Polarize – 10.4

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I had been trying to build connections for weeks now.   It had started at Hollow Point, inviting teams to come in, putting ideas like taking credit second to letting other people have their share of the glory.  We had shared and asked for favors, and that we had asked wasn’t that bad a thing, because people tended to like helping, and they felt stronger in knowing they could call in a chit and have some extra powers on their sides.

We’d put our necks on the line for the Fallen fight.  Some ups, some downs.  We had earned some nods by getting ahead of the portal thing and keeping it from being quite as bad as it would have otherwise been.  We’d done the neck-to-line thing again by going on television.  Then the prison.

None of it had gone perfectly.  Three team members lost along the way, two partially recovered.  Raised eyebrows and questions about the television program.  Others had questions about the prison thing, but they weren’t going so far as to ask those questions and we weren’t offering details.

Now?  Consolidation.  Reinforcing our team’s ties to one another was only one part of the consolidation.  Reaching out to other teams and doing something more formal with our relationships to them was the other half of it.

I stood in the center of the open floor of our headquarters, surrounded by whiteboards that were littered with notes and personal details.  My arms were folded, my still-burned and bandaged hand resting against my bicep, where the bullet had passed through.  My costume top was in the laundry, so I only wore a sleeveless black undershirt with my costume bottoms.

My eyes were on a projected screen on the wall.  Most projector images didn’t really have black as a thing, which meant they didn’t work so well in areas with lots of windows or light.  Kenzie’s cameras projected black, making the text distinct.

Three names, white text on the black background: ‘Mapwright (AG)’, ‘Gong (AG)’, and ‘Bullhorn (IV)’.

Chris’s old whiteboard was in the back corner, furthest from Kenzie’s workstation, across from the bathroom and by the technical front door of the headquarters that we never used, because we always came and went from the fire escape, if we weren’t using the building’s laundry unit or heading into the basement to flip the breakers if Kenzie didn’t stagger out the startup processes of her tech enough.  It wasn’t Chris’ whiteboard anymore.  Byron had taken it over.

Icons blinked on the screen.  I could have gone to the computer and used the mouse to click one, or tried my hand at the voice recognition program and asked the computer nicely.  One icon to bring up a map and show where in the city this was happening.  Another to bring up pertinent details on each of the people – many ‘details’ were blank, filling in only as fast as people found time to spare.  There would still be some misinformation.

I left it alone, my attention split three ways, between looking around the headquarters, watching the unchanging text on the screen, and hoping.  It was nine in the morning, hardly prime time for villainy.

The text on the screen changed, so quickly it almost tricked my eyes.  Two new lines.  ‘Assist: Withdrawal (MjMf)’, ‘Assist: Finale (MjMf)’.

“Hey guys,” I whispered the words.  I was alone in the headquarters, but saying it at full volume felt like it would have been an entirely different thing.

I hadn’t expected them.  I hadn’t known if anyone at all would show up, but them least of all.

In a way, I almost felt like the Major Malfunctions wanted what I wanted more than anyone else.  Breakthrough had their own diverse needs and wants.  They had since the beginning.  My parents and my mom in particular?  Way off in left field there.  The big teams had their ideological divides, with strong views on how everything should be handled, not just the cape stuff.  Most of the little teams had their own individual focuses.

The Major Malfunctions wanted to help.  They wanted to work with others.  They wanted to get up to speed.  That they were involved made just about every emotion I was feeling go up two notches on the dials.  My hands gripped my upper arms.

“Come on,” I whispered.

Again, the screen change.  I’d been staring at it for so long that the text lingered in my vision after the point it had disappeared.

Two man Advance Guard patrol against independent villain Bullhorn, Major Malfunctions assisting for goodwill.  Capture and arrest, custody pending.

I punched the air.  “Yes!”

Two weeks of lead-in for this.  The fight hadn’t been a hard one.  Gong might have been able to handle it on his own.  Advance Guard might have intentionally gone out early to pick a fight they knew they could win, which skewed the results.

We’d told other teams that we’d have our system online this morning, and Kenzie had set it up to go online at ten.  Advance Guard had multiple members out on patrol at the time the imaginary starting pistol had fired.

That was just who they were.

But it was a win.  So long as I didn’t look too much into it, investigating the particulars of the fight, how the public tied into it, whether there was property damage, it was a clean, cooperative, perfect win.

I would, of course.  I’d get the details further down the line.  This was an experiment, and it would be for nothing if I closed my eyes to everything that took away from my desired result.

I flew across the room to make a note on my whiteboard, because I would’ve been risking a Kenzie-like happy skip or bouncy walk if I was using my feet to travel.

Already, another Advance Guard team was reporting to the network that they were entering an area with known villains.  Spright and Flapper against Eclipse Arc.

To them, being first and being on top were things that mattered.  I wasn’t going to complain.

My skin prickled with goosebumps as the door to the fire escape opened, cold air flooding the space.  Alternate-identity Rain and Tristan.  They both set to kicking snow from their boots and shoes, respectively.

“Did I miss the start?” Tristan asked.  “Did we win?”

To him, being first and being on top were things that mattered.  I smiled.

“You missed it, and we won.  Advance Guard, Majors assisting.  Bullhorn.”

“That sounds one-sided,” Rain said.

“That’s part of the idea,” I said, turning to look at the screen.  Spright and Flapper had already retreated from the scene.  They were putting out a call for assistance.  If they hadn’t been way out on the end of the city closer to Brockton Bay, I might have flown out.

I went to my computer and opened the page, adding in details on the fly because it looked like people were looking up the particulars.  Eclipse Arc were serious, as villains went.  Good costumes, good powers.  There were ‘heroes’ out there who got themselves labeled Vigilantes because they crossed lines or shrugged off law and convention in their pursuit of the bad guys.  Eclipse Arc were the opposite, a pair of villains walking a ‘Robin Hood’ line where they really only preyed on those who deserved it.  They supported convention rather than flouting it, tending to go after villains where possible, and among those villains, going after those that had broken the unwritten rules first.

They were big time enough to warrant being a serious target of heroes, but by walking the line they did, they made it very easy for others to gloss over them or leave them alone in favor of other targets.  Too big for Prancer’s old group of B-list villains, too small to be important.  Too villainous to be worth reaching out to, too noble to be a target people could feel especially good about dealing with.

Except the unwritten rules had broken down and Eclipse Arc were out being assholes, robbing people who didn’t deserve it.  Hopefully Advance Guard would steer them back onto their old path.

“Are you going?” Tristan asked.

“They’re closer to Boston.  No.  The fight will be over before I was out the door.”

Rain walked up until he was beside me, double-tapping and removing the necklace that powered his identity, and setting the backpack with its heavy battery onto the table by the door as the second ‘skin’ fell away.  Now his ordinary scruffy self, he ran fingers through his snow-damp hair.  Odd, to see him with no visible scrapes or scuffs, no lines under his eyes.  He looked simultaneously younger and older.  He also, I noted, had a bit of stubble, and it wasn’t sixteen year old wannabe stubble.  His jacket was lighter than the weather warranted, but he wore multiple layers- a mix of clothes I’d seen him in before and new ones.  He met my eyes.

“You look less tired than before,” I said.

“I’m really tired,” he said.  “Always am.  The daylight hours aren’t as harrowing now, but the dreams haven’t stopped, won’t stop.  Love Lost was restless last night.  Angrier for some reason.  I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to see her gang on that screen.”

