Blinding – 11.5

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The ‘joints’ of the spider’s limbs were higher off the ground than I was, the body headless and featureless, an uneven, almost potato-like form in the center.  It was all black, and it moved with a fluidness that stood in stark contrast to the jerky, twitchy way that spiders normally moved.

It flowed more than it walked as it moved to the base of a building, found purchase on windowsills and gutter.  As it carried itself off the ground, Foil skipped up, stepping onto one of the eight limbs, walking up to the next.  She had no handholds, not even the ones another person might have if they were there, because both of her hands were full carrying her crossbow- an entirely different make and model than the one I’d known her to use, once upon a time.  Bigger, heavier, and it would have to be mounted on a surface to be set up and then fired.

Spider legs appeared and disappeared beneath her feet, in what should have been something a third of the way to being stairs and a third of the way to being a ladder, not all of the way to being anything.  The distance between Foil and the ground grew.

“You’re hesitating,” Foil called out.  “If you pause I’m going to miss a step and fall!”

“You’re making me nervous!” Parian called back.  “Talking about you falling makes it worse, not better!”

Trust me!” Foil replied.

“I trust you!  I don’t trust powers!  Not mine, not yours,” Parian answered, but the third utterance wasn’t at a volume meant to reach Foil.

Foil ascended to the roof of a three-story building ducking as the cloth-and-knots spider passed over her head.  Parian visibly relaxed as soon as Foil was on solid ground again.  Past the eyehole of the cracked doll mask, Parian’s eye focused on the spider as it restricted its movements to the visible edge of the building.  What little focus wasn’t for the spider was for Foil.

“The funny thing is, you guys got off easy,” Candy said.  “For trustable powers.”

“None of us got off easy,” Parian said.  “Powers are meant to hurt, cause harm, and foment chaos, according to Tattletale.  The things that handed out the powers wanted to put us in situations where we’d have to use them on each other.  Even the tamer sets, like Foil’s.”

Shots that could penetrate anything, enhanced accuracy, and enhanced timing.

“Foil’s powers did come with a March attached,” I remarked.

Parian nodded, pausing to look around before returning her focus to the rooftop.  “It’s never easy.  There’s always complications.”

“Some got off easier than others, though,” Precipice said.

“True.  Undeniably true,” Parian said.  “But easier still isn’t easy.”

“I like that distinction,” I said.

“If you want easy, you don’t have to look any further than my sister,” Candy said.  “I mean it in the most affectionate way possible.”

“So long as it’s coming from a place of sisterly love,” Chastity said, reaching out for Candy’s cheek to pinch it.  Candy fended her off.

We were walking at a brisk pace.  We’d broken up the groups, and the reasoning for why we’d broken it up had me thinking about my early thoughts in the days of Breakthrough.  Wolves, corn, and chickens.  A man who needed to take all three things across the river, but the wolves couldn’t be left alone with the chickens and the chickens couldn’t be left with the corn.

We’d had concerns that the Undersiders would act in good faith.  Having some of our team in each group meant we could keep an eye on everything.  Breakthrough was a six member team, and we had three bases to cover.  Two Breakthrough members were assigned to each team.

The Heartbroken were more volatile as more of them were gathered into a single unit.  Heartbroken were thus split into three groups, and family dynamics seemed to factor in there.  Siblings were separated and kept together, depending.

From there, it was a series of rules and complicating factors.  Tattletale was insistent that Chicken Little was grounded and shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy hanging out with his new friend Lookout.  That meant Lookout was assigned to another team.  Swansong went with Lookout by apparent default, and the feral child Florence went with Swansong.  Imp went with Florence, because she was the best at handling her, and initial attempts at negotiating this had met with stubbornness.

It was a team with far too many wolves, but those wolves seemed content with the status quo.  That was despite the fact that Swansong was on a team with Imp and pretty goddamn resentful of the fact that her nice home now smelled like gasoline – a smell had soaked into floorboards and furniture.

They’d wanted to go after Love Lost, working on the assumptions that Love Lost didn’t like hurting kids and it was a squad with a lot of kids on it.  Swansong knew the people Love Lost liked to associate with, and Imp had the ability to resolve problems before they started.  The problem was that when things went wrong, they stood to go very wrong.  A single rage scream that hit Swansong was too much of a problem.  Cradle was too much of an unknown, and the Undersiders had wanted Tattletale on that particular unknown, for her limited involvement.

I had a projector disc with me.  I brought it up, tapping on the side.  A group of small holographic figures appeared above the disc, tinted yellow from head to toe.  An arrow at the disc’s edge indicated the direction to them, with a number showing distance.  They were gathered in vehicles, but the vehicles weren’t drawn as thoroughly as the people who sat in them, much like the mercenaries that accompanied them.  Three heartbroken, Chicken Little, Sveta, and Capricorn, with Tattletale along to gather some intel and make sure the kids were alright.  They were tracking down Cradle.

They were mostly silhouettes, but I could make out details like how one of the Heartbroken was resting a head on Chicken Little’s shoulder, apparently asleep.  Chicken Little was moving his hands like there was something in them.  A bird, I assumed.

I ran my finger along the disc’s edge.  The image shifted, and the group of people were tinted red.  Many of them were small.  Imp, ‘Florence’, two heartbroken, Lookout, and Swansong.  They’d watch March, gather surveillance and maybe have Imp take action but they wouldn’t take any direct moves until Hellhound caught up with them.

“They okay?” Parian asked.

“Looks like it,” I said.  The images were stable.  Different groups were talking.  “Calm, no fighting.”

“If you’re talking about my cousins, they’re never ‘okay’,” Chastity said.  She was seventeen or so, with wavy black hair and makeup fully on point.  I’d noticed Precipice noticing her cleavage.  It seemed wholly intentional with her wardrobe choices, a low-cut top worn with a scarf and coat, unzipped enough that a strategic triangle was visible.

Had to be cold, but she endured with an unwavering, teasing smile that made me uncomfortable.

“Relatively,” Parian said, still watching Foil and the spider.

“Relatively?  It’s because they’re relatives that I know they aren’t okay,” Chastity said.

“Such a dork,” Candy said, before switching to French to better articulate that lameness.  Candy was a smaller version of her older sister.  She had a similar teasing demeanor, from what I could tell, but without the flirting aspect.

Chastity retorted with something else, so rapid-fire that I couldn’t even tell where the words started or stopped.

The Kenzie-aged Candy’s response was sharp, and sounded weirdly religious- I wasn’t sure if my mind was seeing faces in clouds, putting meanings to foreign words that weren’t there.

There was enough violence in the words and enough of a glittering look in the young girl’s eye that I felt the need to say something.  “Do we need to step in?”

“Don’t even try,” Parian muttered under her breath.

“No,” Chastity said.  “Not unless you want to wash my sister’s mouth out with soap.”

“Please do,” Aroa said, from the sidelines.  She was similar in appearance to the others, but her hair was straight, and there was no smile on her face- no particular frowning or coldness either.  Her eyes were animated, her glances always sidelong, never direct.  “It would be funny.”

“You can help,” Candy said.  “My dork of a sister needs to get laid.”

“Can’t help you there,” I said, trying not to sound as uncomfortable as I felt.

“Your teammate can.  Precipice!” Candy raised her voice.

