Migration 17.1: White and Blue

Source material: Worm, Migration 17.1

Blogged: September 29, 2019


I really thought I was done with Worm-related migrations for the year, but here we go again.

I feel like there’s not much to say here that I haven’t already said several times, so let’s just jump in and see if we can get the PRT to turn on the sirens!


“Francis!” The word was an admonishment. “Where do you think you’re going with that?”

Who’s Francis?

…are we doing another Interlude Arc now? If anything, I’d expect that from Arc 18.

He hung his head. The luggage he was hauling behind him was on wheels, but he propped it up so it stood straight, sticking his hands into his coat pockets. He reluctantly turned to face his mother.

So is this a kid who decided he wanted to leave town even if his family didn’t?

“We have family over. Your Uncle Felix came all the way from California. I think they might want to spend some time with you this Christmas.”

Flashback alert! We’re not in the present.

Is Francis or Felix someone we know?

…we don’t know Ballistic’s civ name, do we?

“You arranged that. I made these plans weeks ago, I told you about them.”

Francis sounds a little older than I first figured, but still younger than the main cast.

“Nothing that involved luggage,” she folded her arms. Olive skinned, with a hawkish expression, his mother managed to look intimidating even though she was an inch shorter than him.

Olive skinned, hawkish, are we sure Krouse is Trickster’s original civilian name?

He bent down and placed the luggage flat on the ground. He unzipped it and opened it for her to see.

She sighed. “It’s not a productive pastime.”

Art? Games?

“I’d say it’s pretty productive. We stand to make a pretty decent amount, here.”

Villainy?

Also there’s something about the way these two speak to each other that seems a little… odd.

“You’re going to make money?”

“We already are. But the thing is, depending on how today goes, we could make a lot more.”

So whatever this is, it’s something that doesn’t automatically lead to earning money.

Liveblogging, with a Patreon set up?

I’m not sure it’s outright villainous, based on the mother’s reaction. She doesn’t seem concerned about legality, just productivity.

“You’re dissembling, Francis.”

He’s what now?

Huh. Apparently that means to “conceal or disguise one’s true feelings or beliefs”. She’s accusing him of evading the point.

He cringed, more at hearing his name than in response to the accusation.

Does not like hearing his name; likely to change it.

“I was going to save it for an announcement in front of the family tonight, after we see how it goes. We have stuff to hash out first, and it probably won’t be pretty.”

…does his mother just not care about legality?

She gestured for him to go on.

Maybe this “pastime” of theirs is some kind of arrangement with Cauldron?

He frowned. “We’re on the verge of getting a sponsorship. It’s pretty generous, too, even split between the five members of the team. And it’s in addition to what we already make. Contract’s just for one year, and if we prove ourselves, show we can hold our own, we could get a bigger, better contract when we renew the terms next year.”

This is… pretty much exactly how Coil worked with the Undersiders. Did he get in touch with them long before they came to Brockton Bay?

“This sounds a little too good to be true.”

“We’re good, mom. Ridiculously good. The sponsors have been talking about us being on the international stage.”

I mean yeah, that’s fair enough if they are who I think they are.

Multiple sponsors, huh?

So right now I’m wavering a little between Coil and Cauldron-doing-the-same-thing-as-Coil. The former is more likely, though I don’t see Coil giving Trickster the impression that it’s not just him. He was too much of a megalomaniac for that.

“And just who is us?”

“This is starting to feel like an interrogation.”

Maybe it is one. Fancy mind powers, taking someone into a memory to coax the truth out of them…

“It should. Who’s on the team?”

“Well, there’s two answers to that question-”

Hmm?

Two as in two people? Two ways of interpreting what the “team” is? Answering in terms of civilian names vs cape names?

“Francis,” she made it sound like a warning.

“You don’t know all of them.”

“Mm hmm. Is your alleged girlfriend in this group?”

Noelle?

He nodded. “Yeah. Her, Ms. Newland’s daughter-”

Noelle Newland. Nice name.

(I find it unlikely that it’s Genesis or Sundancer.)

“Oh, lovely.”

“No, she’s cool. Then there’s this girl named Jess, there’s Cody, and Luke.”

Hmmm. We’re missing a girl, but she might come later.

Of course there’s always the possibility that I’m wrong about them being the Travelers, but I don’t think so.

“You left yourself out.”

I mean yeah, that’s kinda normal.

He smiled sheepishly.

“You’re not in the group.”

…and he wants in?

“Yet. Like I said, we have stuff to hash out,” he said. He tried to force the smile from his face and failed.

“It’s dangerous to mix business and friendship.”

Yeah, see, this is why I find the speech patterns between this mother and son odd — it’s so businesslike. I would not be surprised to find there’s a family business that is serious business within the family.

“I’m being careful.”

She gave him a sharp look.

“Really!”

“Go. Be back by two.”

“Can’t. Going to take all day. I’ll be back seven-thirty-ish.”

The mom doesn’t seem to mind their activities, she just wants him to be a sensible businessman about it.

“Seven. If you’re late for dinner I’m taking your biggest present back to the store for a refund.”

And a savvy businessman would avoid this deal.

“I don’t know how long it’ll take. I can’t make any promises, and all of this is kind of important to me.”

“Then decide if it’s worth losing the present.”

He rolled his eyes. “I guess it is. Love you, mom.”

Unless of course he’s got a bigger deal lined up.

“Go. Get lost.” She smiled as she said it.

I… kind of like their relationship. I’m not sure if Francis does, though.

He zipped up his luggage and headed outside.

It was crisp. Fat snowflakes drifted down from above. He tugged his scarf tighter and headed out, the bottom edge of the luggage wiping out his footprints behind him, the wheels serving as the only trace of his passing.

I like snow. My parents aren’t as enthused about it, though.

His breath fogged up in the air, making his scarf damp around his mouth. This moisture, in turn, froze, making the fabric of his scarf stiff.

It’s clear that Wildbow has been there, done that.

It wasn’t a short walk to the bus stop, and getting the luggage onto the bus was a chore. It didn’t help that it was crowded, packed with men, women and children eager to finish their Christmas shopping. He should have felt bad about the awkwardness of having his luggage there, getting in people’s way as they got on the bus, but he didn’t.

Buses here usually have a separate luggage compartment, though I think you have to arrange specifically with the driver to use it.

Besides, Francis might not want to use it considering the sensitive nature of what’s probably in that bag.

A part of him thrived on being annoying. He liked to think it nourished him.

Hah! He’d make a good troll, in more senses than one.

He even felt a little smug. He’d finished his shopping in September. Half of his motivation had been to avoid the hassle. Half was so he could lord it over friends and family.

A savvy businessman.

(I’m terrible at Christmas shopping.)

Getting off the bus with his luggage was twice as hard as getting on. He made his way into the coffee shop and scanned the crowd.

