End of Prey 14.4

My prediction that we’d be seeing Greg and Lisa’s first kiss didn’t come true, so this was clearly the most disappointing chapter yet.

…nah, this was a really solid one. Piggot can be beautifully devious when she wants to be, and the tension in the Undertraveler rescue mission was supreme.

And then there’s Amy giving Skitter a flying mount by merging many small bugs into one big bug (that Taylor has to micromanage in flight because it doesn’t know how to function)! That was awesome. I’m looking forward to seeing Taylor incorporate her new steed into her tactics, and maybe even bonding with him. I wonder what she’s going to name him – Buzz Lightyear is a bit too untaylorish and unwormish. Buzz Aldrin might work a little better. Fly-int Coal? Beetle Ray Cyrus?

But nah, Taylor’s not one for silly names, so she might just call him Boberto Francesco or something serious like that.

The end of the chapter unexpectedly left the question of whether the Undertravelers were out of the blast zone as a cliffhanger, rather than give us an action hero explosion escape shot (or at least showing the explosion in this chapter), so I guess they’re still not quite in the clear. Time to dodge Bakuda tech? Though Taylor has a major advantage with flight capabilities, she’d still need to find a way to help the others.

Maybe she could do that by having the bugs (try to) catch the bombs in silk nets? Or failing that, at least fill the air above her friends with bugs so she can sense the bombs’ trajectories and give them signals regarding where to move?

It’s also worth noting that the Undertravelers are moving way faster than Amy is, so if they’re not out of the blast zone, I worry for her.

Whatever the case, the Undertravelers are going to have a serious bone to pick with the Jirector of the PRT when this is over and the Nine are defeated, if not before.

So yeah! Next time we make sure we’re out of the blast zone and maybe tell Jemily than “we lived, bitch”. Also Leviathan invites the Undertravelers to some tea and cakes. See you then!

Growing confident in the mechanics of flying, I swooped us down.  We were faster than the others on the ground, and we passed them with ease.  I loosened my deathgrip on the horn to extend one arm out to one side.  A wave, a salute.

Howdy! 😀

That done, I pulled up.

Crawler, still bound, was unable to tear through the silk as fast as the millions of spiders were connecting it.  If there was only a way to stop the bombing, I could do something to pin him down, buy time for the heroes to arrange more permanent accommodations.

I wonder if he’s too big for Cache to pick up.

But there wasn’t.  I could feel the effects as Clockblocker froze Cache in time, then froze himself.  His suit, at least.

Oh yeah, that protection!

It was only the four of them – Clockblocker, Cache, Ursa and Weld.

The bomb was about to hit, and I could only guess if we were going to be out of the blast zone.

I think you’re good, if only barely.

…except that was the end of the chapter. Hrm.

Relating him to a motorcycle helped, giving me the confidence to lean gently into the turns he needed to make in shifting with the air currents.

Nice!

A laugh bubbled out from between my lips, one part hysteria to two parts relief and three parts exhilaration.  I was higher up than some six-story buildings and I’d barely realized it.

Woohoo! 😀

Amy had heard what Grue said about our possible shortage of transportation and my lack of firepower.  She’d supplied something to serve in the time allotted, with the resources I’d provided.  She’d put this together in minutes. 

Amy Dallon is fucking awesome.

I used my power to control every movement.  I felt it accelerate again, and tilted our orientation.

Niiice. It doesn’t know how to fly, so Taylor micromanages it. She acts as the brains of the operation.

I felt myself shift slightly as I found myself almost directly on top, my legs gripping the underside of his thorax, and I overcompensated.  We both crashed to the ground.  A ten or twelve foot drop for me.

Fuck.

My armor absorbed the worst of the impact, but I felt my forehead hit pavement.  I always thought of the concussion I’d suffered whenever I took a blow to the head.

Not something you’re eager to go through again, I’d imagine.

“Come on!”  I growled the words, scrambling to my feet.  “Don’t be hurt, don’t be hurt.”

He was okay.  I could examine him with my power, I just couldn’t comprehend him in the same natural, instinctive manner.

Well, at least she seems to have decided a gender for him.

It took attention, focus.  With my direction, he used a flutter of his wings and the points of his scythe-tipped claws to flip over so he was ready as I reached him.  I mounted him and tried again.  We repeated the takeoff process, faster this time.

Let’s do this thing!

We lifted off on the first try.  I controlled my breathing, focused my attention on him, tried to avoid that same reflexive compensation that came with a shift of my balance.

When I account for the wing compartments and the amount of space that the wings take up at the back of the shell, He’s not much bigger than a motorcycle.

A flying motorcycle. I’m torn between Harry Potter and Ghost Rider.

Upon further research, it seems Ghost Rider bikes don’t actually fly, so Harry Potter it is.

*pictures Taylor being tasked with delivering Harry’s Hogwarts letter and birthday cake on the fusion bug*

“Please,” I prayed.  I swung one leg over its thorax and gripped the horn.  It was an awkward posture, making me feel like I’d fall forward and face-plant on the ground with the slightest excuse.  “Come on.”

I’m imagining Bitch seeing this fusion later and being vaguely offended. “Giant rideable creatures are my thing.”

