Grue moved to follow, and I turned to Amy, “If I send my bugs to you, will you-”

“I’ll-  I’ll come.”

Fuck yes.

Undersider Amy is so close. At the very least, we’ve got Undersider-affiliated Amy, which is really good.

I blinked.

She stuck her hand in my direction, and I caught it, helping her up to a seat behind me.  Sirius shook slightly, as if he could shake us off.  Were we too heavy?

Maybe it’s some natural reaction to having the girl with the power to change his biology on his back, a reaction to her power even while she’s not doing anything with it.

Apparently not.  He bolted after Bentley, and we were off, Amy clinging to me like her life depended on it.  I suspected that had little to do with the fact that we were riding on one of Bitch’s dogs.

Yeeah, Tattletale just talked her into joining them in a direct assault on the Slaughterhouse Nine. There’s probably a part of her mind screaming “WHY AM I DOING THIS”.

“Not yet?” Amy asked.

“Not yet.  You shouldn’t hate yourself for what you did in a moment of desperation.  Hate yourself for what you do after.  Hate yourself for your cowardice, your refusal to step up and help at this moment, right now, your refusal to participate in this world that you never even tried to understand.  That’s a conscious call you’re making, and you know it’s the wrong one.”

Perhaps it is, but I don’t think it’s one to hate herself over. It does tie in with the one part of Taylor’s philosophy that I’m certain Wildbow agrees with, though: the whole anti-bystanderism angle.

All of a sudden I want Amy to meet Charlotte.

Amy hugged her arms to her chest.  She shook her head a little, as if she was denying what Tattletale was saying.

“I won’t listen to her again! I won’t!”

Tattletale went on.  “You need to make the right calls, and you need to start now, because you’re approaching the point of no return.

No she isn’t.

You start making amends, you start doing your part, and you undo what you did, and you do it ASAP, because if you don’t, you’re going to hit the hard ground at the bottom of that slippery slope.”

But this is still good advice. Face her past, fix it rather than run away from it.

“But-”

Tattletale didn’t give Amy a chance to finish.  She kicked her heels and Bentley charged off.

Well, guess that’s the end of that, uh, conversation.

“Don’t you dare-” Amy started.

“You fucked up.  You crossed one of the lines that’s reserved for the real monsters.  You know it, I know it.”

Amy’s face crumpled.  I didn’t have a better way of describing it, the way her expression twisted, going from plain to almost inhuman from emotion alone.

And that’s the way the Amy crumples!

I almost spoke up.  I wasn’t sure why I didn’t.

You probably should, unless Lisa is going somewhere constructive with this and is just expressing it in the worst way possible.

“You think you’re the lowest of the low, that you’re scum.  You despise yourself.”

Now deny that, Lisa. Please.

Amy couldn’t even mount a response.

“You’re wrong.  You’re not there.  Not yet.”

Thank you.

Amy looked up at Tattletale, wide-eyed.  The look was utterly defenseless.  I was put in mind, for just an instant, of just who Tattletale could have been.  I had a mental image of her as a cult leader, tearing people down with an almost surgical precision, then molding them into who she wanted them to be when they were emotionally and mentally unable to mount a defense.

Fuck, she would’ve been perfect for that.

You know who else did that? Kaiser.

“But you’re more scared than pissed,” I said.  She looked away.

“We should get going,” Trickster said, as Sundancer got in position behind him.  We were all seated and ready to head to the rescue.

Yeah, let’s go.

Not before a couple more lines between Taylor and Amy, though.

“One second,” I told him.  “Amy.  Listen.  It’s okay.  I’ve thought of another way you can help, and it doesn’t put you in any danger.”

Oh?

“What is it?”  She still didn’t meet my eyes.

“You’re going to cut loose with your power.  I can feed you the raw materials, you do what you can.  You know how my power works?”

Oh fuck. Amy-enhanced bugs.

“Pretty much.”

“Send the bugs my way when you’re done with them, then.”

fuck yes

“You’re a villain, you know.  You’re asking me to betray the family I grew up with if I’m helping you.”

Eh. She’s only a villain in name.

Though the others are a different story, perhaps.

I stared at her.  We were so similar in such different ways, but I couldn’t even begin to comprehend her train of thought.

Why were the people who clung so fiercely to the notions of right and wrong the very same individuals that had the worst grasp of what they meant?

Talking from experience, miss Black-and-White-morality-early-on?

Maybe I wasn’t one to talk.

You certainly weren’t, in the early days.

“I don’t think you’re one to talk about betraying family,” Tattletale spoke.

Lisa, shush. Don’t ruin this.

I could see all the color drain out of Amy’s face.

“Hey, Tattle,” I started.

“No.  Sorry, Skitter, but it’s my turn to talk now.  We’re short on time, and we really should leave now, but if we leave it like this, you’re going to be distracted.”

fine.

I shut my mouth.

“Amy?  I know what you did.”

Of course you do. You don’t need to say it like this, though.

I signaled Tattletale to return.  “Thank you.”

She walked over to Bentley, giving Trickster a wary look as she walked by him.  I joined her, in part to give Bentley the reassurance that this angry stranger wasn’t so dangerous.

You are taking Amy somewhere safe, right?

