So! This was a really cool chapter – Skitter has a theatrical side that shows once in a while, and she used it to good effect here. She’s now the Queen of Skitterville, and the fifth or so of the population that showed up to her announcement seems to be mostly fine with that, after she explained her good intentions, set an example of the Big Man despite all his best
dunks stabs, and was sorta kinda publicly accepted by a Protectorate member.
I really enjoyed the forthright interaction between Battery and Skitter. I hope we’ll see more of Battery (with a speaking role) in not too long, because she seems interesting. Maybe we’ll even learn the true relationship between her and Assault someday! 😛
And finally, we met the dreadlock redhead whose brother Taylor will certainly be trying to save when she goes up against the Merchants. I’m pretty certain that we’re doing that in this Arc at this point, unless Wildbow decides to pull a bait-and-switch and go “SURPRISE IT’S THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE NINE” instead. We’ll have to see, but I’m fairly sure we’re sticking with the Merchants for now. (Though we’ll probably be getting to know the Fellowship with those Interludes at the end of the Arc, so they might be somewhat relevant nonetheless.)
Next chapter… maybe we’ll meet up with the other Undersiders and discuss how the claims went and how everyone’s adjusting? Or maybe Taylor intends to do some planning at the Hive before launching an attack on the Merchants on her own? Or, perhaps, we’ll dive straight into it.
It’s a little unclear to me still how much the Undersiders will work together when it comes to attacking enemies in their separate territories, but I’ll just have to see.
…huh. It’d be really fitting if Bitch’s territory just so happened to be frequented by Fenrir’s Chosen. Hookwolf is the perfect nemesis to her.
Anyway, yeah. See you then!
She only stopped when her voice cracked.
Breathing hard, out of breathlessness or emotion, she stared at the ground, clenching her fists. I could feel one of the ladybugs get crushed in her grip, fading out of existence as far as my power was concerned.
Whoops. Rest in peace, li’l lady.
“Stop,” I told her, without using my swarm to change my voice. “Breathe. What happened?”
She looked up at me, then she swallowed hard.
I like that Taylor deliberately doesn’t use her swarm echo here. The swarm echo makes her less human-sounding, and in this case, human is exactly what she needs to be.
“The Merchants took him. My kid brother. I want you to get him back. Please.”
Looks like we’ve got a specific goal for Skitter’s upcoming attack on the Merchants!
I suppose this is why we had that bit in the previous chapter about the people the Merchants decided to keep around. So that we’d know how much trouble this means for the kid. And yeah, it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant.
There’s no way Taylor wouldn’t want to save him, especially when you consider how similar the situation is to Dinah’s.
Then she saw I was looking and she met my eyes.
“Yes?” I asked her. “You’ve got the ladybugs. I will get you a box.”
Oh, nice, she’s one of the heads of the families.
“No. It’s not that.” She looked at her hand where the ladybugs were.
“Then what is it?
“You said we were your people, that you were protecting us. Does that mean you’re going against the other groups?”
I suppose that does mean a gang war, essentially, though one side cares way more about the civilians than the other.
“My kid brother. I- he needs help. My parents are sick and they’re in the hospital and I can’t tell them because I told them I’d take care of him, um, and I asked the cops but they’re so busy and there’s no way they can help, and I was going to ask that hero, Battery, but then she disappeared so fast-” The words spilled out of her mouth, less and less intelligible as she kept talking.
Aw. She seems to have decided she can trust Skitter.
What kind of help does he need? It sounds like she thinks Battery would’ve been able to help, and with that first question… Did he get in trouble with the Merchants? Or worse, the Chosen?
I doubt it’s the Slaughterhouse, considering it sounds like she thinks he’s still alive.
Unlikely thought that crossed my mind: Messenger of Dragon. Very unlikely because it’d be quicker for Dragon to come here herself than get some random person to pass on a message to Skitter.
Slowly, they began to peel away from the group and leave. I began letting the swarm disperse, but I used the fact that I had the bugs all together to direct a mass towards my lair. The cream of the crop – the good ones.
Sweet. I guess this could act as protection for the Hive?
As Coil’s men got back in the truck, my swarm-sense told me that one person had stayed behind. I turned to get a better look at her.
