Migration 17.2: Song and Dance

Source material: Worm, Migration 17.2

Blogged: October 3, 2019


RUN!!! IT’S THE SMURF!!!

So there are two ways I could see this chapter going:

  • The flashback Traveler story continues as normal, with the group attempting to escape the Smurf, or
  • we’re getting a chapter of the Noelle situation in the present, possibly from the Travelers’ perspective, starting an alternating pattern between past and present.

I think the first option is by far the most likely, especially considering the short in-universe time until Arc 19 (which implies Arc 18 might handle the present day Noelle situation), but the second is an interesting literary device that I think Wildbow could do good things with. I think he might’ve called this chapter an Interlude if we were doing this, though.

In either case, I wonder if we’re going to continue following Trickster’s POV or change it up with each chapter. If we’re changing it up, I’d be down for this next chapter being Luke’s or Jess’, especially if we’re doing the Smurf Run.

As for how the Smurf Run is going to go, I suspect the Smurf has plans for the Travelers (especially Noelle, but anything that happens because of their presence in Brockton Bay later might be part of her grand plans), but I’m not sure if those plans require her to chase them down. She seems to want them alive, but on the run.

Besides, she’s somewhat distracted by Scion at the moment.

Let’s jump in and see what happens!


They ran, their feet sliding on the side of the building.  One misstep meant possibly stepping through a window, slicing a leg open, or falling through.

Yep, we’re staying linear. Smurf Run!

Making things even more hazardous, the concrete of the building’s exterior was slick with moisture and ice.

I suppose after Behemoth’s heat (which can cover vapor) and Leviathan’s water, it’s reasonable that the Smurf’s elemental affinity can cover cold as well as the obvious one of air.

Oh, right, and it’s winter. That too. That’s probably a more sensible explanation.

Luke was in the front, carrying Noelle.  Twice, Luke lost his footing, but he managed to keep from sliding through a windowpane.

So is this Krouse describing what he sees, or are we now in Luke’s POV?

But it was slowing them down.  There were countless reasons why they couldn’t take their time.

Not the least of which being the Smurf.

The upper half of the apartment building had collapsed, and smoke suggested a fire was spreading somewhere.  There was the fact that Noelle was bleeding, unconscious and might very well be dying as Luke carried her.  And then there was the more immediate threat, the Simurgh.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think she wants you dead and I know she doesn’t succeed if she does.

Of course, you don’t know that.

Krouse cast a nervous glance towards the Endbringer, who was rising into the air.

Okay, yeah, still Krouse’s POV.

There was another figure there too, higher in the sky.  A man with a muscular physique, golden skin, golden hair and a pristine white bodysuit.  Krouse recognized him: Scion.

Yeah, you’ve got the best defense the world has against the Endbringers present, although there seems to be a lack of any other heroes helping out. Does whatever city this is not have any heroes? Are they already dead?

Definitely not someone he’d ever expected to see in person.

Yeah, he’s one of those people who don’t quite seem real because you only really hear about them in contexts you never expect to be a part of.

Scion and the Simurgh both moved in the same instant.  A beam of golden light turned the road into glowing dust, and the Simurgh evaded by flying to the left, taking cover on the other side of a nearby skyscraper.  Scion followed, turning the beam her way.  The lance of golden light sheared through the building as if it wasn’t there.

I think Scion’s powerset is centered around the idea of “setting things right”, to some extent. Of course, each power is presumably filtered through the more materialistic understanding of powers that Worm tends to run on, but that’s the gist I’ve gotten of what ties his powers together. My point is, it makes sense that his blasts might go right through things that are already the way they’re “supposed” to be to hit the actual threat.

Unless Krouse here means that the blast erased anything in its path.

As the remains of the skyscraper crumbled to the ground, the already-difficult run across the side of Luke’s toppled apartment building became impossible.

Alright, it was the latter.

The idea that the skyscraper was already how it was “supposed” to be was a little too idealistic for Worm anyway.

Krouse let himself fall, kicking out with one leg to brace a foot against the corner of a window.  He caught Marissa and stopped her from sliding onto the window and falling through.

sweet catch.png

“Fuck!”  Luke shouted.  “Fuck, fuck me!”

I’m sure someone can do that, Luke, but this is probably not the time.

Third time isn’t a charm for you, Krouse thought.  Luke had put his leg through a window and his leg was slit open from the base of his foot to his knee.

Well that’s unfortunate.

Krouse belatedly realized his friend was wearing socks.  He’d taken off his shoes as he’d stepped inside his apartment.  No wonder he has no traction.

This is the only good argument I’ve ever seen for not taking off your shoes when you’re going into someone’s home for more than a few minutes.

“How-”

He was interrupted as Scion fired another beam further away, following the Simurgh.  It was surprisingly quiet for a weapon that was obliterating three or four hundred feet of road and felling two or three buildings with each two second burst, but the resulting chaos of falling buildings was deafening.

I remember Taylor noticed how quiet everything about Scion was, too. It’s an interesting characterization for such a dramatic figure.

Krouse was torn between staring and averting his eyes in fear; he went with the former: he wanted to be paying attention in case Scion happened to turn the beam their way.

I assume there hasn’t been any sort of evacuation, given that the Travelers heard nothing about that, which suggests Scion is killing a bunch of people in his hunt for the Smurf.

And for all that he protects humanity non-stop, he also seems the type to not give much of a shit about collateral damage when he’s up against the Endbringers.

So yes, probably a good call to pay attention.

Not that he’d be able to do much.

“How bad is it?” Krouse finished, glancing at Luke.

“I… I’m not sure.  It doesn’t hurt that much.”

It probably will when the adrenaline kick ends.

“Can you move your foot?”  Marissa asked.

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” Krouse said, “Give me Noelle.”

Right, probably best that Luke doesn’t continue to carry her.

Luke didn’t argue.  Krouse crawled on his hands and feet to get to his friend, helping him up.  Then he got help from Luke and Marissa to rise to his feet with Noelle in a piggyback position.  Marissa tied the sleeves of Noelle’s sweatshirt together so Krouse could hang the loop around his shoulders.  With his hands, he kept her toes from dragging on the ground.

Luke was probably the only one strong enough to bridal carry her.

The fight was getting more distant as Scion continued to fire at the retreating shape of the Simurgh.  Krouse could make out her alabaster form, wings spread, as she swooped and darted between buildings to evade Scion’s fire.

The Smurf may well have accomplished exactly what she came here for anyway.

The cloud of dust and debris that had followed Scion’s attacks in their immediate area blocked his view as they continued their progress across the city.

