Shadow – 5.5

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Orange motes began dancing around the trucks and railing that were serving to slow Prancer’s group down.  The people who hadn’t been pushed very far back actually backed away from the motes.

Glowing particles from one parahuman could be harmless or negligible, they could be concentrated points of energy that cut through flesh like a hot knife through butter, or they could be concentrated points of energy that un-concentrated into sizable explosions, given an excuse.

I made a loop of the area, getting a better look at Beast of Burden’s violent capes that were on the right side of the street -their right, my left- and with a gap separating them, the other capes, with the thinkers and Prancer.  I gave a wide berth to the particles, to help sell the idea they might be dangerous, and then landed beside Capricorn.

“Holding up?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Keep doing what you’re doing.  Don’t set it off unless they get close.”

“That’s the plan.  Mayday,” Tristan said.  “Good to meet you.  Are you caught up on things?”

“Spright filled me in.  This is your jurisdiction?”

I answered, “We’re babysitting it while other teams tour it.  They liaise with us.  That you didn’t says something went wrong.  People are messing with us, Cedar Point, or both.”

“We can discuss that later,” Mayday said.  “My team, Teri, Signal, Prong.  Who’s out?”

“I know you might need me, but my focus is gone,” the diagram woman said.

“Go,” he said.  The word was barely out of his mouth when she went out like smoke dissipating into air.  The smoke held the colors that had been her, initially covering the black of her costume’s fabric, the dark blue armor panels, the lighter blue ‘magic circle’ images on those panels, and her apparently near-black skin and hair.  The smoke included the interior colors too, however.  White for bone and fat, and lots of pinks and reds.

Within a second and a half, she was gone.

“Prong, Signal Fire, we decide who to evac next depending on situation.”

Five Advance Guard remained, with the five of us.  We were outnumbered almost three to one by the collected villains of Cedar Point.

Spright, Mayday, Signal Fire, Prong, and one other.  It was a woman with a short dress as part of her costume, leggings beneath, and long sleeves with the panels helping to form the bones of ‘wings’.  The panels at the front of her mask swept along the sides of her head to form a wing pattern.

I was going to guess she was ‘Flapper’.  A hard name to tie into the aesthetic of the Advance Guard.

Two mobile capes, and three that were waiting to be teleported out.  I was betting Mayday would be last.  Once their group was small enough, I was betting they would make a break for it.  We’d want to be able to go too.

Capricorn’s orange motes were rising up and filling the area between buildings.

Past the curtain, I could hear Ashley’s power.

“Hey!” Prancer called out.  “Civilian property.  They pay us, we leave their stuff alone.”

Ashley said something I didn’t hear.  Nailbiter sniggered.

Natalie was going to get upset with us again.

The standoff couldn’t last.  We were walking backward, putting distance between ourselves and the group, while the orange motes collected and filled the space.

“Hi Signal,” Looksee said.  “We didn’t interact for very long, but-”

“Optic,” Signal Fire said.

“Yeah,” she said.  “Except I changed my name.  Trying one on for a fit, but a teammate was making fun of me for it.  You actually remember me?  I thought you wouldn’t, maybe, because you had so many trainees-”

“I remember,” he said.

“Okay,” she said.  “It’s so nostalgic.  It’s been a while, Mayday-”

“Not the time,” Mayday said.

“Oh.  Okay,” she said.  “Okay.  Shutting up now.”

“You know the kid?” Flapper asked.

“She was one of my Wards, once,” he said.  “The less said, the better.”

“Wait,” Spright said.  “Is she the one you mentioned?”

The less said, the better,” Mayday said, in a tone that left no room for doubt.

“Geez,” Spright said.  “From the stuff I heard, I thought she’d look way different.  Older.”

“Let’s leave it,” Mayday said.  “I shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.”

“Nice to know that people are talking about me,” Looksee said, with a touch of sarcasm.  “We talked to Houndstooth, by the way.”

“It might be worth talking to him,” I said.  “He can round out what Spright said.  His team passed through.”

“I’ll do that.  He’s a good one,” Mayday said.  There was a pause.  “We’ve met and talked a few times.”

“Avenguard too?” Looksee asked.

“No comment,” Mayday said.

“I’m missing context,” Flapper said.

“Why don’t we focus on current events?” Sveta asked.

“Please,” Mayday said.

“Spright, keep an eye on the ones to the left.  Flapper, right.  Intercept and obstruct for Signal and me to tag.”

Rain raised a hand, pointing.  To our left, on the other side of the barricade, a hand and arm of thin parts was reaching up, tips embedding into the side of the building and piercing through.

Nailbiter was climbing the building face, to get up and over the orange motes.

I flew toward her at the same time Spright started running in that direction.

Off on the other side of the street, Velvet sent a trash can sailing through the orange sparks.  Metal rings held wooden slats in place, prettifying the exterior of a half-filled plastic bin.  Trash emptied out as it turned over, and it passed harmlessly through the orange points of light and the trails they’d left.

Testing them.

That was for others to handle.  I wasn’t looking at the time it happened, but at the corner of my vision, I saw the trash can change direction in the air.  Sveta, possibly.

Nailbiter found her position on the wall, toes extended and digging in, and pulled one hand away to point it at Spright and me.

It was hard to tell how fast it was coming at me, because the individual fingers were so thin and their extension so fluid.  I tried to judge it, flew to one side, and was struck regardless.

Before I could get hit again, I changed direction, letting myself fall down, away.  I’d had to deal with guns before.  If I couldn’t see the fingers and teeth stabbing for me, I would treat them as I might treat bullets.  She was mobile, strong, and as far as I was concerned, she had powerful shotguns for fingers and teeth.

I landed hard on the ground, rolled, and let her dismiss me, changing her focus to Spright, who was flying up toward her, his arms extended, with fingers drawn out, long and thin.

I waited until they clashed, fingers striking one another like ten rapiers striking ten more, and then I flew, pushing off the ground for that miniscule extra boost.

Spright extended his arms, flying down while keeping his hands in place, his arms long and high above him.  I could see the points of Nailbiter’s teeth pass above him, saw her turn her head toward me-

With her being extended across so much of the wall, I had room to maneuver while still pressing the attack.  I went low instead, seized her ankle with the wretch manifesting around me, and hauled her back and away from the wall.

It wasn’t an easy or immediate process to dislodge her.  In another circumstance, I might not have been able to budge her.  In this circumstance, gravity helped a bit.  She couldn’t do a lot to keep herself from having those long needle-fingers pulled out of the wall, except to extend them further.

Sidepiece hurled something at me, and it exploded against the wall, a foot from my head.  I glanced at her, saw her tear one of her exaggerated ribs out from beneath a cutoff t-shirt with so much cut off from the bottom it was indecent, above a stomach that looked like a zombie’s, with flesh bloody, raw and open where literal pounds of flesh had been torn away. The spine and area around it were intact, as was the navel and stomach on the opposite side, but the sides were completely gone.

She flung it at me.  I let go of Nailbiter, flew down, and hit the ground with an impact, my aura flared out.  I didn’t stop for half a second before immediately taking off again.

“Don’t fucking hit me, ‘piece!” Nailbiter screeched the words behind me, but the manner of speaking was even worse, as her teeth were retracting.

Again, I used my aura as I touched wall, not as heavy an impact, but I hit the edge of a window frame, and it made glass rattle.  Aura out, harder than before.

I zig-zagged, ground to wall, wall to a point high overhead, point above to ground again.  I made each point of contact with a surface something they had to pay attention to, putting them off guard, making Sidepiece have to turn around.

I took off again, flying toward her, aura at full blast.

Straight line, impact, straight line, impact, the pattern was ingrained.  I flew toward her, the impact a damn promise I’d made, and then changed course in the air, veering away from Sidepiece, aura stopping abruptly.

She threw a rib, but it was a throw she’d been planning to throw at me while I charged at her.  It went far afield, sailing in the direction of Capricorn, Mayday, and the rest of the group, and hit the road.

She didn’t have time to get another pound of flesh ready to hurl at me.

Nailbiter was getting herself situated after the adjustments she’d made to try to cling to the building, one of her hands out, fending off Spright.  She saw me coming, but too late.  I hooked my arm around her middle, her long torso in the crook of my elbow, and I pulled her away from the wall, successfully this time.

Once I’d pulled her away, she was flailing, searching for something to hold onto.  I didn’t give her the opportunity to get a grip or find an angle to get me.  I checked the coast was clear and tossed her down.

“Capricorn!” I called out.

“Okay,” I heard him say, a distance away.

Nailbiter landed across the truck, surrounded by orange motes.  The motes solidified, turning into the ridged white stone with orange-yellow veins running through it.

Nailbiter was stuck, part of her torso, her butt, and one arm caught in Capricorn’s stone.  The wall covered a considerable height, reaching up to the second story of the neighboring buildings, with some isolated spikes reaching up to the third.

I landed on the wall, and Spright landed right beside me.  He reached out with one extended hand, flexing it.

“I love the changer forms I get to steal,” he said.  “They last for so much longer than other stuff, and I get more of the offensive side of it than I do with other stuff.  This is great.  Thank you, Nailbiter.”

“Fuck yourself!” she screamed, voice distorted.  She reached back with her one free hand.  Both Spright and I leaned back and used the top edge of the wall for cover as the extended fingers stabbed upward, thin.

“Do that again, and I’ll return the favor,” Spright said.

“Stay put, Nailbiter,” I said.  I looked at Spright.  “You should go.  I can do more against them like this, and if you wait too long you won’t be able to catch up with the others.”

“No objection,” Spright said.  He somersaulted backward off of the wall.

Our group was running, now.  The only reason they hadn’t run earlier was that the bottleneck had been too important, too essential to keep the villains from coming at them as a mob.  Now there was a wall dividing the two groups.

I had the bird’s eye view as I stood on top of the wall.  Damsel began shooting at the wall, putting holes in it, while Moose stepped back, assessing the situation.

I flew down to the wall, close enough to Nailbiter that I was pretty sure Moose wouldn’t come tearing through the wall and trample me.

My back to the wall, hands out and pressed to the uneven surface, I waited until I felt the vibrations of Moose’s running footsteps.  It was hardly necessary, because Nailbiter kicked with her legs and screeched something at him, loud enough that Advance Guard and the therapy team could be aware of what was happening.

