Interlude – 11.b

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Two Hours Ago

Colt winced as Love Lost threw a gun at Nailbiter with no apparent intent to make it a gentle or careful throw.  It wasn’t because of anger, but because she trusted Nailbiter to handle it.  Nailbiter extended a finger to thread the trigger-guard, before using an overlong finger to slap the gun into her waiting left hand.

Nailbiter seemed to consider for a moment, dark eyes catching all of the lights as she looked down at the lump of metal.  She gripped it by the barrel and held it out toward Nursery.

“Oh no,” Nursery said.  “I don’t believe in guns.  I have to be a good example, you know.”

Lord of Loss chuckled.

They were gathered outdoors, with members of the gang coming and going.  Some weapons, some food, multiple cars being loaded up, gassed up with plastic jugs.  Breath fogged in the air, except for those who didn’t apparently breathe.  Lord of Loss was one.

Colt, Love Lost, and Nailbiter were standing near the door, with Nailbiter taking things as they were handed to her, or pointing when someone held something up for her, designating a vehicle.  Lord of Loss, Spruce, Nursery, and Unbound were standing off to one side, the latter three wearing their winterized costumes.

The rest of the group was already by one vehicle.  The powered didn’t have to carry or haul.  Colt wasn’t being asked to carry or haul, but that wasn’t a good thing.

“Keep the peace at the Lyme Center,” Nailbiter addressed the mercenaries.  Colt barely noticed the whistling ‘s’ sounds anymore.  “One or two of you can wait there.  It won’t need attention unless someone gets stupid.  Picks a fight, gets drunk, doesn’t matter.”

“What kind of response do you want?” Lord of Loss asked.

Love Lost paused, meeting Nailbiter’s eyes.

Nailbiter supplied the answer.  “Dramatic, but not dramatically violent.  These people are ours.  If you act and use powers, mention our names.”

“Then we’ll put Spruce there.  He’s used to keeping order,” Lord of Loss said.

“And he’s bounding back from the flu, poor dear,” Nursery said.  “It’s good if he’s somewhere warm.”

“Don’t tell them that,” Spruce said.  “I’m well enough for whatever needs doing.  I can keep things calm, resolve disputes.  When you say mention your names, I should say, hm, ‘Love Lost wouldn’t want this’?”

Love Lost nodded, a firm motion.  Her heels clicked and scraped on the floor as she took something one of the henchmen had brought from upstairs.  A belt that sat askew on her hips.  A rigging of claw-work and thin metal bars that formed a half-circle around her upper arm, reaching almost to the shoulder.  It took a second of work to get the  rigging to attach to the existing work that reached her elbow.

She made a motion with her arm.  The claw that was attached to her hand swept in a half-circle, slapping into place at the upper arm, while the configuration of bars and blades at her bicep slapped into place over waiting forearm, hand, and fingers.  She made a backhand motion, and the new, smaller set of claws uncoiled like five slinkies, with a sound like a hundred tiny swords being drawn from their sheaths, then sheathed again as they returned to their normal claw shape.

Cool.  Scary but cool.

Or was it scary- cool but scary?  Colt wasn’t sure.  She wasn’t in Love Lost’s graces and that was a problem.  Love Lost disposed of problems.

“Only the one?” Nailbiter asked.

Love Lost tapped her wrist, claw-blade striking metal bars there.

“What’s she mean?” the mercenary in orange asked.

“No time to get the second one done,” Nailbiter told him, keeping her eyes on Love Lost.  No disagreement there, Colt noted.

But Love Lost did tap her wrist again.

“And we should go,” Nailbiter said.  Love Lost nodded, firm once again.  “Those of you who aren’t at the Lyme center, keep an eye on our place.  Cradle thinks they’ll come for us.  If they do, we want them to find you instead.  Protect our headquarters.  Don’t mess around there.  It’s trapped.”

“We can guard it,” the giant shell of a man said.

“I could add my own traps,” Nursery said.  “If they get close I’ll know where they are.  If they get too close, my baby can pacify them.”

Love Lost gave the go-ahead to Nailbiter.

“The stairwell,” Nailbiter said.

“Enclosed spaces.  Anything I can seal shut, without the power leaking out.  I was thinking of the refrigerator.”

“It’s a pantry under the stairs.  I’ll show you,” Nailbiter said.

Love Lost held the door open for Nursery, then followed her in.

“Or she will.  She knows where all of the traps are,” Nailbiter said.

Colt felt intimidated, surrounded by the people who were here.  Lord of Loss was huge, and had a big personality.  The other mercenary had quality, and the thugs they’d chosen to surround themselves with were big enforcer types, like they’d taken their pick of the largest five percent of guys from over in Earth N.

Colt’s dad had once said that he liked people who surrounded themselves with smart people, because they weren’t insecure.  It was the same thing here.  They surrounded themselves with big, strong guys and they didn’t look any less powerful in comparison, even though Spruce was a skinny guy and Nursery was barely any taller than Colt was.

It was uncomfortable, thinking about her dad.

On her side, Nailbiter was skinny, even rangy, and Colt liked that last word because it made her think of the range, of steer and cattle and that thought made her think of beef jerky.  Love Lost was lithe like a jungle cat, and some people were like that.  Beast of Burden had had that bullish quality to him, even when unarmored.  But Nailbiter?  Nailbiter was less beef and more jerky.  Salt and grit in personality and quality, everything in her condensed down, her hair dried up with bleach and her brown skin abraded here and there, lips chapped or scraped up with the nails, a cut on one eyelid.

