Shadow – 5.8

Previous Chapter                                                                                        Next Chapter

The gunfire continued.  I flew back to the others, positioning myself a good twenty feet from them.  My power was active, serving to shield them.

“Get behind cover,” I said.

I was glad to see them listen.  Not only did they get to safety, but they weren’t in a position to see if the wretch reached out to any nearby vegetation.

The rules of ‘the game’ were that guns were verboten.  ‘The game’.  Gangs liked the terminology, and I was pretty sure it had stemmed from that culture.  It was the nature of social groups to self-moderate.  Things that were selfish and advantageous but that went against the group’s greater interests were acted on.  Capes leaned pretty heavily on that abstract moderating force, because the laws had never kept up with us and we’d had to moderate ourselves.

That was the game.  It was the walking of the line between the selfish things we did for ourselves and our teams and what served the greater good.  Secret identities were to be left alone.  Families weren’t to be touched.  The day to day of the city and civilian lives weren’t allowed to be disrupted.  No killing; no guns.

Capes used swords, crossbows, they used bows and other weapons that were just as lethal as a gun, given a chance.  Most of the time it was to coordinate with another power.  Capes threw explosive chunks of their bodies, among other things.  My home town had had Miss Militia in a role as lieutenant of the Protectorate and then as leader of the team, and she had guns as part of her power.

It came down to symbols, to what the gun meant, and whether the person with the gun was playing along.  With a sword or bow, the assumption was yes.  When a gun was drawn or fired, barring any context, the assumption was –had to be, even- no.  Carrying a gun as a cape and using it implied things that other weapons didn’t.

Tattletale had aimed a handgun at me once, and she had pulled the trigger.  In that, at least, she had been playing along.  It had been a tool, not a weapon.  I had some grievances when it came to her, but that wasn’t one of them.

The Fallen and the villains of Hollow Point?  They weren’t playing any games.  Powers were used, and a tight cluster of three or four explosions in quick succession were followed by creaking, snapping sounds that might have been trees or a building collapsing.

I heard the sound of wood splintering near me, and I turned my head in time to see the side of a tree crunch inward, as if two axes had bit into it.  Bit.  The wretch was taking a bite out of the wood.

There were other signs of the wretch’s restlessness nearby.  Bark was scraped from trees by hands.

I dropped my forcefield and stepped around a tree until it stood between me and the ongoing gunfire.  My back to the tree’s trunk, facing the others, I asked, “You guys okay?”

“I don’t think they’re firing in this direction,” Capricorn said.

“Can you provide some cover?” I asked.  “I don’t think anyone’s close.”

“Yeah.”

The orange motes began to dance between trees.

“We move toward the road,” I said.  “We’ll cross it, and then we cut toward the settlement.”

“Victoria, you take point.  Sveta, put yourself between her and us.  Kids, with me.  Looksee, watch what your camera is looking at.  I don’t want you getting hit by the anti-thinker measures.”

“Uh huh.  Tattletale went into a building with some henchmen.  She waved at the camera and smiled, which was kind of nice, if you look at it a certain way.  Foil, Parian, Hellhound and Imp are leaving and going up your way.  If you guys decided you had to run with the guns, you could come back and come after her.  That could be good.”

“Brevity,” Chris said.  “This is a situation, Looksee, use fewer words.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Let’s stick to the plan,” Capricorn said.  He gave me a sidelong look as he said it, and I nodded in response to the unspoken question.

He moved his hand, and walls snapped into existence where the orange motes had been.  Their height was such that if I stood straight, I could look over the parts where the spikes didn’t stick up.  So long as I crouched, I was clear.  I flew low to the ground, the walls to my left, in the direction of the road.

I could hear something that might have been a motorcycle or dirt bike.  Others started up.  Gunfire answered the revving.

At the end of the wall, I crouched lower to the ground.  Flight let me move silently.

The revving got louder, until I could feel it in my chest.  I could hear the sound of wheels kicking stuff up, the snapping of branches, and in my efforts to tell where the bike was on the road, I was totally lost.  It sounded like it was coming right toward me.

As the bike drew nearer, the sounds became clear.  The tearing sound of the wheels wasn’t from wheels on a dirt road, but underbrush.  I canceled my forcefield and drew my arms closer to my chest, so they wouldn’t be out to the side.

The bike flew past me.  It was a road bike, with metal teeth on the wheels, probably for situations just like this one.  One hand on a submachine gun, an Uzi, the other on the handlebars, he zig-zagged heavily, riding it through dense forest, throwing his bike to one side or the other with all of his body weight.  Each turn seemed like it might be his last.

His rear wheel skidded along a growth of roots that was as broad as some trees, he popped a wheelie, and when the wheel came down, he came to a stop, now facing more in my direction.  Young-ish.  Maybe thirty.  His hair was long and he had a longer beard, black and narrow at the chin, a metal thing just below his lip.  With the cut of his mustache, the points at his eyebrows, and his sunglasses all resembling the shape of the wings of the bats on his leather jacket, I was getting a sense of his theme.

I wasn’t sure if he’d seen me.  I remained still.  I realized a moment later that, given the theme, that might be a dumb thing to do.

His head bent down, facing the ground, and he was panting for breath.  He passed his gun to his right hand.

The wind blew past us.  Dust from his trip across the forest floor was riled up further, instead of settling down.

His head turned my way.

I took off, not flying directly at him, but to a point off to his side.  Forcefield up, I kept trees between us for good measure.

He shot a burst, and it sounded more like one sound than a series of distinct ones.  I could feel the forcefield collapse like a bubble popping.  The collapse was almost instantaneous, but not entirely.  The bullet had touched a point somewhere behind my feet, and once the forcefield gave, the breaking of the field cascaded from there in the blink of an eye.

My hand went out, and I grabbed a tree to help stop myself as I ceased flying.  Tree between us, I flew straight up, arms around my head to shield myself from intervening branches.

Covered by the thickest of the trees, I circled around him.

The engine revved, wheels digging for traction.

He rode off in the direction of the dirt road, and I went after him, staying at the level where the peaks and upper reaches of the trees provided some cover, but were far enough from one another that I could easily fly through the gaps and keep one eye on the biker.

He rode away from me like he knew where I was.  Even though he was riding recklessly, he still needed to zig-zag, and I wasn’t sure he would have been any faster than me on a clear path.  I could get ahead of him, above him.

He fired.  I could hear the submachine gun fire one burst, then another.    I could hear the bullets cutting through the air, but they didn’t touch the wretch or me.