I pushed out with my aura, hard, extending it through the wall.

The thudding footsteps stopped.

On the other side, I heard Moose’s voice, then a laugh.


Gave him pause, at least.

He didn’t charge the wall, but he did punch one gauntleted fist through it.  A moment later, another fist came through.  He grabbed the intervening bit of stone and hauled on it, pulling out a chunk.

I backed away, facing the wall and Nailbiter’s rear end.

Moose peered through the hole.

“We meet again,” he said.

“Sorry about the face,” I said.

He moved his metal mask a bit to one side, showing me the three grooves that ran from the corner of his jaw to his cheekbone.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Sorry.”

“I got a compliment from a girl, she thought it was gnarly,” he said.  “It’s not all bad.”

“Stop fucking flirting and get us through, Moose!” someone called out, on the other side of the wall.  Velvet, I was guessing.

“My mom would cry if she saw it, though,” Moose said.  He lurched forward, shouldering his way through the hole he’d made, leaving a Moose-shaped hole behind him.

On the other side, I could see Prancer’s entire group backed away as segments of the stone came crashing down behind Moose.  More time, more delay for our side.

Delay that would be needed, it seemed.  Moose was fast on his feet, more than super strength and good form might have suggested- each footstep seemed to produce a focused blast where his feet landed, a geyser of dust behind the ball of each foot, blasting out to five feet behind him.  There was Prancer in his breaker state.

Just behind Prancer, Velvet drove a truck through the hole Moose had made, the side view mirror on one side scraping off on the wall’s edge.  Capes were in the vehicle and perched on top.

They’d been smugglers, suppliers, and getaway drivers, in another life.  It made sense they could move when they needed to.  Normally it meant them getting away, but here it applied to the chase.

I couldn’t catch Prancer, and I wasn’t going to throw myself headlong at a truck filled with what had to be a half dozen people with powers.

I could have gone for Moose, but I didn’t want to make his mom cry any more than she might, and he was moving fast enough and hard enough I wasn’t sure I could stop him without causing reams of property damage.

Better to go back to the others.  They’d rounded a corner, and were heading northward, toward the main highway and the train tracks.  I flew direct to them, putting myself ahead of Prancer and his entourage.

I flew alongside the others.  Looksee was keeping up, inexplicably, and it was Rain who was lagging.  Capricorn had one hand at his shoulder.

Mayday, just to Capricorn’s right, wasn’t the fastest either.  Prong was gone, and Mayday and Signal Fire were the only ones left in Advance Guard who didn’t have mover abilities.

Spright had the benefit of both Flapper’s power and the lingering effect of Nailbiter’s transformation.  That put him well ahead of the rest.

That seemed to be his thing.  Always staying ahead, always with just a bit of an edge in mobility.

“They’re coming.  Moose and Prancer are charging in.  Velvet has a car,” I reported.

“Got it,” Capricorn said.

I saw the orange lines moving across the road.  I could see the pattern and the logic.  Rush jobs, but they snapped into being as Rain and Mayday passed over them.  Rows of spiky growth across the road.

“I could use my power, but I’d rather keep it under wraps,” Rain said.

“Do,” Tristan said.  “Have your gun ready.”

Gun?  Erin’s?

The villains rounded the corner behind us, and they started catching up.  Moose saw the spikes and bent low while running, tearing his hands through them, scattering whole chunks of them in passing, not even slowing in stride.

Moose broke more of the spike strips.  Prancer ran up one of the horn-ridden poles while it was still moving through the air, the butt end slamming against the ground as he put his feet on the ridged spikes.  He planted a foot on the end as the pole tilted toward the ground, pointing in our general direction, and leaped, hard.

I pushed out with my aura, hard, and flew to intercept, forcefield down.

He was quick, and determined enough the aura didn’t give him much pause.  I drove an elbow in his direction, normal human strength, and his fingers found the crook of that elbow.  He leveraged that into half-pulling, then half-kicking himself over my arm and shoulder.  Lighter than he looked, and he’d used me as a stepping stone, closing the distance further.

Sveta’s hand caught him before he could grab Rain from behind.  She pulled herself to him and possibly by dint of him being as light as he was, him to her.  They met halfway, and crashed in a heap.  The breaker form dissipated.

Sveta was quick enough to recover that I didn’t even reach her side before she was up, reaching out.  Her feet skidded on the road for the first moments as she hauled herself away from the defeated Prancer, Moose almost on her.

“Stop them!” Prancer called out to Moose.

The big guy had only slowed slightly, to check on his friend, and now he picked up speed.  Behind him, Velvet was driving her truck through gaps that were narrower than the spacing between the truck’s tires.  She veered to one side, then the other, and possibly augmented by her power, drove the truck tilted on one side, only the rightmost wheels making contact with the ground to pass through the gaps Moose had made.  The guy on the roof of the truck was a good two hundred feet away, but I could still see the whites of his eyes as he held on for dear life.

The group carried on making a break for it.  As Advance Guard left, we’d have to figure out what to do with our team.  I wasn’t sure if their teleporter would be able to evacuate us in the same way.

Ahead of the group, Anxiety Chris was at the corner of the street, clutching at his face with all of his legs.  He screamed as he saw us coming.

Spright picked up the pace, flying in his direction with a combination of my flight and Flapper’s, his arms with extended fingers buoying him forward, like bat wings without the webbing between.  He touched ground, running, making a beeline straight for the guy.

I wanted to call out a warning, but I wasn’t sure if it was right to.  I’d have been outing Chris’ role in our group.

His power affects the mind.

“Don’t!” Sveta called out.

“We don’t know what it is!” I added.

Spright ignored us both.  Again.

Screaming without pausing for breath, Chris traveled the ‘S’-shaped route, trying to take evasive action, and Spright remained on his… not heels.

“Give!” Spright called out, as he drew closer, until he could almost touch Chris.

They remained like that for a brief while, Chris trying to escape, Spright chasing.  The screaming continued.

Spright’s pace slowed, and he let Chris run away.  Spright glanced back at everyone else, assessed the situation, and then took flight, putting himself closer to Flapper.

“We’re close!” Capricorn called out.

So he had a destination in mind.  Good.

The van had stopped to collect Prancer, but it was catching up.  Moose continued to bear on us.

I’d have to intercept him if he got too close, I knew.

I could still imagine the scene of his face erupting in blood as the wretch clawed it.

Further ahead, I could see what Capricorn had done while he was waiting around.  A wall of his stone barred the street.  There were gaps wide enough for people to pass through.  Three gaps, and the group was more than three people.  Some members of the group turned around, ready to help and run interference while others slipped through the doors in single-file.

At the side window, Etna climbed out, reaching, and hurled globs of molten glass.

I intercepted the first, forcefield going up at the last second as I swatted it aside, aiming it in Moose’s general direction.

“Incoming!” I called out, because I couldn’t intercept the second.

The group looked back and saw the incoming white-hot orb.  People moved out of the way.  Looksee didn’t.  The glob hit her across the head, which struck the wall behind her hard.

The camera with the projection device mounted on it clattered on its way to hit the road, the final landing muted as it landed glass-side down.

“Aauuughhh!” Looksee cried out, in a not-very-convincing agonized scream.  “I’m dying, I’m dead!  Auughh!”

“Looksee,” I heard Rain say.

Moose came to a halt, standing by the southeastern corner of a small apartment building, while we stood at the northeastern corner.  The truck skidded to a stop.  People had stopped in their tracks.  Some eyes were on Etna.

“Mayday, I loved you, you were awesome.  Signal Fire, you were a great teacher.  Team, you’re the best, I love you with all my heart!  Remember me, avenge me!”

“Looksee, they know it’s a projection,” Rain said.

“Shit on me, did not want this today,” Mayday said.

It didn’t seem like Looksee had heard, from her tone.

“I know, duh,” the camera said, the ‘oh’ sound at the end of the word stuttering slightly.  She laughed, enthusiastic.  “I’m just having fun.”

The villains were still back there.  They were unloading from the truck.  Some expressions were sober, others were dangerous.

“You’re willing to go this far?” I called out.  “Shooting a kid?”

“I thought you’d catch it,” Etna said, her voice small both because she was far away, and because of disappointment in herself, it seemed.  She was more Prancer’s camp, if I remembered right, despite the dangerous power that might otherwise have put her in Beast’s.

“If she’d been real,” I said.  “This would have been a fuck-up of the highest order.”

“If she’d been real,” Beast of Burden said, making the truck bounce as he climbed out of the back, “She still would have been causing trouble on our turf.  It wouldn’t have been undeserved.”

“No,” Prancer said.

“Yes,” Beast of Burden said.

“No,” Prancer said.  “That’s not how we’re playing this.”

“It’s not how you’re playing this,” the man replied.   He was shorter than Moose, he wasn’t especially greater in size, but the massive horns of his helmet were as wide across as Moose’s musclebound Brute shoulders, and his armor had to have added three hundred pounds of weight to a two hundred pound frame.  “If they don’t want you and if you’re willing to play for keeps, Etna, I’ll take you.”

“No thanks,” Etna said.

“We’re in this together,” Moose said.  “Let’s not ruin that.”

“No,” Beast of Burden said.  “No we’re not.”

Disjoint had been the one on the roof.  He went to Beast’s side.  Nailbiter had stayed behind, for obvious reasons, Damsel hadn’t been invited onto the truck, and Sidepiece hadn’t made it on.

Snag was present, he’d been in the back of the truck too, but we’d heard his stance on the cliques and groupings.  His glowering mask looked especially ominous in the moment, as he stared us down.  He couldn’t have known his cluster-mate was part of this group, staring at him at the same time.

Either way, he wasn’t part of Beast’s clique.  Love Lost might have gravitated in that direction, but she hadn’t come.

Still, the two members of Beast’s clique were standing apart, and Beast was breaking away.

“Do this again, and I’ll kill one of you,” Beast said.  “You come to fight or take a stand, be prepared for a fight.”

“Stupid,” Prancer said.

Beast of Burden shaking his head was dramatic, with the horns on his helmet swinging.  “Necessary.  You can wrap this mess up yourself.  Put a fucking bow on it for all I care, deer man.”

He turned to walk away, shaking his head.  A nervous Disjoint followed.

Prancer looked between Beast of Burden and those of us who hadn’t ducked through the Capricorn’s wall.

