Glare – 3.4

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Kenzie sprinted toward the wall, and took a flying kick at it.  The wall broke, split at a diagonal, the upper half sliding down the split until the corner stabbed the ground.  Kenzie backed up swiftly before the section of wall toppled and fell to the ground.

“I’m clearly the strongest member of the team,” she said.

“You’re the lamest,” Chris said.

“Can I try it again?” Kenzie asked, ignoring Chris.  “Rain?”

“Be careful,” Sveta said.

“I will.  I want to test stuff.  Can I try it again?”

Rain stood from the rock he was sitting on, and held one hand out to the side.  The silver-white blade he created had a slight crescent shape to it.  He swung his arm and threw it, for lack of a better word.  It traced an arc, more a boomerang in flight than an arrow or thrown weapon, and cut deep into the wall that Tristan had left as a permanent fixture.  A silver-white line was left along the length of the wall.

Kenzie raised her flash gun, and she shot the wall.  Nothing happened.

She approached the wall, and she had her eyehook snake out from where it was attached to her belt, pincers open, slapping against the wall.  She pushed with the eyehook.

“Hurry,” Rain said.

Kenzie continued using the eyehook to push, to no avail.  She moved the hook around to the wall’s edge, grabbed the length of the eyehook, and pulled, adding her strength to the mechanical arm’s.

Stone slid easily against stone, and the wall was pulled down, cleanly cut where the silver line had been drawn.

“I could do this all day,” Kenzie said.

“It’s not a bad power,” I said.

“I never said it was bad,” Rain said.  He sat back down.  “It’s mediocre.  On certain days, it’s a little better.”

“Better how?  Size, speed, effectiveness, number you can throw?”

“All of the above, except maybe effectiveness.  And duration, I’d say.  Ten, twenty percent increase, if I had to guess.”

“Duration?”

“How long after I shoot stuff the line lasts.”

I turned to my laptop and I started typing that up.

“Not effectiveness?” Kenzie asked, as she rejoined us.  She had her phone out and walked without looking where she was going.

Sveta and Tristan were having a conversation off to one side, Ashley had gone back to the library to use the washroom, which had freed Kenzie to rejoin us, and Chris was getting dressed again while under the cover of the giant-size shorts.

“It’s kind of one thing or the other,” Rain said.  “Either it breaks or it doesn’t.”

“I’m looking at the data from my eyehook,” Kenzie said.  “It didn’t work with your power until after I started helping it.  Twenty point two pounds of force total, that’s nine point one six kilograms, and then the break happened.  What if it’s easier to break things when your power is better?”

“It could be,” Rain said.

“It’s good thinking,” I said.

Kenzie nodded, eyes still on her phone, and said, “Can you throw another?”

“More tests?” Rain asked.

“No.  Breaking stuff like this is a ton of fun,” Kenzie said.

Rain stood, looked around, and then created another blade of silver-white light.  He threw it at the half-stick Chris had left impaled in the hillside.  The blade passed through the dead-tree stick, leaving a white line in it a good few feet above the ground, and continued forward as two separate segments flying in parallel, with a narrow gap in the middle.  One hit a tree, and the other hit the ground.

Kenzie ran off, handing her phone to her eyehook.

“What happens if you hit a person?” I asked.

“I tried on livestock, a goat.  Silver line.”

“And?”

“The goat ran off, jumped up onto a tractor tire, then jumped down.  The impact as she jumped down was what did it.  Clean cut.”

“Possibly over twenty pounds of force in that impact?”

“I guess,” Rain said.

Kenzie had reached the rod and found the silver line was higher than she could reach.  She began rolling a nearby rock closer, to give herself a leg up.

Chris, barefoot, wearing his t-shirt and shorts, broke into a sprint.  As Kenzie climbed up onto the rock, Chris threw himself at the rod, hard, body-checking it.  It broke in two at the silver line, the top half toppling.

Kenzie made the kind of high-pitched noise only a prepubescent girl could, and drew her flash gun.  She began shooting Chris repeatedly, while he rolled in the grass, laughing, arms around his face.

“What happens when you hit the ground?” I asked.

“Not much, most of the time.  I guess you get a fissure, but it doesn’t really do much, because the line is so clean.”

“Kenzie!” I called out.

She stopped shooting Chris and turned to look.

“Stomp on the line on the ground?  I’m curious!”

She ran off, leaving Chris where he was.

“Can you explain the schedule, then?  The powers wax and wane?”

Rain sighed.

“Sorry, if I’m grilling you a little too much.  I’m trying to get my head around this.”

“I see them in my dreams.  I never get a good night’s sleep, never dream normally.  Just… them.  And they see me.  We take turns, and when my turn comes up, I get a bit of a power up.”

“That’s how you knew Snag’s description, before you knew his name.”

Rain nodded.

Off in the distance, Kenzie stomped on the silver line in the grass.  There was a bit of dust, and some grass stalks fell, but I didn’t see anything else.  She looked at us and shrugged.

“Every five days, I get my turn, and I’m a little bit stronger.  There are other times I’m stronger, but it’s complicated.”

“Every five?  There’s four others?”

“Three others,” Rain said.

“What’s…?”

“The day in the rotation after me, it’s a blank space.  My running theory is that there was a fifth member of the cluster, but they died before the powers set in.  Free power-up, goes to someone random.  Doesn’t always line up with our power, so on those days, I can sometimes have more tinker power, or more mover power, more emotion power.  A taste of what I could be.”

“Once every twenty days, on average.”

“Never lining up with my days,” he said.  He sighed.  “Through the dreams I’ve seen them unmasked and they’ve seen me.  They hate me and I’m not overly fond of them.  They’re always there, every night, and it’s pretty obvious how much they despise me.  It’s where Tristan and I have that shared experience, kind of.”

“People you can’t get away from,” I said.

“You’re talking about your cluster?” Tristan asked, joining the conversation.  Sveta was behind him.

“Yeah.”

Tristan sat down on the rock beside Rain.  I scooted over so Sveta could sit beside me.

“These people want you dead?  How likely is it they go forward with this hit?”

“Ninety-nine point eight percent likely,” Rain said.

“What’s the point two?” Sveta asked.

“They all die or get arrested before they get around to it,” Rain said.

“You seem pretty cavalier about traveling into the city,” I said.  “You caught a train today?”

“Yeah,” Rain said.  “Again, it’s the dreams, I can pick up a little, and I can throw them off a little.  The thing about being outnumbered in this situation is that I have a lot of opportunities to pick up details.  One clue from any of them can help a lot.”

“Details like?”

“The woman is injured, and Snag wants to repair the arm you trashed.  That buys me a few days.  So, uh, thank you.”

“The third one won’t come after you alone?”

“He’s a guy, a little older than me.  Glasses.  He’s the person with the tinker power.  I haven’t picked up much about him, but he doesn’t interact with people much.  Less than Snag or the woman, and Snag is an asshole and the woman is mute, so that should tell you something.”

“There’s an advantage in that,” Tristan said.  “If they aren’t socially adroit and you are-”

“I’m not,” Rain said.

“You’re better off than they are and that counts for something,” Tristan said.

“They have money and resources, and that more than makes up for it,” Rain said.  He looked at me.  “We’re suspicious they hired Tattletale to track me down.”

“Ah,” I said.  I thought about that.  “I honestly can’t think of someone worse to have on your trail.”

“She’s good enough to take over a city and get away with it,” Rain said.

“That’s not even it,” I said.  “She destroys people.”

“Are we talking about group members behind their backs?” Kenzie asked, as she joined us.

“No,” Tristan said.  “We’re talking Tattletale.”

Over near the staff that had been made with the dead tree, Chris was lying in the grass, arms and legs spread, staring up at the sky.

“He’s okay?” I asked.

“He’s fine,” Kenzie said.

As if responding, Chris chuckled to himself, lying in the grass near the base of the hill.

“The Undersiders took over Brockton Bay, and they did it with Tattletale on point for most of it.  I’m not a hundred percent sure on any of this, but you can look at the events in the city starting with her taking power.  Bank robbery, Undersiders succeed, they run into the Wards, me, and my sister.  Tattletale insinuates knowledge of my sister’s deepest secrets, and mine.  My sister goes off the deep end.  ABB are provoked following an arrest of their leader and an interaction with the Undersiders, with Tattletale.  They’re toppled with a concerted effort on the part of the villains, with intel passed to the heroes by the villains.”