At least it’s not a dim, dingy and depressing villains’ pub.

I wonder if we’re going to meet more babbu parahumans here who’ll show up later.

He saw her, but he didn’t hurry to her side. Instead, he spent a moment standing by the door, watching as she stood at the end of the short line.

Mood.

Her cheeks were red from the cold, and the snowflakes had melted into droplets on her eyelashes. Some flakes still clung persistently to her straight brown hair. She made her way to the front, and ordered. While she waited, she dabbed at the snow, wiping her eyes and hair, and then tucked her hat into her pocket.

Brown hair, check.

Oh, and I suppose part of why this is happening at Christmas might be the connection between “Noelle” and French “Noël”.

Seeing her rub her cheeks to warm them, he felt an urge to hold her as tight as she could bear, to feel her cold cheek against his, to warm her with his body, and to let her warm him in turn.

I like the way the crush shines through here.

It caught him off guard in its suddenness and intensity.

Look, if there’s anything Trickster is, it’s intense.

He took a deep breath and crossed the coffee shop to wait by the far end of the counter. He jammed one hand in his pocket, as if that could keep him from following through on the impulse.

Have we ever seen Trickster stick his hands in his pockets before this? It seems like a recurring mannerism of his in this chapterlude.

After a few seconds, he pulled it out again. He did have self control.

This is a nice moment, the self-assertion of “I don’t have to physically restrain myself from doing something stupid.”

Her face lit up as she saw him. He, in turn, snapped a smart salute. “Captain Noelle, ma’am!”

😀

They’re cute.

“Don’t!” She blushed. “People are going to stare.”

Me: No one’s staring right now!
Also me:

Alone_Together_043.png

“I don’t mind.”

“I do!”

Trickster would be me right here.

Except I’m not smooth.

He smiled and led the way to the nearest empty table. He used one foot to slide the luggage bag against the wall and then pulled her chair out for her.

“I can’t tell if you’re being a gentleman or if you’re trying to sweeten me up for this talk of ours.”

Can’t it be both things?

“I’ll take that as a good thing. It means I still get the brownie points, but you won’t be hard on me to make up for the fact that I’m being conniving.”

Hehe.

“I should.”

“Besides, it’s my prerogative to treat you well, right?”

She smiled a little and took another sip of coffee.

After making that SU joke, I’ve got Grace Rolek voicing Noelle in my head.

“We are boyfriend and girlfriend?” he asked. He could see the smile fall from her face.

Uh-oh. Unclear status?

He hurried to speak before she could protest. “Probationary boyfriend and girlfriend. You know you can still break this off any time, right? Don’t give a second thought to my feelings.”

Aww. He’s trying so hard to make sure she’s comfortable and to be the smooth gentleman, but inside he’s a nervous kid.

You could read that last sentence as manipulative, but I don’t think he means to be.

“That’s not it. I like you, Krouse.”

And there’s the confirmation of his new name. Nice.

Does she know it’s not what his parents call him?

Francis Krouse felt something jolt inside him.

…oh.

Fair play!

It was like surprise but not. He already knew she liked him, but hearing it said… he felt his face warming up, and distracted himself by untucking and folding his scarf.

They are adorable.

Finding himself unable to look directly at her, as embarrassed at his own embarrassment as anything else, he replied, “I like you too.”

Gee, really? I couldn’t tell. 😛

“I just- I worry I’m not being fair. We don’t actually-”

What, go on regular dates? Go to third base?

“We do what we want to do, right? We enjoy each other’s company?”

That’s all that’s really important, isn’t it? The rest are just different ways of enjoying each other’s company, and not everyone’s going to enjoy those ways as much.

“Yeah.” She sipped at her coffee again, then put it down to rub her hands for a second. “I enjoy your company.”

Wait, does she want to go deeper?

Tentatively, he reached out and placed his hand over hers. Cold. He reached out with his other hand and placed it under hers to help warm it.

Is she ever not cold?

Ooh, maybe she’ll have cold powers, what with the name. Except that doesn’t mesh well with what we’ve seen so far and is really just a stray thought.

“Look at this. Krouse is being sweet,” a girl said.

This certainly sounds like a Jess.

I’m assuming she’s Genesis.

He turned in his seat to see the others. Marissa wore a pristine white jacket with a fur ruff.

Fuck, I’ve been spelling her name wrong. I blame Philip Pullman.

Between her delicate features and the way her blond hair glittered with the moisture of the snow, she looked almost angelic.

And here I thought Noelle was the snow angel.

So did Krouse deliberately leave Marissa out because of awkwardness with respect to how he sees both Noelle and Marissa?

Luke was almost the opposite. Grungy, mismatched, dressed in layers, with a plaid green button-up shirt under a blue jacket, and a red t-shirt beneath that. His beard was a thin teenage scruff.

Ballistic?

Also I just realized, we weren’t just missing a girl earlier — we had a boy too many, unless one of them went on to change his name to Oliver.

(Or maybe Marissa is trans and not quite out yet.)

He bumped fists with Krouse before sitting down. Krouse was almost embarrassed to realize he was doing something so stereotypically ‘cool’.

Pfft.

He’s certainly not a jock.

It had started as something they did ironically and turned into habit.

Oh, like just about any group of friends at that age. Understandable.

Jess was the last to join them, navigating between the chairs, tables and other customers, making sharp turns as she wheeled herself to the table.

Oh yeah, didn’t she say she was born with the problem that put her in the wheelchair?

Her hair was shaggy, she had three piercings in one ear and thick eyeliner around her eyes. A shopping bag sat in her lap and more were hooked over the handles of her wheelchair.

This is awkward punk the team.

“I’m sorry, Jess,” Noelle apologized the second the girl arrived. “We should have found a table closer to the door.”

I wonder how Jess feels about this apology.

“She keeps saying she doesn’t want us to treat her different,” Krouse said, shrugging. “Don’t see why we should have.”

Exactly, though maybe cut that last sentence, Krouse.

Jess gave him the finger. “There’s a middle ground that lies between being an asshole and being so accommodating that you make me feel like a freak. The others have found that middle ground, I don’t see why you can’t.”

Yeah, that’s about what I expected.

“I’m doing exactly what you asked for and not treating you any different than I’d treat a non-cripple.”

Krouse! No!

*groans*

“Alright, alright,” Marissa said. “Let’s not get into another argument. We’re short on time.”

This was an adorable scene, but the moment this team comes together, their tensions show up. Immediately. The Travelers dysfunctional nature is baked into everything about them as a team.

Noelle nodded, “We don’t have long before we have to get ready, and we really should figure out what we’re doing. You guys got my emails?”

It’s interesting that the one thing about Worm that most frequently makes it feel dated is emails of all things. A service that is still very much alive.

Marissa sighed, the mood changing in a flash. “Yeah.”

