Interlude 10.x

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A space heater hummed by her feet while her eyes stared at a glowing screen.  The room had gone dark as half of the streetlights turned off outside to conserve power, and though the one lamp and computer screen were now insufficient to light the space she didn’t rise from her chair or look away from the screen.

Her hand crushed a plastic chemical packet, activating it.  She rolled it between her hands as it warmed up.  Fingerless gloves so she could type and a chemical hand warmer helped her hands, the space heater warmed her feet, a blanket warming her legs, and she liked to imagine her power warmed her head.  The rest of her was cold.

The person who had the camera would be colder, she knew.  She still wished whoever had built this place had been more mindful of insulation.

Most of the mega-city was asleep, but if she imagined the screen was a window that she could open and walk through, then there was a small festival happening just twenty feet away.

People were standing in groups, parents with kids working their way past clusters of friends to get closer to the front.  The space was sterile, with black and white tile along the halls that had been sourced from the same places that cut-and-paste bathrooms all across the mega-city used and blue-bright fluorescent lights on the ceiling and walls.  The floors were white resin, but were caked with grime and salt.

Grime and salt, past knowledge that sixty-seven thousand people pass through in one day, scheduling, past knowledge of staff, knowledge of attention to detail in security; floor cleaners are mechanical, work-

“No,” Tattletale interrupted her power, not taking her eyes off of the scene.  “Don’t need that.”

Her head pounded softly, making her very aware of her heart rate and the flow of blood through her brain, as if the ‘no’ had been a hard physical strike to her forehead.

Things here were just a little harder.  There was no stock of snacks, her headache pills were in a leather carry-on bag, not that they helped much, and nothing was where it should be.  The heights of chair and desk were limited, the screens limited to that of her laptop and the monitor she had had packed, and her emergency server for her computer was all the way back at home.

March had been gunning for her.  The attack had been a virtual guarantee, and with her own power and March being who she was, the risk had been that March would blow up half of New Brockton.  She’d done similar things in past altercations.  The fucking nightmare.

Retreating meant being strong as a group, protecting New Brockton, and ensuring they couldn’t be picked off one by one.

Which meant that Tattletale and the rest of the Undersiders, Rachel excepted, were here in Faultline’s territory.  Blocks of an out-of-the-way coastal city that had been put up in anticipation of a rush to get property, with the company going bankrupt after people had been warned to stay away.  Plumbing so faulty that there were rooms the water ran down the wall from ceiling to floor, no insulation in many buildings, and, as was the case with many ghost towns, the lack of residents had meant that businesses opted out of setting up, and without amenities and businesses, the residents had become even more scarce.

Faultline was laundering mercenary money through the area, and was inadvertently revitalizing portions of it.  The boom of people needing to get out of tents and into warm places helped.

Tattletale moved the chemical hand warmer, sandwiching it between her hand and the mouse while she used the keyboard to check different sites and scenes.

Trading Dollar rose 2.1%, rose 1% yesterday, past knowledge that New Dollars are under attack; currency market stabilizing.
Level of stabilization, consistency of rises, actors in this field include Number Man, Dido, Semiramis, and Little Midas; one unknown actor is engaged in this playing field-

Her lips mouthed the word ‘no’.  Police scanner?

Series of riots and other incidents in Providence, police pulled from the Boston area, area is behind in shelter, resources-

“I can draw my own conclusions on that one.  People have nothing, it’s cold, they’re bitter and scared,” she whispered.  She switched back to the video feed.

Level of apparent excitement, staff movements, knowledge of usual schedules, weather-

Don’t need it to be exact, she thought, pushing that thought into the jumble of details and knowledge.

–; More than twelve minutes, less than twenty minutes.

There were other things.  News.  Status of Class-S threats…

Sleeper; active
Machine Army; 4.83% growth since last check, active
Endbringers; one dormant, one active, others dead or unknown locations.

Active Endbringer.  She zeroed in on that.  A few mouse clicks brought her to a site that tracked the Simurgh.

The activity was only a renewed cluster of sightings.  Not an attack.  The Simurgh was somewhere near Bet’s Indonesia.  Not flying as she’d once done, either.  Floating around.  Facilities and factories in the area had been repurposed into accommodations.  People in the area were hunkered down, enduring life on new Bet instead of moving on to new places, leaning on some risky non-tinker tech advances.  Going the sci-fi route in tackling what Bet was going through.  Those same people were responsible for the flurry of reports about the Simurgh, which had led to her being flagged ‘active’.

As if it had just happened, Tattletale pictured the mental image of the Simurgh just past a window, floating like she dangled from a noose, a moment so close to the end of the world…

Rex.

Rex; dead.

The lights in her room flicked on.

Foil.

“Lily.  How nice of you,” Tattletale said, before spinning her chair to face the door, hands clasped together.  The dramatic effect was lessened by the heating packet she held between them.

“Why are you sitting in the dark at this hour?”  Lily asked.  She leaned against the doorframe.  She was wearing an oversized T-shirt, black with a sabertooth tiger leaping out of a rectangular frame that helped to give the image three dimensions.  She had pyjama bottoms and slippers, to boot.

Sleep clothes, length of pyjama pants strings, choice of t-shirt color and size; gained weight, 5-10 pounds
Gained weight, 5-10 pounds, athletic disposition; unusual, other causes are in play.
Gained weight, comfort, relative ease, wearing girlfriend’s design; leading a more relaxed, domestic life.
Gained weight, isn’t out on patrol, is at ease; out of the habit of cape stuff, carries out general duties, bodyguarding, engages for regular incidents.
Leading more relaxed, domestic life; is happy.

She doesn’t look happy.  March?

At relative ease but not happy, history of past relationship with Tattletale-self; strongly dislikes Tattletale-self.

Still.  Still dislikes Tattletale-self.  Me.

A series of fleeting thoughts and connections, flying through and into her mind in eyeblinks.

Scarcely missing a beat, she answered, “Conserving power.  Shutting out the rest of the world to limit information intake.  Monitor as good as mine, doesn’t strain anything to look at it in the dark.”

Tattletale smiled.  Lily didn’t smile back.

“Do you want me to turn the lights off, then?” Lily asked.

“Leave it.  Someone else might notice and flick them on again.  Not that I don’t appreciate the little gesture.”

Not a gesture.

“Okay,” Lily said.  She didn’t leave.

She wants something.

No shit, Sherlock.

“How are your legs?”

Tattletale raised her feet, closing one eye slightly in a wince.  “Ninety percent better.  Turns out taking untested, black market drugs have their merits.”

“Bitter Pill?”

“Yeah.”

“She’s mercenary.  Doesn’t give anything for free, calls in favors and calls hard.”

“You know her, huh?”

“Reached out to her after Sabah and I ran into a kid in a bad place.  Kid’s powers didn’t do anything to fix their body issues, and really complicated conventional methods to fix it.  We thought Bitter Pill could do something.”

“Too expensive?”

“Is your power telling you that?”

Common sense.  Bitter Pill did temporary work, but that work could be a lot of things.  The only ways it would work were to pay for regular doses over the long term, or pay for her to drop everything and research something long-term.

“Yeah,” Tattletale said.

“She’s dangerous.  We’re pretty sure she was looking to get the kid in a position where they were taking regular doses.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“And get a kind of control over him.  Fucked up, and it says a lot that she was willing.  There was so little to be gained.  With you?”

“I get it.  I know how she is, and there’s no need for warnings.  Yeah, sure, she’s demanding and she’s really hungry to gain some ground right now, but I like having legs.”

“Your funeral.”

Dismissive, word associations: death, endings, ceremony; strongly dislikes Tattletale-self.

“No need to apologize or anything,” Tattletale said, leaning back, checking her computer screen.  Nothing had happened yet.  “Not like I took two bullets because of your whole psychotic rabbit girl thing.  Imp lost an arm.”

“We’re hoping we can get it back,” Lily said, before sighing.  “We’re all nervous, but you seem fine.  I was hoping you knew something we didn’t, and you could reassure us.”

“Huh,” Tattletale said.  She turned herself around.  There was a quick protocol for it.  One keystroke pinged all of her teams.  She saw the messages come in.  Each of them got a text, if they were on phones or undercover, and buzzed in a certain way on walkie-talkies if they weren’t.  One by one, a long column of circles in a table switched over from yellow to green.

Response times; fine.
#1 responding slower than before, has anger issues, sleep issues; post-

Tattletale shook her head.

“Problem?” Lily asked.

“Mild headache.  Let me see…”

She sent a message to Fish.  He was handling the active surveillance of March’s group.  The faint icon appeared, indicating that he was typing.  She turned back to the screen, pretending to look at it while she considered what her power gave her.

March behavior history, current team response times, current movements of capes, March’s connections to others; March is recruiting and preparing right now.  Will sleep in after a late night of work.

She turned the idea around in her head.  Not as instantaneous as the flicker-fire of information flowing through her head as fast as she could think it, because it meant paying attention to what pieces of information were provoking each output.  Something smaller, using only some segments of information, see how that changed the result…

March behavior history, current team response times; March is stalking, closing in.

Okay…

March behavior history, is stalking and closing in, our current precautions and help from Faultline; March is stalking, trying to close in.  Lacks resources to succeed within six hours.

Another tack, playing with different segments of information…

March behavior history, her connections to other groups; March is out recruiting right now.

Fish had his response.  March’s group wasn’t nearby.  They were out on the road.

“We’re fine,” Tattletale said.  “Tell Sabah she can sleep easy.  If she is out there and closing in, she won’t manage it anytime soon.”

“Thank you,” Lily said.

“It’s what I do.”

“Good night, Lisa.”

“Good night.”

Lily was slow in stepping away from the door.  Meandering.  Tattletale raised an eyebrow, so the expression was already on her face by the time Lily turned to face her again.

“I am sorry,” Lily said.  “That you got pulled into this.”

Says she is sorry, halting words, phrasing ‘I am’; lying.
Lying, says she is sorry, halting words, phrasing; connotations of ‘you owe us this’.  Believes that Parian’s criminal activities are Undersider’s fault.
Is factor in mild but persistent resentment of Tattletale-self.

“It’s fine,” Tattletale said, shrugging it off.

“I appreciate this.”

The information started to come in, taking apart the words.  Tattletale shook her head, denying and dismissing the information as she did it.

“It’s what friends do,” Tattletale said, though Lily had already left.

She turned back to the screen.

The train had arrived.  Soldiers returning from deployment.  Capes wore civilian uniforms and casual clothes, and blended into the crowd.  Her power identified the ones familiar to her, that she might not have otherwise recognized with their masks off or the obscuring details between the camera and the returning people.

Cinereal
Weld
Golem
Tallboy
Laserdream
Rocketround
Typhlosis
Vista
Stank Bank

That last one was someone she had tracked before Gold Morning.  She would have changed her name now that she was a hero.  She wouldn’t be one of the players in the financial scene, that was propping up the Trading Dollar, but still worth keeping an eye out.

She warmed her hands with the packet and got her feet warm where they’d been pointed away from the space heater for the duration of her conversation with Lily.

She would watch this to see what information she could glean, check some more things, communicate with her teams, and then go to sleep.  Under the covers, she would be warm.  Whoever had made this apartment had skimped on insulation, but Faultline hadn’t ignored the luxuries like good beds and blankets.  Even the one on Tattletale’s lap now was comfortably warm for how thin it was.

Tempting, to imagine going to bed.  To disconnect.

She watched Victoria Dallon weave through the crowd.  People had parted as Weld reached the crowd.  Avoiding the monstrous case-53.  Victoria and a Garotte with flesh instead of armor moved into the gap the part had made.

The video had no sound, but Tattletale could parse it.

Garotte, body language, clearly nervous; says, ‘it’s just a hologram’
Weld, smiling; says ‘you look good.  wow’

The awkward pause lingered after.

Ten feet of distance between them, awkwardness, timing; a divide.  Emotional distance.

What did it say that she wanted them to fail?  What did it mean, and where did that feeling come from?  Was it strategic, that it would get them off her back for a little while, make them a little weaker?

