Monarch 16.8: Claiming the Crown

Source material: Worm, Monarch 16.8

Blogged: June 21, 2019


Howdy, everyone!

Welcome back to Worm, where one girl’s search for justice and camaraderie has landed her squarely in the middle of a potentially-violent city takeover.

So this situation might kinda suck for Taylor, and it’s all Coil’s fault. If he wanted the Undertravelers to not be here by accident, he should’ve told them to stay away.

Which raises the question of why he didn’t. Did the possibility of them getting stuck in the midst of things slip his mind, or did he just not care? Perhaps he doesn’t intend for things to actually grow violent, but they still might.

The main reason I think they might actually turn violent is because I think that would motivate Taylor more than anything else, even Dinah, to stand up to him, and make him a genuine threat that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. In short, it’d raise the stakes.

I do wonder if his hand has been forced by Cauldron, but I doubt we’ll find out that for a while.

So yeah, without further ado, let’s see what form this play takes!

(Oh yeah, reminder: I think the Coil Taylor sensed might be a body double, to represent him but stay out of immediate danger. That’d be a wise move considering the Protectorate and Wards are likely to swoop down on this very soon.)


There was a tap on the microphone.  “If we could have silence from the audience, please?”

Yeah, I doubt this is going to go super orderly from here on out.

Then again, unless he does intend for a violent takeover, I think Coil’s going to stick to his calm and collected veneer of civility until forced to drop it.

The low murmur of conversation throughout the auditorium gradually died down.  The place wasn’t full, but four out of every five seats were filled, and there were more people at the back, primarily reporters, many from out of town.

Not a bad turnout.

My eye darted across the room, trying to assess the situation.  The heavy woman in the front row, was that Piggot?  It made sense that every person worth talking about would be present.  The disasters and Tattletale’s attack on the cell towers meant that there wasn’t TV, there weren’t phones, and the only way for interested parties to find out what the candidates had to say was actually attending.

It’s very likely that at least a few Protectorate members and Wards have been stationed to protect this place in case of… well, in case of things like what’s about to happen with Coil.

This goes double after the mayor’s family was attacked by supervillains recently.

Outside of the auditorium, Coil’s men gathering in the lobby and at the sides of the building.  Some were taking point on the roof, gathering in pairs, working together to assemble sniper rifles.  Preparing for a fight.  For a war.

Yeeeah, there was a reason they were stationed all over the city.

They’re probably crawling out of the woodwork as we speak.

Coil was in the lobby, now, and he was joined by others.  I could recognize Circus by the sledgehammer she was carrying, the metal head dragging on the floor.

Circus! Long time no see!

Coil said something and she lifted it up.  Was he talking about the noise?  It shouldn’t matter.  He was accompanied by two others I didn’t recognize.  A teenage guy and a larger, more athletic man in a heavy metal frame.

Hmm.

I’d say the latter was Trainwreck if he weren’t super fucking dead.

Could the teenage guy be Chariot? Taylor would probably not recognize him outside his suits using the bugs.

(Though my theory that Chariot is in because of Cauldron rather than Coil remains.)

“Thank you to everyone for coming.  Tonight is a three-way debate.  Let me introduce your candidates, starting with Mr. Roy Christner, our mayor incumbent.

We might be looking at a four-way debate soon. Possibly a bit heated.

We also have Mrs. Carlene Padillo, city councilor of communications; and Mr. Keith Grove, C.E.O. of Eaststar Financial.

Decent names.

Tonight’s subjects are crime, public safety and the state of the city.  Would you start us off, Mayor Christner?  What sets you apart from the other candidates in your views?”

Launching right into it! Probably a good idea. You’re not going to have much time.

I glanced over my shoulder to verify what I was seeing with my bugs.  A young man was making his way up the aisle with a toddler, straight for Coil.

Uh oh.

Civilian who might fuck things up and get fucked up, or inside agent?

The toddler suggests the former.

“I won’t lie,” Christner said.  I glanced his way, saw how haggard he looked.  In a way it worked for him, made him look determined.  “Things are bad.  The situation’s improved from where it was weeks ago, but we’re still in an ugly situation.  No less than forty percent of the city has evacuated, hospitals are overflowing, and villains claim to own the streets…”

Hospitals aren’t the only things that are overflowing. 🌊🌊

I looked back to the dad and his kid.  They opened the door, stepping through, and two of Coil’s soldiers were on them before they could open their mouths and shout a warning.  Putting hands over mouths, the soldiers retreated from the door, separating dad from child.  Within seconds, both were being gagged and restrained.

