Source material: Worm, Interlude 19 (Donation Bonus #1)
Blogged: March 20-27, 2022
Alright, Interlude time! Whose head will we be visiting now?
I’m just gonna say it right out, I don’t think we’ll ever have a Scapegoat Interlude. Dude’s got big “joke character for narrative convenience” energy (even with the implication that he’ll be able to do some good damage in one of the upcoming fights) and I don’t think we’re likely to go too in-depth with his characterization.
On another note, Interludes in this part of the story seem to rarely be from the perspective of someone directly in the middle of the current conflict. That makes it fairly unlikely we’re going to be visiting Tecton or Grace, though a hospitalized Raymancer is a possibility.
A… somewhat unappealing possibility.
Checking in on the Laborns would be nice, but they’ve both had Interludes. Wildbow still seems to avoid multiple Interludes for individual characters unless there’s an excuse like Defiant being a “different person” than Armsmaster.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing more of the Crew until they show up in the main chapters, so while they still have a few members that haven’t had Interludes, I don’t think they’re showing up here.
So with most of the directly relevant cast being unlikely, we’re left with some of the more fringe characters. Characters like Cauldron and PRT employees, Brockton Bay civilians wishing they weren’t living through a historic event (ain’t that a mood), capes from other teams…
Ballistic? He’s pretty directly relevant, but it could be interesting to see his inner monologue about all this.
I’m gonna put my main bet on “new tangential character” though.
Rey hesitated at the door. He cast a wary glance over his shoulder, but life elsewhere in the city continued as normal.
Rey. Alright then, who beest thou?
So Rey here is wary for some reason, but it seems to be a personal reason; life in “the city” is continuing as normal. Which is not at all the case in present time Brockton Bay…
…actually at this point it’s not far off…
…so I’m guessing this is not Brockton Bay.
If he touched the doorknob, any number of things could happen. A pit underfoot, a guillotine blade from overhead.
What the…? Is this Final Destination or something?
(I haven’t seen those movies, but Within Temptation has a good song inspired by them.)
It seems to me that Rey is either literally in a situation where he has reason to believe someone is setting cartoonish traps around his house, or under some effect that causes paranoid delusions. Or he’s just paranoid by default.
Either way, he’s af-Rey-d.
It took a measure of courage to raise the door knocker and slam it against the front door of the old Victorian-styled house.
The door opened right away.
Hm. Not his own house. So it might speak more to the character of whoever he’s visiting here than about himself.
Do we know anyone who’d put traps like that on their doorstep?
“Blasto,” Accord greeted him. “We finally meet.”
The more cartoonishly complicated the plan, the more likely it is to succeed. For Accord, inviting someone to his home and putting a guillotine blade over his doorstep is more reliable than firing a gun at them.
Last time we met Accord, he wanted some tools stolen from Blasto, whom he described as a “rival”, so yeah, these two don’t seem to have the most friendly relationship regardless of how affable Accord is being.
Trickster also provided some intel on Blasto. He’s a tinker botanist who grows sentient walking plants. Awesome.
“Uh huh,” Rey replied. He glanced around. The inside of the house was nice. Must be nice to not have to reinvest ninety percent of your earnings on tech.
Accord wouldn’t have it any other way.
“No mask?” Accord asked.
“Yes,” Rey replied. He folded one corner of his face back. “It’s a fungus. Same texture as human flesh.”
Oh that’s genius. Makes him look like he’s got no secret identity, but they also can’t figure out who this guy is.
Accord’s own intricate mechanical face shifted in response to his underlying expression. “Lovely.”
So these two are clearly made for each other.
“I’m still not sure about this, given our history,” Rey said. He accepted the invitation into the front hallway of the house, carefully removed his shoes and set them on the tray to the right of the door.
Rey is keenly aware of how Accord would react if he just kicked them off and left them.
Although maybe Rey is neat himself, anyway?
“I’ve given you my word that you’ll be safe, provided you cooperate.”
“Damn Nazis,” Rey said. “My whole lab, gone.”
Hm. We know Accord wanted Blasto’s lab fucked up, and that he was intent on hiring outside muscle to do so. Would he have hired these Nazis — Purity and co. or a separate Boston group? — to do it, or did this happen independently?
Having the lab destroyed by an outside group to trick Blasto into seeking aid from him seems like the kind of strategy Accord might employ.
Accord didn’t offer any sympathy. “Come.”
Rey followed. Peering into the rooms he passed, he saw libraries and sitting rooms, old furniture. Everything was finely made, nothing cheap or throwaway. Knowing Accord, it was all too possible that the man had hand-crafted everything in this house.
I’d believe it.
And in each room were people in costume. Other teams had themes, natural or otherwise. Their costumes matched, or they unconsciously mirrored one another in style of dress or quality. Accord’s people were much the same, but it was very deliberate. Each wore fine clothing, elegant dresses and suits, and each had their hair neatly combed into place, oiled to the point that it looked wet. The ‘costumes’ were in the color of their chosen formal wear and badges or brooches they wore, as well as the finely crafted masks that hid any trace of their real expressions.
Yeah, this sounds on brand.
It sounds like he has a lot of people, too. Are all of these capes, or does he insist on costumes for his mundane lackeys too?
“You’re not expecting me to dress like them, are you?”
“No,” Accord said. “Truth be told, I fear you could never meet my standards, and I’m going to do my level best to ignore the fact that you exist.
It sounds rude, but let’s consider that the last time we saw him confronted with someone who couldn’t meet his standards he immediately ordered her killed.
You’ll want to keep to the areas I designate and use the back ways out of the building, so that I never see you.”
He is 100% serious with this.
“You’re not going to imprison me, are you?”
“No. This is a business transaction. I will give you the opportunity to get back on your feet, you will do what you can to eliminate our mutual enemies, being careful to avoid any damage or criminal activity within my territory, and in exchange, you will give me half your territory when all of this is over. Following such an event, I hope we can avoid any further aggression between us for the future.”
Why go to such lengths to protect Blasto for half the territory when Blasto is down on his luck and you could relatively easily take all of it? Does that mean that despite his lack of orderliness, you find him more valuable when he’s helping you “eliminate mutual enemies” than when he’s gone and the other half of his territory is yours?
I don’t believe for a second that it’s a matter of empathy.
“Sure,” Rey said.
“The individuals in question are Menja, Stormtiger, Cricket, Rune, Othala, Niflheim and Muspelheim. I’ll see you have all available records.
Oh shit, it’s the other Nazis.
Niflheim and Muspelheim are new. Named after two of the worlds in Norse cosmology. I think Niflheim is one of the death worlds? Hang on, let me check.
Alright, that’s a solid maybe. There’s some degree of conflation between Niflheim and Niflhel and it’s unclear whether they’re the same thing or not. The latter is one of the death worlds (also referred to as just Hel, after its ruler, giving us the modern term “hell” as applied to an underworld), the former is the primordial realm of ice and mist, but some versions of Gylfaginning use the names interchangeably and say Hel was cast into Niflheim.
Niflheim and Muspelheim are particularly important in Norse mythology as the original worlds. The Norse creation myth starts with Niflheim and Muspelheim already there, and the ice from Niflheim met sparks from Muspelheim met in the primordial void, Ginngungagap, and created the first being.
So yeah, these two are pretty tightly linked, with an ice (or mist, but we already have a misty Nazi) and fire theme.
If they’re siblings, I expect Muspel to be the older one.
Oh right, I was liveblogging. Got sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole there. Norse mythology is pretty interesting.
Screw the Nazis for making it weird to like Norse mythology.
Best to enter any confrontation with your eyes wide open.”
Okay but imagine this line if it had been about the other team of Nazis in the cast.
“My people will not be available to you, understand. Our bargain presumes you are working alone.”
Alright, I see. This is win-win for Accord, either he gets help against the newcomers from Brockton Bay or one of his rivals gets vivisected by them.
What does Blasto get out of this? Shelter and some money for tech?
“I get it.”
“You’re quiet. You don’t have questions? Requests?”
“Wouldn’t mind some grass.”
I mean on one hand he quite likely means literal grass given his powerset, but on another hand this just put the thought in my head that the perfect opposition to Accord within the themes of “botanist tinker” would be a coddamn stoner.
Rey smirked, “In the slang sense. I meant-”
Yep, there we go.
“This world would be much better without disorderly individuals such as yourself.”
“That’s just, like, your opinion, man… want some?”
“Say no more. I understand what you meant. Provided you stay out of my way, you can do whatever you wish in the assigned area. That said, I and my people will not provide intoxicants, and if you are inebriated in any way in my company-”
It kinda sounded like you wouldn’t tolerate him being in your company in the first place.
But yeah, as far as Accord’s rules go, this is fairly reasonable. Lenient, even.
“It’s fine,” Rey cut in. “I get it.”
“Here. Into the basement,” Accord said.
Accord led the way, and Rey hesitantly followed.
The basement was expansive. There were no walls – only pillars. The floor was concrete covered in a no-slip perforated rubber mat, the various desks were stainless steel, each on wheels that could be locked in place. Each desk, in turn, had glass cabinets or drawers. As far as Rey could see, they were fully stocked.
This does seem pretty close to ideal for a lab. It’s not exactly a greenhouse, but I’m sure Rey can deal with that.
But it was more than that. Rey was used to the usual labs, which held years of old material. Tools that had long since fallen into disrepair. Trays of solutions that nobody had touched in years, too old to use but too expensive to throw away in good conscience. There were slides that were stained, tools that didn’t always work. Even when he’d started his lab, it had been with tools stolen from his old University, things bought on the cheap.
Yeah, you won’t find any of that stuff in a place arranged by Accord.
This? This was a dream. He stepped over to a glass case, large enough to fit a person inside.
Handy when you have a habit of growing walking plants in glass tubes.
There was a case attached to one side with room for a solution to be poured in, and what he took to be an attached tank of distilled water, with a control panel to select the rate and degree of mixture. Another tube would vent the contents into a biohazard case.
A glance told him that everything would be here. There were neatly ordered bins of chemicals, tools laid out in neat rows. Everything was pristine. The cages on the other end of the room with the captive animals, even, were clean, with none of the animal scent or vague smell of waste that accompanied such. There were troughs filled with rich smelling earth, thoroughly mixed and free of clumps.
I wonder how Accord will feel about this place after a week or two of Blasto labbing it up in here.
Rey Andino could create life from raw materials, fashion a homunculus from the most basic ingredients and elements. He could make monsters, loyal beings that would do as he wished, with only time and things he’d picked up from a drug store. Faced with this laboratory, he felt small, insignificant. He knew he would soil it, that things would break as he used them. It was wrong.
Trust me, Accord hates that fact at least as much as you do.
“Satisfactory?” Accord asked.
“It’ll have to do,” Rey replied, trying to sound casual.
“Well, if it isn’t perfect, I’ll have no choice but to blow it all up and start over. Come back here in ten weeks.”
“It will. Now, I’d like you to know that I recently acquired some samples and records. I’d intended to hold on to them as a bargaining chip at a critical moment, or something I might offer you as incentive to leave this city.”
If Blasto’s about to start giving Cauldron powers to plants we might have a problem.
That would be a bit of a leap for Accord to make, though. “Oh, vials of a substance that gives people superpowers. I know who could really use this, my rival whose lackeys are all glorified bongs.”
So yeah, probably not that kind of sample.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ll find them in the far corner of the room. The computer contains the database and the attached machine arm will withdraw any samples on request.”
“Sure,” Rey said.
“My ambassadors will be taking turns observing you. Short of a critical emergency, they won’t be reporting anything to me. Citrine will be first.”
The samples are numerous enough to need a database. So are we talking about, like, plants from other places that Blasto would have a hard time acquiring on his own?
Citrine suggests gem powers or, uh… yellow powers. I doubt there’d be a cape based on the programming language, but if any cape were to have a programming language theme, working for the guy with the gimmicks of neatness and complexity might be a good fit.
He abhors spaghetti code though. And probably actual spaghetti. There’s nothing orderly about spaghetti.
Rey nodded. He was already heading to the computers, to find what Accord would feel was so powerful or valuable that Rey would leave the city to get his hands on it.
The computer was fast. Rey started to empty his pockets and smooth out the papers with the few blueprints he’d been able to salvage when the white supremacists had come storming through his old lab, and the computer was already idling at the desktop screen by the time he’d finished.
A black window with text in bold white letters showed a menu. Two options:
A: View Database
B: View Samples
C: Access SOMEONE’s PC
(it’s all grass types)
He took the first option, typing the letter in the keyboard and striking the enter key.
It was names. Cape names. They kept appearing, so fast he could barely read them, and the window kept scrolling until he hit the enter key again to interrupt it.
He scrolled up until he found one name. He clicked it.
…is this related to Cauldron after all? Does Rey have reason to be tracking down intel about Cauldron capes? Reason that Accord found out about and decided to help in order to gain this kind of bargaining chip?
Blasto, Real Name Unknown
Classification: Tinker 6 (sub: master 5, blaster 2, shifter 2, brute 2); plants.
Disposition: Villain (B)
Last Known Location: Boston (Allston area, east).
Or maybe these are PRT files, like the ones the Undersiders stole in Parasite?
Master and lower ratings for Blaster, Shifter and Brute make complete sense for a plant tinker of Blasto’s specifics. I actually had the thought that Blasto would have a secondary Master rating earlier and found it too obvious to even be worth mentioning.
Blaster, Shifter and Brute all arise from a variety of ways tinkered plants can be used.
Crime lord of East Allston since est. date of April 2009.
The 13th, I’m sure.
No subordinates. No past history as a subordinate. Criminal history indicates cap of second degree murder, tendency to mass damage to property and persons. Produces uncontrolled lifeforms that are incapable of replication. Adversarial relationship with Accord (#13151), Spree (#14755) and Chain Man (#14114).
“uncontrolled lifeforms”… but loyal, according to the man himself. “incapable of replication” is good news given, y’know, Nilbog.
I think we’ve seen the names Spree and Chain Man before.
There are a bunch of results for Spree because Wildbow and I both use the word every so often, but I can’t find any references to it as the name of a cape.
One of the results for Chain Man was the blog search finding it in the phrase “keychain managed” back in 8.6, while the other found “chain” and “man” separately. That has some interesting implications about how WordPress’ search functionality works, but that’s not what we were after.
I could have sworn I’d seen Chain Man before. It’s such a specific name.
I choose to believe that Chain Man is a chain smoker.
Note: High risk of Class-S classification. Should creations self-propagate, kill orders are pre-authorized.
Okay, so definitely PRT files. And yeah, this makes sense, again given Nilbog.
Might be a little chilling to read though.
A: More information/History
B: More information/Powers
C: More information/Contact & Network
There were signs of degraded data, but it was there. Accord had somehow acquired the PRT’s system data and records on all parahumans they’d encountered.
That’s a lot. So did he get any of this from Coil, or did he do his own heist?
…wait a minute why did Coil order the Parasite heist? He was already a PRT official with access to most of the system, wasn’t he? Did he just need a way to get access to it in his base without setting off alarm bells about his civilian identity? A believable story of how he got it for when he’d sell it to other villains? Were there parts he didn’t have authorized access to that the Undersiders would still be able to steal through the Protectorate HQ?
No big surprises on the possible kill order. He’d been made aware of it some time ago, and had grumbled, groaned and grudgingly avoided making any lifeforms that could breed in the years since.
Fair enough. The Protectorate does seem keen to give warning on such things.
“How the hell did you get this?” he asked. He turned around.
It wasn’t Accord behind him. It was a young woman in a formal, silk dress, yellow trimmed with gold, and a mask in matching colors. A gemstone stood out on her forehead, with matching earrings dangling from her ears like chandeliers. Her hands were clasped in front of her.
Accord probably left you to it the moment you got drawn in by the computer.
Citrine sounds lovely.
“I didn’t,” she said.
“You’re one of his… what did he call you?”
“That’s right. Do you have a name?”
Citrine. I don’t blame you for being too distracted to catch that though.
“Ok. How did he get this?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Because you don’t know or because you won’t say?”
I got some very minor Light Hope vibes from the visual description, and it seems she’s about as helpful.
He sighed, turning back to the system. He selected the last option in the menu at the bottom of the page, then reloaded the master list, stopping when it had progressed far enough.
Eidolon. There was a full set of details.
Ooh, this should be interesting. How does the PRT describe what he does?
Eidolon. There was a full set of details.
More information? Nothing. Data not found.
Powers? Nothing. Data not found.
Legend was the same.
Maybe someone less prominent. He selected Chevalier and got the standard information. More details.
Hm. So the big guns do have some things still too classified for this database.
Powers? He selected the option, and received pages upon pages of testing data. Rey’s eyes pored over the results, soaking them in. It was like reading Shakespeare. One could listen to a line, and be momentarily baffled, but skimming it or assuming a general foundation of knowledge, it was possible to pick up the gist of the message; The underlying meanings, if not the exact definitions of the individual elements.
I’m sure any tinker would love to have this data. Many tinkers seem capable of some minor power-mimicry through tech, so maybe Blasto would be able to give his plants superpowers provided the right intel?
The work of a tinker wasn’t typical science. Refining it was science, but the blunt, raw use of the power? It was almost the opposite.
Going with the gut to let the passenger do the hard work?
Good science meant starting with the conditions, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, and then testing it. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until there was a solid base of knowledge. That knowledge let one establish further conditions, refine hypotheses.
But tinkers started with the end result. A moment of inspiration, glimpses of the major steps one would need to take to get there. It involved working backwards, up until that moment the means came into view. Rey could see it at work, could see Chevalier’s power as raw data, something he could replicate by traveling an entirely different path. He would need a sturdier frame. Something big. This wouldn’t be a hybrid of a stray dog and a plant. This would need to be something closer to a bear.
That reverse engineering doesn’t seem too unlike Tattletale’s power, actually. It’s a bit like she’s an observation tinker, reverse engineering observations. But yeah, the tinker power mimicry makes a lot of sense when seen through that lens.
Or, he realized, a human.
So, uh, when you say “hybrid of”… Do you mean that literally?
Because this sounds like the Slaughterhouse Nine might head to Boston to recruit you any moment if you pursue this line, and suddenly your “cap” is no longer second degree.
He backed out of Chevalier’s data until he was at the original screen. He checked the samples Accord had provided him with.
A) PRT (Protectorate, Wards) samples
B) Non-PRT (evidence database) samples
C) Misc samples
Wait, are samples in this context things like the video of Siberian? Examples of powers in action?
Further investigation revealed the full truth. Accord had gotten his hands on a database of DNA from countless members of the Protectorate and the Wards, as well as scraps of material from certain powers, where traces remained behind.
Okay, you might be able to do this without actually scavenging humans. We seem to be talking less “wrap a plant around a human and make them one” and more “splice human and plant genes together”.
Still disturbing, but in a far more victimless way.
He selected C, expecting little. His eyes widened.
Many were samples from lifeforms that various tinkers and masters had created. His own were in there. That wasn’t the surprising fact.
He selected the last option on the list. To the right of the computer, in a hermetically sealed case, a robotic arm extended and deposited a microscopic sample on a slide.
A fragment, so small as to be nearly impossible to see, of one of the Simurgh’s feathers.
“You keep making these little oohs and ahhs,” Citrine commented. “It sounds like you’re pleasuring yourself.”
I don’t know what’s funnier, Citrine being a lot less prim and proper than her employer requires of her, the fact that Blasto doesn’t seem to have noticed himself making these oohs and ahhs (or at least, hasn’t seen fit to mention it in narration at any point), or imagining this line coming out of Light Hope.
“I am, believe me,” Rey replied, not looking her way. “Where did he get this stuff? Does he even comprehend what he gave me?”
“I’m sure he does.”
The more concerning part is why he didn’t hold on to it. Why did he give you this now, practically as a freebie, when it would have been a fantastic bargaining chip and he claims to have been fully intent on using it as one before?
He’d considered replicating Chevalier’s power, with a solid enough frame. Maybe a bear, maybe a human. Small potatoes.
This isn’t good.
We all see that, right?
This isn’t good.
He went through the contents he’d unloaded from his pockets until he found a piece of paper he’d folded into an envelope. He tore it open and tapped out the contents.
Each seed was about the size of a pea, tapered at each end, a mottled white-brown. He hurried over to one of the large glass tubes and fiddled with the controls until it started flooding with water.
“Are you one of the talkative ones?” Citrine asked.
That sounds like Accord has done arrangements like this before, many times.
“I mean, maybe it’s a dumb question, because you’ve stuck pretty much to monosyllabic grunts since this whole thing started, but I’m wondering if you’re one of the capes that likes to rant or one of the quiet ones.”
Or maybe she just meant out of capes in general. Fair enough.
But yeah, Blasto seems pretty… introverted, let’s say. And a bit caught up in what he’s doing at times.
“Honestly? I’m bored. Not like I can go on Facebook with my smartphone or anything. That sort of thing gets you killed, when you work for Accord.”
…yeah, that tracks.
“You want me to entertain you?”
“I doubt you’re capable. But you could distract me, help while away the minutes.”
He eyed the woman. Rey wasn’t one of the quiet ones by choice. He’d just fallen into the habit of being alone because it was easier to stay in the lab than it was to be out in the larger world. People in the larger world sucked.
A sentiment many seem to share in this world.
Up until the Nazis from Brockton Bay had turned up and claimed the building at the other end of the street from his lab, it had been a place he could retreat. A place where his work and his art could occupy his thoughts and distract him from reality.
High-key introvert hours over here.
Art. It was a good starting point for an explanation, and she was probably the most attractive person he’d spent more than one minute around in the last few months…
I’m sure you could get along.
Art, huh…? Seems like another common thread for many tinkers. The drive to create, the beauty of their creations’ intricacies, that sometimes only they can really appreciate. It’s no wonder many of them seem to start thinking of what they’re doing as an artform.
He forced a smile. He was a little rusty on that front. “What we do, what tinkers do, it’s more art than science. Every step we take is made with an end goal in mind. Just now, looking over these samples, I think I decided on an end goal.”
A pretty terrifying one in the long run.
“My usual methods, well, you know them. You’ve fought my creations before.”
So he does recognize her from previous encounters?
“These seeds,” he raised one hand, a seed pinched between index finger and thumb, “Are like stem cells. They harbor the potential to become virtually anything. Wherever information is missing, they fill in the gaps.”
“Like using frog DNA for dinosaurs.”
“Like using frog DNA for dinosaurs, right. The way I worked it, they’ll decode the information in a very brute force way. The seed starts by forming two bodies, attached by a central hub. I kill the least viable one, it buds and splits again, with copies that are derivatives of the survivor. Usually two to four. Kill all but one, repeat.”
So in short, asexual evolution through artificial selection, very akin to adversarial networks.
“Until you have something viable.”
“Exactly! Takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Then I have what’s essentially a plant-animal hybrid, and I nudge it in the direction of my enemies. Or give it simple programming that I can use. Training half-plant rodents to fetch shiny objects, for example.”
So you’re the plant equivalent of those people who reward crows and such for bringing them valuables and, accidentally or not, unleash a flock of thieving corvids on unsuspecting tourists?
“Trade secret,” Rey said. “I’m not dumb. I won’t give away the essentials.”
“Okay. So what’s today’s project?”
“Oh, I’ll have a dozen projects in the work before I let myself go to sleep. But the big one is that I want to replicate an Endbringer.”
Remember how the first time we heard of them, even mentioning the Endbringers was considered morbid?
He glanced at Citrine, saw that she’d gone still.
Yeah, that’s about what I’d expected.
What to you sounds like a sweet passion project, sounds to others like “I want to bring untold destruction to the world”, dropped casually into a nice little conversation about your pet plant mice.
“I may need to go talk to Accord,” she said.
“No need,” Rey said. “I suspect he already knows. He gave me these samples, no doubt with the idea that I’d use it.”
He might not have called you using that one, in that way. But yeah, definitely wants you to use some of them.
“And you can’t even control it? Or he can’t control it? It doesn’t sound like him,” Citrine said.
Rey paused. It didn’t sound like Accord. Was there another explanation?
That’s a good point, actually.
Accord might be planning on killing him after the project was done. Rey kept his creations in line with pheromones, spraying them liberally around his lab and the surrounding neighborhood. They would move to the nearest unaffected location as soon as they were free. Once he did that to Accord’s home, the place would be rendered immune to his own attacks, at least for a little while.
Also I’m not sure how Accord would feel about getting his home sprayed down.
But it still seemed too reckless for the perfectionist. Was Accord that eager to kill the white supremacists? Or was there another plan in the works?
This is Accord we’re talking about. Of course there’s another plan. That doesn’t mean he’s not also that eager to kill the white supremacists.
“You’ve gone quiet,” Citrine said.
“Thinking,” he said. “No, I need things quiet for a minute. There’s a TV in the corner. Watch that.”
“I can’t. Accord would be upset,” the woman in yellow replied.
I guess she is strictly speaking ordered to watch Blasto.
Rey sighed. He crossed the room to the television, turned it on, set it to mute and turned on the closed captions. “He won’t be upset if I turn it on, will he?”
Great, now she’ll have the TV as a potential distraction from the boredom of watching Blasto while he’s quiet, and she still can’t look!
You really know how to treat a gal, Rey.
He returned to the computer and started working with the Simurgh’s tissue. It was hard to cut, and harder still to slice to the point that he could look at it under a microscope.
“Crystalline,” he murmured, as he focused on it. The feathers were like snowflakes when viewed at 40x magnification. He scaled all the way up to 800x magnification before realizing that there were no individual cells.
Leviathan was described as layered and sort of fractally dense. It’s not too surprising to find the Simurgh also made of fractal material in a more brittle arrangement.
Also this is probably for the best. Hard to do gene splicing if there aren’t any cells to draw DNA from.
Was it just the feather? Was it dead tissue, on par with the keratin of fingernails or hair? He used the computer to access a sample of Leviathan’s ‘blood’, and let the hands handle the arrangement of preparing the slide. Being liquid, the blood was easier than the feather.
Yeah, I don’t think this will fare much better.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to use Leviathan’s tissue. Growing a miniature Leviathan in a vat would be a bad idea if that vat was filled with fluid.
Tinkers, man. They just don’t stop before the “if”.
Using Behemoth’s tissues would be just as problematic. The Herokiller could ignore the Manton effect at a range of up to thirty-two feet. Even semi-conscious inside a glass case, it was too risky.
I will admit out of these three, the Simurgh poses the lowest risk. Physically, at least. It’s hard to tell how the plant version would react to its knowledge. Or to being a powerful being in a vat.
Leviathan’s blood was the same as the feather. Crystals, dense and so opaque that light wouldn’t pass through them.
Huh. I was expecting something… less crystal, more lasagna. Fractal lasagna.
What is it with this Interlude and making me talk about pasta? I don’t even like pasta any more than Accord does.
There were more tissues. Flesh. More blood. Hair. Damaged tissues and intact ones. He went through each.
All of it, the same. Crystals. No individual cells. Even the crystals barely differentiated from one another. Truth was, there was more difference in crystals collected from deeper inside the Endbringer than there was in crystals that had come from different parts of the Endbringer’s body; hair as opposed to blood.
He scraped off a bit of his seed, then added water and the catalysts to splice it with some of the Simurgh’s feather. Sure enough, it started to grow. Each end of the scraping formed into buds, and the buds started to form into basic, foetal shapes, one quadruped, one vaguely humanoid.
Welp, that’s working a little too well.
So I guess kill the quadruped?
Can you kill these things?
But neither lived.
…apparently not, but for a significantly less (or more, if you’re Rey) dire reason.
The weaker tissue was easier to work with. Assuming it was deriving patterns from the crystals, insofar as the crystals could create or support life, he could use that to work out the peculiarities of how the Endbringers were able to sustain themselves.
No vascular system, no sign of emergent organs.
They all have one thing in common: They seem to need to hibernate (or at least relax) for months on end before attacking. It’s quite likely that has to do with how they gain the energy they require.
Of course the emerging lifeform wasn’t viable. It wasn’t capable of life in the first place.
He’d have to take another route. He withdrew a sample of Myrddin’s tissue, then started splicing it with one seed and the ruined fragments of the Simurgh’s feather.
So for the sake of perspective, let’s summarize this: He’s now trying to make a plant/Myrddin/Simurgh hybrid monster and sees no issue with pursuing this.
Well, at least it might take out the Nazis.
It was lunacy, tampering with Endbringer-related materials, but he couldn’t shake the idea that he was on to something.
I’m glad some part of your head understands this.
He’d sustain the Endbringer tissues with other living tissue that could feed it energy or nutrients. His seeds would bridge the gap. It would take ten or fifteen minutes before he saw any real results. There was other work to do in the meantime.
Translation: The results are likely to show up near the end of the chapter.
A sedated monkey plus a sample of his own tissue and one seed, and he had a homunculus in the works. It would be roughly as intelligent as a very stupid person in most respects, but it would share his own understanding of chemistry, biology, science and botany. It would serve as a lab assistant, and he would need one for a lab this big.
…you know what, yeah, that recipe sounds about right for a mad scientist’s lab assistant.
These seeds seem to fill in some gaps based on ideas. Lots of the stuff he’s going after wouldn’t be in the DNA, so the seeds fill in some of the details based on the DNA’s owner and the ideas around them rather than directly based on the DNA itself.
Unless we’re suggesting that his understanding of three fields of science are genetic? If he had a kid, would it come out fully equipped with knowledge of the chemical properties of iodine?
He walked over to the glass tube where the Simurgh-Myrddin-plant hybrid was in the works. One had wings rather than legs. He directed a laser to kill it. The other had four arms, but two resembled wings. It would work. He conducted a charge through the fluid to reset the life cycle. It would split in two or three, and he’d kill the remainder.
What are wings if not arms that are really good at moving air?
Accord must have based this equipment off of the stuff he’d had in his last lab, the one Accord had forcibly ejected him from. The lasers being built into the glass tube were a nice touch, kept everything hermetically sealed.
…the implication being that before, he would open the vats to do the lasering. Sounds messy.
Wait, what am I talking about. They’re lasers. They go through glass. Duh.
You’ll have to excuse me, my parents were a monkey and a begonia.
In a fit of whimsy, he directed the lasers to a pure light form, then had them fire into the glass case itself. Letters lit up, labeling the projects. Regrowth for the plant that was growing and budding with more seeds. Homunculus for the monkey that was gestating in the second tube.
Blasto has up until now been a mad scientist on a budget. Accord’s… assistance here allows him to lean into the “mad” part more.
And for his real project? It would have to be something fitting.
Give us a name for our future nightmares.
Morrígan. With an accented í. It seems Gaelic, which I suppose is fitting given Myrddin’s part in this.
Wikipedia tells me she’s a goddess from Irish mythology, associated with land, war and fate. She sometimes takes the form of a crow, sometimes a triple goddess.
Don’t think I’ve missed that both Morrígan the deity and everything Blasto does are associated with the element of earth. I still call Noelle the Endbringer of Earth, but it’s pretty clear at this point that she’s not actually the same thing as them, whatever that thing is. Blasto here, however, is actively trying to make something that would be at least approximately the same thing, and because of how he’s doing it, it would be intrinsically linked to the one classical element that doesn’t have an Endbringer at the moment. Unless you count Noelle, which I only do because she functions much like one narratively.
Man, New England is not the place for people who don’t like Endbringers and Endbringer-like entities, huh?
Beautiful. He studied the three foetal forms that were developing inside, killed two, narrowing down the results he wanted. Like pruning branches.
The TV started making noise. Rey wheeled around to see Citrine and one of her fellow ‘ambassadors’ standing in front of the TV.
Hm? Did something important enough to get them to turn on the sound come on?
The man in the suit with a green dress shirt and a copper lizard mask was the one turning up the volume.
Yeah, I wouldn’t expect Citrine to do it after how she talked.
“I’m trying to work here,” Rey said.
“Something’s going on. Look,” the man spoke.
So is this going to be news of Brockton Bay’s Echidna situation?
Rey impatiently left his work behind. If he waited too long, a bad growth could be carried on to the young. Wouldn’t do.
The TV showed a reporter talking. Why was he supposed to care?
Then it changed to a camera view of an ongoing conflict. Three gigantic armored suits were in open conflict with a small group of people.
That doesn’t sound right, unless those people are noticeably deformed.
In fact, that sounds more like Dragon. Are they reporting on the Nine?
The Slaughterhouse Nine. Here, in Boston.
Cod dammit I was joking earlier! At least half!
If they’re recruiting, Blasto is absolutely a Bonesaw pick.
One of the suits was deploying swarms of drones, but they were getting cut out of the air as fast as they appeared. Another member of the Nine had a loose-fitting coat of human flesh draped over him. He stretched it out to grab surrounding buildings and anchor himself in place as a mechanical lizard with a giant wheel on its back tried to haul him in with what looked to be an immense suction.
I kinda forgot how disturbing Hookwolf’s power can be, even without Bonesaw messing with it.
The Siberian had made contact with and was tearing apart a third suit.
A suit high in the air fired off a laser beam, and the Siberian jumped to put herself in the line of fire.
Whatever happened next, the camera didn’t catch it. The concussive force of the laser hitting was enough to knock the cameraman over, and the image shorted out.
Rey sniffed. He’d like to see more of Dragon’s work, not because it had anything in common with his own, but because it was good work. But for now, his focus was on his projects.
Until they come crashing through your ceiling.
With a quick glance, he assessed and executed two homunculus-offshoots and one derivative of the Morrígan. Electrical charges restarted the gestation process.
The thing was starting to resemble the Simurgh, though both feathers and hair were brown-black in color, it was hermaphroditic and the flesh was more translucent than white. Veins stood out.
I was kind of expecting the brown-black feathers, since the Morrígan appears as a crow.
Rey studied it while the thing cracked in the middle, the individual halves separating with a thread of flesh between them. Each of the halves began dissolving and forming anew.
If it was even half as powerful as the real Simurgh… well, this would be a game-changer.
Yeah, no fucking kidding.
And Accord had to know that. Had to be aware that Rey would be working with the Endbringer tissues on this level.
It wasn’t as though the method of control was that difficult to master. One set of pheromones would make the creation feel fond of something, the other would have an negative effect, drive them away from a person or area. Still another would provoke feelings of anger or hatred, useful if he wanted to bid them to attack.
Yes, but may I remind you you’re working with Endbringer material? You’re a fool to expect this thing to follow the usual rules quite the way you expect. And even if you do manage to control it, this will absolutely get you kill-ordered.
Plus the Nine will probably try to recruit you. Trust me, that’s not something you want, and certainly not something the world wants. The Nine are a pest as it is without giving them access to a coddamn pet Endbringer.
If Accord found the pheromones, he could be rid of Rey, and he’d have whatever creations Rey had put together in the meantime.
Accord with a pet Endbringer would also be bad, but Accord is the polar opposite of the Nine with regards to what they’d do with such a thing. Endbringers are bringers of chaos and disorder. Hardly Accord’s style. No, he’d rather wield one as a theoretical threat, akin to a nuke, to be unleashed unless everyone falls under his order. The Nine would be worse because they’d actually use the thing.
It would be at least a day before the Morrígan was fully grown. He had that long to think of an answer.
Even if the Nine bust in right now and drag him away, that still doesn’t really solve much because they’ll still have someone with the desire and most of the means to make something like that at a later time. Getting the Endbringer materials back might be the only hard part.
The door slammed shut. Citrine had gone upstairs. The lizard-masked man watched the television.
Shift change, I guess.
“So who’s on mad scientist duty?”
Time passed, and he watched the results with interest. The Morrígan was now forming with two arms, two legs, and vestigal wings. He let it develop to the point that it was roughly two months old, then killed the offshoots. He started running x-ray scans and doing biopsies, picking through the results to fine tune the internal changes and monitor how much of the lifeform was Simurgh, versus being Myrddin or plant-based. He was judicious and merciless in executing the offshoots, keeping them from growing to a point where there was even a chance of them being sentient.
I suppose it makes sense to save that for last.
Or never, if there’s any sense left peeking through the tinker hyperfixation.
The lifeform did, he noted with some pleasure, have a Corona Pollentia; a lobe in the brain that would allow for powers if it developed fully.
Fantastic. But would it draw its own Dandelion or somehow leech off of Myrddin’s?
While the man watched the unfolding news, Rey took the opportunity to brew and spray himself with a set of pheromones. His creations would be more favorably inclined towards him now.
The door at the top of the stairs closed. He turned to see that the lizard-man was being relieved. Had that much time passed already?
Knowing how hyperfixation feels, I give it 50-50 odds between that and the guy being pulled out to get killed for watching TV instead of you.
“You being good?” the woman asked. She wore a black evening gown with a slit all the way up to her hip. It would have been alluring, but her mask was black, with black lenses and spikes radiating from the edges. Her brooch was of a black star.
“Making headway,” Rey responded.
“One of your fucked up creations broke my leg last year. Please give me an excuse to hurt you. Please.”
This one knows what she’s about and what she’s about isn’t playing nice.
“I’ll pass,” Rey said, turning his attention to the homunculus. He calibrated the signal, pressing two electrodes to his own forehead, then sent the readings out to his creation.
Okay so this is a fine paragraph and all but while I was reading it I pieced together something unrelated and now I need to talk about that.
I talked earlier about Accord needing someone to go after Blasto’s lab and maybe hiring the Nazis to do it in order to trick Blasto, but I was forgetting something important: 17.8 didn’t actually end with the Travelers not doing the job. In fact, on the phone with Coil, Trickster still indicated they were going to do it.
That’s what Blasto was referring to with “his last lab, the one Accord had forcibly ejected him from”. That would be the lab he had during Migration, the one the Travelers attacked. Because of that, he ended up in his later lab, the one on the street where the Nazis eventually settled. Being so close to them, he became a target there, which landed us here, with Morrígan in the tube.
Counting the Travelers’ help in evicting the Nazis from Brockton Bay, that gives us at minimum two lines of causation back to the Travelers and therefore the Simurgh’s antics.
If the Morrígan is successful, depositing the Travelers on Earth-Bet may have been a two-Endbringerlikes-of-earth-for-the-price-of-one deal.
When it was done, he drained the fluid and vented the chamber. The glass sank into the floor, and the homunculus crawled out, using its knuckles to walk. Its skin was peeling, more like loose bark crossed with scar tissue than flesh.
So, to catch up on the previous paragraph: I guess this electrode reading thing is where the assistant’s scientific understanding comes from, not the seeds somehow filling in the blanks that because it has Rey’s DNA it should know science.
I shall call it Kronk if he doesn’t name it. It should not take such an honor lightly.
“You retain any English?” He asked.
The homunculus nodded.
Unfortunately “any” is a broad term and the only Spanish phrase it knows is “no hablo español”.
“Go dispose of the slides. Consider everything a top priority biohazard.”
The homunculus found a pair of rubber gloves and began cleaning up the mess from the early experiments.
It says a lot about it’s level of intelligence and value as a lab assistant that it knows to use gloves when dealing with biohazards.
Thank cod and the WordPress developers for autosaving. The editor just crashed (out of memory, apparently) but I only had to retype half a sentence.
I should be good now, but that might be a good sign that it’s time to stop for the night. It’s 4 AM and I’ve been blogging for 7 hours, so… yeah.
Rey studied the Morrígan. Alarms were set to go off if it approached one month of age. With Myrddin’s brain tissues and the current state of growth in Simurgh-derived parts, there was little to no chance that it would achieve any degree of self awareness.
And less chance that it’ll actually alert you to that before it’s ready to kill you.
So how exactly would Myrddin’s powers mix into this thing? The Simurgh has already proven capable of shunting things between dimensions if she needs to, though that seemed to require access to technology. What does Myrddin’s power of shunting things into pocket dimensions add to her powerset?
Of course, I’m not expecting this thing to have an exact match of the Simurgh’s powers plus Myrddin’s powers.
A glance out the window that overlooked the street showed that it was getting dark. He’d been here all day.
The door slammed at the top of the stairs. He sighed in irritation. Time was passing too quickly. Would this one threaten his life too?
To be fair, you took shelter with a prior enemy. Some animosity from his subordinates is to be expected.
There was a crash, and he nearly jumped out of his skin. He wheeled around.
The woman with the black dress had slammed into the television set. She had holes in her as though she were a piece of Swiss cheese, and more of her had been torn to shreds.
Did she try to attack Blasto, only for the Morrígan to step in?
A body fell down the stairs. The man with the lizard mask. Dead, though not so mutilated.
So, uh, about those Myrddin powers.
It’s very possible that the Morrígan has Myrddin’s powers without the Manton limit and is therefore able to shunt parts of a person into pocket dimensions.
The woman who came down the stairs had an unusual body type accented by her style of dress. She was almost like a boy, she was so thin, and her strapless dress hugged her upper body, but the lower half billowed around her.
Great. We really needed Cauldron getting its hands on the Morrígan.
Her hair was long and white, her eyes wide with irises and pupils small. Her lips had been painted black.
Her arms though… machinery had been crammed into the arms, and they’d been extended to nearly twice the length, the fingers drawn out long. Sparks flew as the woman moved one arm, and she winced.
Oh, alright, not Contessa.
So is this an early responder to the carnage, or is she responsible for it?
The second individual skipped down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to admire the laboratory.
Yeah, no, I don’t think these folks are supposed to be here.
Hm. I wonder if these might be the Dragonslayers? That’s a bit of a shot in the dark guess though. Plenty of tinkers out there who wouldn’t need to steal Dragon tech to make themselves Arms.
Heck, if anything giving someone else arms like this is a Mannequin move. He died in the chaos district though, so I can’t really expect that from the Nine anymore. Then again, Bonesaw.
Her eyes fell on Rey.
“I know you!” she said.
Also it really sounds like Bonesaw, between that line, the skipping, the admiring of the lab and potentially the other woman’s arms.
Remember what I said about Blasto being Bonesaw’s pick here if they were recruiting? Yeeeah…
“I know you too, Bonesaw,” he said. Without breaking eye contact, he tapped a key on the computer, prompting a flood of nutrients into the Morrígan’s solution.
Nutrients, eh? As in, your tactic here is to make the Morrígan stronger so it can fight, rather than killing it so it doesn’t fall into the Nine’s hands.
Typical mad scientist, sheesh.
“It’s not mine.”
“Man, it’s… this is nice stuff. Being constantly on the move, you miss out on stuff like this.”
She would have a lot of fun in a lab like this, that’s for sure.
“My old lab wasn’t this good,” he said. Make small talk. “Who’s that?”
So how closely do they know each other? Like, do they just know who the other is, or have they hung out before?
“Damsel of Distress, with some modifications by yours truly. Damsel for short. Better at controlling her power now.”
Oh yeah, that one lady with the chaotic powers mentioned back in Defiant’s Interlude!
“Storms of unevenly altered gravity, time and space.”
And now also cybernetic upgrades.
And with better control of her power, that has a lot of potential to be very dangerous.
Damsel looked at him, spoke in a whisper he couldn’t make out.
Maybe someone on the team thought she complained too much.
“And who’s this?” Bonesaw asked. She approached the glass case with the Morrígan inside.
“Looks like the Simurgh.”
“She is. In part. The other half of the genetic base is from Myrddin’s tissue. Everything that bridges the gap is a really complex fungus.”
Blasto, you’re a dumbass.
You are a cod damn idiot, letting the Nine know what you’re doing here. Especially Bonesaw. Even if you’re old chums.
“Cripes. How do you even manage something like that?”
“Trade secret,” he said. He watched as Damsel approached the widescreen TV, picked it up where it had fallen to the ground, and held it in front of her, staring at the image, no doubt some mention of what the other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine were up to in Boston.
Good to stay informed, y’know?
“I’ll get the answer out of you, you know.”
See? You’ve made her curious. You’ve basically signed your own fate worse than death.
“I know,” Rey admitted. “But I wouldn’t be a self-respecting tinker if I didn’t at least pretend to protect my work.”
Bonesaw turned her attention to the homunculus. She poked it in the stomach and it growled at her in response.
Man, I love Bonesaw.
If he let the Morrígan out now… Bonesaw was staring at the homunculus, and Damsel was focused on the TV…
Well, pretty likely to kill everyone but sure.
But it would die if he let it go now. It was too young. Every two or three seconds it sat in the high-nutrient solution would be a week of growth. He’d need it at least at four or five years of age before it was capable of moving and acting, and he’d still be depending on it having powers rather than a defunct corona pollentia.
I guess that’s the downside of using a human part. We mature slowly.
He’d never experienced a stronger emotion than he did when he saw another set of feet appear at the top of the stairs. They made their way down, and each step brought more of the figure into view. If it was another member of the Slaughterhouse Nine, he’d die. If it was one of Accord’s ambassadors…
Probably. To be fair there’s only two Slaughterhouse members down here right now, and one of them is a quitter and the other a tinker who doesn’t seem to have much of her equipment at hand. On the other hand there’s a lot of other people’s equipment she can use around her.
He’d probably still die. But there’d be a chance.
It was neither.
Alright, dumb guess: Scion.
The man reached the bottom of the stairs, turned his head to survey the scene. He wore a visor that combined the movable visor of a knight’s helm with a high-tech equivalent, and the points where they met his helmet were shaped like a lizard’s frill or a dragon’s wing. He held out a rod in one hand, and it unfolded into a spear of ridiculous length.
Wait, is that… Chevalier? I thought he was dead.
I guess that’s a point to Wildbow for subtly reminding the reader of his existence earlier in the chapter without making it obvious that there was a reason for it.
The lizard theme… if the machines Rey had seen fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine were Dragon’s, was this one of her assistants? Someone working under her?
Oh, maybe Chevalier is dead, then. We know Rey would have recognized Chevalier.
Alright, so I checked.
Chevalier isn’t dead. In fact, he last appeared two chapters ago. He’s been present in Brockton Bay since 18.4 and I never actually noticed the dissonance between his presence and my belief that he died to Leviathan because he was never the important thing in the paragraphs that mentioned him. He was always mentioned in passing in paragraphs that were about other thing, that made me comment on other things and forget he was even mentioned.
He’s not dead, just relatively unimportant.
In my defense, the last time he was mentioned before showing up to fight Noelle was in Extermination.
Now that we’re done with that tangent, I can use what’s left of my brain to properly identify Defiant. I’ve mentioned him several times this chapter and I still messed that up.
I knew I remembered that spear, but I misremembered whose it was.
These days, this is probably the closest you can get to meeting her in person, yeah.
Damsel wheeled around, extended one hand, but the man in armor was quick to step around a pillar for cover. Damsel’s power ripped into the pillar, warping and tearing space in a chaotic storm.
The lab was too good to last. On the bright side, this’ll really piss of Accord, should he still be alive.
The man in armor ducked and rolled to reach the next piece of cover, one of the stainless steel desks. He arrested his momentum with one outstretched arm, then kicked the desk with both feet. It slammed into Damsel.
Is there really such a thing as cover from a power like Damsel’s?
He hopped onto his feet in a single movement, slashing with the spear’s point. The tip struck Damsel across the eyes, blinding her. He reversed the spear and swung it, and the spear-butt caught her in the side of the head. She was knocked down onto all fours before she could direct her power at him again.
Why did he take the time to turn the spear around?
The man dug the spear’s point into the ground to help propel himself towards her. His leg flared with a gray blur as he reached her, and be brought it down onto her back from above.
Especially if that gray blur is what it sounds like.
It sheared through her as though she weren’t even there, cutting her in half. He kicked out to obliterate her head and one of her shoulders in a single movement, disabled the gray blur, and set his foot down with a thud that rang through the underground laboratory.
Yup, there she goes.
I told you she wouldn’t last long among the Nine.
Bonesaw didn’t seem disturbed by the loss of her teammate. “Don’t think I don’t recognize you. You were Mannequin’s pick. Armsman? Armsmaster?”
It’s interesting how easy he is to recognize despite the overhaul.
The man in armor pointed his spear at her. “Defiant now.”
“You know I loaded myself with a mess of epidemics, Defiant,” Bonesaw said. “You kill me like that and I’ll explode into a cloud of a bajillion plagues. It can’t be easy.”
“It is,” Defiant’s voice was distorted by his helmet, vaguely computerized. There was a processor at work somewhere there, Rey observed.
Do you, uh, have some kind of containment planned, or what?
“What, you’ll unleash a thousand plagues on this world to finish me off? Me? A little girl?” Bonesaw smiled wide.
Look, if anyone in this story is gonna play Pandora besides Skitter or Tattletale, it’s this guy.
“You’ll get sick.”
“Biohazard safe,” Defiant said. His spear shaft tapped against his armor.
It does make a lot of sense that he and Dragon would make sure that was the case. I mean, they knew they were going after Bonesaw.
“He’ll die in a hundred horrible ways,” Bonesaw said, pointing at Rey.
“Villain. Acceptable loss.”
Yeah, that tracks. Defiant never cared for villain lives.
“And the people in this neighborhood?”
“I scanned the area. There is zero air flow in or out of this lab. It’s quarantine-safe.”
Well, okay, that does make this a bit more defensible.
I suppose there is one issue here for Bonesaw to leverage. If Rey dies, who’ll control the Morrígan?
“So you’ve got all this figured out, don’t you?”
Bonesaw glanced over her shoulder at Rey, “You-”
Defiant moved so fast that Rey couldn’t follow the movement. The spear impaled the girl in the chest. The heart.
I’m. Not convinced that’ll kill her. Gonna need the nanobots, probably.
“Ugh, fuck me,” Bonesaw grunted.
Hey! Don’t swear!
Defiant swung the spear to one side and slammed her into the wall, knocking chemicals and vials off of every shelf unit she hit on the way.
“Why-” Bonesaw started.
Why? Have you looked at your life recently?
Defiant raised the spear and her sentence was interrupted as her head cracked against the ceiling. He drove the spear toward the ground with just as much force.
“Why…” Bonesaw spat blood onto the ground. Being impaled in the heart hadn’t put her down. “Ow. Bit my tongue. Why don’t you come closer, big man? Too scared to come here and finish me off?”
Ahaha the tongue bite is what gets her!
Defiant didn’t respond. Instead, he struck her against the wall again, then shoved the spear point into a set of stainless steel shelves. Pieces of the empty glass beakers rained onto the ground beneath her dangling feet.
“Coward!” she taunted him.
Yeah no she clearly has something up her sleeve for close range.
Rey glanced nervously toward the door. Would it be better to run or to stay?
They are both content with killing you.
On the other hand, you’d have to leave the Morrígan behind.
The girl reached forward, clutching the shaft of the spear. She began pulling herself forward, hauling the spear’s shaft through the hole in her chest as she closed the distance inches at a time.
Oh my cod.
She smiled as she did it.
Of course she does!
Blades sprung from the length of the shaft, and began spinning like propellers One caught her from behind, and she slid forward, only to find herself sandwiched between two such sets.
Right, this is still Mr. Fifty-Weapons-In-One-Package we’re dealing with.
“That’s Mannequin’s trick! That’s so cute, that you’re copying-”
Defiant moved the spear, and Bonesaw was thrown back, her hair and back caught against the blades. She used her hands to pull herself forward so she was clear, maintaining a grip even as he swept the spear to one side again, keeping herself fixed at the same point on the pole’s length.
This has to be one of the silliest-looking fights yet and I love it.
“Hey, plant geek!” Bonesaw had to raise her voice to be heard, “He kills me, you die! Think about that!”
True. He doesn’t kill her, you probably still die, though possibly later and as a member of the Nine.
Rey glanced at Defiant. There wasn’t an opening or anything that suggested at the man inside. Only armor, implacable, unrelenting, driven.
You might even say the armor is…
Then he looked at the girl, half-hidden behind the blur of the spinning blades.
“Okay,” Rey said.
Is it Morrígan time? It’s probably still too early in its development, I suppose.
But it might be a bargaining chip.
He wanted to live. Wanted nothing more than to go on to do his research, maybe one day find greatness, find a woman who could appreciate him. Have kids.
Worst case scenario, make a woman who could appreciate him. Make kids.
(note: somewhat NSFW audio)
But he wanted her to live even less than he wanted any of that. Because he could well and truly believe that she would do more harm in her life than any good he could do in his.
Damn. Was not expecting a heroic sacrifice of sorts from Blasto.
“Okay,” he repeated. I can live with that.
…well, no, that’s kinda the thing…
There was a crunching sound, and Defiant snapped his head over to look at Bonesaw.
She spat, and smoke billowed where the spit came in contact with the blades.
the “yo’ull go down with me appeel ruse….. was a DISTACTION
One flew off and sailed across the room to strike a cage with animals inside. The mechanism that was keeping the blades in motion ceased.
Along the way, it flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
With nothing impeding her line of sight to Defiant, Bonesaw crunched again. Smoke billowed from her mouth as acid ate away at her flesh, she leaned back as if she were preparing to spit a loogie-
I just love how Bonesaw gets to both be an adorable little girl and do shit like this while happily impaled on a spear.
And Defiant disabled the propeller behind her, swinging the weapon and flinging her free of the end.
Probably a good call. Throw off her aim.
She touched ground and spat out a mouthful of acid onto the floor. It smoked on contact with the concrete.
“No,” Defiant said. He took two steps forward and swiped with the spear, cutting her in half.
Bad girl, no candy this weekend.
Almost in half. Something like chainmail was wrapped around her spine, but the spear had cut through the matching mesh that had protected her abdominal organs.
Definitely gonna need the nanobots.
Defiant turned to catch a mechanical spider that was making its way down the stairs. He impaled it and dashed it to pieces. Another thrust killed one that was hiding inside an air vent.
The cavalry is arriving!
Bonesaw crawled forward, dragging her spine and ruined midsection apart from her legs. There wasn’t as much blood as there should have been. “Not… done.”
“Eh, I can fix that.”
She clawed into her apron for vials, threw them across the room. Defiant backed away as they exploded into clouds of white. As they spread, Defiant was reduced to a mere silhouette.
Those are definitely more than just smoke bombs.
You’re in an augmented biohazard suit, Rey thought. He eyed Bonesaw as she clawed her way in his general direction. Come through!
But Defiant had other ideas. Maybe he had a degree of familiarity with the white powder, knew what it was and that it had to be avoided.
Hm. Not so biohazard safe after all?
Maybe it’s not quite a biohazard. Maybe it’s something that comes alive to trap him on contact?
Maybe there was something else at play. Another member of the Slaughterhouse Nine in the area?
Maybe they’ve picked up a baker and it’s flour.
Bonesaw was getting closer. Rey backed away.
She looked up at him. Dark circles were already spreading around her eyes, her face paling. She looked gaunt. And she held a vial. She tried to claw the cork off and failed.
She was never going to go down easily.
What if she’s managed to cook up some kind of body swap thing?
If he stepped closer, she’d do something to him, but if he didn’t try to stop her-
On the second try, the cork came free. She pushed it in Rey’s direction, and he was quick to kick it into the cloud of white to his right.
Kinda seems like she expected him to drink it voluntarily. Did she misinterpret his “okay”s?
Also this paragraph completely flips my mental image of this situation. I’ve been imagining it from Rey’s perspective with Bonesaw on the right and Defiant on the left.
But the fluid that had trailed out as it rolled was smoking, just under his feet. He had nowhere to go.
He lunged, leaping onto one of the shelving units to keep from passing anywhere near Bonesaw.
Something snagged on his foot. He toppled to the ground.
One of the spiders? Defiant, failing once again to recognize an ally when he sees one?
Looking back, he could see her spine was prehensile, and that it had caught his foot, winding around the bridge of it. The sheath is hiding more machinery.
Ahaha nope, it was the most cursed option available because of course it was.
I love it.
The white smoke was congealing into strands of gunk that cut off the end of the room closest to the stairwell. Defiant was caught in the midst of it, and was slowly tearing himself free.
Close enough to my guess.
Rey tried to kick her off, but that only served to let her get a grip on his other foot. She began clawing her way up his legs.
I fucking love Bonesaw.
He reached for the keyboard, pulled it down from the shelf it sat on. It dangled above his head, and he pressed it against the wall, tapped the keys to open the tube that held the Morrígan.
Alright, here we go!
He hadn’t drained the water, and the fluid began to flow onto the ground as the glass sank into the floor.
Bonesaw had climbed up to his chest, and it was only his struggles that kept her from reaching any higher. He clawed at her hands, and she wasn’t that strong, but she was tenacious, and she used her prehensile spine to secure any progress she made.
Yeah, that’s Bonesaw in a nutshell right there. Not very strong, but tenacious, and using her coddamn prehensile spine that she would have operated into herself just in case she got cut in half.
Three limbs against his two. He tried to stand, failed. Too much weight in the wrong places, and he couldn’t use his hands.
Honestly if the Morrígan weren’t about to come out, I’d almost expect this to be leading up to a second second trigger event caused by Bonesaw. Heck, it could still go that way if the Morrígan fails.
Actually, maybe that’s the key to giving the Morrígan power. Maybe Blasto needs to have a second trigger event right next to the Morrígan, and then the Dandelion attaches to the wrong corona pollentia.
The water finished pouring out, and the Morrígan took its first steps. Five or six years old in apparent age, a vague replica of the Simurgh. It would have some blend of her powers and Myrddin’s.
Sounds about right, unless what I just described happens and it ends up with the extra power you would get. Possibly mixed with the Simurgh and Myrddin powers.
Too busy looking at his creation, he was caught off guard as Bonesaw got hold of his throat with one hand.
No, seriously, out of all the Tinkers and other science people we’ve had in this story, Blasto is by far the most archetypical mad scientist.
She hauled herself up until her entire upper body was resting on his chest.
If this sentence was taken out of context, you’d be forgiven for assuming it came from a romantic scene.
The truth is about as far from that as it possibly could be short of invoking war crimes.
The sheath that had been around her spine pressed up against his face as the bone and attached machinery passed into his open mouth and down his throat. His throat was scraped raw by the edges of it.
And there would be many things wrong with referring to this as deep-throating.
He choked, fought for breath, found none.
The Morrígan flopped to the ground. Dead. Dumb. Not viable.
Are we going down the route of a second trigger redirecting to the Morrígan?
That seems too specific for me to be 100% right about it, so I will accept a second trigger correctly directed to Blasto as a partial victory.
Just as the crystalline feather and Leviathan’s blood had been, it wasn’t capable of sustaining life. A failed experiment.
Oh cod what if Bonesaw decides to fix that by merging herself and/or Blasto into the thing?
Needles punched their way out of Bonesaw’s spine, found his own. In one instant, he lost all sensation below his neck.
I mean, she’s already taking over his body, “herself and/or Blasto” might not require the and/or in a moment.
In the next, she was making him move, pulling him to his feet. His head craned toward the ceiling, mouth forced open, blood trickling onto his face as the full weight of her upper body came to rest on his head.
So to recap, Bonesaw’s upper body is now sitting on top of his head with her spine going into his mouth and controlling his body. Lovely.
“Just got a fresh pair of hands, and this happens,” she muttered. “Do you know how long it’s going to take to find and transplant a good pair of legs?”
I know right, it’s such a pain. I hate when that happens.
She bid his hands to move as though they were her own. At her will, he typed on the computer. At her bidding, he turned his body to give her a better look at Defiant’s progress, threw another vial at the man.
Back to the computer.
Yeeah you probably should have paid more heed to the Nine being in town. It never brings good things.
Oh, I should mention that as for why Bonesaw even came to this lab, I think it was the database. The Nine probably somehow got wind of the fact Accord had that data, and it would be just as useful to Bonesaw as to Blasto. Maybe more, since she explicitly has an interest in studying powers.
“Samples. Evidence,” Bonesaw murmured. He could feel the vibrations of her voice against his face. The air that was flowing from a tube by her spine and into his lungs was stagnant and foul, but she bid him to breathe and he breathed.
Is she looking for something specific?
“Crawler,” she said. There was a whir. She used his hand to shatter the glass case that held the samples, and he groaned in pain as the shards cut it. She made him grab the sample from the robotic claw’s grip. “Mannequin.”
Oh great. Bonesaw equipped with the DNA of her deceased friends. The suggestion that things created with a person’s DNA can end up with same or similar powers. Nothing good can come of this.
She gathered the samples in her own hands while she used his hands to type and select the options.
“Burnscar, Shatterbird… surprising how much DNA we’ve left on crime scenes. Winter… Chuckles…”
Older fallen friends?
Chuckles is a name that certainly fits into the Nine. You can’t keep down the clown.
Defiant roared. He growled words, as if speaking to himself.
“Nice Guy, Murder Rat, Hatchet Face. We’ve gone through a lot of members,” she said, while depositing each sample in a plastic case. “Screamer, Harbinger, King.”
Eh, Nice Guy was a villain, but hardly a supervillain. He just didn’t have the PRESENTATION.
Rey choked, tried to choke. He could control his head, his mouth. If he passed out, would his body fail? Would she fail?
Hm. Worth a shot.
Pretty tough to choke yourself, but it’s also pretty tough to have someone’s spine sticking out of your mouth.
“Pity I can’t use this lab,” Bonesaw said. “Make the cloning process that much easier. But I’ve seen your work. I think I can replicate it. Helps if I have this…”
So are you planning on individual clones, or a fusion?
I’m guessing “this” is the Morrígan, which… yikes. Bad enough without a bunch of former Nines involved.
She had him tap a key, and he could hear the water flowing as another of the glass cases started to move. The Regrowth tube. The seeds.
Probably individual clones, then.
Still really bad.
“Didn’t think we’d get this lucky,” she said. “Jack said that since the world isn’t ending like it was supposed to, he wants to hurry it along.
did anyone ever tell him it wasn’t supposed to happen immediately
is this a self-fulfilling prophecy where the end is hastened by his escape only because he heard the world was supposed to end if he escaped, and then got impatient
We did our research, and decided to track down some decent tinkers, and you were closest. Only problem with entering any metropolis like this is security cameras… Oooh! Gray Boy! He was one of Jack’s first teammates! You wouldn’t believe the stories Jack tells about him.”
So she did know he was going to be here. Fair enough.
Another sample was collected and deposited in the box.
She stopped, and turned toward the Morrígan. He could feel his blood run cold.
“Nah,” Bonesaw said. “Even I’m not that crazy.”
To be fair you did once suggest fusing like a hundred capes together to rival the power of the Endbringers.
But yeah, actually working with Endbringer material is a bit different, I suppose.
She had him tap keys on the keyboard, and a laser fired from the top of the case that had held the Morrígan. He couldn’t see, but he could smell the burning flesh.
Probably the one good-for-the-world decision Bonesaw has made in the last five months.
The box of samples tucked under one arm, she walked Rey to the door that led out of the back of the basement. The one Rey had been ordered to use when coming and going, out of Accord’s sight.
He couldn’t lose hope. Defiant would have come on an armored suit. If that suit was positioned to survey the area, if Defiant had contacted Dragon, ordered an airstrike or even just reinforcements-
True, Dragon would be keenly aware of what happened here.
No. There was a ladder on the other side of the doorway, leading down into a pitch darkness.
She turned in Defiant’s direction, and Rey caught a glimpse of the hero. He was still caught, and though the blur around his leg was cutting him free, goop was streaming down from the ceiling to connect to his upper body, and he couldn’t destroy that with a ready kick.
So he’s gonna be stuck for a while, huh?
She had Rey grip the rungs of the ladder, and they slid down into the pitch black.
Honestly, I was expecting an ending there, not the section box. I don’t quite know how far in we are with wordcount, but this does feel like a natural ending point for the chapter. Apparently there’s more though.
“I failed,” Defiant said.
Are we moving into his perspective, marking the third Colin POV Interlude without the excuse that Defiant isn’t Armsmaster?
“You hurt her. If anyone failed, it was me,” Dragon replied. “I couldn’t break away from the fight.”
Would be helpful if you could split your attention, huh?
Mist emanated from her robotic body, dissolving the strings of slime that had congealed around him. Her hand settled on the side of his face.
“Did we gain anything?”
“I’ll show you in a minute. Are you okay?”
Hm. Did they? They may be able to take the remaining samples away from Accord (but not the data, like hell that man doesn’t backup everything), but against the Nine… well, they did get Damsel out of the picture.
“Need more tech. Nanomolecular thorns for my arms. It would have made the difference.”
Not what she meant.
“We can figure something out. But are you okay?”
“I suppose so. Where do we stand?”
“Two suits destroyed. And we don’t yet know what Bonesaw took with her. Jack escaped with some of his team. But we killed four of them, all together.”
Dang, not bad.
“Four,” he said. “We should mobilize now. There’s a limit to how fast and how far they can move, especially with the wounded. Bonesaw went into the subway system, and it will take time for her to get free, but if she gets in contact with their new teleporter-“
A teleporter? Long-range group teleporter? That would be an annoying wrench in the pursuit.
“We’ll mobilize as soon as I’ve freed you, Colin. If I don’t use this body, you’ll be left behind, and neither of us want that.”
“Better that you give chase.”
I don’t think you get it, man. She’s not going anywhere without you.
“We’re doing okay. We’re closing the gap. They showed up on camera, and we were ready to move on them within minutes. We’ll do it again.”
Colin nodded, but he didn’t respond.
Seriously not bad.
She settled her arms around his shoulders, letting the spray do its work. The metal of her forehead touched his mask. “Take it for what it is. A little lost, a lot gained.”
That assessment might change when you find out what Bonesaw is working on.
It took thirty more seconds for the foam to dissolve. She broke the hug and he tore himself free of the scraps. They were out of the basement and walking through the ruined interior of Accord’s household in moments.
They stepped outside into the evening air. Colin let the vents in his costume open so the cool air could flow through. Dragon luxuriated in the feel of the air against her exterior body.
Alright, Dragon’s perspective. I think we can justify it as her not having had a POV in this body before.
Also I’d love to know whether Accord escaped.
Her hand caught his as they walked to where the Uther and her own suit were waiting.
Colin stopped in his tracks. Dragon’s suit was posed with its head pointing toward the sky. The suit’s metal jaws were clamped around a body.
“The Siberian is dead?”
“Gone would be a more appropriate word,” she said. “Manton is dead.”
(She’s a potato.)
Also for a certain interpretation of the power, you could argue that she was always gone.
Colin nodded and exhaled slowly. “Good work.”
“The job’s not over yet.”
The Uther’s cabin doors opened to invite him in.
They’re making some damn good progress. Shame Bonesaw’s about to undo a lot of it.
End of Interlude 19a
This Interlude was a blast.
Accord was a treat, Blasto was really fun in his own asocial mad scientist way, and you know how I feel about Bonesaw. Bonesaw is the best saw. And Defiant… is Defiant, for better and worse.
The Morrígan was a suitably horrifying project to showcase Blasto’s personality (him barely thinking about consequences enough to not try Behemoth or Leviathan did a lot of the legwork in showing what he’s like) and put some ideas in the reader’s mind about what Bonesaw might be able to accomplish with the samples she took.
Bonesaw seemed a little more mature this time around. I don’t know if that’s me overemphasizing her immaturity in my memories, the situation, or character development. Either way I really enjoyed her part of the chapter, and as fun as it was to watch her fall apart but utterly refuse to die, I’m glad Defiant ultimately didn’t succeed. Hopefully that means more Bonesaw in the future!
And that scene of Bonesaw taking over Blasto’s body? Masterpiece.
Siberian’s death I could take or leave. I think I might have preferred the Undertravelers succeeding at that over Dragon having to clean up that loose end practically off-screen, but eh, it works and does help sell the idea that Defiant and Dragon are actually making progress. Siberian was never one of my favorites anyway.
All in all, this was good.
Next up… well, normally I’d repeat some of the theories from the end of the previous chapter, but I’ve got this funny feeling that the next chapter will be another Interlude for some reason. Weird. And Interludes are almost impossible to speculate on, so who knows what’ll happen.
See you soon for that!