I dove, wretch active, and when I cut through the leaves and found a large branch in my way, I let the wretch collide with it.  He’d made enough noise with that gun, and I could make some by breaking the branch clean off the tree.

The bike roared as he kicked it into life, using it to get himself clear of the falling wood.  Couldn’t get a bead on me, so he was running.

I was already moving, though.  The moment I knew where he was going, I moved to intercept.  In his haste to get going and find his balance, he’d laid the uzi against one of the handlebars.  He wasn’t in a position to aim it at me.

I caught the weapon and the hand that gripped it.  He tried to adjust, another wheelie with a spin as everything rested on the back wheel as a kind of forced stop or attempt to bring the bike around to collide with me.  I hauled him back and away from the bike before he could finish the motion.  He tumbled into moss, stones, and weeds, emtpy-handed.

Wretch out, uzi held firmly in my hand, I flew at the bike as it tumbled to the ground.  I swung my hand, backhanded, and the wretch followed suit, demolishing it.

Bat-biker didn’t get up or do much except lie on his side, panting hard.  The fall hadn’t been hard enough to incapacitate him.

A fear response?  I didn’t even have my aura out.

I approached him and set one foot on his wrist, so it would be easier to keep an eye on the other.  “I’m betting someone like you has other weapons.  Tell me where, and don’t touch them unless you want me to treat you like I treated your bike.”

He went very still.

I pushed out with my aura, keeping it small.  I didn’t want to tip anyone else off about my presence.

“Weapons.  Now,” I said.

When I moved my hand, still holding the uzi, he responded by moving his free arm, hiking up his jacket.  I could see the handgun there.  A beefy, overcompensation sort of gun, which didn’t really suit his average frame.

It seemed he respected the gun more than the person with powers.  Stupid.

I collected the handgun.  Kicking with one foot, I pushed one of his pant legs up, then the other.

Knife at the ankle.  I kept the gun trained on him, released his wrist, and retrieved the knife.  He didn’t resist as I stepped on his wrist once again.  My hands were pretty full at this point.

“What else?” I asked.

“That’s it.”

Prodding with my toe, using flight to avoid putting too much weight on his wrist, I investigated his jacket.  Something rattled.

“What’s here?”

“Cigarettes.”

“Remove them.  Throw them aside.  Slowly.”

He did.  It was a large carton of cigarettes, but as it landed, there were needles with caps on inside, sitting at an angle.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Medical, really,” he said.  “Helps with the headaches from my power.”

“Don’t leave stuff out,” I said, amping up my aura some more.  I poked more with my toe, and found another weight at the vest pocket of his jacket.

“Phone,” he volunteered.

I kicked down, catching the phone between my heel and a rock.  I heard something break.  I did it again.  I saw his expression change, a snarl.

I flew up and away from him, until I could see the surroundings.  I spotted a hole in a tree, and put the weapons within.

He was on his feet by the time I got back to him.  He backed away a step, then fell on his ass.

“Bikers.  You’re on the Fallen’s side in this?”

He twisted up his face into a scowl so fierce that it looked like a pretty sure thing he wouldn’t open his mouth.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said.

I flew at him.  He swung a punch my way, and I put my forcefield up.  His arm was too far out to the side, and he didn’t even hit me hard enough to drop my defenses.

I moved right into his personal space, and the sour sweat smell of him made me wish I hadn’t.  Seizing his belt buckle in one hand and his belt in the other, I flew.

He was heavy, as I dismissed my defenses.  His arms were free and he could have swung a punch, but it would have done more harm to him than to me.  Instead, faced with my aura and a very swift ascent, he grabbed onto the top edge of my breastplate for leverage.

We reached the treetops, where the branches were thinner.  I roughly deposited him on something that looked reasonably sturdy and unreasonably high up.  The impact of my setting him down helped to break his grip on me.

I could hear the gunfire continuing.  It had moved.  By the sound of it, Hollow Point’s group was venturing along one edge of the camp, moving counter-clockwise along the perimeter.

“Stay put,” I said.  I seized his foot and pulled it down, then undid the laces on his boots.  I tied them around a branch.  “I can make you more comfortable and leave you a way down if you talk.”

“Fuck you,” he said.  He clung tight to a branch.

I tied the laces of his other boot to another branch.  Then I identified a few key branches he could use to climb down, and, strength up, demolished the first with a sharp strike.

“Shit!” he said, voice going higher as the branch he was on wobbled.  “Shit!”

I broke another.  Not the cleanest break, it might have served as a foothold or handhold.  I kicked it again to make it less of one.

When three branches were broken and there was a good ten feet between the branch he was on and the nearest handhold or foothold, I flew back, assessing the situation.  He couldn’t let go of the trunk in front of the branch he was sitting on, and he couldn’t bend low enough to untie his laces, even if he could let go.

“I’m not going to say shit,” he said.

You just did, a few times, I thought.  My expression remained deadpan.

I didn’t give him a response.  Instead, I left him where he was, and flew down to the ground.

There was a time when using my powers had made me feel powerful.  Having superstrength had made me feel strong.  Having an aura that instilled awe had made me feel awesome.

I didn’t feel that same rush now.  I felt melancholy.

There were more coming through the trees.  They didn’t seem especially aware of me, or mindful of the earlier gunfire.

More people in leather jackets.  Beards and some sunglasses.  I flew up to a higher branch.

Bikers, except these guys didn’t have bikes with them.  They’d be part of the Fallen’s network.  While Prancer’s side of Hollow Point seemed to be willing to play by the rules of the game, the Fallen hadn’t been so inclined, even before Gold Morning.  They hadn’t felt the social pressures because they hadn’t been part of society, living on the fringes and putting a wall between themselves and others.  They’d had allies of necessity for certain events and causes, and the bikers had been some of those allies.

When people hadn’t been able to go after the Fallen, the pressures and responses for the Fallen’s actions had come to rest on the heads of the bikers and other allies.  People had been less willing to deal with them, more force had been used against them, and the message had been driven home.

The problem with the cycle was that being on the outs made them more likely to bend or break the rules.  The wedge between them and everyone else had also made them more inclined to simply fold into the Fallen, especially after Gold Morning.

The amnesty was a thing, crimes had been pardoned, but feelings were still feelings.  The bikers had backed up some of the shittiest people around, and that was hard to let go of.

There were three people moving through the trees as a group.  Their attention seemed to be fixed on flanking Hollow Point.  That would’ve been the motorcycle guy’s intention too, then.  Getting around behind and opening fire.