Her power supplied nothing, and she wouldn’t have trusted it if it had.

The distance between Garotte and Weld closed.  Garotte said something.

Garotte, cognizant of nearby people and watching eyes; ‘I’m so glad you’re okay.’
Weld, smiling; ‘I’m indestructible.’
Garotte responding, closing distance to keep the conversation private; ‘I know that isn’t true’ followed by another sentence segment; ‘Your body is tough but your heart can break.’
Weld’s silence, head moving; looking at the hologram
Garotte, Hand at one elbow, standing askew; ‘It’s not a problem, covering up my differences?’
Weld, taken aback, shaking his head; ‘no’.

Tattletale watched as the pair drew close enough to touch one another.  She watched Weld kiss Garotte.

Victoria, a short distance away, was smiling.  Her cousin was close to her, exaggerating how dead she was on her feet.

Capes tired, soldiers tired, moderate casualties, no major figures lost…

She started tallying up the observations, her attention on other things in the scene.

Victoria Dallon hugged her cousin.  They talked, and Tattletale kept her focus on the details of the scene.  The reason she’d wanted to tune in, had a man on the ground, camera ready.  These fleeting moments where people were together provided the clearest image of what was happening offworld.  Places utterly disconnected from the world and dimension she inhabited.

If she’d anticipated this, set up more infrastructure, if she’d hammered it all out-

Victoria and Garotte passed by the camera, distracting her.  Sveta was talking to Weld, all excitement, animated.  The ice had been broken.

So easily formed after a short time away, Tattletale thought.

The scene gave her a glimpse of Weld’s face.

Fondness.

Back to business.  All information pulling together…

Mood, tempo, body language individual and collective, differences between cape and civilian; war.  Fighting humans; foreign humans, divide marked between them and intervening Warden and paramilitary arms; Warlords.

War involving African warlords, mood, tempo, body language, and everything else; war won, with casualties.  Situation unresolved.

Crowd thinning out; Train empty.
Train empty, capes seen; Valkyrie gone

Valkyrie gone, past knowledge that Valkyrie is ignoring Gimel for reasons, past knowledge that Valkyrie’s reasons include high-level threat, stronger, more numerous, past knowledge that Valkyrie feels small against this threat;
Valkyrie alive.  Scouting, procrastinating.

The screen showed a message.  Her cameraman, wanting to know what he should do.  She sent him instructions to follow the crowd outside, getting as much footage of the group as possible.  This was intel on capes she didn’t get a chance to interact with much, it was intel on the situation, on the public mood, on the struggling authority that managed the Wardens and subsidiary teams…

She yawned.

The man with the camera had followed the crowd to the area outside the station.  He watched the crowd and in the doing he watched Weld and Garotte, Victoria and Laserdream.  Vista had approached the group.

The camera went black.  It was a good thing the lights had been flicked on, because the room would have been plunged into darkness with the screen off.

Her heart pounded.  She was left to wonder if it was one of the breakers, the computer plugged into a different switch than the lights of her temporary accommodations.

Lights on the computer blinked.  It wasn’t a power outage.

She was halfway to the mouse when the screen lit up.  Pink against a black background.  An emoticon, with hearts for eyes and a dash for the mouth.

The face disappeared, turning into a single ‘hi!’.  Tattletale’s power kicked in, but it was one of the rare instances where she was faster than the blink-of-an-eye power.  She hit the big red button.

This time, the power did go.  Everything from monitors to computers went black, the entire system thudding audibly as everything came simultaneously to a halt.

Is there danger?  Kid’s behavior, past knowledge of her misdeeds, past knowledge of her conversation style; the first thing she did was say hi.

Fucking tinkers.

Fucking kid.

Tattletale rose from her seat, wincing at the pain in her legs.  When she moved, it was with one hand on a nearby table or piece of furniture, to steady herself.

Her phone had died with the press of the big red button.

In the darkness, the stream of everything now cut off, no means of communicating with her squads or contacts, and no means of seeing what was going on out there, she had only her thoughts.

Her first thought was that she should take every single piece of tech she had in her room here, drop it into the dumpster, and set the contents alight.  She might have, if her legs had been fully healed, and if it wasn’t so late that it would draw attention from Faultline.

She’d been on the opposite side of too many hackers and tinkers to not have taken precautions.  Some of those precautions were at home, like the emergency server.

Epeios had been the reason for the emergency server.  He’d been a friend once, or he had pretended to be, and she had let him pretend.  He’d found a way onto her computer, forcing her to find a means of stopping a computer tinker with resources from looking at her stuff.

The emergency server was four feet tall and four feet deep, only two feet wide.  Too large to pack, too niche in use.  It was where she stored her notes too comprehensive for the regular systems and too complex for her own brain to wrestle with on a long-term basis.  It worked by creating millions of deceptive copies, forgeries, and variations on documents, and then randomly shuffling her files into it.

Epeios had been baffled, had hired thinkers to try and decode, predict, or surveil her means of picking the true files from the false ones.  There wasn’t one.  The only means was to use her power.  To intuit her way through a thousand haystacks.

She had other resources.  Other jury-rigged traps and tools.  Some were still packed.

She would have to get her stuff and set up her security, verify there was no virus in a closed system… ugh.  The kid could probably set up a virus to take a snapshot and communicate by cell lines or ambient electricity.

Her power bar doubled as a signal detector.  If there was activity on any of the connected systems, it would sound an alarm.

No, nothing to do but go to sleep.  The other issues could be tackled later.

She climbed into the bed that Faultline had offered her.  A luxurious bed with fine blankets in a shitty apartment.  The bed was wide enough for three people to sleep in comfortably.

Her head pounded as she lay her head down.

Her hands and feet weren’t even that warm, but in the core of her chest, she felt numb.

She was so tired, so tired.  But as the hours ticked on, all she could do was digest the information she’d collected, plan, and remain aware of how dark and cold the room was.

This?  This was alright.

She leaned on her cane, walking with her bodyguards flanking her.  More mercenaries were inside nearby buildings, looking out for trouble.  Bryce was on a rooftop with Jaw and Bitters.  If March decided to come at them by plane or helicopter, then Bryce would get an education in the use of surface to air missiles.

Snuff was in her orbit, following up the rear of the group, maintaining a conversation with one of Faultline’s non-case-53 dorks.  Faultline followed the larger group from even further back.  Keeping an eye on everything.

Probably staring holes in the back of my head, Tattletale mused.

Faultline position, history, current situation; wary concern, especially of the kids.

The kids.  Samuel and Chastity were herding the monsters.  Samuel had a muscular arm draped around his shoulders, which he didn’t seem to mind at all, focusing more on the intellectual, emotional challenge of keeping the twelve to fifteen crowd from being at each other’s throats.  Juliette, the recently renamed Roman, and Aroa.  Coldblooded, hot blooded, and sadistic, respectively.

If she was ever asked to pick a ‘best guess of X kills Y’ pair, choosing from members of the expanded Undersiders and staff, then she really had to narrow it down to something like Rachel and Siemens, Foil and Kirby, Juliette and Roman, or Roman and Juliette.

While Samuel had his hands full with that, The unfortunately named Chastity flirting with the youngest soldiers while tasked with keeping the younger Heartbroken in line.  Flor, Nicholas, Amias, Candy, and Darlene.

For every last one of them, she could picture Alec in at least one moment or scene, doing or saying something that fit that one Heartbroken so well.  A look on his face, a thing he had said.

The feral under-twelves were fanning out, and Chicken Little was in their sights.  He looked back at Tattletale, nervous.

“Don’t look at me,” Tattletale told him.  There was a part of the sidewalk that dipped, causing her foot to have to travel a short distance further, which meant her legs had to adjust her weight.  She winced at the adjustment, the pain driving through each of her legs like a phantom movement of the bullet through the tissues.  “You wanted to go out in the field, Chicken Little?  Show us what you’re made of.”

“We could take him apart,” Juliette said.  “Drumstick, thigh, gizzard, the gross leftover bits that get processed and put in chicken nugs.”

“I’d rather keep my gross leftover bits where they belong,” Chicken Little said.

“You’re showing weakness, Chicken Little,” Samuel called out.  “I told you not to do that if you want to hang around these guys.”

“I want to hang,” Chicken Little said.  “They’re cool when they’re cool, but-”

“But if you act scared then you’re in for it.”

Flor cackled, edging closer as the assembled group walked to where the vehicles were parked.  She glanced back at Chastity, checking that her babysitter was still focused on one of the soldiers.

Tattletale watched that with some wary interest as well.  If the soldier couldn’t stay focused…

“If I stay put then they’re going to get me.”

“Figure it out,” Samuel said.  “Do it fast, because you actually are in danger now.”

“Um,” Chicken Little said.  “Chastity.  Help.”

Chastity didn’t take her eyes off the soldier she was talking to.  He at least had the grace to notice something was up and draw his gun, holding it low.

“What the hell are you doing, Chicken?” Roman asked.

“I’m asking for help.  I know what I’m made of and some of that is someone who asks for help when he needs it.”

“Soft,” one of the little ones taunted, as they moved closer, encircling him.

Birds were congregating nearby.  Tattletale felt wistful, seeing it.

A group of crows cawed, with others taking up the cry.  It slowed some of the young ones, but Nicholas and Amias weren’t that into this particular game.

“You, soldier,” Samuel said.  “For the kid’s sake, you’re going to need to draw your gun.  If I give the signal, shoot the kid I point at.  Only if I give the signal.  If you fuck this up, all the rest of us will come after you.”

There, in the midst of the game.  That was when Samuel most looked like Alec had.  He was the most like Alec anyway, years younger than Alec had been, with longer blond hair in the classic ‘naturally wild’ Vasil look, but he had a similar face, a similar way of standing.  Alec twisting the knife and enjoying it, despite his usual cold nature.  That was what Samuel was doing here.

The soldier closest to Chicken Little looked back at Tattletale.

She nodded.

Flor, who was in the top two for most likely to get shot, if anyone had to, didn’t even seem to care.  She looked at Samuel, then grinned, eyes wide, all teeth showing, except for the gap where one was missing.  She gave the soldier the same look.

The collection of birds drew nearer, moving in a blob.  No control, no ability to move them and sense through them at the same time, and the senses are limited.

Too slow, too careful.

All at once, Flor, Candy and Darlene broke into runs.  Coordinating with Darlene’s power, no doubt.  The soldier Samuel had told to be ready to shoot had his weapon drawn but not pointed, and with no signal given, Chicken Little ran for it, and the scene was eerie to see, with people who were just now spotting the kids at play reacting with amusement.

Reminding Tattletale that she really wanted all of her team members to spend some time around the Heartbroken, so they would know it was rarely a laughing matter.

The birds were on their way, swooping in low.  They didn’t reach Chicken Little before Candy and Darlene did.

They bowled him over and began kissing his mask.  The birds that had been flying in now scattered.

‘Kissing tag’ with Heartbroken.  Which was not without its danger, because Flor, among many other things.

Flor looked ready to just jump on top of the heap of three kids.  Chastity, barely looking, flicked out her bullwhip, catching Flor by the neck.

Nothing to do with Chastity’s powers.  She really liked whips, was all.  She set to reeling Flor in, pulling the whip’s length in by handfuls.  Flor tried to free her neck, helped by the fact that it had encircled part of her jacket collar, and shed herself of the length of leather, stumbling as she came free.

The whip cracked out again, striking her in the rear end.  Even through layers of petticoat, winter dress, and a wool jacket that hung down low enough to be a barrier, Flor yelped.

Surprise, not pain.

The commotion had slowed the procession down.  People stepped in and freed Chicken Little from the two girls that pinned him.

“Jerks,” Chicken Little said, huffing and brushing himself off.  “Making me look bad.”

“I think you look nice,” Candy said, sounding sweet as anything.

It was Darlene who looked crestfallen by how upset Chicken Little was.  The girl wore bold lipstick despite being Aiden’s age, and it was that lipstick that marked his mask over and over places, even as he tried to look noble and normal.

Seventeen kisses to Candy’s nine.