There were nods from the others. Krouse stayed very still, watching them.

No one seems particularly enthusiastic about this. Even savvy businessman Krouse.

“This makes things complicated,” Luke said. “You’re in charge, though, so you get the final say.”

Noelle being the leader is something I didn’t see coming, and I kind of love it. It adds so much context to Trickster’s performance as leader and why opinions are divided about that. He’s doing what he can, but he’s not cut out for the job, and he’s probably dealing with uncertainty about whether he even should be the one to take charge after what has happened to Noelle. He blames himself, Ballistic blamed him, Noelle blames him, and it’s a lot of pressure when the team needs a leader and no one else seems to want to take charge.

Personally, I think the best replacement leader would be Genesis.

Noelle made a face. “I know, but the problem is we’re not just teammates. We’re friends. And you guys know that Krouse and I are dating. That complicates things.

Is that what this is about? Not just the whole Coil/Cauldron/whoever deal?

I don’t think I have the perspective to make the call on my own. I put my thoughts in the emails, I’m just hoping you guys can give me some direction. If you say we shouldn’t-”

Oh, I see.

Yeah, that’s fair. This is a group decision, or at least a decision the group should have some input on.

“No. The shitty thing is that the logic is sound,” Luke said. “No offense, Krouse, but this would be a lot easier if you sucked and we could kick you to the curb.”

…huh? So… they wouldn’t have to account for him potentially joining them?

Also, don’t think I’m not noticing that Noelle and Krouse here are mirroring Taylor and Brian. New member joins, something happens to the old leader (whom the new member is romantically entangled with), and the new member takes over leadership.

Is there a Cody at all? Maybe Krouse made him up to cover for Marissa.

Krouse shrugged.

Luke went on, “Look, if we were talking about staying local, being casual about this, or even sticking to the national level, we’d keep Cody. He’s reliable, but he’s not at the level we need if we’re actually going international.

Oh. Good timing to ask that, I guess.

So they’re kicking someone out to make room for Krouse and go international?

I wonder where they are, actually. Canada?

He’s boring, he doesn’t have fans. He won’t get any future sponsors interested. To top it off, he’s too traditional. He won’t surprise our opponents. They know how to deal with people like him.”

I also wonder if Cody is someone we know. If not, we’ll probably run into him at some point, maybe have some conflict between him and Undersider Ballistic (assuming that continues being a thing after dealing with Noelle).

Hm. So about the Arc structure — is the entire Arc going to be flashbacks to the Travelers’ story? I mean, “Migration” could easily refer to their nomadic style, and I’ve certainly predicted Traveler Interludes enough times to make an entire Arc out of them. And then maybe Arc 18 will be actually dealing with Noelle, and suddenly the short span of time to the end of Arc 19 starts to make sense.

I’d be down for it.

Noelle nodded. “Say what you will about Krouse, like how he’s crap when it comes to calling shots-”

Pfffft. This is great, especially knowing his role in the future.

“Hey.”

“Or even the fact that he’s prone to ignoring orders if he thinks it’ll help us. Um, he’s right so long as it’s just him operating solo, but yeah… The thing is, if we’re talking about the big picture, international recognition and going head to head with the best in the world… Krouse has the natural ability to change things up, so we can adapt our strategies to whatever they’re able to pull off.”

“change things up” is a good description of his power, yeah, but also his personality to some extent.

Also, ignoring orders at necessity can be a good thing.

“And he has fans,” Jess said. “As many as any two of us combined.”

The weird thing is they’ve been talking about all of this as though they were wrestlers or something.

Maybe they are. Is there an international parawrestling championship?

Krouse couldn’t help but smirk.

“As a call for the good of the team, it makes sense,” Luke said. “But in terms of our friendships, well, Cody’s going to be hurt. He put in a lot of effort helping us get to this point. He’s my friend, just like Krouse is. This is a pretty big betrayal, kicking the guy off the team right before we get our sponsorship.”

And villainous teams don’t usually have strict member caps, but sports teams can.

“Will the sponsor be okay with this?” Jess asked.

“As long as we prove we’re ready this afternoon,” Noelle said.

Is there a match planned for then?

“You know the arguments Cody’s going to make,” Marissa said.

“Yeah.”

“Can I say something?” Krouse asked.

“Yes, but only those four words.”

He could see them glancing at one another, trying to decide.

“So long as it’s helpful,” Jess replied.

“Look. Cody is a type A personality. Like Marissa-” he saw Marissa’s expression change and added, “I don’t mean that in a bad way. Marissa and Cody are training the hardest and practicing the most. That’s respectable. The difference is, well, we’ve all seen how much time Cody puts in. And I think he’s hit his ceiling, and he knows it.

I’m very much reminded of a subplot in my friend Krickis’ MLP fanfic, Playing House (note: not the first in its series), where a punk band was procrastinating on whether or not they should kick out a drummer who would put in minimal effort and still arrogantly think he was carrying the band. Except it sounds like Cody’s on the other end of the scale — he’s putting in tons of effort, but is hard pressed to get any better than he already is.

He’s not keeping up, and I don’t know how much he’s going to improve over the coming months or years.”

“And me?” Marissa asked.

“I don’t know how close you are to hitting the ceiling, but you have natural talent and ability that Cody doesn’t.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. There is no ceiling for her, but eventually the power starts to take over?

Wait, no, I mixed up Noelle and Marissa for a second there. Still, my suggestion stands when directed at the right person.

I would have zero worries with you backing me up, even on the world stage.”

She pursed her lips.

“Anyways, we’re talking about Cody. He’s not improving. If I’m on the team, I’m going to work harder, I’m going to improve in every department, and I fully expect you guys to kick my ass to make me do it.

“I’m going to work harder” — didn’t you just suggest Cody was working about as hard as he could?

And I’ve been pretty excellent already.”

“If you fuck this up for us, you know we’ll never let you live it down,” Luke said.

Heh. Yeeeeah, about that.

“Of course.”

Luke sighed and said, “I’m caught between two friends, so I can only make this call in terms of the team and in terms of the business.

It’s all about business in this chapter.

Possibly showbusiness and sports business.

I think we should go with Krouse. He’ll put in the work, and we all know he’s good. Some practice and we’ll get everything coordinated, and we’ll be far stronger for it.”

There were nods all around.

Welcome to the team, Krouse.

Luke continued, “Krouse was saying that Cody and Marissa are type A personalities. He’s not wrong. Marissa’s who she is because of the megabitch.”

The who now?

Marissa frowned, but she didn’t argue the point.

“And Cody’s who he is because he can’t stand to lose. So how’s he going to react if he finds out he’s been bumped for Krouse?”

“if”

Are you suggesting not even telling the dude? That’d be a major dick move.

Nobody responded. It was too easy to imagine.