Two of them were heavy, and could’ve been brothers.  One of the heavy ones had a tattoo that was partially obscured by his glasses, and a goatee.  The other had a metal shackle of a collar around a neck that really was too wide for most metal collars.  It made skin bulge out the top and bottom.  Similar shackle-like cuffs were at his wrists and ankles, but they weren’t so bulgy.

The one in the center was a breaker.  He was a wraith of a person, a statue broken up into solid segments that were hard and almost ceramic in appearance, with electric blue lines spiraling around each of the jet black, ceramic-ish, solid parts.  They were connected to other parts by only a deep blue smoke that was hard to look too deeply at.  His face was less of a face and more of a solid, triangular surface with a series of six or seven holes bored into it.  Each hole was ridged with a corkscrew pattern, cone-shaped.

He didn’t walk and he didn’t fly.  He had legs that existed as a jumble of segments, they moved, and he kind of was in places.  It reminded me of the animated optical illusions where circles continually rippled outward and appeared to grow endlessly, but they didn’t actually grow.

In his case, the lines and edges of the harder body moved and rippled back, he appeared to stay in place, but he actually moved, with the indigo-blue smoke billowing out behind him.

Two guns.  Shackle-guy had a handgun, and the guy with the goatee had a shotgun.  Breakers didn’t tend to have gear.

I flew over their heads, and I saw that the breaker’s face wasn’t three dimensional.  It was such that no matter what angle I viewed it from, it always faced me.

He didn’t react like he saw me, though.  Not just yet.

One of the most underrated things about flying was that it was silent.

I took advantage, lowering myself down behind the guy with the goatee.

The spiraling on the breaker’s arm intensified.  I adjusted my flight course- realized belatedly that he was swiping at me.  It was hard to process his movements, because he seemed to retroactively be wherever he was going.  It was my perceptions, I was pretty sure, and not time manipulation or anything.

He swiped again, and I maneuvered, moving around his buddy at the same moment.  He had reach, arm extending as the gap widened between the floating segments of forearm, and parts of a hand.

I shone with my aura, no longer being subtle, seizing the shotgun and put my foot on the goatee guy’s shoulder.  I flew up and pushed down and out with my foot.  My interest was twofold- to kick him toward his breaker buddy’s arm, and  to use full-body leverage to get the shotgun out of his hand.  He had good trigger discipline, and so me pulling the gun away didn’t also pull the trigger against his finger.

I had the shotgun and I’d put myself far enough away to be out of the blue breaker’s reach.  I brought out the wretch and had it demolish the shotgun in my hands.

If I was going to use an all-or-nothing weapon, I’d rather use the ones I was familiar with.

Still turning in the air, I traveled an unpredictable course, arcing down to the ground, hugging the ground as I traveled a quarter-circle arc, ever-mindful of the guy with handgun.  He aimed at me and fired.

His bullet hit the wretch, and I hit him at the knees, bowling him over.

Before he was on his feet, and before the blue breaker could swipe at me, I grabbed him by the ankles.  Flying, I dragged him across the forest floor.  More to the point, I dragged him in a way that put his upper body and face closer to the ground as I dragged him.

He grabbed me by the wrist, and it took me a second to realize the how and why of it.  I’d had him by the ankle, and his foot was now a hand.  He was strong- enough that I thought something would pop or break if he squeezed any harder.

I changed course, and I flew him into the base of a tree trunk.  I heard the solid impact, and I felt the ‘leg’ I was holding jerk in reaction to the pain, but I didn’t succeed in breaking his grip.

He had a foot where his head had been, and hands at the end of neck, ankle, and each arm.  The shackles seemed to be the point where the changes happened.  When he bent to bring a hand toward my face, it was with a crease between what should have been crotch and shoulder and far more flexibility than a man his size should have managed.  I struck his hand away with a backhand strike, my forearm catching his wrist.  Another hand grabbed me by the belt.

My focus, though, was on the hand that still held the handgun.  He had his bearings, and he brought it around to point it at me.  I seized it, fingers hooked around barrel and handle both.

I hated guns being brought to a cape fight.

I twisted around, heaving him up and bringing the wretch to bear for some added strength at the last moment.  I slammed him into the tree, harder.

His grip weakened.  I wanted to fly away, but we both still had a mutual, contested grip on the weapon.

The breaker was coming for me, swelling in my vision.  It reached, and fingers brushed through foliage.  The greenery stretched like it was ooze, strands and bends and all.

When it snapped, it coiled and curled away like smoke, black with blue sparks in it, like a burning paper might have orange.

The rule for fighting breakers was to not fight them in their breaker state, because the breaker states tended to cheat the rules.

I couldn’t wrestle the handgun free, even with the shackled biker weak from his second visit to the tree’s trunk.  I bent his wrist back as far as it could, his fingers bending backward as I brought the gun over to one side.  His hand began changing, the front of the hand becoming the back, fingers finding angles to grip the gun.  He reaffirmed his grip.

He did, however, also lose a bit of ground around the trigger.  I checked, then shifted my grip more to the handle and the area around the trigger guard, before pulling the trigger repeatedly.  Not easy, given the angle.  Not easy, when each shot kicked and was loud, and I had a breaker lurking at the corner of my vision, not registering as having any depth in my depth perception.

I wasn’t quite sure what would happen, but I gripped one of the shackles.  For just a moment, I let the wretch out, giving myself the strength to crush it in my hand.

For that same moment, the wretch did something, and the entire body jerked, cloth ripping.

The metal shackle broke, and the hand spasmed, letting go of the handgun.

There was a wound in his stomach, and it closed as he lay there.  At the same time, his hand multiplied, swelled, had fingers and teeth appear, and became a misshapen blob.  The effect crawled up his arm to his body, which bloated and swelled.

A mouth opened in the middle of it.  It snapped in my general direction.

I pushed my aura out as hard as I could.  The mass of flesh withdrew into itself.  The breaker stopped.

I stared down at the changer-in-flux.  A mess of hands, a mess of legs, teeth, fleeting facial features.

My aura radiated intense fear and awe, enough to stop grown men and monsters in their tracks, and in the midst of it all, I felt that melancholy.

“This?” I spoke.  “What you’re feeling is a four.  The dial goes up to ten.”

The breaker’s fingers traced the side of a tree.  The wood became goo and it stretched.

“You can feel the intensity of it, can’t you?” I asked.  “You do not want me to turn up this dial.  Because thisThis is a six.

