Monarch 16.4: Dragons of Gallifrey

Source material: Worm, Monarch 16.4

Blogged: April 13-20, 2019


The first non-special episode of the last season of MLP FiM aired an hour ago (I haven’t watched it yet) and the long awaited Homestuck epilogues are supposed to drop in maybe half an hour or so (happy tenth anniversary of Homestuck!), but screw all of that for now – let’s read some Worm!

So, last time we learned that Piggot is delightfully nasty and smug about her situation, and got an indication that Dragon and Defiant have indeed tailor-made at least one of the models to fight the Undersiders (and maybe the Travelers) in particular. And there’s roughly a one-in-three chance each of the two groups of Undertravelers heading out right now will meet that one.

Yeeeah, from a narrative perspective, that “one in three” chance is looking pretty damn likely for Taylor’s group. Let’s go find Bitch and maybe fight a really frustrating mech!


I was turning to leave when I was struck with a thought.  “Did Bitch move to her new territory yet?  I know we planned for her to relocate to the city outskirts.”

Oh fuck, that’s a really good point. Because the PRT didn’t seem to know about that, and if she’s over at her new territory, and Dragon went after her old territory, Bitch might not even be aware that there is a problem yet.

Though if Dragon learns of Bitch sightings at the outskirts, that might change, so while things might be easier if this is the case, they’d still need to find her quickly, even ignoring Coil’s time limit.

“Not yet,” Tattletale answered.  She was tying the gag back in place.  Piggot was screwing her eyes closed in disgust.

Ah, okay, we’re doing this the hard way. I’m not terribly surprised by that, and honestly, I think this is more interesting.

“So she’s somewhere near the Trainyard.”

“Yeah,” Tattletale replied.

“We’re going to need transportation if we’re going to get there without losing too much time.”

Can Coil provide a vehicle in a reasonable amount of time?

“Brooks can hotwire a car for you, show you how to start it up again when you’re ready to head back,” Tattletale suggested.

I mean, that’s not a bad idea.

“No.  I’m not sure it’ll be able to navigate all the fenced off areas and debris that’ll be in the Trainyard.  Bitch hasn’t been clearing the mess, as far as I know, and it wasn’t easy to navigate to begin with.”

…valid point. So what would be good for navigating that?

Bitch’s dogs are not available, and they can’t just borrow a Dragon mech easily… Chariot’s tech could be useful but again, they’d waste more time getting ahold of that than they would by walking to the Trainyard…

“If we use the car to get there…” Grue started.

I finished his sentence for him, “We run the risk that it’ll break down, run out of gas or get wrecked somewhere, stranding us and forcing us to hike across half the city to get to Ballistic’s territory.  Let’s minimize the opportunities for stuff to go wrong.”

Notably, the Chariot idea would have way more opportunities for stuff to go wrong. And let’s not even think about the Dragon tech idea. 😛

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Tattletale said.

True. That risk of a car breaking down is there for just about any plan that involves cars, after all. Y’know, like your plan to capture Piggot did.

I glanced at Piggot.  “We’re capes, not beggars.  I was thinking about Sundancer and something like a hot air balloon, but I’m not sure how much forward acceleration you could pick up that way.

Oh right, nice thinking.

Unfortunately, hot air balloons are notoriously slow. Huh, apparently they’re a lot faster than I thought. The fastest recorded ground speed for a manned balloon is 394 km/h (245 mph). But steering might be an issue if there’s no forward propulsion mechanism in Genesis’ form and she relies exclusively on wind.

But something like that.  A lot of our powers operate off virtually limitless power sources.  I’ve used my power all day, every day and I haven’t been any worse for wear.  Can we use that for some extra mobility while we don’t have Bitch on the team?”

Hmm. Like, tap directly into those power sources, or use that power source to fuel things like the Genesis method you… wait a minute…

I managed to misread that previous quote and forget that Genesis isn’t with them right now. Good going, Krix.

She’s wasn’t suggesting Genesis turn into a hot air balloon, she was suggesting they craft a hot air balloon and use Sundancer’s power to create the hot air needed to fuel it. That makes a bit more sense with what this latter half of the quote is saying about applying similar logic in other ways.

“You could try a James and the Giant Peach thing with us,” Imp said, “Only it’d be backwards: bugs on strings and the ‘bird along for the ride.”

I’m not familiar with James and the Giant Peach

Oh hey, it’s a Roald Dahl book. Nice.

[Wikipedia]

The plot centres on a young English orphan boy who enters a gigantic, magical peach, and has a wild and surreal cross-world adventure with seven magically-altered garden bugs he meets.

Bugs, huh? Seems appropriate.

[Wikipedia]

Roald Dahl was originally going to write about a giant cherry, but changed it to James and the Giant Peach because a peach is “prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry.”

Since when is a peach prettier than a cherry? It looks like a fucking off-brand butt apple.

Then again, he did mention “squishier”, so maybe the butt thing wasn’t a drawback to Mr. Dahl.

[Wikipedia]

Because of the story’s occasional macabre and potentially frightening content, it has become a regular target of censors.

This isn’t the first time Wildbow has brought up macabre children’s stories in Worm, and I kinda like that.

[Wikipedia]

Four-year-old James Henry Trotter lives with his loving parents in a beautiful cottage by the sea in the south of England, until his parents are eaten by a rhinoceros that escaped from the London Zoo during a shopping trip in London.

Eaten… by a rhinoceros… yeah, that’s a Dahl book, alright.

[Wikipedia]

As a result, James is forced to live with his two cruel and abusive aunts, Spiker and Sponge, in a run-down house on a high, desolate hill near the White Cliffs of Dover. For three years, James is treated as a drudge, beaten for no reason, improperly fed, and forced to sleep on bare floorboards in the attic as well as being insulted with crude names. One summer afternoon, after a particularly upsetting altercation with his aunts, James stumbles across a mysterious stranger, who gives him magic green glowing seeds which, when drunk with water, will bring him happiness and great adventures.

So far, this is remarkably similar to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone… Harry Potter AU where Voldemort is a rhinoceros.

James getting drugs from a stranger seems like another reason why this story getting referenced in Worm is fitting.

[Wikipedia]

On the way to the house, James spills those glowing green seeds onto a barren peach tree, which then produces a single peach that grows to nearly the size of a house. The next day, the aunts sell tickets to neighbors and tourists to see the giant peach while James watches from the window of his room in which he is locked up, to prevent him from getting in the way of his aunts’ business.

Spiker and Sponge Dursley waste no time in turning magic into capitalism. I don’t think Dahl liked capitalism much, so that sounds about right.

[Wikipedia]

When night comes, the aunts release James and send him to collect rubbish discarded by the crowd. James goes to take a closer look at the giant peach, but he discovers a tunnel, which leads to a secret room inside the peach’s seed, inhabited by a rag-tag band of human-sized, talking invertebrates (an old green grasshopper, a centipede, an earthworm, a spider, a ladybird, a glowworm, and a silkworm), also transformed by the magic of the crocodile tongues.