I really don’t care.

“Can I make it up to you?” Darlene asked.

Chicken Little shrugged.  Sullen.  Darlene’s shoulders fell a fraction.

She likes him.  Childhood crush.

Tattletale sighed.

Chicken Little continued trying to make himself look presentable, not aware of the lipstick am.  He shook himself off and threw his hands out to the side as part of the end of the motion.  The birds that circled in the air above squawked, cried out, and scattered.

Presentation and flourish were one of the safest things Tattletale could train him in.  But he did need other lessons.

“You could have backed out, called it off,” Samuel said.  “You knew it was kissing tag?”

“Yeh,” Chicken Little answered.

“You know Tattletale set rules.  No powers-”

“Only the mask, only if I’m game, I can call it off any time-”

“And you didn’t?  And here I thought I scared you.  Are you tougher than you pretend to be, Chicken L?”

“No,” Aroa said, snorting.  “Not that brave.”

“Or were you smart enough to know it was a game?”

“That was a game?” the soldier that had been tasked with killing a child asked.  He looked between Samuel and Tattletale.

“Test,” Samuel said, sounding dismissive.

“No, I didn’t figure it out,” Chicken Little admitted.  “You did scare me.”

“Not badly enough that you backed off.”

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to show weakness,” Chicken Little said, defensive.

Defensive, as if it was all his fault.  But Tattletale met Samuel’s eyes, and she saw Chastity’s smirk.

Yeah, it wasn’t on him.  They were sending mixed messages.

Mixed messages weren’t the worst thing in the world.  If push came to shove and that kid found himself in a serious fight, there’d be more mixed messages than this.  The trick was making sure that they were teaching him to deal with them, not putting those mixed messages in his head.

It left a sour taste in her mouth, all the same.

She could see moments, expressions, and recall feelings that reminded her of Alec.  Here and there, there were ones that annoyed her, made her cringe as she thought of them.  Times Alec had embarrassed her, preyed on her pride, or mocked her and made her lose her cool.

This bad feeling was similar to that.  But it wasn’t Alec she thought of, as she looked at Chicken Little and regretted how she’d done this.

Her legs were at ninety-five percent, but that five percent was adding up.  The vehicles that were delivering them and their stuff were just pulling down the road now, navigating an urban area that had been built into a rolling landscape, instead of waiting for the landscape to be flattened or managed in any real way.

Every move she was making right now cost something, and these trucks had not been cheap.  She wasn’t making any real money for as long as she wasn’t in New Brockton, but she couldn’t go to New Brockton because March was circling that area.

And all the while, the local power structure was shifting.  That was their next stop, but they would have to be careful.

“Wait,” Chicken Little said.  “Something’s- what the what is in that truck down there?”

Tattletale smiled.

“Tattletale?” he asked.

“Come on.  Walk with me.  Snuff comes, but let us have our talk.”

“Yes ma’am,” Snuff said.

She left behind a scene where Faultline was hanging back, bewildered at a scene that Tattletale continued to call a ‘good day’.  Samuel was physically putting himself between Juliet and Roman, Chastity had cowed Flor into an approximation of obedience and in the process had managed to scare away the soldier she had been flirting with earlier.

They walked past the line of trucks that were pulling over at the side of the one-way road.  Drivers were getting out at the left side of the street, but the right side was just for Chicken Little, Tattletale, and her cane.

“Are you okay?” Chicken Little asked her.

“Uh huh.  Gettin’ by.  But March is going to realize I bounced back fairly quickly.  She’ll realize the resources I have and she’ll hurt me worse next time.  Be ready for that.”

“I’ll protect you.”

Tattletale smiled.  “No you fucking won’t.  You get somewhere safe.  Just don’t panic.  Be ready for it to happen.”

“Uh huh.”

“I’m going to bring you along,” she said.

She saw his eyes widen.

“But-”

“Tell me now if you’re not ready.”

“I failed my test.  I got scared and I was too slow.”

“You lost to the Heartbroken.  Samuel wanted to see what you were made of, I didn’t say no.  Maybe that’s not fair, maybe his idea of a good test is screwed up because the asshole that spawned him was flinging him into situations against capes and cops before he could even read.  Most of the rest of them are like that.  They were cannon fodder, they were punching bags, they were slaves to make and bring food… nothing about that was healthy or good for anything except making them very, very dangerous.”

“I like some of them,” Chicken Little said, pronouncing ‘some of them’ with a mumble that turned it into ‘sumblum’.

“And some of them like you.  Which makes them more dangerous, if anything.”

“Why are you doing this?” he asked.

“Why?”

“Why look after me?  You don’t seem to like anyone, you’re busy, but you make the time for me.  You- in this truck?”  He pointed down at the truck parked near the end.  A slightly different make than the longer trucks with storage containers in the backs.  Most of the storage containers were set up as armories and quarters.  A moving base, so they could relocate whenever March drew near.  After, it would be a way to set up her mercenaries in any location.

“You have lipstick on your mask,” she pointed out.

He checked the coast was clear, turning his back to the trucks, pulled off the mask, and turned it around so he could look at the front.  Hard, round, circular, with two back dots for eyes, a red crest at the upper center, and a small beak.  Covered in red kiss prints of various degrees of fadedness.

The redness in his face crept to his ears.

“We’re showing up with numbers,” she said.  “You’ll be one member of a crowd, and so long as we have the Heartbroken bolstering our numbers, we’ll be looking pretty strong.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” he said.  “Also, I don’t know how to clean this.  I don’t want to smudge my sleeve with lipstick.”

She drew a tissue from her inner jacket pocket and handed it over.

“Thank you.  Please answer my question.”

“Why you?”

“Yeah.”

“I could say you remind me of Taylor.”

“Imp says I’m nothing like Taylor was.  Foil and Parian said something similar.”

“I wouldn’t say nothing like.  You’re careful.”

Aiden looked up at her, one gloved hand still rubbing the tissue in circles on the mask.  “Didn’t she… never ever act careful?  Whenever they tell me stories it’s always Taylor got hurt or Taylor threw herself into a crazy situation.”

“You caught me,” she said.  She smiled.  “No.  Not that kind of careful.”

“I don’t get it.”

She smiled.

“Are you bullshitting me?”

“I could tell you now, or I could offer you a trade, my little chicken.”

“What trade?” he asked.  At least he sounded suspicious.

“If you agree to think on it and then give me your best answer, I’ll open the back of this truck now and show you my birthday present to you.”

“You forgot my birthday.”

“Four month belated birthday.”

“Isn’t it six months?”  He started counting on his fingers.  “September, August…”

She pulled her hand back away from the handle at the back of, the truck, moving it in fits and starts as he went from August to July, July to June…

He stopped, looking up at her with the mask in one hand.  She smiled down at him.

“Four months, yeah,” he said.

At least he was learning wit and a good poker face.

She opened the back of the truck.  He had to climb up onto the back bumper and up to see over the ledge and into the truck proper.  As he climbed, she stuck her cane out, giving him a bit of a push where he needed it.  Sure enough, he almost fell backward once he saw.  Only the cane at the center of his back kept him from tipping back.

He stared in quiet amazement.

It was good, having people around.  Even the people she was used to were more alive as the group was more complete.  It was tempting in a dangerous way, to know that a crisis brought everyone together, and she could so very easily, consciously or not, play her role in creating them.

Not that there was any need now.  Even beyond March, they had other concerns.

“We’ll be taking the lead truck.  You’ll want to get yourself tidy, look over your costume.  Make sure you look good,” she told him.

He nodded, not taking his eyes away.  The question he’d asked was long forgotten.

“The sky is definitely going to fall,” he said.

This wasn’t a moot.  It wasn’t a Somer’s Rock, and it wasn’t a gathering of world powers in the dark room.

Chaos.  Concern.

No.  She had to give the white hats more credit than that.  There was a note of fear here.  Fear of heroes and fear of the expanded Undersiders.  She’d wanted to show strength and in doing so, she’d made a mistake.  Too much strength.

Villains had assembled in Sherwood Span.  The area was sparse, spread out.  Some buildings were in construction, but it looked like that had stopped.  Mostly it was scattered houses.

The major players were notably absent, though Tattletale was keeping an eye on the spies.

A disorganized mob consisting of two- and three-person gangs, solo operators, mercenaries, the blacklisters that fought over internet rankings, the burglars, kidnappers, the enforcers and killers.  A handful were notable in their own way, like Little Midas.

They’d all gathered out in the middle of an open space that could have been a plaza, a parking lot, or a market space in the summer months.  Now it was covered in snow.  It was cold and there had to be a dozen places across Sherwood Span where people could gather, but nobody wanted to be the one to wuss out, so they stood in the cold, ankle or calf deep in snow.

The wounds in her legs made her think of Bitter Pill.  She looked for the woman and found her off to the side, talking to Bluestocking.  Blue had been hurt in the Fallen raid.  It looked like she was back in action.

Seeing Tattletale looking, Bluestocking gave her the finger, along with the dirtiest of dirty looks.

Few were quite as bold as that.

She leaned over to Snuff, and she bid for him to bend down.  In his ear, she whispered, “Tell the others to scatter.”

“Scatter?”

“Our individual cells, sub-groups.  Heartbroken in one group, our guys in another.  Our mercs can hang out as their own group.  Send Foil and Parian off on their own.  Faultline should be close but not with us.  We’re too big a mob and everyone’s staring.”

Snuff communicated the message.  Where they’d been an army, her forces dissolved.

Everyone disconnects.

They’re more comfortable like this.

The interjection of her power was the kind of thing she was trying to be alert about.  The times it chose to jump in, the things it said, and the idea, as old as Gold Morning, that the alien behind it was looking to shape and encourage certain behaviors.

It’s all so much easier when I’m out using my powers instead of working from my terminal.  Less headaches, less interjections.

A steady, low level thing, that had ground her down for years now.

She was aware that sending her mercenaries away left her with very, very little.  Men she was paying, who weren’t technically hers.  Even the most loyal of them would leave when the pay stopped.

Snuff made his way to her side.  She was paying him, but he had other motivations.  He was after her, and not in the romantic sense.  No, he knew her too well for that.  She’d come to terms with the fact that her lack of interest in the romance or the physical stuff wasn’t because of one excuse or the other.  She was pretty sure it wasn’t because her power preferred her this way.  It was just her.

No, Snuff wanted her for the status.  She had a place in the city and in the cape dynamic, and he was cementing a role as her enforcer and bodyguard.

She had him, but there would be no long chats, no exchange of birthday presents, ironic or otherwise.  He was with her only in a sense.

Aiden?  Chicken Little was behind her, and his mask turned her way as she looked back to check.

The Eagle of Haast was with him.  Delivered from another world, it was thirty-nine pounds of prehistoric bird with eight and a half feet of wingspan.  Her belated birthday present to him.  Other birds collected nearby, including a raven on Chicken Little’s shoulder.

He was with her, but he hadn’t even struck puberty yet.

And Kirby.  On the surface, he was indistinguishable from the mercenaries.  He wore and carried the same gear.  Coil’s man- she’d kept more than a few of those.  Among them was an excellent sniper team, qualified leaders, experts in various fields, and two cape hunters that had earned their name stalking and killing capes for kill order money.

Kirby wasn’t like those others.  He was always apart, always keeping his head down, because everyone hated his guts enough that they would take the slightest of excuses.  He’d gone from military court to release on a technicality, straight to Coil’s employ, where he’d worked as a manservant.  Driving, running errands, and keeping all of Coil’s secrets.

Now he kept Tattletale’s.  The arrangement was more or less the same.  As all of the mercenaries shuffled off, he remained where he was.

This wasn’t Prancer’s deal.  This wasn’t an alliance.  An alliance would never work.  Capes in large groups tended to tear each other apart.

This wasn’t that, and if it had looked like it was going to be, she wouldn’t have attended.

March hadn’t arrived, she noted.  Her power fooled her there- she’d been eighty percent certain.  Was March up to something?

She would have asked her power for input, but she was conserving it- had been since the group had gathered and moved out, ready to board the trucks and head to this… gathering.  She’d wanted to have everything available for when she saw this.