“Sidepiece,” Nailbiter called out.  Sidepiece was sitting on the hood of a running car.  Disjoint leaned against the edge of the hood, feet on the ground and back to his girlfriend, and had Sidepiece’s legs pressed against his arms, knees by his shoulders, while she did something with his hair.  They were casual, even lovey-dovey, while Kitchen Sink and Hookline stood by, stiff and looking like kicked dogs.  Hookline had one hand at the elbow of his other arm, head down, while Kitchen Sink had his arms folded, shoulders drawn forward.

In the same doghouse as me, Colt reminded herself.

“What do you want?” Sidepiece asked.

“Show the mercenaries around.  Key areas.”

“There’s not much,” Sidepiece protested.

Nailbiter’s already hard expression took on a harder cast.

Rolling her eyes so hard that her head moved with it, Sidepiece disengaged from her boyfriend and hopped down.

“Thank you,” Nailbiter said, to Sidepiece and Disjoint.  Her smile was all nails and one screw.  Sidepiece gave her another eye roll.

Leaving Nailbiter and Colt alone.  Well, alone except for the people who were loading up trucks with basic supplies

Fuck, Colt thought.  That was on purpose.  It was cold, and the chill that came over her made her feel even colder.  Nailbiter still had the gun.

“What are you going to do?” Nailbiter asked.

“Do I even have a choice?” Colt asked.

“If you did, what would you do?” the woman asked her.

Colt shivered, jamming her hands in her pocket, ducking her head down.  “I don’t know.”

“You need to know,” Nailbiter said.  “I’m sure you can guess why Sidepiece isn’t asked to watch you.  You’re not that stupid.”

Colt shook her head.  Her hair was a mess and she couldn’t bring herself to fix it.

“Disjoint handles it sometimes.  Love Lost sometimes,” Nailbiter said.  “But it’s usually me.  Do you know why?”

“Because you’re the one who’s going to kill me, if she decides it needs to be done.  The others aren’t reliable for that kind of thing.”

There wasn’t an immediate response.  Trunks and car doors slammed.  Some men turned to give Nailbiter a thumbs up.  She responded with a motion of her hand.

“We talked about it,” Nailbiter said.  “She draws the line at a certain age.  You’re over it.  The question is if you’re a kid.”

Colt’s first attempt at speaking failed.  When she tried again, her voice was closer to being a whistle or hiss in Nailbiter’s voice than a normal person’s voice would be.  “And?”

“And I want to know what you’re doing right here, right now.  Are you coming here?  Are you staying behind, making sure the errands are done and dinner is made, being careful not to open the wrong cabinets?”

Colt swallowed hard, looking through the open door to where Nursery was crouched by the pantry under the stairs.

“Very careful,” Nailbiter said, amending her statement.  “Or are you going to run and try to go home?”

“I know too much.  You’d catch me.”

“If that wasn’t a consideration?” Nailbiter asked.  She turned her face toward Colt, her eyes dark, her teeth frozen from where moisture of her breath had gathered on nails and formed an ice coating.

“I don’t know.”

Nailbiter’s expression changed, a snarl without a sound to it, and Colt dropped her eyes.

“We were the bastard children, my sister and I,” Nailbiter said.  “Our daddies passed through town and they didn’t know it, but they left our ma with child.  School was a suggestion, and I fucking hated and hate it when people suggest I do anything.  You hear me?”

Colt nodded, not sure why this tangent had come up, but it was better than talking about execution.

“I was young enough that I’d just grown in my adult teeth when my face got caved in by a boy from town, five years older than me and he got most of those teeth.  He said I picked the fight with him, I fell and bit the curb by my own clumsiness.  They took his word for it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You had nothing to do with it.  Thing is, times were changing.  Powers meant an awful lot of people with causes were getting the ability to make themselves heard.  My sister and I, we heard people were commemorating the anniversary of one of those people getting arrested.  Lustrum.  You know her?”

Colt shook her head.

“Kids aren’t getting educations in what’s important, these days.  She stood up for women when they needed it and she was put in a hole forever as punishment.  What her followers were saying sounded good, ‘cuz I was angry at my daddy that I’d never seen and would never know if I saw him, and I was angry at the boys in town, and the people who let those boys be the boys they were.  We joined up.  Not that different from this.  We had a good role model in Lustrum.  Nothing better than a martyr, you hear?”

“Did you get your teeth fixed?”

Nailbiter smirked, showing her teeth.  The smirk distorted slightly because her lips stuck to the metal where it was cold.  “Stupidest question I’ve heard from you yet.  You can see the fix.  Third go I’ve made at it.”

Colt swallowed and nodded.

“We split up.  I tried the sapphic shit and nah.  My sister had a relationship that turned into a ball of drama that was bleeding into everything else in the group, so we moved on.  Stayed with our friends in that group.  We were on the road, half the group making music and the rest of us robbing the occasional asshole to make ends meet.    We realized we were a stone’s throw away from our hometown.  Our mama was gone.  Dead.”

“I’m sor- that fucking sucks.”

“It did.  It does.  But the boy who caved my face in wasn’t dead or gone.  We tracked him down.  Caught him drunk and alone.  Decided we’d corner him, I’d fight him.  Get my own.”

“Did you?”

“I wasn’t strong enough.  I blame being vegan and eating a meal every other day, looking back, but I didn’t think about that then.  I just knew I was hitting him and he wasn’t hurting.”

“If he was drunk, that’d be part of it, right?”

“I didn’t know that either.  I thought it’d make him sloppy.  He managed to land a hit and it hurt me enough that the others all jumped to my side and he was able to run for it.  I came to, realized what was up, and couldn’t sort it out in my head.  A couple years then of thinking we were invincible, I was strong, we had the answers.  The thoughts in my head twisted up in my stomach and in all that twisting, I came out different.  I had a cause of my own and it was getting my brand of justice.  Him.  The people giving him pats on the back the same time my jaw was getting wired shut, because I was just a bastard fucking child with a slut mom…”

Nailbiter drew in a sharp breath, the sound hissing through teeth.

