Awesome! It makes me very happy to hear that, and I wish you the best of luck! 😀 (By the way, assuming you’ll be doing it on a sideblog, feel free to drop me an ask with the liveblog’s url – as long as the url doesn’t turn out to be spoilery somehow, of course […]

End of Buzz 7.7

Welcome to the combat section. 🙂

I’d say I was spot on with my prediction at the start of the chapter, which I feel is worth noting because that doesn’t happen all that often. 😛

Purity seems to be the Arc boss, which ought to be interesting, but first we need to deal with the first airbender (of the story), mister dog and sportsbug. More specifically, Taylor needs to deal with Stormtiger, seeing as his enhanced sense of smell and ability to push away the darkness makes Grue’s power somewhat ineffective against him.

Once Stormtiger is defeated or outmaneuvered, the two of them might be able to make a run for it, but I wouldn’t bet on it succeeding. Although… it’d be very difficult to take out Hookwolf with bugs. Taylor would have to strike while he’s not transformed, and during battle, I’m not sure that’s ever going to be the case. As such, the continuation of the plot might actually require either backup or escape. (Doesn’t mean Cricket can’t get in the way first, though.)

But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. See y’all next time for Taylor and Brian versus Stormtiger!

He used one of the translucent blades on his hand to tap the side of his tiger mask’s nose as he turned to look down at me.  When he spoke, his voice was deeper than Brian’s, “Don’t need to see you, sweetie.”

I was really, really growing to hate enhanced senses.

Haha, yeah, that’s caused quite a lot of trouble, hasn’t it. Lung’s enhanced hearing, Bakuda’s apparent ability to detect the Undersiders in the darkness (although didn’t that turn out to be her simply predicting their movements?), Armsmaster’s tech workaround for the darkness (which shouldn’t work unless different types/wavelengths of sound are differently affected), and now this.

Grue blanketed the back doors of the ambulance in darkness to mute the noise as he cracked it open to cover the outside as well.  Noiselessly, the four of us backed out of the ambulance.

Four…? The driver, Grue, Skitter… *scrolls back* Oh, there was a woman in the front passenger seat. I completely missed that, focusing too much on the dialogue surrounding that bit of narration.

Grue flooded the block with darkness, and I scattered my bugs out from the surrounding area and the compartments in the ambulance’s interior to follow in the wake of the darkness, spacing them out to cover the ground and the other objects around us, giving myself a swarm-sense of my surroundings.

I know I’ve said this a few times now, but I love how this has become a standard tactic.

I grabbed the hand of the woman ‘paramedic’ and pulled her away from the middle of the street, toward the sidewalk.  Brian brought the driver in the same general direction.

My bugs felt someone come after us, fast.

Ah, shit. I guess Hookwolf’s metal form might have some way of sensing through the darkness?

I didn’t have time to get out of the way and lead Coil’s faux paramedic to safety as well, so I shoved her in one direction and leaped in the other.  The man leapt into the space we’d vacated, and I felt a rush of wind set my hair to whipping around my face.

Hm, wind seems to imply Stormtiger.

There was an explosion of sorts, a blast of wind powerful enough to lift me off the ground and push away a fair share of Grue’s darkness.  Stormtiger stood in the epicenter of the clearing, reforming the translucent ‘claws’ around his raised left hand.

Definitely an airbender.

I wonder, is Cricket obnoxiously loud at night?

Stormtiger, the man with the chains and tiger mask, and Cricket, the girl, apparently tied back to the same circles of parahuman prize fighters that Hookwolf had once been part of.  I couldn’t begin to guess their motivations for following him, but I suppose it hardly mattered.  Hookwolf was dangerous enough on his own.  With friends?

“We run,” I muttered.

Yeah, if you can, you should. It’s the only way to salvage the “no direct confrontation before meeting up” thing, and also what gives the best chance of survival at this point.

So, uh, the driver? Is he still alive, or…?

Hookwolf and his buddies had their backs turned to us and were walking toward the police barricade.  Stormtiger flexed his hands, and the air blurred around them, congealed into a half-dozen pale, translucent blades that jutted from each hand.

“We have guns,” spoke the driver, “We shoot them from behind.”

Okay, so a) the driver is alive. I think I misinterpreted the exact location of Hookwolf back there, reading him as having ended up inside the car, while he was actually just in front of it.

And b) Stormtiger, as expected, has an offensive power on top of his tankiness. It seems to be a form of airbending with which he can form things such as these “claws” out of thin air – literally, by thickening it to the point where it’s practically solid?

“No,” Brian spoke, “It won’t hurt Hookwolf, and I suspect Cricket and Stormtiger could do something about it, or they wouldn’t be so brazen about walking towards those cops.  Skitter is right.  We retreat.  Ready?”

Yeah, let’s go.

The blender of dangerous looking metal bits dissolved, each of the hooks and blades retracting into the skin of the man at the center of the thing’s chest.  As the front legs withdrew into his shoulders, he dropped into a crouch on the street.