But I’m not supposed to read Glow-Worm yet!

[Wikipedia]

These bugs become James’ companions in his adventure, prompted by a common hatred of the aunts and desire to escape from them. Upon James’ arrival, the Centipede bites through the stem of the peach, whereupon it rolls down the hill early next morning, crushing and killing Spiker and Sponge on the way. Everyone inside the peach feels it rolling over the aunts and bursts out cheering. It rolls through villages, houses, and a famous chocolate factory before falling off the cliffs of Dover into the sea.

Oh, so when it said “enters a gigantic, magical peach, and has a wild and surreal cross-world adventure”, it didn’t mean there was a world inside the peach, it meant the peach was his vehicle. Is this what Imp was referring to? But how would you do this backwards?

Also, I love that it goes through the Chocolate Factory. I wonder if this is before or after the events of that book?

[Wikipedia]

James and the bugs emerge to find themselves floating in the sea. Hours later, near the Azores, the peach is surrounded by sharks. Using the Earthworm as bait, James and the others of the peach l

ure five hundred seagulls to the peach from the nearby islands, which they tie to the broken stem with the Spider’s webs.

Surely the earthworm isn’t happy with that.

Also, what’s Sharks doing near the Azores, I thought she was in Australia…

So this thing sounds closer to what Imp is suggesting. I’m guessing in the story, it’s described as the bugs being along for the ride.

If I’m interpreting that correctly, she’s saying that Taylor could lift them all with the bugs? Which… I don’t think would work without a hell of a lot of bugs lifting the strings.

Then again, the apostrophe on ‘bird kinda suggests Shatterbird?

Come to think of it, Shatterbird might be better for this in general. I remember suggesting once that Shatterbird could lift the Nine across Lake Heroic on a large chunk of glass, and I haven’t seen anything that clearly suggests she wouldn’t be able to do something like that with one group of the Undertravelers.

*reads the rest of the James and the Giant Peach summary*

So the morals of the story: most bugs are cool but fuck aunts, don’t insult the weather gods, and if you cross the Atlantic and turn out to not be a nuclear ICBM, you will be hailed as heroes for no apparent reason?

…that’s a Dahl story, alright.

Anyway, let’s get back to Worm.

I shook my head.  “My bugs would get tired.  That leaves Shatterbird.”

“I can only fly with one person, maybe two,” Regent and Shatterbird spoke in unison.

Right, when he’s been flying around, he’s been carrying himself with his actual body. But what about that method I suggested, is that not an option?

“What if you aren’t flying?”  I asked.

Hm? Glass carriage or something?

Maybe not my best idea in retrospect.

Ahaha, does it have sharp edges?

I feel like whatever this is, the real Shatterbird could probably do it better.

We were putting our lives in Shatterbird’s hands.  Or in Regent’s hands, depending on how I interpreted it.  Which wasn’t to say we weren’t getting where we needed to be in record time.

Alright, probably not a glass carriage. This seems to be both faster and more dangerous.

Shatterbird had pressed and embedded glass into the wood of a door we’d taken off the hinges, and Regent, Imp and I were standing on the surface while Shatterbird flew above us, using her power to pull on the glass.

Hoverboard!

Yeah, this counts as me being right about flying on a platform, just with an added element to hold them more solidly.

With our weight resting more towards the back than the front, the door was angled upward, skimming on the surface of the road or through the shallow water of streets that were still flooded.

Oh, except it seems to be more of a sleigh. Awesome.

We had to be pushing forty or fifty miles an hour, and any time we were forced to make a turn, we inevitably went wide, sometimes bouncing off of a wall.

I’m certain real Shatterbird would be able to control this better.

That was without getting into the cars and debris that still covered the roads or our total lack of solid hand-holds, seats, seatbelts or brakes.  I’d parceled out silk cord to grip, but they also served to emphasize how momentum swung us out to one side or another when we turned.

Yeah, I don’t know how much that’ll help.

It was easy to underestimate how fast even a lower cruising speed was when safe inside the interior of a vehicle, removed from the road by two to four feet of solid material..

As someone currently learning to drive… yeah. It took me a while to get somewhere near comfortable with driving at speeds like 70-80 km/h. Hell, even 50 km/h.

Either way, we headed into the thick of the Docks.  Our makeshift vehicle sped towards a chain link fence.

Sounds like an opportunity for new and interesting impact marks!

“Regent, fence,” I warned, leaning forward to speak into his ear and make sure he could hear me.

We continued forward without slowing.  Half a block away, seventy feet away…

I think he’s got a plan for dealing with it.

“Fence!” I raised my voice.

Thirty feet away…

Shatterbird hit the fence with a wave of glass, knocking it down to a forty-five degree angle.  Our makeshift craft lifted up fractionally and we hit the makeshift ramp, remaining airborne for only a second or two before hitting the ground and continuing forward.

Hah! Awesome.

“You dick,” I swore.

Ahaha!

Regent and Imp laughed and cackled.

What had I been thinking, inflicting this pair on myself?

Ahahahahaha

I for one am pleased with that decision. 😛

We made our way into the Trainyard, and the ride became much bumpier as we navigated areas with overgrown grass, train tracks and piles of trash.  A crash and howl informed us of our destination before my bugs did.

Sounds like there might be fighting between Bitch and the Azazel right now.

I signaled Regent when we were close enough so he could bring the craft to a stop.

Bitch and the dogs were fighting, and there were signs the fighting had been going on for a while.

Bitch isn’t the type to back down unless she absolutely has to, so she’s probably been fighting ever since the mech (Azazel or otherwise) showed up, in which case… good job having held the fort this long, Bitch.

I’d suggest that maybe the Azazel’s counter-Undersider measures against Bitch are weaker than the ones against other members, but if that were the case, it’d make little sense to send that one against Bitch.

There were six dogs in the area, including Bastard, Bentley and Sirius, but only Bastard and Bentley were still fighting.  Bitch, Barker and Biter had stepped up to fight, as well, with Bitch’s civilian henchpersons were hiding nearby.  The vet-girl was taking care of a smaller dog.

Ooh, she’s letting her henchcapes fight alongside her! Awesome, I want to see what they’re like in a serious battle. Especially Biter.

Besides, I’m not sure she would’ve let them fight alongside her like this at the beginning of Arc 15, so this might be a sign of Skitter’s advice paying off.

Looking at the situation, I couldn’t figure out why they’d be having trouble with their opponent.  Dragon’s suit wasn’t that large, didn’t seem to have that much in the way of weapons or gear.  She stood maybe eight feet tall, eight feet wide, with each arm forming roughly a third of its mass, ending in disproportionately large, squat claws.

Hmm. The arms strike me as likely housing special equipment.

And don’t forget that a guy who makes tinkertech smaller than it has any right to be was involved in making this. Although I think something was established about him needing to be around for that tinkertech to function? Then again, we’ve seen some of it function for at least a while after being taken away from him.