“We’re in agreement, then?” Noelle asked. She was hunched over her coffee, both hands wrapped around it for warmth. She didn’t look happy. “Last chance for objections, or to say if you’re having second thoughts. I won’t be angry if you do.”

Agreement to bring Krouse in, right? Just gonna completely gloss over the issue of Cody’s reaction?

Did she want there to be a good argument against this, so there wouldn’t be a confrontation?

Kind of seems like it.

Nobody spoke up.

“Let’s go deliver the bad news then.”

So how big of a problem is Cody going to be in the long run?

While Krouse and Jess navigated their way past the maze of tables and chairs, Marissa hurried to the front counter and ordered. She joined them outside a minute later, handing one donut to Noelle, who accepted it with a roll of her eyes.

Aw. 🙂

They’d chosen the donut shop because it was only a block away from Luke’s apartment. It made for a short walk to their destination.

I thought they’d be going to see Cody. Is he waiting back there? Are they roommates (oh my cod were they roommates)?

“Krouse, you want to take the elevator with Jess, rest of us will take the stairs?” Noelle offered. She turned to Luke, “Cody here already?”

Krouse and Jess together in the elevator? Not sure I like that after their previous conflict.

“Probably. My brother said he’d stick around long enough to let him in before he went shopping.”

Nice of him.

“So you want to break the news to him without me there,” Krouse said.

…ah. Ulterior reasons.

Noelle and Luke nodded in unison.

At least they own up when called on it. But yeah, that seems fair enough.

“Alright,” Krouse agreed.

“Krouse is being cooperative?” Jess commented, quirking an eyebrow. “I’m impressed. And a little unnerved.”

Hah. 😛

He smiled at that, and he looked to Noelle as he said, “Good luck.”

A moment later, it was just him and Jess in the lobby, along with two elderly couples who were sitting in the chairs in the mini-lounge by the doors, talking.

“You must be nervous,” Jess said.

“Never,” he smirked.

Always, but you like to cover it up.

I think Jess is the most perceptive Traveler, the one who understands Krouse the best except maybe Noelle.

“See, I have you figured out. You have a tell, when you’re lying.”

Is it something about the smirk?

“Sure.”

“The more overconfident you act, the more nervous you are. And when you’re feeling down, you poke at people, provoke them. I think you get some validation out of it, like, if you can test people and they’re still your friends after, you can feel confident in that friendship.”

Have I mentioned Trickster reminds me of Karkat? Yes I have, and I’m going to mention it again. Trickster reminds me of Karkat.

“Ohhh, seems like you spend a lot of time thinking about me. Maybe a little bit of a crush there? Eh? Unrequited love?”

Yeah, he’s feeling nervous about how spot on she is.

She broke into laughter, too sudden and hearty to be anything but genuine.

Yeah, he just confirmed her statement in the best way. 😛

He shook his head a little and let her go first into the elevator before following with his luggage.

“What-” he started speaking, but he stopped when she broke into another fit of giggles. “Come on, now.”

Pffft.

The thing was, he mused, Jess would probably be a good match for him. She was probably the best when it came to keeping him in line, keeping him real, and calling him on his shit. She wasn’t bad looking either.

This just in: Trickster likes the looks of literally every girl on the team.

And yeah, not gonna lie, Trickstesis is an appealing ship. But maybe they’re even better having a platonic, sibling-like relationship.

But she was in a wheelchair, and though he sort of wished he could be the kind of person who could take that in stride, he had to admit he wasn’t.

Aw.

I mean, I kinda get it, from a “people can’t control what they are or aren’t into” perspective, but still.

Meanwhile in complete mind-swerves, I wonder if they actually have their powers yet. I mean, all this team talk seems to be for some kind of sport that might not even involve powers, and the closest we’ve had to someone acknowledging one of their powers is the comment about Krouse changing things up, which still isn’t necessarily in the sense of his power.

Then there was Marissa, the most attractive member of their group by far. Nobody would deny it. Tall, blond, slim, with a body honed by years of dancing and ballet. She was good looking enough that it was intimidating. Odd as it was, nobody in the group had asked her out, as far as he knew.

Maybe she’s just not everyone’s type. Or preferred gender. I suddenly find myself headcanoning Luke as gay, for absolutely no reason.

Marissa’s mother played a part in that; nobody wanted to deal with the megabitch.

Is she the kind of mom who forces her daughter to live her life for her? We know Marissa had a lot of afterschool activities. Did the megabitch force those all on her?

Noelle, oddly enough, had been the girl they’d fought over the most. It was odd because she didn’t have Marissa’s head-turning beauty or Jess’s confidence. It made her more approachable, in a strange way, up until the point where Noelle had shut down any and all advances.

It seems like she’s got a good balance of looks and personality.

Not that those qualities are necessarily at odds.

Getting close to her had been a slow process, one with a lot of missteps on his part and skittishness on hers.

One thing’s perfectly clear: Nobody here is following Mother Krouse’s advice of not mixing business and “friendship”.

And Krouse “winning” Noelle after other members fought for her affections is another thing that can fester and make cracks in the team.

He had a sense of what the story was behind that. Marissa knew too, by all indications, but he hadn’t asked. That was Noelle’s private story, to be shared when she was ready.

I take it you’re not going to share your suspicions with us?

I suppose she’s been hurt by a romantic partner before.

The moment the elevator doors parted, he could hear the shouting.

Ah. Seems Cody didn’t take it well.

(Is this going to be a trigger event for him?)

“You assholes! I didn’t want him on the team in the first place and now you’re replacing me with him!?”

Wait, so there’s not a hard limit? He thought they might take Krouse in in addition to everyone else?

“Calm down, Cody.” Luke, ever reasonable. “Shouting isn’t going to help, and it’ll bother the neighbors.”

This is the same guy who casually launches cars at buildings later.

“He’s manipulating you! He’s a slimy creep, and you know this is exactly why he’s dating Noelle.

Rude.

Though if we hadn’t seen for ourselves how much he cares about her, not just in this chapter but previously too, I would’ve considered that Cody might be right about this.

Or don’t you find it alittle suspect that they started dating almost right after we voted her captain?”

Krouse glanced at Jess, who furrowed her brow as she looked up at him. They stepped out of the elevator and paused outside of the door to Luke’s apartment.

Also, this isn’t just rude to Krouse, it’s rude to Noelle too. He’s implying she would fall for this sort of manipulation and that her entire relationship is built on a lie.

Oliver and Chris were standing outside the door.

Hi, Oliver. And Chris?

Is Chris Luke’s brother?

A more different pair was hard to imagine. Chris was Marissa’s friend. After Marissa had dropped all of her old hobbies and joined the team, Chris was the only one of her friends who’d stuck around.