Rain bent down and picked up Looksee’s camera, shaking it slightly, as if that would dislodge the cooling black glass that caked part of it.

“Cameras,” Prancer said.

Rain nodded.

Prancer raised a hand to his head, found hair that was sticking up after his tumble of a fall, and pressed it down, running fingers through it to try to set it in place.  “How long?”

“Long enough,” I said.  “We know you’re bleeding people of cash, when they don’t have enough.  You’re using this place to run drugs to the rest of the city, and you’re- you were giving safe haven to crooks like Nailbiter.  Who took a teenager away from her parents earlier today.”

“If you take me out, someone like Beast is going to take my place.”

“If I leave you where you are, that’s going to happen too.  Someone stronger and meaner will take you out, and they’ll be very hard to dislodge because of what you’ve already set in place.”

“This isn’t you, Prancer,” Sveta said.  She was perched on Capricorn’s wall.

“It isn’t, you’re right,” he said.

“Stop.  Disband,” I said.

“No,” Prancer said.  “This role isn’t me.  I have a lot I need to learn, but I’ll change until I fit the role.  I think most of these guys will work with me to do it.  We need this.”

Velvet put her hand on his shoulder.

“Your people are organizing to mount a war right under your nose,” I said.  “Against acceptable targets, yes, but if you think today was a bad day?  You’re underestimating just how bad it’s going to get when the Fallen come after you, and the damage they’ll do to everyone and everything between them and you.”

“Not under my nose,” Prancer said.  He looked back at Snag.  “We’ll manage.”

“You need to keep your mouth shut about that,” Snag growled.

“No.  You need to loop the Wardens in.  Get the full picture, get help.  If you fight them, you need to win, unequivocally.”

“It’s handled,” Snag said.  “And if you don’t keep your mouth shut, you’ll be sabotaging it.”

“These are people the PRT couldn’t stamp out,” I said.

“It’s handled,” Prancer said, echoing Snag.  “This isn’t about the PRT, or about heroes and villains.”

“What’s it about, then?” Sveta asked.  I had to look past Rain to see her.  He was remaining silent.

“It’s about monsters,” Prancer said, pacing slowly. “Speaking of.  Garotte?”

“That’s not my name,” Sveta said.

“Circe says hi,” Prancer said.

I could see Sveta’s expression change.

“Yeah,” Prancer said.  “If you’d only arrived a few hours later.  Whatever.  We have resources.  This is about standing on our own two feet.  If we do this raid right, no matter how you interfere, no matter what Beast does, breaking off with his people, Cedar Point is going to be a thing.”

“You do this wrong, and a whole lot of people are going to wish they were dead,” I said.

Prancer continued pacing for a few seconds, then stopped.

“That’s fine,” he said.

“If you’re willing to involve those people in this, we might have to stop playing nice,” I said.

Prancer sniffed out a small laugh.  “Alright then.  Moose?”

Moose turned his head to Prancer, then to us.

“Sorry,” he said, smacking the knuckles of his gauntlet into his palm.  Without any more preamble or prelude, he charged us.

Rain backed toward the door, the loose sleeve of his costume covering his one hand, while he held the glass-caked camera.  He withdrew the flash gun, pointing it at the enemy group.

I turned my head, covering my eyes with my arm.  The gun wasn’t even aimed at me, my eyes were shut, and my arm was in the way, and the darkness of my vision still turned pink, shaded slightly by bones between me and the group.

Rain emptied the gun, firing again and again.  From the changes in the flash’s angles, he was moving while firing.

Moose crashed into the wall, rather than into any of us.

The flashing had stopped, and I flew skyward.  I deemed myself safe to look, and saw as the others ducked through the openings in the very thick wall, Tristan sealing the apertures behind them.  Moose sat on the ground, and the rest looked bewildered.

I shook my head and flew to the others.

We were all gathered.  Advance Guard’s group was assembled in entirety, including the supporting members of the group.  I warily watched as a healer cape did his work.  Flickering images overlapped as he pressed his hand down on ReSound’s shoulder.

Nothing like Amy.  It still bothered me.  True healing powers were something comprehensive and powerful, to cover the bases necessary for all the various sicknesses and maladies, while also wreaking meaningful change.  Powers themselves didn’t lend themselves to healing, as a general rule, either.  Not unless they were selfish.

Even the strongest self-healers I’d met had been pretty fucked up.  Crawler had been one.

Rescue was present, the teleporter who pulled people away.  Mapwright was a straggler, a woman with a limp.  She went to Mayday’s side, and they clasped hands.  The place where their hands met glowed a soft pink, and then Mayday’s eyes glowed pink behind his mask.

“Who’s that a block to the north?” he asked.

“Civilians.  Kids eating popsicles,” Mapwright said.

“Then we’re clear to talk,” Mayday said.  He pulled off his helmet.  He did the thing a lot of capes with helmets did, wearing a basic mask beneath.  He was thirty-five or so, had warm black skin, with a very long face and sharp chin, arching eyebrows, a thin mustache at his upper lip, and a line of beard from the middle of his lip to his chin.  His head was shaved.

His face didn’t really match the impression he gave with his helmet on, with the broader, triangular face panels.  That was part of the point, I supposed.

“This was a clusterfuck,” I said.  “We ended up showing ourselves, you pointed out our surveillance, you disturbed the peace, and the entire situation got more chaotic.”

“Easy,” Capricorn said.

“She’s not wrong,” Rain said.

“I know,” Capricorn said.  “But… easy.  I don’t want to be enemies with Advance Guard.”

“No,” Mayday said.  “The sentiment is mutual.”

“I agree.  It’s not the kind of thing we need these days.  But I’m upset,” I said.  “We just had to play a lot of our cards that I really would have rather kept up our sleeve.  I’d love to know why.”

“Spright said he explained.”

“But he couldn’t tell us who gave you the okay.”

“We had messages.  Cedar Point was asking for help, Civilians asked us.  It’s not a shock.  We’re prominent,” Mayday said.

“Can you forward those to us?  Help us trace them?” I asked.  “I think it’s more likely a mastermind in the background pulled this.”

“Believe it or not, we’re prominent,” Shortcut said.  “It’s a hell of a lot more likely people thought they needed help and called us than this conspiracy idea of yours.”

“Did you talk to Foresight?” I asked, ignoring Shortcut.

“We did,” Mayday said.  “The leadership is wrapped up in a war-”

“Thought so,” Sveta said, voice soft.

“-and we communicated with one of their lieutenants.”

“Communicated how?” I asked.

“Oh my god,” Shortcut said, his head rolling back.

“Email,” Mayday said.  “One phone call.”

“Can you verify those exchanges for us?” I asked.  “I know someone who saw two attempts to hack their email.”

“Some people in the Wardens had the same,” Mayday said.  “Legal.”

“Same people,” I said.  “It’s not out of the question someone managed to spoof something at you, threw out bait.”

“That we bit?” Spright asked.

I shrugged.

“We’ll look into it and let you know,” Mayday said.  “We’ll figure this out.”

Looksee wiggled, sitting on the curb.  “I’m psyched to be working together again.”

“We’re not working together, Optics,” Mayday said.

“Looksee,” she replied, quiet.

“Looksee,” he said.  He paused, then said.  “No.”

“You need to explain this to me,” Flapper said.  “Because as far as I can tell, you’re being uncharacteristically shitty to a kid, and you’re good with kids.”

“He’s not being shitty,” Looksee said.  “He’s nice.  No need to get into it.”

“I think there’s kind of a need to get into it,” Flapper said.  “Please.  This is going to bother me.”

“This is the kid,” Spright said.  “Cost him his promotion.”

“Not directly,” Mayday said.  “Flapper, if you’d just take my word for things and leave this, I’d appreciate it.”

“I would if it was the only thing that went sideways today,” she said.  “I’ve seen teammates compromised, acting strange.  Some were because of drugs, others were Strangered.  Two things in the same day?  Just… explain?”

Mayday folded his arms.  “She went from institutions to being a PRT focus in Baltimore.  Not a concern, not an asset… something between.  She went from there to training camps, moving her around so she couldn’t get too attached to anyone.  San Diego included.  Signal Fire?”

Signal Fire explained, “Coworker of mine was investigated.  Looksee left her computer open and kids messed with it, changing her online profiles.  They found photos, they took the computer to people in charge.”

“So embarrassing,” Looksee said.  I went to stand next to her, and put my hand on her shoulder.

Sveta sat down next to her.  Looksee leaned into her.

“Kid in a swimsuit, hanging out with an instructor at a hotel pool, all smiles, the two of them hanging out, pictures of them shopping, eating out of a food truck, being in places he shouldn’t have been near.  They looked close.  Questions were raised, answered pretty quickly, because of kid’s prior history, but it still had to be investigated.  It wasn’t wholly impossible he was skipping patrols and hanging out with the kid instead.”

“Doctored photos,” Mayday said.  “Kid was lonely, thought photos of her and the instructor she liked most would be nice to have.  BFF close, in the pictures, which looks weird when the guy is fifteen years older than her.”

“I know that now,” Looksee said, quiet.

“Then she goes to the parahuman Asylum, and from the Asylum to Baltimore, with Youth Guard getting involved.  Baltimore.  We have an inner city, we have gangs, we have some troubled kids in our Wards.  Had.  I hate to outright say it, Looksee, because I do think you’re a good kid-”

“Everyone says so, but I did bad stuff,” she said.

“Uninformed stuff,” he said, gently.  “But bad, yeah.  It was more trouble to deal with her than to wrangle all the other Wards combined.  I get out of the toilet stall in the men’s room and this kid is sitting on the counter by the sink, waiting, has been for twenty minutes, dead silent for the first time in her life, because she wants to talk to me.  There aren’t cameras in the bathrooms.  It’s a blind spot.  How does that look?”

“Sorry,” Looksee said.

“She works herself to the bone, it looks bad for the department.  She intentionally misses the bus or fakes hours so she can spend more time with us, so we have to have people drive her home or pick her up.  Which also looks bad, because it’s time spent alone or in proximity to a kid who isn’t just vulnerable, but throws herself headlong at people who prey on the vulnerable.  Kidnappers, people who would work a tinker to the bone, people who want to hurt the PRT.”

“Threw, not throws,” Looksee said.  “Okay, maybe throws a bit, but only a little.”