Gathering was the wrong word.  A riot without the riotous action?

“I don’t give two cents about what you’re all doing,” Little Midas intoned, his voice loud.  He was obese enough that he had a team to carry him, his mask and armor gold, shaped to cover his prodigious belly and face.  “This is irritating I’m going to stop holding back.”

‘This is irritating’; couched emotion.  Recently had a big loss.  Asset forfeiture.

“It’s only going to get worse,” Tattletale said.

“I’ll end them,” Little Midas said.  “Then it won’t.”

“It’s going to calm down on its own.  If you guys have any sense-” Tattletale tried.

But her words were drowned out.  Angrier, louder voices.

A little more riotous now.

The current situation wasn’t all that different from the way it had been with the PRT.  There were heroes, there were villains.  One would fight the other.  Most would go through the revolving door, unless they committed an egregious act or fell down a slippery slope and found themselves at the bottom with an enemy clear in their memory.

Breakthrough was one such concern.  She had struck a deal with them, and how that deal was treated would tell her a lot.  Hopefully that would be in time  Hopefully

The words and noises were escalating in volume.  The tranquil scene of a snowy, flat field was disturbed, the furthest thing from tranquil.

The frustrations being spoken of now were bottled up ones.  They were being afraid one’s home wouldn’t stand for more than a few years, that the winter was already proving to be an utter bitch, and they’d had barely a day of proper snow.

She caught the word ‘kill’, and she didn’t pursue it with her power.

With two years of relative low consequences now over, the petty villains were facing a return to something like that old status quo under the PRT.  A firmer response, real consequences for the worst offenders.  It had been inevitable, guaranteed to happen if society rebuilt on any level.  Tattletale had expected it a year from now, and she’d been wrong.

But of course, to this population of small villains who hadn’t thrown their lot in with the Red Queen, Teacher, or other warlords, this return to order was now intolerable, the response anger.  This wasn’t a tidy group, not an organization like Prancer’s.  Only a hundred or so capes who seemed to agree on nothing at all except that it was looking like a time to start getting mean, to draw blood and scare off the heroes.

It wouldn’t be that simple, of course, but blood would be shed.

She’d hoped to steer it if it came to this, but she had to wait for the loudest voices to grow hoarse.  She was losing optimism by the second.  She’d come at this from the wrong idea of what it was going to be.

She looked back at Chicken Little.

When she had brought him under her wing, she’d told herself she would do it right.  She would help him, save him and save him from himself, if she had to.

She was zero for two.  If she couldn’t get it right and save him, at least, then what?

A hard thing to say to his face.  In some ways, he was doing so well.  In others, she worried.

In this situation, she worried.  A careful retreat might be needed, to avoid being at the fringes of a firefight or any violence.

She was so tired.

Tired of fighting her shard.  Tired of managing.

She kept an eye out for Chicken Little, and an eye out for some of the Heartbroken.  She met Foil’s eyes, and Foil folded her arms.

Scared.

Parian-

Out of her element.  Against this.  No halfway, no negotiation.

March, monsters in her own ranks, monsters over the next horizon.  There was the balance of things, trying to do her part to keep the city upright.  The pain in her legs, the years of not wanting anyone romantically but feeling like so much of her day was empty, no matter how much she did.  She was worn out in the face of everything that she needed to do.

Quietly, she came to a resolution.

This anger that threatened to stoke the worst fears of the anti-parahumans, and empower and vindicate the do-gooders?  She would let it happen.  It was an inevitability in response to an inevitability.

She had moves to make elsewhere.

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147 thoughts on “Interlude 10.x”

    1. I actually really like this comparison of Lisa to Big Boss. If the only redeemable quality of Tattletale (in Vicky’s eyes) is her attempt to keep the status quo, and here we see Punished “Venom” Lisa abandon the stabilization of the status quo, in pursuit of some other (now more valuable) goal, then it seems like Venom Lisa might be a Primary Antagonist for Breakthrough. Tt is my favourite character in this series, and I would love to see her take a Primary Antagonist role.

    2. Yeah. The two inevitables sound like the parahuman good guys deciding to take over and run the city and citizens “for their own good” (the greater good?). Which feeds perfectly into the fears of the antiparahumans who rise up and attack and justify the good guys and… escalation.

      Sort of fits with what TT has been doing in a few places as well if we presume she’s been trying to stop it. Trying to get a regular human in as mayor, putting Breakthrough on to LoveLost just as she’s dealing with antiparahumans and telling them the flaws in the “system”.

      Last update they wondered why TT would agree to the deal. Simple strategy that she’s trying to steer them to stop a crisis.

    3. I am not this guy and have never been, until now. If Tt dies, I’m losing interest in the series.
      It’s simple really, Tt is my #1 character in Ward. Victoria is somewhere around #147.

  1. Gawd that Tattletale needs a hug.
    I’m… I’m kind of scared that she’s going to die soon… fucking hell.

    Also, hey hey, and Ace character, and unlike previously suggested, not power related, there you go.

    Also: Is Kirby “Coil’s sniper”? Did we get the name Kirby before?

    And damn, Haast eagle. Frickin’ cool.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haast%27s_eagle

    Thems are estimated to be able to pick up multiple people at a time.

    1. I thought that Kirby was a parahuman but I’m not sure… My guess if he’s normal is that he would be Creep. Though Coil made it sound as if people, in general, called him Creep rather than use his name but he does fit the description of being the guy with all the secrets since Creep was the only one who knew Coil’s face.

    2. I’m considering this to be partial confirmation of my previous prediction. If TT can find a world with extinct birds for CL to play with, she can find one with other extinct therapods for him. Somehow one doubts that a flock of T. Rex would need precise control to be intimidating…

      1. Even if they had feathers, Queen Administrator might not consider them birdy enough for Aiden. Utahraptors, on the other hand, could be another matter entirely.

  2. Also, typo thread.

    “Hopefully that would be in time Hopefully”

    “Chicken Little continued trying to make himself look presentable, not aware of the lipstick am.”

    1. “While Samuel had his hands full with that, The unfortunately named Chastity flirting with the youngest soldiers while tasked with keeping the younger Heartbroken in line. Flor, Nicholas, Amias, Candy, and Darlene.”

      Should be:

      “While Samuel had his hands full with that, the unfortunately named Chastity flirted with the youngest soldiers while [also] tasked with keeping the younger Heartbroken in line. Flor, Nicholas, Amias, Candy, and Darlene.”

      ****

      “This is irritating I’m going to stop holding back.”

      Missing a comma after irritating.

      1. “She pulled her hand back away from the handle at the back of, the truck, moving it in fits and starts as he went from August to July, July to June…”

        I’m probably the least qualified to judge here, but I think the first comma is unnecessary.

    2. Plumbing so faulty that there were rooms the water ran down the wall
      -in which
      She wouldn’t be one of the players in the financial scene, that was propping up the Trading Dollar
      -nix comma

      1. Not necessarily. Biter’s power isn’t one for which a position on a roof would help him- in fact, it’d probably hinder his power. Secondly, he’d left Bitch’s employ because he missed civilisation and was last seen joining Prancer’s group. Bitter might be another parahuman, one with a ranged power of some kind- blaster or shaker.

        1. *bitters*
          Bitters is a last name, which is how Tattle refers to her mercs. 99% sure this guy is just another of her mercs, apparently one carrying a rocket launcher.

    3. “and the monitor she had had packed,”
      Unsure if past perfect was intended or repetition typo.

      “Turns out taking untested, black market drugs have their merits.”
      Either
      > “Turns out untested, black market drugs have their merits.”
      or
      > “Turns out taking untested, black market drugs has its merits.”

      “criminal activities are Undersider’s fault.”
      > Undersiders’

      “War involving African warlords, mood, tempo, body language, and everything else; war won, with casualties. Situation unresolved.”
      “Valkyrie gone, past knowledge that Valkyrie is ignoring Gimel for reasons, past knowledge that Valkyrie’s reasons include high-level threat, stronger, more numerous, past knowledge that Valkyrie feels small against this threat;
      Valkyrie alive. Scouting, procrastinating.”
      The style fits Tattletale’s power, but it’s neither italicised nor shifted.

      “Faultline position, history, current situation; wary concern, especially of the kids.”
      Similar – shifted, but not italicised.

      “full with that, The unfortunately”

      Also, not a typo but 10.9’s “next chapter” doesn’t currently link to here.

      1. > Also, not a typo but 10.9’s “next chapter” doesn’t currently link to here.

        On top of it this Interlude is not listed in the Table of Contents, as usual. Could be a related problem.

  3. Well I see Tattletale… Is doing as well as I thought she was actually. She’s clearly missing Taylor, projecting a lot of her “Save this person” onto Chicken Little, having a hard time holding it together, and getting really lonely in general.

    And Aiden is a chick magnet I see. I look forward to Looksee vs The Heartbroken in Parahumans 3.

  4. >Endbringers; one dormant, one active, others dead or unknown locations.

    I wonder which one the dormant one is. Probably Bohu, since Khonsu was off repairing in a place beyond the reach of humanity when Scion died, and Tohu doesn’t even exist until she manifests and chooses her faces.

    >Kirby wasn’t like those others. He was always apart, always keeping his head down, because everyone hated his guts enough that they would take the slightest of excuses. He’d gone from military court to release on a technicality, straight to Coil’s employ, where he’d worked as a manservant. Driving, running errands, and keeping all of Coil’s secrets.

    Out of all the people whom I expected to reappear in Ward, Creep was not one of them.

  5. So Tattletale confirmed asexual, that’s interesting though not too surprising.

    I’m going to have to look up Creep after this, I forget what he did in Worm.

    So glad to get a Tattletale interlude – she’s as much a frayed rope under strain as I thought.

    Also Kenzie hacking her to say hi… Lol

    1. Creep was the mercenary that no captain would have in their squads, was otherwise ‘unemployable’ and who Coil supplied with ‘something’ his predilections required. Basically, he was strongly implied to be a paedophile.

      Not sure how Tattletale is keeping him on, unless it’s because everyone else wants to kill him and he sticks with her for protection.

      1. It might be the other way around – he sticks around (and plays nice) else the Undersiders give him his comeuppance with interest.

      2. If i remember correctly it was the other way around, he was a babysitter and his wife, soon to be ex wife, acused him of being a pedo to get all his money, so coil “dealt with” the ex wife and creep got 100% loyal to him

  6. Poor Tattletale. You can just see that Chicken Little is perhaps the only person who cares for Tattletale as a person. Imp and Bitch cares for their own teams and have moved on from Tattletale. Her forced asexuality is just making her a depressed person. I wouldn’t be surprised if her shard is actively trying to force her into suicide for disobeying it so much.

    1. >Her forced asexuality is just making her a depressed person.

      Actually, her narration pointed out that she’s probably just normally asexual, not just because of her power. I’d say her lack of sexual relationship isn’t really the problem either. It’s more about the fact that she doesn’t have anyone close to her emotionally. No romantic relationship, not even close friendships, maybe not even regular friendships. It seems she’s surrounded by acquaintances, work relations, nobody with whom she can be open.

      1. There’s actually a post on Spacebattles that wherein WB declared that stripped of her powers, Lisa would be heterosexual. He may have retconned this, as it never was never directly stated in Worm.

        Of course, after years of having lived with her shard, perhaps she genuinely is now asexual and/or aromantic instead of her powers in particular steering her away from these kinds of connections.

        1. Or she may be just that frustrated. Denial can be her coping mechanism. She did say in the epilogue of Worm, that people, including thinkers, have a way of lying to themselves. She may be more resistant to it than most, but definitely not immune.

          1. Might also be that she is just missing Taylor that much. Not in the sexual sense of course, but just as probably the only person she could open herself to completely.

          2. I’m not certain Tattletale is as asexual or as unable to form romantic bond, as she thinks she is.

            The only person she thought could trust first betrayed her (even if it was for the right reasons), and now is gone. With her mixture of emotional hurt, crushing responsibility, her mistrust towards other people, her need to constantly second-guess her own thoughts, and literal headaches courtesy of her own power it is no wonder she can’t even seriously consider anything either sexual or romantic.