Could be worse. The Nine wouldn’t be so kind.

The door closed on its own, leaving nobody any wiser to what was going on.

“…involved with the defense every step along the way.  I’ve discussed the subject with Legend, with Dragon and with Chief Director Costa-Brown of the PRT.

*waves to Alexandria*

Daily, I’ve been talking with and working with Director Piggot to see what actions need to be taken to see this city restored to what it once was.”

“That’s setting the bar pretty damn low,” Grove said, gripping the sides of his podium.

Are you suggesting more needs to be done? Perhaps aiming higher?

“No interruptions, please,” the moderator spoke.  Christner waved her off.  “You concede the remainder of your turn, Mayor?”

“Let’s hear what Grove has to say.”

“Very well.  Mr. Grove.  Two minutes to speak.”

“He wants to restore the city to what it was?  I think he’s wanting us to forget that half of our city was a cesspool before the Endbringer came.  Many of you in the audience live in the north end.  You know how bad it was.  Or maybe the Mayor is referring to the city’s heyday, when the docks were bustling with activity and the entire city could hear the ships coming in and out of the ports.  If he’s trying to convince you we’ll return to that time, he’s telling you an outright falsehood.

He does have a point. Brockton Bay was plenty shitty before Leviathan, especially with the presence of the Empire 88 and the Aramaic Bobbysocks Beats.

The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them.    That’s not getting into the cost of actually refurbishing the area and updating it to modern standards.  Or the fact that anyone approaching within a mile and a half of the area is subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair.  I visited.  I know.”

…oh no

Cherish is projecting it

I didn’t think of the fact that she might still have the ability to do that from her… pod or whatever. But that’s a really… Slaughterhouse Nine thing to do. They wanted to leave their mark.

I sent a message to Coil, drawing words with my bugs.

Oh, good idea.

‘I’m here.  Stop.’

He broke up the words with a casual wave of his hands, scattering the bugs.  Almost dismissive.  Of course he wouldn’t stop now.  He’d made little secret about how important his plans were to him, and to stop now, at a moment this important?

At least he knows she’s there now. If he’s still proceeding, it means he either doesn’t expect casualties or doesn’t care if Skitter is one (or turns against him for almost making her one).

The latter, of course, would put Skitter in hot water, but make the turning a lot more justified afterwards.

“The mayor wants to take us back to where we were?  That’s not good enough.  I’m proposing that we make this an opportunity.  The slate, in many ways, has been wiped clean.  Let’s start over again.  There’s national and international funding that’s been put in place to help recover from Endbringer attacks and events of gross parahuman involvement.  My budget, which is detailed in handouts that will be provided in the lobby, details how we’ll use our tax dollars and that recovery funding to rejuvenate the city.

Alright, sounds good.

The ferry, which has become a local in-joke, will be started up once more.

And there you’ve got Danny’s vote.

Low-cost, high-yield housing plans for the north end, demolition and reconstruction on a large scale for Downtown and other damaged areas, and marketing to the rest of the United States to promote and sell Brockton Bay as a symbol of perseverance and human spirit, drawing in new residents and tourism.”

I really like that idea. If they can come back from this, they really do deserve to be a symbol of perseverance.

“Councillor Padillo,” the moderator spoke.  “Any response?”

“Keith Grove is not addressing the question.  He paints a pretty picture, but he doesn’t mention the presence of the local supervillains or the pressures they put on us…”

Yeah, that’s true. Grove talked a lot about the goal but very little about the steps along the way. He pretty much just said “we’ve got money, let’s do this”.

I fidgeted.  Could I attack?  Should I attack?  If I left now, maybe stepped into the side hallway, I could maybe avoid the soldiers, get to a vantage point where I could mount a counterattack against Coil.

Oh damn, she’s actually going down that train of thought already. See, Coil, this is why you don’t dismiss one of your best people in the line of fire.

Except I didn’t know what he was planning, and my dad was here.  I could take my dad, but then I risked having to explain what was happening, and it would mean leaving Kurt, Alexander and Lacey behind.  It meant leaving all these other civilians behind.

Taylor is operating on the assumption that the guns may be used for their primary purpose rather than simply intimidation. Probably a good call.

It wasn’t practical to bring anyone else along, but I couldn’t bring myself to run from my dad, here.