“Uh.”

“Please.  She gets more annoying and immature every minute she doesn’t have anyone, and I’m the one who has to deal with it.”

“Uh,” Precipice said, again.  He looked at Chastity.  “Sorry.”

“No need to say sorry,” Chastity said, touching his arm.  “My sister put you on the spot.  But if you did want to say yes, you could count on my discretion and a complete lack of any strings.”

“Just don’t fall in love with her,” Candy said.

“Yeah, don’t fall in love with me,” Chastity said.

“It’s… weird, getting this offer,” Precipice said. “Knowing who you guys are.”

Heartbroken.  Heartbreaker’s.

“I would have thought you were sympathetic, coming from a bad place,” Candy said.

I looked down at Candy.  “Tattletale told you?”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s not great,” I said.

“We don’t mingle with society or have a lot of civilian friends,” Aroa said.  “We aren’t going to leak your secrets because we stick to our own.”

“You haven’t even seen my face,” Precipice was telling Chastity.

“Back out, Precipice,” Parian said.  “Drop the topic, walk away.”

“If she has advice, it’s good to take it,” I advised him, giving him an elbow to the arm.  I bumped the metal under his sleeve.

Precipice nodded.

“I get a sense of people around me,” Chastity told him.  “It’s clear enough for me to know proportions, and I like your proportions.”

I sighed, loud enough to be sure he heard it.  My breath fogged in front of my face.

“Now it’s weirder.  I’m flattered, I think, but also very weirded out,” Precipice said.

“Okay,” Chastity said, sounding like she was having fun, even while being turned down.  “I can tell how flattered you are, same way.  It even makes me stronger.  So this teasing, it’s good battle strategy, you know.”

“Maybe, but just so you know, I have someone I like,” Precipice said.

“Precipice,” Parian said, warning.  She started to turn around, then her spider slipped.  She twisted around and caught it at the building’s edge.

“Someone you like?” Chastity asked, edging in closer, her arm touching his.  They were wearing jackets, but still.

“Love.  I think.”

“Precipice,” I said.  “Don’t tell them that.  Don’t share that information.  Especially when Parian is warning you.”

“Trying to keep my partner from falling off a building,” Parian said, absently.  “You might be in more danger, Precipice.”

“Uh, noted.”

“What if I said that made me more interested?” Chastity asked Precipice, nudging him.  “What if I said I was intrigued, now that you already have someone you like?”

“Sorry,” he said, in a vain attempt to disengage.

“Does that mean sorry, no, or does it mean something completely different?” Chastity asked.

“Can you leave him alone?” I asked her.

“I could, but I’m going to wonder what he meant, and I’m going to end up assuming the worst.”

“Safest bet,” Aroa said.  “Men.”

Precipice, against all sense and sanity, opened his mouth to explain, “I’m flattered, but even if it wasn’t really weird, even though she and I aren’t together and might never be-”

“Stop sharing information about your love life with people who call themselves Heartbroken,” I said.  I turned to the younger Heartbroken.  “No offense.”

“No, no.  You’re totally right,” Candy said.

“-Yeah,” Precipice said.  He managed to stay silent for two fucking seconds before telling Chastity, “I can’t mess around.  At least for now, I’m not doing anything in that neighborhood.”

“Oh.”  Chastity squared her shoulders, eyes forward, in the direction we were walking.

“Sorry.”

“If you’d given me another answer, saying you were willing to betray her or betray those feelings you have for her, then I would have found a way for you to be hurt in any upcoming fights,” Chastity said, her tone still light.  “Really badly hurt.”

I looked at Parian.  She shrugged and nodded.

Great.

“Good to know,” Precipice said, awkwardly.

I fucking told you not to engage.

“Now I’m disappointed,” Aroa said.  “Chastity’s one of the last family members on my bucket list to see go all out.”

Candy poked her cousin.  “You’re such a Juliette.  Wanting our mouths washed out with soap, wanting poor Precipice to get all four arms and both legs mangled, or whatever it is Chastity has in mind…”

“Juliette wouldn’t want anyone’s mouth washed out with soap.  She’d want your mouth washed out with bleach,” Aroa said.

“I don’t think that’s as big a difference as you’re pretending.”

“It’s the biggest difference,” Aroa said, with maximum condescension.  “On and off.  What’s the fun in kicking someone in the tits, pushing them down or setting them on fire if they‘re cold and dead, or if you kill them and that’s the end of it with no potential for the future?”

“True,” Candy responded.

“I’ve got your back,” Chastity was telling Precipice.  “Whatever happens, I’m going to protect you and protect those feelings, now.  We’ll get you back to this girl you like.”

“I don’t know if anything’s going to happen there.  It’s complicated.”

I rolled my eyes.  Maybe he needed to get stuff off his chest, and for some reason was deciding on this venue.

“Unrequited or complicated sorts of love are still love and love is the most important thing,” Chastity said.  “Without it there’s no point to anything.”

It was dawning on me just why Tattletale had looked so damn exhausted when I’d seen her, the last few times.

Above us, Foil whistled.  Parian was making the spider form a bridge.  Foil was halfway across that bridge.  Very deliberately, she put the folded-up crossbow down on top of the spider.  She pointed at it.

The crossbow disappeared as cloth wrapped around it.  Attaching it to the spider.

Foil bowed, flourishing, before skipping up the spider-bridge to the next rooftop.

“She’s such a ham sometimes,” Parian said.

“Ham can be nice,” I said.  I was glad to get away from the other discussion.  “Ham can work.”

“I think she’s happy, hanging around with heroes again.  Old teammates.”

“Good,” I said.

“We need to do this more often.”

“Why not always?  What keeps you with the Undersiders?”

“Resources.  I still have family who need medical attention,” Parian said, quieter.

“Ah.  I remember.  I’m sorry.”

“Sometimes you make deals with the devil because the alternative is not dealing at all,” Parian said.

“You’ve been with them for how many years, now?”

“Four and a half.”

“And you still refer to them as the devil, huh?” I asked.

Parian snorted or sniffed behind her mask – the material distorted the sound and I couldn’t see her face to know which it was.

“Don’t try to convert me,” she said.  “Life’s too complicated as it is.”

“Okay.  No conversion.”

We walked in silence for a minute.  Chastity was still engaging with Precipice, but it seemed a bit safer than before now.  More normal than I’d seen her act, now that she wasn’t aggressively teasing and flirting.

“I like your costume,” Parian said.

“High praise, considering who it’s coming from.”

“I’m nobody special.  Who made it?” she asked.

“Me, teammates.  Weld did the metal decorations.”

There was a pause.  Her head turned, caught between watching out for Foil on the rooftops, managing her spider, and looking at the metalwork.

“Do you think he’d do work for pay?”

“I can always pass on a message if you want to ask.”

“I might.  It would be nice to stay in touch.  Look how much fun she’s having.”

I couldn’t quite read into body language or see what Parian meant.  Maybe if I’d known Foil for longer, I could have seen a difference.  As it was, Foil crouched on the corner of a rooftop.  She held her hand out.

“Stop,” Parian said, quiet.

We collectively stopped.

Foil moved her hand, sweeping motions.  Directing us to one side of the street, until we were at the base of one building, Foil one building ahead of us and five stories up, barely visible in the gloom.