            Doesn’t have to have anything to do with her sexual orientation, or psychlogical ability or lack of it to form emotional bonds of romantic nature. While both Tattletale, and plenty of people here declare her asexual, I say that there is no way to know for sure at this point. Even Tattletale can’t know for certain, and she admits this much. She says she is only “pretty sure” her “lack of interest in the romance, or the physical stuff” is not due to her power.

            Of course if she remains in this headspace, there will never be a way to tell one way or the other, and it is a very deep hole to crawl out from.

          3. Taylor never betrayed Tattletale. Betraying her would mean that Tattletale didn’t know at all of Taylor’s heroic aspirations.

          4. I choose to believe that Tattles is aromantic asexual by nature just because there has to be someone, right?
            And she’s not lonely because of it, she’s lonely because she doesn’t have close friendships. Without those she couldn’t have healthy romance either, and with them she wouldn’t need romance to feel better.
            Shockingly enough, being aro ace is not a personal tragedy.

          5. The Chair-zard of Manlo Park Taylor knew how much Lisa needed to be there for her. She knew how much leaving Lisa would hurt her, and she still chose to try to save the world. Correct choice from rational standpoint, but a very painful betrayal of feelings, not just Lisa’s, but all Undersiders’, though Lisa, Brian and Rachel were probably hit the most, each for a somewhat different reason.

          6. @Liliet. I choose not to decide one one way or the other, because even Tattletale doesn’t seem to be sure, and everything I just pointed out about her just shows how impossible it would be to distinguish it at the moment.

            On the subject of personal tragedies at the moment Lisa seems to feel like it is a tragedy to her.

          7. @Alfaryn
            I mean whether she thinks she’s aro ace because of her power or her nature, she’s still aro ace.
            I actually find Tt is being a little contradictory to when we saw her a few chapters ago when she said something along the lines of not being able to blame just the powers because the powers and people are one and the same, one can’t be without the other.
            This is the most info we’ve gotten about her orientation and you’re looking at this and blatantly ignoring what’s literally in canon. I don’t mean to be that LGBTQI+ person, but seriously, let’s call an ace an ace and not try and heteronormify this.

          8. @Splashing-Twisting-Gravity
            Would you be so copacetic if the character were naturally inclined to be aro ace but were twisted by her passenger to be a nympho het?

          9. @Splashing-Twisting-Gravity.

            All was trying to say in my previous comments was that in my opinion Lisa is in such a bad place, that it is impossible to tell her sexual orientation at the moment.

            Many people living under constant stress, or in chronic pain generally tend to display low sex drive (and I guess same could happen with romantic inclinations) and Lisa has been living under tremendous stress for years (and is likely on a verge of depression because of it), especially since she reslised that not all her thoughts are her own. How many other people do you know, who can’t consider privacy of their own minds a safe place?

            Add to it the headaches Lisa experiences because of her power, and I’m not surprised she doesn’t find sex an attractive proposition at all no matter whether her underlying orientation is asexual or not. If she ever will be free of both her mental stress, and physical pain for a longer time, then we will be able to confirm her sexual orientation, no sooner. And I’ll be happy with any orientation Lisa or ability and willingness to form romantic bonds will display then.

            @quite a few people here. If you are one, you will know.

            Please don’t feel offended by what I’m going to say in this comment. I know that some of it could be interpreted as an attack on some of you. This is not my intention. I’m not trying to judge anyone here. I’m not pointing finger at anyone in particular. I know I have no right to do it, as I don’t know reasons behind your comments, and I have no reason to assume they are nothing more than just fooling around in publicly accessible corner of the internet, with no malicious intent, nor do I have a reason to not believe that some of your comments came from deeply personal feelings, or opinions, in which case I apologize if my response feels like I’m being disrespectful of those feelings or opinions. All that I’m about to say comes from my frustration with certain aspects of modern “PC culture” some of your comments reminded me of.

            If there is one thing I find somewhat disappointing in this entire discussion, it is that some people here seem to be happy that Lisa is aero ace simply because there were no other aero aces in this story.

            This approach not only to sexual orientation, but also gender, ethnicity, some disabilities etc. is actually one of my bigger problems with both modern mainstream American entertainment industry, and expectations some people seem to display these days. I personally consider it disrespectful to humanity in general to reduce people to lists of checkboxes authors are supposed to mark off so nobody’s feeling left out.

            The notion that every movie has to have its black person, just because otherwise black people will feel offended, that every series has to have it’s token homosexual only because otherwise homosexuals will feel left out. That authors are supposed to strive to include characters who represent nearly every group of people out there, so no group has a reason to complain, whether it makes sense in their works or not, just to appeal to widest possible audience, and to prove that they’re not discriminating against anyone.

            It is in my opinion this entire PC idea is just stupid and shallow in many ways. It reduces us to lists of checkboxes. It implies that we can’t enjoy a good story just because there is no character that is simmilar to us in one way or another, it demands the impossible from the authors, because no matter how many characters you introduce, there will always be more checkboxes to mark off, it gets in a way of artistic freedom, and perhaps most importantly it promises a seemingly simple solution to one of the most difficult problems any human being living in a society has to face – how to be respectful to your fellow men.

            One of the things I’ve always respected Wildbow for is that his works show just how much EFFORT it takes to breach a distance between two people without harming anyone in the process. That there are no universal sets of rules, no lists of checkboxes, no shortcuts here, and that trying to make them just means that you reduce human interactions to something that can be solved by following some prescripted “one fits all” code of conduct, and complexity of human personality can’t be reduced to some lists of checkboxes that describe a particular person.

            As I said I’m happy with Wildbow giving any of his characters any orientation (or ethnicity, or gender, or whatever) he desires, but at the same time I hope he never gave, and never will give any of his characters any of those things just to mark off some checkbox, just because “there has to be one”. I feel doing so would diminish him as an author, and his work, because it would mean he gave in to pressure of PC culture with its shallow definition of respect for human beings. It would diminish his characters, because it would reduce their personality and identity to a level of some lists of checkboxes some of which have to be hit by at least one character each. And would also be disrespectful to readers, because it would imply, we are shallow enough to accept this sort of reasoning.

            Wildbow has not given me a reason to feel disappointed with his work like that yet. He is of course free to do whatever he wants with this story, but I hope it won’t change in this respect.

            Once again everyone please don’t feel offended, or think that I’m trying to be disrespectful to anyone here. I was just talking about my problems with certain aspects of modern culture in general, and didn’t want to attack anyone here in particular, even if I disagree with certain opinions and attitudes some of your posts reminded me of.

          10. And one more thing. It should go without saying, but if you choose to respond to my comment above, please do it in a way, that doesn’t bring this comment section some sort od a flame war. Starting one isn’t my intention either, and I think that most if not all of you would like to avoid one happening here.

    2. I don’t believe her shard is spiteful. Killing the host can never be good for the shard so it will try to push her to lash out at others.

      1. Shards do attempt to kill the host in order to find another one. Like with WOG on L33t. His shard kept on trying to kill him because he was unimaginative with his powers.

        Her shard knows she gets what it needs, but is punishing her because of her desire to end the conflict and keep things in order. Hell, her shard is a little bitch when it comes to other parahumans like Panacea, Eidolon, Cherish and Armsmaster.

        It is like that shard wants to punish Tattletale for trying to kill conflict. She is not really active in fights, which is probably the reason for it. No fights? No friends for you. Also Foil hates the fuck out of you.

        1. I don’t think I agree with the statement, that Tattletale is getting punished because of her desire to end conflicts. She desires more peace, safety and prosperity for everyone, and obviously avoids physical combat she’s weak at, but at the same time she provokes plenty of conflict (like the raid in the Fallen), and participates conflicts the most effective way she can – by organizing the forces involved, and supplying them with her guidance and information. She even works for both sides at the same time, as was the case with Rain’s cluster.

          If desire to bring peace, safety and prosperity would always mean avoiding conflict at all costs, there would be no soldiers fighting for those values.

  7. I hope I’m not the only one who really wants to see Lisa in love. Preferably with someone worthy. Sure, it’ll all turn to horror and tragedy, but while it lasts…

        1. 1)This story is far from a psychological thriller. More dark super hero novel.

          2)Getting into a healthy relationship does not have to mean quitting.

    1. Nah, its kinda cool to see an asexual character who isn’t being depicted as an antisocial loser for once. She needs friends is all.

      1. “In love” doesn’t mean that she can’t be asexual. I don’t think she’s aromantic. She could have an emotional relationship with someone.

          1. I’ll admit that I read that part a little bit fast and missed her saying she wasn’t interested in the romance.

            Though I do wonder if it’s possible that she isn’t considering romance because it’s generally associated with the physical relationship. Many people never consider that you can have a purely emotional relationship without skinship. Tattletale seems like she’s feeling the lack of anyone being close enough that she can be open with them. Though granted, “someone close enough” could simply be a friend.

          2. Family, actually. That’s what Lisa has always been about. Her trigger event was due to losing her birth family — first her brother killed himself, then everybody else blamed her. So she ran away and the Undersiders became her surrogate family, but then Alec and Brian were killed and Taylor got exiled, and now Aisha and Rachel are busy with their own stuff. All she’s really got left is Aiden, who isn’t old enough to lean on for emotional support. Setting herself up as a big supervillain mastermind has made it really hard to make new friends.

            The solution, of course, is to stop being a villain and form a new hero team with Paint Fumes and the Major Malfunctions. They could call themselves the Broken Winds of Delphi.

    2. Please not.
      “Oh I want to see them in love” is not a reaction that’s pleasant to see in response to a character saying they’re aro ace :\

      Now, I do very strongly want to see Lisa make genuine friends with someone and feel better and no longer lonely 😡

      1. Problem is that without shard input, she’d be heterosexual. I’m down for inclusion, but Tattletale isn’t ace. Her shard is making her that by telling her all the faults of her potential mates.

        1. Tattletale explicitly declared her sexuality, and is quite possibly the character within ward who knows the real consequences and effects of the shard. So if she says she’s ace and the shards not effecting her, she’s probably right.

        2. It’s kinda irrelevant though, what she would be otherwise. She IS asexual. The question of it being natural or shard-induced doesn’t change the fact that it’s what she is now. The only kind of love she’s really interested in is that of friend and family, of which she is sorely lacking. But she is ace, however she came to be that way.

  8. Can’t blame TT for dipping out of this one.

    Let the Heroes clean up the villain fodder: It’ll help stabilize the city and she won’t need to lift a finger.

  9. For those wondering:

    > “You tried to steal official data, and you put a virus on my system. Epeios’ work, I believe. I’m more insulted by the fact that you went to that hack than I am about the virus.”

    > “Had to slow you guys down somehow,” Tattletale called out.

    From Arc 10. Surprised TT had such a connection to a literal once-mentioned character.

    I don’t know what’s scarier, being teased by Heartbroken who don’t actually care for you or by Heartbroken that actually like you.

    Aiden buddy, you got it rough

    > As if it had just happened, Tattletale pictured the mental image of the Simurgh just past a window, floating like she dangled from a noose, a moment so close to the end of the world…

    > Rex.

    > Rex; dead.

    Oh.

    Oh no.

    1. The question is, is the Simurgh doing this to help her, hurt her, or is her current perspective one of not seeing a difference and just trolling to troll, giving no care as to the overall outcome?

      Also, how many ugly babies has she tried to grow by now, I wonder?

  10. She’d come to terms with the fact that her lack of interest in the romance or the physical stuff wasn’t because of one excuse or the other. She was pretty sure it wasn’t because her power preferred her this way. It was just her.

    ME: I am secure and confident in my orientation and don’t personally need anyone’s representation or validation to—
    ALSO ME: wait why can’t i stop smiling

    (actually, writing it out like that clarifies things. It’s not a need, it’s a joy.)