See ya!

We’re safe for the moment.

For the moment, yes. Sort of.

He turned his attention to their present circumstances.  Luke had no traction, and his leg was hurt, now.  Krouse didn’t trust himself to manage with his burden, which meant someone else had to lead the way.  Someone that wouldn’t slow them down.

I was about to suggest Jess, but then that last sentence happened and she’s kind of unable to move very fast of her own power right now.

Which I suppose leaves Cody, Oliver or Marissa.

Is this how Oliver ends up being the remote coordinator?

“Marissa.”  She used to dance.  She’s the most sure-footed of us.  “Take the lead?  Check our path is clear?”

That seems like sound logic.

She nodded.  Her eyes were wide, her gloved hands gripped the zipper-tag of her sweater’s collar, fidgeted.  She’s in shock.  Saw her best friend die.

That might be a problem, though.

But she would have to deal.  They didn’t have time to mourn, to tend to their wounds or play it safe.  They had to escape, before the fight came back this way.

Really gotta migrate.

We still have to get down from here, and we aren’t well dressed.  The temperature, last he’d looked, was supposed to be fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, or somewhere in that neighborhood, but it felt colder.  If we have to climb

Even before converting, I know that’s a low temperature.

Negative ten Celsius. Yeah, that sounds about right for this time of the winter, and I wouldn’t recommend going out in that in innerwear.

Jess shrieked, and Krouse turned his head to see why.  Jess was pressing her hands over her mouth, as if to keep herself from making any more noise.  He followed her line of sight…

Uh oh. Did the Smurf circle back around?

The Simurgh.  She was stepping out of the cloud of dust that Scion’s attack had left.  As though she were light as a feather, the Simurgh took one step forward and lifted into the air.

Ah, fuck, sneaky maneuver. Scion’s off looking for her somewhere else, probably not suspecting that she stayed behind.

She floated down the length of the street one block over, the opposite direction they were traversing the building, her wings folding around her as she landed.

Moment of truth: Can she speak?

Judging by her lack of a response, the Simurgh hadn’t heard Jess, nor had she seen them.

This is why I’m so strict about spoilers. Because I’m spoiled about the Simurgh’s omniscience, my reading of every little thing she does or doesn’t do is different from what it would be if I were blind. Even if I might’ve started suspecting something after the Marquis Interlude.

For example, it’s why I’m absolutely certain she knows they’re there and that it’s probably why she stayed behind here in particular.

Coughing is not enough to hide spoilers.

How is she here?  He’d seen her disappearing over the horizon, Scion in hot pursuit.  Did she teleport?

Maybe she also has the power of illusion? Would kind of fit with the whole “messing with your head” side of her. And illusions are only half-real, like air can sometimes feel.

…I wanted to use a much better word there, but “ephemeral” doesn’t quite mean what I wanted it to mean.

The Simurgh stopped and raised one hand.  Pieces of machinery began to flow out of a gaping hole in the side of the building nearest where she’d landed, stopping when they reached her immediate vicinity.

Machinery? What is she gonna do, tinker up a weapon or something?

A massive box that looked like an oversized washing machine, a large engine with blue L.E.D.s lining it, and tendrils of electrical cords with frayed ends still sparking with live current.

Hm. This kind of already looks like tinkertech, to some extent.

Telekinesis.  She’d created a false image of herself out of snow and ice, baiting Scion away.

…fair enough. That’s one way of making an illusion. Also, it really does seem like her telekinesis is general, not limited to aerokinesis.

I wonder if she did this as a response to Krouse’s thoughts.

Judging by the sound of Scion’s continued onslaught, she was still controlling it.  Controlling it even though there was no way she could see what it was doing by eyesight alone.

Long range telekinesis, and able to know what’s going on over there without seeing it. Nice.

The screaming in his head hadn’t let up.  If anything, it was worse: too loud to ignore completely, but every time he paid attention to it, it seemed to distort, rising in volume.  Jess’ shriek had brought it into the forefront of his mind, and he couldn’t seem to shake it.

I suspect it does have to do with proximity to some extent.

“Go,” Krouse urged Marissa, “Fucking go!”

She moved twice as fast as Luke had, and Krouse tried to follow her footsteps, matching his foot placements to hers to help avoid the spots where there was ice, cracked concrete or snow layered just finely enough to fill the treads of his boots.

Are we sure she’s not Snowdancer?

Marissa slipped, landing hard, but was climbing to her feet a moment later.  Krouse chanced a look at the Simurgh.

Nice recovery.

The Endbringer had folded her wings up, forming a protective cocoon around herself, and was relying on telekinesis alone to manipulate the machinery.  She was still calling other things to her, bringing desktop computers through the holes the larger machinery had made, tearing them apart and connecting components.

I assume she knows how to make whatever she wants to make by way of omniscience. Taylor would despise her for it.

Insulation stripped itself away from the wiring, exposing metal that moved to entwine and splice into other wires.

This is an interesting difference between Leviathan and the Simurgh — Leviathan’s telekinesis, aside from being restricted to water, is broad. There’s not much finesse to it, he just makes large amounts of water move fast. The Simurgh’s brand of telekinesis seems a lot more refined, but still has an enormous range (and, at a distance, is helped out by her omniscience). She might not be able to move as much raw mass at a time as Leviathan, but she can make small, precise changes and knows exactly how to use them to achieve the greatest effect in the long term. It reflects how they each appear to work on a greater scale, with Levvy aiming for massive damage against weak points and the Simurgh not hitting as hard but making precise changes that work in the Endbringers’ favor in the long run.

I’m not sure exactly how Behemoth’s dynakinesis ties into this, but there’s probably something. I don’t know much about how he works compared to the other Endbringers, so it’s harder to draw parallels.

Where are the heroes?  He wondered, as he turned his attention back to the task of getting down from the side of the building.

Yeah, I’ve been asking that myself. Are they already dead, or what?

Maybe they’ve been held up with another “illusion”? Scion isn’t the type to inform them they’ve got the wrong Smurf.

No.  The better question to ask was where is everyone?  The streets were almost empty, only twenty or thirty people running for cover, hurrying away.  As far as Krouse could tell, the area was deserted.

Hmm. Did they somehow miss an evacuation?

Maybe there were sirens, and the Smurf stopped them from hearing it by some trick of the wind?

He felt a chill that wasn’t just the cold weather.

They reached the far end of the building, the lowest floors that they could access.  Concrete and rebar jutted out, ragged, where the Simurgh had torn the building free of the ground.

Back when I pictured her as a giant yellow bird, I imagined her flying right through the streets, slicing through the bottom of the building with a wing.