“It was a hundred things like that.  It was everything that could have made the Youth Guard crawl up our ass to light warning fires.  We could have hired two new capes from elsewhere if it wasn’t for the fines and administration costs.”

“Sorry again.”

“She’s doing way better,” Capricorn said.


“She’s a great kid.  Talented as hell,” Capricorn said.

“I’ve talked to Houndstooth, Avenguard, and Spotter.  I think you’ll find we’re mostly on the same page,” Mayday said.  “We don’t disagree, necessarily, but…”

Looksee nodded very quickly.  I gave her shoulder a rub.

“Except I don’t know if I’m as nice as they are,” Mayday said, not finishing the thought he’d left to trail off.  “I took over the department because that kid sank my predecessor.  The question mark hovering over the bathroom thing was part of what cost me one golden opportunity to get up to the Protectorate core team, during the final year, when we were dealing with the new Endbringer situation.  She ruined a lot of careers, teachers, heroes, social workers, and I can’t be fair to her because I’m pretty fucking bitter about it.”

“You could try,” I said.

“I could.  I won’t.  Advance Guard is walking away.  Consider it a blessing, if you want.  We don’t usually back off.  But we’ll do it here,” he said, glancing at Looksee.  “We’ll give you Cedar Point to look after, I’ll ask about what you said, look into the possible hack and validity of the emails.  Spright- you get stuff in their office?”

“I went where Mapwright showed me,” Spright said.  “But we didn’t get that far.  These guys wanted me to go straight to you.  We spent most of our time figuring it out.”

Mayday said, “That’s not your usual, Spright.  You’re more of a scoundrel than that.”

“Pretty girl- pretty girls tell me to get moving, give me a convincing reason?” Spright asked.  He offered an amused chuckle, looking at Sveta and me.  “I might listen properly for once.”

“You’ve never listened to me,” Flapper said, archly.

“Or me,” Mapwright said.

ReSound didn’t say anything, but she cleared her throat.

Spright chuckled nervously.

Mayday raised a finger, while Spright’s head was turned toward Flapper.  Beside Spright, Signal Fire reached out to seize his arm.

“What gives?”

Mayday walked up to him, seizing his other arm.  With his free hand, Mayday patted Spright down.

He reached beneath a flat armor panel, and withdrew a notebook with a rubber band around it.

He tossed it to Capricorn.

“Amends,” Mayday said.  His expression was solemn.  “Good luck.”

They went on their way.

I paged through the notebook.  It was a ledger, devoid of numbers.  Transactions as barter, with a great deal of shorthand.

We knew what the truck was, now.  With all of the preparations for war, a truckload of guns had made a disappearance.  Prancer knew where it was.

He was a proper arms dealer, now.  It wasn’t an insignificant number of guns.

We had notes on the other work he was doing.  Drugs.  Robbery for hire, moving things between the illicit, villain-run camps on corner worlds.  There were plans for other things.  In the future, he seemed to have two days where he and his people would be moving humans.  It wasn’t clear why or for what purpose, but they were to be delivered from one corner world to another.

Once they realized the notebook was gone, they would change their plans.

Kenzie was all smiles, so excited from the excursion and her involvement in it that the issue with Mayday seemed to breeze past her.  Still, we were leaving her mostly alone, with Sveta keeping her company.   I could remember her blowing up over her bag.

Some of Kenzie’s attention was on Ashley.  Damsel was still in Cedar Point, giving us a window into what Beast of Burden was doing.  For the time being, he was having beers with his clique.  They were to remain in Cedar Point, but they’d have their own corner of things.  They would leave Prancer alone if they were left alone, but I doubted things would remain that way.  One group or the other would grow.

For the time being, Beast and Damsel’s group told war stories.  Nailbiter, agitated, had left a bit ago.  We’d tracked her on the camera as she met up with Colt and a young guy.  The three of them went for a walk along the waterline, Nailbiter asking about ’employees’, the young guy answering, while Colt remained silent unless spoken to.

I finished reading through the notebook and handed it to Rain, who was working on his arms.  The mask and sleeves were set aside, Kenzie’s work, not his.

His expression was grim.

“How are you dealing?” I asked.

“It was my day,” he said.  “And I couldn’t even use my power without stirring up more trouble than it was worth.”

“We need to talk about things,” I said.

“Tomorrow,” he said.  “Not today.  Please?  Today’s been rough.”

I nodded.  I pushed the notebook in his direction.

Chris had the corner, his back to us, and he was hunched over a video game.  Oblivious to the rest of the world, drawn into his shell.

Tristan and I were the ones without a place to be.  I met his eyes, and I walked out to the fire escape.

He joined me.

I stood by the railing at the little balcony-landing outside the door.  Tristan sat on the top stair.

“You were trying to keep Kenzie from being alone in the building,” I said.  “And from being alone with Erin and Rain.”


“Keeping Sveta and I together.”

“No manipulation or strategy there.  You two fit.”

“Do I need to worry?” I asked.

“That’s a loaded question,” he said.

“Can I trust you?”

He didn’t answer me.

“Or is it that you don’t trust them?” I asked.

“It’s a really fucked up thing, if I consider myself one of the more trustworthy members of the group,” he said.  He turned around to look up at me.  “Rain- he’s in a bad place.”

“In more than one way,” I said.


“I didn’t want to ask him, but… what Fallen family is he from?  The last time I ran into Fallen, they were Crowleys, but… it’s not just Crowleys left, in Gimel, and the Crowleys would be bad enough.”

“I don’t think he’s living with the Crowleys,” Tristan said.  “But he won’t tell me.”

“Okay,” I said.

If we were people who’d been powerless once, set out to help the powerless, that might mean Rain and Erin were people who were very high on our list of people to help.  He’d brought her for a reason.  Had he expected her to communicate with us?  Or was her presence meant to communicate something?

“One last question,” I said.

“Go for it,” Tristan said.

“The hand signal earlier today,” I said.  I mimed it, hand not with palm facing forward at Tristan, but at an angle, so palm would be facing his feet instead, were he standing up.

“Hm?  I thought that was obvious.”

I shook my head.

“Stop,” Tristan said, palm out, facing forward.  He pointed forward with three fingers, “Go.”


He made the gesture.  “Go slow.  Ease up.  I figured it was intuitive.”

I chuckled under my breath.

“Not at all,” I said.

Tristan smiled.

“You were wanting to juggle the group,” I said.

“Feeling my way through it,” he said.  “This is new to me.  I’m worried I’m going to fuck it up.  Rain’s my friend.  I care about them all.  Even Chris, God help me.”

I hesitated before speaking.

“Is it- is it okay that I’m here?” I asked.  “I’m not making things worse by being here?”

“No.  I don’t think you are,” he said.  “We need the help.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Good.  It would be pretty hard for me to walk away at this point, if you said no.”

“Yeah.  Probably,” he said.

We sat for a bit.  There wasn’t much more conversation.  I was tired, after waking up early, and the adrenaline was long gone, leaving me weary to the bone, even though I hadn’t exerted myself that much on a physical level.

When Tristan stood and stretched, I took that as an unspoken cue.  We went back inside.

It would have been tidy and neat for more to happen before we packed up for the day, but it seemed everyone involved was licking wounds or replenishing their batteries in their individual ways.  I could hear Ashley’s voice, volume lowered on the camera, as she ranted about something, and Beast of Burden chimed in with monosyllables.  Prancer looked after his territory, cleaning up the rubble from the walls, talking to people, trying to get sorted.

Love Lost and Snag emerged from their apartment building, and Love Lost’s leg was fixed.  They stood outside for a while, Snag talking periodically, making comments.

It was right when we were getting packed up to go, Kenzie had dinner with her parents and Rain had to take Erin back to the camp, that things started moving again in Cedar Point.

A camper van pulled up and parked in the middle of the street, near where the bottleneck had been.  The people that emerged were Case Fifty-threes.

Sveta went tense.

“Do you know them?” Kenzie asked.

“Circe,” Sveta said.  “Whippersnap.  Bristle.  He must have researched me or asked Tattletale about me, and then reached out to them after.  They were teammates, once.  They know me.”

“You talked about them in group,” Tristan said.

Sveta nodded.

Other cars were pulling up.  I looked at the clock.  It was six in the evening.  This was a pre-arranged meeting time.

This time, the cars were sleek.  Six black cars, one large truck.

The drivers remained in their seats, and the occupants of the vehicles exited out the backs.

“These are ones you should know,” Tristan said.  To me.

I recognized Tattletale, from the lead car.  She had a kid with a bird on his shoulder with her.  She smiled.

I saw Snuff, and I saw other assorted henchmen.  Soldiers, like Coil had once used.

In one of the cars further back, Imp climbed out.  Eerie to see her older, now. There was a crew of kids with her, all wearing masks.

Parian.  She had been a rogue.  Turned to the dark side.  Flechette.  For the briefest period of time, she had been a teammate.  She went by Foil now, I was pretty sure.

The truck?  Rachel Lindt.  Hellhound.  Bitch.  She had a bevy of dogs.

The Undersiders chatted like long-lost friends.  Tattletale was exempt, standing back, smiling.

There were others I didn’t recognize.  They’d gathered capes.  Henchmen, teammates, connections.  Big and small.

Cars were still pulling up and parking as I watched Tattletale approach Prancer to shake his hand.  Her Undersiders were at her back.  I could see Nursery in the background.  I spotted someone who might have been Kingdom Come.

I then saw her put her gloved hand in Snag’s large mechanical one, shaking it.  She smiled like it was a joke she got that nobody else did.

“They’re meeting about the attack,” Sveta said.

“Or they’re making it tonight,” Tristan said.  He put his bag down.

“Shh,” Kenzie said.

The pair were walking away from the greater group.  With all of the cars parking, even in the growing gloom, the car headlights illuminated the area.  Tattletale and Snag stepped toward shadow, where they were out of earshot of most others.

“You located him?”

“I’ve known where he was for a very long time,” Tattletale answered Snag.

Love Lost was approaching.  Snag turned his head to see.

The two communicated briefly, a word from Snag, Love Lost tapping the backs of her hands together twice, the metal there clinking.

As they had that exchange, Tattletale looked around idly, her eyes turning skyward.

Her eyes locked on the camera, looking directly at us.

“Love Lost says-”

“Cradle’s arrived.”

