I’d nearly forgotten about Bitch’s henchpeople in the chaos of dealing with the Nine and all of the fallout that had ensued.  I realized I knew very little about them.

Well, time to find out!

To my surprise, it was Biter who did the talking.  He had a low voice, and his words were muddled by some combination of the mouthgear and the underbite.  “You get along.”

Are you sure he’s the oaf?

And yeah, it seems they do. Who’d have thought that your boss could get along with someone!

I folded my arms.

He spread his hands, “How?”

“How do Bitch and I get along?” I asked.

With difficulty.

He nodded.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable talking behind her back.”

The girl with her arm in a sling spoke up, “She acts like she’s frustrated with us.  And I think we’re frustrated with her.”

I suppose to some extent she is frustrated. With herself and with Coil. With herself because she has trouble understanding you, and with Coil for forcing her to try.

“I don’t want to be rude, but that’s really her business with you.”  They’re her property, her territory.  If I screwed around with her minions or started something, it would effectively be stepping on her toes.

Yeeah, she would probably not like that very much.

“You can’t offer us any tips?” she asked.

She looked so hopeful.  Damn it.

Maybe just a tiny one?

“I can, but it’s going to sound pretty damn basic.  Be honest, be absolutely clear in what you’re saying.  Be obedient, but be assertive.  Don’t let her walk all over you or she will walk all over you.  At the same time, if you think there’s something worth arguing over, be prepared to fight tooth and nail for it, because you’ll be in a weaker position if you fight over it and lose.  Respect her space and her things, and remember that she’s your boss above all else.”

There are a lot of things that should cancel each other out here but don’t, and it’s no wonder she’s hard to deal with.

Also, I wonder if anyone’s going to recognize this as how you handle dogs. I mean, these people are experts in that, right?

“She doesn’t act like a boss,” Barker said, and he made it sound almost insulting.  Puffs of the dark smoke spilled from his mouth with each word, but they seemed to carry further than cigarette smoke would.

Careful, there might be liches around, feeding on your smoke.

It seemed to be tied to the stress or emphasis on the sounds that drove it forward.

Makes sense, what with the way you push those sounds out more.

“She does her own thing and she leaves us to clean up shit.”

I mean, that’s what some bosses do. Though you may have expected to be higher up in the hierarchy.

“Can you blame us?” Tattletale gave him a shrug.  “We were talking about how to kill you guys.”

“That’s a topic that heavily concerns us, don’t you think?”

I wasn’t the only member of our group to look at her in horror.

Ahaha! Did they think the Slaughterhouse members – or Jack, at least – weren’t aware of that?

Jack laughed.  A little too hard for whatever it was he’d found funny about her statement.  “Of course, I already knew you were plotting against us, and you knew I knew.”

Let’s not go down that particular verbal cliché any further. :p

But hey, I suppose they did just compare Jack’s whole team to a chess set last chapter. There’s no game more heavily connected to that trope.

“Sure.”

“Here is what you need to know, Regent, Bitch.  Each of the Nine’s members get to put our recruits up to a test.  Some of us always give the same test, time after time, no matter the candidate.  Mannequin always asks candidates to alter themselves in a way that costs them something.

*80’s game show music plays somewhere in the background*

Siberian waits until half the candidates have been discarded and then hunts the remainder.”

I suppose that’s efficient.

“I hope she doesn’t catch you,” Bonesaw sounded disturbingly earnest as she spoke, “There’s no meat left for me to work with after she’s done.”

Nom nom nom.

Each had made their picks:

The buried girl.  The arrogant geek.  The dog lover.  The daydreamer.  The warlord.  The scaredy cat.  The broken assassin.  The crusader.

The Twins, The Lover, The Protector, The Lonely Journal Keeper, The Peacemaker and the Wordless One.

Okay, so I guess they can’t go pick someone else if they picked from a list in advance. That’s fair.

Let’s see…

  • The buried girl would be Noelle, located underground over an extended period of time.
  • The arrogant geek is obviously Armmaster. I wonder what he’d think of being called a geek.
  • The dog lover is similarly obvious, being Bitch.
  • The daydreamer sounds like Labyrinth, but did Burnscar really pick her out from a list of the most fucked up people of Brockton Bay? That doesn’t sound right. Though I suppose Labyrinth does have some pretty strong emotional issues that Newbie might pick up on.
  • I don’t even need to say who the rainbow one is, do I.
  • The warlord would be Hookwolf.
  • Oni Lee sounds like the scaredy cat for a moment due to his tendency to flee from battle, but he fits much better as the broken assassin, especially after what we learned in Jack’s Interlude.

That leaves us with the scaredy cat and the crusader for the Newbie and Bonesaw.

The crusader strikes me as a red herring. We have a character named the Crusader, and that’s exactly why I think it’s not him. Who else has the propensity for going on violent rampages for a specific cause? Hookwolf is taken (I suppose he could be the crusader and someone else is the warlord, but after that spiel about wishing he was in the ancient Roman military or something like it?), Kaiser is dead, and if it’s Purity, Jack made a huge faux pas by plotting to kill one of the others’ nominee. And Panacea, whom I’ve been speculating to be Bonesaw’s pick, is more altruistic and duty-bound than crusadery about healing people.

The scaredy cat… sounds like an odd sort of person to attempt to recruit. I really have no clue who this could be. It’s not Alec or Panacea, neither of those are characterized by fear. Also I get the feeling that there’s some hinting about them actually being cat-like or otherwise having something to do with cats, here, but the only character we know with a feline association is Siberian, who is obviously off the table.

…hm, I do suppose Alec might be characterized as a scaredy cat for escaping Heartbreaker, but that seems like a stretch considering he doesn’t actually appear to be scared.

Anyway, this is a really neat little rundown of the nominees. It would’ve been fun having this to speculate on earlier, though I get that it’d be a little too clear and would spoil some of the twists in the other Interludes when examined properly.

“Mannequin.”  Another long-distance shot.  The figure was standing by Bonesaw in the photograph, with other hulking figures within the shadows of the background.

If this were any other team I’d suggest they had control of mannequins much like Parian with stuffed animals, but with them being in the Slaughterhouse, I’m more inclined to say they like to make mannequins out of corpses.

He stood almost twice her height, and he looked artificial.  His body was in pieces, each section wrapped in a hard shell of ceramic or plastic or white-painted metal – I couldn’t be sure.

Huh. Or he might be a mannequin himself. Case 53?

Also, I’m getting heavy Adventure Zone vibes.

His joints were a mix of loose chains and ball joints.

Ahhh, guess Bonesaw wasn’t behind the chain corpse after all.

A Tinker with a body-modification fetish.  I couldn’t say how much of the transformation was his own power and how much was Bonesaw’s work.

…or maybe it’s a bit of both?