“We’re going to have to climb down,” Krouse said.

“We try that, the concrete’s going to crack and we fall.  And we don’t have gloves,” Luke said.  “If we have to hold on to cold concrete and rebar, we’re going to get frostbite.  Or our hands will go numb.”

Luke’s got a couple good points, but what are their other options?

“Or we’ll slip on the snow and ice,” Jess said.

Krouse leaned forward as much as he was able with Noelle on his back.  It was a solid hundred-foot drop to the street below; there were areas that would be easy enough to descend, where rebar offered handholds and even ladders.

Handholds are of questionable use when two (or at least one, if Jess can manage using only her arms) of you need to be carried.

But other spots… there were areas where the concrete might break away under a person’s weight, other spots where they’d have to move horizontally, hanging by their hands alone.  Doing it with another person’s weight on his back?  With Noelle?

Yeeeah, that ain’t likely to work out for you.

“There’s no way,” Marissa said.

“Do we have another choice?”  Cody asked.

“Yeah,” Krouse said.  Cody gave him a dark look, as if he was being argumentative for the sake of it.  He elaborated, “If we look inside, maybe there’s a place where we can climb through the building.”

Not a terrible idea.

“We could get trapped,” Jess said.  “If there’s fire, or a gas leak, or if the building resettles while we’re inside…”

Lots of “if”s, but it still seems like the better option.

Also the building resettling might be even worse for you while you’re on the outside.

“And if we climb, there’s the possibility of fire, wind, or the building shaking.  Let’s head through the window,” Krouse said.

As his less encumbered friends broke the window and climbed through, Krouse stood on the side of the building, his hands tucked into his armpits, watching the Simurgh as she worked.

Seriously, what are you making?

As an omniscient engineer, the Simurgh is highly conscious of the fact that anything she designs needs to be made so that nobody can fuck up using it, because anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It’s an engineering rule-of-thumb she is often credited for, known as Smurfy’s Law.

Cody stood by, carrying Jess.  Like Krouse, he was waiting for others to make sure the way was safe, and hopefully they’d be able to set up a series of footholds or makeshift ladder.

At least the piggyback style of carrying does make handholds and footholds a little more viable than they would otherwise be.

Krouse glanced at the Simurgh.  She was still threading components together.

“She’s one of those gadget capes, right?  What do you call them?”

You would tink so, but only by extension.

“Tinker.  And she’s not a tinker,” Jess said.

Krouse gave her an appraising look. “Right.  You follow that stuff.  If she’s not a tinker then what the hell is she?  I mean, I know the basics, but I never paid that much attention.

Exposition on the not-quite-as-obvious powers and behaviors of the Smurf? Sign me up.

Also, “what the hell is she” remains a big question. Or rather, why the hell is she, that’s the more important one.

Only kind-of, sort-of, following the damage done.”

“She’s an Endbringer, obviously.  When she first showed up, she just appeared and hovered there.  Some place in Switzerland.  They thought she was like Scion.  Maybe someone who got a concentrated dose of whatever gives people powers, maybe someone who was in just the right mental state for a trigger event.”

Tattletale’s intel speaks up against this theory, as does what we’ve seen of the Dandelions, but it’s a fairly solid one for what everyone in-universe knows.

“like Scion” may be true, though. I’m not entirely convinced Scion is an ordinary parahuman.

So Behemoth first appeared in Iran or thereabouts, Leviathan first appeared in Oslo (and presumably wrecked the shit out of Norway), and the Simurgh first appeared in Switzerland. Switzerland seems like an appropriate place for the Simurgh, but the other two don’t seem to have much tying them to the specific locations. Notably, these were the first places they attacked, not where they necessarily sprung into being.

“she just appeared and hovered there” — perhaps she was processing all her knowledge?

“Trigger event?” Krouse asked.

“It’d take too long to explain in detail.  The moment when someone gets their powers.  The idea was maybe she and Scion met some specific set of conditions.

It’s kind of interesting that Jess knows about this, because it implies she went significantly deeper into the parahuman lore than Taylor did. Taylor did her research, but she didn’t know about trigger events until long after having hers.

I think the difference is that Jess is actually interested in this stuff on a casual, theoretical basis, whereas Taylor did her research in preparation for practical application.

So the whole world watched for something like three days, to see if she would be another Scion, or if she’d be something else.   People approached, she even communicated with them some.  Not talking, just gestures, I guess.  Interacting might be a better word.

No talking from her, got it.

And when we thought things would be okay, she made a move.  The entire population of the city around her, with all the people who had come to talk with her and research her…”

Well, fuck this one place in Switzerland, I guess.

Jess trailed off, stopped.  Anxiety etched her face.  Marissa was midway through climbing down through the window, looked up at Jess.

“What happened?”  Cody asked.  “I remember hearing something, but I was a toddler then, and I didn’t figure I’d ever actually see her.”

I think the earliest bit of TV news I actually remember was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when I was just shy of turning seven.

“I don’t want to say,” Jess said.  “It would distract you guys.”

Eesh.

“Hey,” Krouse cut in, “That’s not cool.  Not your call to make.”

Jess glared at him.  “She-”

There was a sudden movement from the Simurgh, tearing sections of wall free from the nearest building, maneuvering them to form a makeshift barrier in mid-air.  Not one second after the barrier was in place, a pair of heroes flew around the corner.

Hey look, a distraction!

Hi there, heroes, good to see some of you are still alive! Are you about to helpfully illustrate what the Simurgh did to people?

One had a forcefield bubble around him that exploded on contact with the wall, while a woman fired blasts of energy that sent the fragments of concrete plummeting to the ground.

They remind me of Shielder and Laserdream for obvious reasons. Explosive caster-centered forcefields is an interesting power, though.

How did she know?  The Simurgh had seen them coming?

In a sense.

The Simurgh flexed her wings, and snow raised around her.  Krouse nearly lost his footing as the snow that had piled on the side of the building began drifting towards the Simurgh, an almost gentle push from behind him.

Oh hey, she’s clearing your path. Or, well, your original path. A little late for this now.

The snow condensed and pummeled the two heroes.

…she’s a snow angel.

The bubble-man formed another shield around himself, but he left his companion out of it, choosing to interject himself between the Simurgh and the woman.

I… don’t think this is going to work out for you, pal.

A section of concrete from a building to the right of the heroes flew free and caved in the costumed woman’s skull.

See?

She dropped out of the sky, her head a bloody ruin that Krouse couldn’t make out in the midst of the flying snow.