“By Tattletale,” Tristan said.

“In large part.  Empire Eighty-Eight get outed, secret identities revealed.  Undersiders are the focus of the blame, and a number of people die in the ensuing rampage.  Weeks and months of violence and chaos in Brockton Bay feed into the Endbringer attack on the city.  Half of my family died because of that.”

“I’m so sorry,” Sveta said.

I reached out for her hand and gave it a waggle.  “It should be noted that in the hospital after the attack, Tattletale talked to the leaders of various hero teams about Leviathan’s strengths and weaknesses.  Info that was then used to beat down Behemoth enough to let Scion finish him off.”

“That could be a coincidence,” Rain said.

He didn’t say it in a dismissive way.  He said it like he was a little scared, and he wanted something to cling to.

I wanted to drive reality home, though.  Better to scare him and have him alive than the alternative.

“Possibly.  But I’m more inclined to see her as a force multiplier or a kind of thinker version of what you do with your power, creating weak points for others to capitalize on.  We see a lot of these coincidences.  After the Endbringer, the Slaughterhouse Nine visit and do a hell of a lot of damage, but they also lose several key members.  The weaknesses of several key members are revealed and the members are removed.”

“You might want to go easy on talking about those guys when Ashley gets back,” Kenzie said.

“Okay,” I said.  “It’s just one data point in a series.  The last remaining mastermind of the city falls, Coil.  The PRT directors die.  Twice, in quick succession.  Weaknesses are targeted and capitalized on.  Alexandria dies in Brockton Bay, at the hands of a girl who had apparently wanted to be a hero, but who was converted to the villains’ side.  Flechette, a hero, a minor friend of mine?  Apparently converted.  Accord edges into the Undersiders’ turf.  He dies when the Behemoth fight happens.  What do you think happens with his resources and power?  Because I’m betting it’s the same as what happened with Coil’s.”

“And now she runs one of the major settlement points,” Rain said.  He still sounded spooked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I don’t have all of the information, but she got to that point by being one of the masterminds and playing the game well.  She was aggressive when the city was vulnerable and she was passive when it wasn’t.  The moment Gold Morning came around, I get the impression she mobilized hard, she was ready to expand and capitalize on the situation with more of that aggression.  Again, I’m not 100% on all of that.  But I can say with reasonable confidence that she’s one of the most dangerous, capable people on Gimel.”

“What am I supposed to do, then?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

Sveta elbowed me.  “You have to give him more than that.  You can’t scare him and not give him something.”

“Please,” Rain said.

I thought for a few seconds.

“She bleeds,” I said.  “She gets tired, and she looked really fucking tired when I saw her.  She has a lot on her plate, and I don’t think you’re a primary focus.  Which is good.  You don’t want to be her primary focus, because people who are tend to end up in pieces, one way or another.”

“Alright,” Rain said, sounding anything but.

“She…” I started.  I bit my tongue.

“What?” Tristan asked.

“I don’t want to jump to conclusions.  I don’t want to give you the wrong impressions, either.”

“Any impressions help,” Tristan said.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “But what she said when I talked to her, the way she wanted to make herself out to be one of the good guys, bringing good things to others…”

“Oh,” Kenzie said.  She fiddled with her phone.

“It doesn’t necessarily jibe with her working with people who are out for blood and murder.  She seems to want to be a very low-key villain or even a Robin-Hood type desperado while simultaneously leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, or she wants to portray herself as such,” I said.

“I’m now sharing the love and bringing some of that security, stability, and safety to others, in my very, very roundabout way,”  Kenzie’s phone said, in Tattletale’s voice.

“Yeah, that’s it, thank you,” I said.  Kenzie gave me a thumbs up.  I felt a bit of the heebie-jeebies at having heard Tattletale’s voice without being braced for it.  It took me a moment to gather my thoughts before I added, “It makes me wonder what she would say if she were told that Snag and the other two were out for your head.”

“She could be full of shit,” Sveta said.

“She could be,” I admitted.  “Trouble of dealing with masterminds is you can’t ever know.”

“Makes me think,” Tristan said.  “We really should have that talk about our group’s game plan.”

“We can’t have that talk without Ashley,” Kenzie said.

“Or Chris,” Sveta said.

Kenzie turned to look at Chris, before giving us a very unenthused, “Yeah.”

“Pretty quick turnaround on your opinion of Chris,” I said.

“It’s not turned around.  It’s a love-hate relationship,” Kenzie said.  “Sometimes I really like him and sometimes I really don’t.  Right now is one of those times I really don’t.  I was having fun.”

“There will be other times you can fool around with my power, and with others,” Rain said.

“Yeah,” Kenzie said.  She looked at Rain and smiled.  “We’re gonna help you with your thing.”

A bit of a non-sequitur, but I wasn’t going to draw attention to it.  “Do you want to call Ashley or see what’s holding her up?  If she’s not up to having this conversation, that’s okay too.”

“I’ll call her,” Kenzie said, hopping up from her seat.  She wandered off, her eyehook holding her phone to her ear.

“I’ll get Chris,” Sveta said.

As Sveta vacated the space on the bench to my left, I turned to the laptop to my right.  I typed up a few things about Rain’s power, then paged up and down some to look at the entries for the individual powers.  There was a lot more to write up before I had an actual outline I could pitch to the Wardens.  If they were even interested in working with the overarching cape community on that level.

I hoped they were.  The villains had a lot of advantages, from the fact they often had the initiative to the fact that their work often made money, and the fact that the chaos and damage they wrought often created more opportunities, henchmen, and money for them.  Heroes who did well, conversely, often put themselves out of work.

One of the few advantages our side had was that the heroes tended to work together.  If we did it right, we walked away with allies.  I had people like Gilpatrick, Crystal, and Mrs. Yamada.

“How’s Erin?” Tristan asked.

“She’s good.  She’s applying for jobs today.  We’re in an awkward spot for it, though, not many locations, a lot of people around our age want those jobs, and it’s a long drive in to get to work.  I think those places open at six.  It might mean waking up at four to get to work on time.”

Sveta dragged Chris to the collection of rocks, benches, and seats.  Chris climbed up to his seat, sitting on the rock Kenzie had been using.  I was pretty clear he was still blind, from the way he stared off into space.

“There are times I don’t get to sleep until four,” Chris said, talking to the open air.

“That’s not good,” Sveta said.  “Don’t do that.”

“It’s a chance to be independent,” Tristan said.  “If she can get the job.  She gives off a good impression, so I can imagine it happening.”

“Yeah,” Rain said.

“Who is she?” I asked.  “Can I ask?”

“Just a friend,” Rain said.  “I’ve always grown up in the middle of nowhere, so when my family was getting settled after Gold Morning, we saw all the incentives they were offering to people willing to get a headstart on agriculture and it seemed natural, you know?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Erin’s parents were kind of the opposite.  City people through and through, something in them broke after Gold Morning.  They couldn’t bring themselves to join the rat race again, I think.  They were given the option for the simple life and they took it.  Erin got dragged with.”

“And you connected.”

“She was having a hard time, because y’know, she stands out when a lot of people are hurt and angry and looking to lash out.  She went looking for a hiding place and she stumbled on my workshop.  She’s been a real help, from before I even had the therapy, helping me get figured out, listening to me, helping me research.  I… don’t really know what she gets out of the deal, from me.”

“I can think of a few things she gets from you,” Tristan said.

“I appreciate you saying that, I’m not sure I see it though,” Rain said.

I saw Kenzie react to Ashley’s appearance before I saw Ashley.  She made her way up the less sloped side of the hill, holding a pair of water bottles.

“Having a friend with powers is pretty neat,” I said to Rain.

“Yeah.  For sure,” he said.

“And while I don’t know you that well, you seem very thoughtful.”

“And there’s the brooding, mysterious part of it,” Kenzie said.  “Girls like that.  You and Chris are similar like that.”

“I see,” Rain said.  He frowned a bit.

“I’m picturing the expression on your face,” Chris said, before laughing.

“How long’s he going to be blind?” I asked.

“Could be ten minutes, could be an hour or two,” Kenzie said, as she skip-walked over to sit down at Ashley’s side as Ashley took her seat.

An hour or two?

“You got anywhere to be, Chris?” I asked.