“I kept going after that.  I thought about pulling out his entrails.  Felt too tidy.  So I clawed out his eyes and lanced his eardrums.”

Colt couldn’t bring herself to answer.  Nailbiter was staring off into space.  Reminiscing.  There was no joy in the expression, no sadness.

Worse, Colt decided.

“I did what I’d dreamed of, and it wasn’t enough.  So I did similar things to people similar to Noah, then ‘similar’ started to mean less.  Sister pulled away, said it was too much.  One by one, the rest of the group fell away.  I had the cause, I had someone to look up to.”

“Lustrum?”

“Yeah.  When you go to the Birdcage, Colt, they sort you out.  Put birds of a feather together.  I was one of a few prisoners, and once I heard how they were putting certain people in certain blocks, I thought of her.  Of course I go there.  Of course.  But I ended up being Ingenue’s to look after.  Not just not Lustrum’s, but farthest from Lustrum’s cell block.”

“And you never got to see her?”

“I got to see her.  You can go this way or that.  You can even pack up your shit and move to another cell block, if the leader of that block allows it.  Moment I heard that, I knew what I was doing.”

“Okay?”

“I went to ask if I could.  Listened in.  I realized she wasn’t who I thought she was.  A hundred college campuses and a hundred more cities, and her face was printed on caps and smocks all over.  Meant different things to different people.  For most, being part of her following meant taking a stand.  Not even being criminal or protesting.”

“It sounds like it was big.”

“Yeah, well, there was no anger in her, she didn’t even like violence much.  Hated that what she’d put out there had been twisted around.  My type most of all.  I never did let her know.  You get ideas in your head, you decide who you want someone to be, and it’s you who disappoints yourself more than them who disappoints you.  Understand?”

“I think so.”

Understand?”

It was a question with more meaning to it.

“No,” Colt admitted.

Nailbiter’s expression shifted, that mute snarl again.

“I don’t know who it is you think I’m looking up to that’s going to disappoint me,” Colt said.

“You’re not looking up.  You’re looking down,” Nailbiter said, sounding as pissed off and exasperated as Colt had ever heard her.

Colt’s eyes darted this way and that.  If this was a test, she didn’t want to fail.

“You think I’m looking down on you?  On Love Lost?  The group?”

Nailbiter was silent.

“I… have a real choice?  You’d let me go?” Colt asked.

“Are you saying you want to go?” Nailbiter asked, and her voice was hard, the hisses and whistles sharper.

Again, that trap of a question.  If she said yes, she could be killed or punished as a traitor.

But that could be the ‘looking down’ part.

“I don’t want to go home.”

“Is that because you’re afraid to leave, or you’re afraid to go?”

“I want to stay,” Colt said, and by the time the sentence was done she wasn’t sure if she believed it.

Nailbiter didn’t budge.  No tells, no decisions.

“I don’t want to stay behind, but… I’m not sure I’m brave enough to be a soldier.  Fire a gun.”

There was noise at the door.  It opened, and Love Lost stepped through.  Seeing her face, Colt was reminded of the golden man’s face in the rare video footage of him.  Of the image that had been mass-printed, of an artist’s rendition of Scion, the man who would later end the world.

Not that Love Lost was capable of ending the world, but the expression was so similar.  Caught between anger and sadness, disappointment too light, too loaded a word in Colt’s mind now that Nailbiter had talked about it.   Crestfallen?  Why?

“You’re not a kid,” Nailbiter said.  “If you were, this would be easier.  But because you’re not a kid, I can give you options.  How would you like artificial courage?”

“Art-” Colt started.  She stopped as she saw the pill Nailbiter held between two extended fingers.

“We don’t trust you enough to leave you at headquarters alone,” Nailbiter said.  “If you can’t fight, you can’t be a soldier.  So either take the steps necessary or get lost.”

Going home meant facing her parents.  She’d attacked her mom to get her mom to let her go, while Nailbiter had watched it happen, not stepping in.  Nailbiter had claimed her, and now Nailbiter was saying she had things wrong?

She didn’t get it.

But as scary as these guys were, going home was scary in another way.

She reached out for the pill.  Nailbiter deposited it in her hand.

“Chew it, don’t swallow it.  It’s going to last for a bit whatever you do, and you don’t want it having to sit for too long to work.”

Colt put it between her teeth.  She bit hard, and it crumbled.  The acrid taste flooded her senses.

“That’s awful.  Ugh!” she cried out, doubling over.  “Is this that pill person’s stuff?”

She looked up, and she caught the very tail end of Love Lost and Nailbiter silently communicating something between them.

Having already taken a second or two longer than she usually did, Nailbiter answered her, “No.  Nothing tinker about it.  It’s an upper.  Some energy, some recklessness.  Courage, if you want to call it that.”

Love Lost looked even more upset than before, but she betrayed nothing and said nothing.  A clawed hand was gently laid on Nailbiter’s shoulder in passing.  It stayed there as Love Lost stood straight, chin rising.  Her claws and other tinker decoration glittered as she raised a hand, fingers moving in a swooping gesture.

The cars and trucks that had been idling to let the heaters run chugged to life, almost synchronized.

She wasn’t sure if it was the rush of fear and excitement or if it was the pill already working, but her heart was pounding now, with a hammering rhythm that paid no mind to her feelings or the circumstances.  The brights of the world seemed brighter, and the darks seemed darker, and in the moment, there was a hell of a lot more dark than light.

Nailbiter extended a hand.  She gripped the barrel of the pistol, handle out for Colt to hold.

“Don’t take this if you’re not willing to shoot to kill.”

Colt took the weapon.

Twenty Minutes Ago

“Go,” Nailbiter barked.  “You’re a liability.”