I suppose these capes might have been out-of-towners coming to assist, since Krouse wasn’t familiar with them. Even when not paying much attention to cape stuff, you’d think he’d know a little about the locals.

The bubble-man flew forward, aiming not for the Simurgh, but the machinery she’d gathered to one side.

He recognizes that letting her succeed at making whatever she’s making is probably bad, but what if she made it specifically to deal with him?

His forcefield swelled, a blue-green that glowed brighter and whiter with every passing second.  Just as he reached the machinery, it reached a critical level and detonated.  The Simurgh was already putting one wing between him and the machinery.  She took more damage than the machine did, and even that was minimal.  Scorched, scattered feathers.

“Rude.”

She retaliated, sending rubble, snow and debris in a constant, consistent assault against him.  He raised forcefields to block the attacks, but each was shut down before it could approach critical mass for detonation.  He retreated a hundred feet or so, and the Simurgh began working on the machine once again, giving him only cursory attention.

Heh. “I’ve got work to do, don’t disturb me.”

“Come on,” Marissa called.

Krouse cast one look at the Simurgh and the lone hero, then hurried to the window.  The others had moved a refrigerator so it was directly below the window, and Luke stood on top, ready to accept Noelle as she was handed down.

Does this make Noelle a hand-me-down?

It took a second to free her sleeves from around his shoulders, another second to work with Cody to lower her down.

Every second counts.

As he watched Cody taking hold of Noelle’s arm and waistband, he was struck with the idle recollection that Cody had been one of the people who’d tried to approach Noelle, one of the first to ask her out and be soundly rejected.

Cod damn it, Krouse, this is not the time for jealousy.

He’d nearly forgotten.  It went a ways towards explaining some of Cody’s anger.

He had to shake his head and refocus on the task.

Thank you.

And yeah, I suppose that does add some nuance to the whole accusing-Krouse-of-manipulating-Noelle-into-a-relationship thing. He couldn’t face her choosing Krouse over him, so he convinced himself it was all Krouse’s nefarious doing.

Noelle was being handed down to the others at the base of the refrigerator, and the way was clear for him to make his way inside.  He helped Jess down, then they made their way to the front hall.  He opened the closet door and began handing out coats and gloves.  Luke tried on some boots until he found some rubber ones that were big enough.

Boots aren’t always much better than socks as far as traction on wet surfaces or ice goes, as I well know (Ctrl+F “raspberries”), but at least they’ll keep his feet warmer.

“How’s the leg?”

“Hurting more, but I can still walk.”

Krouse nodded.  With Marissa and Luke’s help he got Noelle in position on his back, then opened the door of the apartment and hopped down to the wall beneath.  That left them the task of breaking into another apartment, kicking at the door in an attempt to dislodge it.

Hoping to exit the building through a window on the side it’s tipping towards, I take it?

Not as easy as it looked in the movies, especially with the threat of falling through and dropping ten or fifteen feet down someone’s front hallway.

In the movies, this usually doesn’t involve the building lying almost entirely on its side.

At least gravity agrees with you. This would be much harder for a door on the other side of the corridor.

“It keeps getting worse.  The music,” Marissa complained.  “It’s like it’s stretching between three notes, and the moment I think there’s a pattern to it, it changes.”

The song of insanity can’t be sanely composed, right?

Krouse glanced at Jess.  What does she know?  To Marissa he said, “It gets worse if you pay attention to it.  Focus on what you’re doing.  Distract yourself if you have to.”

And for the love of everything, don’t think about blue smurfs.

(Also, Wildbow, if you’re reading this: This paragraph is missing some italics or past tense for Krouse’s thought about Jess. Seems worth fixing.)

Marissa bit her lip.

The door broke, and they had to catch Oliver before he dropped through.  They climbed down using handholds from the closet door and doorframe, then made their way to the lowest point.

I have to say, this building isn’t very handicap accessible.

“That smell,” Marissa wrinkled her nose.

Was there someone else in here who died in the shuffle?

Or maybe the toilet’s spilled.

“Raw sewage,” Luke said.  “Pipes were destroyed when she tore this part of the building free, probably, and they’re spilling out here.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

It isn’t raw sewage, Krouse thought.  It’s the smell of death.

…that also sounds about right.

People had shit themselves as they died, somewhere nearby.

Wherever they had been when they died, he didn’t have to see the bodies.  They headed straight out into the sunlight, stepping onto the snow-covered roads.

Achievement Get: This Actually Is an Exit

The Simurgh was fighting a trio of heroes now, including the man with the forcefield bubble.  Using telekinesis, she was fending off the worst of their attacks and either building or rebuilding parts of the construction she’d been working on.  In the ten or fifteen minutes it had taken to get down through the building and break down the one apartment door, she’d nearly finished creating a complete circle of various components, thirty feet wide.

What is this, some kind of portal?

I wonder what the Travelers would think if the Smurf started urging them to go through a portal or teleporter or something of her creation.

It looked like only a stray attack had slowed her progress, knocking out a piece of the overarching work.

She made the fighting look easy.  Every time an attack was directed her way, there was something already in place to protect herself or her device.

Because she knows exactly where, when and what the attacks will be.

I think by now I would have been almost certain of her omniscience.

One cape began to launch ice crystals towards the hoop, and the Simurgh caught the shards out of the air with her telekinesis.  The crystals flew into the man with the forcefield bubble, shattering.  The resulting shards and flakes of crystal didn’t fly away, however.

Welp. We’ve seen the forcefields can be taken out or at least reset, and there are two other targets the shards can go after.

They turned around in the air and condensed in a thick shell around the force field.

Nice. Blotting out his sight and forcing him to keep the forcefield up.

The ice-encased sphere slammed into the ground with a speed and force that suggested it was the Simurgh, not the cape, who was controlling his movement.

Oof. That too. It’s something to grab him by.

He skidded and rolled, the ice shattering first, followed by the collapse of the forcefield.  With momentum still carrying him forward, the cape rolled on the ground, his costume tearing from the friction.

Looks like he’s having a fun day!

When he finally stopped a few paces from Krouse and the rest of the group, the cape managed to stagger to his feet.

At least the Smurf didn’t make the shards shoot inwards when the bubble popped.

He bled from a dozen open wounds, his skin abraded, his costume in tatters.  He had more ice, blood and dirt on him than he had clean skin or costume.

Maybe she knew she didn’t need to.

A tide of snow and ice hit him like a truck, driving him into the ragged edge of the building.  Oliver yelped as he threw himself out of the way.  Marissa’s shriek seemed oddly delayed, until Krouse noted what had happened to the man.