We weren’t that far from Lyme.  In the midst of a criss-crossing of new roads and multiple buildings in progress, there was an area that wasn’t accessible by car.  This was the result putting together the reports we had from other heroes and Tattletale’s knowledge to hone in on the area Love Lost was working from.

“I’m going to talk to Foil,” I said.  When Parian nodded, I flew up to the roof.

“Are the Heartbroken behaving?” Foil asked me.

“Precipice is getting a lot of attention,” I said.  “He can’t keep his mouth shut.  Is that a power one of them is using?”

“Yeah,” Foil said.

“Fuck,” I said.

“Chastity’s pretty,” Foil said.  “He’s red blooded.  That’s the power I mean.”

“Seemed like more than that,” I said.  When that didn’t get me much of a response from Foil, who was scanning the area with her eyes, I asked, “Why did we stop?”

“No man’s land,” Foil indicated.  “See what I mean?”

I did.  We were inside the perimeter where ongoing construction, parked vehicles, and unfinished roads were limiting our access, and within that vague territory, there was a swathe where the buildings were girder and beam, surrounded by fenced-in lots.

“It’s all open space,” I said.  There wasn’t much in the way of cover.  No way to get from A to B without being seen from a block away.  Even the scant lighting to illuminate the road seemed more like it was meant to help highlight any incoming cars or catch people trying to sneak across the road in one of the five to ten times they’d need to do so, to get to the center.

“Three… maybe four buildings that they could be camping out in.”

Foil indicated, a dart in hand, the gleaming point serving to point.

“Do any of the Heartbroken here have the ability to sense emotions?”

“No.  Chastity senses bodies, but not at a distance that helps us.  Aroa has to engage.  Candy doesn’t get anything.”

“Keep an eye out?  I’ll be right back.”

Foil nodded.  I had a glimpse of her face in profile, as she surveyed the area, and I could see an enviable kind of focus and calm there.  Jaw set, eyes slightly narrowed and alert as she looked for hints in a collection of half-built neighborhoods.

I dropped to the ground.

The others were very still and somber, except for Aroa, who looked pleased, and Chastity, who had a hand firmly on Aroa’s shoulder.

“What happened?”

“Aroa happened,” Chastity said.

“I told the truth.  It’s not fair if you’re getting only half the picture.  Love is the most important thing.”

I looked at Precipice, then at Parian.

It was Parian who supplied the details.  “She said the reason Love Lost is so upset is because Precipice killed someone she loved.”

Fuck me.  These girls were such nightmares to wrangle.  I was now in full agreement that having all of the Heartbroken in one place would have been too much.

“It eats me up inside,” Precipice said.  “I didn’t kill them by acting.  I killed them by not acting.”

“Growing up with Fallen?” Chastity asked.  “Do you think that absolves you?”

“No.”

“Good,” she said.  “It doesn’t.  I’ve killed someone by not acting too.  I think.”

“A lot of people, probably,” Candy said.

“The one I’m thinking about is when you were young.  Too young to remember,” Chastity said.

“Mom?”

Chastity nodded.  “Daddy was tired of her, and he thought I was old enough to look after you and Revere.  He pushed feelings into her head.  He didn’t want her sharing evidence, so he made her scared of people.  Any people at all, she wouldn’t be able to speak because she was so freaked out.  He said he made it so she’d be happy so long as she was totally alone and there was no civilization nearby.  I’m not sure if Daddy was saying it to get us to stop crying.”

“Probably,” Aroa said.

“Yeah, and you wouldn’t just say that, right?” Chastity asked Aroa.  “I’ve told you, if you want to nettle people, you have to give them hope once in a while.”

“He probably wasn’t lying,” Candy said.  “He didn’t need to go that far to make us stop crying.  He’d just… make us stop.”

“Yeah,” Chastity said.  To Precipice, she said, “I could have said something or stopped it, I think.  To save my mom from being sent away like some dog in the movies that’s driven out to the wilderness and then left behind while the car speeds off.”

“I remember that day,” Candy said.  “It wasn’t like that.”

“It’s a simile, little sister.”

Candy shrugged.

“My thing was different,” Precipice said.  “I was older, and it was a lot of-”

“Don’t,” I interrupted him.  “Don’t work to convince them to hate you.”

He folded all four of his arms.  Two flesh, and two mechanical.  Was he so reflexive in trying to own up for his mistakes that he’d make enemies by admitting to them?

I wasn’t even sure what the right decision to make there was.

“We’ve got a wide area out there that we won’t be able to cross without being spotted.  Not if we go across.”

“Over?” Precipice guessed.

“Or under,” I said.  “If you look, you can see where the piping is being laid out where the road doesn’t cover it all yet.”

“I see it,” Precipice said.  “I’ll make a hole, then.”

Silver blades appeared in his hands.

“Wait.  We should coordinate,” I said.  “Call first.”

Precipice checked his phone.

I checked the disc with representations of each team.  Tattletale’s team was hunkered down, apparently working on tracking down Cradle.  Tattletale was also supposed to be able to keep an eye out for any pointed dangers or incoming attacks, which meant Capricorn and Sveta should be safe or safer for as long as that activity took.

I really wished I knew the particulars of her power.

A glint caught my eye.

Foil’s dart, embedded on a piece of paper.  There wasn’t anything on the side of the paper I could see, but it was yellow.

“Danger,” Parian said.

“Aroa, Candy,” Chastity said.  “Get back.  Be good until you absolutely need to step in.

Another dart, another slip of paper.  This one was red, so close to the first dart that the two squares of paper that were embedded on the dart seemed to line up.

No need to clarify.

I flew up.  The others dashed to where there was cover nearby- we were only at the fringes of the no-man’s-land, and the buildings here had fences, backyards, and piles of broken-down crating tied together with twine.  The crates had packaged food from offworld.

Below, headlights illuminated the street.  The noise the car’s tires made changed as it shifted from squeaking on contact with snow to grinding against salt and gravel, then near-silence as it touched ice, moving smoothly over the surface the winter tires gripped.

They paused in the street and people inside the car shone flashlights out the windows.

Here we were.  The patrol.

On the rooftop, ten feet from where I floated, Foil was at the spider’s side, setting up the large crossbow so it was mounted on the spider’s back.

“Did they spot us?” she asked.

“Looks like a routine patrol.”

Foil was silent, leaving the crossbow where it was, and heading to the edge of the rooftop to look down.

Below, the car went on its way.

I drew my phone from my pocket.  “I’m going to have them go underground, approach the buildings you pointed.  Give me a minute to text them.”

“Wait,” Foil said.

I waited.

The car that had passed returned.  It stopped somewhere close to where it had the first time.  Again, flashlights shone out the windows.  I could see someone leaning out.

“That’s not a patrol,” Foil said.  “Most people who are doing a perimeter check don’t check and recheck themselves.  They do the bare minimum and then they get on with their nights.  Applies to some heroes that patrol.  Learned that when I overheard some villains, a year back.”

“Doing a single loop, so as soon as the hero has come and gone, the criminals can come out of the woodwork?  That’s really dumb,” I said.

“It really is,” Foil said.  “Back when I was with the New York Wards, we’d mix it up every night, doubling back, doing loops… it helped that we had the bikes and it was an excuse to ride down subway tunnels and around any place without cars.”