Liability?” Sidepiece asked.  “The liability is the q-tip down there.  Our good old Damsel of Distress needs to answer for betraying us, and I swear we’ll get that answer if I have to blow up everyone here to do it!”

Colt smiled, despite herself.  She felt a bit giddy with excitement.  She was ninety percent sure that Sidepiece was joking, but the idea that she might not be made her want to laugh.

Smiles were okay, she decided, but laughing was a problem.

“Go,” Nailbiter said.

“Never and fuck you!”

Love Lost pointed.

“Fuck!” Sidepiece shouted.

Colt’s hands shook as she held the binoculars.  It was enough that it was kind of hard to keep the binoculars focused on a target.

Which was a shame, because two of the targets was really, really nice to look at.

Damsel, Lookout, Imp, a young girl in a black dress with white lace frills beneath, a boy with wild blond hair, cute and older, but on the nerdy side, and another boy with black hair, moody, glowering, the same age or just a bit younger than Colt.  She’d liked boys in the past and she’d really liked some boys she’d gotten to know, but she’d never really really liked boys, and she’d definitely never really really liked boys she’d only ever known from a distance.

Hookline shifted his position, and Love Lost put an arm out.  The configuration at her arms broke apart, going through the swapping procedure, then stopped, only the bars extending out, an added foot of reach that blocked Hookline.

“What?” Hookline asked.

Nailbiter offered up the answer, “The blond one senses things at a distance.”

“The kid has cameras.”

“Not aimed our way, probably.  If they were, they’d be on alert.”

Love Lost held up a claw, tilting her head to one side.  She nodded.

“This is where March’s group has been hanging out, they’re after her?” Disjoint asked.

Love Lost nodded.

“We’re surprising the surprise attackers,” Disjoint said.

Love Lost shook her head.

There was a pause, then she typed out the words.  Colt reached for her phone before it even rang, still looking through binoculars.

Love Lost:
SURVEILLANCE.  NOT SURPRISE ATTACK.
THEY ARE SUPPORT TEAM FOR SOLO ASSASSIN.
IMP.

“Makes sense,” Nailbiter said.  “We don’t know the power level of the three without masks.”

Love Lost:
THE GROUP IS SCARED OF THE YOUNGEST GIRL.
UNPREDICTABLE AND POWERFUL.
FORMATION HAS BLOND BOY AT CENTER.  PROTECTED.
BLACK HAIRED BOY IN VANGUARD.

Black haired boy.  Colt looked again.  He walked with Damsel, not saying much.  Damsel was vanguard too, it seemed.  Made sense, based on what she knew.

“Can we take them?”

It took a second before Colt realized she’d asked the question.

Love Lost nodded.

She reached to one wrist, and adjusted the settings on the claw at the arm where there was only one configuration.  Colt watched warily.

Claw-tips glowed.  Where they moved, they cut lines into the air.

A circle was drawn around Hookline.  A line was drawn from it, as claws tapped at air.  Hookline’s phone lit up, and he held up the screen for others to see.

Love Lost:
SMALLEST GIRL.  INCAPACITATE.

More circles were drawn out.  Orders given by text to specific phones.  Each person dutifully held up their phones with the targets and orders, shifting position to be ready to take the courses given.  Some would attack the rear, others the front.

Disjoint to Lookout.

Kitchen Sink to the black haired and blond boys, whoever provided themselves as a target.

Nailbiter to the same pairing, dissuading Damsel where possible.

Love Lost to Imp and Damsel.

Then Colt.  A circle drawn around her and two other hired guns from the Lyme center.

The text appeared.

Love Lost:
SUPPORT ATTACK FROM REAR
PERMISSION TO KILL
EXCEPTION FOR TWO GIRLS.  LOOKOUT & YOUNGER.

Colt nodded.  Her heart continued its racing beat, not slowing, not speeding up.  It made the entire thing feel less real.  Easier.

Love Lost started forward.  She pointed, then the hand moved, fingers extending down.  She ‘walked’ the fingers through the air.

“Walk, don’t run?” Kitchen Sink asked.

“Until they notice us.  Save our strength and stamina until then,” Nailbiter said.

Love Lost nodded.

Their path was downhill.  Their target a city street with closed businesses all shuttered.  Some looked like they were permanently closed.  Ice made some footing treacherous, but different members of the group compensated.  Love Lost had her claw-feet.  Nailbiter had pointed tips to her fingers and toes.  Hookline dragged his hook against the pavement.  Disjoint was segmented, most of his body floating.

Kitchen Sink wasn’t so able.  The other mercenaries too.  Still.

“Gun tag,” Disjoint said.

“What?” Colt asked, startled.

“What we’re doing right now.  Playing tag with guns.  Get them before they get you and you win.  Other way around?  Lose.”

“Don’t lose,” Kitchen Sink said.  “Those are Heartbroken.  They don’t go easy on losers.”

Claw snapped against claw like a snap of a finger, but far more violent, and with the lights still left activated, the movement produced a small sparking of light.

Love Lost broke into a run.

Colt raised her binoculars to confirm, even as she started running too.  It was the pat-the-head-while-rubbing-your-tummy kind of coordination that would have been hard at any time, but the pill made it harder or the pill made it seem easier of a task.  She slipped and skidded on ice until her foot hit the crust of a snowbank.  A mercenary hauled her to her feet, then kept a hand on her shoulder as they ran.

They’d been noticed, so the attack was happening now.  Gun tag?

She had a gun.

“It’s not March!” she could hear one shouting.  The dorky-cute blond boy.

Shit,” was his companion’s response.  The broody-cute one.

They converged on the group, each set of Love Lost’s people rounding the corners and stepping out from cover in near concert.  The Undersiders-Breakthrough teamup had already formed battle lines, a loose ring protecting more vulnerable members.

