dotted the flat expanse of his helmet.

I briefly misinterpreted the line about the helicopter door and pictured Evan hitting a button on the outside of the helicopter and the entire helicopter folding itself up. A collapsible helicopter, for easy carrying when you don’t need to fly in it.

He was point, Holler and Tieu covered the right and left flanks, Shane and Coldiron covering their rear. Lady stood in the middle of the group, ready to lay supporting fire where it was needed. Their gun-mounted flashlights were the only light outside of the scant amount that filtered through the clouds.

I’ve already mentioned several reasons why I don’t think it’s the case, and the backstory gave some more reasons, but clouds like that could probably hide the Simurgh from below. Just, hypothetically.

The streets were empty. Cars had been abandoned where they were, doors left open, windows broken. There was no blood, no bodies, no clothing strewn about. Here and there, things had been knocked over, but that was all.

Interesting.

I do like my hivemind hypothesis, despite my skepticism on the idea of a supercharged Regent. If anyone can make that work anyway, it’s probably Wildbow.

Nobody evacuated?” Tieu asked.

“No,” the captain replied. He wiped the water from his helmet with the crook of his elbow.

If that hypothesis is right, or even just close to right, it’s also not unlikely that parts of the squad will be taken control of at some point. And with that in mind, suddenly “I really don’t want to shoot a friendly, over.” sounds like foreshadowing.

“Then where’d they all go?”

“I suspect we’ll find out.”

They passed a store with a grinning deer on the logo: a ‘Mister Buck’ store. Signs proudly proclaimed that everything inside was a dollar.

Heh, nice pun with the logo.

It was the kind of cheap carry-everything store that appealed to the lowest common denominator, but in a town this small it was the centerpiece of the ‘downtown’ area.

Y’know, this town is much more… familiar territory to me, in a sense, than Brockton Bay. I’ve discussed before how I keep forgetting how coddamn tall Brockton Bay is because skyscrapers are so alien to me.

And now that we’re actually in a town of a size I’m more used to, the narration feels kinda condescending towards it. Should I be vaguely offended? 😛

(I’m ascribing that more to the character of Evan than to Wildbow, by the way.)

The front window had been shattered, and various gardening implements were scattered around the interior, out of place; hoes, shovels, pitchforks. Improvised weapons?

Might easily become that if the townspeople decide to attack you.

“Holler, anything thermal?”

The gardening tools possibly set out as improvised weapons also seem kinda reminiscent of a zombie apocalypse, but I highly doubt that’s literally what’s going on. Although perhaps the squad should watch out for biting townspeople. Maybe that’s how Rinke spreads his hivemind, if that’s at all a thing.

“It’s cold. Rain isn’t helping, but I’m not seeing anything except you guys. Not even a smudge in the darkness”

Damn. So the townspeople probably aren’t hiding nearby, ready to attack.

They moved on, guns trained in every direction, eyes scanning the area for their target. They passed a clothing store, where the window had been broken, the contents of one rack strewn out in the street, plastered to the road with the rain.

Evan picked up the radio, “Squad two here. Anything out there, boys? Anything at all? Over.”

“Nothing at one, over.”

“Ditto from three, one of my squad just said they’re not seeing any critters. No birds, rodents or strays. Over.”

Huh. No life at all?

No animals, no people.

“We’re taking a short detour,” Evan informed his squad. He pointed with his gun, “This way.”

Hm?

His squad took cover beneath a bus shelter that was attached to a nearby storefront. The panes of plexiglass had been broken, but the overhang offered respite from the rain. He adjusted his flashlight to increase the light output and pointed it straight down at the ground.

Do you have some theory on what’s going on?

“Sir?”

“One minute. Keep your eyes peeled.”

Are you looking for bugs?

Long seconds passed. He changed the settings on his flashlight back to normal.

“What was that about?”

“No bugs. Dark night like this, you’d think there’d be a moth or some mosquitoes gathering around the light.”

Bingo.

“Captain,” Holler spoke up. “Something on the thermals. Dim.”

Ooh…

They turned to face the same direction as Holler.

“Coming around the corner,” Holler spoke.

“Lights off,” Evan hissed the order, clicking off his flashlight.

She’ll be coming round the corner when she comes… 🎵

(That song used to give me headaches on a regular basis.)

In a second, the gun-mounted flashlights of his squad members flicked off. The shape that moved down the street was reduced to a dark blur, a shifting bulk of gray-black against a background of pitch black.

You might have found your target, but who knows.

Rinke? As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could make out a figure dressed in a jester’s motley, two contrasting colors predominating, blue-orange or purple-yellow.

…huh. Not an outfit I’d expect to see here.

(I think Circus is too young for this to be her.)

The mask a patchwork cloth that covered his face, with only two dark holes for his eyes. But most daunting of all was the man’s size. He was obese, bloated, ten feet tall and nearly as wide, advancing at a glacial pace as he lurched down the middle of the street.

Hmmm…

*pulls up MS Paint*

Rinkemax

Behold! Baymie Rinkemax!