I smiled.  “I fly, so… same idea.  It’s easy to cover the same ground if you move fast.”

“Gonna give my spider a pet, so Parian knows I’m alright,” Foil said, backing away from the rooftop’s edge.

I kept an eye out.  Keeping my arm and the glowing projections out of sight of the ground, I checked the others.

Both of the other teams were staying put and doing things, but it didn’t look like they were fighting.

Below, a shift in the light’s movement caught my eye.  I let my fingers drop away from the projection disc and focused on what was happening.  Or in this case, what wasn’t happening.  One beam had stopped moving.

I heard raised voices.

Fuck.  They got caught.

“What’s going on?” Foil whispered.

I mimed for silence.

A car door opened.  A man stood on the seat of the car to better look over the top of the vehicle and into the avenue between two buildings- one of which was the building Foil and I were standing on.  He added the light of his own flashlight.

A woman, the driver, was saying something.  I tried to hear, and I couldn’t make it out.  I could have flown down, but I didn’t want to risk being spotted.

I tapped one ear, while glancing at Foil.  She shook her head.

Below, the car drove away.  The man who was standing on the seat swung back inside.  I could see the gun he held as he did.  The door shut as the car rounded a corner.

The spider helped Foil drop to the street level.  I watched to ensure the coast was clear while she started, then dropped down, getting to the group’s hiding spot at the same time she did.

“He saw Candy,” Precipice said.

“I thought the coast was clear.  Why did they come back?” Candy asked.

“They had some sense that we were here already.  It could be a device or power,” I said.  “Love Lost can detect emotions, but it’s not that long a range, I don’t think.”

“And if he saw me, why didn’t he do something about it then?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “He could have decided to play it safe.  For now, let’s do the same.  We didn’t plan to pick a fight this soon.  The other teams need intel and time to get where they’re going.”

“We run,” Precipice said.  “We can stick to the same plan.  I make a hole, we use the drains and sewers.”

“Ew,” Candy said.

“Once we’re down there, we can decide if we want to go to one of those houses to investigate and see if we can’t spy on Love Lost,” Precipice said.

“Hurry,” I said.

Precipice created silver blades, and drew out a five-sided hole in the ground.  I flew up to make sure there weren’t any more cars full of armed men and women, then flew down, slamming into the pentagon.  Water splashed below.

“Ew,” Candy said.

In the distance, I heard a thud, then a laugh.

Hurry,” I told them.  I had a sense of who that thud belonged to.  “They were willing to pass the buck because they have enforcers.  They’re coming after us with powers.”

They hopped down into the tunnel, Chastity and Precipice helping.

Another thud.

A jovial bellow.

“That’s not Love Lost’s group,” I said, keeping my voice quiet as I talked to the others in the hole.  I moved aside so the spider could slip down beneath.

“Mercenaries,” Precipice said.  “Villains banding together because the heroes are.”

High above us, a shape moved through the air with enough force that it made the air shudder and cheap windows rattle in their frames.

“Lord of Loss,” I said.

I ducked down into the hole.  The Heartbroken already had their phones out, screens glowing and flashes on.  Foil and Parian had flashights they could clip to their costumes.

Precipice’s mask glowed, the red illuminating to become pink.

“That does not work nearly as well as I hoped it would,” he said, and he sounded pissed.  The glow died and he pulled out his phone, doing what the Heartbroken were doing.

Behind us, Parian’s cloth snake slipped into the hole.

“Come on,” I urged.  “Toward the houses.”

To find us, Lord of Loss would have to spot the hole in between two house lots- not impossible, not easy either, given the lighting and the glare of snow contrasted with dark pavement everywhere.  Then he would have to find which way we’d gone.  I was betting he would assume we’d headed away, not deeper into the territory in question, toward Love Lost.

The cloth spider and my flight kept the group from having to wade in freezing, ankle deep drainwater.  We covered good ground too.  There were surprising amounts of materials and piece of construction material to trip up anyone who moved fast enough that they couldn’t react to the fleeting glimpses of whatever the flashlight illuminated.  There weren’t many things that got in our way or that the spider had to slow down for.  A wheelbarrow with a broken handle, a collection of what looked like curtain rods or wooden poles.

I checked the disc.

No whole figures.  Body parts everywhere.  Scattered into air, into terrain.  All tinted yellow.  Tattletale, Sveta, Tristan, Chicken Little.

“What?” I breathed the word.

I checked the other team.

More scattered parts.  Suspended in air, unmoving, flickering like the hologram couldn’t track them.  Imp.  Ashley.  Lookout.

No, it wasn’t possible like that.

Not two teams at once, not so easily or instantaneously.

I checked my phone.  The display was flickering slightly.  I thumbed for a message to Precipice, the alarming picture on the disc still hanging off of the disc at my forearm, mounted like a buckler.

“Check your phone,” I told Precipice.

“A text?” he asked.

“From me,” I said.

He shook his head.

I tried two more times.  I heard the one go through.

He held it up for me.  Gibberish.

“We’re being scrambled.”

“Shit,” he muttered.  Even with the word being scarcely a whisper, the drain carried the sound.  “Could be tinkertech defenses.  Keeping Lookout’s cameras out of it.”

“Maybe,” I said.

Candy’s phone flickered, and then both screen and flash went dark.  The other two phones died simultaneously, plunging us into the darkness.

It was only because of that darkness that we could see the faint hue of pink.  A glow, like light through a curtain, and the sides of the drain were curtains.

In the silence, as none of us spoke, I could hear a dull sound, a hum with no source, and I could hear chiming, discordant, struggling to find its rhythm.

Nursery.

The images on the disc were getting scattered further, blinking in and out, each reiteration putting body parts further and further from the source.  The mode switched, and I could see that there were symbols, large and blunt, that Lookout was trying to transmit.

The noises of Nursery’s power effect were getting louder, and they reverberated down the drain.  The effect was taking hold too, distorting the tunnel.

No slurps and wet noises yet.

On the disc, there was one last projected image I could make out.  Three large arrows, pointing at a single dot.

Three forces converging on one?  I had the impression that it wasn’t the signal to mount our coordinated attack.  No, this was too ’emergency alert’ with the big bold symbols.

The humming and chiming swelled, the chiming finding it stride with more coordination, less discordant, now more disconcerting because the off-notes were spaced far enough away to catch the ear off guard.

One of our teams was being attacked, and we were stuck against a brute strong enough he wouldn’t go down unless he was permanently put down, and a shaker-master nightmare I most definitely did not want to fight on her turf.

The disc was flickering to the point that it was off nine seconds out of every ten, and nonsense the last second.  Even with that, the broken-up models that put heads twenty feet from the associated bodies were an ominous warning of what was at stake.  I had to assume the worst hadn’t happened, because the distorted images I was getting from the disc put body parts in mid-air, and had a computer-glitch kind of logic or arrangement to them.

They knew we were here, they had prepared with stalling tactics and organized assault against one of our groups, they had the device responsible for the Navigators incident, and they had the willingness to use it.

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77 thoughts on “Blinding – 11.5”

      1. I wonder how long it will take until she admits defeat, and asks Bonesaw to help her folks (assuming they still need surgical help, and not just psychotherapy).