Lookout already had her tinker weapons out.  A clawed tail or something and a white gun that she clasped in both hands.  Disjoint’s hand appeared and seized her wrist.  She pulled the other hand away, taking on a one-handed stance, aiming off to the side.  Another hand caught her.

The black haired boy was stepping forward, and Colt had to remind herself she had a job to do.  She aimed high and fired.

It didn’t slow him down or distract.  Fists clenched at either side of him, he roared, a fierce sound, veins standing out on his face.  Kitchen Sink reeled, then started sprinting forward.

“Don’t!” Hookline shouted.

There was no controlling it, apparently.  A headlong berserk rush, meeting the black haired boy, who was still roaring.

Kitchen Sink was all brawn, weapons appearing in his hands, slipping free as soon as he realized he couldn’t use them.  A metal stein became a thing he could grab and swing toward the black haired boy’s face.  In the other hand, the deciding fixture was a bit of piping with a showerhead fixed on the end.

The black haired boy fought with one arm extended, the other held back.  It was a fencer’s pose without a fencer’s foil, grace, timing, and keen reactions contrasting with the way his eyes were bloodshot and veins raised on his forehead.  He swayed back, slapped aside, and stepped in close, driving a knee into Kitchen Sink’s middle.

Faster than a normal person, maybe stronger.  Inflicting rage but suffering it too.  Forced duels.  If he kept doing that-

She raised her gun.

Before she could do anything, people were getting in her way.  Damsel was one, and Damsel was complicated, and that complication made her hesitate.

Damsel used her power.  Nailbiter swiped into the air at the same moment, predicting Damsel’s trajectory.  Her power made an explosion that looked like all of the light and all of the dark that Colt had noticed after taking the pill were being twisted together until they snapped, and it sent her flying into the air, toward the extended fingers.

She didn’t stop using her power, though.  Rather than end it abruptly, Damsel let it trail off, bringing her hands under her.  Her feet went up, and she stepped on the underside of the fingers, before bringing her hand up-

The fingers retreated.

Hookline had the little girl who wasn’t Lookout.  Hookline’s power was a chain and hook that couldn’t be destroyed, that he could telekinetically manipulate, and he’d encircled the girl with it, the hook secured on the chain that he was now hauling in with both hands and power.

The girl reached for Kitchen Sink as she passed him, and Hookline whipped the chain a bit, casting her a few feet to one side in the other direction.  Out of reach.

She screeched, like only a young girl could.  Colt was put in mind of Reese.  Her sister.  It jarred.  She hadn’t thought of Reese in a while.  She hadn’t gotten along with Reese in… ever.  But she still missed her.

Weird to think about in the now.

Damsel, landing, immediately sprung forward, toward Hookline.  Nailbiter produced a cage of interlocked fingers, barring the way, and Damsel avoided the cage, another burst of power to vault to one side, yet another to slide through the space between elongated wrist and ground.

“Fuck!” Hookline shouted.  “Fuck me!”

Nailbiter followed up.  Fingers drew in, a cage that now closed in around Damsel, and her teeth extended, a scattershot volley that aimed to fill the space.

Damsel used her power twice in quick succession before the kicked-up snow and dirt and the seemingly countless narrow spikes that filled the area caught up to her.

Two shots.  One to punch a hold into the ground, the other to reverse course and hurl herself into that hole.  The nails had passed overhead.

Colt saw movement.  She aimed, sighted her target, and recognized it as the blond boy.

“Samuel!” a girl shouted, not that far away- between Love Lost and Colt.

Reflexively, Colt pulled the trigger.  It felt like it had seemed to work with the black haired boy’s power.  His power had been rage, both inflicted and felt.  This was a horrible, jarring kick, and corresponding to that kick, the boy kicked back and flumped to the ground in a horrible, jarring way.

“You bitch!”

Colt turned toward the sound, then felt bewildered at the lack of a source.

The black haired teenager was trouncing Kitchen Sink, despite Kitchen Sink’s relative size and weaponry.  Sink’s swings were wide and reckless, and he almost seemed to forget he had the weapons in his haste to get in close and hurt the teen.

That changed in a flash.  One item fell into his hands, and he hurled it.  It produced a cloud as it hurtled through the air, and that cloud left the black haired boy coughing.

Kitchen Sink slammed his face into the boy’s.  Sink’s face had a heavy porcelain mask strapped to it.  The boy had nothing, and dropped to his knees, one hand to his face.  A second later, veins stood out across his face, more intense than before, and the blood loss accelerated.  He lunged forward, and didn’t quite manage to get off his knees before Sink started pressuring him down toward the ground.  Sink looked pretty affected, almost frothing at the mouth now.

Colt staggered back, an arm encircling her neck.  Her first thought was that it was one of Love Lost’s mercenaries, and that she’d somehow crossed a line or gotten her just desserts.

Her other thought was that Love Lost was stalking toward her.  Her right claw extended into whips with sharp metal caps at the end.

Colt tried to bring her gun up to shoot at the guy who had her.  When her hand raised, however, there was no weight in it and no gun.

She felt a gun press against her back.  Though it was a heavy, hairy man’s arm that held her, the voice in her ear was feminine.  “You just shot my friend, you fucking lunatic.”

Damsel was using her power more, skipping ahead, while Nailbiter was trying to catch up.  Forgetting the strangulation for a second, Colt twisted to try and see what was happening.

She was just in time to see Damsel arrive at the corner where Disjoint was waiting.  He had no arms by which to defend himself, so Damsel was free to use her power to deliver a flying knee-strike, as he doubled over, trying to shield himself with truncated arms.  When he flew back, he had hands again.

Which freed Lookout, who he had been restraining.

Colt screwed her eyes shut, saw Love Lost doing the same, as Lookout raised her gun.