“Yes.  He’ll wait for the crowd to thin out before deploying.  And you-”

“We’ll deliver,” she said.  “You’ll get your fourth, I get each of you for three years.”

“That’s fine,” Snag said.

“Just don’t tell me whatever you end up doing to him, and we’re golden,” she said.

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157 thoughts on “Shadow – 5.5”

  1. Every time I see seemingly innocuous kids mentioned I’m probably going to think they’re Aisha’s Heartbroken spying.

    1. After training myself to note all those seemingly offhand mentions denoting something significant in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight books, it’s hard to turn that kind of thinking off.

      Sanderson is a veteran writer and had a bunch of edits and rewrites to get those details perfect, is it even possible for WB to be writing at that level in a serial??? Unreal if real 😉

      1. That’s why those are my two favorite authors. They both give a lot of hints at a greater world beyond the story, and you can never be sure some random group in the background isn’t secretly important.

      2. It’s not actually to hard; you can just make offhand mentions of stuff in general, and bring it up again when you have a role again. What’s hard is making sure *every* offhand thing matters, and keeping everything consistent. (Sanderson also seems to write by way of recursively more detailed outlining, rather than Wildbow’s serial method)

      1. This seems to come up in comments in every chapter. Can we stop spreading incorrect advice?

        Both phrases are correct as is, because in both the noun phrase “X and me” is not the subject of a sentence but an object (here, of prepositions, “for” and “at”).

        To put it another way “at Sveta and me” is correct because “at Sveta and at me” is correct.

          1. Do you allege that your post was edited? Without even glancing at the main text, your post as it stands is incorrect. It is never correct for “I” to be the object of a preposition.

            Even if we must suffer the aggravation of typo threads, wrong advice about grammar and usage is not a typo and is off-topic for this comment section.

        1. I don’t see this mistaken correction coming up “every chapter.” On the other hand, I *do* see Wildbow make this mistake (using “and I” instead of “and me” when an object pronoun is needed) basically every other chapter, and they often go uncorrected.

          (That said, a disclaimer might be necessary: I do appear to have made the same mistake in the past, swapping the “and me” and the “and I.” And while my first thoughts upon discovering this were that someone had somehow edited my post somehow, I admit it’s definitely possible my brain slipped there, and apologize for potentially contributing to this problem.)

          1. Fair enough, and sorry for the hyperbole. While I’m at it, I’ll cop to missing a comma or two in my post; Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation strikes again!

    1. ““Optic,” Signal Fire said. “Yeah,” she said.”
      Wasn’t that Optics ?

      “She was climbing the building face,”
      Unclear that it’s Nailbiter until later.

      “his arms long and high above him. I could see the points of her teeth,”
      Focus switches to Nailbiter suddenly again.

      “determined enough the forcefield didn’t give him much pause.”
      The forcefield is down, so it’s probably the aura.

      “two hundred pound frame. “If they don’t”
      Triple space.

      “Cedar Point was asking for help, Civilians asked us.”

    2. “I pushed out with my aura, hard, and flew to intercept, forcefield down.

      He was quick, and determined enough the forcefield didn’t give him much pause. ”

      Should this be, “determined enough the aura didn’t give him much pause. “?

      “The guy on the roof was a good two hundred feet away, but I could still see the whites of his eyes as he held on for dear life.”

      To clarify, consider adding “of the truck” after “roof” since people have been climbing up buildings in this fight.

    3. “Keeping Sveta and I together.”

      “Sveta and I” are the objects of “keeping,” so an object pronoun should be used, i.e. “Sveta and me.”

  2. Awesome! The Undersiders make an appearance. Looks like things are ramping up. It’ll be cool seeing how they’ve changed.

  3. Well okay things went well, Mayday turned out to be cool, We learned a bit about Kenzie, and man let’s hope she gets better with her issues before she starts dating, and… Oh. Undersiders. All the surviving ones. Well Rain, I liked you, it was nice knowing you, but honestly I’m not giving you good odds now. Plus the fact I want the Fallen Raid to succeed.

    1. I also hope Kenzie solves her issues before she reaches dating age, but under the circumstances I think the group needs to worry about making sure she survives to reach dating age first. Maybe start on the issues next week?

    2. It’s worth reminding folks that this Fallen group has the survivors of Valefor’s section. Including Valefor himself, who is a bigger threat now that either he second triggered or was forced to figure out new, more effective ways to use his powers after being taken down and blinded by Skitter.

      1. Which of course means he probably also has a pretty serious grudge against the Undersiders for what was done to him. Mama Mathers too maybe, depending on whether she actually cares about her son or not.

        1. Come to think, do we have to worry about him being able to reactivate that use of his power he got on Imp…?

          1. Probably not. She had him shut his control down right before Taylor blinded him and she could apparently no-sell it anyway.

          2. Imp’s power shuts down his control when activated.

            But if they’re going in full lethal with Tattletale advising, he probably takes a crossbow bolt to the brainstem first thing.

  4. Rain needs to get the HELL out of there, or he is supremely fucked. No way he or Team Therapy can win a confrontation with the Undersiders AND their sub-teams at this point. Imp and her Heartbroken alone are bad enough. These guys specialize in emotional and psychological warfare and Team Therapy is NOT equipped to go up against something like that.
    And that’s not touching on the sheer manpower Tattle’s soldiers/henchpersons and Rachel’s dogs bring to the table. And then there are Parian and Foil. AND the Irregulars. God damn it, Rain’s cluster hates him something fierce.
    I am curious, though. Why is Tattletale mobilizing her whole organisation for this? Just so she can enlist three mix-bag parahumans whose powers are upper B-list-material for three years? Okay, sure, she’s removing the Fallen in the process, but I suspect that Tattle wants to get something else out of this… Knowing how she operates, this feels like it’s the cover-up for something else. Otherwise the necessary efforts and the potential gains don’t really match up…
    That being said, I am positively ecstatic to see the Undersiders back together. (And that they’re apparently doing well! ^__^)
    Looking forward to whatever happens next!^^

    1. I don’t think the Irregulars are really a thing anymore. Trying to lynch the leader and his girlfriend, then getting mostly destroyed by a combination of stealthy supervillains and an angry god, will do that to an organization.

      1. They’re probably ex-Irregulars, or possibly New Irregulars, brought in to fight the Fallen. Remember Sveta’s reaction to Rain’s admission? Her explanation of what happened to Peat and Fen? Bet they want part of that action, revenge for the ones that made it in society.

    2. The Fallen are really hated by Bet society and while Tt almost certainly has a secret goal getting rid of them seems like enough to bring in a whole army of villains

      1. There’s also Prancer implying they’ve got at least tacit approval from someone in the Wardens for this. Let’s face it the Fallen are the sort of issue everyone else is going to want dealt with if they can.

        1. I wouldn’t doubt it. Maybe the Wardens are hoping their problems (Cedar Point and the Fallen) will fight and take care of themselves. Or at least, one will wipe the other out and be weakened because of the battle.

    3. 1. Gimel Authorities are currently have their hands full with impending war.
      2. This is the Fallen being targeted. No ones hearts will bleed.
      3. PR boost for her organization. To the Heroes = “I’m better at doing your job than you do”, to the Villains = “Don’t fuck with me, I have firepower”, to the civilians = “I got rid of your problems, come to me and lets talk business.”

    4. It’s possible she’s helping out to get Cedar Point even more into her dept and possibly weaken them in the process. There is no way, even if they lose, that the Fallen won’t at least bloody the Cedar Point gang up really badly in the process. They’re very powerful and absolutely willing to kill.

      1. I mean, why would Tattletale want Cedar Point weakened? They’re pretty much exactly the sort of villainy she wants to promote, I’d think.

        1. Cedar Point…eh. Tattletale isn’t necessarily into large-scale society building. If Cedar Point collapses, or Prancer gets murdered by someone nastier, she can swoop in to pick up the remains of his crew for her own purposes. If they’re weaker, then they rely on her more and she can use them.

        2. It makes them rely on her more and it means less potential threats to her if they decide they’re too big to need her. Also, they’re already proving that they’re willing to cause a lot of unrest (attacking the Fallen and apparently attracting a LOT of hero attention) and bringing attention to the operation that she might not want.

        3. How so? I thought at first that Prancer might start a minions’ union (did someone else explicitly suggest this in the comments?) and Tt would very likely take an interest in that. It would have provided a way to help enforce or create rules of engagement for villains. This also means Marquis might like the idea.

          But Cedar Point didn’t seem to be going that way even before the split. Maybe Tt has decided to cut her losses in a failed project, and she brought in Victoria to avoid having to personally cut anyone.

          1. Yes, I did suggest that Prancer form a villains union. It’d be a good form of collective barging power for the weaker or less bloodthirsty villainous capes for starters. Not everyone is cut out for the warlord bit, and the issues that come with it.

    5. I feel like Tattletale was telling Victoria to get out.

      Look at this. Tattletale knows where Rain is. Tattletale knows that Victoria is working with him. Tattletale knows that Cedar Point is under surveillance by Victoria’s group.

      She came to essentially give Victoria a warning. She is showing up with all the undersiders, which is overkill, to show Victoria that she cannot fight this.

  5. I want to make a joke about Sidepiece and Adam, but I’m distracted by how disgusting and (possibly) painful tearing out your own ribs must be.

    “I got a compliment from a girl, she thought it was gnarly. It’s not all bad.”
    “Stop fucking flirting and get us through, Moose!”

    Does Moose often chat with the people he’s fighting? I sure hope so, because that’s my new headcanon.

    “I kno-ow, duh.” [Kenzie] laughed, enthusiastic. “I’m just having fun.”
    Kenzie’s such a drama queen. (Literally. I bet she’d have fun in drama club, if those were still a thing. And if elementary schoolers did MacBeth.)

    “Doctored photos,” Mayday said. “Kid was lonely, thought photos of her and the instructor she liked most would be nice to have. BFF close, in the pictures, which looks weird when the guy is fifteen years older than her.”
    “I know that
    now,” Looksee said, quiet.
    Well, now we know how Kenzie almost ruined someone’s career. She accidentally made her favorite PRT instructor look like a pedophile.
    “I get out of the toilet stall in the men’s room and this kid is sitting on the counter by the sink, waiting, has been for twenty minutes, dead silent for the first time in her life, because she wants to talk to me.”
    Accidentally made multiple people look like pedophiles. No wonder everyone has negative memories of Optics.