I was close enough to trees and ground that when I brought the wretch out, it could reach those things.  It broke up the dirt and it bit into wood with fingers.  The wood creaked until hands clenched hard enough to break it, and then it broke explosively.

“If I turn it up any higher, you’ll feel that too,” I said.  I had the handgun.  I looked down at it to figure out how to release the magazine.  I threw the magazine down to the ground and held out the gun.

There was a moment’s pause, and then the wretch took hold of the weapon.  It flung it out, slamming it into a tree hard enough that it sank into the wood of the trunk.

Still maintaining a grip on the weapon, the wretch dragged it about a foot toward the base of the trunk before it couldn’t anymore.  A moment later, the metal began distorting.  Something broke and fell.

“You, blue breaker.  Go back to being human.  All of you stand down.”

Goatee looked at his friend or brother.  The wretched thing at the base of a tree.  He didn’t stand down, and the breaker didn’t go human.

Maybe it was a minion for goatee guy.  It was a hell of a minion, if so.  Whatever it was, minion or breaker, I wasn’t about to change my policy on staying the hell away from it.

The breaker started toward me.  It stopped when orange motes began appearing.  I dismissed the wretch, watching as they looked around.

“That,” I said.  “Is an eight.”

The breaker reached out and touched a mote.  It stretched the mote in the air.  There were lines around it, and it pushed through trails that had been left behind motes, distorting them too, stretching them like it had the leaf.

“I’m pretty sure you don’t want to do that,” I said.

It stopped.

Sveta’s hand reached through the trees, grabbed goatee guy, and hauled him into the orange motes.

Everything snapped into being, except the lines the breaker had altered.  They remained where they were, jumping around, wiggling and distorting, before they found a solid form as a spray of rock fragments.  I brought my defenses up just in time to deflect the worst of it.

The goatee guy was caught, orange motes around his legs.  The breaker waded through it like it was glue.

The stone became water.  The breaker no longer waded through it, instead struggling to hold its general shape as the water pushed and sprayed through the smoke.  Some of the water was forceful enough to bring small branches down from trees overhead.

As the water’s spray dissipated, the breaker sagged.  The smoke was mostly gone.  It crumpled, and the segments dissolved into a thicker smoke.  As they blew away, one of the bikers was left in the center.  A mid-thirties woman with a blue tank-top with a faded motorcycle logo on the front, a potbelly, and a complexion to match the most acne-ridden teenager from my old high school.

“It’s an eight,” I said, quiet and mostly to myself, “But it’s not my eight.”

She started to get to her feet, then slipped in the mud.  She remained hunched over.

“We need to have a conversation,” I said.

She spat.

“Your friend.  He okay?”

“He gets like that sometimes.”

“Okay,” I said.  I tried to avoid looking at the shuffling mass of flesh.  Before, it had been only the hands, feet, and head that had changed.  Now it was everything but those things.

On a level, I felt bad that I couldn’t look straight at it and that I’d been hurt by others that had once been unable to look straight at me.

On another level, I knew even I’d had a hard time looking straight at me, when I’d been that way.  I still did.  I’d never really blamed anyone.  For abandoning me, yes, but not for not looking.

“You’re going to tell us the layout of the Fallen camp.”

“Can’t,” she said.  “Fuck.”

“The anti-thinker measure.  Where and who?”

Can’t.

The others emerged from the woods.  Sveta.  Capricorn in blue.

“You’re going to need to give me something,” I said.

“We came to help out the Crowleys.  We hang with them sometimes.  They’re harmless,” she said.  “The- other branch, it isn’t.”

“The Mathers,” I said.

“I’m being told to tell you something.  You don’t need to hide at the fringes.  You’re welcome to join in, and you’re expected.  They- they’ll embrace you with open arms.”

“You’re being told?”

“Fuck them, and fuck this,” the woman with the blue top said.  “Not what I signed up for.  They got us in here, we were partying last night, and then, out of nowhere-”

“Hey,” the guy with the goatee said.

“Her,” she finished.  She turned her head away.  “I can’t explain.  She says she has hostages.  People you know and people who those people care about.  You can mess with the attackers, but if you get in the way of the Fallen, people are going to lose body parts.”

Byron spoke up, “Can you take a message back to her?”

“I don’t know,” the biker woman said, sullen.  “I don’t-”

She paused.

“What?” Byron asked.

“She says no, no messages.  Other stuff.  She-”

Her eyes went wide.  She looked around, her eyes not focused on anything in particular.

The woman’s voice carried forward, but it was an inarticulate sound, one that became higher, then a warbling shriek, followed by a gasp for air with a sound of its own.

She dropped to the ground, fingers clawing in dirt, twisting like she was trying to get away from everything at once.  The noises she made were horrible, and I’d heard some awful noises in my life.

Goatee guy started to approach her.  He stopped when I flew a little closer.

“Stop.  What do you do?”

“Do?  I’m decent with a gun.”

“That’s your power?”

“No.  No powers,” he said.  He sounded stunned by the question.  In the moment, I could see how bothered he was and I had trouble believing he could concoct a good lie.

The woman was curled up now.  She pulsed, and with each pulse, dark cracks ran across her body and over her clothes, then faded away.

After a few tries, she stopped trying.  She shrieked, and then strangled the shriek.

“Is there anything we can do for her?” Sveta asked.

“We could try knocking her out,” Capricorn said.  It was Tristan now.  “But it’s not like in movies.  That kind of thing does brain damage.”

“I think this does damage of its own,” I said.

“Yeah, well, if you want to try the middle ground of making her brain go dark without breaking her head open, you go right ahead,” Tristan said.

“Let’s not fight, please,” Sveta said.  She looked at the thrashing woman.  “Shit.

I flew to the woman.  It took me a second of wrestling with her before I could get my hands around her throat.  Her hands reached beneath my sleeves and got a few scratches in at my forearm.

I shifted my grip, and I choked her, heels of my hands pressing in.  I pulled away when she went limp and the struggling ceased.  Unconscious, not dead.

I didn’t need to ask before orange motes began to appear.  Restraints, so she wouldn’t hurt herself.

“You’ll need to stay with your friends,” I said, to the guy with the goatee.

He nodded, slumping to a sitting position on the ground.  He didn’t even seem to care he was sitting in mud.

Tristan walked away, and Sveta and I both followed.

“Where’s our fourth?” I asked.