        1. It is also interesting how situation with Bonesaw and Parian’s family seems to be similar to the one with Amy and Victoria. In both cases the perpetrator would want nothing more than be given chance to right their wrong, and it is the victim (or victims in case of Parian’s family), who won’t trust the perpetrator to accept the help.

          If Parian will end up going to Bonesaw, and Victoria will have a chance to see them interact, will it let Victoria understand her sister’s position better?

          1. Not really considering that your example involves Parian consenting to Riley’s help.

            As opposed to Amy trying to covertly touch Victoria in a dark room.

          2. Well, chances are that ever since Gold Morning Parian was just as eager to ask for Bonesaw’s help, as Victoria’s willing to let Amy touch her, but I can imagine a situation when Parian will see no other option but to go to this particular devil, and it could be a push for Victoria to do the same with Amy later, especially of she sees how much Riley wants to do what she can to fix the results of her past deeds.

            My interpretation is that Amy and Riley are both very remorseful, and want to somehow make up for what they did to their victims, and using their powers to help those victims may be a way to do it. Victoria has a problem with seeing it in Amy, because she is still obviously quite biased against Amy, but she may be more objective when it comes to Bonesaw.

            Victoria may even be the one to convince Parian to seek Bonesaw’s help, and only later realize that if Parian can give Bonesaw her second chance, she needs to give the same chance to Amy. We know that Victoria just LOVES to give people good advice, she has a problem to apply to herself. It could be just another one of those cases.

          3. The problem with Victoria and Amy is not that Victoria doesn’t trust in Amy’s intentions. It’s that she’s traumatized and Amy’s a huge trigger, and the genuinely best thing Amy can do to help her right now is stay away. Because she gets assaulted by flashbacks and dissociation and dysphoria and absolutely none of these things have any relationship with Amy’s /present/ intentions. She’d offered Victoria to wipe her memories. Victoria declined. That’s the only thing she could have done, and that avenue’s closed, and that’s it.

            The kindest thing Amy can do to Victoria is stay away.

            And Victoria is not wrong in trying to keep her sanity.

          4. That might have been the case earlier, but now Victoria’s flashbacks seem to be not that much of an issue anymore, and it seems that her main problem with Amy is slowly becoming Victoria’s lack of trust. Not that I think that if Amy suddenly appeared in front of Victoria now, Victoria would not react with a flashback or something along those lines, but she is probably getting there, since she seems to be able to at least think and talk about Amy without immediately loosing it.

            And I don’t think that the situation between the sisters will be resolved without at least one more confrontation between them. Ultimately Amy will simply never accept Victoria never talking to her again. A confrontation during which Victoria will need to be able to be calm enough to be at least able to talk and listen to Amy. I believe seeing a confrontation between Parian and Bonesaw could help Victoria prepare herself to talk with her sister again.

            I’m also not saying that the talk between Amy and Victoria will go smoothly, or lead to a happy ending. I just think that it’s bound to happen at some point, and Victoria needs to be better prepared for it than she already is.

          5. And I don’t think it is just Amy. Sooner or later Victoria will want some sort of resolution or closure with Amy. Even if this closure will be mutual agreement to never meet again (though I doubt this is what is going to happen).

          6. All of the above is probably mostly a baseless speculation anyway. Parian had years before Gold Morning to get her family help. They probably don’t need surgeries, or even physiotherapy anymore – just plenty of psychotherapy. Most that could happen between Parian and Bonesaw at this point is probably a hypothetical discussion about whether Bonesaw would help Parian’s folks now, if she could, and I think that such discussion would be both unlikely to happen (since Sabah no longer needs surgeon’s help), and probably would have less impact on anyone involved than an actual request for help.

            That is unless Bonesaw’s work with Sabah’s family was thorough enough that no other surgeon in the world can undo it correctly, which is something I would not put past Riley, especially when she was in full “monster bio-tinker of Slaughterhouse Nine” mode.

            Apropos Bonesaw’s work that could be left undone… Could S9000 clones be disabled with Riley’s remote again? Was it ever answered on way ot the other? If so – who has or can construct the remote(s) at the moment? I imagine the answers to those questions could be important for people like Ashleys, Number Man clones, and other S9000 survivors, if there are any around? What is the remote’s range? How selective can it be? What needs to happen for a disabled clone to be able to act normally again? Just what “disabling” do exactly? How did “Ashley the villain” end up in prison? Did the authorities capture her using the remote?

            I wonder if we will ever get answers to those questions, and how bad will those answers be for the involved clones.

          7. Another thing – perhaps it won’t be Parian who will ask Bonesaw for help. Perhaps it will be Bonesaw who will offer help on her own. Maybe she already did. I could also see Victoria or Ashley suggesting such solution to either Parian or Bonesaw.

          8. For that matter, I think we didn’t ever see Parian’s family playing some role other than props which Parian has to care about. Even Nilbog’s minions were shown to have more personality than them. But they could be perfectly capable to ask for help on their own if this ever changes.

          9. Sure, except I suspect they would be even more affraid to do it than Parian would. Not to mention that Parian is closer than her folks to people who could put her in contact with Bonesaw. It is not like other residents of Dolltown know Swansong for example. There is a good chance that Tattletale could contact Bonesaw (if and when she’s back) as easily as Swansong could, but I guess that Parian’s family would for obvious reasons prefer to conduct their business with Undersiders via Parian herself.

        2. The real issue I don’t get is that she’s been with the Undersiders for 4.5 years but her family/friends are STILL afflicted!?

          I mean, I can understand that it’d be hard to get help for the last two years since gold morning but surely she was able to get money for the operations and time for them before then.

          Best assumption is that they’re only part way through their treatment and it needs more work over more time to correct.

    1. On the topic of errors in text, here is a typo:

      “I m flattered, but even if it wasn’t really weird, even though she and I aren’t together and might never be-”

      Should be “I’m[…]”.

      1. We’d broken up the groups, and the reasoning for why we’d broken it up had me thinking about my early thoughts in the days of Breakthrough.

        We’d had concerns that the Undersiders would act in good faith.

        The Heartbroken were more volatile as more of them were gathered into a single unit.

        resentful of the fact that her nice home now smelled like gasoline – a smell had soaked into floorboards and furniture.
        -that had

        They’d wanted to go after Love Lost, working on the assumptions that Love Lost didn’t like hurting kids and it was a squad with a lot of kids on it.

        Three heartbroken, Chicken Little, Sveta, and Capricorn, with Tattletale
        Imp, ‘Florence’, two heartbroken, Lookout, and Swansong.

        The image shifted, and the group of people were tinted red.

        This was the result putting together the reports we had from other heroes and Tattletale’s knowledge to hone in on the area Love Lost was working from.

        “It’s all open space,” I said. There wasn’t much in the way of cover. No way to get from A to B without being seen from a block away. Even the scant lighting to illuminate the road seemed more like it was meant to help highlight any incoming cars or catch people trying to sneak across the road in one of the five to ten times they’d need to do so, to get to the center.
        -road, singular? I don’t understand why they’d need to cross a single road that many times.