I looked at the screen.  A few new encounters had appeared.  Eclipse Arc had apparently run for it, and somehow Spright and Flapper and two members of the Lone Wolf Pack hadn’t been able to give chase.  I’d have to know more before I chalked it up as a draw or as a win.

“Is it going okay?” Rain asked.  “I know Kenz was upset that she was going to be away and offline when this test run went online.”

“Tech-wise, I think we’re okay.  The map wasn’t working that smoothly when I last looked, and the surveillance options are just showing black screens.  I don’t want to touch it in case it’s more tinker than tech.  In terms of our early encounters and victories…”

Four patrols were active.  In addition to that, one non-parahuman incident of crime had been foiled, Eclipse Arc had been scared away, and Bullhorn was now in the hands of the authorities.

“We should be out there,” Tristan said.  He’d taken off his coat and shoes and now carried his luggage bag of armor.  “It’s going to look bad if we’re absent.”

“Soon,” I said.  “If we went out now, it would be a fishing expedition.”

“Fishing is fine,” Tristan said.

“We can do more later, when we’re organized,” I said.  I floated over to my keyboard and opened my image folder.  Images from last night.

Our IT person was both eleven and a tinker, so things had a way of getting weird or inconsistent if she wasn’t around and keeping everything upright.  I tried my hand at using the ‘second monitor’ function with her temporary projector box, and was glad to see it worked.

The images were surveillance images of Tattletale and her gang.  Their group was gathered by the back of Tattletale’s rented vehicle with the trunk open – on the one side, guarding the open trunk, it was Tattletale, Imp, the crowd of Heartbroken kids, Chicken Little, and Tattletale’s bodyguard Snuff.

They were with a group of ten people who were standing as a loosely organized group.  For most of the ten, there was something in pose and posture that made it absolutely clear what their backgrounds were.  Feet were planted a certain distance apart, many had arms folded or behind their backs, their backs ramrod straight.  Most were exceedingly fit, or had the builds of people who had once been exceedingly fit and had slipped one way or the other with Gimel’s food stores and quality being what it was.  A lot of them looked like they shopped at the same stores, but a few broke the mold.

The pictures I’d saved didn’t include the image that we’d gotten of the trunk’s contents before Chicken Little’s birds had chased Kenzie’s one working camera drone away.  A plastic tote of guns, heavy enough that the back end of the truck had been heavy- Rain’s note.

Tattletale had fled Brockton Bay with the other Brockton-Bay Undersiders, namely Imp and Imp’s gang, they’d stopped at one place to regroup and wait for the stragglers, and then had immediately set to getting themselves prepared.  Hired mercenaries, bought not with cash, but with a store of weapons.  From there, they’d met up with Parian and Foil, retiring for the night, all packing up together in a manufacturing area for Parian’s clothing line.

They weren’t bad clothes, either.  I had a sweatshirt dress with a watercolor-style image of Brockton Bay on the front that was by her, and another regular t-shirt with the watercolor image in negative, on a black fabric.  She had similar designs for most of the major cities.  I’d bought some out of a kind of solidarity, and because they were actually kinda nice.

“Question is, what is she up to today?” Tristan asked.

“Yeah.  That’s a question,” I said.

In my images, I’d omitted the shots where Tattletale had been making repeated and pointed looks at cameras and other surveillance.  She knew, fine.  I’d known she would know from the time she’d caught Kenzie’s camera tracking our conversation while it was a mere speck in the sky.

There was still nothing she could do about it.  We could keep tabs on her, and all she could really do was have Chicken Little send birds flying after our cameras.  I suspected it annoyed her, but that was fine by me.  She was on our turf now.

Things might get harder if she decided to have Foil take shots at the cameras, but sending that kind of projectile flying out over a populated area didn’t seem like the kind of thing the Flechette or Lily I’d known would do.

“Another win,” Tristan’s voice pulled me away from my musings.

“Parahuman or civilian?” I asked, walking back to the pair.

“Non-powered.  The Grower’s Court?” Tristan asked.

“Sounds vaguely familiar.”

“Farming collective kind of like what the Fallen had,” Rain said.  “They decided they wanted to keep everything they grew, they didn’t want to pay taxes or give a share to the city, didn’t want anything from the city-”

“-Ignoring that the city gave them the seeds, machinery, and tools, built the roads, and provided material for the homes.” Tristan said.

“Sure,” Rain said.  “Yeah, I guess so, didn’t hear that end of it, but it’d have to be the case, right?”

“It was,” Tristan said.

“Them deciding to hoard was a thing last spring, after the long winter.  They holed up, everyone with a rifle, and city eventually said it wasn’t worth it.  Then this summer, in the middle of a lot of the craziness, they blocked off a section of road, raided a truck, and took the stuff back to the Grower’s Court.”

“And?” I asked.

“And a month and a half later, the Shepherds got enough people behind them to deal with it,” Rain said.

“They’re civilians, but that’s a win that might go in the papers,” Tristan said.  A smile crept across his face.  “We could reach out to the papers.  Promote what we’re doing.”

“Shepherd’s win, their choice what to do with it.  But you could let them know.”

“Uh, Rain can.  While Moonsong is in charge, I’m leaving the Shepherds alone,” Tristan said.  “In the meantime, I’ll get changed, and we’ll plan to go after your nemesis, instead?”

“No on both counts,” I said.

“No?” Tristan asked, hefting his bag, stepping toward the bathroom.  “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘death’, with really awesome drawing of a skull.”

I heard a shout of greeting from within the bathroom.

“Sveta’s in there,” I said.  “She wanted to rinse off and clean her stuff..  She’ll be out soon.  Like I said, no on both counts.  No changing, and no, we aren’t going after Tattletale.”

“You’re paying attention to her.”

“Damn fucking straight I am,” I said.  “She’s not someone you ignore, but she’s not someone we pick a fight with either.  That’s a whole two squads of trained soldiers that are trading off shifts to support and guard her team around the clock.  She also has twice as many parahumans on her team as we have on the full Breakthrough roster, if we pretend Chris is still on the team and we include Damsel.”

“She’s not, you know,” Rain said.  “Damsel won’t join.”

“She’s tertiary.  If someone comes after Breakthrough as a whole, they’ll have to account for her.”

Rain seemed to consider that.  “Yeah, sure.”

“We’re not going after Tattletale.  The Undersiders held their own for years.  We can’t pick a fight with that.”

“We can try,” Tristan said.  “Get some people together.”

“Nah,” I said.  I thought about it.  “Fuck no.  There are other ways.”

Kenzie was done with her classes.  Ashley was through with her appointments.  I felt bad that we’d dragged them straight from that into an extended road trip.

Kenzie had her parents’ van, black, sleek, and sturdy enough to carry what she could bring from her workshop.  Some of the components that we’d strapped into place were serving as desks, Rain and Sveta leaning over papers as they sketched out loose ideas.  Ashley was in the back, sitting opposite me, while Kenzie sat next to her with her feet propped up on a case, laptop on her lap in a way that let them both see the screen.  Here and there, the remnants of lunches and snacks from the fill-up station littered the area.

Byron drove, because he was just a bit more secure driving on ice than Tristan was.  I had the passenger seat, though I was twisted around to watch the others.  My own laptop sat closed on my lap, still warm from when I’d had it on.  I didn’t have a power cable that plugged into the car, and that last twenty percent of battery was more valuable than having an easy way to fill the time.

Listening to the idle chatter was kind of nice on its own.  Sveta and Rain collaborating.

“What kind of scale?”

“Um, I have to lift it with my own strength, right?  Not that big.  Not giant mech big.”