Oh, so she did drop all that stuff, then. She mentioned in Prey that “Even after I stopped all that, I was with my friends.” but while I did understand that as being the team, I kind of figured they were around before she stopped.

Alright, is Oliver Luke’s brother, then, or did his brother go out shopping as planned and Oliver come by separately like Chris presumably did?

The narration does refer to Chris and Oliver as a “pair”, even if not necessarily in the “romantic couple” sense. But… ship time?

Krouse didn’t see why, but Chris tended to have girls all over him. He was worlds different compared to Oliver, who was short, pear shaped, his blond hair cut in an unfortunate bowl-style that wouldn’t have suited someone four years younger.

Well this has gone completely fuckin’ pear-shaped.

“You idiots!” Cody swore. “You know he planned this. Asshole thinks he’s so smart, and you just feed that delusion!”

Maybe subconsciously?

Some people are manipulative even without meaning to be.

Chris mouthed the word ‘wow’.

It seems no one is buying Cody’s accusations.

“Cody,” Noelle started, “We talked it over-”

“Without me!”

I did almost comment on that detail, but they kind of made it clear why they did that.

Whether it was a good idea is a whole other matter.

“Because we knew you’d react like this, and we wanted to be sure we all agreed before we moved ahead.”

“And I bet Krouse was there, wasn’t he?”

Yeah. That part might have been a little unfair.

“He was.”

“Real fair.”

“He kept his mouth shut,” Noelle said.

Except for one particular bit that majorly helped sway the outcome.

Not exactly true, Krouse thought.

“He was still there. You think the others are gonna say he sucks and he doesn’t deserve a spot on the team while looking him in the eyes?”

Marissa? No. Luke? Yes.

(Jess? Snarkily.)

It was Luke who answered him. “Honestly? Yeah. We would.”

The directness gave Cody pause. Krouse decided to head inside. He found Luke, Marissa and Noelle standing together against a red faced Cody.

Are you sure this is a good time to enter, Krouse?

“You.” Cody narrowed his eyes. “You dick.”

“I’m honestly sorry,” Krouse said. “If there was a way for the deal to include all of us, I’d take it without question. We can only have five.”

Ohhh. There was no hard limit when Krouse began to be considered for the team, but the deal specified one and that’s how it complicated things.

How does Oliver enter into all of this?

…actually, didn’t Noelle get introduced to the Undersiders as their old field commander? So maybe I should’ve known she was their original leader already, but I think at the time, I thought of that as the role Oliver then held rather than the one Trickster held.

“But you have no problem stabbing me in the back for your own benefit.”

Nah.

“It’s more for everyone’s benefit-”

“Except mine.”

“Really, I am sorry. I know how hard you’ve worked.”

“But I’ll work harder.” *sticks tongue out*

“I work twice as hard as anyone else,” Cody stabbed a finger at Krouse, “Ten times as hard as you.”

“And you’re only about as good as Mars,” Krouse said, shrugging, jerking his thumb in Marissa’s direction. “And if I’m better than you while putting in as little effort as you say, how much better will I be when I’m trying?”

Oof, shots fired.

Cody clenched his fist, and Krouse could tell that he was about to swing. He grit his teeth and braced himself for the hit. Better to take it than-

Than fight back or dodge?

Who’s interrupting this? Luke?

“Cody,” Luke cut in, putting himself between the two. “You’re pissed. You’re allowed to be pissed. I would be too, if I was in your shoes.”

Yes, you absolutely would.

“I thought we were friends,” Cody replied. The emotion in his voice was raw enough to make Krouse cringe.

Business and friendship.

That’s really the core of just about everything wrong with the Travelers, isn’t it.

“We are. But this is business. And we need to get to business, because we only have a little time to get ready. You can hit him, or you can stay. Pick one.”

Friends don’t hit friends in friends’ apartments.

“Stay and watch him make his debut?” Cody asked, bitter.

Debut? In here? Is their sport an online one?

“This isn’t set in stone yet. If he fucks up today, if this doesn’t work out-”

“We’re boned,” Cody finished.

…I don’t think that’s how that was supposed to end, but at least you’re still acknowledging a “we”.

“No. We’ll drop him and reinstate you, we’ll apologize to our sponsors-to-be and we’ll move ahead.”

“So I hit him or I stay and watch him crash and burn?”

See? It’s a win-win!

“Basically.”

Cody smiled. “I’ll stay.”

“Wonderful.” Krouse smiled back. “We really should get ready.”

The wonders of friendship!

Everyone else was already set up, so they took on the job of prepping the room. Luke shared his apartment with his brother and another roommate,

(oh my cod they were roommates)

but both had vacated for the day, leaving Luke the freedom to rearrange the furniture. He recruited Marissa and Oliver to help with the moving of the stuff he hadn’t been able to shift on his own.

I suppose if it’s online, they need space for five computers.

Or maybe they’re practicing for the international team Twister championships.

(I’m picturing five players per team, four color-coded teams in a match, one giant Twister mat. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that at least once, I dare you.)

Chris took the job of pulling the curtains closed, reducing the light that streamed in through the windows to a few glowing slivers that stretched across the floor.

Left foot, light.

Cody stood by with his arms folded.

“Here, Noelle,” Krouse said. He set his luggage flat on the ground and unzipped it. There were computers inside, each half the size of a regular desktop, wrapped in layers of towels and plastic sheeting.

Smol screens!

“Thanks for the loan. Don’t trust mine with the sheer amount of crap my cousin downloaded onto it.”

Pffft.

“Actually…” He trailed off, sticking his hands in his pockets. “I took my old machine, I replaced the power supply, formatted it, installed a clean OS and done all my usual tricks for clearing out the crap that we’ll never use and optimizing it. You can consider it an early Christmas present.”

Joyeux Noelle!

She stared at him, and he tried to interpret her expression. A used computer for a present, would she be offended? Or, conversely, was she bothered at the idea that he’d given her a two-year-old, two-thousand-dollar machine and that he might want something of equivalent value?

There’s the nervousness kicking in. Is he about to act really confident?

She hugged him for the first time in recent memory. “It’s great. Thank you.”

“I know the hardware is two years old, but it’s still better than most.”

Yeah, that’s fair. Two years isn’t that old.

She hugged him tighter, then let go, “I don’t know how to thank you, and I don’t want you to take this as me dodging the subject or being ungrateful, but we really should prep.”

Yeah, get on with that, I want to see what you’re prepping for.

“For sure,” he smiled. His body was buzzing from the physical contact.

Can we let Cody see the narration for a moment?

No? Fine.

With Oliver’s help, Luke had pulled the couch away from the wall and turned it around, and arranged desks and tables in its place. Five computers were set in a row. Noelle and Krouse left their computers off, but the others started up. A few mouse clicks and the loading image for Ransack appeared.

A pirate game? I suppose that explains the “captain Noelle” greeting.