“No family, nobody that cares that much,” he said.  “I’m one of the lost boys, living in the institution.”

“I know what that’s like,” Kenzie said.  “The institution.  It’s not fun.”

“Personally?  I don’t give a shit, and they don’t give a shit about me, I could disappear tomorrow and nobody would blink.”

“We’d blink,” Kenzie said.

“You would,” Chris said.  “But you’re lame like that.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your situation,” I said.

“It’s fine,” Chris said, with emphasis, still staring off into space.  Blindly, he rummaged in one pocket, pulling out a plastic kit.  “It’s- it’s freeing.  All I care about is that I eat three square meals, since nourishment matters for my power, and having a place to sleep.  Strip away everything else, and it’s all any of us want.”

“Some of us want people to keep close to us,” Kenzie said.

“Not me,” Chris said.  He opened the kit and drew out a pair of pliers.

“Your opinions may change as you hit puberty,” Tristan said.

“I’m already started on that, I’m not going to go into any details, and I really don’t think my feelings are going to change,” Chris replied.  He seemed to reconsider, then said, “I really hope they don’t.”

I glanced at Ashley.  She’d been quiet since sitting down.  The last time I’d reached out hadn’t ended well.  Was I supposed to ignore her now, leave her alone while she wound herself down?

“How about we talk about your idea, Tristan?” I asked.

“It’s getting later in the afternoon,” Sveta said.  “And Kenzie has dinner with her parents.  It would be good to get it out of the way.”

“I can skip it if I have to,” Kenzie said.

“You shouldn’t,” I said.

Tristan shifted position, metal sliding against smooth stone.  “The plan.  We’ve only got the broad strokes worked out, so if you want to help hammer it out, Victoria, it would really help.”

“Okay.”

“Protecting Rain in the coming weeks is essential.  My starting point for thinking about this plan was thinking how we might cover all the bases we want to cover.  We need to keep the older members of the group free enough to help Rain with whatever he needs help with.  Kenzie wants to do something integral to the group, and while she can help keep an eye out, it’s easy for her to take too much of a backseat role.”

“Am I taking a frontseat role then?”

“I’m- not exactly.  There’s a lot about this that’s counterintuitive.  My first instinct is to think, hey, I want to make money, I want to be out there doing things.  But that leaves us open to interference and distraction.  So… what if we go covert?”

“Covert?” I asked.

“Nobody knows Ashley is on the side of the good guys for the time being.  She’s really good at the villainous persona and atmosphere.”

“Thank you,” Ashley said.

“And then there’s Chris, who can be monstrous, appear, disappear, then show up again as someone or something else.”

I glanced at Chris.  Chris had two sets of pliers in his mouth.  He was readjusting his braces.

“The masterminds and the organizations are masterminding and getting organized.  Hollow Point is one example of that, and Tattletale’s degree of involvement, that’s another example.  I didn’t get the impression Tattletale was really aware that we were a team, so I think this works.”

“Take all things mastermind with a grain of salt,” I said.

“Of course,” Tristan said, quickly enough that I wondered if he’d bothered with that grain of salt.  “Okay, so what if we do like- actually, it’s like Victoria was saying a few minutes ago, about creating and capitalizing on weak points-”

“She was telling us more about Tattletale,” Kenzie told Ashley.

“Yeah,” Tristan said.  “Look, no rush, we do this slow and careful.  We put you guys out there, Ashley and Chris can plant cameras, Kenzie handles backend, we gather all the data we can, and we find out what the masterminds are doing and where the organizations are most vulnerable.”

“Then we hit them,” Ashley said.

“Maybe,” Tristan said.  “Maybe.  We assess the situation, we maybe even spread disinformation, and then we have discussions, involving other cape teams, maybe.  If it seems doable, we hit them.  We have a lot going for us if we want to blitz the enemy or ruin a plan in progress.  When it’s time to make our play, we can do big, we can hit hard, and we can move fast.  If it doesn’t seem doable, we sell the info to another cape team.”

“I like that you’re thinking about the money,” I said.  “How do you sustain things if you’re going ahead and handling the mission on your own?”

“I’m thinking we don’t,” Tristan said.  “I’m not wanting to set up a headquarters, we wouldn’t necessarily have employees or staff, we can figure something out for costume.”

“It’s a long, hard road to gather that kind of intel and then act on it at just the right time.  It’s a test of patience,” I said.  “That patience gets tested further when your pockets are empty.”

“I hear you,” Tristan said.  “It helps some that we have a lot of people here who are subsidized or not entirely out on their own.  Kenzie gets money from her parents, Chris has his meals and shelter through the institution.

“I think we have an advantage there,” Sveta said, quiet.  “Because the thing that defines us, and I don’t think it defined the Irregulars like this, and it didn’t define the Wards, like Weld described them… we all need to be out there.  We need this.  That makes us stick it out.”

There were nods around the group.  Even Chris.  The heads that weren’t nodding were smiling, like Ashley’s, or looking very serious in a way that made me sure they were in agreement, like Rain was.

I allowed myself to nod as well.

“Okay,” I said.  “I might be able to make some recommendations about funding, so you won’t be too starved.  If you think you can gather intel that others might be interested in, I can talk to other teams on your behalf, or I can point you in the right direction if you want to handle that yourselves.  You’d tell them you have the capacity to get intel.  You may or may not want first dibs on these villains, but whatever happens, if they’ll pay a token amount, you’ll give up the info.  It serves a double purpose if you set it up as a dead man’s switch.  Worst comes to worst, the authorities get an email letting them know what you were up to and who you were up against.”

“They’d pay for that, you think?” Rain asked.  “Even if it’s us saying we’re taking first dibs, but we’ll give the info anyway?”

“I think it could be sold to them,” I said.  “Information comes at a premium, and every single team out there is wanting as clear a picture of where things stand as possible.”

“I do my thing, Chris does his thing, Kenzie does her thing,” Ashley said.  “Sveta, Tristan and I help Rain in the meantime.  When we have the intel, we hit them.  Take out key players, interfere with a key part of their business, and we leave them ruined.”

“We maybe hit them,” Tristan said, with emphasis on ‘maybe’.

“If we spend the time to get that far, you’ll be itching to see it the rest of the way through,” Ashley said.

“And then what?” I asked, before they could get in an argument.

“Hm?”

“Let’s assume it’s a success, or you hand off the intel.  What follows?”

“Depends on a lot of factors,” Tristan said.  “We could take another piece of data collected on the way and jump off from there, or we don’t just take money, and we go to another team and we trade intel for intel.  They tell us if they’ve got more tough nuts or tricky areas to tackle, and we use that as our next starting point.”

I nodded.

“What are you thinking?” Tristan asked.

“I… admit this makes a lot of sense.  It may be harder than you’re picturing.  Masterminds cover their asses, organizations have a lot of tools at their disposal.”

“If we get six pieces of a twenty-piece puzzle and we realize we can’t take things any further, we can still sell that intel,” Tristan said.

“Absolutely,’ I said.  “I’m trying to think about how that plays out in the long-term.”

“I don’t know,” Tristan said.  “There’s the stuff I just said, but I was mostly thinking about the next few steps.  I’d rather make calls based on the now and adapt later, depending on what comes up.”

“That’s fair,” I said.  “I’m trying to be mindful of consequences, these days.  You’d be making enemies, once people realized what you were doing and the role you’d played.  If you’re not careful, Ashley and Chris as background observers are cards you can only play a few times, in a limited fashion.”

“You can play me eight times,” Chris said, pulling the pliers out of his mouth, “After that they’ll probably catch on.”

“If you don’t change your head that much, then they’ll catch on sooner than that,” Tristan said.

“On that topic, I’m not sure I like Chris being out in the field like that,” Sveta said.

“I’m fine,” Chris said.  “I can handle that much.”

“I’m thinking Chris gets involved as a distraction.  A few minutes at a time, a monster shows up, overturns the status quo.  The kind of thing we do once every two weeks or once a month.”

“Yeah.  I’m good with that,” Chris said.

“I like it,” Rain said.  “I hate that I’m a burden at this stage.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Kenzie said.  She reached out to give Rain a pat on the knee with her eyehook.  “We’re all burdens in our own screwed up ways.”

My expression might have betrayed something, because Tristan looked my way.

“Yea or nay?” he asked.