  11. Like i thought, TT is practically a saint compared to most of the assholes who populate Worm, and she just gets shit for it from everyone.
    I wonder if Lily would rather have had Parian-the-Bonesaw-experiment than Parian-the-Villain.
    Also, this clusterfuck about to go down is why leaving that pedo on another planet was a dumb move, no matter how satisfying, that kind of thing is what makes these small-timers feel like they have nothing to lose, thus playing into the hands of anti-paras, and worse, the Shards.

    1. Tattletale gets shit on because she chooses to continue operating as a villain. She was press-ganged into it on Bet, but multiple villains reinvented themselves as heroes even before the Amnesty, Taylor included. With the Amnesty in place, she’s really got no excuse to remain a villain.

      I know readers like to get on Vicky’s case about the hero and villain labels, but these aren’t just words. It’s about society and consent. Tattletale is working for society, but she is not working with society. No oversight, no checks and balances, no non-violent means for recourse. Tattletale is the one who needs to pull her head out of her ass and put on a white-hat — or at least pretend. Even Citrine and Number Man figured this out.

      1. Tattletale behaves as if she was carrying weigh of the world on her shoulders, and it may not be that far from truth. She probably thinks she is justified in operating outside all checks and balances, oversight etc. because she just knows better than anyone what needs to be done, and she can do more if she can operate unhindered by the limits society places on heroes.

        Of course the fact that she made sure throughout her carrier, most people hate her, and almost nobody trusts her also pays it’s role. Amnesty or not, she would be hard-pressed to find heros willing to work with her without her coercing them first somehow, just because she declared herself a hero.

        On top of all of it she does have problems trosting people herself, and this is one thing holding her back from becoming an official hero which is largely her own fault, and something she could and should work on.

        1. Breakthrough contains a member of the Fallen and a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine, the mayor of the city was Citrine, and Valkyrie was Glaistig Uaine. Tattletale would encounter push-back trying to be a hero, but it’s not at all insurmountable.

          1. I think the key problem here is trust. Without at least some heroes trusting Tattletale, she won’t have any reasons to go the hero route herself, or even just be fully open in her dealings with heroes. There are some heroes, who could trust Tatteltale if they understood her situation. Sveta comes to mind, possibly Weld or even Victoria. And they can’t fake it. Tattletale would immediately realise it.

            The paradox is that currently the only person who could explain to heroes where Tattletale’s trust issues come from is Tattletale herself and possibly someone like Bitch or Imp. None of those three trust heroes enough to do it under normal circumstances. It would be a gigantic leap of faith for any of those three, and not a small one for the heroes to listen. If it ever happens it will be under extraordinary circumstances, when both sides will need to make those leaps.

            Fortunately Victoria remembers to reach out if everything else fails. It is in my opinion the single most important thing Carol taught her, and it can prove to be invaluable here again.

          2. @Alfaryn

            Rain, Ashley, and Kenzie had, if anything, a negative reputation with Heroes and they were willing try with someone that barely knew them.

          3. Yes Exejpgwmv, but all three of those had their reasons to try working with the heroes, and all three had a chance to open to some extent to members of their team as part of their therapy. Tattletale sees no resons to open big enough to outweigh her trust issues, and we know what she thinks of therapies, when she can psychoanalyse any doctor, before they can psychoanalyse her.

            Continuing my thought from my previous post, I figured out two more people who could possibly explain Tattletale’s problem to the heroes.

            Unfortunately one of them is Taylor, who is unavailable. Real pity, because she probably could find it easier to make heroes listen to her, at least those heroes who knew her before Gold Morning. She probably wouldn’t like to do it, as it would mean breaching Lisa’s trust again, but she wouldn’t hasitate long, if she thought she had a good reason to do it.

            The other person might possibly be Grue, but we don’t know if heroes would trust this revenant villain, and we don’t know enough about current Brian to know if he would do it. The old Brian would probably be more or less as unwilling to do so as his sister ar Rachel.

          4. “…all three of those had their reasons to try working with the heroes…”
            And that reason was ‘they didn’t want to be the bad guy’. Tattletale enjoys being the bad guy.

          5. @evileeyore Im affraid it may be the case only in Kenzie’s case. She grew up trying to be a hero, and even if she tried to join the villains, they would probably have even less patience with her than the heroes did. She joins the heroes, because it is the only way she knows not to be alone.

            Ashley just wanted to see if being a hero short term would turn out better for her, then sticking to being a villain. She didn’t believe being an “official” hero was something she could, or would want to do long-term.

            Rain just wanted to find a way out of his life with the Fallen, and joining the heroes is just a mean to do it. Not the only one too – he does accept an offer to work with March when he feels he needs to. He wanted to be safe, and to stop being the “bad guy” more, then become one of the “good guys”. He can be a hero, but if the Fallen have just decided to leave him alone, I could imagine him just setteling down somewhere as a low-profile rogue.

          6. I just thought of another reason, why Tattletale may be hesitant to declare herself as a hero. Remember she is taking care of the Heartbroken. Heroes at least nominally work for the public, which is concerned with scary, dangerous powers at the hands of people who appear dangerous, insane and unpredictable.

            Valkyrie gets to be free, because to those, who don’t know much about her she appears sane, and plenty of people probably don’t even make a connection betwean Valkyrie and Glaistig Uaine. If someone knows a bit more and is unsure, Yamada can probably convince them by vouching for Valkyrie. If someone knows exactly who and what Valkyrie is, they know just how catastrophically poorly any attempt to capture or kill her would go. Not to mention, that with Eidolon’s power probably even the Birdcage would be unable to hold her.

            None of this would work for the Heartbroken. Few people will believe they are sane and predictable. Their powes are a stuff of nightmares. At the same time it is not impossible to imprison them. If Tattletale would become a hero, the public would demand her to isolate the Heartbroken from the society, or at least let someone else do it, and this is something Lisa would never do.

          7. On a possibly brighter note, there is a chance Kenzie and Aiden may bring their “parents” in Undersiders and Breakthrough a bit closer together, so there is hope to bridge the gap betwean the villains and the heroes there.

            Let’s just hope the Heartbroken girls won’t lobotomize Kenzie too badly, or that Kenzie does not traumatize them too much in retaliation. You know what they say about love and war after all…

          8. @Alfyrn

            And Tattletale doesn’t have a reason to try working with them?

            Also; Most of the team was far from open with Victoria for the first few weeks.

            And the Heartbroken are hardly the stuff of nightmares, there are Master heroes after all, and Heroes are hardly that beholden to the public.

            (Also; try not to spam the thread, it gets hard to keep track.)

          9. Exejpgwmv I’m not talking about Tattletale working with Breakthrough. I’m talking about her openong up as a person. For Lisa those are two very different things. She is bottling her emotions, and keeping stright face so much I keep wondering how many years it has been since cryed – not even on someone’s shoulder, but in privacy of her own bedroom.

            As for the Hearbroken it is not just her powers, that make them scary. It is a combination of her powers with their behaviour and their age, not to mention their background – especially identity of their father. For an avarage person it must seem that they probably have absolutely no inhibitions when it comes to using those powers.

          10. >>Grue is dead.

            >Is he? I think we saw him as a part of Valkyrie’s flock.

            Oh now I get it that’s what you meant by “revenant”. Sure, that’s a shade-in-a-shell of Grue, but Brian’s concern for Lisa seems unlikely to have been saved in GU’s shard-storage facility.

          11. Who knows? What do we know about the Flock at this point really? We know that they have changed. We know their reactions seem tame, but we don’t know how much of it is loss of personality, how much of it is trauma of having been dead, and how much of it is their reaction to how people around them see them, and how much is whatever deal they made with Valkyrie. It may even vary from person to person. Valkyrie did indicate, that some of them have degraded more then the others.

            Brian was a relatively recent “aquisition”, at least compared to people she got before going to Birdcage. He may be one of the less degraded ones. On top of it I suspect that his concern for Lisa may be exceeded only by his concerns for Aisha, Taylor and possibly Cozen. And he is the kind of a person, who cares deeply for people close to him. It is likely one of his traits that survived relatively intact.

          12. @Alfyrn

            She doesn’t need to open up as a person to be a Hero.

            Also: Early on in the story, and now to a degree, Ashley wasn’t much better than the Heartbroken and she managed.

          13. Lisa needs to open up to the heroes to build some trust with them. Without this trust there is little she can gain from being a hero. Every other hero will consider her every bit the manipulator she has been for years. She is known to be a strong thinker, has been a high profile criminal mastermind for years, and has few heroes who would vouch for her.

            She probably would find it more difficult to convince the heroes about purity of her intentions then Taylor did, when she surrendered to PRT in Worm, and we remember just what has happened with Taylor before heroes finaly decided to believe her. On top of it Lisa would have to convince everybody about not only her intentions, but also of those from her organization she would like to continue to work with her, at least officially.

            The only things that may work in her favor as far as gaining trust of hero community, are her deeds when she fought S-class threats, but since many villains did the same and then continued being villains after that, so it also carries little weigh. Heroes who know well just how critical her involvement was are probably more or less the ones who were at Cauldron-organized missions, and while a word of someone like Chevalier, Narwhal, Armsmaster or Dragon would normally carry a lot of weigh, it may still be not enough, since to explain everyone why they trust her, they would need to explain what was discussed in those Cauldron meetings, and this is way too much info to divulge to the public.

            Even the amnesty does not help Lisa, because she has been an active villains for two years since then, and has probably commited enough crimes the public knows about in that time that amnesty has little meaning in her case anymore.

            If she can’t convince the heroes that she really wants to be one, that this is not some kind of a trap, declaring herself as a hero would damage her standing with the villains, get her little to no extra support from the heroes and other proffesional “good guys” like the police, ties her hands with all legal restrictions that apply to legaly working heroes, potentially splits her team, and possibly damages her information network, since fewer people would trust her from this point (at least less villains, and no mo heroes then before). This would mean she would lose a lot, and gain nothing substantial in return.

            She could consider working closely with heroes who already trust her, like the ones from the Cauldron meetings. They know they can trust her, and they know just how powerful asset she can be. They know she is much more, than just some local criminal mastermind and information brocer from New Brockton. Such cooperation could potentially offset some of the problems mentioned above with lack of trust from most other heroes, and the general public – they could request resources, information, and other assistance from the public for her, but it would not be very practical to form such partnership for two reasons.

            The first reason is that those people already know to cooperate with her when the need arises no matter if she calls herself a hero or a villain. People who know about Cauldron know already how little a label of a hero or villain means, how often someone calling themselves one of those thing is really the other. This means that people like Chevalier, Narwhal, Armsmaster, Dragon etc. will provide her with all help and cooperation she needs, when she really needs it even if she stays a villain in the eyes of the public.

            The other reason is that the big league heroes (and pretty much anyone who met at Cauldron is big league now) work mostly with big, external threats these days. This means they are unavailable in megalopolis a lot of the time, and even if they are, they rarely work all that well there. Internal secturity is mostly left to less prominent hero groups, like the ones in the Breakthrough’s network right now. And the problem with Lisa is that she is much better suited for work inside the city, where she can depend on a vast information network.

            The best thing Lisa could do to become a hero at the moment would be to start working with a hero team who operates inside the city, can provide her with information she couldn’t otherwise have, is willing and credible enough to vouch for her initially, and will allow her to take credit for her part in their accomplishments, so other people can warm up to her eventually.

            It just so happens, that we know a team, that satisfies almost all of those conditions. It is team Braekthrough. The only thing that prevents this cooperation is the fact that they don’t trust her enough yet to work closely with her, much less vouch for her. That is why I say she needs to open up, and open up specifically to team Breakthrough – it would let her build that trust. They need to see the person behind Tattletale’s mask to trust her.

            Some ice has been broken already. Breakthrough works with the Undersiders in ways they probably wouldn’t thought possible, when Victoria first met with Lisa in Ward. There is hope that Aiden and Kenzie will help this process along. If the current deal betwean the teams regarding fighting March won’t go sour it will also help,p.