“Good.  Because I don’t have the materials for a giant Svetamech.”

“Mecha-Sveta!” Kenzie chirped.

“I’m already mecha-Sveta.”

“Double size?  Triple?” Rain asked.

“I had a friend who was larger than usual when I was with the Irregulars.  The square cube law is a thing, isn’t it?”

“Less a thing if you’re working with tinkertech.  It’s part of why mechs are doable.  Double sounds like an okay starting point, though.  How do you want to sketch this out?”

“What if we start really broad-stroke, and do this?”

“That’s calligraphy broad-stroke.  Really broad-stroke.

“For the shape.  See?  Top-heavy, hourglass…”

Ashley talking to Kenzie in a quiet voice.

“They went into my room.  They went through my things.  Some were tinker things, but I don’t think they realized.”

“Off with their heads.”

“I wish I could take their heads off.  I don’t usually get mad, but I had a nice house and a nice workshop, and now I have to be there, and the people who should be protecting my things when I’m not there aren’t.”

“If you can’t take their heads, why not scare them?”

Ashley,” I used a warning tone.

They seemed to leave it at that.

In the distance, past a light but constant snowfall that was stirred into violent flurries by the existence of nearby portals, I could see the skyline of the New Brockton area of the city.  Intervening buildings spoiled the view a bit, as did the mountain range to the west of the area.

“Didn’t you tell Tristan that you thought the Undersiders would win in a fight?”

“In a fight?” I asked.  “I don’t know.  I don’t think it ever comes straight down to a fight, though.  There’s other stuff.  Information, misinformation, money, resources, having reinforcements, and protecting yourself.  Those are the things that decide a fight before it even happens, or that cause horrible, long-term damage to you or places you care about, in a win-the-fight, lose-the-war way.”

“Things our team isn’t great at,” Byron said.

“They’re better than us at it, but they were at this for six years.  It’s where they specialize and it’s where they’ve been developing their skills and abilities since Kenzie was half the age she is now.  Robbing casinos, stealing tech patents to ransom back, robbing stores and flying under the radar the entire time.  Then they recruited a new member to kidnap that thinker I mentioned before, and sparked off two wars with parahuman gangs while using her, another local crime-boss thinker, and Tattletale to get enough of an edge and come out consistently ahead.  Some people think the Endbringer attack was because of all that conflict.”

“Jesus,” Byron said.

“That’s pretty darn close to what Weld described,” Sveta said, behind me.

“In fairness, we did compare notes and sit in on some of the same meetings,” I said.

“Fair,” Sveta said.

I turned back to Byron.  “That was only the start of it.  They’re villains, and while I’m talking fairness?  They aren’t.  They don’t play fair.  Tristan suggested picking a fight, and I think it’s a bad idea, because we could get every hero in our coalition to go after them and the Undersiders might find a way to make the fight unfair in their favor.”

“The reason I brought it up is that I have to wonder if we’ve collectively lost it, because as strong as they are, they ran.  We’re heading towards what they ran from.”

“We won’t enter the New Brockton area specifically,” I said.  “How are we doing on your end, Kenzie?”

“I’m still getting the occasional blip.  We’re on the right road.”

“What if we get this far and there’s nothing?” Sveta asked.

“Then we spent some time driving around and talking.  But going by what Kenz reported with the timeline-”

“They went somewhere,” Kenzie said.

I opened my laptop.

9:41 PM, two vehicles with Undersiders inside are seen at the New Brockton area limits, leaving.

9:55 PM, two more vehicles are tracked leaving.

10:24 PM, all four vehicles are seen moving together.  Judging by speed limits and where they are spotted, they were not traveling for the full duration. 

“Tell us when we’re close,” I said.

“Oh, we’re close.  Five more minutes.”

“Gear up,” I said, folding up my laptop, sliding it between the seat and drink holder.

I had washed and laundered my costume, but my costume was fabric with decorations that Weld had fashioned for me before he’d left, a higher quality than nearly anything I could have had made for a reasonable cost.  I’d removed the pieces to wash it all, and there were still some to replace on the costume.  My hood had a thin length of metal running through the edge of the hood to keep it from slumping off to one side, and I did have to thread that through.

Two minutes of work, to do that, don the ten finger- and thumb-rings that had spikes sweeping back, resting against the backs of my hands, and fix the decorations at my shoulders so they were straight, connecting them to the armor, because designing the costume so the metal hung off the cloth would have had it pull down and drape weird.

The van pulled to a stop.  We all opened our respective doors.

A truck rest stop.  Dirt road, shoulder-high concrete barriers to guide any errant or out of control trucks, and a fair amount of open space.  There were a pair of portable toilets with bright yellow sides in the corner, and a diner-style restaurant a two minute walk away, but as I turned to Kenzie and pointed at the diner, she shook her head.

“Did she con us?” Sveta asked.

I held out a hand, telling them to stay put, and then I floated up and over the battlefield.  It was still early afternoon, and the light was good.  I could see where boots had scuffed the frost-hard dirt, and I could see spots of blood.

“Blood,” I reported.

“Truck stop?  I bet guys bleed here all the time,” Rain said.

“More blood,” I pointed out.  I indicated points on the ground.  “Something hard hit the ground here.  Hard enough to break the frozen ground.  And… a blast.”

“Blast?”

“Come on, take a look for yourselves.  I wanted to keep the ground reasonably pristine for a first-look, in case there was anything.  No need now- I’m pretty sure some trucks came through today.”

The group fanned out, searching the perimeter.  Once they got far enough, I showed them where the ground had been gouged by something.  The gouging clustered in areas.

“I found bullet casings,” Ashley said.  She’d veered furthest from the group.  Way off to the side, where the dirt gave way to the still-new, pavement of the highway, she’d found the casings.  Bending down, long skirt blowing against her bare calves, she used a finger to prod one casing.

“Careful you don’t taint the evidence,” Rain said.  “Victoria’s right.”

Ashley stood straight, her chin rising in that imperious way.  She approached Rain at a slow walk.

“Hee,” Kenzie made a happy sound.

“I’m missing something,” Rain said.

Ashley nodded, holding up a hand.

“I’m… fuck.  I’m the prosthetics tinker, and I forgot about your hands.  You have no fingerprints, no skin oil.”

“There we go,” she said, smiling.  Her left shoulder brushed his as she walked past him, then brushed against his shoulderblades as she walked around behind him.

“That is the fucking smuggest I’ve seen you, Ashley,” Tristan said.  He and Byron had apparently swapped out to share notes as they’d done their own walk of the scene.  “That’s cat with the canary smug.”

“Nuh uh!  She’s not smug, she’s happy.”

“Same thing,” Ashley said.  “I’m happy my hands are this good.”

“Food particles, though?” Rain asked, turning around to face her, a little obstinate now.  “We just ate, and we didn’t wash our hands.”

Ashley let her power flicker around her hands, making a sound like a snarl as it washed over the prosthetic limb.  “I cleaned it earlier.”

Rain sighed.  “You win.”

“As it should be.”

One vehicle with a crate of guns, to later be used to purchase or barter for the services of mercenaries.  depending on timing, the Undersiders would have had two vehicles worth of people here, or they would have had four.

Assuming they were running, the attackers would have come from the northeast.  The Undersiders would have been fleeing the southwest.  The bullet casing came from the Undersider’s end of the scene.

“I think we’re ready,” I said.  “we should get going before we get in trouble for camping out at a truck stop.”

“Awesome!” Kenzie said.  She drew her phone, then selected the program.

The van bucked visibly as the machinery in the back kicked to life.