(Specifically, I’m talking about the nanobot blades.)

Barker screamed, then slammed his teeth together with a clack my bugs could hear.  His power turned the noise into a concussive force, erupting around the armored suit.

Boom.

The suit reeled, staggering back from where it stood on top of a derelict train, nearly falling.  One of the dogs charged and tackled it, tearing into it with claws and teeth.

Yeeah, I see where Taylor is coming from. They don’t look like they’re having trouble. But I’m sure this mech has some really good tricks up its sleeves.

The suit hauled the dog off it, climbing to its feet in an instant.  It leaped forward to close the distance to its human opponents, and Biter stepped forward to meet it, his fist swelling to five times the normal size, along with the spikes and blades he’d worked into the fabric of his glove.

Hell yes! I take it he worked those spikes into the fabric specifically to get his power to count them as part of his clothing?

The suit went flying, gathering itself into a rough ball shape as it careened backwards into the side of a train.

Had we stepped in just as the fight was wrapping up?

Ehh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

The suit stood.  That didn’t surprise me.  It brought its claws to either side and clawed at the side of the train, crumpling metal in its massive claws.  My bugs gave me a sense of what was going on as the suit drew the metal into itself with crushing mechanisms and gears.

Oh fuck, does it reinforce itself – in a rather Weld-like manner – by consuming metal, which there’s a lot of around here?

Its torso expanded slightly as it made room for the new material, armor plates reshaped by internal mechanisms and shifted into place to patch up the worst of the damage.

Yep. Suddenly this mech has the battlefield advantage and whether it’s the Azazel or not, and whether or not it’s designed to work well against Bitch, it makes sense that they’d send this one here.

I arrived on the scene, Imp and Regent only a short distance behind me.  A glance showed me that Bitch, her underlings and her dogs were injured, beaten to the point that they were dirty, bruised and scraped.  Her eyes widened as I approached.

Hey there! The cavalry’s coming!

Though Bitch might still be like “I don’t need help!”

“It won’t,” she growled the words between pants for breath, “Fucking die!”

I wouldn’t have picked a brute-type machine to go up against Bitch, if I’d been in Dragon’s shoes, but she’d apparently decided this would be a good matchup.  Or was this Armsmaster’s idea?  I was put in mind of the fight at the fundraiser, him trying to not just defeat Bitch, but to beat her into submission.

I think the location has a lot to do with this being a good matchup.

Also, what kind of machine would you pick? I’m not sure why a Brute wouldn’t be good against Bitch, and none of the other options strike me as better except maybe something that specializes in crowd control against heavy and heavyhitting opponents (which still sounds like a Brute, honestly). Or something that deals with dogs.

Not that he was really fighting for a crowd, here.

I mean, maybe not in the same way.

Or was it something else?  The suit could absorb metal, what would give Bitch that much trouble?

I don’t know, maybe the large amounts of metal to absorb?

“It’s drawing scrap metal into itself,” I said.  “Self repairing.”

“I know.”

“So stop it from getting the scrap metal.”

Makes sense to me.

May be easier said than done, though.

“You want to fucking try?”

This wasn’t good.  From the moment we arrived on the scene, this suit would probably be signalling others.  We couldn’t be sure that Piggot’s order to stand down would still be in effect for the other suits, so we had to anticipate reinforcements.

That’s a problem.

Except this suit seemed to be made to be durable, to stall and wear us down.  It wouldn’t be easy to take this down in the limited time we had.

Which leaves the good old survival method of “RUN” as a better option? Maybe?

Bitch might not like that, but she’s been getting more reasonable lately.

Which was it?  The Melusine?  The whatchamacallit-Nidhug hybrid?  Or was it the Azazel, presumably designed to take on the Nine, with defeating the Undersiders as a secondary design goal?

I like that Taylor doesn’t flawlessly remember the names. Astaroth is the word she’s looking for.

“We’ll try together,” I said.

“Regent, we need Shatterbird in here.  Imp, you’re backing us up.  Drag the injured to safety.  Did you ever take that first aid class?”

It’d honestly be fairly understandable if she hasn’t found the time, and/or kinda forgot.

Then again, Brian’s the primary proponent of the first aid classes on the team, so she might not have gotten away with that.

“Grue told me to, but I haven’t gotten around to it.”

Naturally.

I swore under my breath.

“Not totally my fault.  Things have been kind of a mess since I joined the team.  Not like there’re classes or anything.”

Yeah, the city’s kind of fucked up, so I could see arranging classes being an issue. Though certainly not by virtue of a lack of interested students.

“There probably are.”  I watched the suit step away from the train, adjusting its shape to sort out the additional material it had absorbed into its body.

“Not like it’s easy to find classes,” she clarified.

Fair enough. And like I said, probably plenty of people interested in learning that stuff nowadays, so even if she finds classes, they might be full.

Maybe you’d be better off getting the team to teach you, Imp. Though not Grue. I don’t know that he could handle the idea of teaching you to sew people up right now.

“Just take care of anyone that gets hurt.  I don’t know how much you can do here.  I think one of Bitch’s henchmen is over there,” I said, pointing.

“Okay,” Imp retreated.

Alright, makes sense. Especially since we know Dragon can see Imp.

“I’m telling you,” Bitch growled the words, “Can’t fight it.  It doesn’t die.”

“We’ll try.  There’s got to be a way.  Barker, Biter, you two okay?”

(This short song is much more appropriate to Taylor and Dinah than to the current situation, but the line reminded me of it anyway. Despite the optimism.)

“Hurt,” Biter said.

Barker nodded, “Throat’s sore.  Keep knocking it down, it keeps getting back up.”

I suppose it only makes sense that his power would have this kind of consequence with excessive use.

And maybe I can use that as my excuse for the amount of pony songs in this chapter. Why wouldn’t there be pony songs in my liveblog of a chapter where a guy shouts himself hoarse?

…a pun which of course reminded me of another pony song, this time fanmade.

(It may not sound like a pony song, but it is one.)

“One or two more tries,” I said.  “We hit it with everything we’ve got.  Bitch, which dogs are least hurt?”

Everything, huh? Shame you don’t have Sundancer. I think she’d be your best bet against this.

“Bentley and Bastard.  Had a few more I was sending in, but they’re hard enough to order around when something isn’t hurting them.”

“We’ll need their help, then.”

“Bastard’s not trained enough.”

Don’t push this too far, Taylor.

I glanced at the wolf cub.  He was five or six times his usual size.  He’d grown rapidly in the past few weeks, but it still meant he was small.  His mutation seemed different from the other dogs.  Was there a whole other department of changes with various subcategories of the wolf breed?

That’d be very interesting! It’d open up a bunch of opportunities for new things to do with Bitch’s power if she obtains other kinds of canines. Like a coyote, maybe?

So in what ways are Bastard’s mutations different?