Baymax isn’t quite as big – he’s just below 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide – but the proportions here still reminded me of him. 😛

His arms were drawn behind his back by the weight of the sack and the cloth he carried.

Oh, it’s Santa.

Fuck, that was a joke, but his trigger event was probably related to loss of material wealth and we had the deer logo earlier and this chapter was posted at the end of November and… it’s genuinely possible that a Santa motif is involved here. The only thing that doesn’t fit is, y’know, everything we know about his power. And the lack of any life other than Santa Baymax over here.

He raised his radio, clicked it on. In a low voice, he spoke, “Got eyes on Rinke. He doesn’t see us. Move in to our location to support and keep the radio quiet. Over.”

…and like, a santa hat can be misinterpreted as a jester hat in the dark…

Except Evan seems fairly confident in his night vision.

Y’know, I kinda hate this santa theory, can we please debunk it quickly so I can stop having to acknowledge it?

There was a confirming buzz as the man on the other end turned the radio on but didn’t speak. That would be squad one. Three buzzes marked squad three’s response.

Makes sense.

“Strategy?” Tieu whispered the question.

“Wait for the other squads. Foam him, burn him to ash with an incendiary.”

Right, that’s the thing about the protocol from earlier I forgot to talk about: There’s no capturing involved here. No trial, no Birdcage. The Birdcage was probably not around yet, for that matter. Is it just because he’s a highly-rated Changer and thus a large flight risk, or did they treat every especially dangerous villain this way?

“We’re not going to interrogate him? Find out what happened to the people here?” Tieu asked.

Thank you.

“No,” Holler was barely audible. “He’s got no heat. The reading came from the bag. Not warm enough to be alive, but whatever’s in there’s just warm that it was probably living up until a few minutes ago.”

Wait, what? Rinke doesn’t have any body heat? That sounds like an odd side effect of a power.

I mean, to be fair, I could see that being the case for Hookwolf, a fellow Changer, but it’s an oddball either way.

Every eye in the squad turned to the large patchwork sack that the bloated thing hauled behind it.

“Not worth the risk to interrogate,” Evan murmured to his squad. “We foam him, which shouldn’t be hard with how slow he’s moving, then we burn him because that’s protocol for dealing with Changers.

There’s no way it’s going to be that easy.

He may be moving slowly now

We’ll do it quickly and without hesitation because he’s got a Trump rating as well. Don’t know what cards he has up his sleeves. Might want to disappear us like he did with the rest of the locals.”

…I gotta search my blog for the Trump rating. I know I’ve heard of it before, but I don’t remember what it was and it’s bothering me.

Ahh. It’s not one of the deprecated classifications, but it is one that has literally only been mentioned once before this chapter, in the rhyme from 9.1. At the time I speculated on it being for those who override other people’s powers in some way, which is where the Hatchet Face association came from – if I’d been right about that, Hatchet Face would fall under Trump.

But yeah, in short, I haven’t learned anything about the Trump classification before beyond its name, making this chapter our demonstration.

“And the wildlife.”

“And the local wildlife, yeah. Safeties off.”

Maybe the Trump rating has to do with the apparent power-switching? In which case Eidolon would also be a Trump.

Rinke slowly turned to face them. The second the dark holes of the mask centered on them, they opened fire.

He reminds me of a strange mix of Baymax and the Iron Giant, the latter in murder mode.

Evan’s entire body shook with the recoil of his assault rifle. The brute didn’t seem to mind as his blood and flesh sprayed from the holes the bullets opened up, advancing steadily.

“Eh, I can just shift up some more of that in a moment.”

Tieu and Coldiron fired the incendiary grenades. The shells exploded on impact with Rinke and the ground, lighting him up. He continued to waddle towards them, slower than they were able to walk backwards.

Alright, so he’s pretty tough.

Now he’s reminding me of iron golems from Minecraft.

Armsmaster comes back as a cyborg and the Undertravelers are up against a bunch of mechs, but it’s this guy, who so far hasn’t shown any concrete sign of actually being robotic (except maybe the lack of body heat, but most robots should heat up too… then again, tinkertech is a thing), who keeps reminding me of different robots.

Rinke dropped the sack, gripped the sheet with both hands and hurled it towards them. It spread out, scant amounts of light filtering through the holes in the weave.

Uh…

Trying to show them that it’s not what it seems?

Or maybe that’s actually a weapon.

Or maybe there’s really a body there and he’s using a power on it.

Or maybe Baymax is a construct and Rinke is the guy in the bag, healing up.

A net.

Oh.

Lady shot the net out of the air with a blast of foam, causing it to land at the halfway point between them and the brute. She sprayed his feet, locking him down to the ground.

Okay, can he just step out of it due to some quirk of his power?

Rinke thrashed as the flames spread. The cloth burned away to show pallid, gnarled flesh, a face without ears, nose or brow – only recessed, piglike eyes and a mouth that was little more than a ragged gash across the lower half of his face.

Hmmm.

What if the three-week absence was a result of getting kidnapped by Cauldron? It seems kind of outside their MO for finding subjects, but worth considering.

“Another incendiary, everyone else hold fire!”