“There,” Amy said.  “You’re going to save your friends?”

“And if we can, we’re going to put down the Nine.  We figured out Siberian’s weakness.”

Which is a pretty big thing to say in this world that’s been terrorized by them for what, twenty years? Honestly, you should probably tell someone about that, so the world may continue to know if you all die.

Her eyes widened slightly at that.  “What?”

“What did you think we meant when we were talking about her other self?”

“A secret identity?  I- I wasn’t really paying attention.”

That’s fair.

Tattletale climbed up onto Bentley’s back, studiously ignoring Amy.

“Kind of a secret identity.  She’s a projection,” I said.  “Like Crusader has with his duplicates.  Best case scenario, we can find her real body and put her down.”

“Just like that?  You’ll kill her?”

In this case, I think it’s justified.

“Ideal world,” I said.  Grue had climbed up onto Sirius’s back, and he offered me a hand up.  “Won’t know if we’re capable until it happens, but I’d like to think we have the courage.”

“But you’re risking your lives.”

Yep. And that’s what makes them heroes, despite their title.

Well, Taylor at least. It’s partially self-defense for all of them.

“Yeah.”  I got settled and wrapped my arms around Grue’s body.  He didn’t react or protest.  My head just inches from his back, I turned to look down at Amy, “See, it helps that we’re pissed.”

Hah!

“I’m pissed too,” Amy said.

I offered my hand to her, in case she wanted to climb up behind me and join us, but she stepped away.

“Join the club.”

“Ehh, I don’t want to go that far just yet.”

His bone-crusted tail lashed behind him in something approximating a wag.

D’aw!

Amy put out her hand again, and Sirius sniffed it.  Gingerly, she laid her hand on the length of his snout, running her fingers over calcified muscle, bone spurs and braided lengths of muscle and other tissue.

Because of Sirius’ size, this ends up somewhat reminiscent of meeting a horse instead.

Or a hippogriff. They skipped the bowing, though, which is bad news for Malfoy.

“The hell?” she muttered.  “Can’t wrap my head around this.”

Weird, isn’t it? You’ve got the actual dog inside, except the big outer hellhound is also the actual dog, sort of, grown and turned inside out aesthetically…

“You can’t make him bigger?”

“No, I don’t think I can.  Can’t make something from nothing.  But I think I can stall the shrinking.  Whatever I do might get undone the second he’s back in range of Hell- of Bitch.  It’s hard to describe.

Huh, neat.

I can see the aftermath of what she does, but not the process.  It’s like the tissue grows, then it dies as it gets pushed out of the core, but some of it stays functional… there’s a normal dog inside there?  Intact?”

Yeah, that part is super weird, given the gradual growth and, even more so, the shrinking.

“Yeah.”

“Okay.  Think I’ve got it.  He’s not going to shrink anytime soon.”

Excellent. Thank you!

“I know.  You don’t have to.  Let me think.  We can come up with another way for you to contribute.”

“Can you grow us wings?” Trickster asked, in a wry tone.

You know, I’m not sure I’d put it past her. Probably not ones big enough to actually fly with, though.

“I can’t generate flesh from nothing, and it’s slow to convert something into a part your body won’t reject.”

That seems like a fair limitation.

“Of course,” Trickster said, with a note of sarcasm.

Is Trickster not liking Amy or something? Maybe he’s a little peeved at her not being willing to do the thing with the dogs, which would’ve let them move over to where Siberian and co. are and help Ballistic.

Not helping, I thought.  Amy was willing to do something.  It was useful.  We didn’t need to discourage that.

Very true.

Before I could finish my thought, I saw Amy walk up to Sirius and offer him one hand to sniff.

Ooh!

She flinched as he moved his head, pulling her arm away.

She’s understandably nervous, but she’s trying.

I joined her side, and put one hand on the side of Sirius’ neck, digging my fingertips into a meaty cord of muscle.  I scratched with enough force that I might have left tracks in normal skin.  “Hey, boy.  You’re a good dog, aren’t you?  Yes you are.”

This is adorable.

The mental image of Bonesaw cutting through my skull with her saw was so real I could almost feel the sensation of it.

Honestly it’s a wonder you’re willing to actually ask this of Amy so soon after that experience.

But we had to stop Siberian.

“I can’t affect brains.”

Oh yeah, that old lie! I forgot she used to say that.

Is Tattletale listening, trying to refrain from cutting in with a “that’s a lie”?

“You can’t-”  I sighed.  We all had our limitations and barriers.  I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.  I didn’t argue the point.  “Fuck.  Okay.  The dogs.  Can you charge them up?  Figure out how Bitch’s power is affecting them, and either make them big again or keep them from getting any smaller?”

Ooh, another clever idea. Taylor is full of them.

She glanced at Sirius.  I’d gotten so used to them I’d nearly forgotten just how horrifying they were to look at.

Hehe.

“I’d have to touch them.”

“Yeah.  They’re not as bad as they look.  They’re regular dogs, it’s only appearances and size.”

“Regular dogs still bite people.”

Under given circumstances. I will admit it’s more likely to happen to you than anyone else here, though, since you’re a stranger trying to mess with their biology.

“Yeah.”

“I don’t want to lose more fingers.”

Ahaha