The suit raised one hand, and a chain fired out, a grappling hook on the end.

Seems familiar. Defiant’s touch, I’d imagine.

We threw ourselves out of the way before it could catch any of us.

“Keeps doing that,” Barker muttered.  His voice was gravelly.  “Trying to tire us out.  Wear us down.”

Solid tactic for a Brute going against an enemy who won’t or can’t run.

“Let’s avoid giving it another chance.  Longer range powers first, everyone else close in.”

Oh! I see what’s going on here – Taylor’s commanding like a war general. She’s applying those tactical skills I’ve been praising since Gestation and rather naturally taking charge (even Bitch doesn’t seem to have any complaints), clearly and effectively directing everyone to what she thinks they need to be doing to make her plan work.

I don’t think it will work, but that’s because she’s underestimating the opponent, not because she’s a poor leader. She’s got excellent leadership talents and this scene is a good illustration of that.

I hadn’t even finished talking before Shatterbird was hurling the glass-coated door into the suit.

Y’know, there’s slamming a door in someone’s face, and then there’s this.

She followed up with a veritable tide of glass shards, pulling them from debris and the edges of the street.  The suit staggered back, putting it closer to the train she had just harvested scrap metal from.

Ohh, right – Shatterbird! Shatterbird, can you shatter this thing’s circuits?

Doragon the Exploragon: “Shatters no shattering! Shatters no shattering! Shatters no shattering!”

…shatting?

“Keep it away from anything metal!”  I reminded them.

Easier said than done.

That’s what I said!

The area was a fenced in yard with railroad tracks, rusted train cars and trash that ranged from sign posts to disused trash cans.  There was metal to spare.

Exactly.

I was limited in my options.  Bugs wouldn’t hurt this thing’s metal body.  That left me the less stellar option of fighting it like I had Mannequin.

To be fair, the first Mannequin battle was one of your finer moments of ingenuous fighting.

A painful one, though.

Barker shouted three times in short succession before bidding the resulting clouds of smoke to detonate violently.  The suit shielded itself with its arms, leaving it defenseless as Bentley flanked and charged it from one side.  It sprawled, landing face down, and reached over to grab two rails from the train track.

Niice.

Hmm. Maybe the bugs can be set to the task of covering some of the metal with silk?

In one motion it rose to its feet and hauled two lengths track out of the ground.  Each of the rails bent and folded as they were absorbed into the suit, churned up by grinders and more complex devices.

Right, it’s not like it can just reshape the metal with a power like Weld does. Which means this thing needs to be filled with processing devices.

Processing devices that may be vulnerable to getting clogged with silk.

Bentley charged again, but the suit swung both rails simultaneously to catch the dog in mid-air and hurl him to one side.

For some reason this reminds me of the fight in Agitation?

Bentley was on his feet in a second, getting his paws under him and lunging for the suit before it could turn to face him, savaging the suit’s metal exterior with claws and teeth.

Woo, go Bentley!


Alright, my concentration is waning, it’s getting late, and we’re a little less than halfway through, so I think this is where I’ll stop for the night. Good night!


[Session 2]

BLAG!

My bugs began to encircle the suit.  The silk had enough areas to catch on, and my bugs were finding openings to crawl within, but I couldn’t find much in the way of stuff to interfere with or attack.  The suit’s interior was hot, more so as my bugs drew closer to the very center, to the point that my bugs died if they got too far inside.

…ahh. That would deal with the silk clogging problem fairly effectively, too, unless she puts a hell of a lot of it in there.

Everything was solidly made; wires had chain mesh protecting the insulation, pistons and valves were sealed and reinforced, with more delicate technology presumably contained within cases and covers. There was nothing for my bugs to get into.

Damn Tinkers…

Using silk to bind the main body wouldn’t do anything.  Spider silk had strength on par with steel, but this was an armored suit capable of tearing railroad tracks from the ground and crushing them in one hand.

…fair point. Strength on par with steel does precious little when your opponent can tear steel.

A material as strong as steel wouldn’t accomplish anything against a machine that could rend metal.

I’d have to play this smarter.

I’m intrigued. How do you play this one, Taylor?


Meanwhile, I just got a little distracted by a link to the SCP Wiki… it had nothing to do with Worm in theory, but the hallucinations caused by SCP-4193 sure remind me of someone.

u read label, 1 pill not 2. if take 2 u meet skitter. skitter nice but scare dado


I used cords of silk to seal valves shut or bind them in an open position where I could, and focused the rest of my efforts on more strategic deployments, forming cords as big around as my arm.

Damn, she’s getting really effective at deploying silk.

The suit’s arms and legs would be free to move, but my goal was more along the lines of restricting its movements.

Good call. Especially if you can keep it from getting to more of the metal around it.

Biter used the metal ‘bear trap’ jaw-guard in combination with his ability to distort parts of his body to large sizes, clamping down on the suit’s hand.

CHOMP!

He had to hurl himself back and out of the way to avoid the suit’s retaliatory attack.  As he climbed to his feet, he spat out two fingers and a section of the suit’s hand.

I feel like there might be a little too much metal in this guy’s diet.

I hurried to send my swarm after the discarded parts, using silk and the cumulative strength of the swarm to haul the bits away.

Yeah, let’s not allow the mech to reattach or swallow those pieces.

Biter hit the suit twice with enlarged hands and then backed off as Bentley hurled himself into the fray, catching hold of the suit’s other arm and hauling on it with all the strength afforded by his muscular forelimbs, neck, jaw and shoulders.  He struggled, strained, to tear the arm from its housing.

That says a fair bit about how strongly it’s attached.

I do really like Biter’s power. It’s a lot like Fenja and Menja’s in theory, but narratively, it’s way more interesting than a straight universal growth.

The suit fought to keep its feet beneath it, leaning hard to one side to compensate for the two-ton bulldog’s weight hanging off its arm.  It used its free, damaged hand to grab the dog by the scruff of the neck and flung it hard to one side.

(w)oof.

Shatterbird hurled a wave of glass-encrusted debris at the suit.  Not one second after the suit was bludgeoned by the trash cans, wooden planks and pallets, a second wave caught it from behind, striking its legs out from beneath it.

Okay, really, Shatterbird seems a lot weaker under Regent’s control sometimes, beyond what’s explained by the power being non-physical. Is it just a matter of him not being as practiced in the various ways it can be used?

And even then, it seems some of Shatterbird’s more obvious tricks go unsuggested. Everyone present knows circuit boards and such are vulnerable to Shatterbird’s power, at least when not tinkertech, and we the readers have confirmation that Shatterbird has been a problem for Dragon in the past. So why hasn’t Taylor even (as far as we’ve seen) thought about suggesting that Regent try something like that here? Usually she thinks of such things long before I do.

I don’t mind if it turns out there’s a justification, like Regent not being able to control it that precisely or Taylor being concerned about collateral damage, but I feel it does need to be addressed if they’re going to have Shatterbird along in these fights.

