Man, 404 followers. This is a number that means a lot to me personally. To me, it has come to represent friendship and community (no, not because “error 404: friends not found”, though the infamous HTML error does have a part in it), so I feel like this is a good milestone to celebrate. I […]

End of Buzz 7.8

That was a pretty decent fight. Between oxygen tanksplosions and darkened knife attacks, Grue and Taylor used some neat tactics to deal with the three rather tough enemies they faced. Speaking of which, it’s pretty clear that the difficulty of the enemies in the story is increasing.

Next up is Purity, unless another random encounter gets in the way, which likely won’t happen. Tattle seems to have some time-sensitive knowledge that can help, but I don’t think we’re going to learn whatever it is until it’s already being used – the timing of the chapter ending and Tattle saying she’ll tell the others about it during an activity we’ve already skipped over once before seems perfect for an unspoken plan guarantee. So hopefully next time we’ll get to see that unspoken plan played out!

See you then!

I swallowed, nodded, turned my attention back to the bag of medical stuff, and found the needle and thread.

“Like you said before,” I told Grue, quiet, pulling the pre-threaded needle free of the spool, “Let me apologize in advance.”

“Damn it,” he muttered.

Hehehe.

Turnabout is fair play.

“We go straight for Purity.”

“Fuck that,” Grue shook his head, “There’s no way.”

I’ll admit her powers come with a high risk of vaporization of both dogs, bugs, and people, and her flight makes it very difficult for the dogs to be much help. It’s not an even battle by any stretch of the imagination.

All the better for a boss battle, though.

“Way,” Tattletale retorted.  “It’s not pretty, it’s risky, but it’s our best bet at ending this, one way or another.  Thing is, we’ve got to move fast or our opportunity will disappear.

Opportunity… is there something you’re not telling us yet?

Skitter, we’d better get started on the stitches, I’ll explain while we do it.”

Ah, fair enough.

Tattletale turned to me, “Here, give me that.  I’ll work on his arm.”

I duly handed over the cleaning solution and some antiseptic wipes.  I heard Grue mutter, “Shit, I hope Cricket isn’t the type to put poison on her weapon.”

That would suck.

It would also explain her feeling less of a need to cut deep.

“Don’t say that!” I gasped, horrified.

“Not to worry, either of you,” Tattletale sounded exasperated.  “My power says no.”

Ah, good.

I nodded, but my heartbeat was still cranked up a notch from that momentary alarm.  When I glanced up from the stash of medical stuff I’d grabbed from the ambulance to see how Tattletale was doing with Grue’s arm, I saw Grue’s skull-visor pointed at me.  Was he looking at me?  What was he thinking?  What expression was on his face?

Maybe he’s studying how Taylor is reacting to him being hurt. Seeing how much she cares.

“I’m thinking guerrilla strikes,” Grue spoke, turning to Tattletale, “We have the dogs, we use their mobility to harass, catch any roaming groups off guard, take them down, disappear before reinforcements or heroes show.”

Hm, might work out. I do think we’re gonna have to directly fight Purity by the end of the Arc, though.

Tattletale shook her head, “One problem with that.”

“Which is?”

She pointed at his chest.  “You may not be poisoned, but you’ve lost some blood.  I’d lay even money that you’d pass out if you did something as high exertion as riding the dogs.”

Damn.

“Don’t take a bet with Tattle,” Regent chimed in, “She cheats.”

Hehe. I’m sure you’re talking from experience… in fact, didn’t the two of you bet on whether Taylor would show up for that second meeting?

“We need to end this fast,” Tattletale said.  “Not just because of Grue’s injuries, but because Purity’s going to wipe out our neighborhood soon if someone doesn’t stop her.  We take the most direct action we can.”

“Direct action,” I echoed her.  I didn’t like the sound of that.

Straight to the source.

“Grue!” Tattletale leapt from her seat.  “What happened?”

“Ran across Hookwolf, Stormtiger and Cricket.  Those three like to cut people,” Grue spoke.  “We were lucky to get away as intact as we did.”

Huh, I suppose that is the common thread between them, besides being E88ers under Purity’s command.

“Sit,” I ordered Grue.  Hissing between his teeth, he pulled off his jacket, then turned his attention to his T-shirt, which was sticking to his chest with the blood that had leaked from the cuts.  Rather than have to remove his helmet and drag the cloth over his injured chest and arm, he tore his shirt where it had been cut, and pulled it off in tatters.

He may not want to date Taylor, but at least he’ll rip his shirt off for her.

He sat down, shirtless, his helmet on.  I began getting the stuff out to clean his wounds[.]