Loyalty 🙂

I couldn’t say why, how or any of that, but I felt as though leaving my dad behind here would mean I could never come back.  That it would break our relationship, whether it was me getting outed as a supervillain, a break in whatever tenuous bond of trust we had or because one of us would die.

Ow. Yeah, there’s probably something to that.

There’s also the crippling guilt Taylor would be prone to after such a move. She might even feel she’d have no right to be close to Danny anymore.

I tended to be more rational than emotional.  If I was being totally honest with myself, though, my rationalizations were pretty heavily influenced by my feelings.

y e s

I could come up with a rational justification for pretty much any course of action.  It had led me this far.  Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

y e s

Councilor Padillo was still talking, even as my mind raced.  “…Points to a mismanagement of resources.  The Mayor would like us to believe that he was involved in genuine efforts to save this city.  I can’t believe he would want to be associated with the PRT’s operations as of late.  Loss after loss on the part of our heroes.

So you’re arguing for a detachment from the PRT?

The losses aren’t the fault of the heroes, it’s even understandable, given the sheer power wielded by the likes of the Endbringer, of the Slaughterhouse Nine and the various other threats within the city…”

At this point the “various other threats” aren’t really that powerful. They’re just really good at tactics.

…well, okay, the Travelers are that powerful.

Coil was moving, now, his people getting in rank and file around him, his pet parahumans standing by.

I kinda hope the two Taylor didn’t recognize with her bugs are indeed new faces. New powers are usually fun, and I find it surprising that so few new parahumans have popped up in Brockton Bay since Leviathan. Imp, Chariot, Scrub… am I missing anyone?

I had to make my call.  Stand up to him and jeopardize everything I’d been working towards?  Here, now, with Coil drawing on his power, with three parahumans and no less than twenty elite soldiers who I knew were entirely capable of hitting what they were aiming at, backing him up?

You might be able to do it in one reality.

That’s not enough.

Even if I stayed hidden in the crowd, I couldn’t say for sure that he wouldn’t spot me or my dad and order one of his people to move.

And even if she hid, convincing Danny to do the same before the Coildiers came in would jeopardize the whole identity thing. And if Danny got spotted, Coil would be able to manipulate Taylor out of hiding using him. Even if it’d break the unwritten rules.

The alternative was that I could do as I’d been ordered, avoiding any costumed activity; trust Coil and his power to handle the situation.  I hated him, on a level, but I knew he was smart.  And I knew he knew I was here; I’d asked Lisa and she’d asked him if it was okay.  He had to have a plan for dealing with me if I took any action.

Oh, okay, so he did give the okay for this.

That does continue to suggest that he doesn’t particularly mind that she’s there.

The big question, of course, is why he doesn’t mind.

“…Open fighting in the streets.  No, the blame lies with the PRT and the mayor’s administration, which he admits was heavily involved in the decisions made.  Highly questionable decisions:  Holding back when they could have intervened.  Forcing confrontations when our heroes were gravely outmatched.”

Yeeah, it’s not looking good for the Brockton Bay PRT these days.

I saw Piggot shifting uncomfortably in her seat at that.  Had this been arranged?  A staged scene?

I mean, Councilor Armadillo is paid off by Coil, allegedly, and Coil has wanted to undermine the PRT and Protectorate for a while.

If anyone’s arranged this, I don’t think it’s Piggot.

Coil started striding for the closed double doors that led to the back of the auditorium, flanked by Circus and the other parahuman, rank after rank of his soldiers following.

Here he comes. Time to really make a scene.

I gripped my dad’s hand, held it tight, and stayed where I was.

One of many little things that may contribute to him suspecting something, if the grip is tight enough for him to notice that it’s not entirely casual.

The doors banged open.  Coil, Circus and… Über was with him, in a heavy metal suit, Leet stood off to one side, holding what looked like a ray gun.

Ahaha! Just last Arc the Undersiders made fun of the idea of getting Leet on board, and here Coil went and did it!

But y’know, I don’t think that’s a bad decision. Über and Leet are powerful. Their issue was competence, and that’s something Coil and his people could help with. Especially if he’s taken them out of the crime livestreaming setup they had going, where being incompetent enough to be funny was a boon for them.

Alternatively, perhaps that’s why they’re here. To stream this, make Coil’s claim of Brockton Bay a tad more public?

A heavy metal suit and a ray gun… I kinda wanna say Metroid, but there are a lot of video games that these things would fit.

People screamed, and it set off a chain reaction of responses throughout the auditorium.  People started running for the other exits, only to have their paths barred as more soldiers emerged.

