End of Colony 15.2

Well, that went well.

This chapter is very much a foil to the Undersiders’ previous encounter with Night and Fog and their teammates, clearly meant to emphasize how much they’ve grown. How much more powerful the Undersiders are now. It does this fairly well, with the Chosen being soundly defeated now that the Undersiders really know what they’re doing and have a few more resources available. Notably, Shatterbird and Imp were important for finishing this.

The chapter did feel a bit odd at the end. I guess I’m just not used to this kind of decisive victory, after three and a half Arcs of dealing with the Nine, but also, the final stretch really just had me thinking “alright, so they won… what next, when does the other shoe drop?”

And it turns out that the other shoe was the fact that Lisa and Alec didn’t tell Taylor about a part of their plans. That’s worrying, because secrecy and tension internally are two of the last things the Undersiders need if they’re going to take on Coil.

Next chapter, we’ll probably skip ahead to the Undersiders doing something with whichever member they’re borrowing alongside them. I suppose now that the Chosen are dealt with, the next item on the list might be… uh… yeah, no, I don’t know. The cards are pretty close to the Undersiders’ chests right now.

Maybe I’ll have some better speculations, on that and on whom they’re borrowing, by the start of the next chapter.

So yeah! See you then!

…that was the ending line? Dammit.

That both frustrates me because I wanted to know which member they were borrowing, and worries me because it suggests that this point of tension is important. Lisa, what are you up to?

“Tax?”  Othala asked.

“Tax.  Imp and I are going to step into the basement of that building over there,” Tattletale pointed, “And relieve you of every valuable we can carry.”

How can you be sure there are val– oh, right.

“You assholes!” Rune growled.  She started to stand, then fell to the ground, hard.  Imp had pushed her.  I tried to hide my own surprise at the girl’s sudden appearance.

Hehe.

The others looked somewhat intimidated as well.

“But that’s not enough, is it?  So there’s another tax.  We’re borrowing one of your teammates.”

Oooh, now this is the kind of interesting shit I was looking forward to.

So would this teammate be getting controlled by Regent, or are they expecting whichever one it’d be (Night, perhaps? Or… who would be most helpful against Coil?) to cooperate willingly?

The Chosen weren’t the only ones who looked shocked at the declaration.  I snapped my head around to look at Regent.  There was no surprise there.

I suppose Lisa might’ve planned this with him ahead of time. That, or he’s just too used to this kind of thing.

Fuck them.  They’d planned this, and they hadn’t told me.

Uh oh. Let’s keep the internal tension low, please.

“You’re in our territory,” Tattletale told them.  “Get out.”

“You’ve taken this whole fucking city as your territory,” Rune retorted, scowling.

Yes, exactly.

“Your point being?” Regent asked.

“Where are we supposed to go?”

Somewhere else.

“Leave the city, retard.”  Imp said.

“You can’t just take the whole city.”

I didn’t feel like Imp and Regent were giving the impression of strength.  I spoke before they could.  “We already have.  We fought the Nine and played a pretty big part in taking out more than half of them.”  I pointed at Shatterbird, “Case in point.  You took advantage of that to try to claim some territory for yourselves.  Not only is that awfully pathetic, but you proved yourselves hypocrites, doing exactly what Hookwolf accused us of doing.”

That they did! Verbal salt on the wounds, here.

“We staked out our claim.  It’s our right.”

“Your right?  On what grounds?  Strength?  We have you beat there.  Did you earn it?  No.  I think my team has you beat on both points.”

“We’ve got a destiny to manifest.”

“Now,” Tattletale stepped forward, “Here’s the thing.  We can’t let you get away with this unscathed.  So we’re taxing you.”

Ooh, what’s Lisa’s idea of a fitting tax here?

Rune was kneeling, bleeding from shallow cuts across her face, chest, ribs, stomach and thighs.  She was using her power on a scarf to bind the wounds tight.

Interrogation?

Othala was standing off to one side, hurt as well.  Victor was bound.

None of them were meeting our gaze.  We’d won to the extent that it was embarrassing to them.

Fuck yes.

You don’t mess with the Undersiders anymore.

“Got her,” she said, “Fuck yes.  You can’t tell me that wasn’t awesome.”

“Good job.  Now don’t take your eyes off her.  She heals back to pristine condition the second you blink.”

Oh right, I forgot about that. That’s really troublesome.

“We take turns blinking?”  She asked.

“Sure.  Blink on five.  One, two, three, four, five…” I said.  I waited until the second count and started blinking on three.

This is good in theory, but sounds difficult to keep up in practice. At least with two people here it’s gonna take more to get them both blinking at once.

We draped Night across Atlas and hurried back toward the others, continuing the count.

Shatterbird had Fog trapped in a box of glass, layers upon layers.

Hah, nice! Contain that fucker!

Every time a puff of smoke escaped, a layering of glass shards covered the gap.  My allies were all standing, and our enemies were soundly defeated.

Good job, guys! You’ve come a long way since Buzz.

After a quick exchange to ensure we were sharing the duties of watching Night, I freed myself to check the scene with my eyes, rather than my swarm-sense.

Looks like we’re slipping out of line-by-line narration here, to save some time on the wrap-up of this attack.

But what are we fast-forwarding to?

She collapsed to the ground.

Well then.

So… venom?

I suppose it’s possible that Night’s power is just exhausted, but Night didn’t seem to know what was going on.

Wary of a feint, I approached with care.

Imp stood over Night, holding a taser.

Ohhhhh.

Nice work, Imp. This is the kind of thing you’re really good for, your niche on the team! Assassinations and confusion.

I caught up a few seconds later, stopping Atlas so we circled directly above her.

She glanced around, looked up at me, then bolted for a restaurant with a tattered canopy over what had been an outdoor patio.

It didn’t sound like Taylor was the one observing Night, but Night appears to think she was. If I’m right, this suggests that whoever did observe her is somewhat hidden.

She disappeared from my sight for an instant, but she didn’t change.

Yep. Someone else is looking, and their position isn’t obvious to Night. Or even Taylor, by the looks of it.

Could there be someone who’s hidden by a power, or is it just a civilian peeping from a window or something like that?

The smoke canisters came out, but my bugs had lagged behind.  Anticipating another rush for my teammates, I piloted Atlas to a position between Night and the others.

Smart. Might as well get the head start if you can.

The smoke spilled out around her, but again, she didn’t change.

Alright. Honestly, I half expected this, even.

So whoever is watching can see through the smoke in some way. It’s not even that they can sense through the smoke – Taylor can do that – they can see through it.

Or maybe they don’t need to. Maybe this person can turn into a small creature of some variety and is actually on Night.

There was the worst case scenario that she’d get close enough to kill someone in the span that a flashbang blinded us-  I wasn’t oblivious to that.

That would really not be ideal.

I was gaining on her, slowly but surely.  My heart pounded in my chest as I sensed her closing the gap between herself and the others, my eyes and my bugs scanning the surroundings so I could calculate the best position.  It wouldn’t matter how close I got to Night if there was a building blocking my view of her.

Night is actually a very interesting enemy for Taylor considering that Taylor can usually fight effectively from a distance – she’s had some enemies she never even saw – but Night’s power forces her to try for line of sight. And that’s in addition to the fact that Taylor’s one of the best perspectives for us to see Night from, due to the swarm sense circumventing the usual inability to witness her monster form.

She stopped.

What’s up, Night? Did something unexpected turn up?

Or, more appropriately, she shifted gears from zig-zagging from one piece of cover to another to running at human speed.

Such as someone who could see her.

Is it just a random civilian, or someone more important to the story?