“Sent him ahead.  He’s out there and he’ll change soon,” Tristan said.  He pointed.  North and deeper into the woods.  Chris would be closer to the Patrol block guys, then.

Good enough.

We were wordless from that point on.  We cut through the woods, and we reached their edge, where tree stumps of varying height speared up from the ground.

Across the clearing were hills with stones piled up around them, no doubt cleared from the fields, and houses, large but rustic.  Two of those houses were on fire, and one had been partially leveled.

A blip of something green shot from the sky to the ground, far enough away it felt like it was on the horizon, when it was really on the far side of the settlement.  The ground shook where we were in response.

If that wasn’t indicator enough of where the focus of the fighting was, I could hear the distant shriek of Ashley’s power.  I made eye contact with Sveta, then Capricorn.

Hostages.  Guns.  Turning allies into pawns.  Inflicting something that serious on someone?

No games here.  No illusions of any games, even.

For all the issues of our motley team, where so often we could have three people on entirely different pages, I could look at Sveta and I could look at Tristan, and I could know they understood this.  The Fallen in particular had gone off the deep end.  They’d abandoned their last vestiges of responsibility as capes and as human beings.

That left us the responsibility of giving them an appropriate response.

Previous Chapter                                                                                        Next Chapter

94 thoughts on “Shadow – 5.8”

        1. I read it a really long time ago. I haven’t read OSC in a long time. He annoyed me with too many interminable allegorical series. Treason, Wyrms, Songmaster, etc. seem like purer novels, not so caught up in building and maintaining some unkillable publishing property. Just imaginative Campbell-myth stuff that doesn’t care about the current fashion or whatever.

    1. You’re both right. From 3.3;

      It sounded like someone was tearing the world’s largest sheet of paper, nails on a blackboard, an alien’s scream from a science fiction movie that echoed far more than it should, a sharp explosion, and any number of other things, all overlapping and working against one another.

  1. Cool. We’re at least agreed that the Hollow Point crew are assholes who need some prison time*, but the Fallen are a cancer which need to be excised. Save the civilians if at all possible, but do so by dragging them the hell out, and put Mama Mathers and her powered soldiers in the ground.

    * Except Moose, who is a cool guy who needs a nice wheat beer, a steak sandwich, and a pleasant picnic table at which to enjoy those things.

    1. Moose is the kind of supervillain you want. The kind whole brawl with you sure, but he ain’t gonna go and make it personal unless you do first.

      Mama Mathers? She’s the sort who gets you very quickly to the “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker” type debates, In Universe.

    2. Very, very few people actually deserve prison. The Fallen, for example. The majority of Hollow Point doesn’t, though there are exceptions, like if BoB attempts to follow through on his threat about killing children.

      A person’s circumstances are far more likely to predict whether they will commit crimes than anything about who they are. This truth is unpopular because it means you’re an asshole if you were to look down on criminals for being different than you. They aren’t, 99% of the time. Being “tough on crime” doesn’t help and in fact makes things worse. Fixing the shit conditions that cause people to be criminals (or villains) is the only solution.

      1. Bravo! It’s sometimes tempting to forget this, when reading fiction. Fortunately this fiction is authentic and not intentionally deferential toward authority like everything on TV.

      2. Well all those fallen soldiers are in the same shitty situation as Rain. It feels a bit hypocritical to say they deserve punishment but Rain does not.

        1. “Deserve”? Its not about deserving, rather, its about possibility of salvation vs risk thereof. Everyone deserves redemption, but if the guy comes at you with a gun, you have to kill him even if he “deserved better”. Sure, you can try saving him, and, if he is not immediatedly dangerous or if you have been trained to disable him nonlethally, you should, but in the end, its not about “deserve” its about self defense.

    3. I’m generally against the death penalty, but I’m not sure there’s any other option where Mathers is concerned. Her power is that godawful.

    4. The problem is that it’s mostly just Mathers and a few others that are forcing them to do these things. Not everyone is bad. But who is bad and who isn’t, and who is being forced to be bad. Master powers suck, especially when you don’t know if killing the master will end the power

  2. Last line has me excited to see the Fallen get their s**t kicked in.
    After all the awful thing’s they’ve done and are doing, it’s time they got hit with a little karma.

    1. I don’t know what Mama Mathers does exactly, but I’m still amused at the thought of someone no selling it.
      “Yeah, sorry I’ve seen worse. Hell I’ve looked worse. Listen, can I maybe give you some suggestions for if you want it to be really scary?”
      Hell I’m wondering if the other Fallen Leaders are too fond of her, or if they’ve seen her, and she threatens them with her power.

      1. I would have loved to see her trying that kind of shit on some of the characters we’ve seen.
        Actually, how would her power interact with Imp?

        1. I think the interactions with Imp would be slightly confusing. When she “tagged” somebody, a vestige is summoned whenever her victim thinks of her… Nothing we’ve seen so far implies that she has to spend an additional effort. I guess, if Imp would think about Mama Mathers while using her own power, the vestige would appear, but the vestige/master would not remember WHY. It would probably confuse und frustrate Mama Mathers to no end.

  3. Very nice fight sequences there. Leaving a guy up a tree is a nice and final way to neutralize someone, I guess.

    The rules of engagement on the Fallen, however, seems to be veering into Exterminatus territory, with good reason.

    Wary of how badly this will end for everyone involved.

      1. It is worth remembering that people like the S9 managed to collectively get an S Class label. It takes time to get an official S Class rating though and I am not sure the system of Thinkers is still in place post Golden Morning. What the Fallen lose in firepower they more than make up for in manpower. Not saying they will be considered S Class but it could happen.

  4. Mama mathers is infecting her allies? Not really surprised. She’s probably trying to make an example of hollow point. Hopefully prancer doesn’t try to play by the rules.

  5. Well this is going downhill fast.

    Mama Mathers really should have tried diplomacy with the heroes. Have the lady say something like: “We have children here! The villains are shooting children. They’re the baddies. Halp! Look at me. I’m the heroes now. You amnestied us! We’re protecting children. Totes McGoats Heroes. You help us or you’re the villains! BWAHAHAHAHA! You weren’t supposed to repeat my evil laugh, Ms. Minion! GRAAA! Stop repeating-”

    I suspect that would have worked a heck of a lot better than hostages. It also wouldn’t have given valuable information to the heroes about your power.

    Also Mama Mathers has a remote kill after she hooks you with her powers. That makes her about a thousand times scarier. Let’s just hope she doesn’t work through cameras.