One more incendiary shell struck home, ensuring the monster was covered in flame from head to toe. The smell of burned meat and sulphur filled the air.

I’m not entirely convinced this was actually Rinke.

“Hold position! Wait for the fire to do its work!” He raised his radio. “We engaged and foamed the bastard. He’s lit up. Over.”

Squad one hears you, over.

Squad three here. Good work, over.

The bloated stomach split with the weight of the upper body, tearing across one of the recesses of a roll of fat.

…is he a xenomorph.

A slurry of half-dissolved bodies spilled out around him.

Oh, huh. Looks like I got that backwards.

So he’s been gobbling up the population…

“Tieu! One more!” Evan called out.

Tieu fired an incendiary round into the opening, lighting the brute up from within.

I guess there wasn’t much chance of one of the victims being alive in there.

If not because the dude seems to kill his food first or because of the whole digestion thing, then because such a victim would’ve probably had a trigger event by now and broken out.

(Unless it’s true that not everyone can trigger.)

It took several minutes for the entire thing to burn. They didn’t relax a second. It was the number one lesson drilled into them in training: as regular humans, it was a given that they were the underdogs. That meant that no matter how well equipped they might be, no matter how weak the enemy, they were not allowed under any circumstances to give the enemy an advantage by underestimating them.

That is a very good and important lesson.

“Hold position,” he warned. They’d wait until the others arrived. Rain pattered on the roof of the shelter, and fire crackled and hissed as it turned the mass of flesh into crumpled black tissue.

I’m still not convinced it’s over. This was too easy. Then again, maybe the other half of the chapter is from a later timeframe and Wildbow needed this done without taking up too much space.

The sound of distant gunfire cut through the quiet.

Ah, here we go.

“What?” Holler asked.

Evan spoke into the radio, “Hear gunfire. Report, over.”

The response came back, “Hostiles!

Multiple.

Formerly normal townspeople? ^w^

There was no ‘over’ to mark the end of the transmission, only more gunfire.

Sounds hectic.

“Move out!” Evan ordered his squad. Into the radio, he shouted, “Squad two coming in to reinforce! Over!”

Squad one had surrounded themselves with a ring of containment foam, and were alternately scanning the surroundings with their flashlights and firing bursts into the shadows.

Ooh, the hostiles are sneaky?

Two members of squad one dropped as spears of bone sank into the armor at their chest and neck.

Marquis? No, that can’t be right. Maybe the “spears” part is more literal than it’d be when he did it.

Evan caught a glimpse of the attackers, waist-high figures with oversized heads.

MV5BNDFkM2U0YzMtOGExZi00NTU0LTk0MWYtNWQ1NDI2OGYyY2ZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ3Njg1ODQ@._V1_

…honestly, though, I picture these more like Funko Pops.

 

Two had mouths like the bloated thing had, with the narrow teeth of a fish, while a third had a beak.

…miniature Funko Pop trollocs.

Now that’s a sequence of words I never expected to put together.

That wasn’t Rinke we shot. There’s others.

No surprise there.

The other realization hit him just as hard.

That these may have been the townspeople?

“He’s not a Changer!” Evan bellowed, clicking the button of his radio to inform the capes and squad three. “Master-class cape!”

Booyeah, called it!

Kind of. I got a little more detailed, but the implication of “thus he’d be a high-rated Master, not a Changer” was there.

“Sir!” Shane shouted.

Evan turned. There were more crawling out of the windows and storefronts behind them. They ranged across the spectrum of body sizes and shapes, from small men little more than knee-high to figures not unlike the bloated thing they’d attacked earlier.

…you know who this all kind of reminds me of?

Fucking Genoscythe.

Males and females, fat, thin and muscular, tall and short, nearly human and almost alien. Two or three dozen of the assorted creatures.

“nearly human and almost alien” is a very good way to describe the way these creatures fall into the Uncanny Valley.

No. He caught sight of light reflecting from watching eyes in the shadows, eyes that reflected light like a dog or a cat, in the darkness of building interiors and the shadows of alleyways.

Yeeah, buddy, I think there’s a lot more than two or three dozen of these around here.

There were quite a few more than two or three dozen.

I swear I didn’t know that was the one sentence left in the paragraph.

“Fighting retreat! Fire at will!”

Yeah, good call.

They backed towards the other squad. Their gunfire mowed through the enemy, the grenades killing ten or more in a single detonation, but the enemy ranks were seemingly endless, the targets too unpredictable. Some were slow, others fast. Some made large targets, absorbing gunfire meant for their fellows even as they died, while others were damnably small. The mass of them made noise, too, squealing, gibbering, giggling and grunting.

Sounds like a fun time for everyone.

How did he do this?

Well, the wildlife’s gone, so that’s probably where the trolloc features come from… I guess something about his power lends itself to blending creatures together and taking control of the result?

Maybe the animal he uses determines the size and speed and such. Like, maybe he’d use bears for the big ones…

But if he can control all the animals to come to him, before merging them with townspeople, his power is ridiculously strong.

Squad one had no doubt laid down the containment foam to stop the ones that were small and quick enough to avoid most gunfire, but they’d trapped themselves in the area, and were now falling prey to the hail of spines.