*Roblox OOF*

The cape, in a bodysuit of velvet blue with gold armor, had been impaled on a tangled mess of rebar, his intestines pushed out the front of his stomach.

Pleasant.

It took Krouse a moment to realize the man was actually saying a word, and not just letting out a long, guttural groan, “Fuuuuuck!  Uuuuunh!”

Pfft. Yeah, those are some quality last words.

“Grandiose down, Z-D-6,” a mechanical voice blared from the armband that was fixed to the man’s wrist.

Alright, so the armbands are a thing at this point. Nice. That speaks to organized efforts.

Grandiose doesn’t seem like a particularly descriptive name for this dude, but I suppose he did puff up his shields in a way that may have been reflective of his personality.

“I’m not…” the cape tried to pull himself forward.  “Not… down!”

You certainly seem to be. Points for determination, though.

“Stop!”  Marissa rushed to the man’s side.  “Don’t move!  You’ll bleed out if you move!”

But yeah, I think Marissa is right.

The man seemed to notice them for the first time.  His eyes went wide, “What… doing here?”

More suggesting there was indeed an evacuation.

“Don’t move!” Marissa said.  She stepped forward, reaching out, and he swung one fist in her direction.

Woah, dude. Are you taking her for a machination of the Simurgh?

The motion seemed to pull something, because he coughed up a mouthful of blood and folded forward.

“Go,” the cape grunted.  “Evac.  Or you… good as dead.  Might be… late already.”

Okay, no, looks like it was just the only way he could think of to stop her from fussing with him too much to go.

Grandiose,” a voice sounded over the device on the man’s wrist.  It didn’t quite sound the same as before, “She’s shut down most of our movers, and your time-“

Time? Is running out?

“No!” Grandiose grunted.  “Have… have time!”

Does he have another trick up his sleeve that took some time to set up?

I know exactly how fast you fly.  You couldn’t get out of her reach in time, even if you left now.

Sounds like he’s kind of screwed. But if he can’t get out “in time”, surely the Travelers can’t either.

In time for what? The machine she’s building to be complete?

“I have time!”

I’ll let your wife know you fought bravely.  Do you want me to keep a recording for your son, for when he’s older?

Dragon is so kind, yet so clinical. It makes the kindness sharp barbs sometimes.

(I do think this is Dragon, rather than someone else on the team talking via Dragon’s relay feature. This particular line is very Dragon, as is “I know exactly how fast you fly”.)

“Dragon!  Damn you!”

I’m sorry.

😦

(Denial. Anger.)

The armband beeped, then beeped again a second later.  There was a steady repetition, beep, beep, beep.

His heartbeat?

Grandiose turned his head, “Why are you…”

Beep.

It seems he didn’t have time for bargaining, depression and acceptance.

“…Still here!?  Run!”

Krouse grabbed Marissa and turned to run, barely managing to keep his feet under him with the uneven ground and Noelle’s weight.

Wait! He isn’t dead! Grandiose surprise!

He glanced over his shoulder to see the cape pressing the armband against his collarbone.

They weren’t four paces away when the armband detonated, a small, localized blast that didn’t even consume him in entirety.

…well. Looks like he did get to acceptance.

I mean, this self-destruct must have been activated by him, even with the beeping happening beforehand. Dragon would not be able to do this of her own accord, even if he was going to die anyway.

It did take his head, most of his upper body and his left arm.  The remainder of him was scattered around the surrounding area.

Krouse stared.

Yeah, so… that just happened.

Time to get the fuck out of here.

“The fuck!?” Cody screamed, staring.

“Go!” Krouse said, “Go, just run!”

They ran, putting distance between themselves, Grandiose’s remains and the fighting with the Simurgh.  One wave of capes was retreating, backed up by another squad.

It looks like they had only a few local capes around, but it took some time for reinforcements to arrive in the city since they didn’t have an early warning like in Brockton Bay.

A woman with a black costume, a heavy cape and straight black hair flowing from the back of her helmet led the charge.  Alexandria.

Eyyy, how’s it going, Alex?

This makes Alexandria the first cape we’ve seen fighting all three Endbringers, though I suspect if she’s here the other Triumvirate members aren’t far behind.

The heroine dove at the Simurgh, and the Endbringer was quick to fly to one side, reaching out to catch Alexandria with her telekinesis and use her momentum to force her into the street.  The road caved in, sections of pavement with accompanying drifts of snow falling into a sewer or storm drain beneath the street.

By “catch Alexandria with her telekinesis”, do you mean she moved something else (air, debris, whatever) to catch her? Because judging by the fight against Grandiose, the Simurgh’s telekinesis is Manton-limited, unlike Behemoth’s dynakinesis.

The hoop nearly tipped over, and the Simurgh caught it with her power.  There were four other capes in the area, two on the ground and two in the air, and she was forcing each back with pelted ice and fragments of concrete.

It’s interesting to see an Endbringer playing defensively, even if it’s only to buy time to create something that might be used for the offensive.

Unmolested, the Simurgh spread her wings wide and rose into the air, towing the hoop of exposed computer chips, wires and assorted pieces of technology after her.  Wires trailed from it to nearby buildings.

It looks like it might be showtime.

“That explosion,” Luke was saying, panting as he ran with a lopsided gait.  “They blew up their own person.  Why?”

It kind of sounded like there was some sort of plan in the works, or thing they were watching out for, that would spell certain death for anyone who remained within the Simurgh’s radius, but why would they hasten that for Grandiose unless it was to give him a quick and painless death or to keep him from messing up their plan?

Also, “they” still needs to be someone other than Dragon. I suppose maybe there’s remote self-destruct on the armbands that can be activated by the PRT (wait, didn’t Taylor already allude to the possibility of Dragon having a way to remotely destroy the armbands back when she was talking to Flechette?) or something. That sounds like a fantastic way of tempting someone to abuse an Endbringer situation, though, especially if Dragon doesn’t have the option to veto it.

“Because he’d been here too long,” Krouse said.

…oh right. The song of insanity. It’s not just about how much time he has to get out, it’s about how much time he’s already spent here. He may have already been showing symptoms of it.

He glanced over his shoulder, saw the various components of the circle crackling with current as it rose behind the Simurgh, like a gargantuan halo, wide enough that it nearly exceeded her wingspan.

I can see your halo, halo, halo…

Alexandria was pulling herself out of the rubble, shouted something.  They were a distance away, but her voice could carry.

Of course it can, she’s a coddamn badass.

The electricity died, the great circle going dim.  They’d cut the city’s power.