    “It’s a really fucked up thing, if I consider myself one of the more trustworthy members of the group.”
    Tris, you’re capes. “F*ked-up” is how capes say “Just another lunchtime”.

    Tattletale working with the Cluster…geez. Sucks to be Rain.

    1. “Gosh Mayday you were in there a while! Did you have some good shiterature? Do you have a red toilet imprint ring around your behind? You know I have some good tech for changing appearances, if I pull a couple of all-nighters I could build something to help you out with those toilet rings. Hey did I tell you I have a spreadsheet of how long all my favorite team leaders spend on the toilet? You’re going to be in first place! You’re already first place in my heart!”

        1. Perfect! Yeah, I had to wonder what he was doing in the toilet stall for twenty minutes. No wonder he freaked out that Kenzie was waiting there.

          1. It’s one of life’s most important lessons. Sometimes shit doesn’t go the way you want it to.

  6. Aw yeah. If Imp is in on this raid, we might just end up with Valefor and his mom dead.

    That probably won’t happen, because we can’t have nice things. The protagonists or the Cluster or the weekend warrior villains may or may not do something to bork everything up. But ideally…

  7. It feels more and more as if Tata is just manipulating Snag to shift the big picture and wants Victoria and her team to be there when they stumble or are done, to clean up the winners.

    Also, Kenzie confirmed Nega-Feint.

  8. Tattletale gives me *chills* being on the other side. Looking straight up at the camera? Team Therapy is boned. Rain is especially boned.

    WB has an amazing ability to pull characters out of sticky situations without it feeling like massive amounts of plot armour, but I just don’t see how he’s going to do it for Rain.

    1. If they’re going after Team Therapy first, they might just take him prisoner until the main attack is over, so that they don’t lose the manpower where it’s needed – which gives him a chance to escape. The Heartbroken might give them some help there, but I suppose that’s what Valefor’s for.

      (Also, I kind of look forward to seeing Rain shredding large vehicles and monster dogs with his power … )

        1. He just cuts the first layer. He might be able to disable the monster shell while leaving the juicy doggy center unharmed?

        2. To be fair, are we even sure he could shred them? The meat-cocoons might qualify as a “layer” to his power.

          1. I think that’s one of the things his power level affects – how lenient it is when interpreting “layers”. I bet that if it was his day (/he was better in tune with his shard), he would absolutely have cut his uncle in half.

            And Bitch might have a bit of trouble killing him if all her dogs are in pieces …

          2. @comb_jelly
            that would be neat, but what are your reasons for believing that? I don’t remember any hints but maybe I missed something?

          3. @comb_jelly
            If he hurts one of her dogs, Rain will have to do serious bodily harm to Rachel or she WILL murder him, given an opportunity. With her bare hands, if she has to. Her dogs are literally like family to her.
            Plus, Rain would actually kill the dogs if he just cut the outer layers apart. Quote from the Venom Arc (29.2):
            “He’s bleeding out,” Rachel said.
            It was Bastard, wounded, three of his massive legs severed, blood forming a ridiculously large puddle beneath us.
            “He’s safe inside, isn’t he? The smaller, real version of Bastard?”
            “Same blood in both of them. The outside won’t fall apart before he loses too much blood,” she said. “I think.”
            He was saved with Lab Rats formula, though.

  9. I’m still worried about Natalie probably showing up in the next chapter. Hopefully Victoria and her can find some kind of middle ground to improve upon.

    Beast of Burden’s crew and the Undersiders may butt heads. He seems to give no fucks about any authority not his own, has an ego, and is noticeably aggressive.

    Sad to see Lisa the way she is.

    1. Yeah, Victoria was thinking about Natalie complaining that Ashley destroyed public property, and the first thing that popped into my head was Ashley declaring “When I rule a world they’ll be no lawyers.”

      And honestly I’m not surprised by Lisa’s state. Really the only person she was able to open up to was Taylor. And I’m wondering how Taylor, the Taylor who in the end told Contessa it wasn’t worth it, and that she’d do things better if she could do it over, what she’d think of what Lisa’s doing.

      Granted to most people Rain might seem like someone who does deserve it.

      1. I think it’s pretty clear that Rain was an arsonist who killed several hundred people.

        While we get to know him, he is definitely guilty, and, in a just world, he would be in prison.

        1. I strongly disagree, I think it’s pretty clear it’s pretty clear that Rain isn’t the one who started the fire. It would have come up if he was and merely being a member of the Fallen and being at the location of the fire would be enough for the other members of his cluster to blame him for it, coupling this with the personality bleed it’s clear that Rain would be hated whether he actually started the fire or not. It’s also clear that Rain isn’t the same person he was back then, and is actively trying to be a better person. He wouldn’t have saved Erin otherwise. Furthermore, in earth Gimel everyone gets a second chance, so why shouldn’t Rain get one too?

          1. It was always burning, since the world’s been turning?
            I’m not sure where you’re getting that, though. Sure, it could have been enough for Rain to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it also could have been that he’s actually guilty.

            “He’s a different person now” wouldn’t hold up in court.

            Everyone gets a second chance in Earth Gimel. Committing arson in Earth Gimel uses up that chance.

          2. What if the only reason Rain is making an effort to be a better person now is that he “stole” some of the goodness out of the hearts of his cluster-mates? If so, I’m not sure his recent turn-of-heart can be credited to his own effort. Not that he deserves to die for it, but it’s not a clear cut situation at all.

  10. I’m glad that the hand signal was resolved! That had been bothering me. I was just as confused as Victoria.

    Some of those powers are fucking weird. I do love how WB can CONSISTENTLY pull out strange and interesting powers over hundreds of capes and two stories. No two capes are exactly the same.

    Spright can copy Changer powers as well as Movers? I wonder if it’s only ones that have Mover possibilities, or if he’s just that more flexible a power-copying Trump. He seems crazy powerful, with the right team. I wonder what the restrictions on his power are – only copy a cape once in a certain time period, keeping him from mainlining one cape to copy for a whole fight? Or does he just like the variety?

    I feel so bad for Kenzie and everyone she was around before she got therapy. Everything she did was understandable from her point of view and horrible from everyone else’s, but not a single bad intention anywhere in her heart. Heartbreaking.

    I do like how the “Kenzie is a camera drone” thing is foreshadowed by Victoria saying “keeping up with everyone, inexplicably”. Means when it’s revealed it isn’t just a “surprise, gotcha!” twist, it’s actually hinted at earlier. Nicely done.

    Mixed feelings about seeing the old gang together. Love those guys, but now they’re the enemy…

    Then again, Tattletale never plots one thing when she can plot many. She looked right at the camera when she said she’d help them get Rain. Is she warning them? Is she saying “get the hell out so our raid on the Fallen goes fine without losing you too”? I could imagine her wanting to take out the compound, using Snag/Love Lost/Cradle’s own reasons to motivate them to help/get more resources/get paid, but leaving them behind once the job is done because she “unfortunately” couldn’t get Rain in the bargain.

    It’s really picking up the pace now. I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

    1. >Mixed feelings about seeing the old gang together. Love those guys, but now they’re the enemy…

      No mixed feelings here. I want the Undersiders to wreck shop and hand Rain to the cluster in a silver plater. Sorry Wildbow, I am very aware of all the effort you spent making us care about Team Therapy, but I am a braindead Undersiders’ fanboy.

      1. It is worse. I’m rooting against team therapy.

        They should lose. They have a nazi involved in the death of a teenager causing Love Lost , a fucking Lolita wannabe who ruins people, and a former member of s9000.

        1. This story has themes of redemption, though. It wouldn’t make sense to off the characters you want redempt.

          1. Actually I disagree.

            Beatrix Potter wrote two famous rabbit stories.

            One is Peter and talks about redemption by improvement.

            The other is the tale of a Fierce Bad Rabbit. He isn’t redeemed. He is shot.

            Both are enjoyable stories but different flavor.

    2. I am also on the “Tattletale is warning Victoria” train.

      Also, Tattletale using the Undersiders here is so much overkill that it has to be a warning.

  11. Didn’t expect Parian and Foil to still be Undersiders. As I saw the relationship, they would’ve drifted off to do their own thing after the end of the world. But maybe Tt’s calling in a favor or something. Bitch’s epilogue explicitly said that she went off to do her own thing for a while.

    Tt’s last line is disturbing if she means it. Might be foreshadowing that she won’t let the horrible torture commence, either planning its prevention now or changing her mind last minute.

    I feel bad for Rain but I would like to see the Fallen get mopped up. Some of them, at least. Some of them are just suckers who are in over their heads. No matter what happens, my guess is it’s gonna be horrifying.

    1. The Undersiders have basically disbanded, only working together to stop the big villains and threats, like Teacher. Or the Fallen, it looks like.

      Parian leads the Needlepoints, I think Imp called them. Imp has the Heartbroken. Bitch has her Sons of Bitch, and Tattletale has Coil’s old crew. And Aiden.

    2. Technically, Rain is just another Fallen member who’s trying to push his nasty past under the rug. Tt probably has no qualms selling his demise for 3 years worth of 3 quite versatile parahumans’ time in her service. Always the pragmatic one.

      Doesn’t preclude some sort of extra plans (like getting Erin’s family out of there) in the process, of course.

      1. He isn’t even committed to pushing his past under the rug. He plans to kill his cluster, partly because they’re trying to kill him, but partly to become more powerful and prove himself to the cult.

  12. Mama Mathers almost certainly knows by now that the attack is incoming. She’s had time to call in reinforcements from the other Fallen branches if she needs it.

    This is going to be a slaughter.

    1. Not sure she does. She gets in your head, but that doesn’t mean she knows what your doing while she’s there. Its not clear yet if it’s a ride along or an imprint

  13. I wonder what is meant by Cradle ‘deploying’. Has he built a massive tank that walks on lots of little legs or arms? Does he have a suit of power armour, or a mini-mech? Or a massive mech? Or has he removed his brain and built a prosthetic body? Or an army of mechanical self-propelled limbs?

    Besides the Tinkering, what’s his take on Snag’s Movement? His emotion power and breaky power? So many questions I want answered.

  14. I read ‘kid with a bird on his shoulder’ and I immediately think it’s a Twig crossover.

    1. I had the exact same thought – I was even contemplating going back and rereading previous sections to see if this was really the case buuut I’m way too lazy for that.