The game’s login screen music played over the speakers of each computer, each out of step with the others.

A cacophony that is very much a metaphor for the team.

Krouse looked at Chris and Oliver. Second stringers. He’d been one of them, more or less content to watch as everyone else had all the fun.

Ohh, okay, they’re the backup.

Oliver was trying to get to a competitive level, but he wasn’t very good. Chris only participated to keep Marissa company and to earn some pocket money.

Which might explain why he’s not around when they become a team in a different sport.

“Let’s talk strategy for tonight’s tournament, then,” Noelle said. “Krouse is new, they might not expect him, but Jess is our best overlord. I think she should go first, Krouse second, I’ll follow up, then Luke, then Marissa if we get that far in the best of five. Any complaints?”

So it’s one on one, best of five, switching players between each match. Makes sense, though you’d think one computer might be enough for something like that. I suppose the game is set up to allow teams that aren’t physically in the same place, though.

There were shakes of the head.

“We’re up against the Chork Pops, North American team.

Beautiful name. They represent Chanky Bob’s as part of a bizarre promotional venture.

“North American team” — does that imply the Travelers are not North American? I suppose it would make sense for the Travelers to have traveled.

They’ll lead with Mark Key as their overlord. We know him. He likes to stall and put every resource towards making a brutal end-boss surrounded by traps and trap spells. Kind of the opposite of Jess.

Ooh, okay, so it’s not one on one. Everyone plays, but someone is the overlord acting as basically the final boss of the team, and the one who leads. And apparently that has to be rotated even if the team has an official leader amongst themselves? So even if Noelle is the leader of the team, they all need to have some leadership skills in-game.

I’ll take the lead as tank and team captain for round one.

Oh, except the overlord isn’t necessarily the leader. Got it.

Krouse, you have any idea what you want to do?”

I wonder if all of them are going to pick roles that match their powers. If so, we can expect Luke to be a heavy-hitter and Marissa to have some AoE focus. Jess might be a summoner of sorts, and Krouse will likely shake things up a bit.

“I’ve been practicing with an illusion-subtlety-assassin hybrid class.”

Interesting. Sounds like we’ve got some flexible classes around here.

“illusion-subtlety-assassin” sounds like Imp.

“Illusion sucks,” Cody muttered. “And a three-way hybrid? You’re spreading your points too thin.”

Point-based skill system, that’s a pretty decent way of making things flexible.

And this is why I’m on the team and you aren’t.

Because Krouse can find a way to make thin points work.

Just like with his power. He’s far from the most powerful person on the team, but he’s versatile and knows how to make it work for him.

“I take the first opportunity to invade our dungeon, use the subtlety and assassin part of my build to pick them off as opportunities come up. Our core group’s pretty strong, so they’ll be fine as a trio. Since it’s normal to fall behind when invading, they won’t notice I’m weaker with a shallow point spread.

Okay, I think I get how this works. The overlord designs a dungeon for the opposing team to attack, while the other teammates attack the opposing dungeon, and whichever team takes out the opposing overlord first wins the round?

Though why would that make you fall behind when invading…?

Endgame stage, I can return to the enemy dungeon to help against the boss, I’ll whip out the illusion magic and we’ll make a play.

Alright, I see, he meant invading their own dungeon to lay in wait for the attackers, disguising it as him simply falling behind as the others invade.

He’s playing defense in an offensive role and then rejoining the offensive at the end.

I’m assuming there’s respawning in this game, since otherwise the whole overlord system would fall to the wayside in favor of just killing everyone.

Circle around, or get him to activate the traps too early-”

Sounds like you’ve got a solid plan for your role.

He stopped as a rumble shook the building.

Oh fuck, stuff’s happening. Endbringer?

“What was that?” Krouse didn’t hear who asked the question. One of the other guys.

The power cut out, the music from the computers cutting off, the lights going dark.

I hope it’s the Simurgh, but it’s sounding more like Behemoth.

Of course, it could just be some run-of-the-mill villains.

“Shit! The tournament!” Luke swore.

Yeah, but I think you’re about to have more pressing concerns.

The light that leaked in around the edges of the windows dimmed, the curtains simultaneously billowing inward. Except the windows were closed.

This could happen if someone happened to have large-scale power over wind…

Krouse didn’t have two seconds to wonder what was going on before he felt a momentary weightlessness. He felt himself tipping over, stepped back to catch his balance, and found the floor tilting, out of reach of his foot.

…aaand down goes the building! Wheeeeeee!

A heartbeat later, the windows were directly overhead, and he was falling. He started to scream, but he managed only a monosyllabic, “Ah!” before he fell onto the side of the dining room table, tumbled to one side and slammed into the chairs, the wind knocked out of him.

Noelle wasn’t lucky enough to have the dining room beneath her to break her fall. Wood splinters flew as she hit the chair. The table that had held the computers followed her, striking hard and then sliding across the wall to rest against what had been the ceiling.

Ow.

I did half-jokingly suggest they were wrestlers. Noelle’s just taking revenge aganst the chair.

The wires connecting the computers to the power bar and the power bar to the wall came free. One computer tower dangled, swung, bounced and fell, a projectile aimed directly for Krouse’s head. He threw himself toward the space under the dining room table, as much as he could with the chairs beneath him. The computer punched a hole in the wall.

Bye bye, computer!

I like the hectic nature of what’s happening here. You really get the sense that all of this started happening quickly.

Noelle wasn’t so lucky, nor was she as free to move out of the way. The remainder of the computers and computer monitors came free of the wall and fell on top of her.

Noelle’s really taking a beating today, huh.

Is it just me or is Krouse ignoring everyone else but him and Noelle?

The others had been further back, had fallen against the wall that framed the kitchen, to Krouse’s right.

Time to catch up on them.

He could only hear their shouts and screams, the heavy thuds of bookcases, books, couch and television falling on top of them.

Oof.

…y’know, I think I found another possible reason Chris isn’t around in the future.

Then stillness, with only the sound of a high, steady scream to break the silence.

Does it sound birdlike by any chance?

The apartment had turned on its side. The windows loomed high above them, curtains hanging straight down. Dim light streamed down into the otherwise dark room.

Anything visible above you? I’m picturing the dimness being because of the Simurgh moving some cloud cover using wind. I know clouds are Leviathan’s thing, but the patent he filed was rejected. He’s still kind of grouchy about it.

“Noelle,” Krouse gasped, staggering to his feet. He climbed over the heap of furniture, tentatively setting foot on the wall to circle around to get to her.

First priority, of course.

She was limp, blood streaming from her mouth and nose. She wasn’t the one screaming.

“Come on,” he muttered, making his way to her and carefully dragging her out of the pile of computers. He checked her pulse: not strong, but there. Her breathing was thin.

I have a feeling you won’t be able to say the same for Chris.