Nice. Except the Simurgh presumably knew you’d do that. She might have been counting on it, even.

“Come on!” Luke urged them.

There weren’t any more people on the streets.  Were they hiding inside, crossing their fingers?  Or had he underestimated how fast people would clear out?

I really get the sense that you missed an evacuation.

“Come on!” Luke urged them.

There weren’t any more people on the streets.  Were they hiding inside, crossing their fingers?  Or had he underestimated how fast people would clear out?

I wonder how far away Scion has been lured by now.

The heroes had cut the power, and the Simurgh was still managing to activate the thing.

If her telekinesis is precise on an atomic or even subatomic level, maybe she’s making her own electricity.

The heroes had been working in waves, because apparently too much exposure to her, to this fucking screaming in their heads that never stopped or let up, it was dangerous somehow.

And you’ve been spending an awful lot of time in it by now.

Only a few heroes fighting at a given time, enough to maybe try to disrupt whatever it was she was up to.  Staying for an allotted amount of time.

Except whoever was calling the shots had seen fit to override that battle plan.  The heroes were arriving en masse now, waves of them, in the air and on the ground.

Sounds like they really don’t want the hoop active. Do they have any idea what it’ll do?

Heh, what if it does nothing and she’s only been making it to provoke this exact response?

The Simurgh lifted Lucas’ apartment building into the air and tore it into shreds.

Lucas? Why suddenly Lucas rather than Luke?

I’m going to assume this was an accidental holdover from a time in the writing process when his name actually was consistently Lucas.

The various fragments, the little things, the bodies and pieces of furniture, they became part of a protective maelstrom around the Simurgh, orbiting her and blocking the barrage of long-range fire that the good guys were directing at her.

I suspect she wouldn’t have done this before they got out.

The screaming was getting worse, fast.  It shifted between a half-dozen different sounds, each only vaguely different from the others, a chant, a pattern.

From slight humming, it’s becoming the full-fledged song. How are Marissa and Cody taking this?

Krouse was wearing a borrowed hat, gloves and jacket, but the jacket was probably better suited for fall weather than winter.  He was cold, his teeth chattering, the temperature sucking the warmth from his body and legs, making him feel just a little more fatigued, a little more tired.

Brrr.

Yet he was drenched in sweat.  It was freezing cold as it ran down the side of his nose to his chin.  His shivers weren’t entirely the cold, either.  He was terrified, terrified for himself, terrified for Noelle, and for his friends.

This really is a “shiver and sweat” sort of situation.

Terrified because of the countless little things that didn’t make sense, and because he couldn’t shake the idea that if he paid too much attention to that screaming, that keening song that the Simurgh was singing in his head, it would start to sound like words.

Words that might drive him insane, or worse.

The circle flared with more light than before, and the resulting shockwave threw Krouse and his friends into the air.

Boom! Showtime!

Windows shattered and snow was kicked up into clouds as tall as the high rises around them.  The sky visibly darkened with the clouds that had been kicked up, heaping snowbanks dissolved into their constituent snowflakes and water molecules.  The indistinct and distant noises of the heroes firing on the Simurgh had stopped all at once, as the heroes were killed or left reeling from the aftershock of the device’s activation.

Is there a portal or anything like that inside the ring now?

The protective wreath of flying objects and debris that surrounded the Simurgh slowed, then stopped circling her entirely.  One thing after another dropped out of the sky, as if the Simurgh was consciously letting go of each individual object.

Better than her shooting them outwards, I suppose.

The first of the heroes were already recovering, pelting the Simurgh with long ranged fire or flying up to her to engage in close-quarters combat.  Her wings shielded the worst hits, her telekinesis let her catch or deflect projectiles and she floated out of the way of a handful more.

Ballistic would not fare well against the Simurgh, got it.

For the ones who charged in, the Simurgh used thrown debris to strike them out of the air.  One tried to attack the Simurgh’s halo, but was struck out of the sky by a flash of electricity before they got within fifteen feet.

Extremely precise telekinesis would basically allow you to reshape the world on a molecular level. That’s very powerful.

A low rumble shook the city, and the gate began to bulge with a dark shape that stretched out from within the metal, like a soap bubble emerging from an enclosed loop.

The… gate?

Or a lens, Krouse realized.  It flared bright, rays of light meeting, and things began pouring forth from the point the lines met.   Piles and piles of solid matter flowed down to land at the heart of the city: debris, fragments of architecture, and tiny shapes that were very likely to be people, in a stream as wide across as the Simurgh’s wingspan, lit in high contrast by the light of the halo.

This really does sound like a portal, but where does it open to? A random spot elsewhere in the city?

And there were tiny shapes that most definitely weren’t people, but were alive.

Oh cod, did she open a portal to Ellisburg?

It’s a portal.  A door.

“How the fuck is she not a tinker!?” Krouse shouted.

In practice, she kind of is, yes. And given that the classifications generally work off practicalities of what they can do in a fight, rather than technicalities of how the powers work, this genuinely should earn her a tinker classification.

“She isn’t!” Jess called back.  “She’s never done anything like this before!”

Ah, fair enough.

I wonder if this did end up getting her classified as a tinker later.

The heroes were making an offensive push, and the Simurgh moved her halo out of the way of one series of attacks.  The halo tilted at a right angle as she moved it, continuing to spew its contents forth.   Objects and sections of building were scattered across the city.  More than a few things sailed over the heads of Krouse and his friends as they fled.

I think with the small beings that weren’t people but were alive (and did not sound like Krouse was referring to animals) in mind, there are two main options for where this portal is connected to: Ellisburg, or another world where animals are different or aliens live among us.

I think the former would be more interesting because it would tie things together and provide a forced containment breach for Ellisburg, spreading Nilbog’s creations outside the town whether he likes it or not (if he’s even still alive) and giving this whole attack much larger long-term consequences.

One figure landed a city block in front of them, contorting itself in mid-air to land on all fours.  It had the vague shape of a man, but dark gray skin like a tree’s bark and a froglike mouth filled with jagged teeth.

Ribbit.

So the portal leads to the Wheel of Time universe, then? Because this appears to be a trolloc.

Each finger and toe was tipped with a claw.

A monster.  The thing bristled, muscles visibly tensing beneath its coarse skin as it readied to lunge at them.

Though this thing appears a little more beastlike than trollocs.

Another body landed not too far away, a man with a muscular physique taken to a monstrous extreme, rolling head over heels before he finally stopped.  He might have weighed five hundred pounds, stood eight feet tall, and had an exaggerated bodybuilder’s frame, an underbite and a neanderthal brow.

thog confused. where is thog now? where is nale and sabine?

hi frog. thog likes frogs. frogs green like thog.