Welp. Helicopter backup?

Coldiron took one spine to the face. He dropped like a puppet who’d had its strings cut.

rip

The standard PRT-issue suits are supposed to sustain gunfire. Those spines are hitting harder than bullets.

Damn.

Rinke was a master who can make these things: real living creatures.

This sentence seems really weirdly formatted. We’ve got a tense mismatch and a colon that just seems… odd. I have a hard time telling whether the colon would be better off being a comma or not being there at all, but I don’t think it flows well at all as a colon.

He cast a glance at squad one, down to one member, kneeling with one arm around a teammate he was using as a body shield and the other hand firing his rifle one-handed.

I think using a human shield is entirely justifiable in a situation like this.

“Retreat! Through the store!”

*Parasite flashbacks*

His team ducked back into a storefront through the shattered display window. Bursts of fire took down the creatures that had been hidden within, a skinny faceless woman with blades for fingertips, a trio of what looked like babies with spider legs, a half-dozen waist-high people with deformed features and mismatched clothing that they’d clearly scavenged from nearby.

Anyone who thought Bonesaw leaving Brockton Bay was the end of this stuff for a while was sorely mistaken. 😛

While Shane and Tieu reloaded, he offered supporting fire. He gunned down one of the smaller creatures, caught a glimpse of one of the other thing’s expression. It was female, small, and its face twisted further in rage than it had already been.

Is there any sign of these things keeping the consciousness of the townspeople they seem to be based on, underneath Rinke’s modifications and control?

They feel. They have feelings?

The horrible thought that they might be people crossed his mind. The notion that this was a psychological trick, that he was under the influence of a power, gunning down civilians…

Ouch.

Yeeah, I don’t think that’s the case, but it’s worth considering.

No. He’d been trained to deal with mental and emotional attacks. They all had. Had to think abstractly, consider the edges of the problem. Even if their perceptions were under attack, there were always hints, always clues. Things matched too neatly.

Exactly. There’s nothing concrete suggesting these things aren’t hostile, and there’s a lot concretely suggesting they are.

If this was a trick, it was complete and effective enough that they were already doomed, no matter what they did.

His squad headed out the back door of the store, gunned down a tall creature in the alley as they made their way to the next street. Their gunfire brought more of the things crawling from the woodwork, throwing themselves down from windows and crawling out of the spaces in dumpsters and beneath cars.

I wonder if some of these creatures are made from the heroes who were sent here before, and if they retain any trace of the heroes’ powers like Bonesaw’s creations did.

“Flare!” He shouted.

There was a brief whistle as the flare speared up towards the sky. As if in response, one of the beasts perched in a windowframe spat a glob of caustic goo at them.

Right, calling for heli backup.


It’s past 1 AM and I’m getting pretty sleepy, so that’s where I’ll end this session. Good night!

[End of session]


So while I was working tonight, I got to thinking about Theo and my theories on the final threat, and suddenly some things clicked together:

Theo has been set on a path where he needs to become a hero quickly. The first important step towards that is to actually get a power, but while being second generation supposedly means it’s easier for Theo to trigger, he and Purity might be averse to the idea of deliberately staging potential trigger events like Heartbreaker would. Y’know, the whole trauma thing.

That’s where Cauldron could come in.

And the Doctor is looking for a special individual for one of her projects (though that was stated in 2000 – if I’m wrong, she might have found one or settled for the “make him” option by now), a project that would contribute to the forwarding of the ominously-named Project Terminus.

So here’s what I’m suggesting: Jack challenges Theo, the rush to get a power makes it so Theo ends up in touch with Cauldron. He turns out to be the one the Doc needs in whatever way, speeding up Cauldron’s plans that in some way lead to the apocalypse.

In the timelines where Jack dies before leaving the city, Theo learns of Jack’s death before it’s too late and cancels his rushed hero path before Cauldron discovers him. The Doctor doesn’t find her right individual (yet) and has to either wait until she does, take the “make him” route, or further Project Terminus in other, perhaps slower ways.

(Sidenote: It could be interesting to see what sort of power Theo would get from combining a Cauldron vial with a familial affinity to iron/metals inherited from Kaiser. Maybe something about that would be relevant to him being the person the Doc has been looking for, too?)


[Paranatural comic]

Professor Bigfoot (radio/narration): Now, some might say that our extraordinary abilities make us larger than life

Professor Bigfoot: that our unmatched fury makes us monstrous,

Professor Bigfoot: but I would argue that being superhuman makes us just that: super human.
DJ Mothman (radio/narration): Oh yeah?

Professor Bigfoot: We’re just as likably flawed as we are superior to normies

Professor Bigfoot: and sensing wrong, raging against it,

Professor Bigfoot: does not always mean our strength’s enough to set it right.

Well this is certainly the most Parahumans page I’ve ever read of Paranatural


[Session 2]

Alright, it’s been a couple days – let’s see how things go for Evan and his remaining squadmates!


The glob of caustic goo in the final quote from last session reminds me a little of Crawler.

(But I’m not suggesting an actual connection.)