“It reminds me of the Las Vegas capes,” I said.  “And a bit of Watchdog.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Tristan asked.

Las Vegas had been damned effective, as had Watchdog.  But where Las Vegas had been a subtle, careful player with a few questionable, mysterious individuals in their ranks making the most of their backgrounds and skills, much like this team in disposition and direction, they’d also been a team that had turned villain at a critical time.  Watchdog had been careful and scrupulous, making measured moves with the best intel and agents they had at their disposal, and Watchdog hadn’t survived Gold Morning as an organization.

Those were the only two data points I had, for teams like this.  Corruption and annihilation.

I couldn’t say for sure that it was a bad thing, but I couldn’t say it was a good thing either.

“It’s a thing,” I said.

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149 thoughts on “Glare – 3.4”

    1. OK I don’t know if this has been discussed, but the way people talk about Gm and events in BB – it is more like Skitter/Taylor is almost removed form the collective concious thoughts of all the survivors. As if various events memories are tweaked and linked to the next closest target villain.

      Khepri is seen very much as a unique entity, very apart from Taylor/Skitter/Weaver. Did Contessa have Taylor’s Agent blocked to HIDE her from the Universe and other entities? It is like Imp or someone mass modified everyone’s memories. I never understood why Taylor needed the funny bump brain modification she has. If she isn’t brain damaged anymore surely her power could have been wound back to simple just be bug related again.

      I really want to know if this is Victoria’s incredible biased view of events or if this is what the mass public knows.

      I also cannot wait to see more of Amy/Pancakes.

      1. Khepri is seen very much as a unique entity, very apart from Taylor/Skitter/Weaver. Did Contessa have Taylor’s Agent blocked to HIDE her from the Universe and other entities?
        Unless the Path to Victory taught Contessa how to bind demons, I don’t think that’s possible.
        Mind, that would be a hell of a twist…pun intended.

      2. I think it makes sense for the public to think of Tt as the driving force behind the Undersiders, especially people who didn’t interact with Taylor all that much. Thinker powers make her undeniably the Undersiders’ nerve center, which is sorry if like a leader. She takes point a lot in public situations (attacking the Protectorate at the charity thing, doing the announcement bit after the Leviathan fight, creating the first scrubyrinth portal). She was the only one of them who didn’t really claim a territory, which also fits a “behind the scenes leader” image.

        1. I think you could make a decent case for Tattletale having manipulated Skitter/Weaver into villainy, then heroism, then finally her essentially-suicide as Khepri, just from the information that people outside the Undersiders knew. If you add that to her brother’s suicide, then it starts to look a little like a pattern. If there’s a third data point, another suicide that could be pinned on Tattletale, people could think of her as a serial killer, someone who preys on vulnerable people, uses them, and pushes them to suicide when she’s finished.

          1. You could make a case, I guess, but it’s really not what happened. Tattletale pulled Taylor into villainy, but it was Dinah Alcott who drove her into abandoning the Undersiders and becoming a hero. And as for Taylor’s eventual self-destruction, that was mostly just her. Bonesaw gave her the idea, several years before, and it’s possible it was all according to the Simurgh’s plan, but she made the call herself. At that point, Tattletale was just getting swept along by entities far stronger than her and occasionally providing some exposition.

            Also, anyone who figured out Tattletale’s identity and looked into her brother’s suicide would probably figure out that she only triggered afterwards.

          2. Upon learning that TT convinced another parahuman to save the human-occupied parts of the Multiverse at great personal risk, most people would be somewhere between “good job” and “can we hire you?”. Certainly, every military everywhere would want some of that motivational mojo.

      3. It’s a bit like it was with Jack. No one really connected his secondary power for years, despite the fact that he was keeping the group together.
        Plus,Tattletale was the mind behind a lot of what the Undersiders did. The whole takeover of Coil’s stuff was all her.

      4. I think it came up during the Glow-Worm portion of the story, people aren’t sure what to attribute to Taylor, most of it seems too out there, or coincidental, and then Gold Morning is something people don’t want to think about.

      5. This is nothing new; back in Worm a bunch of stuff (notably, Taylor figuring out Triumph’s identity) was attributed to Tt with the possibility of it being Skitter explicitly discounted.

      6. From Glow-Worm we know that basically if you weren’t AT GM, you weren’t told what happened beyond Scion went batshit, many people died, it ended with Scion’s death. So anybody who wasn’t personally there in some form doesn’t know who was responsible for it (Victoria was there at the very end of it).

        From Victoria’s perspective, she rarely ever interacted with Taylor. She had much more interaction with Tattletale (not so much physically, but emotionally). Combine that with the fact that Khepri was the one who dropped Amy off next to her and thus directly led to her restoration, that’s probably a sore spot she doesn’t like to think about much – her most major interaction with Taylor at the end of things was tied very closely to Amy, and we’ve seen how much she doesn’t-think about that topic. So the only comfortable and sensible explanation she’s willing to think of is that Tattletale was responsible for the outcomes.

        Keep in mind we also didn’t see or hear much of what people actually said post-Khepri transformation due to her inherent mental faculties at the time. Tattletale may very well have told people what Taylor was working on as a weak point because she saw it and her power informed her it could potentially work. This is a common theme throughout Wildbow’s works – the Narrator is Unreliable. So are we because we don’t see things from the outside but through the eyes of the Narrator, with just enough external detail and extra time to think things over or look at the past events to be able to piece together a larger piece of the puzzle. Anybody thought about Cap’s hired hit since the reveal of the C70’s?

  1. Sorry if it’s a little rough around the edges. I wanted to cover just a bit more ground, too, but I guess that segment can go at the start of the next chapter. Punched this one out with a pounding head cold.

    Thanks for reading, guys.

    1. Love the new chapter, especially the version of Worm 1 we get from Victoria’s perspective. Don’t even mind the shorter length as we have a Thursday chapter coming up. Hope you get well soon though.

    2. Get well soon! And thanks for delivering as always. This was a nice de-escalation from the last chapter (which had me so tense I didn’t realise I was nervous until I properly let my breath out at the end). Plus these outside perspectives on the Undersiders are really interesting in how they fit with what we know while being either flat out wrong or challenging how much of what we know wasn’t biased by being in their heads the whole time.

      1. I’ve got to wonder what they think about Parian. She was a rogue, and never really seemed to embrace the more brutal parts of the villain lifestyle.

        Also got to wonder what the Chicago Wards feelings on the Taylor subject are these days.

    3. Just curious – are you writing a lot about team planning now because you’ve become personally involved with planning and negotiating stuff with media companies? Maybe I’m only noticing this type of storyline now that the viewpoint character is playing the role of “advisor”.

  2. Oh boy Victoria doesn’t realize that Taylor was the driving force of the Undersiders not Lisa and a lot of her points had nothing at all to do with Tt.

    1. Tattletale really seems to have made an impression with the BB cape community. It helps that she was successful in concealing exactly how her power works. I don’t know how much of that storyline is the overall cape view and how much is Victoria being spooked by her encounter with Tt at the bank job.

    2. Indeed. Color me curious as to what Tattle’s passenger would make of the misconception, or how Tattle herself would react.

    3. Tattletale did hold the Undersiders back (based on info from Coil) in the successful hope that Taylor might attack Lung for them, so she’s involved in that, even if she’s not the main player there. She did crack Amy’s confidence and contribute to her downward spiral, although the deeper factors at work would likely have led to Bad Things there anyway. She handed over a lot of the E88 info to Coil (with hired PIs doing the rest.) So it’s not unfair to say she was a big part of the BB-gets-Leviathan buildup, in the same way Taylor was.

      She played a MAJOR part in fighting the S9, Behemoth, and Coil, that’s all straightforwardly true.

      Vicky doesn’t explicitly blame Tt for Alexandria’s death except for the fact that she recruited Taylor into villainy, which is true. She blames her for Foil changing sides, which was 100% Taylor, so that’s wrong. And she suggests Tattletale absorbed Accord’s resources … I honestly don’t know about that, she didn’t get his capes but BB was rebuilt according to his designs so she got something. And then she says Tattletale did well after/during GM, which is true.

      So call that 6 correct, 4 semi-correct, and just one actually a coincidence. I think Vicky’s got a pretty good read on Lisa.

