krixwell-liveblogs:

Oh yeah, before I finish up, I had a work thought yesterday that I forgot to post about:

What’s going to happen to Battery if Cauldron determines that being controlled by Regent while the rest of the Nine leave means Shatterbird hasn’t escaped the city like Cauldron asked. Maybe they don’t count that as a failure until Shatterbird’s actually dead, though, expecting Battery to make an effort to free Shatterbird from Regent?

If she fails in Cauldron’s eyes, does she get another task, another chance to pay up her debt? Or do they send out agents immediately to get rid of the debtor? They do seem relatively agreeable, if amoral, so I feel like they might give her a chance, at least.

Well, I guess this is a moot point now.

End of Interlude 14.5

In which Legend continues to be great as he says all the right things to Kid Win, learns some things we already knew while showing us things we didn’t and raising an alarming amount of death flags. Don’t think I didn’t notice that he still hasn’t gone home.

This was a very interesting one. Cauldron has been working with the Triumvirate, and two of them have apparently been helping to keep Legend in the dark about Cauldron’s true neutral alignment. Well then.

Eidolon also brought up that an Endbringer attack is likely to happen soon. I think we’re getting close to learning more about the Simurgh. I’m not sure if it’ll be next Arc, though, considering that that’s the only mention of such a thing in this Interlude – we’re not leading right into it like the end of Buzz did to Extermination. But the question of what’s up next still stands. Maybe the alarms will indeed go off in 15.1.

More on this in the Arc Thoughts, I suppose. See you there!

Hmm. Did the Doctor just send some of Cauldron’s enforcers after Legend, to keep him from spilling the beans on his suspicions? That would be one way for the death flags to come into play here.

She’d died not long after.

He almost couldn’t bring himself to click the yellow button again.  Alexandria had been lying to him.  And that only left…

Eidolon…

Click.

Eidolon’s voice came from the speakers.  “I can’t add anything here, and my power’s not volunteering anything that could help to solve this particular mystery.  I guess we have yet another unanswered question on our hands.”

Well then. So he does know something he didn’t want Legend to know, or something he didn’t want the Doctor to know that he knew.

The word was in red letters on the screen.  It could have been his own pulse behind his retinas, but the letters seemed to throb with a heartbeat of their own.  LIE.

“All lies,” Legend whispered the words to himself.

There seem to be a lot of those going around.

Those doubts had become quiet conviction after he’d gone to see Battery in the hospital.  One of Bonesaw’s mechanical spiders had cut her suit.  He knew exactly the kind of disorientation, hallucination and waves of paranoia she would have experienced as the gas took hold.

So he found out about Battery’s secret mission, did he?

While she reeled and tried to get a grip on reality, she’d likely left herself open for further attacks.  Whatever the case, one of the spiders had injected her with a poison Bonesaw had devised.

Uh oh.

Her death had been slow, painful and inevitable.

Fuck. RIP best Brockton Bay Protectorate member.

It had been engineered to strike those notes in a way that millions of years of evolution had yet to refine a plant’s toxin or an animal’s venom.  Lying in the hospital bed, still delirious, Battery had used halting sentences to tell him about Cauldon, about buying her powers, and about Cauldron asking her to help Siberian and Shatterbird escape.  She’d planned to pursue the Nine, to offer assistance and then kill one or both of the villains.

So she didn’t intend to go along with their mission, even if that meant Cauldron would come after her. Nice.

Battery had begged him for affirmation that she’d tried to do the right thing, that he would find the answers she didn’t.  He’d reassured her the best he could.

You did, Battery. You did.

“And you don’t know anything about how William Manton is connected to all this?”

“I’m as mystified as you are.”

LIE.

Yeah, they definitely knew this one.

He knew what came next, with the conversation fresh in his memory.  He didn’t want to press the button again, but there was little choice.

“I’ve trained myself in kinesics.  I can look at a person’s face and body language and know if they’re lying.  And I can tell you the Doctor is telling the truth.”

The red text popped up as the last four and a half words appeared.  LIE.

Called it!

So why is Alexandria backing up the Doctor? Did she also get her powers from Cauldron, for that matter? Did they all?

Alexandria knew.  Of course she had.  Her ability to read people, her vast troves of knowledge, her ability to see patterns.  And she was the most willing of their group to take the hard, ugly road.  Had been since Siberian had hospitalized her.

Ouch. Before that, she was the one who seemed most reluctant to harm Siberian’s victim.

I can’t say this doesn’t also feel like a parallel to Taylor’s development, even if Taylor does surround herself with others that are more willing to take the hard, ugly road than herself.

Click.

His own voice.  “I’m sorry to accuse you.”

Hah. I was kind of thinking it too that I wasn’t sure he actually was sorry.

LIE.

Had he been lying?  He supposed he had.  He didn’t like the Doctor, and he hadn’t truly felt sorry for his suspicions.  Ever since he’d seen William Manton with the Slaughterhouse Nine, he’d harbored doubts about what was going on.

It’s the kind of lie almost everyone tells from time to time, just to be polite.

He’d committed to this because Cauldron was essential.  With the rise of the Endbringers and threats like the Slaughterhouse Nine, the world was in need of heroes.  Cauldron produced more heroes than villains, because there was none of the trauma of a trigger event to throw them off.