    1. We’re not at the level of ‘Just hit them with tactical weapons from several kilometers away’ yet, but we’re kind of in view of that point. The Fallen are:
      – A cult of superpowers breeding superpowers.
      – Giving the hard sell on recruiting civilians and then brainwashing them/not allowing them to leave.
      – Conducting terror attacks against the rest of society, aimed at civilian targets.
      – With an ideology which explicitly has them vs everyone else, with a hard mandate to kill and torture and subjugate everyone who won’t join their religion.
      – Held together by a family whose strain of passenger produces Master capes whose powers are so awful that they basically cannot be used ethically, and which are so strong that they can enslave other capes en masse.

      Lads. It’s time to shut this down.

        1. The use Valefor described of his power against himself, to let himself be contented with a situation he couldn’t change, is one example of an ethical use.

          1. Eh…ethical? Maybe. It reminds me of an ethical dilemma I ran across years ago:

            You are a counselor/therapist in a slave holding society. You are confronted with slaves who are suicidal and depressed because they are slaves and subject to mistreatment. You yourself have no power to free them. Is it ethical for you to give them treatment which will help them be happier in slavery, or is that you becoming complicit in that your actions are fundamentally helping society keep them subjugated?

          2. You’re right that this wouldn’t just be ethical in general, and actually would be fairly tricky to do ethically. I might even agree that this specific case wasn’t ethical, since the Fallen are terrible. (Even if not as bad as the institution of slavery in USA Antebellum South…) However, if someone were utterly devastated by a romantic breakup, and held on to a love that would never be requited, Valefor could really help out.

          3. Valefor: Love Counselor is definitely the next fanfic spinoff 😉

            I’ve known different girls with brilliant minds and personalities I’d have totally been happy with, if only the physical attraction was there on my end as well. But it wasn’t, no matter how hard I wished. I would totally pay Valefor to convince me they were my type, because I haven’t thought too hard about the unintended consequences.

            I wonder if Amy could do that too.

          4. “I fixed it myself, after getting powers,” Elijah said. “Looked myself in the eye, mirror right in front of me, and I told myself to enjoy it. To like it, my own mother a mere thought away. To be loyal.”

            Yes Elijah is Valefor. He is blind now because of the maggots.

            “I can’t see anymore, Rain. My eyes have no power.”

            He’s prepared to fulfill all your Love Counselor needs.

            “But what I say? My words have more power than before. All I have to do is tell you to, and you’d want it. I could tell you to be gleeful to have the worst punishment we can offer, and you would be, because it would be in service of the Fallen and Mama.”

      1. You have reached the point where you realize that you either shut it down now, or you will have a much, much worse time of it later. The Fallen aren’t going to change, they aren’t going to play nice with anyone, including their own allies, and Mama Mathers is the sort of person who doesn’t understand you have to fucking treat allies better than conscripts.

    2. Tattletale is here to kill Mama Mathers.

      That’s the story here.

      That’s why she is helping hollow point.

      She wanted a chance to get rid of Mama and engineered the situation so Team Therapy, assorted allies, Hollow point, and assorted villainous allies are all hitting the fallen together.

          1. TT and the Undersiders would want Mama dead for the same reason they were talking about pushing Teacher down an elevator shaft. They do want to keep the really bad ones who could fuck everyone over under control, and get rid of them. Remember while they aren’t white hats, the Undersiders aren’t mustache twirling psychopaths either. They did try to keep the world from ending. Just because they are criminals doesn’t mean they are evil.

            Course if TT has actually learned how to be a good mastermind, then she needs to be able to play the Xanatos Gambit. You don’t manipulate events to give you the one desirable outcome, you manipulate events so as many outcomes as possible benefit you. There’s enough that can go wrong here that I’m not sure that’s the case and this might be more of a Xanatos Roulette. Aiming for outcomes that benefit you, but with a chance of it going really, really bad, thus making it a gamble.

  6. Soooooo…
    Mama Mathers is far more dangerous than I anticipated.
    Like, we still don’t know if you can get infected second-hand, but if so she might actually count as an S-class threat. Where are the Vegas Capes when you need them, amirite?

    For reals though, it seems like the Fallen have gone off the deep end. Whether or not the previous rules are going to matter at all after this depends on who wins. If it’s the Fallen, then prepare for a far more lethal cape scene. If it’s the heroes/Undersiders, the Fallen are going to be killed off branch and root.

    1. If you can get infected second-hand, it would have happened from Rain. Not Ms. Biker-Breaker. Unless you mean through remote viewing, which it does- at least through clairvoyance. The first we knew of Mama Mathers was a comment by Wildbow in Worm (I think) that she’s why thinkers don’t get involved when the Fallen kidnap somebody, as it resulted in catatonia and hallucinations in clairvoyants.

      I think it’s either proximity or sight-based, though. Probably the latter. In which case, one of the Heartbroken is perfect- Imp’s driver in the epilogue. He’s able to sense where humans are without seeing them. That’s why he’s the driver- he won’t run someone over by accident, even if it’s dark and the car has no lights/is under the effects of Imp’s power.

      1. I think it’s perception-based, not strictly sight. There have been a couple mentions of Mama Mathers’ voice having some power, and it fits with the clairvoyants being vulnerable. You don’t need to actually see her, just sense her presence in some way, and if you got extra senses from your superpower, that’s just another vector for Mama to affect you.

        Kenzie might be safe. Emphasis on MIGHT. Most powers like that usually don’t work through cameras, and if Mama Mathers could seize control of half the world just by appearing on television, she probably would have done it by now. However, Kenzie has special cameras that have been shown to be more sensitive to certain kind of powers than regular cameras, and it would be just hilariously awful if they were able to transmit mind control rays that normal cameras don’t catch.

        1. It was said that the first sight of her doesn’t do that much. So she’d need to do it multiple times, and if she did it once Contessa would have killed her faster than she could have said “wuh?”

          1. I’m pretty sure it was said the exact opposite. New recruits to the Fallen were given a brief glimpse of Mama Mathers, and though they didn’t notice anything wrong at first, that was just because Mama didn’t want them to. It was enough to Mathers them right to fuck if she ever found some excuse to exert her power.

    1. Partly balanced by the fact that all of Victoria’s physical toughness is tied to the Wretch. Without her field active, Victoria goes down to one bullet. She has a really cool powerset to write with.

    2. What, really? We got Tattletale’s know-everything power, Imp’s ability to avoid being noticed, the two mind rapists on the Fallen side, and you think the low-level Alexandria package is the unfair one?