            Sooner or later though Lisa and Victoria will need to work through mistrust they had for each other since early Worm, and that means that Lisa needs to open up to Victoria, let Victoria understand her point of view on everything that happened since then. And since trust is a two way street, Victoria needs to open up to Tattletale too. Not because there is a lot that Lisa doesn’t understand about Victoria, but because it is the only way Victoria can show Lisa she trusts her.

            On the subject of Ashley being more scary then the Heartbroken, I simply don’t believe it is the case for two reasons.

            The first one is that despite her brief involvement with Slaughterhouse Nine Ashley is relatively low profile. The original Damsel before she joined S9 was virtualy unknown to the public. She was little more then a footnote of Boston Games. Nothing else about her was known to people outside her hometown, unless someone already had a reason to research her. She was a member of S9 for a very short time, and plenty of people probably didn’t even notice her before she died in Boston. Current Ashley’s carrier with post-timeskip S9 was just as short and unramarkable. On top of it with different costume, alias, and hands, than the ones she had as a S9 member, she probably wouldn’t be recognized by someone who carefully watched news on S9 on TV for example. The other Damsel could be, and there is a reason (besides house arrest she probably does not care about at all) she does not show herself on the streets without aid of Kenzie’s tech.

            The Heartbroken are much higher profile. Not only does their group name instantly remind everyone about their connection to the Heartbreaker, who was a notorius villain in his time, they have also been associated (very publicly – they even had a monument to their founders) for years with a very succesful villain group, who managed to not only take over Brockton Bay, but also keep control of the city until the end of the world, and then immediatly establish themselves in New Brockton.

            In short – people pay a lot more attention to the Heartbroken, then to Ashley.

            The other reason is that Ashley’s powers are not so scary as those of the Heartbroken. She can kill or maim you, she can destroy your property, she never did it in ways that would catch people’s imagination. A person with a big enough gun can do all of the above, and would be forgotten by the people once the news would be a week old at most. If someone noticed how she took out Blasto’s monster during Boston Games, things might be a little different, but pretty much nobody did.

            The Heartbroken (and other Vasils) have powers that promise things much worse then death. A mastery over people’s emotions, thoughts, or their bodies. A total slavery without chains. This speakes to imaginations. This provokes nightmares. This is something no unpowered person can do.

            And remember that for all of her low notoriety Wardens kept (and still keep) a nominally free Ashley on a very short leash. Sure a big part of why they did that was because they knew, that nobody got recruited to S9 without a good reason, but still it is difficult to see Ashley alone even as an A-class or even a solid B-class threat. She was just never succesful enough for the heroes to think they would need to use much of their resourcess to take her down if needed if she works alone, and she has never shown much inclination or ability to be a teamplayer, especially if the team would be led by someone vastly more powerful and dangerous then her. She just hates any sort of authorities that much, and everyone in the Wardens knows that too.

            The heartborken on the other hand can be dangerous on their own, and have shown readiness to be subordinates in larger organizations. And at the same time they appear jus as mentaly unstable as Ashley, if not more. This must make them look much more dangerous than Ashley both in Wardens, and the public’s eyes.

            Considering what Wardens did to Ashley despite the amnesty, Tattletale must consider what they would to the Heartbroken, and she must understand, that they could end up much worse than Ashley. And Tattletale can’t afford that – both because she does not want to see them hurt, and because she understands that if you don’t give the Heartbroken a lot of leeway, like she does, they WILL become dangerous.

      2. Or she sees the writing on the wall. It’s pretty significant that none of the thinkers we’ve met who were higher than 1 have reformed.

        Maybe they see something in the system that is hidden from the more casual observers.

  12. This was some great, if sad AF, insight into Tattletale as a person.

    “Her power supplied nothing, and she wouldn’t have trusted it if it had.”
    Lisa has no one she can trust, not even herself.

  13. A few thoughts.

    1. “Sleeper; active”. Why am I worried about this, and the thing Valkyrie is worried about more than anything else? Fear of the unknown?

    2. Anyone else was surprised at how slow Kenzie was to react to Tattletale’s camera? Was she distracted, or just let TT see, what she wanted her to see?

    3. How would Weld react if Kenzie gave him a personal holoprojector similar to those she made for her team?

    4. The kids exist to remind TT about people, who are gone. She really keeps tormenting herself, doesn’t she? Is she feeling even more guilty than I thought?

    5. I would have a theory about Foil’s extra pounds if she wasn’t lesbian, and perfectly happy about it.

    1. 6. The soldier with a gun ready to fire at the kids was probably completly unnecessary. I think there is about 90% chance Imp was nearby ready to act in a heartbeat.

      1. If there’s anyone, anyone at all, who can keep track of Imp without an electronic aid, it’s Tattletale. Besides, Imp lost an arm. She’s not going to be field ready until she’s got some size or shape of replacement. Hopefully one that isn’t maintained by somebody else concentrating, because otherwise she’d lose it again every time she stopped concentrating on letting everyone else know she’s there. Maybe a tinker limb, but that’s expensive and persnickety if you don’t have a tinker to maintain it- and Tattletale doesn’t. They’ll probably call on someone else, a changer-healer of some kind who grows limbs and can detach them and reattach them to someone else. Or just abduct a load of mice and kidnap Panacea until she agrees to make a mouse arm.

        1. I don’t know about Tattletale being able to track Imp. She certainly has a way of accounting for Imp in her plans, but it is far from being able to tell all the time where Imp is exactly, and what she is doing. It might be that Lisa managed to condition herself to count on getting a certain kind of unexpected support for example, or putting her thoughts in some sort of a loop, that doesn’t let her forget about Imp completly even when her brain is doing it’s best to do so.

          As for Imp not being field ready – it is not like it has ever stopped her, and besides going into real combat, and making sure that kids won’t do something they will regret later are two different things. Even with those kids. It helps of course that the Heartbroken and Imp trust each other so much, and that Imp’s power is an almost perfect counter to their powers, at least when she has the initiative.

          1. Imp’s power is not a counter to the Heartbroken. It was a counter to Regent’s power, but not to Cherish’s. One of the Heartbroken hypnotises you into saying or singing something when you try to do something, both things their choice. Another has (maybe as a secondary?) the power to tell where people are- even if he can’t see them, even if they aren’t people-shaped, and even if they are trying not to be noticed. Imp’s power counters those that need to see her, or those that need to be aware of her using a human’s normal array of senses. Those Heartbroken who can feel her emotions or otherwise do not need sight or awareness to work are unaffected.

          2. The way I see it Imp’s powers don’t make people affected by them be unable to just see her. They make people’s minds unable to remember or acknowledge she even exists. None of the powers the Heartbroken have can affect a mind if they can’t remember there is a mind they want to affect.

            Someone who just decides to just cover a certain area in flames for example can harm her if she happens to be in that area, so a physical battlefield is a dangerous place for her to be, as she may be cought in a crossfire. In some ways it could be even more dangerous than for most people. If I remember correctly her power in on by default, and she needs to actively supress it for other people to notice her. I don’t know if her powers keeps working if she is unconscious for example, then if it happens, nobody will be able to help her. If she does not regain consciousness on her own in time, she may die from something as trivial as minor bleeding, because nobody will give her medical aid.

            Not that it has ever stopped her from taking stupid risks in such situations.

            On the other hand someone like the Heartbroken (at least the ones whose powers we know) can’t do anything to her if their minds refuse to acknowledge she exists, because as far as we know they work with specific minds, not some area, or they need to be able to realise someone is there, when their minds are actively coerced by her power not to do so. The only situation, when they could affect her is when she reveals herself to them long enough for them to use their powers on her, and she probably has too much experience to do so if she thinks, they may try to do it. That is unless she wants them to do it, as was the case with Alec.

          3. Tts power figures out imp is there based on discrepancies she observers. Tt would know if imp were there unless she’s hidden from everyone around and not casting shadows, reflections, etc.

          4. I just figured it out: kiss/kill and the new cluster triggers are the work entities trying to put themselves back together.

            Kiss/kill creates the Dynamics which allow people to gain otyer people’s powers but it involves shards coming together – Scion and the partner are trying to rebuild themselves.

          5. @Miles. Tattletele probably can’t keep track of Imp all the time. Notice that Aisha does not appear in Lisa’s thoughts even once throught this scene. She thinks about other people important to her – even the ones like Alec and Taylor, yet even when she focuses on Alec so much, she somehow fails to make a connection to Aisha even once. Makes me think, she can’t remember Imp, and that means she is currently fully affected by Imp’s powers, which in turn means Imp is somewhere close. Notice how people don’t have problem remembering Imp, when she is far away.

        2. @ Miles- this doesn’t work. The earliest known cluster cape occurred long before Scion attacked. Ravager/Mouse Protector. The first was a black villainess, the latter an independent white hero who was a graduate of the inaugural Wards team, alongside Miss Militia and Chevalier. Ravager got so frustrated of being beaten by MP that she called the Slaughterhouse Nine in a hit on her. They… Didn’t kill Mouse Protector. They did abduct her, torture her, and delivered her to Ravager, where they abducted and tortured her, too- before Bonesaw cut them up and stitched them together to create Murder Rat.

          1. No word on whether or not which one of them was black and which was white. Given how Murder Rat was described as being more white than black, I’d say that Ravager, being the fresher kill, was used more and so was probably the white one.

          2. I’ve checked the wiki and there’s no information on either cape’s ethnicity, so you could be right. For some reason, I thought Ravager was the black one. I think they’d have avoided killing either party before Bonesaw had had her fun, though, as whilst she can ressurect the dead living people are fresher and probably need less disinfecting. Hack Job started to decay, though was made from a live cape and a dead one, but that may also have been Hatchet Face’s cancellation aura preventing the required maintenance or countering the procedures meant to keep them alive.

      2. “Samuel and Chastity were herding the monsters. Samuel had a muscular arm draped around his shoulders, which he didn’t seem to mind at all, focusing more on the intellectual, emotional challenge of keeping the twelve to fifteen crowd from being at each other’s throats.”

        I took this as a hint Imp was there, if we think the Graeae Twins body-swapped Imp’s arm so they could keep track of her that is. It never mentions whose arm is draped over Samuel’s shoulders, I figured it was because the swapped arm isn’t forgotten and Imp was by Samuel.

    2. Sleeper wont ever be a treat, that is his “joke”, he was created to be a super treat but that is never getting the highlight. WhimperBonger created him with the ideia that people will always think “what does he do?” but he will never explain, if sleeper becomes a main villain, he would have to explain

    1. Heck, I just hope she has Friends.
      Like… actual friends who actually have her back.

      In another note: I know there is often debate as to how strong/relevant the conflict drive is, but this might be one of the few in universe chapters where it gets actually highlighted, as opposed to us peanut gallery just guessing wildly.
      As in, Lisa explicitly notices the power screwing her over now that she is no longer in the field.
      “It’s all so much easier when I’m out using my powers instead of working from my terminal. Less headaches, less interjections.”
      Because she is trying to reduce conflict, she is being punished for it… and punished hard.

      I also kind of wonder….
      “Everyone disconnects.
      They’re more comfortable like this.”

      And
      “Dismissive, word associations: death, endings, ceremony; strongly dislikes Tattletale-self.”
      Her power really hammers her with Foil’s dislike… but never makes any comment on Chicken-Little’s (presumably positive) feelings about her.

      Pretty sure her power is trying to kill her at this point… or at least weaken her to the point where she can die easily.

      “I could say you remind me of Taylor.” …. “You caught me,” she said. She smiled. “No. Not that kind of careful.”

      Huh, notice how she doesn’t say “You remind me of Taylor”, she says “I COULD say that” so… there is something false there. Not dishonest exactly, but evasive perhaps.
      I wonder if he reminders her over her brother.
      And I wonder in what way exactly Taylor was careful that Lisa is thinking of? I suspect something personal, not about Taylor but about the interaction between Taylor and Lisa.

      “Whenever they tell me stories it’s always Taylor got hurt or Taylor threw herself into a crazy situation.”
      – Chicken Little never hears stories about Taylor from Lisa herself.

      God, the more I read and think about this the more frick’n heartbreaking it is.