  15. “I’ve known exactly where he is for a very long time.” looks at camera

    Snag’s talking about waiting for the crowd to thin out before deploying – meaning that whatever he’s planning now probably isn’t part of the main attack. And they invited some personal enemies of Sveta’s, too.

    I suspect some of them’ll be splitting off before the main attack to go after a different target …

    1. Since Tattletale knows where Rain have been all along, she very likely has Stranger Protocols in effect taking into account for Mama Mathers.

      I thinks I now see the method, just outnumber and outgun the Fallen. Knowing what’s coming without the power to change the outcome just like they regularly grind other peoples faces with regarding the Endbringers.

  16. “She was climbing the building face, to get up and over the orange motes.

    I flew toward her at the same time Spright started running in that direction.”

    Who is that? Is that Nailbiter or someone else?

  17. Hmm, I have zero belief in Victoria and her team actually winning against Tattletale and her friends. It would just be stupid if TT didn’t win like she basically always do. I think the best we can hope for now is that this will be over soon.

    1. As hard as I will be cheering for the Undersiders, I actually think Wildbow already found a way to write a Team Therapy victory.

    2. Well, Team Therapy does have one major advantage here- they don’t have to beat the Undersiders in a fight, they just have to get away from whichever capes the cluster manages to split off. That’s still a lot of capes, but it’s a big Megalopolis and they have enough warning to cover some ground and call in reinforcements. With the big guns like Imp tied up with taking out the Fallen camp, I’d say they have a chance.

    3. It seems like Tattletale isn’t directly gunning for Team Therapy, just providing a few answers to the people who are (and directly gunning for another group who said people are also gunning for). As long as Tattletale and Victoria don’t end up directly opposed before Victoria goes through some good character development, she should be fine.

  18. Credits to Ganurath on SB for this awesome post:

    She’s not some civvy in a dress.
    She’s not your waifu or caught up in Coil’s mess.
    She’s not some trouble soul who’s helping on the sly.
    Nope! She’s a bad guy.

    All those Undersiders that you see?
    Each of them, for two long years, has stuck to villainy.
    And while they aren’t still teammates, here they’re partners in crime.
    Which makes Tats… what?
    She’s the bad guy.

    Oh, it’s magic,
    When the nostalgic,
    Are confused by their find.
    Oh, it’s such fun,
    When all that fanon,
    Burns before the fact that Tattletale’s not kind.
    Cause she’s the bad guy.

    [Non-Vocal Interlude]
    You see, she doesn’t want to work with these guys as part of some elaborate backstabbing scheme. She just wants to work with them.
    [Interlude Ends]

    Oh, ain’t she a stinker?
    That unrepentant Thinker!
    And let me tell you why.
    I think she’s a survivor,
    Cause her passenger’s a driver,
    She’ll never be good since she won’t think to try.

    You see, a villain’s mindset really sticks.
    Going hero ain’t as easy as in all those fanfics.
    She’ll throw Rain under the torture bus and leave him to die.
    Go on, guess!

  19. I wonder what Prancer’s doing with the human trafficking.

    To be fair to him, it might not be slavery. There’s other reasons a group of people might want to move from one corner world to another. If it’s a smaller group it could even just be a team of capes looking to stay under the radar. But very few possibilities would be going to someone like Prancer if they were up to something nice.

    Prancer’s slipping very, very fast. It’s a moral degradation that we never quite got with Taylor, because she moved so quickly from warlord into living on resources from Coil and Tattletale’s corporate crime. She never needed to dirty her hands in this way. I think she’d have been able to justify it, but drugs and human trafficking were never any of the wrongs she felt the need to do for her right reasons.

    1. That was always something that bugged me about Worm in hindsight, the way all the real crimes a villain does just got brushed under the rug in Taylor and co’s case because they just had magic infinite bank accounts that handwaved away any logistical issues that would have forced them to get their hands dirty in order to keep their muscle on the payroll.

      Nice to see that’s not the case this time around. Heck even Tattletale doesn’t seem to good anymore.

        1. I don’t really see how that’s in any way relevant to my comment or the guy before me? 0_o

          1. It’s relevant. She didn’t wave away a logistical issue with cash –

            on wait that was way more than a logistical issue

            oh wait she was practically weaver at that point

      1. Getting arrested is not a logistical issue. A logistical issue would be something like:

        Coil: So Skitter, I’ve been looking over our accounts and it says here that you’ve been handing out care packages to several hundred people every day of the week for the past four weeks, which has cost approximately seven shitloads of money. Your accounts also did not list any notable sources of income. Care to explain how you plan to make your territory actually profitable? Last I checked the land you’ve claimed does not contain a literal gold mine.
        Skitter: Um….
        Coil: Tell you what, let me make this simple for you by giving you some suggestions: you can a) deal drugs, b) be an arms dealer, c) run a protection racket, d) engage in human trafficking, e) be a pimp or f) all of the above. Which do you pick?
        Skitter: I’m not very comfortable with any of those sir. 🙁
        Coil: Well tough shit, we’re villains, its what we do. Do you have any idea how much money it costs to have a small army of elite mercenaries on call 24/7? Quite a lot I can assure you. Bill, Bob and Tom aren’t going to just pay their own salaries you know. So chop, chop make some money. Though I suppose if exploiting people in your own territory makes you uncomfortable we could do this the “out of sight, out of mind” way. I have some “acquaintances” who would be very interested in buying a couple of liters of black widow and brown recluse venom. How about we set up some terrariums and have you use your power to milk their poison? 🙂

        Instead what we got was basically Skitter sitting on her high horse talking about how she did more for the people than the authorities while any of the actual criminal activities she would have needed to sustain her criminal empire got handwaved away and swept under the rug by Coil/Tattletale’s magical bank accounts that not only contained effectively infinite money but which were also magically untracable and unhackable even to all the Protectorate’s entire division of economy specialized Thinkers and their Tinkers. Even after Tattletale practically spelled out where all her money was and how she was subverting the system and the Protectorate pulled out all the stops to take down the Undersiders somehow money never became an issue.

        It bugs the hell out of me and its why I’m enjoying Prancer and the Hollow Point villains so much. Here we finally get to see a “not so bad” villain who actually has to deal with the fact that most criminals are not altruistic and want to make money.

      2. I’d never thought about it that way. I wonder what things would have been like if Cauldron hadn’t been dankrolling Coil’s attempt to take over Brockton Bay…

        Sounds like the start of an interesting fanfic.

  20. I’m tying my head in knots trying to guess what dimension of chess Tt is playing. It seems likely she’s intentionally letting Team Therapy know about the attack, but is she aware that she’s also tipping her hand to Mama Mathers by doing so? Somehow I doubt it.

    1. Given some thinker power and innate intelligence, along with experience, a c
      competent crime lord could use Aiden’s power to impersonate a few of Skitter’s moves to some degree.

      Oh that’s right, Tattletale, Thinker Seven.

    2. If she’s seen him since that meeting, her power ought to tell her what he’s staring into the distance at. If not, she’ll learn pretty soon.

  21. I feel like Tt is definitely giving V and co a heads up- she knows about the team, and feels like they’re a better potential asset than Rain’s cluster, so she’s playing both sides- aiming to keep team therapy around for her use, but ready to settle for the cluster if that doesn’t work out.

    1. I don’t see Tattletale willing to risk having a group of pretty unstable people under her wing. Whatever it is her agenda and masterplan, it can’t involve partnering up with Team Therapy

        1. I dunno, I think the Undersiders were actually pretty stable, for natural triggers?

          I mean, they each had their issues and pet problems, but especially once Taylor took charge and Rachel fell in line, they were never a ticking time bomb like Team Therapy seems to be.

  22. Am I a horrible a horrible person for wanting the Undersiders to succeed, or just a dumb fanboy?

    1. No. Aside from the fact they were the protagonists in the last one there’s another factor. The Fallen are just that shitty. It’s like seeing the mob killing Nazi’s. Sure one groups a bunch of criminals, and murderers, but the other group is fucking Nazis. Hell if we hadn’t seen inside Rain’s head, I’m thinking a lot more people would be okay with it for him. He did after all set a fire in a Mall that killed a bunch of people, including children. It’s very easy to think he must still be an utter monster who deserves to die for that, if you hadn’t actually been in his head and seen what kind of person he is now. And honestly the Fallen are just horrible enough that as much as I like him it almost feels like it’d still be a good tradeoff to loose him in favor of them getting wiped out.

    2. …I don’t think that the Undersiders are going after Rain personally, so not really? I’m pretty sure that everyone wants Imp to kill off the Mathers leadership, and for Seir and co. to lose to Bitch’s dogs. Parian’s had a secondary power teased for actual years at this point, so there’s that hype too.

      If you meant that you’re specifically wishing for Rain to die to the cluster, then that’s a bit weird. On top of Rain being sympathetic in and of himself, his death would probably also be bad for literally everyone- Tattletale gets more blood on her hands, another unpreventable death. The Undersiders as a group are hurt, because this is the sort of thing that Parian and Foil condemn. Team Therapy, collectively loses a member and gets a nice dose of helplessness shoved down their throats.

      The cluster themselves are hurt the most, ironically. They cross an irrevocable line and they’ll be forced to confront the fact that Rain isn’t responsible for the actions that they’re taking.

      1. I am not specifically wishing for Rain to die to the cluster. I already feel enough sympathy towards him that I want him to overcome the shitty situation he is in. But the problem is, I still adore the Undersiders way more than I like Rain and Team Therapy, despite the fact that they are being set up as antagonists in Ward. If and when there comes a time the Undersiders have to face off agaisnt Team Therapy to get to Rain, I am probably going to keep cheering for the Undersiders, despite the fact that cheering for Team Therapy is the moral thing to do. Thats why I question whether or not I am a sick MF.

        1. Wait, when has Wildbow ever conflated “antagonist” with “unsympathetic”?

          …Okay, yeah, there are some examples (Jack Slash, Barbatorem, the Infante, etc), but that’s not the norm.