The flash hurt, even with her eyes forced as shut as she could get, her face turned away.  It made her mind adjust light and dark in a funny way, as if she’d always scaled it from one to ten and she’d just found a new, higher bar for ten.

Her mom was always in the hospital for hip pain, she thought.  She’d heard a lot about pain scales, had heard her mother complain about how arbitrary a ten was.

Disjoint was knocked out.  Hookline- he gathered chains together into a loose wall in between himself and Damsel.  Doing so meant dragging the kid a little closer.

Colt found herself able to breathe again, unsure why she’d even stopped.  Love Lost shoved past her, and started whipping at the air.

“You need to help!” Colt shouted at Love Lost, her voice too high, tremulous.  The mercenaries that had been part of her flanking group were on the ground, and she couldn’t remember them getting beat.

Bending down, she picked up one of their guns.

Damsel crashed into the length of Nailbiter’s claws, then used her power again, forcing the claws to move with her, slamming into Hookline.  It meant the littlest kid was free.  Colt turned to look, and saw Lookout aiming.

She shielded her eyes, aimed blindly in the right direction, and fired, pulling the trigger again and again, in time with a heartbeat that was moving so fast she couldn’t count it if she tried.

Something hit her across the side of the face.  She fell.

It was Love Lost who picked her up again, her grip hard enough that metal claws threatened to pierce skin.  Love Lost’s claws were slick with blood.  Kitchen Sink was battered, Hookline rattled, but those two were up.  Disjoint and the other mercenaries still seemed to be unconscious, except or a guy or two at the far end.

They were outnumbered.

“Traitor,” Kitchen Sink said, to Damsel.

“Old news, that,” she said.  Her eyes were black from corner to corner, and they smoked faintly.  She’d been scratched at one shoulder by Nailbiters’s teeth.

“You shot a child,” Damsel said.  “You’re working with Cradle on that machine of his?  You’re a disappointment to yourselves and everyone who has to walk the same earth as you.”

Love Lost was silent, of course.  Colt made a small amused sound before she could stop herself.  Still a little giddy, loose around the edges.

The smile fell from her face as she noticed Love Lost staring her down.

Oh, this was worse than going to the doghouse.  This was fucking up and then doing it again.

And getting beat.  They were going to win.

And then- then she would have nowhere to go.

The thoughts that sprung from that were delirious, but they weren’t ‘upper’ thoughts, as far as she got that stuff.  They were a swell of darkness, pushed up from below.

“You alright, Roman?” Lookout asked.

“Peachy,” Roman said, his voice a growl.  He spat blood onto the snow.  “Samuel’s not peachy, and Flor’s bleeding.”

Love Lost and Nailbiter looked so confident, and Colt wasn’t sure why.

Confident and pissed.

In her daze, trying to make sense of things, Colt saw Kitchen Sink try to throw something.  Lookout’s claw-on-a-tail reached out to catch it, but that left her blind for Nailbiter to attack.  Damsel threw herself at Nailbiter’s real body, to throw off her trajectory.

Love Lost wheeled around, striking out with her whips, hitting empty air, then leaped backward, riggings on her legs snapping out as they fired like gun chambers, giving her a slight boost.  Her feet scraped against the wall, and she ran on the surface for five running steps.

She bounded down, toward Damsel, Nailbiter, and Lookout.

Everyone had something they were doing.  Except Colt…

…And Flor, the creepy little girl with the black dress decorated in white lace.  The girl smiled, showing a lot of small white teeth.  She limped with every step.

“You shot my brother,” the girl’s voice was quiet.  “Now if I do something extra horrible to you, they won’t blame me.  It’s great.  Thank you for shooting Samuel.”

Colt backed away as the girl advanced.  In the background, it looked like Love Lost was winning, propelling herself from Nailbiter’s claws to strike Damsel in the air.

The girl bolted forward.  Even with the limp, she was quick.

Colt turned to run.  If that girl wanted in close, then Colt wanted away.

She got three steps before she was caught.  In the confusion and daze, she thought it was two people.  Two different arms.

Imp.

No.

The arms thrust her back in the direction of the child.  She slipped on ice and skidded to a stop.  Where one of her gloves had ridden up, her hand had scraped on the hard ground.

Colt reached for something- anything she could do.  A plea- she had no ideas.  An anything?

She floundered, like she was in water and there was only water so disturbed and black that she couldn’t find any way up or out.

There were stars in that water, and it wasn’t the water churning, but sleek forms within it.

As the forms came nearer, they welled up in her vision.  Less like a person walking toward her, and more like a planet colliding with her own.

That form had a mouth, and that mouth yawned open wide, until it encapsulated her vision, and everything in every direction was this thing.  She moved her focus around, struggled, fought- but it was like being in quicksand.

She saw the heart of the thing.  She saw the small star of energy and how it was broken up into a thousand facets that were somehow all still aligned, even as the thing came to pieces.

And that star, that pit at the very belly of this thing, it burned so hot and so bright it began to eat at her consciousness.  Even the detachment she felt wasn’t any insulation against the consuming light.

But she wasn’t one to follow or obey.  She’d run away from- she couldn’t remember the word- her creators.  She was doing a shitty job here with this new group.  Hurting a child.

Hurting cute boys, but that was the drug talking.

The drug was an insulator.  A thing she could put between herself and the ownership of her being here.

The first step in a hundred thousand, all undertaken in a frame of completely different time.

She stood on the edge of that pit, and the power was there for the taking.

She stepped away from it, even in her desperation.

Into the real world, where the ground beneath her hands was cold.

She had a power, but just as she’d refused the greater body of power, she fought the urge to take hold of this.  To do so threatened to pull her into that pit.

For the time being, she stood, shaky.  Others had staggered, hands to their heads.  Powers had gone limp.