It ran on the ground, slower than me.  Its shell parted behind me, revealing an overlarge, complicated set of wings.  They began to beat, thrumming with sixty or seventy flaps a second, powered by an efficient machine of what I took to be a combination of biological hydraulics and musculature.

Good fucking work, Amy! 😀

“Come on,” I begged it.

I felt it begin to lift.  I even pushed with my toes, as if that could give it what it needed.

Hehe.

We accelerated, my hair whipping behind me as we gained a dramatic boost in speed.  But our trajectory was almost directly forward, not up.  I kicked at the ground as we landed, as if that could lift us into the air.  It wasn’t working.

Well, at least you’re successfully moving away from the center faster than you were.

Boing. Boing. Boing.

It dawned on me why.

My bugs normally had ingrained knowledge of how to function.  This was a new lifeform.  It had all the necessary parts.  Amy had probably scaled everything up, given it every advantage in design I could want, counteracting all the problems that came with being proportionately larger.

So… you’re saying this thing doesn’t know how to fly with a weight on top?

But at the end of the day, it didn’t know how to fly.

Or how to land, explaining the skidding earlier. Makes sense.

Come on, come on.

We met each other halfway.  Listening to my power, it turned in midair, so its back was to me.  It skidded on the ground.

What does it look like!

Clearly it’s got wings… does it just look like one enormous fly or wasp or something?

Six and a half feet long, five feet across and five feet tall.  A giant beetle.

Close enough and just as awesome!

It looked like she had used a Hercules beetle as a starting point, but built it broader, with larger, longer legs and two forelimbs with what looked like praying mantis style blades.  Sporting a black shell that looked almost ragged, the tips a gray-white, it also featured a single large horn that curved overhand, pointing down at the ground.

This is really awesome. I’d like to see fanart of this!

(Please tell me we’re getting a shot of Taylor flying away from explosions…)

Their chances were about as good as mine.

Amy.  She was turning to run.  The others crossed her path, shouted a warning.

Right, we want her to get out of the way too, yeah.

She used her power on the bug she was touching, making a final, haphazard connection.

Please tell me it’s a fusion steed!

My grip over the relay bugs had been tenuous.  This wasn’t much better.  One bug, and I couldn’t sense enough about it.  I didn’t have that innate grasp of its biology, of how it operated, or the instincts that drove it.

It’s really sounding like it’s a fusion, at least!

It would have to do.

I chanced a look over my shoulder and regretted it.  Crawler was bound tighter than ever, caught by my bugs, but the look threw me off-balance.  I stumbled, nearly falling over.

Whoops.

I managed to keep my feet under me, righting myself, but the movement of my leg made me aware of the strain.

Coddammit, I told you to get that leg fixed!

I couldn’t take the chance it wouldn’t work.

Aww.

Fair enough.

The one minute mark had surely passed.  I was on borrowed time, now, trusting my fate to luck.

Could Genesis form a new body in time?  It took her minutes, and I didn’t have that time to spare.  She would have to find me, too.

Yeah, that’s not very likely.

No.  Genesis couldn’t help.

And the heroes?  I searched in the direction of Jack and Bonesaw.  The heroes were fending off a group of people.  The group was larger than it had been the last time my focus was on them.  She was recruiting civilians?

Of course she is. She’s Bonesaw.

Or, wait, is the point here that she’s still recruiting them? And thus must have gotten them from somewhere nearby?

The heroes were falling back, gathering in formation.  Cache was using his power, if I was judging right.  I felt some of my bugs disappear from existence as he used his power on members of his team.

Looks like they’re packing up. Not much time left.

Putting them in some extradimensional compartment.  The others around him, one member of the Wards, Ursa and Weld.

The good guys were preparing for an imminent bombing run.  Jack and Bonesaw were making a run for it, too.  They’d sensed something was wrong from the way the heroes were acting.

Makes sense. Jack’s a smart dude.

“Run, little girl!”  Crawler’s broken voice carried, a rumble so low I could feel it.  “I’ll get free!  I’ll catch you!  I’ll hold you down and lick your skin until it melts!  I’ll pluck your eyes out with the tip of my tongue!  I have your scent and you cannot ever stop me!  You cannot ever escape!”

And here I was about to mention the possibility of Crawler not caring about Taylor.

Although… it is still possible that he’s talking to Sunny.

Even the practiced motions of running couldn’t take the edge off.  Running had been my reprieve for so long, my escape long before I’d had costumes and the distractions of everything that was involved there.  It wasn’t doing anything to help the panic that was taking hold of me.

Yeeeah, that’s very understandable.

I wracked my mind for something, anything that might serve as an option.  Sewer?  Could I get down into the sewer or storm drain?

Ooh, that might work. Though we’re talking Bakuda bombs, which could majorly fuck up the infrastructure where they hit, even more so than regular bombs.

It was a possibility, though with the structural integrity of the city being what it was, it could just as easily be suicidal.

Yeah, and that’s before considering further damage by the bombs.

My bugs.  Could I lift myself up the same way I’d lifted up the small tools?  More silk, millions more bugs?

Oh fuck, are we actually doing this after all this time?! I’ve been semi-jokingly entertaining this idea since Gestation!

Though I didn’t think of using the silk.