          1. Barbs didn’t get enough screen time to become sympathetic, but I definitely liked both Jack and the Infante.

  23. Undersiders! Huzzah!

    And that reminds me March 14th is National Spider Day. Any chance for a little Skitter fluff, cannon or non? Obviously it couldn’t be anything really major or related to current story (if it even had her directly), but it would be nice to have a little tribute to our original messed up protagonist

  24. A lot of people are saying that the undersiders were disbanded, only joining together for very large threats. I don’t see it that way. I think it is more that they have become a larger group. We saw this starting to happen in Brockton, with each Undersider leading their own territory. This is just it on a bigger scale. Bitch is still an Undersider, she just leads a subgroup the Sons of Bitch. The same for all the others. Its more like a mafia family, or something like that. It probably means the leaders see each other less, but again we saw the beginning of that in Worm. Also I dont think this is Tattletale bringing everyone to this meeting. I am pretty sure this is just some of her officers and a few others for protection/bodyguards. Considering how big she is on recruiting and how many we have seen I wouldnt be surprised if her total forces are in the low triple digits.

  25. Is it just me, or does it look like Mayday thinks that Kenzie might have faked the emails to draw them in?

    1. Well, duh. He really has no reason to go back there now he’s spilled his secret to his team-mates. Even the visions of Mother can’t be worse than what will happen in real life if he goes back there. The problem is going to be Erin. She won’t abandon her family and he won’t abandon her. But even if she can’t/won’t get out she’s really safer if Rain’s not anywhere near her; taking her little brother and hiding ; as hopefully Tattletale’s team won’t be targeting non-combatant children who are not Rain.

      1. Rain’s too nice to let everyone he’s ever known die, especially Eren’s family. Though honestly I’m down to just Her brother being not in the “Eh I’m okay with it” catagory.

  26. Imma calling it

    Vicky/Moose OTP

    Although I kind of see them more as work-spouses or the wolf and sheep dog in Looney Tunes, punching in together before getting to scrapping.

    1. Moose probably acts this polite to everyone he fights. He strikes me as a chill guy. He’s probably a better drinking buddy than front line.

  27. Bringing Kenzie to the fight, even as a projection, seems like it was a bad idea to me. Now the villains definitely know the heroes have a camera-tinker and what she looks like, where before they might have forgotten or overlooked one comment from ReSound.

    At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rain was intentionally thinking about Mama Mathers to show her what’s happening. Anything to put more barriers between himself and this army of famous/powerful capes. Even if most of them are interested in the Fallen and not him, he can’t know that for sure. I’m definitely excited for the battle, even if it looks like the overwhelming advantage is on Snag/Tattletale’s side at the moment. Nothing we’ve seen from the Fallen so far really measures up.

    I’m still kind of wondering just how Snag and co. have put all this together, though. Why exactly are all these villains jonesing to fight the Fallen? The Fallen are bad, sure, but as far as we’ve seen they mostly keep to themselves. Are they a legitimate threat to people like Tattletale and Lord of Loss, or is this more like a demonstration of power?

    It’s hard to think it’s just money. Snag and Love Lost seem like okay mid-tier fighters, but nothing special. Maybe it’s Cradle who’s the real money-maker, or the one who Tattletale really wants to recruit?

    1. I think it’s obvious. With three hand based Tinkers Tattletale will finally have a giant hand shaped airship to operate from, and go with that mountain with her face carved on the side of it. Like a proper supervillain. Also you’ve got to start using oversized holograms, not burner phones.

  28. It was interesting to read about Kenzie’s embarrassing secrets. I was laughing a lot while reading those. Those were worth of long foreshadowing.

    Ya, I can see why it was hard on Kenzie.

    Eh. Poor V. With a Kenzie having such an admiration to her, her public image is in a really dangerous spot.

    1. Well, we still don’t know Kenzie’s trigger event, which supposedly takes the embarrassing cake.
      Probably never will.

    2. It’s worth remembering that the person Kenzie’s is currently imprinting hardest on is Ashley, and that she’s been doing so since efore chapter 1, per GlowWorm.

      1. Which is actually good. Not just because Kenzie’s a good influence on Ashley, but because it’s hard for an ex-S9k member’s reputation to get any worse.

  29. I want to know how these characters parse going from intense fight/chase to stopping because it looked like a kid got hurt. We readers know Tt’s explanation to Taylor (adults in costumes wanting to prolong the game indefinitely). Vicky understands because she grew up with it, but probably couldn’t articulate it as clearly. Obviously BoB doesn’t get it, and I can’t decide if we should expect more or fewer capes on his side of the thinking

    1. I think it’s fair to say that any villain who hurts a kid (accidentally or no, hero or no) is going to move several steps up the public’s hit list. Considering how high Cedar Point already is…

    1. If there’s character development that will make him a better person I want him to take a shortcut towards becoming that better version of himself.

      1. It will be more amusing for me if he becomes a total butt-monkey, failing harder and harder at every opportunity, in painful yet entertaining ways. Perhaps he could “resurface” at just the right place and time for a pie-in-the-face-but-way-more-brutal?

  30. Such an incredible chapter. In the running with 2.5 as one of my all-time favorites.

    It has a lot of really good examples for WB’s brand of humor – on top of all the action and drama and story progress – which has gotten so well developed in Ward compared to Worm.

  31. A bloodbath seems like a win/win for Tt here, the fallen are destroyed and Prancers group are heavily damaged, allowing them to fall into her sphere of influence, whilst they pay her for it! She’s shaping up to look like Erfworld’s Charlie: clients pay you to solve problems, so you secretly make more problems in order to squeeze them a bit more.

    1. I’ve commented elsewhere that Vicky and co at least want to create the impression that Tattletale lives by Rule 3:
      “We are in the business of solving problems for our clients.”
      *Corollary: Creating problems for our clients creates business

      It would be kind of hilarious if that was actually true and they ended up blowing the lid on her operation completely by accident. XD

  32. I’m guessing here, but it really looks like team therapy is only a quiet sideshow in a thinker v thinker conflict. My bet here is that this opportunity on tts part is either a serious attempt at a hard target(i.e. S class threat) or some type of internal mousetrapping. Team therapy and possibly other groups are being recruited.

    I could be horribly wrong, but I am really hoping to see Teacher show up in this somewhere. Lord knows that the world owes him a solid FU, and it would explain the band getting back together. There is no way in hell that this isn’t something big, perhaps a sort off “team therapy starting as the undersiders in a metaphoric call back to the first Leviathan fight in Worm” type situation.

    I look forward to the unexpected.

    1. When the big thinkers get into conflict, everyone is a sideshow. Just like how when big brutes get into conflict, everyone is collateral damage.

  33. As I said above I have decided to actively root against team therapy. Victoria’s ok and Garrote is fine but I can’t find any reason to hope they win right now.

    Kill the Nazi. Let Kenzie be kept in isolation. Tell Tristan to get bent. Victoria and Svetla go and form a hero team. Fuck the s9000 retread.

    Go Undersiders!

  34. Great chapter.

    As for the situation? I like Victoria’s comrades . . . but only some and somewhat. Despite how well developed as characters the members of Team Therapy are, I’m still more attached to the Undersides. They’re both somewhat evil; the Undersiders are villains with morals, and Team Therapy is a hero team of ex-criminals and psychiatric patients. If the Undersiders are defined as a villain team(to us) for still having remnants of morality(e.g. Parian & Foil, I have some unlikely hope for Imp), Team Therapy as a hero team can be recognized for LACK OF said remnants.

    That said, what’s the trump in a battle between Foil and Victoria? It’s the immovable object versus an unstoppable force issue all over again. The first involved the Siberian and Alexandria . . . yeah, we know how that incident ended. Do we get a repeat or a reverse? I *need* an answer!!!

    1. Foil wins. Golden Morning gave hard confirmation that no powers Scion possessed could block Foil’s attacks; his only defense was to invoke Path To Victory and evade. Her shard is an Entity killer; it negates all barrier and resillience powers.

      1. It’s theoretically possible there are some powers that could block it, but they’d have to be ones Scion didn’t know about, because he designed it as his attack power to defeat other Entities and it’d be crafted to break any defense he knew about.

      2. Blindside could counter Foil’s power pretty effectively, at least until she got into “long chain carried by a pair of mutant dogs” tier shenanigans.

        Too bad Team Therapy doesn’t have Blindside.

    2. Of course you’re more attached to the Undersiders, you spent a lot longer with them (both within the story and without).

      Also, Vicky’s shield isn’t particularly immovable, just tough.

  35. Tattletale, saying “golden” is probably in poor taste. I’m surprised it isn’t a swear word at this point with Riley relapsing into shouting “LANGUAGE” whenever someone mentions the Au-word.

    1. They rebuilt the entire city with golden hues, to Victoria’s dismay; gold didn’t become that offensive to most people.

      1. They should be able to get away with Golden, but if she says it is a beautiful gGold morning today, Tt will probably annoy a shit ton of people. Best if she doesn’t.

        1. …She hasn’t. So why are you singling out Tattletale? Single her out for things she actually does.

  36. I’d put money on Foil being able to leverage her Thinker secondary into killing Blindside indirectly by dropping a wall on them. Or hell, shooting at where Blindside will be when the bolt arrives.

    Regardless, that’s still not blocking Foil’s power; it’s preventing her from using it to begin with. Once a bolt is loosed there’s no stopping it.

  37. I am someone who tends to get a bit lost in battle scenes, but it still was quite nice. Moose is such a gentleman fighter (a flirt? Making Velvet jealous with Victoria?), Spright is damn shady and I found Advance Guard a little nonchalant given their massive fuck up. Did they even apologize? It almost feels like the whole digression into Kenzie’s history was really just there to shift the blame and attention away from them and onto ‘team therapy’. (Are we officially calling them this, now? I am looking forward for identities to crystallize a bit, I want to get used to their cape names!)

    But really, truly, it’s impossible to hide the enthusiasm/nostalgia that the Undersiders evoke. They are like long-lost friends, and the wonderful spacing of this story makes me dream of a chapter full of Imp banter, Tattletale’s insights and Rachel’s scruffy affection. Although we probably won’t see much of that, since they are now full on mafia bad guys with sleek black cars…
    So Tattletale is warning them that she had always know (about everything) and that she will deliver: how does our team handle panic and desperation, I wonder?

    (ps: love that Ashley is happily ranting away with other villains who can understand her!)

    1. I reckon Moose is ambivalent about being a villain and could easily slip into being a hero if not for the company he keeps.

  38. “I recognized Tattletale, from the lead car. She had a kid with a bird on his shoulder with her. She smiled.”

    I see you Blake and Evan

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