        Foil’s dart, embedded on a piece of paper. There wasn’t anything on the side of the paper I could see, but it was yellow.
        “Danger,” Parian said.
        “Aroa, Candy,” Chastity said. “Get back. Be good until you absolutely need to step in.
        -step in unquote
        -embedded on sounds wrong to me

        approach the buildings you pointed.
        -pointed out.

        amounts of materials and piece of construction material
        -pieces

        We covered good ground too. There were surprising amounts of materials and piece of construction material to trip up anyone who moved fast enough that they couldn’t react to the fleeting glimpses of whatever the flashlight illuminated. There weren’t many things that got in our way or that the spider had to slow down for. A wheelbarrow with a broken handle, a collection of what looked like curtain rods or wooden poles.
        -mixed messages

        finding it stride with more coordination,
        -its

        1. a smell had soaked > the smell
          result putting together > result of putting together
          materials and piece of construction materials (suggest construction materials and debris)

  1. Rain’s life is so much shit that he has to work out his love life issues with psychopathic emotion manipulators. And now, he gets to fight the brute of all brutes and screaming monster babies that want to completely annihilate him by ripping him apart while still alive.

    Poor Rain.

    1. I really want Lord of Loss and Lung to find themselves on opposite sides of a fight. A Brute/Breaker that gets stronger every time they hit something against a Brute/Changer that gets stronger the longer a fight goes on for. Should be interesting.

      1. I’m pretty sure Lung would win, as he’s fought Leviathan and won, and unless he’s scum enough to not help against the End ringers then I feel like we would have known about his skills.

        1. Lots of capes who weren’t scum didn’t fight the Endbringers. If for no other reason, there was usually little to no warning for their attacks and you have to actually travel to the battle site. A villain without some sort of connection to the Protectorate infrastructure that moved the capes to the fights is going to sitting out those fights even if he was willing. Also, the Protectorate didn’t send in their whole roster either. I think that they offered as pay bump if you signed up to be on call to deal with S Class threats, so it’s obviously implied that some significant number didn’t go. Others wouldn’t be deployed against specific Endbringers for various tactical/psychological reasons.

          In the Brockton Bay fight, most of the villains that I recognized there were local capes gathered to protect their home. I don’t know of any villain other than Bambina who traveled to the Bay.

          1. Biter and Barker turned up then. Coil employed them after Leviathan, but whether they explicitly turned up for the fight or if they were headed that way/in town already is unclear.

            Also, if Skitter and Regent had sat out the Leviathan fight, I don’t think anyone would have minded too much. One’s a master that controls bugs and can’t hurt Leviathan (except she did, with Armsmaster’s halberd), the other’s a master that hijacks people’s nervous systems and is therefore basically a normal person as far as Leviathan’s concerned. Lots of capes who don’t think they can help- either because they’re too weak, too specialised, need too much preparation, too far away or too injured- probably sit out even if they’re local. I couldn’t see Edict volunteering even if she’s in the next town over to the one being hit.

  2. Oh boy, this was a neat setup. Not only do we get some slice-of-lifery from the Heartbroken (Chastity is amazingly amusing) but also recurring opponents returning.

    LoL and company would have made daunting opponents even on their own, but backing Love Lost’s group as they are now? I dread the outcome of this coming fight.

    1. Funny thing is I thought LOL was pretty good about the rules, but what happened with the Wanderers is the sort of thing that really pushes them, and I’d think is the sort of shit that got the S9 kill orders and everyone hating them.

      1. Sure, but LOL isn’t working with the people who attacked the Navigators, whoever they were. Very mysterious. He’s working with an ordinary Warlord, Love Lost. She had nothing to do with it.

        1. Uhhh did you miss the Sidepiece interlude?
          Cradle was the one who attacked the navigators. Love Lost absolutely has something to do with it.

          1. We know this because we read the interlude. Lord of Loss probably did not read the interlude, and that was Olivebirdy’s point. It’s entirely possible that he’s not quite aware of what sort of company he’s keeping.

            Of course, it’s also possible that he’s perfectly aware and is in fact responsible for some of the monster-form evidence found at the Navigators attack.

      2. Well… it’s possible that LoL and Nursery are just supposed to occupy them while another team is attacked by the main force.

        However Victoria’s force should be the most attractive target. It has both Foil and Precepice who are the key targets of both March and Cradle/LoveLost

  3. Just how lucky were they to find a sewer high enough that they not only didn’t have to crawl in, but could even use the spider to help them move?

    On the other hand, how long do you think will it take for all lights to go completely out, and for Victoria to freak out because of it?

    As for the Kenzie’s message – it looks like LL, Cradle and March are making a coordinated strike. The question is on which group? Victoria’s? If the Villains can identify which group has which capes, going after the one with Foil and Precipice makes most sense. If they are not going after Victoria’s group, will we get to see it through another interlude, or will we need to piece it together from broken attempts in communication, and the eventual aftermath?

    1. By the way, the last interlude was labeled 11.a. Looks like a deliberate attempt to hide how many interludes there will be in this Arc, but could also suggest that we can expect a lot of them.

    2. I think the city is largely designed and built with cape help. Of course it will be suitable for cape fights!

      1. It is also built in a hurry, probably with insufficient materials. If a narrow pipe would do, I would not expect them to use a wide pipe, or construct a proper corridor instead.

          1. I suspect that the most likely setup would be narrow pipes leading to wider ones. This is why I said they were lucky to find a wide one – total sum of lengths of narrow pipes is probably many times larger than of the wide ones.

          2. When London introduced the Underground rail network, the earliest tunnels were placed under existing roads, as it was easier to dig up roads than dig up buildings. Presumably the City works similarly, as this way it can build the tunnels whilst it’s building the buildings the tunnels service.

          3. Well I’m definitely not an expert but, as far as I know placing infrastructure like storm drains, water, and sewage pipes, power and telephone lines, etc. beneath streets is pretty much a standard procedure in big cities all over the world these days. It still doesn’t mean that every drain pipe under every street needs to be wide enough for a person to be able to stand inside, and building actual tunnels instead of pipes to serve as storm drains is rare nowadays, as far as I can tell, so unless someone wants to recreate nineteenth century drain and sewage system underneath the City for some reason, I would say that at least to me it is surprising that Victoria’s group found what they did underground.

          4. The reason I can think of is visual inspection and maintenance. When a pipe bursts, it needs fixing. If it’s buried, finding the exact broken area is pretty hard. If it’s in a tunnel, replacing and repair doesn’t take that much effort. In addition, Gimel is populated by people from Bet, for whom the last thirty years of architecture and civil engineering included massive bunkers and shelters to protect people from Endbringers. The Endbringers have been dormant for two years, and the bunkers and shelters weren’t sufficient to save against Scion. But there’s a history there, so the builders might be building safe rooms and evacuation tunnels and bunkers because that’s what they’re used to building on projects this scale.

          5. As for visual inspection (and cleaning) of sewage and drain pipes it can, and often is, done by specialists (who will provide be soon replaced by robots) equipped to crawl in pipes too narrow to walk in. When something breaks you probably still need to dig your way in to replace what was broken, and replacing a narrow pipe is probably much faster and cheaper than a large one. If you build a proper tunnel than (considering modern construction equipment) in many cases it may still be more problematic to clean whatever blocked it from the inside than just to replace a section of equivalent pipe.