His limbs had been shattered by the landing.  The frog-mouthed thing leaped onto him and began tearing him to shreds.  Easier prey.

Well, that’s… helpful.

Marissa led the group through a side alley, screamed as an object was flung into one of the buildings they were running between.  A stainless steel bathroom fixture, it punched through a window and part of a windowframe, caused a catastrophic series of crashes as it sailed through the interior of someone’s apartment.

Everything but the kitchen sink is coming through that portal, including the bathroom sink.

Something nearby screeched, the kind of noise that reverberated through bones and organs, and Krouse could feel his sense of balance dissolve.

Is it a birdlike beast?

His knees turned to rubber and he nearly ran face first into a wall as his vision swam.

Hm. This sounds like either a power of the screeching thing, or a consequence of the screech mixing with the song of insanity.

Jess threw up over Cody’s shoulder, followed by Cody vomiting as well.  Even as he felt the effects of the sound recede, Krouse couldn’t avoid emptying his own stomach.

:/

Moving on.

Noelle stirred, squirmed.

Well, she’s about to wake up to a nightmare.

He struggled to change position so she wouldn’t vomit onto the back of his head.  The remains of her breakfast, a coffee and a donut spattered on the ground just by his right hand.

Was that the Simurgh?  No.  The scream was something else.  Another monster.

It’s not a good sign when the other monsters also have powers of sorts.

“Don’t… no… I’ve tried so hard,” Noelle mumbled, not even lucid.

So I wonder if something about what’s happening to Noelle in the present is a consequence of exposure to the song of insanity while unconscious. Though if that were the case in general, you’d think it would happen more often. She can’t be the only one to ever be exposed to the song while unconscious and then survive.

But that might simply be because the Smurf didn’t specifically target those other victims.

“Keep trying, Noelle, stay awake and keep at it,” Krouse said, struggling to his feet.  The effect had dissipated.  He wanted to be gone before that frog thing gave chase.

“Ribbit. Gimme a *croak* kiss. Ribbit.”

Something heavy struck a tall building in front of them, across the street from the alley’s mouth.  There was an explosion, and within seconds the building was burning, billowing with plumes of smoke.

I do think these things are reminiscent of Rinke’s work in some ways. But if it’s Ellisburg, where are the ones that appear to be regular people coming from? Or are those just Nilbog creations that are humanoid and hard to tell apart from humans at a distance?

Krouse led the way through the mouth of the alley, turned to check on the others and saw Luke on the ground.  He’d fallen.  Marissa gave him a hand standing and supported him as he ran.

Told ya. Rubber boots aren’t good winter footwear.

Come on, we don’t have time to waste.

But Krouse wasn’t willing to go ahead, either.  They had to stay together, especially with the danger posed by the monsters that had been scattered around the city.

Definitely. Splitting up means death.

Speaking of which, you’ve still got Cody, right? Keep an eye on him.

The way he was carrying Noelle, he couldn’t check on her, couldn’t make sure she was still breathing.  He needed the others with him.

Right. That’s also a reason to want your friends with you.

Stepping out into the middle of the street, Krouse had a view of the fighting: the Simurgh was still airborne, and the halo-gate was still active, spewing more creatures and ruined architecture into the streets.

Does the architecture seem like it would have come from large buildings or small ones?

A flash of golden light signaled Scion’s return to the scene of the fight.  With one attack, he severed the halo in half, but the portal didn’t disappear.

Well, fuck. Looks like that hole is there to stay, which could have intriguing long-term consequences if the portal is vacuuming the creatures from another world.

Instead, like watercolor paint, a different perspective began to bleed into the surrounding sky, too bright, too blue a sky, with pale, squat buildings almost glowing in the comparative absence of clouds.

Hm. Looks like he might’ve fucked up the portal’s targeting.

Larger chunks of buildings, massive rocks, and even chunks of earth with several trees rooted in them began to spill out and plunge to the ground.

Or the Smurf may have changed it to deal more effectively with Scion.

I wonder, if not hindered by the ring, will this portal expand over time? Seeing as it’s described as “bleed[ing] into the surrounding sky”?

Scion held back on shooting again, instead charging himself with power.  When he released it, it manifested as a slow radiance, a sphere of light that expanded from him in slow motion.

And so the world was, for the second time in thirty years, treated to Scion speaking.

gad_zooks

The tear in reality dissipated, and everything the light touched stopped.

Setting things right. Fixing reality. Healing the world.

Shifting clouds went still, objects that were flying through the air ceased moving and simply fell, and the ambient noises of destruction, fire and fighting was replaced by an all-too brief silence.

He doesn’t stop time, but he does remove all existing momentum.

Even the Simurgh’s song, Krouse realized, had momentarily stopped.

That’s very interesting.

The light reached them, swept over them, and he could feel his heart skip a beat.  His entire body hummed with the effect of the stillness, as though he were a tuning fork and for just a moment he’d ceased vibrating.

Scion was once a teacher. His trigger event was frustration at some students who refused to sit still and be quiet.

be sye-lent.png

[Paranatural panels]

Mrs. Baxter: BE SYE-LENT!!

The Simurgh’s movement was slowed in the wake of the light, and Scion took the opportunity to land one well placed shot.  She was driven into the ground like a nail from a nailgun, somewhere Krouse couldn’t see.

Damn, nice work, Scion.

What if Scion were like a good counterpart to the Simurgh and that’s why he sometimes prioritizes small crises over big ones, because he knew the smaller crises would have bigger consequences down the line? Except that doesn’t add up with the fact that he doesn’t seem to know ahead of time where the Endbringers will strike (though he does seem capable of sensing it fairly quickly).

Basically, that’s the kind of theory I’m only really entertaining here because it dropped into my head and I have a policy of recording everything.

Luke and Marissa had caught up, along with Cody and Oliver.  Krouse turned from the scene.  He had to hike Noelle up so her sleeves wouldn’t pull on his neck, then they ran in the opposite direction from the fighting.

That does seem like the direction to run, yes.

“They’re winning,” Cody said.  “Beating her.”

I wouldn’t be so sure.

“She just dumped who knows how many monsters into this city,” Jess said, “And some of them are here.  Near us.  We’re not close to being safe.”

Jess is definitely the smartest and most perceptive Traveler.

Though admittedly I haven’t seen much of Oliver.

“And Noelle’s hurt pretty bad,” Marissa said.

Krouse grit his teeth.  He didn’t want to think about that, about how he was jostling her, how she might be dying as he ran.

Oof, yeah. For all he knows, she might be dead when he sets her down.

He was carrying her, his legs, back and stomach screaming from the hundred-and-fifteen or hundred-and-twenty pound weight he was carrying piggyback, but he couldn’t check on her, couldn’t see how well or how badly she was doing.

If you try, she’ll turn into a pillar of salt, and nobody wants that.

“Luke, are we moving in the right direction?” he asked.

“right direction” here meaning simply “away”?

“I don’t know.  Fuck me, this sound in my head-”

“Focus!”  Krouse barked the word.

On something other than the song of insanity, preferably.

I do have to wonder to what extent the exposure to the song is responsible for the internal troubles of the Travelers. I’ve been calling it the song of insanity, but that’s not necessarily a literal description of its effect. It could be anything from increased aggression to becoming a pawn of the Simurgh.

“It’s… I got turned around.  This isn’t an area of the city I’ve spent any time in.  Did she throw us a few blocks?”

That does seem plausible.

“She couldn’t have,” Jess said.  “The building would have shattered.”

Maybe, but not if she was actively preventing that.

“Then we’re on some side street I’ve never been on,” Luke said, “Sorry.”

Think!  Which direction is the nearest hospital?” Krouse asked.

Hospital seems like a good target location, given Noelle.

Unfortunately, it’s also a place the Simurgh is likely to have hit already.

“I don’t know.  I can barely hear my own thoughts over this noise in my head.”

Krouse growled with inarticulate frustration.

Ease up, Krouse,” Cody said.  “He doesn’t know.”

There does seem to be some aggression building, while we’re being reminded repeatedly of the song.

“Noelle might be dying!”

“-And we’ll get to safety first, then someone can take us to a hospital,” Jess said.  “But we can’t help her if we’re hit by some flying piece of concrete or laser beam.  And… they thought that it was better to kill that guy than to let him live, because he’d been here too long.

And you’ve surely been here longer by now.

He’d heard too much of that sound in our heads.  So his own side killed him.  Think about that.  We’ve been here longer.”

Krouse shook his head.  “But if Noelle-”

Yeah, get the fuck out and then focus on Noelle.

“We’ll help her, Krouse!”  Jess said.  “Save your breath for running!”

He grunted affirmation.

They crossed paths with another monster.  A man, pale, with a head twice as large as his torso.

What a nerd.

His arms and legs were atrophied, and he crawled, dragging his head along the pavement.  It looked as though he’d sustained some damage in being flung halfway across the city, his head was nearly caved in at the top, a bloody ruin with fragments of skull sticking out.

This guy definitely fits the Nilbog aesthetic.

“Help me,” the thing pleaded.  He reached out with one emaciated hand.

He talks!

“How?” Marissa asked.

“Mars!”  Krouse shouted, “No stalling!”

I do appreciate that Marissa’s response here is asking how they’d be able to help him. Not questioning whether they should, but asking if there’s any reasonable thing they can do.

She ignored him.  “How can we help?”

“Give me your memories,” the monster said.

…okay yeah, that’s probably not a friendly.

Marissa backed away a few steps in alarm.  “Give them!  I want to dream again!  I haven’t dreamed in so long!”

🤔

So this thing absorbs memories to fuel its dreams…? How literal is that?

Marissa bolted, the hard heels of her boots clacking on the hard ground.

Marissa has a good balance of kindness and sense.

The ground shuddered with a distant explosion.  One of Scion’s beams speared into the sky, parting clouds in tidy circles as it passed through them.  There was the sound of something howling behind them.  A minute later, it howled again, closer.  Is it chasing us?

Well, that’s ominous.

One by one, they each came to a complete stop.  Krouse noted how the screaming in his head seemed quieter.  Were they almost out of her range?

Almost does not make you safe.

Krouse’s eyes widened as he tried to comprehend what he was seeing. If we are nearly out of danger, then this is some sick joke at our expense.

What did she stick in front of you?

“No,” Luke whispered.  Louder, he repeated himself.  “No!  Why!?”

Something horrible, it would seem.

I feel like they might have said something if they had been approaching the hospital, so I’m thinking it’s probably not a ruined one of those.

Is it as simple as a dead end they can’t get out of without powers?

A chain link fence barred their way.  It was topped by barbed wire.

Yep.

Is it time for a trigger event?

In the distance, on the far side of a park, there were squads of men and women in army fatigues, with jeeps and other army vehicles helping to add presence to the already formidable line of defense.

Oh fuck. It’s a fence set up specifically to keep people like them in, isn’t it. To keep people affected by the song from getting out and causing mayhem in the rest of the city.

Each of the soldiers was aiming a gun at the fence.

Krouse flinched as a howl sounded, closer than the ones before.  Caught between a rock and a hard place.  Not to mention Noelle’s condition, or even Luke’s.  He winced at the noise in his head.  It was quieter, but his stress here, his alarm and confusion, it was making the screaming spike to a brutally high pitch.

It really does feel like we’re about to end the chapter with Krouse having a trigger event.

His stress, his alarm and confusion, his concern for Noelle and Luke… it all adds up to a prrretty bad day.

Step away from the fence!”  The voice sounded over a loudspeaker, gruff, authoritarian.  “This area is under quarantine!  Seek shelter and wait for further instructions!  If you approach or touch the fence, you will be shot!

I wonder if the howling thing can get through this line of defense.

Oh, huh. That was the ending line. I was expecting a line more like “And then everything froze”, or something alluding to the beginning of a Dandelion vision.

But no, it looks like we’re not doing the trigger events just yet. Maybe we’ll have that next chapter.


End of Migration 17.2

This was a cool chapter. We got a look at how the Simurgh fights and her ability to tinker outside the box, good teamwork by the proto-Travelers, some excellent buildup of the song of insanity being a bad thing (I’d been assuming that prolonged exposure to it was bad since before it even appeared, but still) with an example made out of Grandiose. The monsters coming out of the portal were all interesting, especially the memory-eater, and if I hadn’t been spoiled on it already, this chapter would have been full of well-executed clues to the Simurgh’s omniscience.

Next up: The proto-Travelers are stuck between a howl and some armed pals, and Krouse’s stress levels are peaking. I think we’re in for a trigger event that allows him to swap the places of the proto-Travelers with the people on the other side of the fence, probably just in time for the howling thing to take the soldiers instead of the proto-Travelers before being (hopefully) stopped by the fence. That should be interesting to see Krouse’s and Marissa’s reactions to.

First up, however, is Aesma and the Three Masters. See you soon for that!

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