      And weirdly enough… hell, I really wish Lisa and Kenzie hung out. Feel like Kenzie would be an amazing tactical asset and TT side… but also that weird hero worship thing Kenzie tends towards would actually be super health for Lisa right now.
      She needs to be backed up by people who believe in her.

      1. Yes, Lisa seems way to intelligent and perceptive for her power to control her without her knowledge. It seems to tie in nicely to my theory that the powers select people who already have talents, and other personality traits that the power would only reinforce. In Lisa’s case – she naturally has great perception and intuition thanks to her particular type of intelligence, and she actually manages to use it against her power.

  14. This whole thing with March and Clusters really has me thinking.

    Clusters are formed when 2+ people trigger within close proximity of each other.
    We know that Parahumans can achieve a second trigger unlocking more power/ability in the process.
    So…what if 2 non-clustered Parahumans were to experience a second trigger right next to each other? Would they find themselves in a cluster with each other?
    Is this how Lisa and Victoria stop hating each other? A surprise Clustering with a not-so-helpful, dollop of kiss/kill?
    Ok that last one is mostly just a joke. I am curious though if second Triggers happening close enough to each other can form a cluster or not.

    1. > “With the second trigger, the agent reaches out, makes contact with others”
      Hm, sounds good enough for clustering.

  15. I’d just like to say that I’m really looking forward to the introduction of “Stank Bank”, whatever her new cape name might be.

  16. Really hope it all works out for TT. She and the rest of the original Undersiders really deserve to make it. This chapter was a real insight into why TT was always better as second-in-command and general advisor, than direct leader. Hopefully deciding to let the bus crash if it really wants to crash instead of trying to fix everything will take some of the stress off. Because if there is one thing the Undersiders has a consistent talent for it’s surviving crisis and coming off better on the other side of it.

    Really have to scowl at Lily’s attitude, however. She had nearly two years with the Undersiders as a villain while Taylor was on probation, and even more time after Golden Morning, and she still blames them as villainous, and with her love-interest as just misguided? When she chose to cross the line herself, and where March has been HER problem long before she even heard of the Underisiders? What the hell?

    1. It’s easy/convenient for Foil to dump her hate pile on Tattletale since their isn’t really an pressure for her to come to terms with the truth, and it’s simpler to pretend Parian is a doll the undersiders defiled. •Oh now Skitter is gone, next best thing, Tattletale you carry my hate baggage•. Path of least resistance all that.

  17. Even knowing Foil is lesbian, I half expected the extra weight and the domestic life style to lead TT’s power to pregnancy. After all, real-life Lesbians have several options aside from adopting and I’ve read that via zygotes have been made by transferring DNA from one ovum to another. Throw in tinker tech, and there’s no reason to think Foil couldn’t possibly be carrying her girlfriend’s baby or vice versa if they really wanted to start a family. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the birth rate on Gimel is lower than any we’ve seen in real-life since records have been kept of such things what with pretty much everyone struggling just to make ends meet.

      1. A sperm bank would be convenient, but it’s not really necessary. They could always just ask around for a donor. Preferably a male member of Sabah’s family, if any of those survived Gold Morning. That way the baby would be related to (and hopefully resemble) both of them. Otherwise, I’m sure there are plenty of random guys who’d be willing to help (if asked using secret identities), especially if Sabah sweetened the deal by making them a nice sweater or having Aiden get them a partridge.

        1. Sure, there are plenty of option. I’ve got to say though, that if this is the case, then I dislike March even more then before.

          1. Here’s a really scary thought. What if this pregnancy has something to do with March’s way of transfering cluster-powers. Depending on father could be either a part of the plan, or a countermeasure. Either way I pity Foil…

        2. Regarding foil possibly being Pregnant, had Amy being sane and available, then she too could have probably made it happen via biokinetic shenanigans.

          1. Like I said, lots of options, and possibilities. There are even one as crazy as a possibility, that Lily is still growing, or an even crazier one that a combination of peaceful life in New Brockton and Parian’s cooking has been slowly turning her into a fat coach potato.

  18. As many of you here, I’ve been thinking about why nobody wants do mention Taylor. Here is how I see it.

    There is no doubt that many resent her for what she did to them, and see her as a villain and a monster. However those who understand her better, don’t want to talk about her not because of what she did to them, but because what she did for them.

    They understand for all her faults she had one heroic feature, that even most of the “heroes” on Bet lacked – a willingness to sacrifice everything she had to save those who needed saving – from people like Dinah all the way to entire humanity at the end. They know that this sacrifice was necessary, but they must ask themselves a question if they deserved her to sacrifice herself for them. They must face a question if they are good enough people to be saved by someone like her. Few of them can probably honestly answer “yes”, and those who do probably should’ve answered “no”.

    They must feel guilty about what happened, and must feel guilty that they don’t do enough to become good enough people to deserve Taylor’s sacrifice, that humanity isn’t doing enough to prove it deserved do be saved by someone like her. It must be difficult to look at the mirror whenever they remember her, much less talk about her.

    It is probably even more difficult for the heroes than for the villains to face this truth, because at least some villains can find it easier to live with realisation that they are not as good people as they perhaps should be. On the other hand this guilt, and willingness to become better which may come from it can be an important reason why so many former villains have decided to become heroes on Gimel. Sure, unwillingness to break conditions of the amnesty and going back to being wanted men also plays a role, but I don’t think it is a deciding factor for many.

    On the topic of guilt over Taylor, one thing I would like to see is a conversation betwean Tattletale and Armsmaster. A lot of what happened to Taylor happened because at the beginning of Worm Armsmaster pushed her away, and at the same time Tattletale pulled her in. And considering what Lisa knew from Coil about Taylor at the time, and that she didn’t come clean about it as soon as she could, neither of them can claim, that their motives were pure at the time.

  19. I’m not sure if starting this conversation about Taylor with Chicken Little was the brightest idea on Tattletale’s part. It is not impossible that Undersiders know exactly where to look for Taylor, and are making sure nobody else does to protect her. The kid might still be innocent and naive enough to try to go to Aleph without fully comprehending possible consequences.

    1. Aleph was sealed off shortly after GM. Noone is able to go there without being fully aware of any consequences, if at all.

      1. Faultline’s crew from late Worm may have means to make new doors, so could Teacher. Of course Chicken Little is unlikely to be so stupid that he would go to the Teacher, but Faultline is available, and may still be able to bring the right people (probably only Labyrinth and Scrub are needed) togerher. In fact they may be already with her. Who knows who else was packed into Matryoshka or hiding in some rooms we didn’t get to see in this arc? Not to mention that if I remember correctly at least one person we did see was left unnamed, and from her description I couldn’t say if she could be Labyrinth for example.

        1. And sure Teacher, Labyrinth and Scrub should understand the consequences, but it does not mean they won’t do it.

          Teacher may not care about the consequences. In fact one of the consequences Lisa may try to avoid is for someone like Teacher figuring out where Taylor is. This would be one of the worst scenarios, though a lot would have to happen first for Chicken Little considernig that he must know, that his adoptive family has been opposing Teacher for years.

          Labyrinth and Scrub should be more careful, especially since they know their portals are permanent, but considering their history with Undersiders I could imagine Chicken Little finding a way to convince them. Maybe not right now, but in a couple of years, unless Labyrinth and Scrub are naive enough to be convinced by a nine years old kid quickly enough for Tattletale not to react in time, which seems unlikely.

          Of course it could change if there is in fact some sort of serious crisis involving Chicken Little, and Taylor could work as a solution to it. In this case Aiden could seek aid of Labyrinth and Scrub or in extreme case even Teacher, because he will probably have an idealised picture of her as a solver of serious problems.

          In this case Labyrinth and Scrub could agree to help, if they see that Aiden’s idea may have some merit, and they don’t see other good options, and Teacher could agree just to get to Taylor. She may not have her powers anymore, but it only makes it easier for him to control, and she could be useful for him because of what is in her head (both intellect- and knowledge-wise), and as a hostage to get the Undersiders off his back.

          1. There is also a simpler idea. Chicken Little may get his hands on one of those skeleton keys Taylor used to get into Yangban controlled world during Gold Morning. If any of them are around Lisa may be interested in securing them precisely because they can be used to get to Aleph.

            If Aiden would have access to one and overhears how to use them (and if he works with Kenzie he can overhear a lot of what he shouldn’t) to get to Aleph, then how long it will take for him to use it? And Kenzie would be a perfect co-conspirator for him, because she is ignorat about the consequences of going after Taylor.

            Aiden could probably also find out how to use the key just thanks to his powers, but this seems unlikely, because Tattletale probably has taken countermeasures against Aiden using his power to learn something he shouldn’t a long time ago.

    2. I think leaving Taylor in Aleph is less they can’t and more they won’t. Taylor is unpowered and deserves her permanent vacation. None of the Undersiders want to jeopardize that.

      1. Aleph was indeed sealed off, but then all those portals hit that caused chaos, so there ould very well be one that connect to Aleph.

        Also whilst Earth Aleph was sealed off by its own request, and Taylor is in a sealed off earth, I can’t recall any confirmation anywhere that the two palces are the same one. Anyone able to find that confirmation?

        1. While I also think it is quite possible that the Undersiders could reach Taylor whenever they wanted to, and just choose not to do it, I don’t think the way portals have been hit created any paths new to Aleph. The portals were mistly expanded, and made impossible by usual means, but for the most part seem to lead to their original destinations. The only shenanigans could probably happen where multiple portals intersected, and the Wardens HQ may be the only such case.

          Unless the Wardens HQ endedvup on Aleph (and so far we haven’t seen any proofs of that), there should be no new portals leading to Aleph resulting from that attack.

          Having said that we know for a fact that world-sealing technology can be defeated from the outside. Taylor’s invasion of the Yangban’s world in the last arc of Worm (not counting the epilogue) is a proof of that.

  20. “He was with her, but he hadn’t even struck puberty yet.”
    Reading a lot of japanese stuff, all I could think when reading this line is: “Yamete! Lisa onee-chan!”
    Damn mangas :/

  21. Leaving everyone to their own devices as the world is falling apart? Just gonna wander off, do her own thing… exactly how little sleep has tattle been getting? And chances the simurgh planted something way back on gold morning? Just doesn’t seem like the Lisa we know from worm…

    1. I think it’s just that she’s tired of using her power, and of having to second-guess her thoughts because of it, worried sick about her teammates and dependents, not to mention about the unraveling of the cops and robbers game, and balancing between paranoia and depression because of it.

      In other words – she is mentally in a very bad place now, and it doesn’t help her at all that she knows it.

  22. Its also entirely possible that Tt’s shard feed on Lily’s attitude towards her is the shard trying to cause conflict by misrepresenting information. Tt has been wrong before, and I believe she noted that she’s more likely to be preposterously wrong once she accidentally sets off down the same path. So Lily’s initial dislike for her could have sent her down the (wrong) path, and now Tt just has confirmation bias.

    Also, I don’t see Victoria forgiving TT as easily – she has forgiven others for their actions, but not when those actions affected her (examples: mother & amy & TT so far). Perhaps Vicky forgiving TT is an emotional step towards forgiving Amy? Also on Vicky learning a little less hubris, because wow she reallllly doesn’t ever stop to consider how warped her perspective is (or how little she might know) when it comes to TT/Undersiders despite knowing that she doesn’t know everything, which we see from he asking Sveta about their relevancy in GM.

    Finally, I’m very glad about the lines with Aiden because up until the spelling out that Aiden was TT’s 3rd attempt towards healing someone I had literally no idea why TT was even bothering any more. It’s also interesting because it leaves open the option of her new goal as being to protect her immediate family and not caring about the world anymore. Would TT die to save Aiden?

    Either way – one of my chapters in Ward so far.

    1. Yeah, somehow I’m afraid of this news more than I’m afraid of active Simurgh, though a I said at one of my comments above, it could be just my fear of the unknown speaking.

  23. “Among them was an excellent sniper team,”

    Wait, is she referring the badass sniper team that ganked Oni Lee way back in the assault on the ABB?
    If so I’m very happy

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