Had to get her help. Just had to get out of there. He looked around.

I like how the sentences are a little terser due to the stress of the situation.

He’s not really thinking about the rest of them, but that’s understandable. He’s barely in condition to think of one of them.

The kitchen door was a solid ten feet above the new ‘floor’, the ledge that the others were on, the wall that had encircled the kitchen, was five or so feet above that.

That’s a bit tricky.

…or perhaps triggy. Does he get his power because of this inaccessibility?

Every surface around him was flat, featureless, with nothing to climb.

One of the girls on the upper level was muttering, “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” over and over. Marissa or Jess. The girl who wasn’t repeating the words said something he couldn’t make out.

Marissa, I’m guessing, perhaps having found Chris.

And that keening, it wasn’t stopping. Didn’t she need to catch a breath? He covered his ears.

Yeah, dude, I don’t think that’s one of the girls. Especially considering all three girls are accounted for and either unconscious or saying things that aren’t SQUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWK.

Does covering his ears even shut it out?

It didn’t help. Must have hit my head.

No.

“Hey!” He shouted. “We need help!”

Luke peered over the edge, face pale as he looked down at Krouse.

Hiya.

“Noelle’s hurt,” Krouse said, a tremor in his voice.

“Chris is dead,” Luke replied, oddly calm.

And there it is.

In this situation, Noelle is the higher priority, but it’s good to keep each other informed.

They stared at each other, eyes wide, experiencing mutual shock. Luke seemed to break free of the spell first, disappearing from sight.

Luke is calm, but not unaffected. I think it’s the kind of adrenaline calm that keeps you rational and effective in the moment, but after the situation you can still be quite shaky because of everything that happened.

And yeah, I don’t think either of them expected any problems at that scale today.

It was a few minutes before Luke returned, throwing down a knotted sheet.

Ah, good idea. Hoist them up.

Carefully, Krouse picked Noelle up and arranged her so she draped over one shoulder. It was awkward; she was nearly too heavy for him to lift. He managed to keep hold of her with one hand and gripped the knotted sheet with the other, wrapping it around his hand and wrist so he couldn’t lose his grip. He could hear Luke giving orders to the others. They began hauling him up.

Good teamwork. Maybe Ballistic should’ve been the leader all along; he’s certainly handling this situation like one.

Once he was high enough, he set foot on the doorframe by the kitchen, stepped on the half-inch ledge as they lifted him again, then accepted Luke’s hand in getting up to the ledge.

Jess was caught, her wheelchair trapped beneath the couch and a bookshelf, and she had a thread of blood trailing from the corner of one eye, which was bloodshot.

The world decided it hadn’t hurt her legs enough.

Cody was reeling up the knotted sheet, avoiding looking back at Chris while Oliver attached another sheet at the end.

Krouse glanced at Chris and then looked away. The boy lay against the wall, his head bisected by the top of the bookcase.

Yikes.

(There’s only one doctor in all the land who can fix this. Say his name with me, everyone: G-R-E-E–)

Already, Krouse could detect the cloying odor of mingled blood, urine and shit. Marissa knelt by her friend’s body, holding his hand, unmoving. She’d stopped chanting in shock.

😦

“What happened?” Oliver asked, sounding very much like a little boy. Not that he was. They were in the same class, the same age.

An age that has been steadily rising in my head over the course of this chapter, from 8 to 13-15.

“Could have been an earthquake” Luke suggested, still sounding strangely calm. “We need to find out how to get out of here.”

“Noelle needs a hospital,” Krouse said.

An earthquake would have been a preferable explanation.

“We need a way out of here first.” Luke looked up at the windows, ten feet above their heads.

Luke has his priorities in order.

Neither the floor nor the ceiling offered anything to grip. “All the stuff from the bedroom and closet fell into the front hall.”

“Then we go out the window,” Krouse said, looking up. “We can use the couch and bookcases like ladders.”

Seems reasonable.

The work was grim, quiet, as they moved the furniture, sharing the burdens between four of them at a time. Nobody looked at Chris, nor did they touch the bookcase that had fallen on him.

There’s more moving around of furniture in this chapter than in the one where Taylor went to Brian’s place specifically to move furniture around.

Twice, they had to rearrange and reposition the parts of their improvised ladder as resounding impacts shook the building.

Oh fuck, she’s circled back around.

Krouse was first up, followed by Luke, who carried Noelle. As her boyfriend, it smarted to let someone else carry the burden, but Krouse knew Luke was stronger, more athletic.

It’s only reasonable in this situation. Social stuff needs to be put on the sidelines for a moment.

Going first meant he could help them up and ensure Noelle didn’t fall.

He was glad the snow had stopped, but there was a strong wind, and it was painfully cold.

Yeah, having an Endbringer around does that kind of thing.

Are there any out-of-towner heroes fighting her yet? I’ve noticed there haven’t been any sirens, unless the “screaming” was actually those rather than the Simurgh. My point is, the systems might not be in place as well as they were in Brockton Bay, and we know the early warning system wasn’t a thing here.

They hadn’t brought jackets and gloves up with them, and getting clothes from the front closet would be nearly impossible. They’d have to find shelter soon. He perched on the building’s concrete exterior, waiting for the others.

Pick carefully, when it comes to the shelter. Think about what’ll happen if it gets struck.

He stared out at the city around him. Snow had been stirred into clouds, and half a dozen buildings had obviously been knocked down, judging by the remaining wreckage. Luke’s apartment building had toppled. How did it not collapse in on our heads?

You got lucky, or the Simurgh needed you to survive. I suspect the latter, when you question it like this.

He turned his attention to his girlfriend, reached over, and squeezed her hand. Noelle still hadn’t woken up.

I wonder if the trouble she’s in in the future starts here, with the aftereffects of the Simurgh, that setting in before any of the others even get their powers.

Cody came up with Jess riding piggyback, her wheelchair abandoned. Oliver and Marissa were the last to ascend.

“That music,” Marissa complained. “Driving me crazy.”

Yeah, I’m back to thinking it’s the Simurgh. I’ve long suspected something about her power affected people’s minds, and a song of insanity is a fitting power for a giant apocalypse bird.

Speaking of her size, do any of you see her yet?

“Music?”

“Like an opera singer singing a high note and never stopping for breath. Only it changes a little if I pay attention to it.”

Thus alerting Krouse to the fact that it’s not just inside his head.

The scream.

“You hear it too?” Krouse asked. He pressed his hands to his ears to warm them.

“I thought it was a siren,” Oliver said.

Same, for just a moment. Except that wouldn’t have fit with Krouse not being able to block it out.

“It’s not,” Krouse replied. “It’s in our heads. Try covering your ears.”

One by one, they did.

“What the hell?” Luke asked.

Yeah, she’s probably from somewhere around there. Certainly acts like she wants the world to go there.