“I was able to speed things up just a bit, because having everything in the van meant I was able to bring extra batteries, and I could box it up a bit.”

“Box it up?” Sveta asked.

“I do two things.  Like a tinker who does jets and does, I dunno, radiation.  They can make jets or they can make radiation, but radiation-powered jets are their best work.  For me, it’s cameras and boxes.  Box-cameras are best.”

“Inconveniently sized boxes,” Rain said.

“I made this camera inconveniently big for regular carrying.  Let’s give this a shot.”

“Let’s be careful not to put images in the middle of the highway,” I said, indicating the cars that were flying past us on the other side of the concrete barrier.

“Done.”

The past-camera kicked into life.  All around us, the space began to fill out with dots of color.  If she was going to be aware of when we watched her in the present, we would shift our focus from her to her past.

The snow did make things more difficult, each flake becoming a lone thread, with threads joining together into an opaque curtain that marked the wild commonalities in how the air moved, reacting to the passage of cars on the other side of the divider, and the constant outflow from the portal.

Then, much as they’d started to appear and get drawn out, the snowflakes were undone, each trail disappearing one by one.  All of the rest of the images started to come together, each one a caterpillar, a long blur that traced the paths the individuals had traveled.  The passage of vehicles were like the strokes of fat, crude brushes that crossed out whole sections of the picture.

“I’ve got some data on the Undersiders already,” Kenzie said.  “We can narrow this down.  I’ll pick some images to lock down by the points in space.”

Tattletale was first.  At the Southwestern end of the clearing.  Ducking down.  She was wearing a coat and earmuffs, alongside her mask and costume.  Slowly, the figure right behind her began to fill in.  Snuff, standing right behind her, shielding her with his body, one hand extended toward the source of whatever he was shielding her from.

The car was next, filling in.  Door open, as Tattletale ducked inside.

All around us, figures were appearing.  The kids with dense black waves and curls of hair, most dressed in black, all with masks of their own.  Heartbroken.

Imp, stumbling as she tried to shield the kids.  One of her arms was gone.

“Any loose arms, Kenz?”

“Weapons?”

I pointed at Imp.

“Eew.  I’ll try searching for it.  Can’t be too hard to find.”

The rest of the group was so quiet that it was almost grim.  There were so many people.

Not far from the Undersiders, with an armored vehicle of their own, three people.  The shooter responsible for the gun casing, a man, and a woman.

The red-haired shooter would be Shamrock.  The man was Gregor.  The woman, though she wasn’t fully drawn yet, and though her dark costume was concealing enough to muddy things further, was likely Faultline.

How desperate were you, that you went to her?  I thought, looking at the image of a retreating Tattletale.  The Undersiders had met with the Palanquin mercenaries, despite the fact that Tattletale’s feud with Faultline was common knowledge.  I’d heard it had something to do with Tattletale getting beaten out by Faultline on an early job, and then never really getting an opportunity to even the score after.  I wasn’t sure if that had been pure speculation from Crystal.

“Getting a whole lot of mess while I’m looking for the arm.  Hold on,” Kenzie said.  “Lots of power effects to fill in, and they’re messier than people.”

“It’s fine,” I said.  “This is really good, Kenz.”

I saw her bob her head in an excited way, pacing around as she held up her phone.  Here and there, she erased progress or shifted something so it was loading a figure at a different point.

This wasn’t a moment in time.  It was well over a dozen things being captured at critical moments.

At Snuff’s left hand, a black-gray blob, taller than he was, the air distorting at the edges.

At one point in the ground, a plume of dirt and pavement.

In the air, Imp’s arm.  A silvery thread connected to it, and that silvery thread traced its way to the attackers.

“Sorry,” I whispered, whispering because it was a kind of tacit acknowledgement that she couldn’t and wouldn’t hear me.

I did feel sympathy, but I didn’t feel bad, exactly.  They’d brought a mess down on their own heads somehow.  They’d made enemies and they’d answered for it.  I had no idea what we’d do or how we would handle it if it came down to it.  I couldn’t see us standing by and letting cape fights happen, but it didn’t feel right to take the Undersiders’ side either.

Or maybe…

“Sveta,” I said.

“Mmm?” she asked.  She was standing near the still images of Faultline’s crew.

“The Undersiders played a part in saving the world?”

“Yeah,” she said.

Still didn’t feel right to intervene on their behalf, but by the rules, at least, by the unwritten laws?  Maybe.

Uuuuuuuugh.

Snow blew around us.  I was aware of cars on the road that had slowed to see what we were doing.  Standing in the middle of a firefight that made no logistical sense, as each piece of the puzzle was frozen at a different time and place than the others.  Powers were flying, bullets in the air, people mid-motion, and none of it jibed.  Jibing would have to be puzzled out in another way at another place.  That was if there were clues to be gathered there.

“It’s going to be another few minutes.  These people are all packed in together, and I can do things like take a snapshot of EM levels, or brainwaves, or DNA, but I keep getting cross-signals.  I’m having trouble pulling them apart.  But we will!  We will figure out who you all are, mysterious attackers!”

“I know who one of them is,” Tristan said.

“We know them,” Rain said.

“You- you saw enough details to do a visual?  You must have a power if you did, because my onboard camera isn’t getting a good lock.”

“Not a power,” Rain said.  “Passing familiarity.”

“Do tell,” Ashley said.

“That right there?” he indicated the people who were gathered as a mass.  “That’s messy because it’s a cluster.  And right beside it?”

“What?” Kenzie asked.

“Another cluster,” Rain said.

“There’s another,” Tristan said.  He indicated the gouges in the ground with the earth spewing from them.  “I know this one.  He wasn’t at the Fallen fight, but there’s some old history.”

“Paris?” Rain asked, his head snapping around.

Tristan nodded.  “Or one of his cluster.  But that silhouette looks right.”

“Oh,” Kenzie said, hurrying to type out a word on her phone.  She aimed at the center of the back, and an image flickered across the spaces she was aiming at, its head trying fifty different orientations before finding something suitable.  “Then this is-”

“March,” I said, an instant before the image of her ‘hare’ mask and the brimmed hat with the masks’ ears poking out the front came into solid, crystal-clear focus.

“She recruited,” Ashley observed.

Yeah,” Rain said.

“She didn’t try to recruit you?” Sveta asked.

“I was in jail.  Maybe she tried?”

The Undersiders hadn’t gone running to Parian and Foil for refuge.  Or maybe they had, but it wasn’t necessarily the primary focus.  They’d gone there to protect them.

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107 thoughts on “Polarize – 10.4”

  1. Oh hey, March teamed up with the violent homophobe. Well, he’s a mercenary, so targeting Parian and Foil might not be a homophobe thing and instead be just a money thing.

    It means Tristan might get some closure there, which is nice.

    1. I’m still not convinced Paris is a homophobe vs. willing to take jobs from homophobes and thus equally willing to take jobs from yandere lesbians as long as the check clears.

      If he is a homophobe March is probably hoping Foil will shoot him and look beautiful doing it. That’s the only reason she’d bring a homophobe, I figure.

      1. Oh yeah, Paris is a professional. He does the job in front of him and gets paid, doesn’t bring ideology or prejudice into it. Hospitalizing teenagers (all of whom we’ve seen having been identified as LGBT) is just his hobby, what he does when he’s not on the clock.

        1. I doubt that because if he’s not being paid to specifically target those people and is instead targeting LBGT people in general for fun, doing it near his home base is incredibly sloppy of him and he didn’t fight sloppy. And we have no actual confirmation he was doing it as a hobby, instead of being paid by the Empire Eighty-Eight or the Fallen or the like to attack LBGT people and make it look like a hobby.