The scattered henchmen Love Lost had brought were here, hurrying forward.  Roman, the boy with black hair, was clubbed across the head with a baton.

Two of them were still close to Colt.  As soon as she grasped the fact, saw the decisive action on the part of the mercenaries, she pulled herself to her feet and kicked- catching the younger girl right in the midsection with her boot.

And Imp-

She wheeled around, saw Imp stagger forward, and struck out with the gun.  One blow to the throat, hard, leaving the woman sputtering.

It was only when they were down that she could reach for her power.

When she did, she felt herself teeter.  On the cusp of falling.  She swayed.

The so-called ‘ground’ solidified.

The fight resumed, hesitant at first, as people were still recovering.  But the actions of the unpowered henchmen were forcing the Undersiders and Breakthrough to react.

She had a power.  She drew in a deep breath, and she used it.

Now

Bags over their heads, hands bound behind their backs, several with poles attached to the bindings at the hands, so they could be managed from a distance.

Her nose was bloody, her hand and knee scraped, and the drugs were leaving her with a strangely disappointed feeling, out of tune with the reality before her- that she had a strong power.  Just the moods swinging in the opposite direction.

Her feelings jerked this way and that as she took it in.  Disjoint gave her a reassuring smile.  Love Lost, though, didn’t seem happy in the slightest.

Weird, considering they had this contingent captive.  Two of Breakthrough, one Undersider, three Heartbroken.  Two of those had been shot, one lacerated so badly by Love Lost’s whips that she couldn’t walk, and all three of those were now on the way to hospitals Love Lost had worked with before.  The medical care would be held hostage, as necessary.  Otherwise, they were all hostages now.

There was no going home again now, a small voice in her head said.  She’d crossed lines.  Even within this group.

Home had been destroyed two years ago, another said.  The concept had stopped meaning anything back then.

“Come on,” Disjoint told her, stirring her from dark thoughts.

Colt forced a smile to her face, and found her feet.

“We’re nearly done,” Nailbiter said.

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79 thoughts on “Interlude – 11.b”

    1. Well, alone except for the people who were loading up trucks with basic supplies
      -missing period

      Which was a shame, because two of the targets was really, really nice to look at.
      -were

      The configuration at her arms broke apart,
      -Didn’t she only have time for one arm?

      One to punch a hold into the ground, the other to reverse course and hurl herself into that hole.
      -hole into

    2. “Disjoint handles it sometimes. Love Lost sometimes,” Nailbiter said. “But it’s usually me. Do you know why?”
      “Because you’re the one who’s going to kill me, if she decides it needs to be done. The others aren’t reliable for that kind of thing.”

      I’m not sure this works. Is she counting LL among those unreliable others?

      1. Potentially. Love Lost doesn’t hurt kids. Colt’s young, might be old enough on paper for Love Lost not to feel bad, but look young enough to make her hesitate.

    3. “get the rigging”
      Extra space.

      “her hands in her pocket,”
      Only one pocket ?

      “people similar to Noah,”
      Assuming Noah’s the guy who knocked her teeth out, she didn’t really introduce him beforehand. Might be done on purpose if she’s the kind of people who relate half the stuff when they go and reminisce.

      “She’d attacked her mom to get her mom to let her go,”
      Kinda clunky.

      “kind of coordination that would have been hard at any time, but the pill made it harder or the pill made it seem easier of a task.”
      I’m not sure Colt should think that much, it got kinda blurry there.

      “except or a guy”
      +f

    4. I saw a reference to ‘Beast of Burden’ which I’m pretty sure was meant to be ‘Lord of Loss’. Isn’t BoB the asshole who got dunked in the torso by Ashley during the Fallen fight?

      1. No. When Beast was mentioned, Colt was talking about various capes she’d met and the way they held themselves. Beast of Burden was one of them.

        But yes, BoB is the arsehole who got a blast of annihilation to the chest.

  1. Well Colt just continues digging herself deeper. She actually comes across one of the most pitiful characters so far in Parahumans, but oddly I don’t feel as much sympathy for her as it seems like I should.

      1. That’s probably her power. She’s a time-traveler. Since there are many futures, she timeskips into one of the ones where she was successful. But there is a drawback: use it too much, and she becomes an Adam Sandler movie.

    1. Precedent indicate she’ll get some sort of Mover power, since getting away from everywhere seems to be her personal curse. Plus needing to run away from both Imp and Flor combined. Nice impetus right there.
      Anyway, that’s textbook Mover-mindset. However, she was also high on some mild stimulant, so… take your bets, everyone.

      (I kinda want Battery’s shard to come back, and Colt would be the most heartrending target for it in a narrative sense. Fingers crossed !)

      1. Alas, Battery’s shard is an artificial one. Her power was purchased from Cauldron, so she could put on a costume and stop a villain from breaking out capes en route to the Birdcage after all the work her dad put in to put them there. He got caught, turned hero and took the name Assault and may have had a relationship with Battery.

        1. I know it was originally from Eden, but it might be looking for some company since she passed away. Or maybe Scion sent a similar one to participate – improving Mover traits sounds like a good strategy when you spend most of your time drifting through pandimensional intergalactic space.

      2. Wouldn’t it be a trump power given all the abilities she was surrounded by at the time of triggering?
        I mean, it doesn’t HAVE to be obviously, but with the information we’ve been given about ability classes and triggers, it would seem to be the most obvious option.

        1. Trump and Breaker are special cases. They almost never turn up alone. Think of Shadow Stalker; she’s a Breaker-primary, but that state gives her a rank in Stranger and Mover. Or Valkyrie; her spectres of dead capes make her a Master/Trump. Even Rune/Othala (I can never remember which one’s which) is a Striker/Trump because she has to touch someone to give them a power.