…okay, looking back, they did to some extent address it in 16.1, but the main counter brought up there – by Taylor – was Dragon taking Shatterbird out before Regent got close enough with her to try. Looking at this fight, that’s clearly not an issue.

Maybe they think she’s managed to make Shatterbird-proof circuit boards – and maybe she has – but they should at least try. The chance of it backfiring on them if it doesn’t work is way lower than the chance of it easily winning them the battle.

(Of course, that’s exactly why it probably wouldn’t work, narratively speaking.)

Lying on its back it reached for us and fired another grappling hook.  With the speed it was moving, it looked like it could have caved in someone’s ribs, but we each managed to get out of the way.

Y’know. Non-lethal. The same way Aes Sedai are honest.

Some of the people in Bitch’s group were moving slower, their reflexes and mobility suffering due to their fatigue.

Okay, this wasn’t easy, but it didn’t seem as impossibly hard a fight as some of the other suits, either.  It was just a question of keeping up the onslaught, keeping the suit from gathering too much metal for self-repair and hoping that the suit didn’t get any reinforcements.  With luck, the other suits would be either on standby due to Piggot’s orders or they would be occupied with Trickster, Sundancer and Grue.

Don’t jinx it.

Not that it would be a good thing if they were fighting, but it would at least mean we got out of here okay.

And then they might not, and you’d have to stage a rescue, and you’d end up fighting even more suits…

The suit struggled to its feet, using its arms to shield itself from two more shouts from Barker and a barrage from Shatterbird, then stopped short as the cord of silk I’d bound around its neck pulled taut.

Around the neck, eh? …do we have anything tall around here?

The other end was wound around one of the coupling rods that stretched between the wheels of one rusted train.  I’d worried the coupling rod would come loose, but the elasticity of the silk combined with the durability and sheer thickness of it meant it didn’t snap.  The suit was pulled off-balance, giving Biter and Bentley a chance to close in, hammer it into the ground and thrash it.

Again with Taylor picking up tricks – this isn’t all that different in concept from what she did when she was up against Prism, really. Though of course the circumstances change the form a bit.

I glanced at Bitch, saw her mouth set in a grim line.

Something wrong?

The suit fought its way free, and Bitch whistled for Bentley to back up.  I could see how it was mangled, metal torn and rent.  Yes, it had displayed some self-repair technology, but every part of it was a ruined mess.

Great work. Now make sure it doesn’t crawl its way to some repair materials!

…I wonder if there are nanobots involved in the self-repair tech? The metal gets processed and then nanobots put it into place?

I didn’t want to underestimate Dragon’s work, but-

Either she just really underestimated it, or it exploded.

Considering we’re still just halfway through the chapter, I kinda doubt the latter.

Hot steam hissed out from the gaps in the suit, seconds before it turned itself inside out.

Okay, imploded. Close enough. 😛

This would really be a sight to behold with some of Dragon’s larger tech, like the drone-deployer. I don’t know if that would implode like this one, but I think Dragon takes care to have all of her tech self-destruct when appropriate, to keep it out of the hands of villains like the Dragonslayers.

The parts on the exterior folded out and were absorbed into the suit’s interior, new components emerged from within and locked into place.

…I spoke too soon. This appears to be more of a second form kind of deal.

You totally jinxed it, Taylor, and I think Dragon might’ve designed this mech specifically so that you’d underestimate it like that.

I bet this is the Azazel, even.

They still smoked from the heat of being forged and reforged in the heart of the machine.

The suit’s joints shifted position as it settled into a quadruped stance.

I recognized it, now.  It didn’t have missile launchers, and it was a fraction smaller than it had been, but it was the same suit Dragon had used when I’d first seen her.

Ooh, the one she fought Leviathan with, right. Which one was that again…

The suit she’d used against Leviathan.  That suit had also peeled apart to reveal a lesser suit beneath.  Presumably it had possessed the same self repair capability and the ability to do what this suit had done, but hadn’t had the chance.

Right, because she blew up the outer suit in hopes of dealing damage, if I recall correctly, then withdrew using the inner suit to avoid suspicion as to her true nature.

Except I wasn’t even sure how to define or process what I’d just seen.  It was such an overhaul that I was left grasping for a word to explain it.  Reincarnation?

Sure, that works. Or perhaps “regeneration”, the steam taking the place of crazy yellow energy bursts?

Perhaps you could take those severed hand pieces from earlier and stick them in a jar.

It was easy enough to picture.  Any time the suit took enough damage, it reforged itself into a different shape with the reserve components deep inside its body, or it shed its outer layer, ensuring that it was always in pristine fighting condition.

It can do this thirteen times before dying permanently, unless repaired by Dragon.

Give it an opportunity and it harvested metal for raw materials, and it would keep going until its battery ran out.

In other words, it’s even more important to keep this thing away from metals than we thought.

Battlefield advantage: Immense.

With the kind of stuff a tinker like Dragon could make, cold fusion reactors and self-sustaining energy sources, that battery could have one hell of a long life.

I’d question the ability of even Dragon to make self-sustaining energy sources in a world where even the superhero bullshit is to some extent rooted in semi-realistic science, but *gestures at every Tinker*

Cold fusion is probably something she could manage, though.

Either way, it wasn’t a new model.  That meant it wasn’t the Azazel suit Piggot had told us about.

Right, I forgot to mention: I looked back at the things we’re heard about the suit names, and I think this has to be the Melusine. It’s not the Azazel, and it doesn’t match the description of the Astaroth-Nidhug.

So, is the other group currently up against the Azazel and in need of a rescue mission when we’re done here, maybe?

(There is absolutely no way the Undertravelers aren’t going to end up fighting/fleeing the Azazel at some point.)

“You could have explained,” I said.

“I did,” Bitch answered, glowering at the smoking suit.  “I said it won’t fucking go down.”

Ahahaha

“You could have explained why.”

“I don’t understand why!”

…fair enough.

The reforging process had killed every bug I had on the thing, and it had burned through the silk cord I’d leashed it with.  I was left wondering what the black market price would be for something like Armsmaster’s EMP device.

Ooh, that could potentially be very useful with all these Tinkers around.

And hey, she knows his EMP worked on (relatively simple) Dragon tech…

Something that would serve as a get-out-of-a-fight-with-a-tinker-card.

“Go straight to a fight with a Tinker, do not pass go.”

…Monopoly would be an even worse game if jail was the Birdcage. Though perhaps it’d be a mercy.

Tinkers had so many options that they brought to the table, a crazy synergy with any teammates, and an ability to customize their approach to counter specific threats or individuals.  I, on the other hand, was pretty screwed if I went up against anyone with flame powers, cold powers, electricity powers, enough durability to shrug off my bugs or a way to clear out large numbers of bugs at once.

Three basic elemental affinities and one or two entire classifications (above a certain rating)… yeah, that’s a fairly crippling set of weaknesses.

Taylor has shown herself to be really good at getting around them in creative ways, though, which is a big thing I like about her and Worm.

I’d managed thus far by thinking on my feet, but it sort of pissed me off that tinkers existed as the antithesis of that.

No wonder she’s growing to hate them.

From my perspective, though… I really like Tinkers. They’re fantastic for story purposes for exactly the same reasons Taylor doesn’t like them, especially as antagonists.

It’s no secret that some of my favorite characters are Tinkers.

Yes, I was aware that tinkers had to put in hours upon hours of work, and that I only ever really experienced the end results of that investment.

True. It’s very much a prep work classification.

But then on another hand, you get Bonesaw and all the shit she can pull in five minutes.

I didn’t care.  Whether they had vat grown monsters, clockwork lairs, impenetrable suits of armor, jetpacks and exploding guitars or programs to tell them how to win a fight, tinkers were a fucking pain in the ass.

I’m sure Taylor’s thinking of Bonesaw with the first one, but I can’t help but be reminded of Nilbog. Even though he’s not considered a Tinker.

Clockwork lairs, huh? Silly Taylor, Homura isn’t a Tinker.

I want to see the hypothetical “exploding guitars” Tinker… Actually, that sounds like something Leet would do for a stream based on Guitar Hero.

“New plan,” I announced.  “We hit it hard enough to slow it down and then we scram.”

“You want to run?” Bitch asked.

I kinda called that she wouldn’t be cool with that.

Skitter: “I appreciate it? But look what we’re dealing with, girl. You gotta draw the line somewhere. You gotta draw a fucking line in the sand, Bitch. You’ve got to make a statement! You’ve got to look inside yourself and say, “What am I willing to put up with today?NOT FUCKING THIS.

(At least it’s a little more fitting than the first time I made this reference on the blog…)

“We don’t have a choice.”

“We do,” she said, still glowering at the suit.  “We gotta kill this thing sometime anyways, so you come up with a plan like you usually do, we’ll make it happen, and I won’t have to give up territory to this armor asshole.”

Uh… I mean, I see where you’re coming from, but you do remember that you’re supposed to be giving up this territory soon anyway, right?

I guess it’s the principle of the matter, and the ability to move out in an orderly fashion.

I stared at her, trying and failing to process how she was looking at the situation.

I mean, for once it seems pretty straightforward. I don’t have a great track record as far as understanding or predicting Bitch’s behavior goes, but I was still able to predict this.

She refuses to internalize the idea that this thing is unbeatable (hell, she admitted to not understanding why it won’t go down, so she might not realize how unbeatable it is by brute force), and even if she did, she might still refuse to back down. That’s weakness, and she won’t be weak if she can help it.

I do like that she has faith in Taylor’s ability to come up with a clever plan to beat it, though, instead of relying on the brute force that clearly doesn’t work here.

Then it dawned on me.  This was why Dragon and Armsmaster had pit this suit against her.  It wasn’t that it countered her power, exactly.  It was that it was set up to work against her stubborn nature.

Yeah. That and the scrap metal surrounding them makes this suit really ideal for fighting Bitch in particular, here in particular.

With the way her mind worked, she couldn’t back down from a fight she subconsciously felt like she was winning.  It didn’t matter that we were losing in the long run, she was focused on the fact that we could do damage, and walking away would be a forfeit.

That sounds about right, yeah.

Barker was screaming a long series of invectives at the suit, detonating them.  With four legs solidly on the ground, it wasn’t budging, and Barker’s shouts weren’t doing much to the armor.

Well, fuck. It seems to have adapted to avoid getting knocked around as much.

“Look at it this way,” I said, trying to stay calm,  “We just defeated it.  Heck, every time you’ve forced it to change like that, that’s been a win for you.  How many times was that?”

Four? Five?

“Four.”

Got it in one.

“Four times, you’ve kicked its ass.  If you walk away, that’s five wins total and one loss, if you can even call that a loss.  But we can’t afford to stay much longer, or one of your dogs is bound to get hurt.”

Nice thinking, appealing to the dogs getting hurt rather than to the people getting hurt.

As if to give evidence to my statement, Bentley howled as he grappled with the suit, trying to tear into its neck while the suit attempted to wrestle him down to the ground.  Biter leaped onto the machine’s back, his hands with the spiked knuckles worked into the gloves growing larger so he could tear the armor plates away.  Bentley joined in, setting his teeth at the lower part of the armored suit’s ‘spine’, for lack of a better word.

I’m reminded of Silver Fang, a slightly brutal anime about bear-hunting dogs.

(It’s been the only anime I own physical copies of, actually, since before I knew what anime was. Unless you count Sonic X as an anime.)

Her eyes narrowed.  “We run?”

“We have to stop it from following first.  One more time, guys!  Regent, stand ready!  We need as much glass as you can spare!”

Gonna try to block it off?

The suit turned our way.  Three masters, standing in the back lines while we sent our bugs, dogs and lunatic supervillain thrall into the fray.

…right, maybe spread out a little.

It began to glow, steaming, and Biter virtually yelped as he threw himself off of its back.  Bentley was slower to react, but he fell back, shaking his head violently as flesh sizzled around his muzzle.

What is it doing now? Is it forcing another regeneration to become better suited – no pun intended – to taking out the Masters in the back? Or maybe it’s just intended to make Bentley and Biter drop off like this.

We backed up a few paces as it advanced one step.  It whipped its head up until it almost pointed to the sky, then opened its mouth.  Blue flame streamed over our heads to pool behind us, cutting off our retreat.

Ah, great.

Maybe she heard you?

This blue flame sounds oddly familiar.

We had to scramble for cover before any droplets or sparks landed on us.  I wasn’t sure if it was flame at a temperature I wasn’t used to seeing, if it was a liquid accellerant that just happened to be on fire or if it was plasma, but I didn’t want to touch it and find out the particulars.

You know what, that’s very fair, Skitter.

All of us, dogs, Barker and Biter included, headed inside a building to seek further cover.  The structure rumbled as the suit climbed the side and settled on the roof.  The A.I.s liked high places, it seemed.

Hehe. Roosting dragons, y’know?

…but maybe it’s indicative of something about the way these suits are connected to the central Dragon?

“Need to hit it hard,” I said, my voice pitched low so the suit wouldn’t overhear.  “One good hit.”

Hmm.

My immediate thought was forcing another regeneration to buy time while it did so, but there’s no real reason I can see for why that would need to be done in one hit. Plus, it’d be very hard to do so.

“We don’t have one good hitter,” Imp said.  I turned my head to see her crouching by the vet and one wounded dog.

Oh, hi.

I, as usual, forgot you were here.

“Maybe Shatterbird, but everyone else is about a lot of littler hits.”

Regent’s use of Shatterbird also tends to favor lots of littler hits, though Shatterbird herself is certainly capable of bigger hits.

“We need one good hit from someone who isn’t Shatterbird,” I clarified.

Ah. So what’s her role, then?

“Can’t,” Biter said.  “Limit to how big I can grow myself before I do permanent damage.”

Makes sense. Even when reinforced by his power, all that added size to select parts would cause strain on the rest.

“Define permanent damage.”

“Stretch marks, scarring, permanent aches and pains.  I have some in my midsection, all day, every day, it hurts.”

Ow. Yet he’s still fighting valiantly. Good man.

“Okay,” I said.  “Barker?”

“I can’t hurt the fucker.”

“You screamed something like three times, then detonated that smoke you make whenever you make noise.  Can you do it more?  More shouts, louder?”

I’m guessing it wouldn’t help to use a megaphone, since it seems to be a matter of how much of the smoke can get out of his lungs…

“At my limit.  Probably not.”

“Bentley’s hurt,” I said, “What about Bastard?”

“He’ll probably listen to me, but he might attack anyone else.  He’s too dangerous when big.”

That’s an issue.

“And that suit’s dangerous too.  In case you haven’t noticed, it’s either trying to beat us to a pulp so it can drag us into custody or it’s going to burn us alive.  We have to use one of your dogs, and Bastard’s in the best shape.  We have to use him.”

Good luck.


Alright, still a bit left of the chapter, but I got a late start tonight, so now it’s very late. Good night!

[End of session]


[Discord]

LHC:
looking forward to a chapter soon
I think you’re gonna like Ward
someday
😛

Krixwell:
😄
Don't Forget

LHC:
I’m sure I’ve seen a Taylor DO IT FOR HER but I’m not finding it 🤔

Krixwell:
Meanwhile I can’t help but picture one for her, featuring pictures of Dinah

LHC:
coil would absolutely put up a DON’T FORGET: YOU’RE HERE FOREVER in her base 😂

Krixwell:
😄

[about 20 minutes pass]

Krixwell:
I didn’t actually have time for this
Don't Forget Coil

LHC:
😂


The other day, I came across the Derpibooru tag for an MLP meme, and I couldn’t resist making one of my own…

PicsArt_04-18-08.56.55.png

[meme]

Twilight Sparkle: What’s your Worm OTP? Mine has to be Hero x Alexandria.
Rarity: Flechette and Parian, of course.
Applejack: Braylor!
Rainbow Dash: Amy and Victoria.
Pinkie Pie: Lisa is pregnant with Greg’s baby in my fanfic. They’re so cute together!
Fluttershy: Coilpet!

[Everypony looks at Fluttershy.]
Fluttershy:
What? I like pets.


[Session 3]

Alright, let’s get back to it! Where we last left off, Taylor was convincing Bitch to use Bastard against the Melusine to get in one strong hit for her plan.

Bitch frowned, “How?”

I told her.  “You’ve taught him to fetch?”

I feel like “fetch” might mean something slightly more violent than usual in the hellhounds’ case.

Isn’t that what she asked them to do with people right before Siberian showed up in Interlude 11a?

She nodded.

“Fetch something big, then,” I said.  “Wait until my signal, hit him as hard as you can. Everyone else, let’s run for it.”

Fetch something big?

I could see Bitch tense.  Her henchwoman, the vet, stood and nervously circled around the edge of the room to join us, giving Bitch a bit of space.

Maybe she’s tense because she’s worried about not correctly identifying the signal? Or it could just be because of the “using Bastard” thing.

So how much trouble is that going to create here? I suspect he’ll be under just enough control to get what they need to do done, but might still be a threat.

It’s also possible that the differences Taylor alluded to between a dog hellhound and a wolf hellhound will be much more pronounced and relevant when he’s big.

“You’re leaving me behind.”

“We’re counting on you,” I said.  “Wait for my signal, then come with Bastard.  More damage you can do, the better.”

Ahhh. She’s tense because it feels like a betrayal, being on that end of it.

All together, we bolted, Bentley following immediately behind us.  I could feel the Dragon suit reorienting to face us, felt it angle its head before it spewed another stream of liquid fire.

Some AIs just want to watch the world burn.

In a residential area?  This wasn’t an occupied area, but… well, the suit might know that.  It might be another reason it was deployed here.

Taylor is still assuming the suits operate on AIs separate from Dragon herself (because she doesn’t realize that Dragon is one herself). Which they’re almost certainly not. Question is just whether Defiant’s input that allows multi-suit drifting was making the AIs or changing Dragon’s restrictions. I’m very much inclined to think the latter.

“Hard right!”  I shouted.  We turned to head for a nearby alleyway before the liquid fire even touched ground.

The suit leaped, and I grabbed Imp’s wrist, hauling her out of the way.  It landed a short distance from us, then barreled through our group, sending Biter, Barker and the vet-in-training sprawling.

202042.gif

(I wanted to use a GIF from Elf Bowling: The Movie, but I couldn’t find one of the kind of moment I was looking for.)

Controlled movements.  Everything it’s doing, it’s all calculated.  Even the more dangerous attacks were geared to hold back just enough to hurt, not to kill.  Even the hurt was fairly minimal.  If Biter had still been on the suit’s back when it turned red-hot, I was willing to bet it would have shaken him off to avoid giving him terminal burns.

She’s starting to figure out just how intelligent the AI of these suits actually is. Might not be too many steps from here to the true nature of Dragon, though she doesn’t actually need to figure that out – from their perspective or from the reader’s. It’s too late for it to be a chapter twist from our perspective.

There had to be something about that I could use.  Trouble was, I wasn’t sure when or where the suits drew the line.  I couldn’t trust that they’d follow the rules enough that I could offer my own life in the bargain, much less anyone else’s.

Yeah, that’s fair.

I signaled Bitch, and she was out of the building in a second.  Bastard was as large as I’d ever seen him, and there was something about his appearance… he looked less wrong than the others.

Hmm. To some extent the “wrong”ness is one of the aesthetic draws of the hellhounds, but this is still pretty cool.

The spikes and ridges of bone that lined his body weren’t asymmetrical, and there seemed to be more art to the design.  Drool flew out of the corners of his mouth as he bounded forward, fangs clamped around a wooden post.

Ahh, I see – he’s still got the inside-out monstrous aesthetic, but it looks more intentional and natural.

The suit was halfway through turning around to face them when Bastard drove the end of the post into its stomach.  It skidded, sparks flying as its claws dug into the pavement for traction.

Hmm. Is this an attempt to mess with regeneration by sticking a foreign body into it?

“Pull it free!”  I shouted.  I didn’t wait for her to follow through before calling out the next order, “Regent, fill the hole!”

Ooh, filling it up with glass… nice.

Might be a little more effective.

Bitch hauled on Bastard’s chain and he followed the direction, pulling back, the post still clamped in his mouth.  When it came loose, it revealed a rent in the armor’s side, far less empty space than I’d hoped, and a dislodged joint where the leg met the pelvis.

It’s something, at least.

