“Something to keep in mind,” I said.

“Something to exploit?”

I glanced at her in surprise, and she shrugged.

What, you’re surprised that Lisa would suggest this?

“Elaborate?  You’re not suggesting we ally with them, are you?”

“Fuck yes!” Imp skipped halfway across the road to join us.  “Finally, an argument I can get into.  No way are we allying with the skinheads.”

Hah! Reading that line by line, scrolling down on a narrow portion of screen was… interesting.

But yeah, I’m with Aisha.

“There’s that.  Stormtiger and Cricket have been Hookwolf’s followers for a while.  I could see how they might feel that it was their due to get a turn.

Let’s have some E22s for a while, shall we?

But when you get down to E11s, it’s time to stop. Not because having that many white supremacist groups in the story would be a bit much, but because E5.5 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

There’s also the fact that Hookwolf was probably engaging in some propaganda against Purity, in case she tried poaching from his team.  So you’ve got the overall group split between the Chosen and the Pure we’ve had for a few weeks now.

Ah, yeah, makes sense.

Then you’ve got another split within the Chosen, with the loyal and the brainwashed, and the, um.  Not sure what to call them.”

…hm?

The… forced?

That doesn’t seem like Hookwolf’s style, though. That was Bakuda.

“The free thinkers?” I offered.

“If you can call a neo-nazi a free thinker,” Tattletale conceded.

Ah, the ones who are not so loyal or brainwashed anymore?

“So it’s a prime opportunity to strike, then,” I concluded.

“Maybe.  Or maybe they’re in the same straits as us.  They could be feeling the same kind of pressure from multiple directions.”

Potentially causing them to lash out?

I’d do an “Undersiders vs the Forsaken” post, but I’m far from done with my Wheel of Time re-experiencing, so there are a bunch of them that I don’t really remember that well yet, especially what they’re like in combat.

There’s also the issue that they’re not limited to about one to three main powers like Worm characters – they’re among the strongest and most versatile magic users in the series, due to being big-shot magic users before a ton of magic knowledge was lost in the Breaking of the World. That versatility makes comparisons much more difficult.

The Undersiders’ only advantage here is that the Forsaken are a disjointed bunch that usually work individually and can be manipulated into turning on each other.

Other than that, they’re fucked.

…wait, did I just accidentally do a rudimentary “Undersiders vs the Forsaken” post while explaining why a proper one would be difficult for me to do right now?

“I’m good,” Imp said.  Regent chuckled a little.

Tattletale said, “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been happening with the Chosen and Purity’s group.  The white supremacists keep losing leaders.  Kaiser got offed by Leviathan, now we’ve got a brainwashed Hookwolf running off with the Nine.

FUCK. I literally thought of that exact thing earlier tonight. Why the hell didn’t I mention it?

I even specifically thought about how they both got taken out of the immediate story by the major, massive-killcount threats.

The natural thing for the group to do would be to fall in under Purity, but there’s some snags.”

Was there another reason why E88 split into E44s, besides differing opinions on who had the right to become the new leader?

“Some Chosen thinking they want to be leaders?” I asked.

This sentence suddenly reminded me that the Forsaken, a group of 13 major antagonists from the Wheel of Time series, call themselves the Chosen. They’re Chosen by the Dark One, and Forsaken by the Light.

I’d be a lot more concerned about the Undersiders going up against that lot than against the confused remainder of Hookwolf’s gang.

Anyway, do the Chosen – the ones in Worm – even know what happened to Hookwolf?

“And you?” she asked me.  “You’re good?”

“Guilty about leaving my people to their own devices,” I admitted, “But I’m glad we’re working through this stuff.”

You’re not answering what she seems to really be asking from the context here, but it’s still a refreshing bit of honesty. It really is nice that they’re working through this, too. Maybe we can lighten Taylor’s burden of guilt for a few seconds.

“Speaking of,” she said.  “We’ve got the mayoral elections coming up in a week and a half.  They were thinking about canceling them, but with the Nine gone, they’re apparently wanting to get things closer to normal.”

“What does this mean for us?” I asked.

I caught a glimpse of Imp nudging Regent, in a ‘see, see?’ kind of way.  She muttered something about the trio.

Hehe. Yep, the trio members are talking now, kids.

The mayoral elections are relevant because Coil wanted to semi-legally take control of the city, right?

“On the upside, Coil has two agents as mayoral candidates, so he’ll be focused on that.

Ahh. That makes a ton more sense than he himself running for mayor.

On the downside, it’s another thing we have to take into consideration.  We could throw a wrench into that situation, to slow him down in his takeover and buy ourselves time to leverage the situation to our advantage, but I’m wondering if it’s really worth it with our other time constraints.”

How much power does the mayor even really have over Brockton Bay in its current state?

And that’s without considering the whole condemnation thing.

“The primary one being Dinah getting her powers back,” I said.  I turned to the other two, “Are you wanting to chime in instead of poking fun?”

“Nahh.”

And he calls me the dork?

Hah.

I ignored them up until we met up with Tattletale.

“No Grue?” she asked.

He was so broad-shouldered today, there was no gruem for him on the street.

“He’s tired,” Imp said, shrugging free of Regent’s arm, which had stayed in place since they began their play-acting.  “Not sleeping these days.”

I suppose he’s not having a great time after his, um, encounter with Bonesaw.