          Plus he earned the ire of the collective hero community and then was accused of violating the Unwritten Rules and yet he is apparently not dead in a ditch on Bet, which implies he is good at keeping a low profile and not, you know, assaulting and hospitalizing people who will be able to describe his standard costume in the area of his primary base of operations. That’s the sort of thing that gets you dead when there’s angry Protectorate people with kill order authority and Thinkers on speed dial.

          1. What evidence do we have that he attacked anyone near his home base? He attacked people in the city or region he lived in, sure, but that’s normal villain behavior. Normal hero behavior too, for that matter.

          2. Well, “near” is relative, but we know he’s ranged as far as West Virginia and he had a base within Reach’s area of responsibility and he assaulted Furcate and Nate, presumably fairly close to his base compared to West Virginia. That’s the kind of thing that Protectorate Thinkers would catch onto, and when he allegedly killed Byron that would void his protection under the Unwritten Rules against things like having a Thinker team figure out the location of his base and have a PRT sniper camp it.

            Also I can’t imagine Alexandria approved of homophobia given how she was friends with Legend, and when a cape is performing hate crimes against LBGT people and has broken the Unwritten Rules, well, that’s the kind of thing she might mention Contessa could look into.

            There’s a reason most villains followed the Unwritten Rules.

          3. I assumed he’d been caught and sent to prison shortly after. Possibly the Birdcage, though he wasn’t mentioned there, a lot of capes ended up in that place and few of them were named. Murdering one child, even a hero, probably wouldn’t result in a kill order. Those were reserved for the worst, and even then most of the time they were caught and locked up instead- Bakuda was a major terrorist who did serious damage to Brockton Bay, and she was sent to the Birdcage, and she probably murdered more civilians in a week than Marquise did, or Lung, or Coil, or…

            Murder of a minor, and a hero, would be enough to get him sent there. The only reason he’d then be released, or maybe sent elsewhere, was if he wasn’t locked up before Moonsong figured it out and Tristan let Byron out.

          4. Kill orders aren’t just about how evil you are, they are about whether you can be captured and detained.

          5. Well, the Unwritten Rules are primarily about capes and notably don’t seem to cover civilians; Tattletale is the one who spelled this out and her interpretation is a bit self-serving. Marquis and Coil did not, to the PRT’s knowledge, kill any capes or target them in their civilian guises. Lung and Bakuda tried, but Lung presumably had impressed Cauldron during his defense of Kyushu so they would have pulled strings.

            Kill orders definitely aren’t about ease of capture; when the Undersiders called Miss Militia to tell her they had Cherish in custody and were willing to turn her over, Miss Militia told them Cherish had a kill order out on her and they should shoot her in the head and dump the body. And no, her Master power did not pose a meaningful escape risk; Canary’s interlude demonstrates that Dragon prevents Master escape attempts by using fully automated transports with battlesuits on standby.

          6. Guy, Marquis did kill heroes, and was known for it.

            “Marquis had been an aspiring crime lord in the bad old days of Brockton Bay. It had been a time when the villains had been flocking to the city to profit off the booming tech and banking sectors, to recruit mooks and henchmen from the city’s unemployed dockworkers. It had been an era when the heroes hadn’t been properly established, and the villains had been confident enough that some didn’t give a second thought to murdering any heroes who got in their way. Marquis included.”

            Interlude 11h

          7. One of the Unwritten Rules is, I think, about trying to keep collateral damage to a minimum. Probably the only thing about keeping civilians safe in said Rules, but there we go.

            When they caught Lung, they knew he was a Brute, and therefore shooting him in the head isn’t exactly guaranteed to work. I am surprised Bakuda didn’t have a Kill Order, but maybe she got caught before one was issued- they’re the last resort to a threat, and require a lot of clout to pull off and evidence of really bad stuff. Such as joining the Slaughterhouse Nine, which was a recognised S-class threat.

        2. “Hospitalizing teenagers (all of whom we’ve seen having been identified as LGBT) is just his hobby, what he does when he’s not on the clock.”

          Allegedly. It’s not like Tristan is 100% the best source for info. It is entirely possible Paris was hired to put those individuals in the hospital and had no personal investment in the matter.

          1. Plus, even granting that Tristan’s statements are likely consistent with the PRT’s criminal profile on him, criminal profiling is not an exact science. They may be correct, but the conclusion seems inconsistent with how he behaves when we see him in action. If he doesn’t have a grudge against those specific LGBT people I would expect him to go after LBGT people who do not have friends in the vicinity of his base because that’s generally safer.

            Then he would go to Brockton Bay and hospitalize Parian and learn a very important lesson about how “generally safer” is not the same as “actually safe” two weeks and many wasp stings later.

  2. Typos

    “Except the unwritten rules had broken down and Eclipse Phase were out being assholes, robbing people who didn’t deserve it.  Hopefully Advance Guard would steer them back onto their old path.”

    Eclipse Arc, I think.

    “A plastic tote of guns, heavy enough that the back end of the truck had been heavy- Rain’s note.”

    I think that this is style, but the back of truck remark could be changed.

    1. Not 100% sure but I think this is a typo:

      “Powers were flying, bullets in the air, people mid-motion, and none of it jibed. Jibing would have to be puzzled out in another way at another place.”

      Jibed/jibing = jive/jiving

      1. Jibed and jibing are words which mean the same, and in the UK- and maybe Canada too, not sure never been- are used more often. It’s likely that the use of one came about from a misspelling/mishearing of the other, given the similarity in spelling and meaning.

    2. “if we weren’t using the building’s laundry unit or heading into the basement to flip the breakers if Kenzie didn’t stagger out the startup processes of her tech enough.”
      Second ‘if’ could be ‘whenever’ or similar.

      “washed and laundered my costume, but my costume was fabric”
      Repetition.

      “services of mercenaries. depending on timing,”
      Capitalisation.

      “attackers would have come from the northeast. The Undersiders would have been fleeing the southwest.”
      +to/towards ?

      “aware of when we watched her in the present, we would shift our focus from her to her past.”
      > “from it” (from her present minus repetition) ?

  3. “it didn’t feel right to take the Undersiders’ side either.

    Or maybe…”

    Finally! Undersiders / Breakthough teamup will be happening!

    1. Or maybe not … Rain seems to be pretty close with March’s faction, given what happened in the Fallen fight.

      Or maybe they’ll end up taking both sides … after all, this arc is called Polarize …

      1. Rain went to March because March went to Rain, when Rain needed it for the Fallen and his cluster. The Fallen have been dealt with, one of Rain’s cluster is dead, another has probably moved to Earth Shin and the third is still on the loose. The powers in Rain’s cluster are going haywire and popping all over the place, which March can’t help with but Tattletale maybe can.

        The deal was March would help with Rain’s cluster if Rain would help with March’s. In the end, March did not help against Rain’s cluster, though she did help deal with the Fallen- though her attempt to subdue Mama Mathers didn’t work in a truly horrendous way and was followed pretty much immediately by the Fallen sympathisers in the other attacking factions- heroes and villains- revealing their true colours and causing more havoc.

        I suspect, therefore, that the deal is off- or at least, March hasn’t held up her end very effectively, enabling Rain to ditch her for Tattletale.

        1. March’s subdual of Mama Mathers went off as flawlessly as you’d expect out of Foil’s Thinker-primary clustermate. It only went to hell after March handed her over. And March apparently wanted to just kill her, but Rain was the client so he got his way.