Shatterbird called forth a stream of glass, shoving it into the hole.  I didn’t need to give the next order.  I realized she was using her power more through my bugs than any other sign, the telltale high-pitched noise that was above my human limits.  A second later, the suit’s rear legs lost their traction on the ground.  Its lower body collapsed.

I’m not entirely sure what just happened but it’s awes– ohh

he’s pulling on the glass like with the sled

Ahaha, this is a great plan!

The suit began struggling for footing.  It was still operational.  I swore under my breath, still backing away.

At least you have a handle on it now.

Shatterbird moved one arm, and the suit slid a few feet in that direction.  She had a hold on the glass.  More forcefully, she pushed it into the nearest building, then dragged it across the alleyway to slam it into the opposite wall.

I love it.

She repeated the process two more times before the suit tried a counterplan.  It began to reshape itself, glass shards pouring out of the openings as pieces slid in and out.  A third form, something airborne.

Uh oh. Coming after Shatterbird, are we?

Shatterbird slammed it into a wall before it was done reshaping.  The fallen glass shards levitated into the air to find new nooks and crannies to slide into.

Hell yes.

The suit was hot, naturally heating up as part of the reincarnation or reformation process.  I watched as glass melted, running into holes and slats in the armor.

Reformation is a better word here than reincarnation, I think. Reincarnation, to me, implies the creation of an entirely new body which is then inhabited by the same soul and/or consciousness. That’s more akin to Dragon creating a new suit after one was broken.

Shatterbird can still control molten glass, right?

Shatterbird pushed again.  The suit barely moved.  She wasn’t so adept at moving molten silicon.

Can, but isn’t as good at it, apparently.

We continued backing down the alley.  The suit raised its head, preparing to cut off our retreat with another pool of flame.

In her second jousting run, Bitch lanced the thing through the base of the neck.  Fire spilled down around it, setting the post aflame, and the attack was stalled.

And this is why you shouldn’t stick your post in the middle of a flame war.

She wheeled Bastard around and shouted, “That’s six fucking wins to one!  Go!”

Awesome, she did internalize the thinking Taylor suggested. Good work, everyone!

Wait, to one? Did this thing win once? …Oh, right, she’s counting the fleeing as a loss.

We ran.  I maneuvered my swarm behind me to watch for its approach, felt it step forward and then collapse, its legs giving way.

I like how this does feel like more of a win than the previous “wins”, because they were able to stop the regeneration and (for now) keep it from following rather than just outrun it.

Even the forelegs?  Okay, that was interesting.

Hmm? Did Dragon give up and stop using this suit for the moment?

Does that mean she’s focusing on bringing in one of the other suits, like the Azazel?

The glass.  It had melted, and it was cooling in the lower recesses, farthest from the body’s core.

Would that disable the forelegs too?

I could have told Bitch she’d beat the suit, that we might have defeated it a hundred percent, but I kept my mouth shut.  Didn’t need her acting on what might be a false assumption.

You’ve already underestimated this thing once.

For all you know, Dragon could be acting.

If it freed itself, found a way of reconfiguring where all of the glass-affected areas were contained, or if it simply abandoned its legs in favor of a smaller form… too many possibilities.  Better to leave it and cross our fingers.

Or those things.

Damn tinkers.  What the hell was Dragon’s specialty?  The ability to make stuff without half the time other tinkers would need?

I mean… *gestures at Cherish’s predicament and the fake Nine their final message were left with*

So many different suits, so many different projects and tasks, and it rarely interconnected, if ever.

She’s pretty good at multitasking, which I’m sure you can relate to.

We ran two or three blocks before we had to stop.  Shatterbird sent glass shards into a nearby door, then tugged it free.  A sled for Regent and Imp.

Worked the first time, so why not?

With some coaxing, I got the vet-trainee to climb onto Bentley’s back.  The other henchman, the guy, climbed up behind me.  Barker approached Bastard, and received a mean growl in response.

I guess Bastard doesn’t like him.

We searched for an option for Barker and Biter before Regent and Shatterbird offered another door.

I love the visual of Barker and Biter on one of those door sleds, just because of the slightly exaggerated way I picture them and their size differences. I think of Biter as almost twice as big as Barker.

We made good time on our way to Ballistic’s lair.  We’d planned to arrive by dusk, but the sun wasn’t even setting.

Alright, sweet. Now how are things going for the other group?

The others weren’t there.  We double checked, then mobilized to find them, spreading out.  With reluctance, I drew my relay bugs from the interior of my shoulderpad.

Oh, awesome, she still has some of those left?

I felt a twinge of disappointment as I handled them, gently passing them on to dragonflies that could carry them.  They were dying.

I’m surprised they’ve survived this long, honestly.

Panacea hadn’t given the relay bugs a digestive system, and in my haste to save Atlas from a slow death by starvation, I’d neglected to pay attention to them.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyways, probably, because Grue had only had so much time to work with.

Yeah, especially if Amy realized what was happening. Though she had no reason to know about Grue’s new power.

The dragonflies sent my relay bugs out so I could keep in touch with the others as we searched for Grue, Trickster, Sundancer and Ballistic.  Bugs were tough, natural survivors.  I knew that cockroaches could survive lengthy periods of time without heads, that other bugs could be frozen solid and thawed and be little worse for wear.

They’re tough natural survivors on their own scale. Which is why this often doesn’t matter so much in the chapters with bug casualties in the thousands or even millions.

They subsisted on relatively little food considering their body size, and the relay bugs had held on this long with an inability to eat at all.

Fair enough!

Their physiology wasn’t quite the mess that Atlas’s was, and they retained some basic hibernation instincts, defaulting to a near-immobile state.  It was a struggle to even get them to extend my power’s range for me.

Thus why she needs the dragonflies to move them around instead of flying them around like she did in Prey.

I found the next dragon suit before I found the others, and I immediately knew it for what it was.  It had to be Azazel.

No surprise there. Let’s see what this beast is like!

…next time, of course.


End of Monarch 16.4

This was pretty decent. It was lowkey for a combat chapter, but I really like how Taylor’s skill at commanding the team and directing them to executing the solution shone through here. So while I think this isn’t going to be one of the more memorable chapters down the line, it seems like an important step towards her being confident in her abilities as the team’s leader at the end of the Arc, and the story is better for its inclusion.

The Melusine’s Time Lord regeneration gimmick was a very clever thing to put up against Bitch, especially in the particular environment of the Trainyard, and Taylor’s way of helping Bitch to not see running as a loss here was a nice touch.

Next chapter, it’s time for the much-anticipated Azazel fight! Everyone’s on board, hopefully, except maybe Genesis, unless someone’s been knocked out already.

It’s not going to be easy, what with this thing being custom-tailored to each of the Undersiders’ weaknesses, and maybe some of the Travelers’ too. I expect Taylor’s going to have to get even more into her role as commander and tactician in order to get everyone out of that fight with their hides intact, stepping it up from even her performance in this chapter.

It’s going to be awesome. See you there!

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