“We should address that soon,” Tattletale said.  “We’ve seen how mistakes happen when some of us get too fatigued.  With the way things are stacked against us, we could wind up with another few days of concentrated activity, and running on empty from the start could spell bad things.”

The saying in Norway is that without food and drink, the hero doesn’t function, but that absolutely applies to villains too.

She glanced at me.  Fine, I’d own up to it.  I’d fallen into that trap.  I nodded an agreement.

Hehe.

I for one know nothing about fucked up sleep schedules and certainly don’t have an entire gaggle of people over on Discord telling me to sleep at any given time of day, no sirree.

“I wouldn’t have minded,” Imp said.  “I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but I’d like to follow along.  And I can’t figure out my niche in the group with the trio being so… trio-ish.”

The trio! Heh. I like how the newcomer is the one who finally points out in-story the dynamic of Taylor, Brian and Lisa having the tightest connection and the most relevance, while the remaining three are the flanks of the team narratively.

Which is actually reflected in the piece I brought up in the previous post, with Alec, Aisha and Rachel being literally in the flanks (though Rachel is a bit more in the foreground than the other two).

Anyway, I officially predict that this is going to be Aisha’s arc in this, well, Arc. She’s probably going to be critical to success. Which makes a lot of sense considering the way Coil’s power works – it’ll be far less useful to him if he doesn’t know there’s a threat. That’s one of the main reasons for the sneaky planning in the first place.

“Trio-ish?” I asked.

“Tattletale, you and my brother.  Making all the plans, you’ve got the nemeses…” Imp paused.  “Is nemeses a word?”

Yes.

“Yeah,” I said.

And you three have the brains, of course,” she stabbed a finger in my direction, as if it was an accusation, “Which leaves Regent, me and Bitch, following along, expected to obediently do as we’re told.”

She’s absolutely right.

Though some of that seems to be because they haven’t tried very hard to contribute in the same ways the trio does.

I suppose it’s a good thing Brian and Rachel aren’t here. I don’t think either of them would like to hear this. Though Lisa would be fine with it, I think.

“Let’s quit and start our own group!”  Regent said, throwing one arm across Imp’s shoulders and gesturing dramatically with the other as he continued, “Regent, Imp, and Bitch, the Othersiders, a spin-off team.

Ahaha!

There are plenty of fanfics about the Othersiders, right?

And we’ll stick with Coil while the others turn traitor, and we’ll have this epic fight…”

I mean I was pretty much theorizing that exact thing for a while there.

Minus Imp, I suppose, but that’s because I literally forgot she existed while I was theorizing on it.

Imp took his cue, “And Brian and I will go head to head, and it’ll end in this dramatic moment where he says something pretentious-”

You know, I’ve said before that I like these two together, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually put it like this: I think I ship it.

“Et tu, sis?”

Ahahaha!

“And then I’ll say ‘Yeah, it’s me’ and finish him!  No mercy.”

They were playing off one another, joking.

Yes, thank you, Taylor, I could tell.

And it is delightful.

“Whatcha thinking, dork?”

“You’re still calling me that?”

This isn’t the format of text messages in this story, so Alec and Taylor are either in the same place or talking over the phone. The latter sounds unlikely from what’s being said.

And if they’re in the same place, it’s probably morning. Let’s go attack the Chosen. Maybe. Or maybe that’s high-priority but not quite first on the list of to-dos.

Regent chuckled.  He was walking down the center of the street with Imp.  I was keeping to the sidewalk out of habit, and because the raised concrete path was fractionally higher, so I wasn’t wading in quite so much water.

I’m reminded of this piece of fanart by ImSkeptical:

Though it seems like Skitter and Impgent have switched places.

And the others might not be here? At least Taylor hasn’t described their placements yet.

“Just thinking about priorities,” I told him.

“Yeah, Tattletale kept trying to rope me into the planning phase last night.  Not my thing.”

Heh. Fair enough.

Planning is not really my thing either, even though I prefer to know what I’m doing.

Except we hadn’t been able to break away from planning, and just going by his participation in our exchange of texts and calls, Grue hadn’t managed to rest much.

So they’re like a D&D group, constantly messaging each other about the next session.

It’s kind of adorable.

We’d arranged plans, discussed priorities, sent messages to Coil, tracked down information from our various underlings, and in the doing, we’d managed to hash out a general game plan.

Sweet. Any chance you’re going to share any part of that plan with me before I get to watch it unfold?

Not that that would be a particularly good idea considering certain narrative tropes regarding plans and the sharing of them with the audience.

So is this the setting of this chapter? Their D&D group chat?

Or maybe a complication is about to arise before they even start executing the plan? Perhaps one that Taylor can’t tell the others about or something?

With a hundred problems we needed to handle, we’d agreed the most important thing was to deal with the most inevitable ones.

They’re just gonna go ahead and deal with the apocalyptic threat in this Arc, no big deal.

Okay, so maybe that’s not one of their immediate problems. :p

There was no point in working out a complicated and involved attack plan against Coil if we didn’t wind up fighting him.  There was a point in dealing with the Chosen; they were bound to attack us at some point, regardless of how future events unfolded.  Better to take the fight to them.

Fair enough.

This sounds a lot like the way Dinah’s aid normally allows Coil to lay his plans. It also sounds a lot like chess.

So attacking the Chosen is a priority. Alright. I wonder who’s their leader now, if they’ve filled the spot. Cricket, perhaps?