As an idle thought, I noted that her teeth were in surprisingly good shape.  It made me wonder how the Nine took care of their teeth.

Cherish claimed Bonesaw did something with them, right?

Did they threaten some dentist and force him to do fillings and whitenings?  Or did Bonesaw handle that?  It was odd to think about.

The dentist idea makes for a very amusing mental image, though. :p

“Okay, we’ve got Shatterbird for some firepower, you’ve got a swarm, Skitter?”

With the snub unsnubbed, it’s time to strike back?

My bugs weren’t condensed into a swarm, but I had a good number.  “I’m set.”

“Can you find them?”

My bugs searched our surroundings.  “There’s people, I’m just not sure they’re Chosen.”

Well, if you choose them as your target, they will be.

“Where?”

I pointed.  “Six there, belowground.  Eight there, on the far side of the building where it isn’t caved in.  Five there, front room, drinking alcohol, I think.”

Turns out every team in the city just happens to be hanging out here, unaware of each other’s presence.

Regent rolled his eyes.

“The alternative is killing her,” he said.  “But that seems awfully wasteful when she’s giving us some much-needed firepower and deterrence.”

Yeah, she’s way too useful, and while I probably should feel kinda bad for her, she’s completely unsympathetic from what we’ve seen. I can’t really muster up that emotion for her.

“I’m not saying torture her, and I’m not saying kill her.  I’m just asking you to treat her with respect.”

Shatterbird spoke, startling me.  “Hi!  I’ve killed hundreds of people and maimed thousands.”

Yeah, no, I’m actually with Regent here. She falls into the same category as Anders Behring Breivik: people who have willingly signed away their right to any sort of respect through their actions and attitudes.

“I get your point, Regent.  Stop that.”

Shatterbird smiled wide, the expression so fake and cheery it was disturbing to see.  I tried to ignore her as she continued staring at me.

Shatterbird, internally: “Damn it, I don’t want to smile!”

You know, with how Regent’s power works with regards to muscle memory and such, I could see this smile being genuinely trickier than most facial expressions on Shatters. She didn’t seem the smiley type.

“It’s totally called for.  Are you bothered I’m calling her a tool, or are you bothered I’m mocking her?  Because she is a tool, you know.  In more than one sense.”

Heh.

“You don’t have to mock her.”

“Why?  Because we should be respectful of the poor widdle mass murderer’s feelings?”  He snapped his fingers, and Shatterbird covered her ears, shutting her eyes.  “There’s a reason I’m doing this, believe it or not.  You aren’t the only one who can have ideas about finding some special angle in your power.  Her best bet at breaking free is if she has a strong enough emotional reaction while being far enough away from me.  I’m irritating her because I want to keep her emotionally drained.  That way she won’t be able to put up a good fight when she does get a chance.”

Oh, so I was warning him against this for the exact same reason he was doing it.

…fair enough.

“There’s got to be a better way of doing that.”

“Sure.  Tell you what.  Next chance I’ll get, I’ll take her to my lair, sit her down and torture her until her mind breaks.

I kinda love the deadpan way Alec says things like this to make a point.

Heck, it wouldn’t even be that hard.”

“You-” I started.

“He’s being facetious,” Tattletale interrupted.

He is, but at the same time, it’s something he could do. He chooses not to, which is part of why he’s sympathetic despite everything, but he’s not entirely above it.

In less than a minute, the area was clean.  Not only was it free of the spray paint, but walls were left looking cleaner and newer than they had in years, maybe decades.

Maybe a little too new, even?

“Nifty,” Imp commented.

“Why spend a few hundred bucks on a sandblaster when you have a Shatterbird?  Who’s a good little power tool?”  Regent gave Shatterbird a pat on the cheek.  “You are.  Yes you are.”

I know he’s joking around. And she’s far less innocent than Dinah.

That’s the main reason I’m a little more okay with this than Coil’s completely serious “pet” thing.

“Stop that,” I said.

“What?”

“That’s uncalled for.”

Taylor is roughly on the same page as me, it seems.

Also, maybe try not to anger Shatterbird too much, Alec? You’ve indicated that her anger combined with her willpower was part of why it wasn’t easy to keep hold of her. Granted, some of that might’ve faded to hopelessness now, but still. We don’t want her breaking loose.

A snub, an insult.

To me it honestly just seems kinda pathetic.

Shatterbird descended from some distant point high above us, landing in the middle of the College, Regent’s territory.

Oh hey, a new location name. Nice. It’s not a new location, but at least it’s got a name now besides “Regent’s territory”.

Are we going to learn some history of the area too?

It was the middle ground between Downtown and the Docks, and the buildings were a mix of quaint housing and stone buildings.  Or they had been.  Most were ruins now.

I suppose Leviathan tore through here, given his path from the Docks to Lake Heroic in central downtown.

Dust and sand stirred around us.  It coiled around Shatterbird, then streamed against the offending pieces of artwork.

Ooh! Looks like Taylor isn’t the only one using powers creatively. Regent is using Shatterbird’s control over sand to wipe off the artwork as with sandpaper.

Housepaint and whitewash peeled and disappeared, flecks of spray paint were gradually worn away, and concrete was chipped.

Don’t underestimate a good sandstorm.

Surely the business the Undersiders have here isn’t just cleaning up this mess. They need to get that done eventually, but doing it now doesn’t mesh with anything that’s been said about priorities in this chapter.

There was a bit of a pause as we all considered the idea.

Ahaha

We simultaneously broke into laughter.

I love this.

Get dunked on, Leet. :p

“Come on,” Tattletale said, “Let’s get down to business.”

To defeat the Huns!

Beyond our short detour to meet up with Tattletale, we’d primarily been focused on heading towards Regent’s territory.

As if they knew Regent didn’t have the forces to retaliate or respond in kind, the Chosen had decided on an underhanded means of attack.  If you could call it that.

…alright, what did they do?

The Chosen’s wolf-head gang tag and swastikas marked every available surface.

Ah. Petty mass graffiti-ing.

This is basically the human equivalent of pissing everywhere to mark territory.

“Rags?  If you don’t want them, I can use the material.”

He laughed.

“I don’t think I’m anything like a tinker, though.  I just realize my power’s not that strong, so I wrack my brain to think of ways to expand it.

The tinkeriness isn’t part of her power. I think. It’s just what she’s like.

I make the most of the possibilities available to me, while a tinker creates possibilities.”

Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Although maybe a tinker more sees possibilities and how to make them come true?

“I’m getting what you’re saying,” Tattletale smiled.  “You liked having Panacea around as a pseudo-tinker, huh?  The way it expanded your options?”

I’m not sure Amy would appreciate being called a pseudo-tinker. It hits too close to home with Bonesaw claiming they were alike. It’s true, though, in a sense.

I shrugged, “Goes without saying, doesn’t it?”

“But you especially, given how you think.  It’s a shame that there’s not really any tinkers around that aren’t already committed.  Unless you want to make a point out of recruiting Leet?”

Pfft.

Wait. Isn’t he also already committed? Or did Über go off and die or something while I wasn’t paying attention?

“What you see there are the end results,” Tattletale said, “You have to realize how much time they’re spending building stuff, or time spent building tools to build better stuff.”

Hm. That’s a fair point. A lot of time and resources goes into what they do.

“Bonesaw did plastic surgery on seven people, performed brain surgery on Cherish and then trapped her inside a pod that could keep her alive for years or decades, and as far as I figure it, even if they got their hands on an all-terrain vehicle, they can’t have had five or ten minutes to do it in.  That doesn’t amount to much prep time.”

…true.

“Some to build and program her mechanical spiders, but yeah.  She probably wouldn’t need as much time as you’d think.  Probably didn’t even have to put Cherish’s head back together after doing what she needed to for the surgery, for example, if she was going in the pod.”

That doesn’t cut it down that much.

You’re almost a tinker,” Regent told me.

What? That’s… are you just talking about the versatility? And the costumes?

“Not really.”

“You made these rags,” he pulled down his collar to show me the skintight costume beneath.

Heh. Of course he calls them “rags”, even while ostensibly complimenting her on them.

Amy had crossed my mind as I’d reflected on the various encounters with the Nine, and I’d thought about going to look for her.  Having her in the group would be invaluable, no question.

Not to mention awesome.

Even touching base with her could leave us options if someone got hurt or if we needed resources.  That said, the major issue was that I couldn’t be sure she’d actually join or even listen, and we were trying to operate with certainties.  I couldn’t afford to go when it meant potentially wasted time.

Yeeah, that’s fair. She’s been doing some… unpredictable things, lately.

Better to be in my territory, for morale, for organization, and to keep working on the costume bits.  It also let me eat, sleep and take care of Atlas – stuff I tended to forget about.

Hey, eating and sleeping, fine, but don’t forget to take care of Atlas.

Thinking about Atlas reminded me of one thought I’d had during our downtime.  “It’d be fantastic if we could get a tinker in the group,” I said.  “Between Bakuda, Armsmaster, Mannequin and Bonesaw, I’m sort of starting to appreciate what they bring to the table.”

Oooh, yes, that would be good. Tinkers are pretty awesome.

This is a bit of a turn-around… I can’t find it, but didn’t Taylor recently say she was getting really sick of tinkers? But it makes sense that she’d start thinking about what they could do if they were on her side.

Now, acquiring a tinker would be the tricky part. I think Armsmaster is likely to eventually seek out the Undersiders if he’s still alive (I hope he’s still alive. Otherwise, what was the point of keeping him in the story?), but the reason for that is that he probably holds a grudge against them. And, dick or not, he’s interested in being a hero, not a villain. The same things applied to Amy, but converting her failed, and doing the same for Armsmaster sounds much more difficult. And less appealing.

What other tinkers do we know? There’s Kid Win, but I don’t think he’ll be leaving the Wards anytime soon.

Chariot? He’s in the Wards on the orders of a third party that is probably Cauldron, and so is more likely to be convertable. And hey, Piggot already thinks Chariot is affiliated with Coil, causing him to not be trusted in his current team. He might work, though I’m not sold enough on his personality to really want it like I did with Amy.