Some looked like code, much looked like random numbers, letters and symbols, even hearts, spades and smiley faces.  Some of the snippets of code appeared to be file names.

Hearts, spades… we found Piggot’s Homestuck shipping charts. Smiley faces are for platonic friend ships. (No, I don’t mean moirallegiance, that’s not platonic.)

“This should be every document the PRT has on file for their teams, barring the most secure documents, which wouldn’t be kept accessible, even in this isolated network.”  She handed me a pad of gauze from her belt.

Excellent. So what do we need this information for? Future encounters? Is this for Taylor’s plan, or does Coil want this? Coil is helping them with this mission, and he probably has lots of use for this.

“How long?” I asked.  I snapped the feathered end off the crossbow bolt, then pushed it out the other side.  The arrowhead wouldn’t take to being pulled out backward.

“Two minutes.”

To copy/transfer, I guess. Better hope you can stay safe here for that long.

“But we may have to wait up to ten, depending on when Clockblocker’s power wears off.”  While I talked, I held the gauze to her shoulder with one hand and took the offered tape with the other.

Right, though shouldn’t that cap be a little lower now?

There was a rip in her costume, and I opted to tear it a little wider and put the gauze beneath before taping it on, to let the skintight fabric hold it firm.

Sounds reasonable.

Tattletale was at the computer in an instant, reaching into her belt pockets to retrieve a series of USB thumb drives, which she slid into the available ports of the computer.

Introducing a virus? Or more likely, extracting copies of the data?

The monitors went to a blue screen.  As she typed, the word ‘JPIGGOT’ appeared on each monitor.

J. Jane, maybe? There are a lot of good J names, but I feel like Jane or Jeanette are the ones that would fit best for Piggot. Or maybe Joan.

When that word disappeared from the screen, she typed a password, a row of asterisks appearing on the screens, twelve or thirteen characters long.

*prepares hacker voice*

Then gibberish filled the screen.

We’re in.

I considered a moment, then nodded.  I joined the rest of the group in the elevator, and we headed down to the lowest floors.

“Cameras,” Tattletale spoke.  I nodded, and sent bugs into the room, found the surveillance cameras that were spaced at regular intervals around the room, and covered the lenses with bugs.


We exited the elevator, stepping into the Ward’s headquarters.  The room was vast, with a high domed ceiling that probably made this floor three stories deep.  A computer console with a dozen monitors sat to our right, and the far end seemed to be walled off into several smaller rooms.

Damn, a dozen monitors. Did we know that? Either way, that’s really cool.

The signs at the doors to the left implied they led off to the bathrooms.

To think that, if things had gone a little differently, I might have wound up here.

I’ve heard that fanfic writers have absolutely thought about that quite a bit.

Bitch made a feral noise as she broke away from me, releasing me from my position against the wall.  I turned around to see her grabbing the flailing soldier and throwing him on top of the foam canister that was still spraying in fizzing spurts.  She walked on him to head toward the elevator.  Reluctantly, I followed.

I suppose that’s one way of getting past it.

So how about Grue, are you just gonna leave him here and let him catch up when time resumes and he finds himself left behind in a really messy scene?

Tattletale got Imp’s help in dragging Vista to the elevator door.  Regent took over and helped Imp hold Vista there, their fingers prying her eyes open until the retinal scan finished, then dragged her inside.

I guess they’re bringing her along in case of more retinal scans and such.

Specifically Vista because she’s the lightest one and a couple of the others are unavailable due to things like containment foam or still being conscious.

“Come on!” Tattletale urged us.

I looked back at Grue.

“Bitch, the dogs and Shadow Stalker will be here to protect him!” she called out.

Ah, nice. We’re splitting the party more evenly, then.

Maybe the Undersiders want access to the PRT/Ward computer system for some reason?

The next thing I knew, I was being slammed into a wall, hard.  For one moment I thought it was Weld, but I heard the snarling of the dogs and the noise of impacts.  I knew Weld would have hit me harder.

Hm. What now?

No, it was Bitch.

Not the time, Bitch, unless you’re saving Taylor from something but not caring if you hurt her with the amount of force you’re using.

“You do not give orders to my dogs!” she growled in my ear.  “You do not get a say in whether they are good or bad!  Do that again and I will order them to chew you up and spit you out!”

Cod damn.

I suppose Bitch not wanting Taylor to override her commands is fair to some extent, but this is clearly about more than that.

Still. Not the time.

“Bitch!” Tattletale shouted, I could almost see her out of the corner of my eye, cringing at the pain shouting caused her.  She still had the crossbow bolt sticking out of her shoulder, “Not the time!”


The dog and the boy crashed to the ground together, and skidded far enough toward the elevator that they collided with Flechette, who had retreated from the storm of blue sparks, her back to the elevator.    Bentley stood, flashes of brilliant blue light crackling at the chain that was rigged around his muzzle.


He limped strangely, but it wasn’t due to any injury.  From what I could tell, he’d stepped in some of the foam as he ran, and his foot was sticking to the floor.

Aw, sticky doggo.

More foam had splashed his shoulder.  In any event, the two teenage heroes were down, and it looked like the sparks had done more to incapacitate them than it had the puppy.

Aaand that’s all of them, isn’t it? Or is Weld still up, fighting the other dogs?