Shane went down screaming, smoke pouring off him as his suit was consumed and the acid reached his flesh.

It’s okay, Shane you just need a bug girl to give you a lift to a healer who can then turn you into a piece of horrifying art. You’ll be fine.

They couldn’t afford to stop.  Evan fired a single bullet through Shane’s skull without slowing his run.  Holler got the thing in the window.

Having to perform a mercy kill on one of your squadmates. Oof.

“I really don’t want to shoot a friendly, over.”

It exploded violently, globs of acid spraying through the area to steadily eat away at the surrounding architecture.

…so don’t get too close to some of these things when you kill them. Noted.

Evan reloaded, all too aware of how quickly he was going through clips.  Lady was covering their retreat with foam, but the foam would run out.

I do hope Lady survives, if only because she made herself my favorite character in this chapter so far with a single line.

One of the helicopters had approached, laying down additional foam to help.  There were no safe places here, no places to find cover.

Just be careful not to cut each other’s escape routes off with the foam, more than you already have.

The best they could hope for was to get to a spot they could evacuate from.  There wasn’t a living soul left in the city, nobody to save.

Yeah, Ellisburg is a lost cause, it seems.

The sound of the explosions had drawn the attention of others.  They were pouring from nearby buildings.  Concentrated rifle fire tore through their ranks, but did little to stem the overall tide.

This place could make for a decent survival video game setting, maybe.

“Captain!”  Lady shouted.

He turned to see that she was all right, then saw what she was pointing at.  One of the things, a pear-shaped woman with thick legs and no arms, was standing with her legs shaking from strain as she virtually spewed a mess of creatures out onto the ground.

Well, this has gone completely fucking pear-shaped. There’s no other way out of it, you’re going to have to decapitate me.

(Or maybe her, but that might just cause the smaller creatures to come out faster.)

They clawed and bit their way free of the sacs that held them and wasted no time in starting to crawl, lurch and run towards his squad.

Holler gunned the mother-thing down before she could finish or spew more abominations from between her loins.

That’s probably a better way to handle it, yes.

Also I pictured her more literally spewing them from her mouth, but this makes much more sense.

Things were clicking into place.  It made sense, now, how the situation had gotten out of control so quickly.  How Rinke had seized the city so totally and absolutely.  It wasn’t just that he was a master-class cape who could make monsters with abilities of their own.  He could make monsters that bred, monsters that gave birth to more monsters.

Damn. I doubt Bonesaw would be able to do that without Amy’s help.

“Flare!”

Holler fired another flare into the sky.

Evan reached for his radio, shouting at the top of his lungs to be heard over the gunfire, even his owngunfire.  “Squad two needs an evac, stat!  We just sent a flare up!  Where are those capes!?”

…right, the backup capes. They might not be in an ideal situation, I suppose – Rinke has dealt with capes before, after all.

The local population seemed to have been involved in the creation of some of the creatures at first, but with there being so many of the creatures, they may just all have been gobbled up by ones like Iron Jester Golemax. But if they were involved, it’s totally possible for Rinke to have… remixed the two capes that came here before, which may now be handling the capes the PRT brought this time.

Choppers one and two down, squad two.  Your capes vacated the scene.

Well, fuck.

“Damn them!”  He pointed his gun to the sky to gun down an emaciated winged beast that was trying to swoop down on them from overhead.

Oh great, a new angle of attack.

Well, the caustic one was also attacking from above, but it wasn’t mentioned to be capable of flight.

“Get us chopper three, then!”

Chopper three is giving squad three supporting fire while they all retreat to a viable landing point.  You’ll have to get to them.  They’re north of your position.

That… might be difficult.

“You heard the man.  Move!”

They didn’t get two paces before the ground rumbled.  A clawed hand speared up through the pavement to catch Tieu by the leg, crushing it as though it was paper.

Behemoth, this is not the time for pranks!

(That’s a joke, I don’t actually think this is Behemoth.)

The pavement strained and cracked as whatever was beneath tried to break the surface.

Tieu looked up at his team, his expression hidden by the pane of his helmet, then stuck the end of his grenade launcher into a crack in the concrete.

…is he…

If he is doing what I think he’s doing, then damn. Move over, Lady, Tieu might be taking your spot here.

They were already running, their backs to him, when the explosion marked the loss of another member of their team.

rip

A grenade round cleared away one more crowd, and they hurried through the gap.

Three of us left.

I wonder if only Evan is going to remain at the end.

Without Tieu or Coldiron, they didn’t have a grenade launcher, no way to deal with the massed crowds.

That might be bad.

“Holler, need ammo!”

Lady directed a stream at the nearest crowd, aiming the spray at their heads, so any spray that missed would catch the ones who stood behind them.  When one tipped forward, the expanding foam served to create a barrier that caught others.

Awesome.

Holler pulled off his bag, handing out clips.  Evan tucked away the ammunition as fast as it entered his hand, pausing only to reload and shoot down the creatures closest to them.

He turned his head as he heard a voice.

“-Eat!  Eat!”

Oooh, are we about to meet Rinke himself?

Judging by what he’s done to this town, he seems like he’s probably not all there.