“Did you guys run into trouble?” Grue asked.

“Just enough that we’ve been getting a little restless. Bitch took down some thugs, but they scattered, and word’s probably out that we’re in the area.”

Hm. I guess that means Purity will be prepared, but that was the case anyway, considering she practically invited them.

“Purity?” He asked.

“She’s out there,” Regent spoke, in his characteristic distracted, disaffected manner, “We saw the lights and heard the noise as she was knocking down more buildings.  She moved away from this area a little while ago.”

At least she didn’t go after this church. Might not be a coincidence – murderous rage or not, I can imagine Purity maybe being somewhat Christian, although she’s certainly not acting in the spirit of the religion.

We stopped at an old church with boards up where there should have been stained glass windows.  Litter and more than one half-full trash bag occupied the ground at the base of the building.  Together, we walked inside.

Looks like we’re taking a formerly religious pitstop.

Is this where we’re supposed to meet up with the rest of the gang, or are we just stopping here to stitch up Brian?

Regent was perched on the lip of the stage beneath the altar.  Tattletale sat on the back of one of the benches, her feet resting on the seat.  Bitch paced at the rear of the church, the point farthest from the front door, and her dogs moved like gargantuan silhouettes in the darkness of the aisles.

Howdy, everyone!

If it weren’t for the light filtering in between the plywood on the windows, I wasn’t sure I would have known they were there.

Sounds like it’s quite dark in here, besides that little bit of light.

We were nearly four blocks away before Grue felt it safe to dismiss the darkness around us.  Rationally, I knew we were safer in the shadows, that it would prevent most ambushes, but a primal part of my psyche was glad to be in the light and noise once more.

Yeah, I can’t imagine the darkness doesn’t weigh on you psychologically after a while.

I shot Grue another worried look as we walked.  “Looks like it’s my turn to give you some stitches.  You going to be okay?”

“Fuck.”  He touched his chest tenderly, not giving me a direct answer.

Just said all you needed to, pal.

“What were her powers?  Overclocked reflexes and what was it you said?  Radar?”

Sonar.

“Enhanced reflexes is a better guess than what I’d come up with.  She was making some sort of subsonic drone.  It was the source of that disorientation effect.  She could use it like echolocation or something.” 

“It’s times like this I can say it’s worth having Tattletale on the team.  I hate not knowing someone’s powers.”

Heh, I know how that is.

Although for me it’s not a matter of life and death.

Grue opened a path in the darkness for the faux paramedic, we checked that she was alive, and then helped her limp to the ambulance, with me doing most of the heavy work for once.

Oh, good, Cricket didn’t make good on her attempted threat when Grue blocked her.

I hurried to grab some first aid supplies, packing ointments, pills and bandages into a bag.  Coil’s soldiers retreated back toward the police barricade before I was finished, each supporting the other.

Problem: The E88ers were going to attack that barricade. Hookwolf might still be in a condition to do so – are the police there capable of defending themselves against a solo Hookwolf?

Grue flooded more of the area with darkness while I gathered most of the swarm back around myself.  I left only the bare minimum of bugs necessary to navigate the sightless world of Grue’s power and the ones I needed to track Hookwolf’s presence.

Nice. Good to stay aware of where he is, in case he comes after you.

There were more I couldn’t touch because they were caught helpless in the endless, subsonic drone that Cricket still emanated, but I had enough that I could deal.

Eyy, infrasound confirmed!

I mean, besides the things I mentioned about known effects of infrasound on humans, it was a 50/50 shot, but still.

We hurried away before Hookwolf thought to attack the spot where the ambulance had crashed.

Time to skitter out of here!

An uglier wound marked his right arm from elbow to wrist, all the more visible because the cut had extended to the cuff of his costume, leaving the sleeve to hang loose around his elbow.

Ouch.

“Looks worse than it is.  I’ve fought people like her before, in sparring and fighting classes.  She was showing off with the first few cuts.  Shallow, inflicting pain, not really meant to disable or deal real harm.”

Huh… why, though. Just showing off, or not actually wanting to harm the enemies too much, á la Taylor?

“That’s stupid,” I muttered.  “I’m glad, but it’s stupid.”

Yeah, in an actual life and death fight, it really is.

“She probably didn’t think about it.  I’d bet it’s something she learned and incorporated into her style while fighting for a crowd.”

Oh right, the fighting ring. No fun for the audience if one of the fighters is dead in three seconds flat.

He looked over in Hookwolf’s direction, then winced at how the movement pulled against his injured chest.  “We should go.”

“Agreed.”

Yeah, if you can get away without fighting Hookwolf more than absolutely necessary, that would be good.