      1. It probably seems that way to most land-bound parahumans, especially when used as effectively as Victoria does.

    3. The Classic Flying Brick powerset might be the oldest in the book, the vanilla of superpower sets… But it’s also the shark of superpower sets.

    1. You need the ‘vote.php’ before the ? to jump straight to the right page. Otherwise the ‘?for=ward’ is useless before voting.

  7. So…Mama seems to have basically couped several of the “allies” she called in. If she wins she gets to keep both them and any villains she captures. The Fallen really, really can’t be allowed to win this fight.

      1. Tattletale is almost certainly here to kill or neutralize Mama Mathers somehow.

        It is the only objective I can think of that explains all of her actions such as:
        1) Not outing Ashley
        2) Seeing the cameras from Looksee and winking
        3) Bringing in the rest of undersiders… who let’s be clear… fought 3+ different S class threats and survived.
        4) “Accepting” a contract to kill Rain.

        Tattletale wants to bring in a ton of hero teams, the villains of Hollow Point, and the Undersiders, to wipe out Mama Mathers and the Fallen.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but people keep talking as if this is The Fallen against Hollow Point, with Team Therapy running interference.

    What if it’s not? What if, from the beginning, this has been The Undersiders (esp. Tattletale) maneuvering to get rid of The Fallen?

    I’m tempted to say “naw,” but then I thought about the whole progression. Tattletale has been closely involved with all three of the major opposition players in this mini-war. She has been working with three grab-bag capes (Cradle, Love Lost, Snag) who very much want to lash out at the Fallen (and especially Rain). She’s been in business with Hollow Point and owes them a few favors. And if we look back to her earliest conversation with Victoria, I still get the feeling that she steered Victoria in such a way that Team Therapy wound up in Hollow Point. Which would have put them in the position to involve themselves in this battle and likely bring in more hero support.

    Point is, she’s been perfectly positioned to influence all of the major players in this war but one – The Fallen. I don’t think that’s coincidence. What if, a while back, she stumbled across a multi-trigger cape, heard their story, and realized this was an opportunity to remove a particularly nasty threat (Mama Mathers) lurking at the edge of her territory while potentially expanding her sphere of influence?

    Also a big point – while I want to avoid making too much of any one person’s power, the Undersiders do have Imp, who has one of those powers that is just truly unfair. She has a pretty natural answer (kill them before they even know you’re there) to most of the capes there, possibly excepting Mathers. I’m pretty sure that this whole fight is secretly The Undersiders getting rid of The Fallen, and Hollow Point, Team Therapy, and The Wardens are just rooks in the bigger chess game.

    1. Valefor was able to see Imp, back when he had eyes. No telling yet how the rematch is going to go, but we know her power isn’t perfect.

      As for Tattletale, most of her schemes in Worm were actually entirely straightforward. She has a lot more experience in bribes and brute force, than carefully maneuvering people into place to enact some master plan. That was more Accord’s thing.

      1. She did steal Coil’s entire operation out from under him in a plan which took months to execute, and did it under his nose even as he knew the Undersiders would inevitably turn on him. That took some subtlety.

        Also some great big bribes, this is true.

        1. She had also worked directly under Coil for more than a year by that point though. Its a lot easier to think up a complicated plan to beat someone if you are intimately familiar with them and every asset they possess. And it should also be noted that Tattletale still screwed the pooch on that mission, not only failing to account for the fact that Coil would set Noelle loose as a final act of spite but also making Noelle’s ensuing rampage even worse than it could have been since a significant portion of her plan was “make sure that the unstoppable rage monster is constantly stressed out and angry by subjecting her to countless tiny annoyances”.

        2. Subtlety, sure. She can do subtle. I’m just saying it wasn’t really what you’d call a complicated plan. She recruited all of Coil’s employees from under him, and that was pretty much it. She also hid some fire alarms in Noelle’s vault and probably did some other petty pranks, just to distract Coil, but the linchpin of the whole thing was the bit where she bribed like a hundred mercenaries.

          If she really was out to get the Fallen, I’d expect her to be paying others to do it for her, rather than other way around.

      2. The recruitment of Skitter was “entirely straightforward” neither in execution nor in purpose. Like Lee said, getting rid of Coil motivated TT so much that she threw everything at the problem, from befriending a mole to installing an inconvenient smoke detector. When a plan had to work, she’d make it simple, but otherwise she was very creative.

        So the larger question might become, does anything here have to work? It seems a bit early in the story for that. Lots of people would like to see the Fallen destroyed, but would TT be among those? TT is not the crusading type, and she isn’t the type to go along with the larger plans of the community. Even if at some point she intends to cooperate, her personality isn’t capable of following through on that. She continued to fuck with PRT and Cauldron literally while Scion rampaged. It’s how her power works, writ large: fuck with everybody until you’ve got the goods on everybody.

        If as it seems she has engineered the current situation, her goal is less likely to be the elimination of a resource she doesn’t control than it is to be that control. Remember she does well at guessing the particulars of mysterious powers. Perhaps she has a lock on some unknown vulnerability of MM, and is using this whole episode as a way to recruit the scary old white lady. It might not work, but since Prancer hired her she can even take credit if the Fallen do fall. Therapy aren’t going to out her to SnagLost.

        1. She ran a shelter not only for information but BECAUSE she is the ‘Crusading’ type. She recruited Taylor not for some grand plan… but BECAUSE she’s also the crusader type.

          She just is very silent and personal in her crusades… liking to mask them with other things.

          The fact is Tattletale is likely going after the Fallen for Exactly the same reasons Victoria wanted to… because they fucking suck and hurt people while enthralling them.

          1. Without Taylor, Lisa would have belonged to Coil forever, a situation she could not abide. The whole bribe-the-troops thing would never have worked without Taylor having both stayed alive and pissed Coil off enough that he threw caution to the wind and exhausted both Dinah’s predictions and his own parallel worlds completely. By the time Coil realized how fucked he was, he had already moved his history-fork to his current fucked situation.

            No way Lisa could have done that by herself. No way she could have convinced another Undersider to help her. She had to have a hero on her side, and a top-flight ass-kicking never-say-die yeah-I’ll-take-Mannequin-twice not-a-promise-not-an-oath hero, at that. Taylor was a godsend for Lisa. If she had to crash a Merchant’s party or adopt a delinquent or feed some people to keep Taylor happy, she happily would do so.