“Go!”

They’d defaulted to a three-man squad, Lady covering the left and some of the rear, Holler watching the right and the rest of the rear, with Evan leading the way.  The voice…

I mean, who else would it be?

A laugh.  Not the gibbering noise of the creatures, but all too human.

He spotted the culprit.  A man, potbellied and hunchbacked.  The style of dress was similar to the patchwork brute they’d fought first, with bright, contrasting colors that he couldn’t quite make out in the gloom.

Hello there!

It just occurred to me that between sessions, I ended up reading something else with a… temporary antagonist, dressed in patchwork. Hell, she was even named Patchwork.

I was already thinking of maybe mentioning the story on the blog for other reasons, so what the hell, why not. Between chapters, I recommended a long Miraculous Ladybug fic. Here, have another one: Back to Us.

The premise of this one is that Ladybug accidentally kills Hawk Moth. The threat to Paris is ended and Hawk Moth’s identity revealed, but in the process Adrien/Chat is left orphaned with the knowledge that his father was a villain and Ladybug killed him. Adrien moves away, Chat disappears with the Butterfly Miraculous, and Paris is left in peace for seven years.

But then one night an akumatized victim (Patchwork) shows up anyway. A new Hawk Moth is on the loose, and Marinette/Ladybug has to deal with that on top of the return of a much colder Adrien and a murderous Chat Noir.

It’s a very good story that I’ve just started rereading (during times I wouldn’t otherwise be able to spend blogging, don’t worry), and I thought some of you might like it too. It’s not as edgy as You Don’t Know Me, but its tone still reminds me a little bit of Worm’s at some points.

I just went searching for the point where I brought up You Don’t Know Me, for the link above, and instead I found that I’ve brought up Back to Us before. Not as blatantly recommending it as I am here, but still.

Anyway, let’s get back to the other bug story.

There were jarring patterns with stripes here and checkers there.  He wore a cloth crown, and his cloth mask featured beads for eyes and a perpetual leer of a smile.

Sounds like the Jester Baymax was designed as a decoy.

Rinke.

“Rinke!” he screamed the word.  He took aim and fired.

Not going to work that easily.

He hit his mark.  The man went down, and the creatures wheeled on him, screaming, squealing.  If he’d had any doubt about his target, the reaction dispelled it.

did it work?

Then he saw Rinke stand.

No. No it didn’t.

“You would shoot me!?”  Rinke roared.  If anything, his voice was all the more terrifying because it sounded so small, so human.  “I create life!  I am a god, and this is my garden!”

Ahhh. Megalomania in the wake of getting his power.

So does that make this Eden to him? Better hope none of his creatures decide to eat any forbidden fruit anytime soon.

Evan could see flesh billow into existence in the man’s hands, embryonic sacs with the shadows of something forming within them.

So it’s a relatively straightforward life creation process?

They burst, and two struggling, childlike figures dropped to the ground to disappear in the midst of the stirring crowd.

No wonder he’s taken over so fast when the process is that quick!

Lady did what she could to suppress the enemy’s approach, laying down the foam, but there were too many, and their irregular sizes and shapes made it impossible to cover all of them with the foam.  If she aimed high, she missed the little ones.  If she aimed low the bigger ones leaped over and others walked on top of the ones who’d become stuck.

We’ve got ourselves a summoner who’s already built up a giant army of versatile summons. It’s really not ideal.

A spine caught him in the midsection.  Before he could react, another struck home.

I take it “him” is Evan here.

This is also not ideal.

They penetrated his armor to stab into his stomach like hot knives.  He caught a glimpse at one of the bastards that was spitting the things at him, gunned it down before it could shoot again.

He could hear the helicopter’s approach, knew it was too late.

I may have been too hasty in suggesting even Evan would make it out. But there’s still a fair bit of the chapter left, so if he’s gonna die, he’ll either hold on for a bit longer, or we’re getting a POV change.

Even if he does survive, we’ll likely get a scene change before this ends. There’s gotta be a reason why this chapter so far has been set in the past, and such would become much clearer if we get to see a connection to the present.

“Ring!” he gasped out the word.  He could barely breathe, felt like a weight was sitting on his chest, every word he uttered came out thinner than the last.  “Circle us, make high.”

Ring, ring, why don’t you give me a call…

Lady did, laying down foam in a circle around the remnants of his squad.  He couldn’t breathe at all, now.  Had one of the spines caught him in the diaphragm?

Not gonna lie, I didn’t get what he meant by “circle us, make high” (I didn’t realize he was talking about the foam), but at least Lady did.

He was blacking out, faster than he’d expected, saw the bastards making their way over the top of the wall of foam, getting stuck, others using their bodies as handholds to crawl forward, reaching, drooling, screaming, squealing.

It’s looking pretty grim for Evan and co.

Are we going through with that, or are they going to get rescued last-minute by the helicopter and/or the capes (having returned)?

I’m leaning towards the former. At best, Evan might black out and wake up in a hospital, learning he was the only survivor.

Didn’t matter.  He was dead anyways, knew it beyond a doubt.

One of his squad members collapsed on top of him, blood spraying out onto the front of his helmet.