“Good boy!” I called out, “Good Bentley!”  His tail, shorter than any of the other dogs, wagged at the attention.

Hehe :Å) Good doggo!

Shadow Stalker, Imp and the two remaining dogs had Weld on his heels, Imp doing her best to smack him in the face with the fire axe and have the metal obscure his vision.  

Hah, nice.

Creative weaknesses can lead to interesting actions from opponents. For instance, usually people don’t try to use an axe in quite that manner.

Bitch slipped past the melee.  I looked away, tried to figure out a simple way to get by the spout of foam that was still sputtering out of the hole Flechette’s dart had made in the tank while still avoiding the flailing PRT uniform that was kneeling a short distance from me.

We’re almost through here. For what, I don’t know, but we’re almost in.

My bugs were dying in droves with the residual electricity, but Kid Win, at least, was largely incapacitated, his eyes swollen nearly shut, with some bugs gathered over and around his eyes to further obscure his vision.

Well, that’s something at least.

I’d read up on the Wards, when I first got my powers, I knew they weren’t allowed to use lethal weapons.  Shadow Stalker had to use tranquilizer darts instead of real arrows, though she violated that rule often enough, and this device of Kid Win’s, no matter how intimidating, wouldn’t be allowed to do any sort of serious injury. 

Ah, I figured Shadow Stalker’s tranquilizer darts were due to her probation.

Also I know it wasn’t officially approved when we first saw it, but are you telling me the Tiro Finale / Alternator Cannon wasn’t potentially lethal?

“Shadow Stalker!” I shouted, “Charge Kid Win!”  Expendable assets.

Heh, nice.

“Can’t!” she and Regent shouted in unison, “It’ll disrupt my control!”

Huh. That’s interesting, but I suppose it makes sense given the electrical nature of nerves.

Hearing that, Kid Win turned and fired a pair of sparks in their general direction.

Naturally. Regent just gave away the weakness of his control.

Which… amusingly enough happens to be the same as the weakness he used against Shadow Stalker during her capture. Electricity.

The sparks flew further and faster, and they reached far enough that I actually had to dodge those.  One slammed into the spray of foam that the canister was blasting into the wall, while the other sailed toward Shadow Stalker, but stopped a few feet short and then looped back toward Kid Win.

Whoops. That’s the problem with returning projectiles, I guess. You end up setting a maximum range.

That left one option.

Bitch wasn’t around, which left it to me.  I whistled, hard, getting the attention of the dogs.  When the dog with the squarish, almost snoutless head turned my way.  He’d be the bulldog puppy, Bentley.

You gonna send the dogs into the electricity instead?

I took a step toward Kid Win, pointed at the young hero, then shouted, “Get him!”

A ragged, horn encrusted tongue lolling out one side of his mouth, Bentley eagerly tromped past Weld, who lashed out with his club but only grazed Bentley’s rear flank.  Recklessly, the dog charged Kid Win, slamming into him, taking the full brunt of the ring of vibrantly blue electricity.

Oof. Yeah, Kid’s gonna feel that.

Electrons can jump outward when energized, too, and fall back when that energy leaves (usually in the form of radiation). That’s probably what the boomeranging represented.

I didn’t see the need to dodge – the shots weren’t fast moving, and both seemed ready to collide with the walls on either side of me.  What I didn’t expect was for their trajectory to slow, then stop altogether, before they hit the wall.  Picking up speed, they headed back toward Kid Win.

…huh. Boomerang shots?

Better be careful about how you dodge them.

“Heads up!” I shouted.  Imp and Regent turned just in time to avoid the boomeranging projectiles, but the distraction nearly cost them as the guns above Kid Win’s shoulders blasted off another two ‘sparks’.

It seems like Imp appearing just now involves her turning off her power, since Taylor is having no trouble remembering her from moment to moment, but I don’t see why. Isn’t being shot at a good reason to make the shooter forget you?

“What the hell!?” Imp shouted.  The returning sparks had fallen into a lazy orbit around Kid Win.  Two, then four, then six sparks orbited him, with more joining the mass.  As the seventh and eighth sparks joined the ring that spiraled around Kid Win, arcs and flashes of electricity began to dance between them, making it into a loose ring that encircled him.  He advanced a few steps.

Electrons. Eight for a full outer circle. Although the first circle only has room for two, which the allusion here seems to be ignoring.

Imp appeared as she ducked out of the way of one, while Regent avoided the other.  Tattletale was still on the ground, one hand to her shoulder, and the shots passed well over her.

Nice dodging.

So do the pears help seek out heat signatures and such too?

Also is one of Imp’s other powers invisibility? Some of this doesn’t sound like remembering that she’s there so much as her not visibly being there.

It might be conditional invisibility, though, because there’s no good reason for Imp to drop out of her invisible state when she needs to do something. Maybe she can only be functionally invisible while she’s not making quick movements?

I suppose it could also be a result of people constantly noticing that there’s someone standing in a spot and then immediately forgetting it, but that still doesn’t quite explain why she shows up when she does something. Hm… Maybe it’s that she’s more memorable while actually doing something other than just standing there or walking around, and that makes it take a little longer to erase the memory, which allows people to process that she’s there before they forget it?