End of Parasite 10.6

Holy shit.

That’s the phrase I associate with this chapter, because it had two real holy shit moments: Vicious!Taylor making an appearance with what she said to Bitch (seriously, I was expecting Taylor to have some choice words for her, but I wasn’t expecting that), and Dinah telling us the end of the human species is on the way.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we also got a brief fight with Miss Militia, a rundown of the Slaughterhouse Nine, and Taylor trying to get Dinah released down the line. All in all a very content-rich chapter.

(Content-rich enough, in fact, that I think I made a mistake in not splitting it into two sessions. I think I’ve been liveblogging for about ten hours now. And here I was planning to celebrate a thing with a liveblog tomorrow, but now I think I need a break day, so we’ll have to settle for a post about that thing.)

Anyway, I just asked Sharks whether or not this was the end of the Arc, for the purposes of knowing whether I should do Arc Thoughts tomorrow, and got the answer that there are two Interludes coming up before that. So I know that the next chapter is an Interlude, but as usual with Interludes, I have no idea whose perspective we’ll be following. I’m guessing it’s someone relevant to this Arc… How about Emma, as she finds out what Sophia’s been up to? That’s a bit tenuous, but technically still relevant. Or perhaps one of the Undersiders? Imp would be very fitting to do right now.

I’m also curious about how these Interludes will be numbered (assuming Sharks isn’t just referring to regularly-numbered chapters as Interludes because they follow non-Taylor characters, like that one ask that referred to 9.1 as Weld’s Interlude). Will we skip 9 and number both Interludes as 10? That’s a legitimate possibility after what happened in Arc 8, where both Interludes were numbered the same as the Arc they were in.

I’ll just have to read and find out. See you then!

I shook my head, then turned to leave, wordlessly.

When I went downstairs, Tattletale and Regent were already gone.  Maybe they were checking out their new places.  Grue and Imp were in the ‘living room’, opening crates of stuff to see the supplies they had available.

Nice.

I wasn’t up to talking to them, or explaining the recent conversation.

Yeah, that’s fair. It was a mixed success, but it not being a total success really seems to have gotten Taylor down.

Leaving the building without a word, I sloshed through the water.  I realized my fists were clenched, and my glove was sticking to itself, thanks to the residual containment foam.  Annoying.

Heh.

Maybe if you get some on the other glove too, you can climb buildings like Spiderman. Until the foam on each hand runs out and you’re stuck far above the ground. Whoops.

I wondered if I could scrub it off.

When I peeled my fingers away from the glove, I realized my hand was shaking.

Yeeeah, Taylor really didn’t like what just happened.

I guess it might be mainly seeing just how much Coil views Dinah as a possession rather than a person with a family. Trust me, Taylor, you’re not alone in being put off by that.

I took a deep breath, to calm my nerves.  I could do this.  Whatever I had to do, I was going to help that girl.

Good luck.

“I’m afraid, Skitter, that this deal doesn’t quite balance out.  I intend no offense, but my initial impression is that my pet is far more valuable to me than you are.”

No.  My heart sank.

Well, damn.

“But I can accept it,” he spoke.  “Provided you prove to me that your talents are worth losing hers.  I admit, the active assistance you can provide might prove more useful when the city is firmly in my grasp, when I have less to be concerned about in terms of day-to-day operations.”

Hm, so there’s still a chance, then.

I nodded, numbly.

“Anything else?”

I guess this is when you get a soul gem and start hunting witches.

“Mmm,” he murmured.  He turned to his pet, stroked her head like one might with a dog or a cat.

Ugh.

She stared down at her dress, picked at a thread that was sticking out, stretching it out long.  The thread snapped, and she let it drift from her hand to the ground.  Then she started picking at another.  Coil interrupted my observations, “So.  You wished to discuss something?”

Yeah… that shit.

“Yeah.  I’ve made a decision.”

“Do tell.”

“Before, back in the limousine, you asked me what I wanted out of all this, what I desired from my deal with you.”

…you’re not going to wish for Dinah’s freedom, are you? I know you care about that, but it seems like you should ask for something bigger than that, something that might protect others too.

“Yes.”

“I asked you to fix the city, you told me you planned on doing that anyways, that I should ask for something else.”

“And you’ve decided.”

“Yeah,” I took a deep breath.  “Dinah.  Your… pet.”

She’s doing it.

“You want me to release her.  I’m afraid-“

I hurried to cut him off, “No.”

Hm?

He stopped, tilted his head slightly.

I swallowed, felt an ugly feeling in my gut, “I know she’s invaluable to you.  I know how useful her talent is, and the lengths you went to in getting ahold of them.  I don’t like it, but I get it.”

True.

Then what do you want? Dinah to be treated better?

He didn’t respond.  He just stared at me, his mask lacking eye holes, just black cloth stretched over eye sockets.

“I… All I’m asking is that you let her go when you’ve done it.  When you take this city, when you succeed in your plan, you release her to go home to her family.  If you do that, I’ll work for you.  I’ll try harder than anyone, to get this city under your control, and then I’ll work for you for as long as you’ll have me, afterward.”

Ahh, a delayed effect. “Release her when you no longer need her.”