But Krouse saw Jess’ face, the dawning look of horror.

Has she realized what it is?

I mean, it would’ve been possible for this to be the Simurgh’s first appearance, but it seems a little late for that after the early appearances of Behemoth and Leviathan.

“What is it?”

“I know what it is,” she said. She started looking around, twisting around from her perch on Cody’s back to search the cityscape around them.

Does she fly that low?

Another earthshaking crash and a flash of light drew their eyes to the same spot.

Three buildings floated in mid air, a distance away, the lower floors ragged where they had been separated from the ground. One by one, they were hurled through the air like someone might lob a softball. Even with the impact happening half a mile away, the ground shook enough to make them stumble.

Does she have a form of telekinesis too? Other than the aerokinesis?

Maybe she’s just holding them up by the air inside them.

There was a flash of golden light, and the mass of some irregular shape hurtled in their general direction. The impact seemed mild for the size of the object that landed.

Golden light… Scion. He arrived early this time, huh?

It was hard to make out through the cloud of snow and debris.

Then it unfolded, so to speak. No, it isn’t that big. But ‘big’ was a hard thing to define.

This is a good line.

It also reminds me of some musings I had about an MLP thing a while back, that I put on the blog because it involved beings bigger than Behemoth.

She seemed human, but fifteen or so feet tall, waif-thin, and unclothed. Her hair whipped around her, nearly as long as she was tall and platinum-white. The most shocking part of it all was the wings; she had so many, asymmetrical and illogical in their arrangement, each with pristine white feathers.

White? Damn it, I’ve been picturing her as yellow this entire time. That’s not going to shake off easily.

Oh, and a lot more birdlike. Wasn’t expecting the humanoid parts, especially after Leviathan having never been human.

I suppose this explains why people have decided she’s a she.

The three largest wings folded around her protectively, far too large in proportion to her body, even with her height. Other wings of varying size fanned out from the joints of others, from the wing tips, and from her spine. Some seemed to be positioned to give the illusion of modesty, angled around her chest and pelvis.

I’m… just going to assume the wings are mostly for show (and perhaps whacking/slicing) and flight is actually just a separate power of hers.

Each of her wings slowly unfurled as she stretched them out to their limits, and the snow and dust around her was gently pushed away. The tips of the largest three wings raked through the building faces on either side of the four lane road, tearing through concrete and brick and bending the steel girders that supported the structures.

Yeah, I kinda figured they’d be paranaturally sharp, especially if they weren’t used for flying.

She rose off the ground and settled on her tiptoes, as if the massive wings were weightless or even buoyant. There were parts of her that were see-through, Krouse realized.

Huh. Camouflage when inactive?

Or not quite see through, but porous? Hollow? One hand, one leg, some of her hair, her shoulder, they were made up of feathers, the same alabaster white of her skin, intricately woven and sculpted into a shape that resembled body parts, with enough gaps that he could maybe see the empty darkness beneath.

Interesting. So some of the humanoid shape is fake. What would she look like if she stopped pretending? Is she pretending to have been a human to further human confusion about what the Endbringers are, or was she, unlike Leviathan, human at some point?

She turned to one side, and Krouse could make out her face. Her features were delicate with high cheekbones. Her eyes were gray from corner to corner. And cold.

How many? Two?

There was nothing he could point to, no particular feature or quality that could help him explain why or how, but seeing her face made it harder to ascribe any kind of human quality to her.

Makes sense. It’s harder for her to fake a human face and easier for humans to recognize when it falls into the uncanny valley than most other body parts.

If he’d been thinking she had a sense of modesty before, he didn’t now.

Is she making bedroom eyes at you? 😛

Now that’s a ship.

She raised one wing to shield herself as a beam of golden light speared through the clouds. Feathers glowed orange-gold as they were blasted free, disintegrating into tiny sparks and motes of light as the remains drifted away.

It’s still a little jarring to see lasting damage done to one of the Endbringers. Which of course is why they need Scion in the first place.

The screaming in his head was louder, Krouse realized.

Fuck. Stronger with proximity, or is she just getting upset?

Also, I suppose maybe the fake body parts could be covering things previously blasted off by Scion. Though that’d imply she doesn’t have as effective healing as Leviathan.

There was a new undercurrent to it, a thread that seemed to point to the sound taking shape, altering subtly in pitch. What had been a single note was now shifting between two.

What madness is she planting?

“It’s the smurf,” Cody breathed.

“The Simurgh,” Jess corrected, her voice small.

THE SMURF

ahahahahaha

the best fucking AU ever

(is the gh in Simurgh actually pronounced like an F? I don’t think I can take her seriously anymore if it is)

“What is she doing here? Why is she here?”

“Shut up and run,” Krouse said. “Run.”

Yeah, Krouse has the right idea. When the Smurf comes around, you get the hell out of Dodge.

Don’t want to catch the smurfing blues.


End of Migration 17.1

That was really smurf!

Wildbow, I know I’ve been anticipating a Traveler Interlude, but Smurfmas is still three smurfs away on my end! I suppose you’re just being like Krouse and doing all your Christmas smurfing early, in your January and my September.

Point is, you’re giving me potentially a whole Arc-long Traveler Interlude now? That is so smurf of you, thank you!

I really like the way this chapterlude smurfed with the presentation of the team’s activities through ambiguity, but slowly built up the feeling that it might not actually be their parahuman antics through the smurf-sized details that didn’t add up, and then right when we got settled into the mundaneity of what they were actually doing, it shook things up with the sudden arrival of the Smurf. I’m so down for this.

I also really like Luke in this chapterlude. His portrayal here makes me look more forward to him working with the Undersiders, however long that actually ends up lasting. Maybe he’ll smurf back to the Travelers by the end of the Noelle situation, or perhaps he won’t make it. There’s a minuscule chance he stays, but it’s worth noting his power doesn’t fit the team theme and he has a history of not smurfing along well with certain key Undersiders.

Please tell me there’s art of the Simurgh as a smurf and send me that art as soon as it’s safe. I have a mighty need.

Next chapter, we’re either jumping back to the future for an alternating storytelling style, or we’re running. Where are we running? Away, of course. Anywhere that isn’t here. The Smurf might follow, if the Travelers are actually important to her plans and she needs to do anything beyond just sending them running off to their future of further running.

Oh, also: Cody’s probably not in for a pleasant fate. Him getting ditched from the Ransack team doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from being part of the villain team later.

Or maybe he just didn’t get smurfs like the rest of them. That could also be the thing. I don’t think Oliver has been suggested to have any smurfs either, but maybe Cody just wasn’t content with a background role. I don’t know, I’m just trying to come up with some non-deadly outcomes for the guy who smurfed us the best line of this chapter.

Smurf you soon! 😀

One thought on “Migration 17.1: White and Blue

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