            The only reason I could see to bring some of this infrastructure (especially power and communication lines) above ground, is if there is a risk of damage to those happening very often, either because the ground is very wet, or the area is highly seismically active. In such cases it may be easier to just keep those lines in places where there is an easy access to them, so they can be quickly fixed, when broken.

            As far as I can tell neither of those problems apply to the City, though I guess it could explain why above ground power lines seem so popular in Japan for example. All they need is a good system that quickly turns off power in sections of the grid, which may be damaged by earthquakes at the moment to reduce the risk of electrocution.

            It would also explain why gas pipes are rarely used in Japan to provide heating, or gas for stoves in houses for example. As far as I know they use mostly electricity or bottled gas or oil for those purposes in Japan which makes sense, because any leaks in extensive gas pipeline systems could be both more difficult to find and repair, and potentially much more dangerous than the alternatives, and I suspect earthquakes can mean a lot of such leaks.

            The City however is in nowhere near as bad situation as Japan when it comes to earthquakes, so it just makes sense to keep all this infrastructure underground there.

    3. That’s probably not a sewer, it’s probably a storm drain. Storm drains are designed to move as much water as fast as possible, that means wide. They’re also intended for waste/excess water, not sewage. Lots of people get them confused, and cowboy builders (that’s a British term for rogue traders who don’t have the skills or qualifications to do the jobs they’re advertising themselves to do) will drain anything into a storm drain rather than find a proper sewer.

      Also, don’t forget that resources are tight, all resources. Concrete’s rather easy to manufacture, unlike the diggers needed to dig up any pipes that burst or need repair later. Large corridors are better for visual inspections.

      1. I’ve also thought just how likely the City is to have separate storm drain, and sewage systems (and to what extent they are separated), just to see how much Candy’s “Ew” comment about going underground was justified. Considering that Victoria doesn’t immediately think about how badly it smells inside, I also think that it is probably a storm drain.

        Still if what I read about Warsaw Uprising is anything to go by (and considering that I’m Polish I suspect that I read more about it than most people here), even storm drains can be narrow enough to require people to crawl in them. In fact because of it storm drains were often the only way to move over long distances underground in Warsaw, as sewers (which were usually placed lower than storm drains) were full, while storm drains were mostly empty dude to late Summer and early Fall of 1944 being rather dry in Warsaw.

        It still could be nightmarish experience. I read accounts of people who remembered crawling for literal HOURS in drains so tight that if a person crawling in front of them could not continue going on for any reason, anyone behind them would be stuck, because there really was no way to either bypass the person blocking the way, or to turn around.

        If you add to it that sometimes tens of thousands of people (not all of them resistance soldiers) from districts about to be overrun by the Germans used those drains to evacuate to districts that were still safe, and that they did it underneath German troops, who were perfectly aware that the Poles were using those drains for this purpose, AND were trying to prevent it by doing everything from throwing hand grenades to pumping gas into the drains whenever they heared movement underneath the streets they held, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that a very high percentage of people, who attempted evacuating this way, did not survive the trip.

        Compared to this Victoria’s group situation sounds almost luxurious… At least until they will have to start fighting other capes who come after them into the drain (one thing Germans never attempted in Warsaw, precisely because they were afraid of fighting in such conditions). I imagine that facing Nursery’s power will be an absolute nightmare in a place like this.

        1. I’m not convinced the City has a full sewage system yet. I think the City relies on cess pits, like rural areas of England. It’s going to be easier to dig really big holes and get trucks to pump them out every fortnight to a month than dig a whole other level of pipes underneath the city you’re building, ones which can’t be too close to the water pipes because of cross contamination.

          1. Possibly, though between the fact that the city is built along the coastline, the fact that everything needs to be built so desperately quickly, and the fact that it is so big already (which probably limits practicality of holes – I’m no expert, but I suspect that they really work only in sparsely populated areas), I would suspect that a lot of the sewage is just dumped to the ocean or nearby rivers (hopefully downstream from water intakes) with little to no processing.

          2. They would need emptying more often in a more populated area, but yeah. You’d need/want some space around it to prevent the spread of disease and reduce contamination. Dumping it in rivers/the sea seems very likely, if also a little foolish. The ocean’s a good source of food, and near the coast and in estuaries that food is easiest to access.

          3. On the other hand if the city doesn’t have a complete sewage system yet, then finding a drain as wide as the one they found, seems even less likely, unless they built storm drain system without a parallel “proper” sewage system, which is possible, and even likely considering how rushed all construction is, though it just means even more problems in the future, as they will need to dig trenches in the same, or similar places again to install sewage pipes next to the drains. Makes sense in the countryside, where the systems don’t need to be parallel (it makes sense to put drains, and not sewers underneath fields sometimes), but not in a big city, where it is usually cheapest and fastest to put both beneath the same streets, when you build those streets in the first place.

          4. Also dumping communal sewage into rivers, seas or oceans isn’t that bad as far as damaging seafood goes. The real problem is usually industry, especially mining, heavy or chemical industries. Still, considering how on one hand they need to build quickly, and on the other hand – they are very few people on a planet with almost untapped natural resources, they will probably not worry about processing any sewage, except maybe the most poisonous industrial stuff.

          5. Have you ever eaten a mussel or an oyster? They’re filter-feeders, easy to farm and harvest. They’ll also give you food poisoning or worse if they’ve been eating untreated sewage. Sometimes even if they’ve been eating treated sewage, too. At best, they need more preparation than on our Earth, since on Gimel they have guts filled with human waste. At worst, they’re totally inedible and a large, easy source of food is just sat in the ocean, hopelessly contaminated with cholera and worse.

            I think they probably have sewage systems now, and this is just a storm drain.

          6. Sure, but it is probably MUCH easier to do your fishing far enough away from the city for it to not be a problem than to build a proper sewage treatment infrastructure at this point. It is not like there is a shortage of coastline completely untouched by man on Gimel at this point, and even something as big as the City won’t change it for many, many years.

            There will be long-term consequences of dumping sewage straight to the ocean of course, but at this point probably nobody cares about long-term. People are freezing to death and need proper shelters right now, and while food can be simply imported form off world, or grown, hunted etc. away from the City, and just transported there, it is not so simple with buildings and other city infrastructure.

          7. Except there is. Ships need fuel to move, unless they’re sail boats which require more effort to use. Fish brought in from further away aren’t as fresh, unless they’re frozen, which needs fuel (and won’t be done on a sailboat, since if you’re powering a freezer, you might as well power a propeller, and a rudder). And ships also need either building or importing, and most of the portals are pretty land-locked so getting a ship to it isn’t easy.

          8. It probably still needs much less fuel (at least short-term) to send those ships further than to build a proper sewage treatment system. Those building materials for the treatment plants won’t make and put themselves together into sewage treatment facilities. All of it needs a lot of heavy machinery, which in turn needs fuel. Cities generally consider building sewage treatment facilities an expensive, long-term investments, and often either go into debt, or apply for funding from the government (depending what is possible in a given country) to construct those facilities. In EU cities in poorer countries can sometimes get some funds for such projects from EU funds themselves, meaning that richer EU countries effectively pitch in to build such things in their poorer neighbors.