This is not an exit.

My dad and I stayed in our seats, and I crouched low in front of my seat, pulling my dad down so he would be under cover.

I wonder if Danny has noticed that Taylor seems prepared for this.

He’s about to see, first hand, her handling of dangerous cape situations.

“What the hell?” the Mayor growled into his microphone.  “Coil?”

“Good day, Mayor.”

“Mister Mayor,” Coil spoke.

Close enough.

“This is insanity,” Grove spoke.

“Genius sometimes looks that way to those who don’t see the whole picture.”  Coil had advanced far enough down the aisle that I could see him clearly.

Good quote.

He turned to take in the crowd, and for one heart-stopping moment I thought he’d stop when his eyes fell on me.  His head kept moving, and he walked further down the aisle, closer to the stage.

Just striding in like he owns the place. I like it.

Grove said, “The local heroes-”

“Are occupied.  Fires started at select locations, areas where the damage won’t be immediate, but where they cannot be allowed to spread.  One such fire is at your headquarters.  My apologies.

Nice move.

I wanted to target high-priority areas.  The other fires will occupy the members of the Undersiders and Travelers and slow them down as they recover from the loss of their individual headquarters.”

…thus reinforcing the idea that he didn’t have anything to do with their collusion and sees them as enemies.

But did he actually do that? I’m inclined to think not, but I don’t know how much longer he thinks he’ll need them after this.

Then again, doing that right now would likely agitate some of them into messing things up for him.

I tensed at that.  How much of it was a bluff?

“You bastard,” the Mayor growled.  “First my niece, now this?”

…niece?

Wait, is he talking about Dinah?

Niece?

Of course.  I’d heard Dinah was niece to one of the mayoral candidates.  I hadn’t realized she was the niece to the mayor.

Yup. Interesting.

The mayor was able to get in touch with Cauldron for Triumph. Perhaps there are other family members he’s done this for? Though that’d get expensive, there’s been no indication that the Doctor knew about Dinah before the prophecy came to her attention, and I think some of Dinah’s backstory implies she didn’t really know why her power started happening to her…

“She’s safe and sound,” Coil said.  “As are any people here without a title.  If you’re the mayor, or a candidate for mayor, if you call yourself chief of police, lieutenant, director or major, I’m afraid I can’t promise your safety.”

“President of the Brockton Bay Worker’s Union” doesn’t count, yes?

“What are you going to do?”

Y’know, it occurs to me that Coil just promised the safety of most parahumans who might be here. Being a cape doesn’t give you a title.

“Let me demonstrate.  Circus?”

Circus was walking through the assembled crowd as though she were on solid ground, but each footstep was onto the back of one of the auditorium seats.

Circus is a character I’d love to see more of, honestly. She has such a great powerset theme, and what little we know of her personality seems to clash with it in hilarious ways.

She extended her arms out to either side, fingers splayed, then closed her hands into fists.  Knives stuck out from the spaces between each finger.

Ooh, ooh, pin someone to a wall by their jacket!

Mr. Grove and Mrs. Padillo ran first, and Mayor Christner was only steps behind.  It didn’t matter.  Circus flung her arms forward and each of the eight knives hit the mark.

One mark per knife, or…?

People stood from their seats and for long moments I couldn’t see what happened on the stage after that.  I only felt the bodies hit the floor with the bugs.  I didn’t dare move the bugs to try to see exactly where the knives had landed.

(let the bodies hit the)

Coil’s soldiers were holding the reporters and cameramen at gunpoint.  I raised myself up high enough to see him turning around to face the largest group of cameras.  “The other villains want to seize the city from below.  To start at the streets, out of sight, to remove any who would threaten their rule, and claim the various districts one by one.

Wait.

Has he set them up to act as a contrast to himself?

They ignore the fact that there are others in power who aren’t superhuman.  Ordinary mortals with the power to make decisions that affect its citizens.

Coil’s power is unknown, so he’d be able to pass as mundane if he wanted to.

“I would take the more direct route.  Brockton Bay is mine.  I will make the decisions, claim and distribute the taxes and decide who sits in seats of power.  Anyone who would disagree will face the same fate as the mayor, Mr. Grove and Mrs. Padillo.”

Yep, that’s a clear and direct public claim of the city.

Good job, Coil.

I rose up enough to get a glimpse of the stage.  The mayor was lying on his back, chest rising and falling with too much force, as if he was sucking in lungfuls of air and then forcing them out with just as much strength.  He had a knife sticking out of the middle of his torso, another in his shoulder, and yet another in his leg.