Hm, what’s up? Battery stick around out of costume or something?
She was twenty or so, and her red hair had been set into long dreadlocks that she must have been growing for years. I wasn’t sure on the effect – white people didn’t grow good dreadlocks.
True. I’m no dreadlock expert, but I seem to recall hearing about that having something to do with genetics and white people having to do something to their hair for dreadlocks to be possible at all, something that doesn’t go well with water (resulting in the stereotype that black people with dreadlocks don’t wash their hair) and doesn’t look as good as black people’s dreadlocks. Something like that.
I do like red hair, though.
She wore rain boots, a calf-length skirt, and had a colorful bandanna around her forehead. She was pale, and she fidgeted nervously, not making eye contact. High or afraid?
Whoever she is, she’s got a neat design. More detailed than Big Man’s, too, which makes me think she might be a more important character. The way she’s lingering behind, not part of the crowd scene, adds to that feeling.
As I pointed, the crowd parted slightly to reveal the Merchant who was still crawling away, simultaneously struggling to douse himself in the one or two inches water on the street and to crawl with three limbs – he was favoring the hand I’d stepped on.
His buddies were gone. They’d left him.
That capsaicin is pretty intense stuff.
“If you do not get a box, stay. I want the head of each family or group to raise their hands. This will help me ensure you get something before the day is over.”
Ooh, nice. She does intend to keep track of who didn’t get anything.
It took a minute before the last of the boxes were claimed. There were some resentful looks as the last of the people left. I had thirty or so remaining people, and after some brief discussion, seven of them raised their hands.
Nice, that’s not too many more boxes to get.
I concentrated on the swarm, and found a collection of ladybugs. I piloted a group into each set of raised hands, and watched as people lowered their hands to look.
Hm. Alright? Are these their tickets for later?
“Each of you now has three ladybugs in your hands. Keep them, and I will use them to find you later today to drop something off for you, with a small gift to each group of you for being patient.”
Right, how did I forget about her ability to track them.
“Listen up!” I shouted. I used my swarm to give me more volume, and to stand out against the noise of the crowd. People went silent, and every set of eyes turned towards me. I stepped up onto the truck, hiding myself briefly in the swarm as I hopped up.
(I know that’s my second Navi joke tonight. Sue me. Besides, it’s only fitting for them to be annoyingly frequent, is it not?)
I addressed them, “Not everyone will get a box today. That is not an excuse to take what others have already claimed. As I said, I will not tolerate stealing or theft among you.
This is a good announcement to make. I think you’ll be a pretty decent queen.
If you try it, I’ll treat you the same as I treated him.”
And we’ve got a touch of intimidation, pulling in the example-making to full effect. Excellent.
“I wouldn’t expect any less,” I answered her.
With that, she disappeared in a blur, the water parting in her wake.
That was a fun interaction.
With her gone, the rest of the crowd swooped down on the remaining supplies. People maintained a respectful distance, but oddly enough, they weren’t acting as scared of me as they’d been before I attacked the Merchant and before I’d talked to Battery.
Might have to do with the facts that you just protected them from the Big Man, that a Protectorate member seems to accept what you’re doing, and that the same Protectorate member says they’ll step in if Queen Skitter’s reign goes too far.
Had her leaving me alone given me a measure of legitimacy? More importantly, had it been intended to give me legitimacy as ruler of the area? She hadn’t needed to step in right then. Probably.
Hm. I suppose it’s possible.
If that’s the case, it was probably on orders from console, considering she personally didn’t approve.
I had to admit I wasn’t sure if I would’ve gone through with stabbing the guy.
Who knows. Maybe Dinah, but I doubt she can go back and then sideways.
I sighed. “Don’t know what to tell you. No agenda.”
She frowned, “When we first set post-Endbringer measures in place, your team was listed as low priority, and we were instructed to ignore you. Too costly in time and resources. I suspect someone intended to change that after your little stunt the other night, but the memo hasn’t gone out yet. You hear me?”
You saying you can pull some strings?
I tilted my head in a small nod.
“So I’m going by the book, and I’m walking away. But I’ll be keeping an eye on you, on this, and the moment you go too far, we’re coming after you, no holds barred.”
Ahh, so that’s her excuse for letting this go for now. I like this.