I suppose that makes sense. And apparently Legend did know about the villains.

Even for those individuals who turned to crime, Cauldron was able to leverage the favors that were part of the contract in order to guide their path.  More superheroes meant better chances for everyone when it came to fighting the Endbringers and dealing with the big threats.

And, hell, many of the villains help out in those cases too.

But Cauldron doesn’t always do great things with those favors, either.

It struck him that this wasn’t necessarily true.  If the Doctor had lied about human experimentation, she could have lied about those details as well, too.

True.

Human experimentation on a large scale.  Unwitting, or perhaps unwillingto connect the dots, he’d helped it happen in a way.

His hand shook as he reached for the mouse.  He clicked the button once more, hoping there would be something he could use to convince himself that this was a mistake.  A false positive, a clue that Cauldron was really a force for good after all.  Hadn’t Armsmaster said that his lie detection system was imperfect?  Or maybe Kid Win had generated errors in the code.

Maybe this is where he finds that Alexandria was lying about being able to tell whether the Doctor was lying?

I mean, I don’t want her to be secretly bad, but it’s a distinct possibility.

The alterations had been minor but comprehensive:  Legend hadn’t wanted to be informed in real-time about the lies, lest he give something away.

Makes sense.

He couldn’t bring himself to smile.

Problems of self-confidence aside, Kid Win had produced an interface that was easy to use.  Legend clicked on the yellow button and waited.

“The interface is easy to use, except for when it struggles with its self-confidence. Then it starts asking you why you’re using it rather than some other interface that’s surely way better, and you have to take the time to comfort the interface before it continues with its job. Four stars out of five.”

Voices played from the computer’s speakers.  He adjusted the volume and listened.

“We suspect that Bonesaw and Siberian also escaped, with Hookwolf as a new member of their group.”

This is what Legend told the Triumvirate… but who’s talking here? This is not a recording of their meeting, surely (Kid Win talked about putting data into this thing, not preparing it to record stuff), so was Legend quoting this? Is this a message from Skitter?

“I see.”

“Any reason for the curiosity?”

Alright, apparently it is a recording. Why?

“Hard to keep track of what goes on beyond these walls, sometimes.”

Text appeared, transcribing what was being said.  The program paused, the image of the yellow button popping back out.  A red word appeared below the last statement: LIE.

Ohh. That’s why.

And when Kid said this wasn’t his work… This is based on Armsmaster’s work, isn’t it.

A vague lie, but not a damning one.  His pulse was pounding as he hit the waiting yellow button to resume the record.

“We have no need for human experimentation.  The Number Man can calculate the odds of success for a given formula.”

LIE.

It seems Alexandria was fooled easier than this device.

He clicked again.

“…Who knows enough about Cauldron to tattoo or brand them with the mark while simultaneously having access to these kinds of resources?”  His own voice was the one playing from the speakers.

“It’s not us,” the Doctor’s voice answered his.

LIE.

Yep.

How about Alexandria talking about being able to tell lies from truth? Can you trust her?

He sat staring at the screen, horrified.

Cauldron had given him his powers, had given him what he needed to be at the very top, to lead the largest collection of superheroes in the world.  They hadn’t wanted much in exchange.

That’s very unusual for them, but maybe they operated differently back then.

He kept an eye out to make sure nobody got too curious about Cauldron, diverted them if they did.  He’d greased the wheels for some of Cauldron’s top customers.  He was also ready to defend Cauldron if and when it became public knowledge.  It was for the greater good, he told himself.  There was no way for Cauldron to operate otherwise, lest the world’s governments fight over the ability to create whole armies of people with powers and interfere with the organization’s ability to operate.

Yeeeah, Cauldron might not be as good a thing as you thought.

It would operate, he knew, it obviously wasn’t in a location where it could be raided or seized by military forces, but it wouldn’t be able to reach nearly as many people, and capes would come under scrutiny with the possibility that they’d purchased their powers.

I recall Taylor wasn’t thrilled to find out that was possible.

Instead, Legend descended on the rooftop of the NYC Protectorate offices.  A tinker-made scanner verified who he was and opened the doors for him in time for him to walk through.

Yep. Protectorate HQ.

Is this where he finds out the Simurgh is swooping down towards Brockton Bay?

He nodded a greeting to everyone he passed.  When people asked him how things had gone, he offered them a response that was polite but short enough that it was clear he wasn’t looking for further conversation.

Relatable.

He reached his office and closed the door.

He was careful to start up a virtual operating system preloaded with the standard PRT databases and software.  Nothing that would leave a trace on his regular OS.

…alright. Secrecy required?

He unplugged the fiber-optic cables and disabled the wireless.

The precautions were little use if he was already being watched, but it made him feel better.

Who’s watching you? The PRT?

Once his computer was isolated from outside influences, he withdrew a USB cable from one drawer, plugging one end into the keyboard.  He reached up to one ear and withdrew an earbud.  The other end of the USB cable connected to it.

ASCII art of Kid Win’s face popped up as the earbud connected to the computer, along with the text, ‘thank you’.

Oh right, this part of the chapter’s plot. The thing he had Kid doing.

I love how cheeky Kid can be sometimes. 😛

But also… he’s saying “thank you”, not “you’re welcome”. He took a moment to add this thanks for their conversation before saying he was done. Aww.