Oh, silly Circus, that’s the mayor, not a pincushion.

My father pulled me down before I could see the others.

The mayor wasn’t dead, but he looked like the man might be dying.  Was I condoning this by staying silent?

To be fair, you don’t have great odds for doing anything about it.

I’d told myself I would let Coil’s plan play out until he did something unconscionable and this threatened to cross the line.  It was only the fact that the mayor was still alive and the fact that I couldn’t think of what I might do to intervene that kept me on the sidelines, hiding from the soldiers and the assault rifles they were wielding.

Yeah, that’s fair.

“You cannot expect this to succeed,” the voice blared over the speakers.

Dragon? Or perhaps the moderator?

“Director Piggot,” Coil spoke.

That works too.

“I must admire your courage, putting yourself in the line of fire so soon after your last escapade.  Kidnapped by the Undersiders, weren’t you?”

Through my bugs, I could sense how Piggot was leaning heavily on a desk just in front of the stage, using the debate moderator’s microphone.

Does she ever lean not heavily?

“This plan of yours was doomed from the outset.  Just for what you’ve done, threatening these people and ordering the execution of those three on the stage, they’ll send the entire Protectorate after you.  America will demand it.  Or are you so mad you think we’ll let you crown yourself king?”

She has a point!

He’s very much painting a target on his back here.

“Mad?  No.  A monster?  Maybe.  Better to say I’m a freak of nature.  My power is to control my own destiny, to reshape and cultivate it.  What you see here is only the tip of the iceberg.”

…oh, huh, going public with his power. Well, the simple version, anyway, the one that makes him sound completely in control.

“There’s a greater plan, then.”

It’s never been elaborated on why Coil wanted the city, beyond a desire for power. Although he did indicate he wanted to improve it, that was never framed as being his motivation for wanting to take control, like it would be for a Taylor takeover.

But on the other hand, while there is definitely a greater plan that relies on it, we know that Coil isn’t aware of that.

“Quite.  A shame you won’t discover it.  Circus?”

Aw, are we losing Piggot now?

Piggot backed away from the table and ducked low.  It didn’t help.  Circus lobbed a throwing knife into the air, so that it arced.  She didn’t have eyes on the director, but the knife nonetheless went high, catching the light as it reached the peak of its flight near the high ceiling of the auditorium.   It plunged down to strike its target and screams sounded from the front of the auditorium.

:/

Props for the dramatic description of the knife’s path, though.

“Someone contacted the heroes,” Leet spoke.  “My U.I. says they’re on the way.”

U.I.? Is he wearing goggles or something, or is it on the ray gun?

Also, would it happen to have some kind of contact with Tattletale?

“Good,” Coil responded.  “Circus, come.  Squad captains, maintain order here.  We’ll be back the moment this is done.”

It’s “good” because…?

“The bitch is too fat.  Thinking I didn’t hit anything vital,” Circus said.

Fat can have its benefits! Like armor!

“See it through,” Coil ordered, turning to leave with Über and Leet accompanying him.  Circus turned to follow, flicking her wrist hard over her shoulder.  Three knives traveled through the air, their paths eerily in sync as they nearly touched the ceiling, converging together as they dropped towards Piggot.

Yeah, that’s an undeniable kill order. Skitter, your thoughts? Got anything to stop the knives?

I barely had time to think about it, rising to my feet and calling on my bugs.  I knew it was too few, too late, but standing by while someone got murdered?  Four or five cockroaches, some houseflies, it wasn’t enough.

Damn.

I’d held the bugs back, keeping them in out of the way areas, and now I didn’t have enough to block the knives or divert them from their path.

There was a flash of light around Piggot, and for just an instant, I thought maybe she had powers.

For an instant in the middle of reading that sentence, I thought the same. Well, almost. My mind went to the idea that a trigger event happened.

(Though that would’ve resulted in a Dandelion scene and wooziness on all the parahumans’ parts.)

Maybe she’d had a trigger event, or she always had them but kept them in reserve?

But it wasn’t her.  Weld caught the knives, letting them sink into his palm, down to the hilts.

Weld! 😀

Good work, buddy.

Also, shouldn’t it take him a bit longer to let the knives sink in?

It was the Wards.  Weld and Vista were at the foot of the room.  Vista was raising her hands, folding the walls into barriers to block those of Coil’s soldiers who weren’t holding the reporters hostage.

Hell yes.