          That said I think the deal was specifically transactional and concluded after the Fallen village attack. March wanted Rain because she’s collecting clusters for some reason (probably she’s Thinkering about them) but Rain wasn’t willing to join permanently. And I think March got what she wanted in relation to her cluster; I’m pretty sure she’s got the Kiss version of the cluster dynamic.

          1. It didn’t take into account Mama’s Noctis status, and though to be fair nobody knew she was one, they should have still come up with a plan because it’s a known thing that some capes don’t sleep.

            March is a combat-Thinker primary, so I’m thinking more battlefield strategies than long-term planning. She’s promising clusters that she’ll help with their kiss/kill if they help with hers, and Tattletale said that March had BOTH. She wants to fuck Foil to death. And whilst Tattletale has had difficulty with cluster-capes in the past, I think this is a situation where she’s right. She knows Foil well enough to get good information, and good information gives her better information.

          2. Remember March’s goal was to incapacitate Mama Mathers and hand her over to the authorities, not to keep her imprisoned beyond that point.

            I think March has an intense crush on Foil and wishes to kill Parian and probably also Tattletale and any other girl who is trying to steal Foil away from her.

          3. I also would not dismiss the possibility March is using her Thinker power for long-term planning as well as combat. She fights like the Number Man, nothing says she can’t plan like the Number Man. Probably not as well as he does, but there’s a damn wide area of being not as good as the Number Man and yet capable of accomplishing amazing things.

  4. Victoria’s lack of knowledge as to what actually happened during Worm amuses me as always.

    And please please give the undersiders some screentime!

    1. You think that she would have asked Sveta before now.

      “So you and Weld and the Undersiders were gallivanting through a gigantic cave system containing the body of a dead god?”

      But instead, apparently Victoria has been, “Oh my God, SVETA! That sweater is so darling.”

      Seriously, this is the list of people by knowledge of what actually happened on Golden Morning.

      1) Tattletale
      2) Contessa
      3) Amy and Bonesaw
      3) Bitch/Parian/Flechette/Imp
      4) Sveta/Weld and the other Irregulars who went into Cauldron
      5) Glastig Ulain
      6) The capes who were mind controlled

      Victoria, for all that she says she’s a cape geek, has not really taken advantage of her resources to understand Golden Morning.

      1. Pretty sure that Number Man knows a fair bit, too, and he’s probably told Citrine a lot when the two of them went and started Cauldron 2.0.

  5. I like that, as much as she doesn’t like the Undersiders, Victoria can’t help but want to help, so she has to look for an excuse to do so.

    A good reason why she’s one of my favorite portages so far

  6. Rain sighed. “You win.”

    “As it should be.”
    Ashley always wins. Which is why we can never have Ashley fight Ashley, the world would lose.

      1. I figure they are and that’s why they shared a room in the prison so they wouldn’t accidentally-on-purpose kill their roomates.

      2. I think the shard does a DNA based check given that Vicky was talking about hair based clothing to avoid annihilation based nakedness.

    1. Death!
      Style!
      Claws!
      Chaos!
      Skill!
      Goooo Ashleys!

      “By our powers combined, we are Captain Ashley!”

      Captain Ashley, she’s a villain
      Whose sense of fashion is truly illin’
      Your apprehension’s magnified
      Their fusion consumes the countryside

      Captain Ashley, she’s got minions
      Cameras monitor her whole dominion
      Rain-hands help her tear asunder
      Cretins who’d stop her loot and plunder

      “You’ll pay for this, Captain Ashley!”

      We’re Damsels of Distress!
      You can’t be one too!
      Subjugating our planet is the thing to do!
      Villains at rest are in motion today!
      Hear what Captain Ashley has to say:

      “The power is ours!”

    2. “As it should be.” is Ashley getting in touch with her inner Thanos, and it fits like a damn glove.
      May her fingers never snap in your general direction.

  7. “Sveta’s in there,” I said. “She wanted to rinse off and clean her stuff..
    Extra full stop.

    Smug Ashley is the best Ashley, and it’s looking good that the Undersiders are going to be involved. I have to admit, I’m feeling a fair bit of schadenfreude that Victoria has to admit that the Undersiders actually played a major role in stopping the end of the world. As ever, her lack of knowledge regarding the events of Worm is a mixture of amusing and frustrating, because we know there’s no way Tattletale will just tell her what happened and Victoria likes keeping her negative opinions of villains rather than acknowledge any good parts of them.

    Victoria’s still judging people by their costumes, I see, in complete contrast to Taylor judging people almost solely by their effectiveness at what they do. Sad to see Imp lose an arm, but on the plus side Rain will be able to make her a prosthetic, possibly as payment for getting the Undersiders help with things. Hopefully we’ll finally be able to see a sword fight between Foil and March (presumably with Parian being slowly lowered into a shark tank at the time), because I want to see Sting back in action.

    1. Sadly, I don’t think that Rain will be able to make her a prosthetic. Tinkertech seems to need regular upkeep, and I doubt that Aisha and Rain will be around each other that much.

          1. I more meant that, given her power, Rain would have no idea if Aisha was nearby or not. Not that they’d be dating.

    2. For all that Antares remembers that villains are usually terrible, she’s actually pretty good at looking past that and trying to help, work with, or work around them rather than just pigheadedly smash them into submission they way Glory Girl did. Even way back in Glow Worm, she helped a self declared villain set up her PHO account, and it seemed like she did it with a smile on her face. She’s got some specific hangups about Tattletale and Amy, but all in all, she’s doing better than most would. She reminds me of Battery during Skitter’s territory grab.

      1. Seriously Aisha? we all knew you wanted to safeguard skitter’s legacy and emulte her but the whole losing your arm schtick takes it too far. No one likes a copycat!

    3. But doesn’t Victoria know what happened ? Amy told her iirc, she knows what Amy knows which is quite a lot given Amy was at the epicenter of the whole thing. She knows they’ve done some good things it just doesn’t suddenly make the undersiders good people just like Marquis’ code or Contessa’s ultimate motives don’t make up for the bad shit they’ve done. We’re prone to assume that the undersiders are good people because they were our MCs but they’re criminals by trade and Victoria’s job is to stop criminals. As much as I love TT and the crew Vicky’s approach makes sense.

    4. Victoria’s awareness of costume and presentation reminds me of Sylvester’s lessons on the topic. I’m not saying she’s a Thinker (Sartorial) 3, but it’s an additional dimension of perception that I am enjoying as it plays an ongoing, maturing role in her narration.

  8. Victoria’s Conscience: “Assist the Undersiders, they deserve your help.”

    Victoria: “Noooo, I don’t *wanna*.”

    Victoria’s Conscience: “Search your feelings, you know this to be true!”

  9. Victoria’s understanding of events surrounding the Undersiders remains both simplistic and fundamentally inaccurate. Did she never think to ask Vista for details, given she was around a good chunk of the time?

    And Aisha’s lost an arm. Now we need only wait for her to free her Passanger, and the world will turn into a blank slate due to forgetting everything about anything. It’s an Undersider tradition.

    And I guess the fundamental question about March is if this attack is simply opportunism, or is Teacher behind it to get rid of a threat?

  10. It’s good to hear that there are explicit Robin Hood villains out there. I was just thinking it was a bit strange that we’ve heard about an environmentalist villain group (Elephant Graveyard/Ossuary) but never anybody with economic inequality as a cause, even as just a fig leaf. If nothing else, you’d think some of those looters would trigger.