      1. You sure got a warped view of how things worked. Lets start with E88 Lisa had no clue until well after it was over that Coil was the one that outed E88 and Coil had to tell her he did it. With S9 Taylor was completely the driving force behind it all, Lisa was nothing more than the lowly intelligence officer to Taylor’s General. When it comes to the ABB you refuted your own point in your own example, the orders came from Coil, all Lisa did was play messenger girl and the Undersiders had no clue about Taylor only Coil did due to his power. As to Coil himself that was Taylor that put him in the no win situation and Lisa even admitted it back in Worm. Also Vicky insinuated that Tt had Accord killed at the Behemoth fight which is completely false. There is a big difference between being involved in something and being the driving force behind something. The only thing Vicky got right was that Tt played with her head at the Bank and she is viewing every other event through that lens.

        1. We only ever saw tattletale through Taylor’s eyes, which made tattletale seem more second fiddle.

          It was tattletale that killed coil.

          1. Yeah… Taylor is not the most trustworthy narrator. Also, we did get Tt PoV once, in her recruitment interlude.
            In any case, people seem no not have noticed Taylor’s secondary manipulation power.

          2. Tattle got Coil’s mercs to change sides. Otherwise Coil would have made them shoot Taylor. It could even be argued that Tt manipulated Taylor into wanting to shoot Coil.

        2. It’s like how on Agents of Shield the Russian guy thinks Phil Coulson is behind all the shit that’s happened the last few years because he’s always there. Except Phil didn’t cause any of it, he was investigating and dealing with it.

        3. Lisa knew that trouble with E88 was incoming as soon as it started. She got the same email from Coil that the news studios got, and immediately realized the Undersiders (and especially herself) would be blamed. I just read that chapter like a week ago. Unless you mean that she wasn’t aware Coil was going to release it like that until after he already did. She did say that she didn’t know how far he was going to take the info she dug up, but she is a thinker.

          1. Coil was obviously only going to have released that info if the results from releasing it turned out favorably for him. He savescums.

  3. One of the challenges I’m seeing this new team facing compared to the Undersiders is the ambiguity of their goals. Sure they, want to protect Rain and do some good where they can, but they don’t have the same clear-cut objectives of making money and seizing real control. I’m interested to see how that dynamic plays out.

    1. Also, big red flags I’m seeing here: Ashley is being told to keep a low profile, and Kenzie is being told to man the cameras.

        1. Kenzie will man the cameras for a time, but she has clearly indicated that she does not want to be relegated to an entirely behind-the-scenes role. She wants to go out and face down badguys. Eventually, she’s going to insist on being include in some field work.

          1. Which is an interesting contrast with the Undersiders since they all had to do field duty, including Tattletale. I think Bitch insisted on it.

  4. It is weird realizing how much Victoria doesn’t know about the Undersiders. The outside perspective is so… refreshing.

    Also, feel better Wildbow!

  5. With a power like that, imagine if Rain was a serial killer or something.

    If he could cut a goat in half like that, what would happen to a fleeing person?

    1. Useful for hostage-taking too … instead of knocking them out or tying them up or something, just cover them with lines and tell them not to move. His power’s kind of like a conditional Ashley, it seems.

      Also, given that it isn’t Manton-limited, I wonder how it interacts with invincible Brute powers …

      1. Of course, the duration is pretty short, right? So he’d have to stay with the hostage to keep re-applying the effect. Still pretty brutal.

        1. The hostage doesn’t need to know how long the duration is. I imagine he could show off his power, then throw it on them and tell them not to move. They probably wouldn’t risk it.

      2. I could see that hostage situation going VERY wrong…sounds more like something his triggermates would try. They seem less keen on the value of human life.

        I imagine Rain’s power will be one of the early things they try against invincible Brutes. Assuming they can apply it in a non-murderey fashion…

  6. Typo thread

    “Watchdog had been careful and scrupulous, making measured moves with the best intel and agents had at their disposal” should be “they had”

    1. “we can figure something out for costume.”
      Plural costumes maybe ?

      “Chris has his meals and shelter through the institution.”
      Missing closing quotes at the end.

      ““Absolutely,’ I said.”
      Single closing quote instead of double.

    2. I’m not sure it is a typo, but kilograms are units of weight, not force. That is Newtons, and Kenzie’s personality and training means she would get that right. 9.8 Newton’s to support a kilogram at normal gravity.

      1. I think you meant to say mass, not weight? Weight is a form of force, and kilograms generally measure mass, not weight.

        Regardless, kilogram-force is a real unit, and it seems like Kenzie was just giving an equivalent layman’s measure anyway, so I’d say that this is fine.

    3. Not quite a typo more of a nitpick, but the bit you convert pounds of force to kilograms is wrong. Pounds i think is used for both mass and force (not sure im not familiar with imperial) but kilograma is only used for mass, the metric unit for force is newtons (to convert from mass you multiply by 9.8 I.e. gravitational field strength on earth, so a mass of 1kg on earth weighs and has a force of 9.8 Newtons)

      1. Re: nitpicks
        Both pound-force and kilogram-force are a thing, and we 100% seriously remove the ‘force’ when we work daily with these units because it’s a mouthful and everyone knows we’re talking about forces anyway; we typically skip the 98% multiplier as well, unless we need to really eke the stresses/strains out as much as possible.
        1kg -> 1daN; 1lb -> 4.5N. Easier for everyone involved.

        1. Are you American by any chance? I’ve never seen people using kilograms for force (except for the very specific case of weight) but i do realize that pounds for force is common in the US.

          9.8 vs. 10 is indeed a common thing to not worry about, i just put that in since i was already being nitpicky, but kilograms of force definitely sounds very weird to me even if it might sometimes be used.

          1. Other side of the ocean. The kilogram/kgf confusion is extremely common for most people here due to weight measurement scales that hide the forces and report masses (also forces being high school lessons not everyone remembers).
            The only time we’d care about dotting the i’s is when writing academic papers; every other use is contextually obvious enough.

            Anyway, the point is Kenzie skipping ‘force’ while saying her units is common parlance.

    4. I was pretty clear he was still blind, from the way he stared off into space.
      -It

      “I hear you,” Tristan said. “It helps some that we have a lot of people here who are subsidized or not entirely out on their own. Kenzie gets money from her parents, Chris has his meals and shelter through the institution.
      -institution.”

    5. “Absolutely,’ I said. “I’m trying to think about how that plays out in the long-term.”

      Ending quotation mark missing : “Absolutely,’

    1. Which brings some terrifying question to mind – what happens if one brother gets hurt badly enough to go unconscious / die ? I fear the other would end up locked in that extra dimension without any way to intervene.
      Cue ‘and I must scream’ in 3…

  7. aaaaaaaaa I’m so happy that they recognize they have issues and support each other so much! I’m really getting the feeling that they all care about each other, and Victoria’s starting to care too~ <3

  8. Humorously, Victoria missed the big thing that was all Tattletale – punching the hole in the world and opening Gimel for colonization.

    But yeah. Taylor turns into a demigod monster and mindrapes everybody, and she’s still being overlooked and underestimated.

    Interesting to see Team Therapy attempting the same sort of plan Taylor tried. Any bets on how similar the results are going to be?

    1. I’m getting the feeling Victoria (and maybe everyone else) sees Tattletale as a human Simurgh, setting the events leading up to Gold Morning in motion. I mean, she’s the one who recommended Taylor should rejoin the undersiders after her initial intentions became clear

  9. Oh dear, now Tata gets painted as the driving force behind Alexandria’s death?

    Victoria, dear, there’s “properly paranoid” and then there’s “I don’t know all the facts paranoid”. Reel it in, please.

    Also good to get more infos on Rain. So the multitrigger was worse than we thought, if the fifth member died, what, during the event? If this was an anime, Rain would be the protagonist, eh?

    1. Well, Victoria wasn’t there for it. Her conclusions are really quite reasonable when you consider the information she has. She fought Skitter like once, she has no reason to fear her. The Protectorate never bothered to brief her on what actually happened, because she was incapacitated and not a proper member anyway. And if she already believes that Tattletale was the driving force behind the Undersiders, it’s easy to take that assumption to the Behemoth tape and Gold Morning. Tattletale COULD have been the one to come up with the plan, both times.

      If she asked Golem or someone else who knew Taylor, maybe they could figure out how little Tattletale really did. Or maybe the Wardens have files on it. If she’s judging TT solely based on her personal encounters, she really is pretty scary.

      1. She fought Skitter like once, she has no reason to fear her.
        For most people, that’s enough.
        But seriously, she’s heard enough about Skitter to be worried even if she assumed she’s just one of Tattletale’s former minions.

        1. One could understand someone who hasn’t studied up, like Ashley, not to know that Taylor killed Alexandria. One could expect even experts who have studied up, like Victoria is supposed to be, not to know who became Khepri, because secrets. Still, though, there was a press conference where Taylor admitted she killed Alexandria while the gathered heroes nodded their heads sagely. It takes a real commitment to fearing TT to watch that, as Victoria must have done many times, and not credit Taylor for that kill. When she is finally reconciled with Amy, as inevitably she must be, and then eventually they talk about shit, as inevitably they will, Victoria will be amazed at how wrong she has been about lots of things.

          1. Except Victoria thinks that tattletale sees weaknesses.

            It’s very logical for her to assume that tattletale told Taylor how to kill Alexandria, just like tattletale told Taylor how told Taylor how to neutralize the bugs that Amy altered.

        2. But in Vicky’s case, Skitter couldn’t touch her- not until after TT shot her. Underestimating Skitter based on that is understandable- as is a lot of fear and potential overestimation (except… It kind of isn’t) towards Tattletale.

        3. Worried? Sure, she was kind of scary, even on the surface. But she’d see her as “the bug girl”, not “the mastermind behind the Undersiders in their takeover of Brockton bay and the Chicago Wards in their campaign against the entrenched Chicago underworld, the slayer of three PRT directors who got in her way, the bane of Behemoth whom she crippled and burned down to a skeleton, the leader of the last army and the savior of mankind”. She certainly knows about most of those, but hasn’t connected enough dots to realize that Tattletale wasn’t calling the shots.

          Zion kinda stole Taylor’s thunder in that Behemoth fight, anyway. She only got to hold the “most serious wound delivered to an endbringer” record for like ten minutes.

        4. But underestimating Taylor is a *known thing*.

          Like, Director Tagg was so tired of people underestimating Skitter that he declared her Master 10, Thinker 3, and 2 of *everything else*. This wasn’t someone making a rational evaluation, this was “everyone thinks she’s just the bug girl and they get their asses whooped because of it”.

          (worth noting: this was *after* Victoria got sent to this hospital, and by the time she was out, Khepri was over and No One Wanted To Talk About Skitter Anymore)

  10. So I’m pretty sure Rain’s cluster’s Tinker powers are strongly influenced by each cape’s primary ability. The mute woman has auto-balancing claws, Snag has emotion weapons in his claws and shuriken, and Rain’s extra arms? They break easily. (I suspect they’ll be quite a bit more useful once he realizes that’s intentional, and tries to build limbs that break in useful ways.)
    I wonder if the Tinker man only has access to the group’s powers through his tinkertech? That’d be interesting. Anyway, Snag, like Cherish, Heartbreaker, and classic Glory Girl, seems to be a bit of a jerk. (Odd that Gallant wasn’t, really. I wonder why. Wait, never mind, he was rich and affable, so he was probably a Cauldron kid. I think they tried to keep at least one of their guys on each hero team.) Anyway anyway, I wonder what the mute girl and the Tinker have against Rain? The dreams clearly indicate that killing their cluster-mates will empower them, but why is Rain the first target instead of Snag? I suspect it has something to do with their trigger, which has got to have been interesting considering the sheer range of abilities it produced, one of which was a Tinker.
    (Canonically, Tinkers triggers involve long-term problems. With two attack powers, a movement power, and a limb-specialist Tinker, I’m guessing a guy who’s had chronic trouble walking, three other people, and an environmental threat which knocks the lady off balance and leaves Snag and Rain feeling threatened or obstructed by something solid and something with emotions, respectively. By my personal hypothesis, the Tinker needed to have been ignoring his problem for a while, too. Perhaps they were trapped in a crowd in an unstable building during an earthquake? That sounds vaguely familiar, so I should check Glow-Worm again. Perhaps the Tinker guy had been ignoring arthritis or something, which made him less able to get out in time.)

    1. I think you are describing what’s called Armorface triggers. Interesting thought about Rain’s arms breaking in useful ways, though. 🙂

      1. Archetype is all we really have to work with for determining triggers from power sets, though. It may seem a little generic, but it’s the best I believe we can get at the moment.
        (Also, we have a Puppeter, a Blaster, a Tinker, and a Floater. That’s all three profiles represented, with the Lasher represented twice. That’s really not a lot to go on, but earthquake + stampeding crowds fits the bill for each (individually simple and quite distinct) sub-power, while also including lots of people (meaning a good reason for four latent capes to be within multitrigger range), and being entirely possible in the real world, which means we don’t need to explain away Trump influence. Do you have any better ideas?)
        (Also, I’m somewhat disappointed that no one, to my knowledge, has taken the concept of Armorface and run with it. Make a guy who summons masks on his face and either launches them or uses them as (possibly floating) shields. Weird and cool, right? The only real reason to avoid such simple trigger-power links is to keep things fresh, so using them occasionally is fair game.)

    2. Great point regarding the Tinker power, and there’s WoG confirming your guess about Gallant.

      However, Snag’s main power is supposed to be his Mover ability, according to Rain in 2.6:

      “I can also catch my balance or secure my footing more easily, that’s my version of the big guy’s mover power. It’s handy in a way, lets me turn on a dime or keep from falling over.”

      “Wait, his power was the mover power? The arms and emotion power were his secondaries?” I asked.

      (I’m guessing he made the arms while he was amped, which must make it especially painful to have one destroyed by Vicky.)

      1. Ah, good catch, I remember that now. So the woman is the Puppeter, and Snag is the Floater. That makes the profiles quite a bit more complicated, which is probably why I forgot about it.
        Unless either Rain or Wildbow made a mistake with whose primary ability is whose.

    3. Interesting theory about the tinker power, i was thinking something similar about Snag. In the fight with Vicky he was using his tinkered arms, which apparently reached the floor, to maneuver around in a physics-defying way, and since (like mugasofer kindly pointed out) Snags main power is a mover ability that probably lets him walk on walls and ceilings, and even to break through walls like paper, it’s fair to say he was basing his entire powerset around the Tinkers power. Would it make sense for the Tinker to be the most powerful out of the four? I can’t help picturing him being Doc Oc.

      1. Tinkers are the most development-focused class. Their two bottlenecks are inspiration and materials, and unlike most capes, their midfight boosts aren’t just mostly-temporary powerboosts with sometimes-permanent upgrades. Quite the converse, in fact.
        That said, successful Tinkers are usually a bit less powerful than the actual top-tiers of the other classes. Armsmaster had been working and fighting for considerably longer than Taylor had, and granted, Defiant would probably win a fight with her once he gained the ability to cover himself in nanothorns, but that’s still an awful lot of time and resources, which include a partnership with Dragon, to match a girl who’d been active for less than a year. Assuming that Blasto and Armsmaster are a good measure of what most successful Tinkers can do, while Defiant, Bonesaw, and possibly Bakuda are at the top end (and Leet is at the bottom), I’d guess that Tinkers tend to be somewhat more powerful for their experience level but not a whole lot.
        (Also, Snag’s weapons make more sense as I think about inspiration: he and the woman traded tinker data on each other’s primary powers. Which is why they appear to have swapped primaries.)
        I don’t think any of them are super fightprone, though, so they’re probably all rather close in power level.

        (I wonder why I’m rambling so much?)

          1. I think Armsmaster and Blasto both had considerably more time than Bakuda, and Armsmaster, at least, should’ve had more materials. So I think time and materials aren’t useless, but the determining factor is still mostly inspiration, which is mostly determined by fight-frequency/intensity.

  11. “That’s not even it,” I said. “She destroys people.”

    “Are we talking about group members behind their backs?” Kenzie asked, as she joined us.

    LOL. Kenzie, you’re the best. Also, I liked the external perspective we got on Tattletale, but holy hell, Victoria is terrified of her!

    1. She should be.

      Tattletale is literally the most dangerous person who isn’t Contessa left alive.

      She’s not a powerhouse but her resources and knowledge put her in a place where she can kill you with 100% certainty if given a phone and 15 minutes.

      1. I’m not so sure. Other capes have organizations too. She can take down most people, but she probably can’t just order a hit on the likes of Teacher. She might be able to coordinate a takedown of Legend, but it wouldn’t be trivial and she might not survive the fallout. TT is scary, but the world still contains the likes of Amy, Riley, Dragon, and Valkyrie.

  12. Yes! This is exactly the kind of team new Victoria needs – more thoughtful, subtler and one where she can grow her information skills rather than be a flying brick. Given time she might be able to outfox TT at least once and maybe get over her fear of her.

    1. I wonder if Tt is consulted on the grad school admits? So Victoria is hosed unless she defeats Tt…the whole serial is V’s new application essay in 2019.

      🙂

  13. Seeing a plan formulated on misinformation was fascinating. It’s difficult for me to imagine how different people would think if they have different information to my own, so I really liked how they thought they’d handle Tattletale. I especially liked Victoria’s advice about grains of salt, it’s probably the only way to deal with Tattletale.

  14. Wow, Rain could totally pull off the anime style “You’re already dead” !
    Either Vicky is really spooked by Tattletale and overlook the other Undersiders or a lot of what happened in Worm isn’t available to the public after GM. Or maybe Vicky was deliberately putting the emphasise on Lisa for Rain and the other to take her seriously.
    Nice chapter !

    1. If Victoria was shifting blame to TT to scare the Therapeutics, it would have been made apparent. Wildbow doesnt normally do stuff like have his MC deceive characters without telling the audience.

  15. “Ah,” I said. I thought about that. “I honestly can’t think of someone worse to have on your trail.”
    “She’s good enough to take over a city and get away with it,” Rain said.
    “That’s not even it,” I said. “She destroys people.”
    “Are we talking about group members behind their backs?” Kenzie asked, as she joined us.
    “No,” Tristan said. “We’re talking Tattletale.”

    So, who could Kenzie have assumed they were talking about? Sveta’s strong, so she could technically fit, but I doubt Kenzie would come to that conclusion. She knows Victoria and Sveta are best buds, after all. There’s Ashley, who…well, she certainly wants to destroy people and take over, but she doesn’t have the track record. That leaves…Kenzie, what are you hiding?

    Victoria’s list of Tattletale-caused coincidences is quite amusing when checked up against what we know from reading Worm. Fair, yup, that one was Taylor’s, I’ll give you that, he was their ally, yup…

    So, what passes for their current plan is to try and gather intel on the villains, possibly having some of their members try to pass as villains. Again, dramatic irony for those who’ve read Worm.

      1. I think Kenzie suspected they were talking about her. We don’t fully understand her shtick, but Chris stressed how terrifying she could be if she went the villain route. He seems to be hinting that she’s got some capability that’s highly useful, but would be vastly immoral to use.

    1. Considering how Kenzie’s old Wards team felt about her…imagine getting spied on by a preteen all the time. Especially considering they would have been kids too, at a mentally vulnerable point. Just the knowledge that you’re being constantly surveiled could do a number on you.

      1. I’m just waiting for Kenzie to drop some bombshell she’s not supposed to know on accident. Like “Who’s Dean?” or “I know you don’t want to talk to her, but maybe you should ask your sister for help?”

  16. I’m honestly wondering who’s harder to deal with-Rachel or Ashley. They both have things that make socialising hard and their reactions to things generally seem to be “fight then whatever”.

    Interesting how everyone still underestimates Taylor even after all she’s done. Victoria barely even mentions her, and only as “the girl” when she does. Possible side effect of memory blocking from Amy? Maybe Taylor’s scary enough to warrant a mindwipe?

    Very interesting how everything is being set up… I hope this doesn’t explode out of their hands too soon (who am I kidding it obviously is going to)

    Anyhoo, great de-escalation chapter bow! I hope you get better soon! Rest well.

  17. Its hilarious how much credit Victoria gives tt. I’m remembering how close to a clusterfuck the bank job due to her, not to mention all the other times her power fucked up. Tt’s not infallible was practically the undersider mantra.

    Also, a team based on subterfuge and information gathering? Woo, they’re free range lambs! (But with a therapist, thank god)

    1. Tattletale isn’t infallible but she’s dealt with that. Tattletale is a multi billionaire, knows more about how passengers work than anyone besides Contessa, and has access to friends with very particular sets of skills.

      For all we know, Imp has been in the past two chapters eating an apple and watching them strategize.

      Victoria is frightened, but not nearly frightened enough. She doesn’t know about Tattletale’s resources. She still thinks of tattletale as a scary, small time criminal who puncher above her weight class.

      I’m also surprised by how many Ward readers think that Tattletale wouldn’t have Victoria watched and thus know all about the new team.

      1. Why would Tattletale watch Victoria? She was, until recently, retired. Before then, lots of capes died and not all of them are remembered. Before that, she was in the Asylum for two years, and before that, a small-time hero in a local team. They met once, four years ago, and Tattletale won. The local team has been disbanded and only one former member is confirmed active on the cape scene- Laserdream, who now works for a mystery organisation that typically fights extradimensional top-secret threats.

        Tattletale has a lot on her plate. She’s a multibillionaire who runs a city. She has to stop villains from muscling in on her turf, and keep her turf settled enough to keep heroes away. She’s got other big players to watch- Marquise, Teacher, and others we don’t know. Plus she’s working as an information broker to any who approach- Snag and Ms. Mute, for one; the villainous union of Hollow Point for two. Even six years ago, when Brockton Bay was a crime-riddled tourist trap fought over by the ABB and E88, Victoria was a small fish, and this team is likewise made up of small fish (though a few have ability to grow into big fish). Tattletale is now one of the biggest fish, a basking shark maybe. She has to keep an eye on the other basking sharks, the ocean sunfish, manta rays and the whale sharks, not the small fish swimming around. It’s possible she’s having Vicky watched, but hardly likely.

        Last we saw Imp, she was stamping out the drug trade in New New York and enforcing peace through the fear of teapots. She’s got her own city to run, and a nest of sociopathic Master children to look after. And potentially avoiding assassination from Shadow Stalker, who was also last seen lurking in that city.

        I think you’re overestimating her, as Tt is not omnipresent, and though her power lets her bluff at omniscience, it is still a bluff.

        1. Initially, she wouldn’t be watching Victoria.

          After the meeting with Victoria, though, which is more likely?

          A) that tattletale assumed that whatever her goals with Victoria are, they were accomplished by that single conversation so Victoria can be ignored from then on.

          Or

          B) tattletale keeps tabs on Victoria for a while to see how she reacts to the conversation.

          1. Tattletale said she’s not doing anything that doesn’t help her in several ways. Having Vicky watched hinders her by using resources that could be placed elsewhere (not money for spies, but trustworthy spies; parahumans that help in the observation, etc) for little potential return. Vicky either backs off, which is good for Tt, or she doesn’t, in which case she picks a fight with a town that Tattletale’s set up a deal with and she’s paid for help. Which is also good for her.

            Besides which there’s more effective ways of learning what Vicky’s doing than watching her. Hacking her phone for example. Tattletale’d be good at that, given her power at guessing passwords. Kenzie might notice if somebody was rooting around in hers, but the others wouldn’t, probably.

      2. Actually the team has a hard counter to Imp. Kenzie’s tinkertech. Imp can’t affect machines, so if Kenzie does decent stranger protocals for her stuff, she can catch Imp.

        And you know what Kenzie and Imp have in common? You can never be sure they aren’t watching you masturbate/have sex.

        1. They are ceiling cat.

          Yeah, Kenzie could pretty well wreck Imp. Just project a picture of Imp on Imp. If that doesn’t work a giant arrow pointing to Imp. Heck, if Imp was floating around watching them she would be on the instant replay.

      3. Tattletale needed a seven-year-old child to explain the Entities to her, twice. I’d say that even if her mental block is completely broken, the list of people who know more about passengers than she does at least includes Panacea, Bonesaw, Valkyrie and Teacher. Possibly Dragon and Defiant as well, they’re both tinkers and they have Dragon’s trigger event recorded.

        In Tattletale’s defense, she’s kept that child on retainer, so she can’t be completely clueless.