Kid Win was at one corner of the room, firing what looked like concussion blasts into soldier and civilian alike, a gun in each hand, and the hovering turrets at his shoulder adding still more firepower to the fray.

Hell yes.

He’d taken the fight out of them with the first barrage, and the follow-up fire was apparently to take down the soldiers who managed to climb to their feet or raise a weapon.  The concussion-cannons were obvious nonlethal weapons from the casual way he was firing into the massed people, intended to stun and disable rather than harm.

Yeah, stunning the civilians isn’t that big of an issue unless you need to evacuate.

Chariot had a gun that was firing off charges of electricity, similar to the one I’d borrowed from Kid Win, and was flying over the assembled soldiers, unloading shots on them.  His costume was different from the last time I’d seen him, with single-wheeled roller blades at his toes and a flight system that didn’t seem to be attached to him.

Rollerblades and flight? Awesome.

A disc the size of a car tire floated behind his head and shoulders, almost luminescent with energy, and the wings of his flight suit, tipped with jets of gold light, floated out to either side of it.

I wonder if this is a result of him getting access to the schematics of other tinkers, like Kid Win enticed him with. Some of this stuff reminds me of Kid and Dragon.

Clockblocker formed the final part of the strike party.  He wasn’t fighting- not directly.  He stood by a white cloth that had been frozen in time, covering the soldiers.

Nice!

They were turning the situation around.  The suddenness with which they’d appeared, their positioning, they had planned this, assessing the situation, deciding where they needed to be to make a decisive strike and protect the crowd, and they must have teleported in.  I knew they had the technology to teleport objects.  I hadn’t guessed they had it for people, too.

I suppose it makes sense that they’d have that, especially when you combine the existence of taxiporters with the ability of many tinkers to make tech loosely based on other parahumans’ powers. Though tech like that doesn’t seem to be terribly common, or they wouldn’t need the taxiporters.

“This way!”  Weld bellowed.  “Evacuate through the area at the back of the stage!  Stick to the sides!  And I need medical help for the wounded!”

Oh, so you do see the need to evacuate people. Maybe you should’ve informed Kid about that.

Their group was a little battered, beaten and bruised, and they wore replacement costume parts.  Where I could see skin, I noted the welts of bug bites and stings that hadn’t yet faded.

Yeeah, they’re a little worse for wear now that Amy’s not around.

Vista had covered hers with makeup, but they were there.

Not the only wounds she does that with.

I was frozen by indecision.  I felt almost hopeful, strange as that sounded.  If the good guys got the upper hand, if they actually beat Coil, then I could rescue Dinah by simply visiting Coil’s base and opening the door to her room.

Yeeeah no. When is it ever that easy?

Coil was being ruthless here.  At his orders, four people had been wounded to the point that they might die.  If I stepped in to help…

The Wards would probably assume you were another threat.

How’s Danny doing, by the way?

No, my help wouldn’t be welcome.  It could even be dangerous, a distraction at a crucial time.  I would also have to escape.  A resounding victory might see them locking down the area to take down witness statements or make sure no soldiers removed their uniform and slipped out with the crowd.

Yeah, sounds about right.

Nobody had seen me gathering the bugs in my futile attempt to try to help Piggot.  But if they found out Skitter was in the building and won, then it would be a question of narrowing down which teenage girl in the building fit the profile.

Just ask Dragon for some help with that…

And if I tried to help and Coil won, well, my dad and I would be fucked.  No sense in putting it politely.

Also true.

He would be in a prime position to not only retaliate, but maybe even retaliate without losing the support of my teammates.

If anything anchored me in place, it was the way one of Dad’s hands clutched my own, the other hand holding my wrist, and the way he seemed to be trying to shield me with his body.  His face was taut with fear, his body rigid.

He’s so scared, but he’s also trying to protect the most precious thing he has here, moreso than himself.

Have I mentioned I really like Danny, guys?

“Wards!”  Weld shouted.  “All clear!?”

“Clear!”  the cry came back three times, from Clockblocker, Kid Win and Chariot.  The soldiers had been taken down.

Nice. So what’s the kicker that made Coil say it was a good thing the heroes were coming?

My dad tugged on my hand.  Enough people had made their way down the aisles that we had room to maneuver.  I followed his lead, letting him pull me towards the aisle.

“Regroup!  Optimal range, facing the doors!”  Weld ordered.  Vista, Clockblocker, Kid Win and Chariot hurried to the center of the room.  He stayed where he was, watching as civilians from the crowd tended to the wounded.