    ‘Eclipse Arc’ though? Meta-commentary, or just a really bad team name?

  11. Amusing how Victoria keeps improving her opinion of the Undersiders. How much can Sveta tell her about GM, however?

    This was an interesting setup chapter. Advance Guard keeps aiming for the low-hanging fruit, the Undersiders ran afoul of March’s megaproject and Paris may be in on it.

    Oh and gods damnit, WB, you hurt Imp! We thought she was untouchable, and you hurt her and you hurt us right here! *punches self in chest*

    (Also, nice comeback of the rewind camera)

    1. Tt had a beef Faultline. Undersiders had tried to recruit Spitfire but Faultline snagged her after Bitch was Bitch and scared the girl off.

      1. Also Faultline’s success rate was the best in the city until the Undersiders came along and forced Faultline’s Crew into second place. And I think on their first meeting, Tattletale may have rubbed Faultline the wrong way. Y’know, the way she did some times.

        I always thought it was less a beef between the groups, and more a dislike felt towards Tattletale from Faultline. Skitter in particular got on quite well with Newter, the few times they met and spoke.

        1. I got the impression that both Tattletale and Faultline thought they were the smartest woman in the city and kept trying to show each other up. Tattletale was more open about it, but Faultline always seemed faintly smug whenever Tattletale was made to look bad in her vicinity.

          As organizations Faultline’s crew and the Undersiders are pretty friendly and they’re likely the Undersider’s first pick for heavy parahuman support but Tattletale is probably whining about how Faultline is never going to let her live this down.

        2. Tattletale has a bit of a power creep issue around thinkers/tinkers, she has a (probably power forced) strong impulse to be the smartest person in the room and Faultline messes with that. Pretty sure Faultline rubs it in Tts face too.

          1. Faultline was also not happy that Tt got away with paying so little for making the portal into another world. And then they made a 4 more I think and that made Tt unhappy again.

  12. Why does it say the Undersiders have been at this for six years? Worm (pre-time skip) only happens over a few months, there’s a 2 yr time skip to become full Weaver, and there’s the 2 yrs since GM. Victoria does refer to the pre-Taylor undersider activities (casino, tech patents) but they were minimal background noise then, and even then I don’t think that activity was another year and a half (though I’m not certain on that).

  13. Faultline’s group are mercs, but also interested in power research, so could be one of those things they are helping March with, i always felt Faultline must have a serious ego as a believeable flaw, the rivalry explanation kind of seemed lackluster.
    The misinformation that’s spread about the Undersiders is kind of sad, since at least Dragon/Defiant know the whole story, but would rather hide it from other heroes rather than make the Undersiders look good/PRT look even worse.

      1. And during worm, Tattletale ran Faultine to make a dael and needled her anyway leading Faultine to comment about how Tattletale wouldn;t be dub enought to pull sucha stutny unless she *knew* that faultline would be interested in what she was offering. And wht TT was offering was inforation about cauldron.

        also, Tt has her native intelligence backed up by her Thinker power. Faultine is naturally n around as smart as Tt without one.

    1. I think Tattletale is intentionally spreading fake rumors to seem more intimidating. And I’m guessing Victoria hasn’t gone trawling for new information about what happened while she was in the Asylum or she’d have mentioned that their newly recruited cape, you know, killed Alexandria.

      Also she did not mention the whole bit where Tattletale recruited the Endbringers and the Simurgh followed her around for a while.

      1. Nobody’s talking about that newly recruited cape, though. Not by name, at least, and if Victoria says that she’ll clue everyone in to who that was, and that’s something nobody seems to want to do.

        And Victoria wasn’t present for much of Gold Morning. She was recruited by Khepri; Tattletale recruited the Endbringers before then. Sveta might know, but that’s something else people aren’t likely to want to talk about, particularly since Sveta was one of the last people to meet Taylor before she became Khepri.

        1. What I kinda wonder is where Victoria got the info that Tt and Skitter were involved in Dinah’s kidnapping. That was entirely Coil-sided, and even directly led to his demise.
          I know that Coil’s connection with the PRT probably helped blur some lines in the narrative, but if he made it look like they were responsible for it instead, that’s a pretty nasty blow to their reputation.

          Considering the kidnapping happened while the Undersiders were pulling the bank heist where Glory Girl & Panacea got their baptismal Tattletelling, Victoria’s apparently assuming Coil was Tt’s underling and did her bidding ?

          1. The information that Coil formerly employed the Undersiders may have gotten out after his death. Lots of his mercenaries knew, and if Tattletale didn’t order them to keep quiet, it may have slipped out. Alternately, without Coil’s influence within the PRT and law enforcement, arrested employees might have been listened to or interrogated more thoroughly than prior.

          2. One of Taylor’s perpetual problems was that people thought everything was her fault, even the things that were not her fault. This has now been inherited by Tattletale.

            It sounds like at some point during or after the Warlord Of The Boardwalk period people concluded that the Undersiders had been calling the shots all along and at most Coil had been a pawn Tattletale disposed of when he became inconvenient.

          3. @Guy, during her time under Coil it went the other way. The assumption was that tt had told Skitter about Triumph’s identity because Skitter figuring it out on the fly seemed absurd.

          4. Triumph has certainly noticed, that the bank job happened at the same time as his Dinath kidnapping, and it is not difficult to realise, that one was a diversion for the other. There is also little doubt, that he spoke about it to every hero in town, who would listen. For him it was a personal issue after all. There is also little doubt, that Victoria, being one of the diverted capes, both remembered, and was inclined to agree. There is nothing Coil could do to stop the heroes from making that connection. Not to mention, that long as no one could link all of this to his out-of-costume identity, he had no reason to try. He did hire people like the Travellers or the Undersiders to take a blame for his actions after all.

          5. @Alfaryn: I’d like to point out that, whilst you’re generally accurate, Panacea and Glory Girl weren’t diverted to the bank from elsewhere, and would not have been the first choice to investigate an abduction either. Amy and Vicky were there because they happened to be going to the bank when the Undersiders tried to rob it, something Tattletale could not have predicted, and a fact that Coil could have, if it didn’t help distract ANOTHER hero team for his true goal.

          6. Fully agree on Amy, but I’m not entirely certain, if Glory Girl was near the bank when Undersiders attacked, or was called in after. I’m leaning towards the latter. Of course if she knew about both the bank job and the kidnapping taking place at the same time, she would be more inclined to go to the bank, if she knew Amy could be there, and her superiors would probably agree, but even then Victoria would take what happened both at the bank, and with the kidnapping personally, and would be inclined to blame the Undersiders for both, especially if you consider how the fight in the bank went for both her and Amy.

        2. Also remember, that Victoria has no way of knowing, that Coil kept Undersiders in the dark about the kidnapping, or about the role that Undersiders played in Coil’s downfall. She does not know what Coil’s power was, so she has no reason to suspect, that Undersiders had a reason to work against Coil, and that they had to do it in secret. She even does not know, that Coil died by Skitter’s hand.

          The only thing, that could give Victoria a clue, is that it was Skitter who finaly brought Dinath back home, but we can’t blame Victoria for not figuring everything else because of this one fact. Even Tattletale would hard pressed to do so knowing as much as Victoria knew.

  14. Really, no one has posted their love to see Gregor the Snail back in action?

    Loved that guy and was so sad we didn’t really hear from him a lot in Worm.

    I’m glad he’s going to be seen soon.

    Also, I love how Imp is trying to impersonate Taylor in the littlest of ways. By losing an arm.