            On top of it such treatment plants are generally constucted in rich, politicaly stable parts of the world. In other places people generally need to either avoid fishing, farming etc. in contaminated places, or deal with risk of food contamination. The City is neither rich, nor politicaly stable, so I expect that proper sewage treatment is not high on their list of priorities right now. Maybe in a couple of decades… Especially considering what Victoria said about people from Dryad Project 3 in chapter 10.12:

            “That’s the issue. It wasn’t saving the planet from Endbringers or other threats. It was saving us from ourselves. Pollution, deforestation, ecology all things that have their validity… on Earth Aleph. People didn’t buy it. And if people aren’t buying, how do the sponsors get the money they invested back?”

            Gimel may not face threats like Endbringers at the moment, but also has more pressing problems than ecology or food safety (at least on the level our people in developed countries are used to), and the people close to City government know that there are plenty S-class threats, and problems of similar magnitude (like war with Cheit) coming.

  4. “Maybe he needed to get stuff off his chest, and for some reason was deciding on this venue.”

    Should this be “avenue”?

  5. My money is on Tattletale’s group being the target, and when things go REALLY bad Tristan wont switch to byron so he wont have to deal with what happened to the navigators. the heartboken and Chicken Little are kids so might be safe, Sveta might not be able to be affected by it, either due to not having an actual body or being a case 53, but Capricorn and Tattletale… i dont think they are gonna get off so easy. Also the idea that Antares has to rescue Tattletale is deliciously tempting.

    1. Interestingly if Capricorn was hit by it, it could be possible that only one of the brothers will be affected by what happened to Navigators, letting the other brother act when the villains least expect it. It would also be interesting to see where the unaffected brother would end up, if the affected one was spread out all over the place, or even have some of his organs taken away. Not to mention where those bits would end up, when the brothers switched back again.

    2. I actually think the target is going to be Victoria’s group.
      It avoids the trouble of going after a thinker like Tattletale, and it has the most valuable targets in it.
      March wants Foil, Love Lost and Cradle want Precipice.
      Turns out in keeping the wolves from the chickens, they put all the eggs in one basket.

      1. My bet is also on Victoria’s group IF the villains can tell where Foil and Precipice are, which I’m not entirely sure they can do. Still, depending how far the three groups are from each other pressure of LoL and Nursery may indicate that Victoria’s group is the main target (if other groups are too far to effectively help each other in case of an attack), or that it is NOT the main target (if the groups are close enough, in which case someone like LoL and Nursery is present to pin Victoria’s group down, so it can’t help the ones LL, Cradle and March are after at the moment).

      2. The attack being on Victoria’s group would also mean that we got to see via Victoria’s POV. Otherwise, we’d have to have an interlude for a direct narration and we’d likely just get Victoria receiving reports from the survivors or her reconstructing the battle based on evidence left behind. (I think Kenzie’s past camera is out of commission for the time being).

  6. So… give that we are in the middle of the Cluster story arch… with LL, cradle and March as enemies… does it strike anyone as important that V’s group contains both Rain and Foil?

    Possibly just paranoia… but still… if one group was going to get hammered based on group composition….

  7. Nursery is the super creepy one with the writhing baby bed things right? Cause that chick freaks me the hell out. I really really hope we don’t get to see what’s in them. But on the other hand, I’m really really curious about it. Aaggh I’m so confused now. Feel bad for precipice. Dude just can’t catch a damn break. Nice to see the heartbroken doing stuff. They’re a pretty fun group. In a scary sort of way. Do we know what candy’s power is? And chastity’s body sensing thing, is that all it is? Or is there more? Is Parian really still just trying to get money? You’d think working with the warlords of Brockton Bay would’ve been a pretty lucrative business. Even discounting the ill gotten gains, they would’ve made tons from their legitimate ventures right? Didn’t they own a whole bunch of land and businesses under Sierra’s name? Seems she should’ve had everything paid off already. Is she a really bad spender?

    1. It’s long-term care for seriously injured family members, and also at the end of the world, everyone lost everything they couldn’t carry or reasonably claim for their own. It’s why Lord of Loss is doing mercenary work, despite Vicky mentioning early on he robbed banks by whaling on the side of the vault until his power made him strong enough to drag the whole vault away. And also despite the fact he seems to rule an agricultural earth that provides food for Gimel. Sierra’s land and businesses are either hers, or now belong to the residents who actually live in and work there, since bits of paper with fancy writing about ownership means less now there’s no courts to enforce an eviction notice.

      1. I was meaning more in the 2 and change years in between Taylor leaving the Bay and the end of the world. They owned half of Brockton Bay from taking over all of Coil’s stuff, plus they were in prime position to stake a claim on all the land on the other side of the portal were they not? She should’ve been able to get her friends and family all fixed up before the world ended. Money shouldn’t’ve been an issue fore her. I would imagine time would be the priority really. She’d need someone skilled, and a lot of their time but she’s a freaking Undersider, so finding someone and paying them shouldn’t have been too difficult I don’t think
        Also, didn’t Marquis rule that earth and NOT LoL
        And because I can’t edit my comment from before, I’ll add it on here: Precipice is about the worst person to be going up against Nursery. She has a mad hate-on for people who kill kids right? And he’s responsible (at least in part) for the death of Love Lost’s kid right? I’d imagine she’s gonna want to hurt him bad.

      2. I was speaking more about the 2 and change years between Taylor leaving the Undersiders and the world ending. The undersiders owned half of the Bay and had a good claim on the land on the other side of the portal. They put it under Sierras name, but it WAS theirs. She should’ve had enough money to get her friends and family help in that time.

        Also, didn’t marquis rule that earth with LoL as his figurehead?

    2. No, Nursery is the nice lady whose parababy opted out of being born. Her parababy is the one with the penchant for creating creepy nursery scenes.

      Or so she claims.

  8. What do you think are the chances that whichever group is the primary target of March and co. at the moment, will get saved by dog cavalry?

    1. There are also other options- Snuff, Palaquin, Lisa’s mercs, but I hope it will be Bitch and her dogs, or at least that she will be a part of the rescue force.

  9. One of our teams was being attacked, and we were stuck against a brute strong enough he wouldn’t go down unless he was permanently put down

    So basically Foil needs to fire for effect, is what I’m hearing here.

    1. It would need to involve some trick shooting, considering that Foil would not want to go for the kill, so any shot would be both disabling and not life-threatening at the same time. It was a tricky balance to strike with Taylor, who had a normal human body, and ended up needing a surgery after Flechette hit her in Worm. I imagine it would be far more difficult to do with Lord of Loss in his breaker form.

      1. If Foil remembers even a slight bit of what Khepri had her do, she should be aware her Sting can basically anchor anything it embeds itself in through dimensions, forcing them to a standstill.
        I don’t think LoL has any special immunity to this effect on his own but Nursery’s field transforms projectiles into harmless fluff, so it’s going to boil down to team coordination and power synergy.

        1. > I don’t think LoL has any special immunity to this effect

          To the effect that not even Scion was immune to? Yeah, I think not 🙂 I think Nursery won’t have much more luck with it either.

      2. That would be hard. She wouldn’t have a problem killing him, but if she wants to pin him down, a strong brute can just tear through her projectile and/or his own pinned body parts. It was possible with Taylor because she’s not a brute.

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