          2. @Jess

            What the shit are you talking about? You’re pulling a selfish interpretation of Tattletales actions directly out of your ass with no textual evidence to reject the objectively altruistic things she did as not counting as altruism.

            This is ridiculous. Okay, I’m going to say the same thing for Vicky. Her heroism exists for no other reason than to feed her craving to have people admire and look up to her and any actual altruism is entirely incidental. Does that sound fair?

          3. I’m not saying TT is a bad person. In fact it’s my feeling that her not wanting, with fairly small direct benefit for her (the service of SnagLost? really?), to murder a bunch of people who never actually did anything to her, should probably be considered an aspect of being a good person. In that respect TT has a better-developed ethical sense than e.g. Victoria has. Even in Ward, Vic’s juvenile need to “make it right” has screwed up her situation multiple times. She’s not mutilating skinheads anymore, but she still divides the world into “people with whom I should try to empathize” and “fuck those people”. The latter group includes several family members.

            It’s possible that you have a different reading of the characters than I do. That’s fine. I remember that TT never even considered saving Dinah, even when Skitter made it a condition of rejoining the Undersiders. Only after Skitter advanced as a warlord to the point at which taking down Coil seemed possible, did TT take any concrete steps to take part. Maybe she was doing something behind the scenes, but this was long after she said, “No more secrets.” That doesn’t mean she’s evil. That means she’s human, and looks out for herself and her friends first.

            I won’t be surprised, and I won’t consider it a sign that TT has gone over to the dark side, if MM is still around at the end of this battle. A character that interesting can’t just be thrown away as soon as we meet her. If she does bite it somehow, Valefor will survive.

      3. I liked the theory that Mama was actually the entire reason Valefor was able to catch Imp: he thought of Mama, she noticed Imp through her weird projection sense, and told him what to say and where to look to snag her.

    2. I’d like to point out, you have to see Mama Mathers for her power to work on you. Now what do you think would happen if Victoria with the Wretch, or Sveta sees her? If they are still near her when she kicks that shit in, well with those two it won’t matter if they are wanting to curl into a ball to get away from the bugs. The Wretch or Sveta’s body is still going to murder the stressor if it’s anywhere near them. Which a Mama Mathers who’s in sight is going to be. Just got to get past any bodyguards she’s got, they are the snag. (no not that guy!)

      1. I have to admit I like it when uncontrollable superpowers with a mind of their own fuck over people who try to mindfuck their owner.

    3. This is my read.

      Tattletale’s involvement and bringing in the Undersiders only makes sense if there is a larger target. Mama Mathers is the kind of foe that the Undersiders have worked against before and all of them would see echoes of Dinah Alcott in her.

      I don’t think Parian and Foil are coming out to kill a teenager.

      To kill a super controlling woman who runs a death cult through fear?

      That’s a thing they’ll come out for.

    4. That’s so unnecessarily complicated, and let’s her prove how smart she is, it just might be Canon.

      Which is also sad because, when a TT plan fails, it fails hard.

  9. Typo thread.

    “then another. I could hear the bullets”
    Quadruple space.

    “emtpy-handed.”

    “ever-mindful of the guy with handgun.”

    “I dragged him in a way that put his upper body and face closer to the ground as I dragged him.”
    The latter “as I dragged him” feels mildly redundant since she’s already describing how she’s dragging him.

  10. If that Breaker was a man Zeno would be the perfect cape name… but she isn’t.
    Also Victoria got pretty lucky there, casually ripping a new one to the only target able to heal it without much trouble. That could have gone south pretty quickly.

    I thought ‘unable to control the wretch’ meant it would remain immobile when she has her limbs in different ‘sleeves’, but if those flail around instinctively it’s only a matter of time before massive collateral happens, regardless how careful she is.

  11. I NEED an old fashioned, Leviathan-esque, S-Class threat fight. I need that Endbringer style combat.

    Awesome regardless, but I’m hoping . . .

    1. The Endbringers are still around. They probably won’t get involved in this particular fight, but later on in the story? Almost certainly.

  12. Wildbow has truly mastered the art of the last line. Not always, but often it foreshadows a significant change to come. A change in pace, of scope, of stakes.

    This last line made me feel excited

    YES! Finally! I hope that, for whatever other terrible things may happen – and they will – at least Mama Mathers and Valefor will bite the dust.

    The only issue I´m seeing with this is that whoever kills Mama will have a hard time being sure that he didn´t just kill her image in his mind and the real Mama is still well and alive. When Rain met her recently he talked a while to the image before realizing it was just her vestige and he had experience with her power. I´m still feeling dread.

  13. I still don’t underdstand why Team Therapy gives a damn at this point.

    What is Team Therapy going to get if it wins? What does winning look like?

    1. Several things, actually.
      1) Rain doesn’t get horribly tortured to death. He’s a member of the team, so the rest of the team is naturally going to care about whether he lives or dies.
      2) Innocent people don’t die (in such numbers). Several of the team members self-identify as heroes, and believe that human life has intrinsic value. They do not want the Fallen noncombatants to die in the crossfire.
      3) Avoid fallen retaliation. As has been pointed out, if the Fallen win this engagement, they’ll strike against Hollow Point, and probably some other areas sort of near Hollow Point. This will either result in local heroes (ie. Team Therapy) having to fight them anyway, or the Fallen gaining a foothold in the city because nobody stopped them. The Fallen are horrible people, and team members do not want them as neighbors. Ties back to item 2, Megalopolis is packed full of innocent people.

      They’d still fight even if there was nothing to gain, though. Victoria used to fight the Endbringers, and that was completely hopeless most of the time.

      1. Also even if the Fallen lose but some of them escape they will still do a lot of damage to the city via guerrilla warfare and terrorism. So if someone is going to fight them then its imperative to ensure that they’re stomped out completely rather than just roughed up a bit.

  14. I like how quickly and easily Victoria starts walking down the path of torturing people for intelligence that’s likely of little value and questionable accuracy.

    1. You seem to have posted your comment in the wrong place Derek. This is the comment section for the Ward web serial, not whatever fanfic you’ve been reading.

      1. You seem to posted your comment in the wrong place Wololololo. This is the comment section for the Ward web serial, not whatever sunny skies fanfic you’ve been reading.

  15. Love how cautiously Victoria fights. It makes her moments of threatening fury really striking.

    It’s strange seeing the big fight from the periphery, not sure yet what is actually going on at the center of things, but the main hope is that it ends with MM dead or unpowered. (But really, hostages? Like Erin :/?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *