Shadow – 5.3

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We hurried to get ourselves put together.  Tristan was often the one to take point on the organization side of things, but for the moment, he was ducking under a table, dragging out a plastic bin with his armor in it.  No breath or focus to spare.

“What are we doing?” Sveta asked.

“I guess we all go,” I said.  “Control the situation, then help the heroes, in that order?  Tristan?”

“Yep,” Tristan said, as he straightened up.  He pulled off the v-neck long sleeved shirt he was wearing, undid the necklace with steel beads and a metal ram’s horn, and dropped them into a corner of the plastic bucket.  He had his non-armor costume on under his clothes, form-fitting and covered in patterns that gave some character to what was visible in the gaps between the individual pieces of armor.

“What can I do?” Rain asked.

“You come if you’re up for it.  Kenzie too.”

“Yes,” Kenzie said, without hesitation.

“I want you on the periphery,” Tristan said, stressing the periphery part.  “Kenzie, you’re staying close to me, you’re backup and problem solving, we’ll figure out where to park you and keep you as a reserve.”

“You’re bringing me along?” Kenzie asked, wide-eyed.

I listened and watched, pulling off my sweater with one hand, the other hand holding my camisole top in place.

Tristan answered her, “I promised you I would.  You can keep an eye on things with the cameras?”

“I can,” she said, enthused.  “Oh shoot!  I need to get last minute costume stuff done, and I have it loaded with stuff for Chris.”

She began rummaging, hurrying to get ready.

“You want me along?” Rain asked.

“It might be best to have everyone along in some capacity.  You stay far enough back the clairvoyants can’t see you and so you won’t run into Love Lost or the others.”

“Okay,” Rain said.

“Sveta and Victoria together.  Erin?  Good to have you here, but-”

“It would be weird if I stayed while you’re all gone.  I get it,” Erin said.

I put on the sweatshirt.  I’d peeled off the previous design, and put on a new one.  It was better than the mess before, a similar aesthetic, with the circle and stylized rays, but the lines curled more, reaching out to the seams of the sweatshirt, where they blended into thin black bars.  The hood was framed with the same design.

More of my self-care, to get my outfit somewhat in order.  I’d done a little something to the mask, giving it some black accents, but it was still predominantly white.

Not that it mattered much.  I didn’t place a serious priority on my secret identity.  Anyone who could put two and two together would know my face, including the villains in Cedar Point.

Sveta applied her mask.  She’d taken one of the temporary masks, but in the time since we’d gone out together, she’d taken some art supplies to it.  The same color scheme that covered her prosthetic exterior, with deep, dark blues and greens, neon oranges and yellows, now covered her mask.

“That’s great,” I said, briefly, before applying my own, making sure it was symmetrical.

“Thank you.  The color rubs off, so it’s only a temporary thing.”

“The masks aren’t meant to be long-term,” I said.  “We’re making do until we’re more settled.”

I plucked at my sweatshirt as I said it.

“That’s temporary then?”

“Yeah,” I said, giving her a hard look.  I glanced back at the screen.  “Going to do something better, but I have to figure some stuff out first.”

“Okay, haha, I was worried I’d have to dance around my friend having low standards for her costume,” Sveta said.

I snapped my head to look around, and saw Sveta stick her tongue out at me.  I gave her a light push.  “Fuck off, and not the time.”

“This is better than what you had before.”

Baby steps.  Better costumes as I figured out what I was doing.

What was I doing?  I could see the mob on the screen.  I knew from my experience with the broken trigger that mobs were hard to wrangle.  Adding my emotion power to the mix, when Love Lost’s had already taken hold?

More than anything, I wanted to think things through.  I wanted to be intelligent in how I went about the cape thing, but there were times that couldn’t happen.  This time, where blood was being shed, was one.

If law, right and wrong, and the input of others didn’t serve to clarify matters, then I wanted to do what would weigh on me the least.  I was glad that those least-weighty things were often the lawful and right ones.

It was selfish.  If a time came in the future where I was disabled, with nothing to do but sit in a hospital room, thinking about the past and dreading my non-future, I didn’t want my memories to be something I had to endure, or things that soured on reflection.

I didn’t miss the fact that as that idea rolled through my head, the ‘if’ of the idea had the faintest catch to it.

An idea to hold onto for when I saw my new therapist.  When, not if.

“I’ll organize these guys,” Tristan said.  He was strapping on his armor. “I’ll run to catch up.  You two figure out what you’re doing.  Remember Chris and Ashley are out there.”

I looked at the screen, looking at the labels of the capes involved in the fight.  Prancer and Spright were maneuvering around each other in the middle of downtown, not far from the pub or Prancer’s headquarters.  Nailbiter had left the larger brawl and were giving chase.

Snag’s name had appeared and was in the shifting jumble of labels over heads.

“It’s too chaotic,” I said.  “If we throw ourselves into that mess, I’m going to hurt someone, Sveta is, or we’re going to get hurt.”

“Go after Prancer and-” Tristan turned his head to check the screen on the side.  “Spright.  Keep an eye out for Love Lost and Nail.  Do what you can.  I’ll signal you once I’m closer.  We’ll deal with the mob when we’ve more of our own people around.  Us stragglers will call Chris and the hero oversight.”

“Good,” I said.

I didn’t want to waste more time.  I pushed the door open, holding it for Sveta, and then took her hand.

I picked her up and flew.  When I was higher than any of the buildings in the area, I paused to turn around in mid-air, looking down at the headquarters.

“Something bothering you?” Sveta asked.

A lot of things were.

I flew toward Cedar Point.  If I waited too long, Prancer and Spright would have moved on from the area we’d seen them.

“Tristan.  He’s getting everyone out of there,” I said, while we flew.  I had to raise my voice to ensure I’d be heard.

“And?”

“And- it’s like that riddle,” I said.  “The wolf, the chicken, the corn, a boat with room for the man and one thing in the boat at a time.  He’s-”

My voice dropped away as we drew close enough that I could hear the faint scream and the reverberation.  I partially lost my train of thought.

“I’m not following you,” Sveta said.

“He’s either pulling something or he’s worried someone else will,” I said.  “He’s taking possibly unnecessary steps.”

I felt Sveta’s arm move, where it was wrapped around my back.  Tightening.

“I don’t like this,” she said.  I could barely hear her.

“Me interpreting things like this?  Tristan?  Rain?  The awful puzzle analogy?”

“Any of it,” Sveta said.  Her voice grew louder, so I could hear her properly again.  “I don’t want to make this mistake again.”

I wanted to ask, but I heard another scream.  I could see a distortion in the air, as colors pulled away from trees and buildings as if they were watercolor or the color was multiplying, casting the surroundings into shades of red and purple.  The effect was brief, and the distortion faded.  No damage had been done to the surroundings.

I could feel the effect of it, even from a distance.  My heart rate picked up, and for a moment my thoughts and feelings spooled out.  There were a hundred things I was holding in my heart and head that had to sit there.  There were worries, irritations, traumas, and causes for outright fucking fury that I couldn’t do a damn thing about.  Just being on the periphery of the effect made them swell up and jostle together.

Sveta’s arm tightened around me.  I could hear the thump, thump, thumpthump of her tendrils against the inside of her body.

I met her eyes.  I could instantly tell that she’d been affected more than I had.

I was resistant to emotion effects, because I generated them.  Snag had hit me hard because he’d hit me where it hurt the most.

My rage?  It was there, beneath the surface, but it wasn’t a weak point.  It was a regular point.

Changing course, I flew straight for the nearest rooftop.  Sveta let go of me and dropped down the moment we were close enough.  She was unsteady on landing, and after her legs didn’t keep her upright, she landed on her hands and knees on the roof’s surface, which was covered in black shingle-like tiles, four feet across.  Puddles of water settled in the parts that were lower than others, waiting to be evaporated by the sun.

I kept my mouth shut as the emotion effect subsided, and walked over to the roof’s edge.

Love Lost had joined the chase, running alongside Nailbiter, who had extended her limbs.  They made a racket as they ran.  Love Lost’s claws scraped the road and kicked up sparks, and she was faster than an ordinary person.

Nailbiter, though, had extended her limbs, but they got narrower as they grew longer, and had become black and gnarled in the process.  Her jaw hung low, the joints on either side extended, her jawbone  made longer and narrower, and the teeth extended further.

She looked like something half-crocodile, half-scarecrow.

She had no problem with mobility or strength, apparently, as she took strides that were fifteen feet long.

Prancer was only a short distance behind Spright.  Spright ducked in between two parked trucks.  As a maneuver, it put a truck between himself and Prancer, and forced Prancer to anticipate which way he’d go, or if he’d carry on straight and go down the alley.

Prancer hopped up onto the vehicle in the same moment that Spright slid under it.  The two seconds it took Prancer to look around and try to find out which way he’d gone were seconds he could run, using enhanced speed.

He half-jumped, half-climbed up a building, with Prancer in delayed pursuit.  Setting foot on the edge of the roof, he leaped backward, in a backward bound that saw him arcing over sidewalk, street, sidewalk, and put him on course to make contact with a building’s face.

I started forward as Nailbiter reached out.  Her arm extended, long, thin, and rigid, fingers doing the same as they became points so fine and far away I couldn’t even make them out.  Spright kicked out and brought an arm up to deflect the piercing fingers with the armor there.  He landed on the roof, and an intervening building meant I couldn’t see where he went from there.

I was flying in that direction when I saw Love Lost reach for her mask.  She pulled it off, and I changed direction, reversing course and throwing myself against the roof I’d just left.

The scream pierced through the air, raw and magnified in volume. I could see the distortion flare up around the edge of the roof, where the effect was cut off, but it didn’t extend through the building or the roof.  I didn’t feel the change in heart rate or breathing.

The color change and distorted blur in the environment was limited to an area in front of Love Lost’s mouth.  Solid objects blocked it.

I chanced a peek.  She was down on the street, running past us, Nailbiter a distance ahead of her.  She didn’t seem to have noticed me, even with her emotion power.

Damsel was chasing as well, only as fast as she could run, nothing augmented but the blasts, which she wasn’t using.

Sveta, Ashley and I.  I’d come this way because we were the worst people to deal with Love Lost.  I’d been ready to leap to Spright’s defense against Nailbiter if I had to, but Love Lost being here complicated that.

At least Spright seemed to be managing, whatever he was doing.

“Sveta,” I said.  “Are you okay?”

“I’m ok-” she started, and the interrupted ‘okay’ sounded like ‘oak’.  “I’m trying to tell my body not to murder my suit.”

“Can I do something?”

She shook her head.

“Okay.”

On the street, Spright had escaped Prancer.  He returned to the main street, saw Nailbiter and Love Lost close by, and broke into a run.  The breaker effect was steadily fading.

Prancer’s power, I knew, was a breaker effect, to go by the PRT classifications.  It was the most misunderstood classification in playground arguments and online debates, to the point where every power had probably been called a breaker power by someone.  Where changers were powers that changed one’s form and were physical and mostly bound to the natural world, breaker powers were on-off, tied into enabling powers or powersets, and were ethereal or rule-breaking.

Prancer’s ‘on’ switch was a power-derived form that made him fast and nimble.  Running and jumping around made the effect steadily ramp up.  It made him fast and evasive.

It was good to think about the mechanical side of powers, to dwell in fact and things that made me think of reading cape magazines in bed and talking to Dean.

Sveta’s voice stirred me from my thoughts.  “Positive side is I just found out I’m all instinct when I’m forced into attack mode.  My body isn’t smart enough to figure out how to get out of the suit.”

“Good thing,” I said.  I meant it as I said it, saw the fleeting smile on her face, but I was also kind of distracted.

“What’s going on over there?  It helps if I focus on external things I can’t accidentally murder.”

“Spright’s running, I lost track of him.  I’d go to him and ask what the fuck is going on, but he’s trying to be slippery and he’s good at it.  I’d talk to Prancer, but it’s exactly the same thing.  I don’t want to go after Love Lost and fuck up.  I’m wondering if we should run, go back to the mob.”

Sveta nodded.

“I hate to leave Spright,” I said.  “He might not know about the violence, or who’s after him, and this is a- in big fights, outright wars, it’s good to identify solutions.  If I can get to Spright, I can stop this.”

“Love Lost is the biggest problem?”

I nodded.

“I think I can get her,” Sveta said.  She shifted position and sat back.  “I don’t want to hurt her, but I think I can get her.”

“You sure?”

“Reasonably sure.”

“Rule of thumb I’ve been thinking about?  Seventy-five percent.  No more than three-quarters of the hurt they’ve done to others.  She made ReSound bleed a lot.  You can make her bleed a little.”

Sveta winced.

“Or not at all,” I said.  “But remember that she’s willing to hurt Rain.  If she had a twisted ankle or something, it’d make a lot of things easier.”

Sveta nodded.

“You good?” I asked.

“I wanted to do this.  Go get Spright.”

The best way to get control over this situation.  Spright had been sent forward as the vanguard of Advance Guard.  Was it to lead others on a wild goose chase, or was he after something?

I flew a course that put me directly over the rooftops, so the buildings were between me and the pairing of Nailbiter and Love Lost.  There had been some time since the last scream.  Her mask might have been put back on, which would have meant a delay before she could hit me with something.

That delay had been a factor when Sveta and I had both visited Cedar Point together, to deal with Sink and Hookline.  It might be a factor here.

Prancer’s power wasn’t a threat, but it was a serious consideration.  It made him fast and hard to track down.  Once upon a time, it had meant he could run drugs and make drop-offs as a petty criminal.

The drawback was a concern too.  He was forced out of the breaker state and made mundane if he got hurt.

I spotted the colorful set of blurs that was the pair, and changed course to follow.  They were leaping between building faces, positioning feet to avoid putting one through a window, and covering as much ground up and down vertically as they were crossing horizontally.  They were fast enough now that if they had been moving in a straight line, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up.

Flying over the rooftops, moving in a straight line to close the distance, I caught a glimpse of Nailbiter climbing up a two-story building with the ease someone else might climb up onto a desk.  She moved like she was on stilts, or like she was all stilts.

Pointed ones, as I understood it.

Her arm moved, swinging.  I heard the sound of fingers as fine as needles slicing through the air, and put my shield up.

I couldn’t even see her fingers, as they crashed into me.  Shield down, I changed course before she could close those fingers around me and set me up for something else.

Her mouth yawned open.  My shield wasn’t yet up when her teeth extended, but I was able to get down enough she wouldn’t hit me.  Each tooth pointed in a slightly different direction, and she had a lot of nail-teeth.  I heard the faint whisking sound of the thinner-than-needles teeth hitting things almost purely at random.  Each hit with the force of a knife swung overhead and into a table.

There was a pause, and I heard an unearthly screeching sound.

The teeth had stopped just short of penetrating windows.  With each small movement on her part, points scraped against glass.

I saw something thicker than a tooth withdrawing.  Changing course, I maneuvered between buildings, barely a few feet above the ground, my forcefield up.

Several feet in front of me, a vague column that looked like it was more shadow than substance  lunged out into my path.

My first thought was that it was one of Sveta’s arms.  It wasn’t.  I tried to fly under it, since I was already so close to the ground, and the individual components fanned out to bar my way.

I crashed bodily into them, my shield absorbing the hit, and the impact made them slap against the side of a dumpster in the alleyway.  The thing was crude in a made-just-after-the-world-ended kind of way, four pieces of thick metal, welding, and handles for the dump truck.  The hit made one of the sides buckle, the weld at the side closest to me splitting violently.

I turned to look the other way, and saw Love Lost with one clawed hand resting on a crouching Nailbiter’s fingers, guiding them.  Nailbiter had both hands together, fingers pointed at me, and the fingers were extended out.

Enhanced strength, and the ability to extend any part of her body, making that part rigid and thinner.

She moved her hand, and two fingers pressed me against a wall, needle thin bars against my throat and thighs.

I couldn’t trust that my forcefield would come back in time.  My feet were only barely touching the ground, but I could fly.  I flew away from her, sliding between the extended digits and the wall.

She increased the pressure, and I had to stop, lest I give myself road rash while scraping against the concrete wall.  Another nail-finger shifted position, slapping me across the cheekbone and ear, and pressed my head back.

Her mouth opened.  I didn’t see her do anything, but I threw up my shield all the same, the moment I felt it was ready.  I pushed out, hard, and the wretch did the same, gripping and pushing the finger bars that had trapped me.  A foot from my face, her tongue struck hard against an invisible surface.  It would have gone right through me if it had connected.

I moved while I could, between fingers and wall.  I could feel here and there where there was a bulge where there had been a knuckle.  I could only imagine how it worked when it wasn’t extended fingers, but the rusty nail-teeth.  Doing this would have been like running a saw against my throat, face, and thighs.

These two were dangerous.  I flew straight up, the moment I was free of the fingers, rounding a corner.

Instincts told me to press forward.  I wanted to go after Spright, or remove the threat.

I stopped instead.  There was a limit to how fast and how far they could travel.  I had a second.

Love Lost could have hit me with a scream while I was pinned.  She hadn’t.  She could have seen Sveta and I with her power earlier.  The second might have been explained by her thinking we were bystanders, but the first?

Was it that she would have been hitting Nailbiter’s fingers?  Not a good idea, to provoke an enemy who was standing right next to you, not when that enemy was very good at hurting people.

An easy conclusion to jump to, but not the only one.  I’d been thinking about breakers, the on-off.  It wasn’t out of the question that Love Lost could only sense emotion when she wasn’t projecting it.  It could be a thing that alternated, with a period of time where she could see, a period she could project, with the mask serving to restrict it.  It could be that her scream disabled her sight for a time after using it, while the power gobbled up energy for another activation, the sight only available when the power was primed and ready.

That attack into the alley had been timed to try and hit me, or at least to anticipate me.  My flight pattern hadn’t been predictable.  I didn’t want to have more nail-fingers in my face the second I was up above the buildings.  I wished I was better able to figure this out.

The scream, too.  She made people pissed.  Irrationally, recklessly angry.  When she’d done it to ReSound, she’d been prepared for Resound lashing out.  Maybe she hadn’t done it to me because she couldn’t handle me in a fight?

Sometimes the simplest answer was the right one.

I could call Kenzie and see if they have anything to report, but that might show our hands.  We were already showing so much.

I heard a distant scream, terrified, and it wasn’t Love Lost’s.  At the same moment,  my phone vibrated in my pocket.

Pulling it out, I checked the screen.  A text from Kenzie, now listed on my phone as ‘Ls’ for Looksee.

Ls:
coast clearish

I flew straight up, until I had a view of the situation.  I didn’t have a thinker power, but a view of the battlefield from above counted for something.  If my forcefield broke, I would take evasive action.

What I saw had to be Chris.  I was far away, so I couldn’t see him well, but it had to be him.  It was a face, six feet tall, three feet wide, with no cheeks or anything but a spine connecting the top half from the lower half, as if the chin and bottom row of teeth were the ‘head’ of an insect, the rest of the head the thorax.  The setup was surrounded by a ring of spider-like legs in varying shapes and sizes.  They looked like flesh and not chitin, though, muscular meat with a pronounced ‘elbow’, coming to a pointed tip where it touched the ground or face.  He jerked and twitched, large eyes wide, and some of the legs seemed to be more focused on clawing at his own face than on keeping him mobile.  I would have said it was like someone dragging his fingernails across his cheeks, but he didn’t have any cheeks.

He screamed at them, and it was the sound of mortal terror.  He’d succeeded in getting Love Lost and Nailbiter’s attention, and now huddled at the foot of a building, pulling against it as if he could pull himself through the seam between sidewalk and store.  They didn’t seem to know what to make of him.  I didn’t blame them.

Love Lost touched Nailbiter, and pointed in my direction.

Yeah, she could see me.  I braced for evasive action.

Anxiety Chris screamed again, louder.  Nailbiter moved a hand, and he darted to one side, taking a wild path that saw him running up the wall and off the side of the building, radically changing direction as he touched ground.

He was quick.  I was put in mind of a bug darting to the darkness as the lights came on.

They were caught between keeping an eye on me and keeping an eye on Chris.

When Love Lost touched her mask, Chris sped another fifteen feet in a heartbeat.

She pulled off the mask, and she screamed at him.  I could see the distortion, aimed more at the ground now.  Roughly conical, it covered a lot of area.

Chris twitched, jerked, moved this way, then that.  He raised his fleshy spider legs and pointed two tips at them, and Love Lost moved slightly behind Nailbiter, as if she’d find cover behind the exceedingly thin limbs.

Chris screamed back, raw and scared.

There was a moment’s pause, and she screamed at him again.  Compounding the effect?

He screamed at her again, quivering in the wake of it, and crept closer.

Nailbiter’s fingers stabbed the ground between herself and him.

He screamed, brief, and ran away.  It seemed he couldn’t move in a straight line, or the evasive action was built in, because he traced an ‘s’ shape as he ran.

I flew to put buildings between me and her.  Where were Spright and Prancer now?  We’d diverted the dangerous elements, but I wanted to fix things.  I wanted to take concrete, measured steps to make things better, now that Advance Guard had shit the bed as badly as they had.

I wanted the world to make sense again.  And Cedar Point didn’t make sense.

Two more screams, both in short succession.  Anxiety Chris’ scream.  I turned to look, and I saw the faint shadow of Nailbiter’s nail-fingers stabbing skyward.

Love Lost was running up the fingers.  They were thin, but she didn’t seem to be struggling.

Her mask was off, and she was looking down.  Looking for me.

Scratch my earlier theory about her not wanting to provoke me.

I couldn’t get to cover fast enough, so I did the opposite.  I headed straight for her.  If she thought she could deal with me, I wanted to see what she’d do.  I pushed out with my aura for the first time, to make it harder.

She would be resistant, like Snag was.  Still, I refused to believe that she could deal with my aura, scream, at me, and take evasive action against my charge while thirty feet above the rooftops.

Nailbiter lashed out.  Teeth.  My forcefield took the hit, and I carried forward.  Love Lost lost her footing, teetering, then leaped hard off of the fingers.

I flew straight down, to put myself out of Nailbiter’s reach, while Love Lost leaped sideways.

She touched the side of Prancer’s headquarters, the claws of her hands and feet finding traction on the surface, and she moved like she was running, claws catching and helping to propel her.

There was the wall-running power.  She moved fluidly along a vertical surface, claws helping.  Her hand went to her mask, and a hand reached up from below, grabbing her ankle.

Sveta.

Love Lost was pulled away from the building.  No longer able to make contact with the surface, she fell at a diagonal, in the direction of the rooftop she’d originally been falling down to.  I could see her reorient herself in the air, twisting to put feet beneath her, but she couldn’t stop falling.

Not a terminal fall, most likely, but it’d be a hard one.

In the distance, I could hear Chris screaming as he ran.  He covered a lot of ground, apparently, because the scream faded with each passing second.

Good job, Sveta, I thought.  Not showing her hand, catching Love Lost by surprise, and staying clear of that scream were perfect.  It had taken her a while, but I didn’t blame her for moving carefully and having trouble finding the right position and moment to act.

No, that was exactly what I was wanting to do.  It was energizing, in a way, exciting.  For all my doubts, I liked that at least one person was on my wavelength.

Chris had done his thing too.  Not bad, but he’d shown himself to Nailbiter, and it worried me that he could have been stabbed if Nailbiter had been a little more willing to pull the trigger and impale him.

I flew in Sveta’s direction, and found her waiting, her back to the wall, phone out.

She jumped when I floated over to her.

“Good,” I said.  “I’ll tell you how good after.”

She smiled.  She showed me the phone.

Ls:
prance lost sprite.  sprite on roof to W of u
we here at edge of town.  mob splitting up.  some headed ur way

As I read the messages, a new alert popped up.

Ls:
nail dam comin

I grabbed Sveta’s hand, and prepared to fly away when Damsel appeared in the alleyway.  I could have called her Ashley, but she didn’t give me the impression of ‘Ashley’.  Shadows fell across her face, accented by the mask and makeup, her eyes were eerily white, her hair was white, and it made for an attention-grabbing profile.  If I hadn’t known better, I might have been intimidated.

Nailbiter appeared, looming over Damsel in a crouch, three times as tall as Damsel was, so thin in places as to be almost invisible.  Her face was still prolonged, jaw hanging, teeth pronounced.

Love Lost was in Nailbiter’s cupped hand, crouching, holding one finger for balance.  I couldn’t tell how hurt she was.

“I’ll deign to let you two help me against the wannabe Alexandria and the girl with the paint,” Damsel said, dismissive.

Nailbiter pulled her face back together, the features drawing shorter.  “You aren’t Cedar Point.”

There was a whistling ‘s’ sound on Cedar.

“I am now,” Damsel said.  “Mess this bad?  Ripe for takeover.”

“We can discuss that,” Nailbiter said.

“Interested?” Damsel asked.

“You’re being hasty,” Nailbiter said.  “I’d be interested if I wasn’t loyal to Bob.”

Love Lost swiped out with a claw, dashing claw-tips against the wall to her left.  It made a sound, and both Damsel and Nailbiter focused their attention on her.

She pointed at us.

“Yes,” Nailbiter said.

She started forward, with sufficient clearance to go over Damsel, and I flew with Sveta’s hand firmly in my grip.  I could hear Damsel used her power in the same instant, lunging forward.

It bought us time, that she hurled herself forward while Nailbiter was trying to place an extended limb.

Time to get around a corner, to take pre-emptive evasive action.

They turned the same corner, and Sveta had turned herself around.  She cast her hand out, and gripped Love Lost at the neck and hair.  Love Lost had her hand at her mask, and stopped, not screaming.

“Sorry!” Sveta called out, as she hauled Love Lost free of Nailbiter’s grip, pulling her halfway toward us before letting go.

Love Lost was like a cat, apparently, acrobatic enough to keep her claws under her.  Still, she was moving fast, momentum was a thing, and the resulting landing was a bit of a roll and tumble, before she managed to stop herself.

Scraped up and glaring, Love Lost watched as I put some vertical distance between us.  Nailbiter slowed to avoid trampling Love Lost, falling behind slightly, and then raised a hand, aiming.

Reflexively, I brought up my forcefield and heaved Sveta up, back and away.  Instinct.  I couldn’t have my forcefield up while holding her.

I couldn’t even watch to see what Sveta did.  My focus was on Nailbiter.

She chose to try to get Sveta while Sveta was in the air.  I saw the mass of teeth extending, spearing out, and they were aimed too low to be aimed at me.

I flew down to intercept.  Forcefield up, I grabbed them after they had extended past me, pushing down, redirecting.  The wretch had to have grabbed them too, because she moved like superstrength applied.  All of the teeth were attached to her and when I moved some of them, I moved them all.

That done, I looked back for Sveta.  The inverse of Love Lost, to tumble so bonelessly through the air, with no ability to reorient herself.

My forcefield scraped against the nails as I flew past them, pushing them more before a last-second course correction to intercept Sveta.  I caught her.

“Warn me!”

I nodded.  It was very possible I felt more alarmed in the wake of the moment than Sveta did, and she looked really alarmed.

I looked back.  Love Lost and Nailbiter were on the ground, and Nailbiter wasn’t pressing the attack.

“You going to explain that?” Sveta asked.

“I can,” I said.  “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, but- what was that analogy?  Wolf, corn, chicken?”

“Wolf,” I said.  I had an ugly, heavy feeling that thoroughly crushed the moment of triumph.  I flew down, setting foot on the rooftop.  Each passing second, it bothered me more.  “Wolf.”

“I don’t follow.  I didn’t follow the analogy in the first place, but- secrets?  Maneuvers?”

“Just… wolf,” I said.  I didn’t want to explain it in detail.  “Control issue.  Similar to yours.”

I saw her forehead crease above her mask.

“You didn’t have one before.”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“Okay,” she said.  “You should have told me.”

I tried to formulate a response.  She wouldn’t look directly at me.

As I opened my mouth, she looked down at her phone, as if she was looking for an excuse to look away.  The tiny change in her expression gave me pause.

“What is it?”

“Come, Spright’s moving.”

She grabbed my arm, tugging.

“You can carry me?” she asked.

I nodded, seizing her with a firmer grip than necessary, carrying her off the roof.

Spright still had a vestige of Prancer’s power, even though Prancer was nowhere nearby.  I could see him running along a rooftop.  He leaped from the rooftop’s edge, to the building face next door.

The building was Prancer’s headquarters.  A stone building with a clocktower on the top.

Touching fingertips to toes, as his feet pointed straight forward, Spright passed through an open window and landed at a run.  For Sveta and I, we had to get there first, and then we had to maneuver ourselves through the window.  I supported Sveta so she could climb through and then looked around to make sure we weren’t being observed.

Well, if the clairvoyants were awake, and they had to be with the day still young, Chris still screaming in the distant background, and various other noises and chaos, then we were being observed.

But I couldn’t see anyone who could follow us into the building.

The things inside were… not especially nice, even though attempts had been made.  It made me think more of a parent teacher conference room and my mom’s office when she was really deep in work.  Budget desk, budget chairs, budget stuff in general, with the doors being wood that hadn’t even been polished down that nicely before being painted, and some signs of domesticity, with a jacket on the back of a chair, signs of eating at desks, and personal touches littering the space.

Spright was already across the floor.  A binder was open in front of him.

“Spright,” I said.

“The heroine who was Glory Girl, and a friend,” he said, sounding pleasant, even casual.  He picked up the binder and turned our way.  “I heard you were around.”

I stalked toward him, reaching for the top of the chest-plate that served as the closest thing I’d get to a collar.  He scrambled back, staying just out of reach, turning to flight when his feet failed him.  He dropped the binder.

Failing to get a grip on him so I could shake sense into the man, I settled for pointing a finger accusatorily at him.

I could hear Chris screaming in the background, a distant sound I couldn’t place, that might have been a giant tinker device going off.

This entire thing had been about taking a topsy-turvy world and making it topsy-turvy for the bad guys, unseating them and breaking their hold.  It had been about sanity, and they’d pulled the most insane fucking stunt, and they’d upended it.

But I couldn’t burn bridges.  They were… how would Ashley have put it?  Blithering idiots?  And I had to get along with them.  Heroes needed to cooperate, the team needed it, and I wanted to be diplomatic.

Fucking why?” I asked.

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115 thoughts on “Shadow – 5.3”

      1. “…I’m going to try intimidation next.”
        *NAT 1*
        “You go to grab him by the neck, but trip and wind up with your lips on his while gently cupping his cheek. You pull back, face burning, and the parts of Spright’s face that aren’t covered by his mask, you see to be bright red. The two of you stare at each other in awkward silence for a long time, both too embarrassed to speak, until Sveta’s speaks up from behind you.
        ‘So… does this mean Spright is the team’s new daddy?'”

    1. “Well, Clarice. Have the capes stopped screaming?”

      Well, Victoria did say she was going to get a new therapist.

  1. And Chris has gone full Junji Ito. Wonderful. This has got to be the least marketable power I’ve ever seen.

        1. Between that and talking about the power of Fruit Pies, I’m reminded of something I once wrote involving the S9 pretending to be heroes to get Fruit Pies.

    1. I mean you could always go the “Don’t worry, he’s more scared of you than you’re scared of him” route but that wouldn’t be very comforting

    2. Since Franz Kafka and Junji Ito are both marketable, Chris is totally fine. I expect no problem whatsoever. Action figures sold by the thousands, especially with a random ‘collect them all’ approach.

    3. I was thinking John Carpenters the Thing personally. But that’s what always comes to my mind when I hear head on spider legs.

    1. “her jawbone made longer”
      “substance lunged out”
      “At the same moment, my phone vibrated”
      Doubled spaces.

      “she could deal with my aura, scream, at me, and take evasive action”
      Extra comma before ‘at’.

    2. Similar typo:

      “For Sveta and I, we had to get there first, and then we had to maneuver ourselves through the window.”

      Should be “for… me,” not “for… I.”

    3. “deal with my aura, scream, at me, and take”

      extra comma after scream?
      Should be: “deal with my aura, scream at me, and take”?

  2. Well… Mad Anxiety is horrifying. I wonder if it has any abilities beyond speed, agility and the ability to constantly scream it’s head off.

    And if there was any doubt before, we can now definitely confirm that Spright is a Trump.
    While in other news the synergy between Nailbiter and Love Lost was… kind of awesome. I did not expect to see LL wall running along near invisible pointed fingers and such.

    Excellent chapter! Can’t wait to see more.

  3. You know, if team therapy would somehow manage to get Advanced guards support, I bet they could leverage the situation to actually make Ashley the new Hollow point leader.

    That said, even with support, somehow, this might be a horrible idea.

    1. …”Might”? I mean, I guess Ashley would be steered onto the rightish path by Kenzie (or forcibly wrestled there by the rest of the team), but still…Ashley still has that megalomaniacal edge that the original Ashley had, making her somewhat unsuited for leadership positions.

    1. As the game goes, it’s juggling potentially incompatible individuals together (or apart) so that they don’t hurt each other. Victoria expects Tristan is hiding something, which is why he left last.

      For the one with Sveta, I understood that as Victoria dropping her so the wretch (wolf) would not damage her (sheep/goat/chicken).

        1. Not setting them up. Just ‘something’, and this is while trying to find the ‘something wrong’ she talked about with Dr. Yamada. Compiled excerpts:

          Tristan. He’s getting everyone out of there,(…) it’s like that riddle(…). He’s either pulling something or he’s worried someone else will,(…) he’s taking possibly unnecessary steps.

    2. A man has to get a wolf, a sheep, and some corn across a river and he can only take one at a time. So how does he do it without letting the wolf eat the sheep or the sheep eat the corn?

      1. Mutton dinner? Hey, the puzzle says nothing about letting the sheep get eaten by anything other than the wolf!

    3. It’s a basic logic puzzle. You have a wolf (I usually here it as fox but whatevs), chicken, and a bag of corn that need to get across a river. The farmers boat can only carry him and one other thing at a time. You can’t leave the wolf and chicken alone or the wolf will eat the chicken. You can’t leave the chicken and corn alone for similar reasons.

      1. (For those who don’t know, you need to take the chicken across first so neither the fox nor the corn eats it.)

    4. There are variations. But it’s a riddle.
      “You have a fox, a chicken and a sack of grain. You must cross a river with only one of them at a time. If you leave the fox with the chicken he will eat it; if you leave the chicken with the grain he will eat it. How can you get all three across safely?“
      If you want the answer it should be easy to look up.

  4. Sassy-Sveta and “Fucking why?” strike again!

    Also: I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about the fact that Nail-biter just tried to impale Victoria.

    1. Well, technically Glory Girl never detailed her power’s vulnerabilities and always bragged about being largely invincible. From there, there’s the old “powers have to be shown” trope – if you can tank stuff, expect to get hit a lot. If you can regrow limbs, expect to lose them over and over. It’s pretty egregious when overdone, of course.
      In this situation, I see 2 possibilities: either Nailbiter still plays by the old ‘cops-and-robbers’ rules and believes Victoria is invulnerable, so she went with it; or she doesn’t really care anymore, actually shot to kill… but Vicky had her field up, so nothing lost (for now).
      Hard to tell which without switching points of view.

      1. I’m inclined to think the former, simply because I’m inclined to think most villains are still going by the old rules. Whatever world you live in, killing a cop/hero is a good way to bring more down on your head. (Also, most people don’t like killing people.)

        1. Nailbiter didn’t really seem like the rational sort though. And she was likely in the Birdcage for a reason.

          1. Honestly thinking about how it looks from the outside… I’m reminded of how in the old George Reeves Superman show Superman would stand their for the bullets, then dodge the gun when it’s thrown at him.

  5. So the wretch obeys Victoria at least *some* of the time.

    Also, Screaming Chris felt like a combinatio of Junji Ito and MegaTen’s most recent incarnation of Yaso Magatsuhi, Pokemon-speak and self-harm included, in all of its claymation glory.

    But also, fucking why?

    Spright seemed to know where to go and he’s digging through papers. Thinker tip-off?

    1. It’s not that the wretch is disobedient, it’s just bad at helping (though very enthusiastic at halping when given the opportunity).

      1. The wretch and Queen Administrator have weekly meetings over tea to discuss optimal helping strategies.

  6. A farmer has one boat. He needs to move a wolf, a sheep, and a plant across the river. The can only have one thing in the boat at a time. If he leaves the wolf and the sheep alone at any point the wolf will eat the sheep. If he leaves the plant and the sheep alone at any point the sheep will eat the plant. How can the farmer move them all across the river?

    Time to think

    Trip one: carry sheep across
    T2: come back alone
    T3: carry wolf across
    T4: come back with sheep
    T5: carry plant across
    T6: come back alone
    T7: carry sheep across

        1. But then what’s the Goat for? I mean you milk Goats, I’ve never heard of someone milking Wolfs! Is this what Organic farming has led us to?

      1. To scare off the bears, obviously.

        Alternately, he wants to breed it with his sheepdog for adorable Border Colves.

      2. The way I’ve always heard it, the problem involved a fox, a chicken, and some grain. I guess the question remains, “Why would a farmer want a fox?” But it still seems a bit more reasonable than a wolf. And both are better than this variation I just found on Wikipedia – panther, pig, and porridge. Why would a farmer want a fucking panther? And what’s so important about this porridge that he needs to manage a complicated river crossing with it rather than just sitting down and having his breakfast?

  7. I have to wonder how the after action meeting in Hollow Point is going to go.

    Prancer, standing at a podium, in front of a projector screen.
    “Okay can anybody tell me what the fuck is going on here? I mean heroes keep showing up, the Kings of the Hill show up to get their asses kicked, we turn out to have flying cameras spying on us and then more heroes show up? And what the hell do Glory Girl, Garrote from the Irregulars, Optics the former Ward, Capricorn from Reach, that douchebag Fallen kid from Love Lost and Snag’s cluster, and some random blonde girl with a gun have in common? And” Picture of Chris’ Screaming Anxiety appears on screen “What the FUCK is that thing?”
    Love Lost holds up a book titled “Maggie Holt’s Pocket Guide to Others, Volume 3” and turns to a marked page.
    “A Gribl-Griblsx- Big ugly spirit of dead miners? I kinda see the resemblence, but not really. Anyways I mean come on we’re just running a racket in this town, growing weed and all the heroes are going after us? The fuck? There’s a killer robot army, a Hillbilly Cult, possible war with another Earth and we’re what they decide to focus on?”
    Ashley speaks up.
    “It’s because you are WEAK! They smell that you are WEAK! You should all follow ME to VICTORY MWA HA HA!” Hookline stands up and points at her.
    “Nobody is going to follow anyone who wrecks the snack machine!”
    “The Snack Machine was WEAK! And STUPID! And when I rule all snacks will be prepared by snackmagicians!”
    Prancer just facepalms, before pulling out a Joint and lighting up.
    “Good god why me?”

      1. If there’s one thing I learned from the Hostess Fruit Pie ads it’s that NO ONE can resist snacks being thrown in front of them. We’re talking a Tinker 10 based on the cupcakes alone folks.

    1. This sort of feels like what the debriefing would be like. Assuming nothing bad happens.

      Oh shit, Erin is going to shoot any villain who attacks her. Hell, she might even just try to assassinate the other cluster mates.

      1. I’m just imagining people getting convinced that Erin has to be a Parahuman because she keeps getting dragged into cape fights and drama. And eventually they decide she’s got some sort of stranger power because Thinkers keep insisting she’s got no powers, and that can’t be right. Because otherwise why would a bunch of heroes keep bringing her to fights? And then Team Therapy never clears it up because they are too embarressed to admit it was just because they didn’t want to leave her alone at their base.

        1. That would be hilarious. Bonus points if she manages to beat up some really strong villains by having the right amount of luck and smarts to exploit their weaknesses and then people start becoming convinced that she’s the most powerful Parahuman on the team and start surrendering to her because she’s unintentionally being intimidating. And then she has to run with it and masters the art of bullshit to talk her way out of all her problems.

          Tl: Dr: I basically want Erin to become a gender bent version of King from Onepunch Man.
          https://i.pinimg.com/736x/b7/72/c5/b772c576f682cfab2aa3d995a0ebc948–one-punch-man-king-annie.jpg

          https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11111/111117956/4979306-m013.jpg

          1. A watermark of Taylor appears in the sky, wipes away a tear of joy, and gives Erin a thumbs up.

      2. It’s possible, but I’d imagined that they would leave the somewhat sheltered* teenaged girl with zero combat training as far from the front lines as possible.

        *According to Fallen principles, at least. She’s been exposed to a lot of crap that they don’t worry about as much…

    2. 1. Nice touch with Love Lost having Maggie Holt reading material, considering her daughter’s taste in fantasy content.
      2. Good god, why you? I suspect it’s because you’re holding a territory with a fuckton of vacant residential property, when a bunch of Cheit workers died when a protest over unavailable residential space caused a broken trigger. Exacerbating tensions that could lead to interdimensional war is pretty high fucking profile.

        1. I’ve also been expressing Mock Sympathy for Prancer. Which totally sounds like one of Chris’ forms.

    3. I want to see more Exasperated Impotent Middle-Manager Prancer. If you don’t post something like this on Tuesday, I will.

      (Unless I forget.)

      1. Depends on what happens Tuesday. But something did occur to me.
        Braindead- “I fucking hate having to wear a diaper. Stupid drawbacks.”
        Prancer- “You know dude you could just sit on a toilet.”
        Braindead- “Yeah but the seats are hard and I get bruises.”
        Prancer- “They make padded toilet seats you know.”
        Braindead- “… Why the fuck didn’t anyone ever tell me that?”

      2. > Exasperated Impotent Middle-Manager Prancer.

        “I dont care what your power is doing to time you only get paid once for the hour.”

        “Mind controlling someone in the room does not count as *attending* a meeting Jeffrey, we’ve talked about this before.”

        “Wear and tear to equipment is covered yes. Wear and tear as a result of being thrown at high speed, electrified, or used as a crude weapon is not. ”

        “Tinkers are no longer allowed access to the communal photocopier. Even if they say they just want to ‘improve’ it. “

    4. Huh. Trying to replace the Gecko now, are you? You sneaky, sneaky bastard . . .

      LET THE GAMES BEGIN THOOO

      1. Haha no. The Gecko is utterly unique. Thankfully. Besides it’s more like Chris’ forms. I have to be in the right mental and emotional state to truly produce something like that.

      1. Are you talking about the Kings of the Hill, or real life?

        …I was trying to make a joke, but I made myself sad.

        1. “Fucking why?” I asked, again.

          I almost hit him when he smirked. Would have been pointless; he’d just dodge me again.

          Fucking why,” he echoed, smiling. “Interesting choice of word, Glory Girl. Or whatever you call yourself now.”

          “Answer me or I tell my good friend here to get out of her suit and start squeezing.”

          “Why?” he said, the smile dropping from his face. He looked in the distance. “Why are we all here? I’ll tell you why. We’re here because our parents were here. And they? They were here because their parents were here. We can go back, keep going back: but that’s it, that’s the only reason we have for being here. The only reason for our existence. Millions of years ago, some random molecule in Earth’s ocean duplicated itself. And it duplicated itself. And today, we exist, not because of anything deeper, not because of a purpose, not even because some alien decided to take our world and give us power. We’re here, today, simply because our parents came together and made us. And if we don’t… if we don’t have children, then what would be the point? What else is there in life? Fucking, Victoria, that’s why I’m fucking here.”

          I stepped back, stunned. For some reason, his words evoked a glimmer of a memory; being in Dean’s arms, warm, loved, loving. And a later memory. Looking into… her eyes, holding her gaze, seconds before I realized what she’d done to me.

          The room suddenly felt cold, my cheeks suddenly felt too hot.

          “Sveta,” I said, as much as my throat was dry, “can you go outside the room? Make sure nobody disturbs us?”

          Fucking why, Victoria?” she asked.

          I told her. Four words. I looked into her eyes as confusion swept over them. Then they widened in realization. The realization turned to shock, and she knelt, her body unable to control her suit. A realization of vast implications.

          Four words.

          “He needed worthy fuckbuddies.”

  8. I like Chris. Mad Anxiety is a good distraction. Especially when he gets in a screaming match with Love Lost. I guess the fact Chris’ alternate shapes are incapable of feeling emotions other than whatever they represent provides a good counter to rage-screams.

    I can see why Tristan doesn’t like it, and I doubt I’d like it in person, but reading about him is fun.

  9. I do like that Ashley was professional and stayed in character. Yep she’s more professional than Kings of the Hill.

  10. Anxiety!Chris is funnier than a monstrous face-spider has any right to be. It probably doesn’t help that I keep imagining him as a bunch of cropped photos someone smashed together (kinda like Photoshop Flowey, except not composed with any particular intent).

    Heroes needed to cooperate, the team needed it, and I wanted to be diplomatic.
    Fucking why?” I asked.
    You know, for Victoria, that is diplomatic.
    Sorry, Glory Girl, it was just a joke! Please don’t hurt me…

    1. Okay I just have to wonder what happens if Chris is in his Screaming Anxiety form and comes face to face with a mirror. I’m just picturing some crazy thing like when a animal thinks there’s another animal inside a mirror, only with more humor. And screaming of course.

  11. People joke about Victoria not being diplomatic at the end there but honestly that’s actually pretty diplomatic considering the situation. She doesn’t make any attempt to hide the fact that she’s pissed at them for fucking up her operation but she also doesn’t come swinging with accusations or assumptions and instead gives him a chance to explain himself.

    1. Well, yeah. If we actually thought Victoria had done something wrong, we’d be criticizing her instead of cracking jokes. (Or, more likely, in addition to.)

  12. How is it that each new page of this has me eagerly wanting more, even more than each previous page did?

    Also, yeah, it hadn’t occurred, but Chris’s emotion forms are a great counter to emotional powers, as long as he doesn’t run into anyone who controls that one power.

    Or… Hold up. I bet Chris has a Guilt form. Maybe that’ll be a use for Rain’s guilt power- super-charging whatever Guilt!Chris does?

  13. So, more and more I’m coming to the conclusion that part of the current plot is building up to the kid gloves coming off for everyone. Again.

    We’ve had two years of people playing relatively nice. There’s no Birdcage, there are no summary executions, the most anti-social villains can bugger off and take care of their own little pockets, everyone gets a second chance…but we can see the tension building. Behind the scenes, last we knew, Tattletale and the Undersiders are preparing for war with Teacher, who honestly really needs to go down because sweet Jesus Christ. There’s an actual war between humans from different universes coming. The Fallen are amassing and are going to become a cancer.

    I think that’s where we’re going. And I miss Taylor, because this is the water in which she swam, the air beneath her wings. Taylor lived on the knife edge between sudden death and horrifying victory, and Victoria…doesn’t.

    1. >knife edge between sudden death and horrifying victory

      The Broken Trigger event that occurred seemed to have at least temporarily filled that role. Victoria had to contend with random powers, unconscionable civilians, and victims dying at a rapid rate.

      Which ended with the threat being contained and neutralized… and all of the afflicted dying horribly.

      >Victoria…doesn’t

      Which is a smart move on her part. Most of her team is fairly inexperienced, save for Tristan and Kenzie.

      If it makes you feel any better: Don’t underestimate the danger of the current situation. Like Ashley said; most powers don’t exactly come with a precise “stun” setting and people aren’t exactly perfect combat computers when in the heat of battle.
      And with people like Nailbitter running around combined with Love Lost’ ability going through the Heroes? Things could get very ugly very fast.

    2. Yeah. I’ve been reminded about something that was said once by someone about Avatar the Last Airbender and legend of Korra. Each series protagonist was more naturally suited for the situations the other series protagonists found themselves in.

      1. In this case not really. Taylor would be better than Victoria at taking charge during a time of war, but the converse is not true. Victoria could never have done what Taylor achieved in her series. Taylor was a monster who saved humanity.

        It remains to be seen what Victoria is better at. I suspect that she would genuinely be a better peace-time cape.

        1. Taylor isn’t a monster.

          >It remains to be seen what Victoria is better at.

          De-escalation and socializing with people seem to be the chief differences so far.

          1. Taylor’s cold clarity, singular drive, iron will, and complete lack of hesitation are what I love about her as a character. They are traits which are so magnified in her as to render her monstrous. I say this not as a bad thing. Taylor is a spectacular character, and I loved following her, but she wasn’t nice. She was necessary.

    3. > Tattletale and the Undersiders are preparing for war with Teacher, who honestly really needs to go down because sweet Jesus Christ.

      I honestly can’t wait for this. I am also waiting to see what is going on with the Endbringers back in Earth Bet. That incubator the Simurgh was working on by the end of Worm has to come into play at some I 100% understand Taylor won’t, can’t, and should’t return, but I am very eager to see Wilbow finally getting into all the seeds he planted at the end 0f Worm.

  14. So, it looks like Advance Guard actually did do a little more than a cursory check, if they had an idea where Spright should go to steal his files. I’m guessing the big cape fight is a distraction, and they’re here for something specific, but they don’t want to let on and Foxtrot just provided them with an excuse.

  15. I’ve been reading these serials since a 2 years or so ago, whenever I have down time in class, work, or transit. Now I’m finally caught up to current day, and I gotta say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the stuff you’ve put out, WB. You’ve spared me from many an hour of boredom. I especially loved twig, and I legitimately feel like I want to name my future son Sylvester. Thank you for sharing your worlds with us, and keep on rockin’.

  16. Hey Bow, just figured you ought to know that on the table of contents, Prancer’s interlude is called “Prance” rather than “Prancer”.
    Anyhoo, brilliant chapter as usual, keep up the good work!

  17. Good fighting against the scary circus freaks! I am looking forward to the conversation where Victoria explains the wretch to Sveta, as well as the metaphor. Chris’s transformations have a strong cartoonish aspect to them (although more disturbing). And yes, let us all ask diplomatically to the blithering idiots: fucking why?

  18. Chris sounds like he’d be right at home in the middle of Nilbog’s domain.

    If he still had one, that is.

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