It’s really not looking good for that either, though.

How’s Lady doing?

The darkness took him.

Good night.

‘Lady’ stirred, felt the weight of machinery and tubing that kept her from moving.

Okay, we’re going for something similar, but with a perspective shift. Cool, that works.

Is Lady about to turn out to be someone we knew?

“You’re awake,” an unfamiliar voice called out.

She tried to speak, couldn’t.  Her throat was raw, her tongue leaden.

It’s also possible she somehow ended up at Cauldron, but I’m going with hospital for now.

“I don’t want to offend you, but I’m frankly surprised you made it,” the man spoke.  She turned her head to one side to see a bed in the other corner of the room.  A tall man lay there, hooked up only to a saline drip.

Oh, hello, roommate.

“I’m Thomas Calvert,” he introduced himself.  “Squad three.  We’re the only ground forces that got out alive.”

Uh, you’re including Lady in that “we”… right?

The only ones…  She shut her eyes.

And only Lady, it seems. Thomas and Lady, the only survivors.

“Your sister was here.  She was talking to the doctor about your prognosis.”

Just to be completely clear on this, the whole “unless Lady is short for Lady Photon” thing from earlier was dropped long ago. I don’t expect this sister to be Carol.

Also: This is an example of when you can break the One Steve Limit. It’s been five Arcs since we last had a Thomas, and though this is in the past, it seems very unlikely that they’re the same Thomas. And we’re far enough into the Interlude that we know what we’re dealing with. Thus this instance doesn’t create a ton of confusion like the return of Alan Barnes did.

“Pro-” she started, wincing at the pain speaking caused her, “Prognosis?”

“You might not want me to tell you.  The doctors will be gentler than I will.”

Ouch.

…Rinke didn’t, like, force some of his beings to gestate inside her or anything? I hope?

At least I doubt she’d make it out if that happened.

“Tell me.”

“Deep tissue damage.  Your kidneys are gone, which means you may be on dialysis for the rest of your life.  You suffered some muscle damage when they gnawed on your legs.  There’s no future for you on the PRT teams.”

Yeah, that’s unfortunate. At least she got out alive, though.

She shut her eyes.  She’d lost her squad, her career, her health, all in a matter of an hour, if that.  Half an hour?  How long had the mission taken?  Twenty minutes?

Let’s go, in and out, twenty minutes adventure.

“You’re not alone.  I won’t be joining any future missions either,” Thomas remarked.

Then again, I wouldn’t complain if this guy turned out to be the same Thomas. He doesn’t strike me as Merchant material now, but Taylor didn’t strike me as criminal warlord material in Gestation, either. Making them the same Thomas would paint a picture of how his life slipped after this event.

“Rinke?”

“You mean Nilbog.”

…oooh

Now this is interesting territory.

Nilbog was introduced alongside the Slaughterhouse Nine and the Endbringers, and since then the only info we’ve gotten was that they (he? does Nilbog include all his creatures?) are debatably a special case related to parahumans.

Is Rinke himself even around anymore, or does Nilbog now refer only to the taxonomic families of monsters he set loose on the world?

Also it’s still worth noting that Nilbog is “goblin” backwards. I mean, sure, “goblins” isn’t a bad term for some of his creatures, especially the smaller ones.

“Huh?”

“That’s what he called himself.  He’s alive and presumably well.  I saw out the window as the chopper pulled us out, Nilbog retreating to hide in some building, his creatures were returning to their hiding places.  I expect the man will be alive for some time.”

At the very least, his creatures appear to still be a threat on par with the Nine and the Endbringers.

Question is, will we see them come to Brockton Bay? They don’t seem to have as much reason to as the Nine did, and we got to see them in action here. They might not end up being an active threat for the main protagonists to deal with, so much as a setting detail that is a huge problem elsewhere.

“Why?” She wheezed the question.

“Far as I could tell, he’s wearing one of his creations.  Made him bulletproof, maybe fireproof.  We won’t be able to bomb the area.

That sounds about right. But what’s the problem with bombing?

He’s created beasts that multiply if you set them on fire.  Did you see those?”

Oh. Yeah that would be an issue.

At least they could take out Rinke himself with the bombs, but the creatures would remain a problem.

She shook her head.

“He may have other countermeasures for other courses of action.  You’ll get your chance to talk to the Chief Director, but last I heard, they’re planning to wall the city off.

Chief Director! We’re moving up in the PRT ranks – technically Piggot is the highest ranking PRT person we’ve seen directly involved.

Though I get the sense we’re not actually going to meet them here. If we were going to, some of Thomas’ exposition would probably be saved for then.

They’ll let the motherfucker be the god of his own little town, so long as he doesn’t try to expand any further, which they’re saying he won’t.  I almost envy him.”

I really doubt he’ll stay put.

“He… gets to live?”

“Yeah,” Thomas spoke, letting his head rest on the pillow.  “It is a perk of having power, that you get to decide which rules apply to you.”

…that’s a good line. Really appropriate for the whole story.

She shook her head.

He sighed.  “I thought I might trigger, perhaps.  Hoped.  I suppose I don’t have the potential.”

I don’t fully know whether I can trust that lacking the potential is really a thing, but the concept did get told to us by Tattletale and it does clear up why not everyone who gets caught in bad situations triggers, so I’m willing to run with it.

She glanced at him in surprise.

“What?”

“I… I’m glad I don’t have powers.  That I can’t have powers.”

…why? Because it makes you normal? More human?

Why?”

“They’re monsters.  Freaks.  Lunatics.  They fight only because they have the impression that they’re stronger than their opponents, and when they aren’t they run.”

I wonder if maybe Lady could be Piggot. But there are a few problems with that. For one thing, I can’t imagine Piggot was ever this athletic. For another, this Interlude is partially from Lady’s POV and it’s still unprecedented to have someone get POV in more than one Interlude.

I do get the sense that her identity might be important, given the way her nickname was put in quotation marks at the beginning of her POV.

She thought of the squad of capes that had accompanied them. “They abandon the rest of us.”

Thomas chuckled, and it sounded mean.  Mocking.

“What?”

I mean, she’s not wrong about what just happened.

What’s Thomas’ deal?

“I suggest you change your attitude,” he said.

Hm?

Capes standing right behind her?

“Why?”

“It’s ironic.  When the doctor and the Chief Director were talking to your sister, the Chief Director assured her that you still had a position in the PRT.

Maybe I was onto something.

Some of it is probably to keep you quiet, a cushy desk job and fat paycheck to make up for the fact that they sent you into a deathtrap and killed your teammates.”

“A desk job?”

Given my train of thought right now, I can’t help but take notice of the use of the word “fat”.

“Director.  You’ll manage the local teams, handle the PR, convince everyone else that they aren’t freaks, monsters, lunatics and bullies.  I suggest you fake it, pretend you really do believe it.  You might start to believe your lies.”

It’s really looking like it’s her. Neat.

“And you?”

“Oh, I did mention I wouldn’t be on the team in the future.  Not because of any injuries, mind you.  I’m facing a stay in prison.

Welp. Did he betray his squad?

My captain and I were the only ones left,” Thomas knit his fingers together and rested them on his stomach, looking very calm.  “He grabbed the rope ladder first, but he didn’t climb fast enough.  I shot him.”

Well then. That’s a dick move.

Her face twisted in disgust.

“You would have done the same in my shoes.”

Maybe later on, she might.

Right now, I don’t know about that.

“Never.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter.  A few years of my life.  I don’t expect I’ll be there for too long.  There were extenuating circumstances, and the PRT doesn’t want me talking to anyone about what happened.”

I take it back. He does have Merchant potential.

Such as his callous disregard for his captain’s life.

She shut her eyes, tried to shut her ears to his smooth voice prattling on with things she didn’t want to hear.

Monsters, freaks, lunatics and bullies… the labels didn’t belong to just the capes.

Yeah, no, they really don’t.

It’s like the world’s gone mad, and I’m the only sane person left.

AAAAAAAHHH THAT’S THE BEST FUCKING WAY TO CONFIRM IT


End of Interlude 16a

This was really good!

A look into life for PRT soldiers, an intriguing mystery developing into a really well-crafted situation where things got too hot to handle, a look at who the hell Nilbog is, some insight into who Jemily Piggot was before she became a Jirector (though for someone who is arguably the main character of this Interlude despite Evan holding most of the POV, there was surprisingly little about her before the POV shift), and possibly a look at Thomas the Merchant too. So much stuff, some of which I didn’t even know I had been waiting for.

And that ending line, that’s just absolutely fantastic, confirming the identity of Lady by calling back to the bookends from Piggot’s previous Interlude.

And hey, that’s new, being able to refer to someone’s “previous” Interlude. This wasn’t fully her Interlude, but we still did finally, if only partially, break the one rule I’ve been assuming for all Interlude POVs so far. What unprecedented thing is up next, I wonder? Having two mid-Arc Interludes in a row, maybe?

It’s nice to have this additional bit of context for Piggot. The fact that she did serve her time fighting as a PRT soldier before becoming a suit gives her a special perspective on things, and it means she’s even more trained in dealing with enemy capes personally than your average Director, even if her health condition isn’t great. Don’t underestimate her, Undertravelers.

Up next, nothing has really changed about my predictions:

So now Jirector Jemily Piggot is in Undertravelers custody, which ought to be interesting. It sounds like this was part of the plan even before they found out she has some control over the Dragon suits, which raises the question of what they intend to use her for. Do they just intend to have Regent infiltrate the PRT as her, or is there something else? Hmm.

“Leverage” suggests they might be using her as a hostage, eventually? Maybe?

Next chapter, I suppose they need to try a different route to figure out where Bitch, Ballistic and Genesis are? At least they could probably interrogate Piggot for some info on whether or not they have been captured. But yeah, probably going to need to visit one or more of the territories.

Unless they’re going to focus on sending Piggot back in?

Except that they may want to be wary of Piggot’s fighting skills.

So yeah, this was fun. See you next time!

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3 thoughts on “Interlude 16a: Goblins Gonna Gobble

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