  15. Kenzie’s cameras projected black, making the text distinct.

    I see Victoria has learned not to question these things.

    Things might get harder if she decided to have Foil take shots at the cameras, but sending that kind of projectile flying out over a populated area didn’t seem like the kind of thing the Flechette or Lily I’d known would do.

    Victoria, you, uh, do remember what Foil’s secondary power is, right? She shoots those kinds of projectiles at people as standard procedure because she can shoot them in the arm to stick them to a wall and it’s fine. If Tattletale told her to get rid of the survellience cameras she’d pick up a couple needles and throw them directly through the lenses at the right moment to have them splash harmlessly into a fountain. Kenzie hasn’t mentioned any active evasion coding; Foil can destroy them at will. Even if she misses, Sting’s effect will dissapate in midair.

    Tattletale didn’t destroy the cameras because she wanted you to track her and get dragged into battle against March.

    Also no you can’t take the Undersiders in a fight; you’re severely outmatched in Thinker-Stranger matters and your massive Brute lead is meaningless because Foil shoots holes in Brutes like it’s nothing; Swansong has a similar ability but not the secondary Thinker targeting power so Foil shoots her arms off and now she has no arms. You can beat them in a contest to coat the entire city in cameras, though.

    1. Yeah, tbh would love to see Ash v Chicken Little and a couple of million chickens, Chris v 20 odd sociopathic master/clairvoyant kids.

      Frankly could happily miss TT emotionally shattering Victoria though, even if I don’t like her.

      1. I don’t know, I’m kind of looking forwards to Lisa slamming Victoria with the effect her aura had on Amy growing up. I know it wasn’t the only factor, but it was almost certainly the biggest.

    2. Foil has perfect aim, but she can’t predict where her shots will land over such drastic range. And even if Sting dissipates in midair, that still leaves blades tumbling through the air.

      1. I’m pretty sure her Thinker power is up to projecting parabolic arcs. Unpowered snipers can occasionally make shots at two miles, where bullet drop is a major factor. Foil basically cannot miss targets moving in a predictable path, and even if concerned they’ll dodge she can approximate where the missed shots will land, so if she knows there’s nothing there she’s safe to take the shot.

        Her ethics constrain her from taking speculative shots that’ll end up in someone’s back yard if they miss, but if Tattletale told her they needed the cameras gone Foil would hang out on the roof with her crossbow pointed at the sky and drop a drone every five minutes or so when they manuevered into a position where it was safe.

        1. Obviously Kenzie could try to keep the drones from getting into a position where that would happen, but that’s not what the drones are designed for so she probably doesn’t have automated evasion coding so it’d be her natural talents against a Thinker power being used as intended and that’s rarely a win for the natural talent.

        2. There’s a difference between accounting for bullet drop to hit an unobscured target and accurately scouring your memory to know wear it is “safe” to have blades falling out of the sky over a large populated area.(And also just assuming no one will be in the location you pick.)

  16. I love that Victoria realizes that Tt will win in a fight.

    Also, was Victoria never told about how the Undersiders defeated the SlaughterHouse 9? She got turned into the Wretch pretty early on, but it was a team effort with the PRT and the undersiders that finally killed them and you think someone would have told Victoria in the Asylum that they’d been defeated.

    1. Well, nobody else knows Grue killed Burnscar, they can maybe claim credit for Shatterbird, but they captured her and later on Vista killed her (IIRC), while the PRT bombing of the Nine and Undersiders killed Mannequin and Crawler. Nobody ever found Cherish (though they knew what happened) and then Tattletale paid for a sub to drag her out deep into the ocean.

      1. The wards knew about Grue killing burnscar. Skitter sent them a note telling them about how burnscar died during their mission to rescue him. I think Tagg and clockblocker both directly mentioned it too.

        It does make me wonder though, burnscar and the other members of the 9 had bounties on their heads that the undersiders would have been allowed to collect, but i dont know if they ever did.

    2. I think that the S9 are considered a collective Brockton Bay kill instead of being credited to Tattletale personally. Most particularly the PRT has clear and unambigious credit for taking down Crawler; they used their Bakuda bomb stockpile and manuevered Crawler into the path of the bombing by simply phoning him up and telling him “Hey we’re going to be dropping a bunch of insane weird Tinker bombs here; come and take them if you think you’re so tough!”

  17. Taking on the Undersiders is, indeed, an extremely terrible idea.

    Even without Our Lady of Perpetual Escalation, the Queen Administrator, the Dawnbringer, the Great Swarm Queen Taylor Hebert.

  18. Maybe not? I mean, the PRT DID drop Bakuda’s stockpile of bombs on top of the S9 AND those fighting them alike. Doesn’t sound like something they’d really want to admit to Victoria, seeing as she’s all justice-minded. I could be misremembering.

    1. I mean, certain wise folk say that if you do something right, it’s almost as if you didn’t do anything at all. There’s few instances where anyone ever aknowleges where TT stuck her neck out to do what’s right, or why, they have no idea how deep her friendly feeling toward Taylor went, even when they first met, TT knew, KNEW Taylor intended to screw them over, she admitted as much after Taylor quit the group, she just, didn’t tell anyone.

      Further, she hijacked everything to rout Coil, who had become the head of the PRT with his alter-ego, in order to free the thinker she was accused of kidnapping, Dinah Alcott, all because she knew Skitter would settle for nothing less. Coil was keeping Echidna locked up in the basement, too. To everyone else, it looks like they straight up murdered the head of the PRT, when in fact, it was much, much more complicated than that. There’s a lot those “in the know” don’t want to admit, like sending Dragon’s robots in a blatant attempt to straight up kill the Undersiders.

      A lot, a LOT went down that, were the whole truth to come out, would make the heros look like the thuggish tools they are, which would undermine the integrity of the whole structure. There’s a lot of interest some have in ensuring such things remain buried. It’s no surprise there’s a lot Victoria doesn’t know. There’s a lot Tattletale could live up to her name with, but Vicky doesn’t want to hear it because it’s all “us vs them” to her. I have a strong feeling that will soon change.

  19. “Imp, stumbling as she tried to shield the kids. One of her arms was gone.”
    Ah seems like Kenzie’s camara has a hard time detecting Imp’s powers too

    “In the air, Imp’s arm. A silvery thread connected to it, and that silvery thread traced its way to the attackers.”
    Oh…that’s bad, really really bad. I see why she wasn’t apparently present on the meeting of the last chapter, or maybe she was using her powers then?.

    1. The images were surveillance images of Tattletale and her gang. Their group was gathered by the back of Tattletale’s rented vehicle with the trunk open – on the one side, guarding the open trunk, it was Tattletale, Imp, the crowd of Heartbroken kids, Chicken Little, and Tattletale’s bodyguard Snuff.

    2. Oh sorry sorry, seems like I didn’t expressed myself very well.
      The first part of the comment was my first interpretation when I read that part and seconds later got completely destroyed with the ‘arm torn out by powers’ part haahaha.
      And the second me expeculating why she wasn’t named on the last chapter while the hearthbroken were.

  20. So Paris is a cluster? Out there theory time. What if Paris and Parian are cluster mates? Kiss kill brings Paris’ hatred into focus and explains why he and March might work together. The thinnest link is powers, I guess they both control really small objects? Now I think of it Parian’s power use is sideways enough to be a cluster though.

  21. Makes sense Victoria doesn’t know as much as she could about GM. People probably did the best they could to bury that information, or avoid discussing it, and very few people like Tattletale and Imp actually know what happened.

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