We crossed several city blocks in silence.  When we’d reached the lake Leviathan had created downtown, we began to walk around to the north end to Dolltown.

“So how are we doing this?  Attack strategy?”  Ballistic asked.

he’s asking her.

She’s supposedly the one tagging along here on his mission, but he’s been fighting alongside her, following plans she’s laid, enough that he’s still, to some extent, letting her take charge. He knows she’s skilled at this, and he’s not going to let something like whose mission this technically is get in the way of using that skill for what it’s worth. And he just asks it, like it’s common sense.

I appreciate this a lot.

“Any chance you’ll let me make the first move?”

“And take all the credit?”  His voice hardened.

Heh. It only stretches so far, eh?

“I’ll let you take half the credit if I’m successful.  You can take all the credit if I fail.”

Successful… at what, exactly? You didn’t say first “attack”.

“Nope.”

“What?”

“I get what you’re doing.  You want to make us Travelers look bad.  Get yourself a bigger slice of the pie somewhere down the road.  More respect, more power, and you’re doing that by wedging yourself into everything, getting hyperinvolved.  Gotta be in first place.”

You’re a smart guy, but… nah. You’re being a little too paranoid, I think.

Either that or Taylor’s doing this subconsciously.

“That’s crazy.”

“Right.  Then explain why you’re going overboard with your territory.”

Time to turn the tables and interrogate her.

“Okay.”

“That won’t be easy, because I get the sense he doesn’t like you, and he’s upset you’ve stepped on his toes here.”

I frowned.

Yeah, there’s some animosity there now. Why?

“The second thing?  About the possible murder attempt?”  She asked.

“Just a little worried about that.”

“He only decided it as recently as this morning, so anything he’s set up is going to happen later.”

Interesting.

“And you don’t know how he’s going to approach this, or what he’ll do?”

She shook her head.  “All I know is that Coil’s intending for it to happen tonight, probably related to your job with the mayor.”

The most obvious road there would be that he’d work with Trickster and Genesis to get it done, but given that the approach is being questioned, I’m not so sure anymore.

“And you’re positive on this?”

“It’s one of those things where everything clicks into place perfectly if we acknowledge this one fact: he wants to kill you.  For example, he has more reasons to send Imp than to send Trickster.”

…interesting. Was the mention of Imp towards the end of the previous chapter an error, then, born from Wildbow changing it so Coil’d send Trickster instead and missing a spot?

“Well,” Tattletale said, leaning on the railing.  “One, keeping them employed here means they won’t be hired by someone else.”

“Right.”

True.

“And I think they factor into his plan.  Either as a contingency or a greater aspect of it.”

Like I mentioned before, having them stationed across town means they could pop out and terrorize the whole city at a moment’s notice. Not really Coil’s style, but a believable backup plan if other things fail.

I nodded.  I would have asked what that plan was, but I didn’t want to say anything that would be too suspicious if overheard.  Not while we were on Coil’s turf, especially.

Tattletale didn’t seem to have those same concerns.  She leaned closer and murmured, “You’ve got two jobs back to back.  That means you’ve got a few things to do.  Number one, if we’ve got a mole in our group and our communications are compromised, that means we need a mole in Coil’s group.

Hey, Aisha, you were talking about looking for your niche in the group?

Someone that can inform us about any of Coil’s movements he’s wanting to keep concealed from us.”

“Ballistic?” I asked.

“Mm,” she murmured a response.  “Sound him out.  Be careful about it, but try to get a sense of how tight he is with the rest of the Travelers.

Hm. This could get interesting.

Two jobs back to back. So we’re going with Ballistic first, to check on Parian, then? And then into the trap with Trickster and Genesis?

Like Cherish said, Trickster isn’t tight with his team.  See just how un-tight Ballistic is with his boss, and maybe we can make some inroads.”

I don’t really know why, but I still feel like Ballistic is the one who’d be most upset about the 325 if he were to learn it, whatever it might be. Whether that would mean he’s especially tight or especially loose, I’m not sure.

I wouldn’t be any threat to him if he wasn’t doing something morally reprehensible.

We left Regent and Grue to their task and stepped out of the wing with the cells, venturing onto the metal walkway that overlooked the lower level.  I could see the Travelers at the vault door that kept Noelle contained, as well as the soldiers going about their business.

Maybe it’s time to learn a bit about that too? I don’t see why Lisa would be more forthcoming right now than before about that particular thing, but the information might come in handy for dealing with the Travelers later.

Which struck me as odd, when I thought about it.

…why? Because they were already there earlier?

“What’s with the soldiers?” I asked.  “He’s got, what, fifty or sixty here?”

Hm. If he’s onto them, maybe he’s making sure he’s prepared in case they attempt a breakout?

“A little under that, but some are elsewhere.”

“Why?  I get that he was using them before, fighting Empire Eighty-Eight, but what’s he using them for now?  He didn’t send them against the Endbringer, he didn’t use them against the Nine.  I get that he maybe fought off the Merchants and the Chosen when they were thriving, kept them from gaining too much steam, but it seems like a lot of money to spend on soldiers he doesn’t intend to use.”

Hmm, good point. I can understand not sending them against Leviathan, but they could’ve been useful against the Nine, even with Bonesaw’s protections.

Drugs, like the ones Coil’s using on Dinah, I thought.  And this would give Tattletale and me a chance to have some words about the hit Coil had put on my head.

Excellent.

I had to wonder why?  I was arguably doing the best among his underlings.

You also seem to be the least loyal. (Yes, I’m including Rachel in that.) If Coil has figured out how much you spearhead scheming against him, you’re on thin ice.

Why was it so hard for him to simply let Dinah go, maybe take countermeasures to ensure she didn’t betray him, and leave things alone?

She’s incredibly valuable to him and he doesn’t give a shit about the morals of keeping her?

Are you suggesting there’s more to it, Wildbow? Like for example some sort of relation (as if Coil’s “pet” thing and coilpet shipping weren’t creepy enough)?

How did Coil even find out about Dinah in the first place?

“You said you never had the time or interest to dedicate yourself to investing in a martial art,” Tattletale pointed out.

“I didn’t.  But that’s not to say I wouldn’t eventually.  A few years down the line, when things are quieter, I can see myself doing that, earning belts and learning to fight.”

Consider this a little head start, then.

I do get it. This kind of thing doesn’t feel right when you value honest self-improvement like Brian does, and that’s very fair.

“If you don’t want to do this,” Regent said, “I could do something else with my day.”

Grue shook his head.  “No.  It’s fine.  Doesn’t feel quite right, but I’ll be able to do more to help you guys if I can fight better, if I’m more versatile.  And I’m getting another language, again.  Latin, I think.  Get him doing the forms again?”

I wonder if Victor knows any super rude phrases in Latin too.

Regent sighed.

Tattletale frowned, “He’s trying to drag you off course.  Using his brain to bring other stuff to the surface.  Listen, I’m going to see Skitter off, and then I’ll talk to Coil, see if he has anyone who could drug Victor and mess with his mental functions without incapacitating him.”

Victor isn’t just doing this out of spite. He has skills to lose here.

“No,” Tattletale said.  “You’re getting that from Victor.”

Yeah, sounds about right.

I wonder if her power translated it for her.

“Can’t really use it.  Now how do I change what I’m stealing?”

Tattletale shrugged.  “It could be you’re only picking up the surface stuff.  Here, Regent, try some martial arts forms.”

“Like what?  I don’t know this stuff.”

“Victor does.  You fight using your puppets’ muscle memory, right?  Try moving around, see what clicks and Grue will let you know if we’re accomplishing anything.”

Makes sense.

There was a pause.  Victor’s hand briefly flashed out of the cloud of darkness as he shifted positions.

Grue rolled his shoulders some.  “Yeah.  There’s a martial art in there somewhere.  I’m picking something up, but it’s slow.”

Fair, considering the power reduction.

Tattletale smiled.  “Take everything you can.  We’ll see what sticks.”

“It’s kind of depressing,” Grue said, settling onto a stool, “I always took some pride in honing my body, training, all that.  This feels like cheating.  Skipping the hard work.”

Hey, at least you’re not licking any magic lollipops to “solve” all your personal problems.

References aside, let’s consider that Victor is consciously hearing this. This comment might sting a little.

We fell silent as Regent stepped out of the cell with Victor in tow.

So, you’ve successfully taken control?

“How’s he handle?” Tattletale asked.

“Like a Mercedes with an invisible, sticky gear shift,” Regent said.

Pfft.

“Care to explain?”

Victor stretched, and said, “Everything moves well, peak condition, but his power doesn’t work so hot with him as a puppet.  Can’t tell what I’m borrowing or who I’m stealing from.  I think I’d need his cooperation-”

Interesting. Did Lisa figure that out beforehand, that being part of why she worked so hard to make him come pseudo-willingly?

Our captive sneered a little.

“-And I don’t think he’s willing to give it,” Regent said.

“So the question is whether we want to take the time to try to convince him or take an indirect route,” Grue said.

He came willingly, eventually, but he’s not gonna make this easy for them.

“Skitter’s going to have to go in a few minutes, so let’s see what you can do in the here and now?”

Ooh, the mission starts that soon? Nice. That gives us just enough time to do this before a change of focus, so we don’t have to sit through a full chapter of considerations. Not that considerations are bad, but it’d drag a bit at that point. This leads to much better pacing.

“Sure.”  Grue extended a hand and smothered Victor in darkness.  A second later, he said, “I’m getting something.  Anyone here speak another language? Sug puppene til horemammaen din?”

Oh my cod, it’s Norwegian.

I distinctly get the sense that Brian has no idea what this sentence means, and that it probably comes from Victor himself. Because “Suck your whore mother’s tits” is not exactly a Brian thing to say. :p

Colony 15.5

Come, little children, I’ll take thee away, into a land of enchantment… and also parahumans.

So, last time, Coil snared Taylor and Lisa into a rough spot. Today, we’re probably seeing whether Brian was right about his power not being able to fully replicate Victor’s past the immediate use. Judging by the way his power acted when he was tapping into Taylor’s, I think he was right, but we’ll have to see what happens.

Taylor, though, might be somewhat distracted by the news she just got from Lisa. She’ll probably spend a fair bit of this chapter considering her course of action, I think, though I don’t think she’s going to throw Lisa under the bus.

That is, if we don’t skip right to Taylor walking into the trap and having to figure out a way to get out of it without letting on that she knew about it from Lisa.

I’m more looking forward to the latter, but either way, this should be nice. Let’s go!