When the group had left the room, I could hear noises downstairs, as they moved about the house.  Or maybe it was Grue, checking his new place.  I was left alone with Coil and Dinah.

The crux of the matter.

I wasn’t sure I liked that our group was being split up like this.  The timing seemed bad.  I’d sort of been hoping I could repair the divide, and that would be hard if we were each in our own territories, doing our own things.

Ah, yeah, that’s true. I’m not sure quite how much Coil knows about the falling out between Taylor and the other Undersiders – in his Interlude, he seemed not to know much of the details, though that might’ve changed since then – but yes, this comes at a bad time for Taylor whether he thought of that or not.

I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.

“I heard about the incident at the hospital, following the Endbringer attack.”

Ahh, yeah. I guess that would be why he wanted to talk to Taylor too.

I nodded.

“Tattletale told me that you know I was fully informed about your true nature.”

This sentence could work coming from either of them, but I’m pretty sure it’s still Coil talking.

“Yeah.”

“Did she explain how?”

Ah, hm. He’s asking whether Tattle told her about his power, but is that because he wants to check Tattle’s loyalty, or because he actually wanted to tell her himself?

I shook my head.  She’d told me about his power in confidence.

As he had done to Tattle. She wasn’t supposed to tell it to anyone else.

“Well, I suppose I may share that detail at some point in the future.  You understand my desire to keep certain things private?”

Of course.

“Yeah, no.  I get it.  It makes sense, it’s smart.”

Especially in a ‘verse where knowledge is power is a recurring theme.

“Your payment for tonight’s job will be in your accounts shortly, with a bonus for the obstacles you faced.  Any questions?  Any topics you would like to raise for discussion?”

“A few questions, but I figure I’ll see what’s up with this new role we’re taking,” Grue replied, “Then I’ll ask them.”

That seems reasonable.

“Good.”

“I’ve got something I’d like to talk to you about,” I spoke, augmenting my voice with the swarm’s noises to mask it.  “In private.”

Huh. You gonna voice your concerns re: Dinah?

“Yes.  That’s fine, I was hoping to have a private conversation with you anyways.  Anyone?  Anything else before we part ways?”

Nobody had anything further to say.  Grue and the others turned to leave, and the crowd around Coil followed them soon after.  

See ya later!

One of Bitch’s henchmen – Barker, was it? – leered at me as he passed, dug his hand into his groin in some sort of scratch or a lewd gesture.

Seems like a decent fit.

Lovely.  He’d get along great with Bitch.

Hehehe

“As you leave, you’ll receive emails on the locations of your individual headquarters.  For the time being, all I require from you, for now, is that you establish order and assume some measure of control over your territories.”

There were nods all around.

I wonder what Bitch’s territory is going to be like with her “in charge”.

“Good morning and welcome to Brockton Bay News. My name is Ronaowow Itsakidneystone Johnson. Our top story today: A large amount of wooden signposts have appeared overnight in parts of the lower Docks area. These signposts, seemingly hand-made, prominently feature minimalistic drawings of what appear to be dogs, along with poorly spelled text ordering onlookers to treat dogs well. BBN correspondent Waffle Erduno is on the scene. Waffle, what is your take on this story?”

Elephant in the room: This means the Undersiders are going to be going each their own way, to some extent, and operate more independently of each other. They’ll still be a team, but it seems like it won’t be in quite the same way as before. Though I suppose Coil might still call them together for a mission.

Is everyone okay with that?

“Cool.”

“Skitter, I have set up quarters near the south end of the Boardwalk.

That would be around where she’s been working recently anyway, wouldn’t it?

Reconstruction and repair work is still ongoing there, but if you will be patient, it may well be one of the more lucrative locations when things are up and running again.”

Sounds about right!

I nodded.  That wouldn’t be far from my old home, close to our old hideout.  Did that mean something?  Did he know who I was, or had Tattletale suggested it?  I felt uneasy about that.

To be fair, you have been active in that area, enough that it wound up in the PRT files, unless I’m misremembering.

“Regent, Grue, Imp and Skitter, I realize I have not detailed any employees to you to begin with.  I leave it to you to start this task for yourself, to decide what you need and how you intend to operate.

That sounds reasonable. Rachel has specific needs for her dogs, and Tattle has a specific role with specific things that can help her fulfill that role, but the rest of them are just kinda combat-focused, so it makes sense to let them define their MOs a bit more first.

Once you have decided this for yourselves, let me know, and I will endeavor to help you fill in the blanks in your individual operations.

Yeah.

Grue looked over the five people who would be Bitch’s henchmen, nodded.

“Tattletale, I’ve set up quarters near Lord Street, in one of the ABB’s old locations.

Just get the stench of drugs out of there and that sounds alright.

I assume your teammates will want to be in contact, and this area is both accessible, and it can reach any other area readily.

So Tattle’s place would be their common meeting place. I like it.

The area is already furnished with computers, and you’ll find staff there, people who are capable at gathering information, be it from media, computers or the streets.  You’ll also find a small force of mercenaries that I’ve assigned to you, so you can act on that information where you see fit.”

We’ve seen that Tattle’s power acts as a supercharged Sherlock Holmes lookover, so she needs some sort of information to get her started. These people could provide her with that, and then Tattle’s power can fill in more from that.