Weld is being a very effective leader here. In general, it’s great to see the Wards working so well, so smoothly, together. It’s a very different story from their showings in Agitation or Sentinel.

All but the mayor were apparently alive.  The only one I could wonder about was the mayor.  He was lying prone, receiving CPR at the hands of two people.

Good luck, mayor Christner.

“Now!”  Weld shouted.

Clockblocker moved, lunging three feet to his left to tag Chariot.  Chariot froze in the air.

What?

Is this because they think Chariot is working for Coil, or is Chariot in on whatever plan this is?

I stopped in my tracks, momentarily confused.  Had some of the Wards turned traitor?  No.  Kid Win and Vista seemed to be taking this in stride.  Both were working together to bind Chariot.

Yeah, looks like it’s the former.

Chariot is going to be so confused when he gets unfrozen, if I’m right.

There were cries of protest from the crowd.  “What are you doing?”  “He didn’t do anything!”

“He’s a double agent,” Weld spoke, his voice carrying.  “Working for Coil.  Go.  Evacuate, get out of here.  We have this in hand.”

Good job today, man. You did very Weld.

He radiated confidence.  Damn it, for all the times we’d fought the Wards, for every time I’d cursed the heroes for not doing what I needed them to do, I began to feel hopeful.

And that’s dangerous, especially with the end of the chapter drawing nearer.

My dad and I were making our way down the aisle, past the soldiers that Chariot had laid low.  We were at the steps leading up to the stage when the doors slammed open.

Hello?

Über led the way, followed by Coil, Leet, Circus and a squadron of soldiers.

Oh, hi, welcome back.

His metal frame took the brunt of the incoming fire, and he used his arms to shield his exposed upper body from the blasts of electricity and the concussion shots from Kid Win’s guns and turrets.

Exposed upper body… doesn’t sound like Metroid anymore.

Vista began shrinking the arms, but the progress seemed slower.  She had trouble using her power when there was living material in the way, but it was still working.

Vista versus Biter, anyone?

Being so close to the fighting, to the gunfire and flashes of electricity, people were reacting badly.  Screaming, shouting at others to move faster, pushing and shoving.  Worst of all, they were making so much noise I couldn’t follow everything that was going on.

Panic is a dangerous thing.

Coil was saying something, his words carrying to the heroes, but I missed it in the chaos.

I didn’t want to out myself as being present, so I was limited in how many bugs I could deploy.  A small handful on Coil served to let me follow his movements.  He’d dropped to one knee behind Über, and Leet handed him a small remote control.  He wasted no time in pressing the button.

Wait, why is Coil on one knee? That’s odd, considering he’s supposed to be the one calling the shots here. Did Über and Leet turn on him?

The noise of gunfire changed.  My head wasn’t the only one that turned to see what had happened.

Kid Win had stopped shooting, and a shrill whine was filling the air.  He turned to Weld, who began tearing at his armor.

Oh fuck.

If Chariot really was a double agent, did he fuck with their equipment?

Leet stepped out from behind Über and shot Vista.  She was thrown down the length of the aisle, slamming against the base of the stage.  He took another shot at Clockblocker, who froze himself.  Kid Win drew another gun from a side holster and shot Leet.

Vista’s probably out, Clockblocker’s out, Kid’s still kicking but limited in offensive options…

Weld had finished dismantling Kid Win’s armor, freeing what looked to be a power cell.

Boom?

I could barely make out the words, but someone in the crowd did.  A woman screamed the words, “He said it’s a bomb!  Sabotage!  Run!”

Good woman, repeating it for those who didn’t hear.

In that instant, the crowd became a crush of bodies, each trying so hard to get up and through the stairwell that we barely made any progress.  Über, Leet, Circus and Coil began running towards the lobby, Über kicking down the door, leaving the heroes to deal with the bomb they were holding, which was squealing at a higher pitch and volume with every passing second.

I have a very hard time picturing Coil running.

It was glowing, brilliant in its golden radiance.

So, uh. Taylor, got anything you can do about this?

Chariot, ironically, would be the Wards’ best option here, if he’s clean. As a Tinker, he’d have tech proficiency that maybe could be used for bomb defusal. But he’s currently frozen.

At least if this thing goes off, Chariot and Clocky are safe-ish? Depends how tinkery this bomb is.

Kid Win pointed at Chariot.  The boy was frozen, still, but the wings and pack on his back were still active, not attached to Chariot’s suit and therefore unaffected by Clockblocker’s power.