Eyy, I was right. Transformation power!

He wore a wolf mask of sheet metal that had been crudely bent into place, framed by long, greasy blond hair.  Hookwolf.

Rumor had it that Hookwolf, back in the day, had been one of the top fighters in a parahuman fighting ring in New York.  He’d grown greedy, killed the man that ran it for access to the vault with the night’s earnings, and had made a good number of enemies in the process.

A parahuman fighting ring, huh? Interesting.

And these days he’s running dog fighting rings, at the very least. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.

It had been a group of white supremacists local to that area that had given him shelter and support, happy to side with him because the man he’d killed had been an ‘acceptable target’.

Ah, naturally.

Maybe the ideology was real for Hookwolf from day one, maybe it was an act that had become reality when he found he enjoyed having people celebrate him for enacting his most twisted impulses and racking up a body count.  Either way, I suspected that  there were few things he wouldn’t do for his ‘Empire’ nowadays.

Either way, he’s a piece of shit.

It was hollow, its limbs were thinner than the dogs, and I couldn’t really draw a line between what was the actual ‘meat’ of the body and what wasn’t, because the entire thing was a chainsaw whir of serrated blades, hooks and needle points, shuffling and shifting around one another, rising and falling, all moving too fast for the eye to follow.  Altogether, it maintained a general quadruped shape with a tail and elongated snout.

This is clearly Hookwolf’s doing. I mean, it’s literally a wolf made out of weapons, among them hooks.

Or maybe this is a transformation-based power and this is literally Hookwolf himself.

Walking on either side of it were two people.  There was a pale, tall man with the sort of muscle-heavy build you only saw on cons and bodybuilders.  He wore black slacks that were in tatters around his feet, had chains wrapped around his forearms, hands and calves, and a blue-white tiger mask.

Stormtiger. Definitely does look like a tanky fellow.

I guess the other person is Cricket, then?

On the opposite side of the metal beast was a twenty-something girl with a gymnast’s build and scars criss-crossing her exposed skin.  Her hair was shorn to a bleached blond buzz cut, and her face was covered by a metal cage.

Named after a tank model in turn named after the animal, dressed like a player of the sport. Well played. :p

Grue rubbed the back of his neck, “I’m not sure I’m as good a person as you’re making me out-”

An impact rocked the ambulance, tossing Grue out of his seat and nearly knocking me heels over head.  The ambulance veered out of the driver’s control, tipped, and landed on its side, bringing Grue against the underside of the stretcher I’d been sitting on.

Well, then. This surely isn’t a good thing.

Did Purity spot them?

The spare gurney and the contents of drawers and lockers around the interior spilled free and scattered around us.

“Fuck!” the driver swore.  “Fuckshit!”

*pat pat* Don’t worry, it’s okay, just let it out.

I pulled free of the tubes and the half of a gurney that had fallen around me, and crawled toward the front to look between the two front seats.

It didn’t look so different from Bitch’s dogs in general shape.  It was a little larger, too, maybe, but that was a hard call to make.

Fuck. Fuckshit.

We slowed down, and Grue leaned towards the front of the ambulance,  “What’s the holdup?”

“Blockade coming up,” the driver spoke.  He and the woman in the passenger seat were Coil’s people, decked out in paramedic’s uniforms.  “No sweat.”

Yeah, probably a good call to block off non-ambulance drivers from going into the area.

He flipped a switch, and the siren blared.  Seconds later, he was revving up and moving without difficulty.  I looked through the rear window, and saw a line of police cars and PRT vans behind us, moving to close the gap they’d just opened in their formation.

“Hey, are we okay?” Grue asked me.  He was outfitted in costume, helmet on and visor down.

Ah, here we go. Regardless of whether they are or not, the two of them really need to be on the same page about this, ideally before the combat.


“I get the feeling you’re angry.”

“If I’m angry at anyone for that thing outside the mall, it’s myself.  Can we just drop that topic forever and forget it ever happened?”

From a rational point of view, I don’t think you should be angry at anyone for it, but I get it.

“No, no.  I mean, are you angry that I didn’t jump out of my seat to go fight Empire Eighty Eight, before we knew everything that was at stake?”

Ah, yeah. I should’ve mentioned this too, two comments back. I thought about it, figured there might be some residual bitterness about that on top of the mall thing. Not sure why I didn’t say anything.

That said, I don’t think Taylor is the type to hold a grudge about this kind of disagreement, but it might make her view of Brian a little less overwhelmingly positive.

“Oh,” I flushed, and my ear throbbed in response to the rush of blood.  Could’ve kicked myself.  “I honestly don’t know.  I wasn’t expecting it.  I see the lengths you go through to take care of your… family member, I think of you as a pretty honorable guy, you know?”  This was veering closer to the conversation-that-was-not-to-be-spoken-of than I’d like.  I deliberately left that thought hanging.

I guess Taylor is seeing that Brian is closer to true neutral than neutral good on the DnD alignment chart.