  18. To everyone amazed at how Vicky is putting everything at TT’s feet, and not giving the other Undersiders much credit:

    We know that Grue was leader, and that after the S9 he passed the baton to Skitter*. Tattletale’s a high-ranked Thinker. Look at the other high-ranked Thinkers; they all lead their own groups, or are independent and don’t play second fiddle. Number Man and Contessa led Cauldron, with Doctor Mother as face. Accord had his own group (I can’t remember the name of it, though). Teacher sort-of counts as a high-ranked Thinker, and he had a group. Coil had several deniable groups in addition to his main one. Dinah’s independent.

    Tattletale is unusual in that, until Skitter defected, she wasn’t a leader-cape despite being a high Thinker. Therefore, putting all of the Undersider’s wins and accomplishments at her feet is totally understandable. In Worm, the heroes thought that TT had told Taylor of the mayor’s son’s identity as whatever his cape name was. Thinkers are expected to know things, and to lead.

    *Heroes in Brockton Bay after Taylor’s unmasking will know she led by then, but not necessarily when she took over, nor from whom.

      1. Deliberately so. Jack kept the nature of his Thinker power quiet for decades- and didn’t even realise he had it. Besides which, I was more going for those capes for whom their Thinker rank is the highest and most obvious part of their powerset- hence why Teacher had a place, even though he doesn’t technically have a Thinker rating (he’s a Trump/Master, with a Gifter/Hypnotist flavour). Jack’s Thinking made him really dangerous, but most people would have pointed out the fact he can cut your throat from eight miles away (if he has a telescope).

    1. Add to that that her ability is uniquely scary to be on the other side of (I mean, Alexandria just NOPEd out of fighting the Endbringers because Tattletale would be in the general vicinity). Not only does she invariably figure out the exact thing you really want to hide, she does it by publicly humiliating you and poking at all your traumas. Her whole MO is making people freak out, why are we shocked that people freak out about her?

      1. >I mean, Alexandria just NOPEd out of fighting the Endbringers because Tattletale would be in the general vicinity

        When was that? Alexandria participated in the fight against Leviathan, and in the fight against Echidna, and then she died and was taken over by Pretender for the fight against Behemoth. And Tattletale was around in all three, although she had some problems with getting incapacitated halfway through.

  19. I didn’t really understand that last part of the conversation. Are they going undercover in Hollow Point or wherever? And what was the deal with the goat. What the fuck did Rain do to it?

    1. He cut it in half.

      His power creates a potential breaking point, visible as a silver line. It disappears after a short period of time, faster when his power is weaker. Once the line is there, it requires some force to separate the object. If the goat hadn’t run away, it would have lived. But it jostled itself, so it split along the line.

  20. “Twenty point two pounds of force total, that’s nine point one six kilograms.” Kilograms are a unit of mass only, never used to mean force. Should be Newtons.

  21. “I know what that’s like,” Kenzie said. “The institution. It’s not fun.”

    More evidence that Kenzie is secretly an orphan and her father is just a projection?

  22. I think Victoria is giving Tattletale way too much credit for what happened with her sister. Tattletale did do some damage but it was closer to a slash with a scalpel, it hurts and leaves a mark but Jack Slash came in with a chainsaw in a Hannibal Lector kind of way.

  23. Going from what we know about Tattletale, and what Rain has said, I think Rain is the cause of his trigger (and may or may not be involved in the death of the missing member).

  24. Random theories: Rain doesn’t actually dream about his cluster, and is just getting info from spooky internet person (Why not tell team therapy?).
    Rains power involves emotional manipulation, and he now has a pretty girl following him around being helpful. Is this suspicious? (Okay, yes, its suspicious, but the explaination could go like a dozen ways, and this is only one of them).
    Perhaps the rest of Rain’s cluster isn’t actually trying to kill him- he just thinks they are. maybe HE is the one most afflicted by the kiss/kill response (emphasis on kill).

    Actually…. does anyone know what is technically “Wrong” with Rain? Why is he in therapy? All the other characters I can see (anger management, abandonment complex etc…) , but Rain… actually seems pretty calm/clear headed… just scared… but that seems like something that needs security, not therapy.
    Was there something I missed?

    1. We don’t know what he was like before. He’s commented on ‘bleed’ and ‘blending’, so I’d guess he’s having to come to terms with the fact he’s not the same person he was before. Snag’s a git, and nobody likes him. Perhaps that’s the personality Rain had originally, and they swapped. Or if not swapped, they mixed- Rain got friendlier, Snag got gittier. Now he has to acknowledge and accept that he’s not the same person he was, and better for it. Perhaps that’s Snag’s main beef with him- he hates his new personality, but can’t figure out how to deal with it. And Rain’s not getting a good night’s sleep, either. Add in the trauma from the trigger, whatever it was, and if he WAS responsible, that’s guilt as well. It’s not obvious how he’s broken, that doesn’t mean he’s whole.

      1. Thanks for the run down.
        Your quiet right- I had overlooked these issues in my distraction by all the more obvious stuff going on, but yeah, that’s totally some therapy level stuff right there.

      1. Internet person is March, someone from Foil’s cluster, probably a villain. I think March was being genuine in wanting to help and find an ally in Rain.

    1. I just realized that Victoria might not even know about Cauldron. They were outed to every major player around Gold Morning, but Victoria was not a major player. She wasn’t even capable of moving under her own power. And afterwards, the existence of a cape conspiracy that did involuntary human experiments, sold superpowers, and controlled most organized pre-armageddon cape groups from behind the scenes would probably have been one of those need-to-know things you don’t tell the general public so as not to unnerve them. Sveta and Amy know everything, but Victoria hasn’t seen one since the asylum and has been deliberately avoiding the other. Hell, Ashley might know something, Cauldron were the ones who got his remote override switch after Bonesaw defected.

      I can’t wait to see what comes of the “we hate you because we wanted to kill Doctor Mother ourselves” thing Sveta had going.

  25. Also ad “kilograms are not a unit of force” – units are a thing of convenience, not something grounded in physical reality. Particle physics sets Planck constant (among others) to be a dimensionless 1, relativistic physics sets the speed of light to be 1 as well, etc. It’s a very practical thing to write your equations in numbers, not units, especially when doing simulations or if you want to detect which combinations of parameters affect a given system’s behaviour non-trivially (not by just rescaling), e.g. Reynolds number for simple fluid flow. If you set g=1, then kilogram = Newton.

  26. It was really interesting to see the Undersiders from an outside POV. Both in terms of “huh, this is how it looks from the outside” and in how it’s interesting to wonder how Worm would’ve played out with Lisa as the protagonist, how Taylor’s perspective distorts the narrative of Worm.

    Wasn’t it implied in Glow-Worm that Victoria knew that Taylor was Khepri? Obviously it’s not information that’s supposed to get out, but that knowledge would make her placing everything on TT a little weirder.

    One last thing:

    OH DEAR GOD THIS IS THE WORST TEAM TO GO UP AGAINST TATTLETALE WITH, VICTORIA DALLON WHAT ARE YOU THINKING???

    Seriously, between her, Ashley, Sveta, Chris, and Byron, there’s a lot of PTSD / people vulnerable to a swift kick to the personal demons. Kenzie’s level of openness might protect her against the traditional use of TT’s power, but she could tell her or Rain how their crushes feel about them and wreck some significant havoc. Add that to guessing how Victoria’s forcefield works now and what day to avoid Rain on, and OH RIGHT THEIR WHOLE PLAN IS TO TRY TO KEEP A SECRET IN THE NEAR VICINITY OF TATTLETALE.

    1. Victoria isn’t really thinking about anything, as we can see from the text. She is just passively following along without planning or aiming for anything. It’s pretty bad. 🙁

  27. >Pretending to be a villain to rat them out

    Well, here we go again boys.
    Looks like Vikky really didn’t get the memo.

    1. // “Nobody knows Ashley is on the side of the good guys for the time being. She’s really good at the villainous persona and atmosphere.”
      “Thank you,” Ashley said.
      “And then there’s Chris, who can be monstrous, appear, disappear, then show up again as someone or something else.” //

      Well, they’re not *all* going undercover as villains? (Also: for the purpose of getting information to give to other heroes.)

  28. I think Tattletale would be proud to know that she’s successfully convinced at least one person that everything has gone according to her plan and she wasn’t just desperately making shit up between getting her ass kicked, plus a personalized “No, I am the cleverest in the land” memo from the Simurgh in the form of a crazy Yangban dude.

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