Oh right. Two tinkers.

Yeah, Kid might be able to do something by the same logic. And the conveniently detached wings might provide him with what he needs to do it.

Weld caught the setup out of the air, tearing away the outer casing the second it was in his hands.  Kid Win changed the wiring.  They were shouting something to one another, but I couldn’t make out the words.  Weld pointed up.

Ooh, they’re not gonna defuse it. Kid’s going to change the wings so they fly up of their own accord, and then send the bomb into the sky. The firework approach to dealing with bombs.

The bomb or sabotaged power supply disappeared, teleporting away in the same grid of lines that I’d seen Kid Win use to summon his massive cannon.

Excellent… where did it go?

It dawned on me what they’d done.  Teleporting the bomb straight up into the sky, where there was nobody and nothing to be affected.

Ah, so still the firework approach, but with the wings acting as a teleporter rather than as wings.

It did cross my mind earlier that, as a tinker specialized in moving, it might make sense for Chariot to be able to make teleporters.

Or that had been their plan.  It didn’t work out that way.  I saw a flicker of light from the lobby, the glow of the device, and Coil wheeling around to face us, his screaming lost in the midst of the shrill whine and the shouts of the others.

What? What just happened? How did it end up over there??

Did the coordinate axes get mixed up or something?

Should’ve launched the wings. Would’ve dealt with the other problem of timing and gravity and the risk of the bomb just falling back down and then blowing up.

Coil’s having a bad day, it seems, but there’s no way he wouldn’t still have a dual timeline. So I don’t think this is going to kill him, because then this would be non-canon. Unless he somehow died in the other timeline at nearly the same time.

My eye to brain response was too slow to process everything that happened next.  I saw it in snapshots: the swelling energy of the sabotaged power supply, Coil’s body coming apart in pieces, the chairs of the auditorium and fragments of floorboards being thrown into the air as the explosion seemed to move in slow motion.

So, uh, Taylor.

Did Coil’s voice sound slightly off or anything? Did he look slightly wrong in any way? Especially after he came back into the room.

Then it hit us, and I saw only white, felt only pain.

Ow.


End of Monarch 16.8

So that just happened.

Let’s deal with the elephant first: I don’t buy it. That wasn’t Coil. Sure, that was clearly the real Coil who came in first and made his claim to the city, that much was clear. But then he left the room (for no clear other reason) and came back, after which he:

  • came in second after Über
  • kneeled
  • was handed the remote
  • didn’t say a word
  • ran
  • screamed
  • died

All of which seem uncharacteristic of the real Coil, even when faced with a bomb going off. Yes, I’m actually arguing that a character dying is out of character.

My guess is the guy who just got blown to pieces was the man with the toddler who left the room earlier, though it’d make more sense for Coil to have a body double ready from the start.

On top of that, this would just be a really weird way to end a threat like Coil, especially given the arc of Taylor as a main protagonist. Worm eschews some common narrative tropes in favor of realism, but the treatment of the main protagonist as a driving force for most of the positive progress on the main plot is not one of them. Yet, at least.

Anyway, in other parts of the chapter:

My only real complaint here is that I would’ve liked to see more of Danny’s reaction to this situation. We got a little bit, but a little more would be nice. Though Taylor was understandably distracted, so I suppose it makes sense.

A big highlight for me was the Wards, seeing how well they work together nowadays. They were like a Weld-oiled machine, even if something went wrong with the tele-firework plan at the end and Chariot is going to be in trouble after this.

I’m not sure who Chariot joined the Wards for. I felt fairly confident about my theory that he was in there for Cauldron like Battery was, but who else would’ve been able to sabotage Kid’s power cell? Cauldron wants Coil to succeed, but Coil doesn’t know that and they decided to stay passive, so they wouldn’t ask Chariot to sabotage the power cell and then give Coil the remote. They don’t work together that closely, as far as we can tell. So basically, this chapter, until proven otherwise, is a strong point against my theory.

Next chapter: Pain. Maybe Taylor will wake up at the hospital? Fuck, what about Danny? Danny can’t die, he’s got a ferry to revive!

I do wonder how long it’ll take for Taylor to figure out the body double, if I’m right about that. Five paragraphs? Ten? Or even multiple chapters? Will she have to actually get confirmation of the real Coil being alive to figure it out?

What happens next should be interesting, in any case. In the meantime, let’s hope not too many of the good characters died to this bomb.

See you next time!

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