          Eidolon, with his fake shard, is a Trump exception. And we seen much of Caryatid, but she’s pure Breaker- or seems to be.

          1. In which case, a Mover-Trump power isn’t off the table as of yet (running away + powers as cause). That’s where I’m putting my money for now

  2. I’m a little confused, did colt trigger and develop a power nullifying power or something? Was it what ever the small heart broken did to her?

    1. When someone triggers, nearby parahumans get a trigger vision that temporarily stuns them and knocks out their powers. Same thing happened to Skitter when Scrub triggered. This isn’t an effect specific to Colt’s power.
      The only thing we know about Colt’s power so far is that she considers it “strong”.

    2. Oops, forgot your second question: Flor didn’t actually touch her, Colt triggered from the fear of being touched by her and the gereral hopelesness of her situation (being caught, unarmed, between Imp and a Heartbroken who were both out for her blood because she shot Samuel).

        1. Trump from being surrounded by a whole regiment of capes, Mover from wanting to be anywhere but there, sprinkled with ? from ‘artificial courage’.

          Not a Tinker, since she was able to use it right off (alternatively, the most powerful Tinker ever, since it still worked… nah).

    3. I believe Flor is the ‘I’m a little teapot’ Heartbroken from the epilogue of Worm. That is way outside her purview. She’s seriously bad and not good company, but seems to need to touch somebody to work.

  3. Looks like Colt barely avoided a broken trigger, I wonder if she still has the option to access the ‘pit of power’ after she rejected it the first time around.
    I also wonder if the power she did get is going to behave in some unusual way given that it was almost broken.

    1. I may be wrong, but I interpreted it as she has the option to “access” that pit (or rather fall into it) every time she uses her power. Walking potential broken trigger?

  4. I hope Victoria gives Colt a second chance.

    She really needs one and just might take it.(And it’d probably rattle Love Lost)

    1. After she shoot at Kenzie whom Victoria loves like a big sister? I don’t think so, Victoria will be merciless after she’ll hear about what Colt did. Ashley will also have a heavy word to say about this whole second chance.

    2. She already had two of them from Victoria. This chapter marks the tthitd time she refused to leave LL’s retinue, making it fully Biblical.

      She officially deserves whatever’s coming to her.

      1. Now now, I don’t think it’s fair to blame someone named Colt for being a little trigger-happy. That’s like meeting someone calling themselves Genoscythe the Eyeraper and thinking you won’t need protection.

  5. Wait a second.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but… did Colt just use the altered mindstate from a drug as a proxy to shuck off a broken trigger?

    The fuck?

    1. I don’t think so. I think that some people with broken triggers get that bad because they get greedy. Colt was not such a person. Unfortunately, if she taps too much into her power source, the entire area is fucked.

  6. Did Kenzie just get shot again? Maybe she should try to buy a suit of second hand Tinker armour at this rate – even if she can’t build a suit, she’d still be able to maintain it, right?

  7. Every chapter that gets delivered, I wonder how anti-parahumans or, at least, anti-villain groups aren´t the primary political force or hold more influence. While media control and literally masterminding of politics by New Cauldron could try to hold the tide, the material issue is too important.

    This is, essentially, a post-apocalyptic scenario. People are struggling to survive. Each time a villain steals, food won´t get delivered, construction will be halted and more people will be left freezing on the streets. This was supposed to be a new beginning for humanity, and the amnesty was a big part of it. But, even knowing all of this, they continue to steal, rob and corrupt the population, either directly (loyal police forces) or indirectly (fuelling addiction by drug distribution).

    I understand that parahumans are scary. But still, most of them die to a bullet. And the Endbringers excuse for keeping these kind of people around is no longer. As shown here and in the last couple, even “good” ones such as Lord of Loss and Nursery are still fucking up a very shaky system whose unbalancing brings death to people. They condone murder, robbery and mayhem the same way the Love Loss gang does and never bat an eye when their allies wipe their asses with the unwritten rules. For humanity to survive, they need to be wiped out.

    I understand this is a very slippery slope to tread on. But humanity is hanging by the end of a thread. And we are talking about killers here. Perhaps this is a little unfair, but if Breakthrough had gotten their shit together and sent Sidepiece and Disjoint to the prison Earth or at least to a shallow grave, most of the problems they are struggling about would be resolved and more people would be alive at the end. I know extrajuditial execution is not a humane way to resolve this kind of issues, but we are talking about tyrants here, not delinquents, who are usurping goverment and carving out their little fiefs for serfs to work. Delinquents go to jail. Tyrants are lynched.

  8. Her power is strong enough to help capture imp and damsel. That’s scary. Imp is only weak to tech and nullifying powers so cold could be a trump or thinker.

    1. Capes are involved in the trigger event. So’re drugs. I’d say possibly trump/breaker?

      And Imp’s also been seen by other powers granting more esoteric senses than the standard ones. Cherish could tell she was near, if not see or hear her. And even though Night couldn’t see or even tell Imp was nearby, Imp’s gaze could break Night out of her monstrous shape.

      1. Don’t forgot Love Lost, who demonstrated that exact ability this chapter with her emotion-sense — that’s what was happening when Colt thought LL was lashing out at empty air.

        1. I forgot Love Lost had emotion-sense. Hers seems better than Cherish’s; Cherish only talked to a room she knew Imp was in, and I don’t think she looked at Imp. Certainly didn’t attack her, but then, Cherish had plans.

    2. Imp is weak to Shaker, Blaster and Master AoE powers too, you don’t need to see her if you can just bombard the area you know she’s in

      1. Not all Master AoE powers. Her power granted her immunity to Khepri, who controlled every cape within a rather small radius around herself. In fact, of all Master AoE powers, we’ve seen her exposed to three and she’s resisted one of them. Valefor caught her, possibly because he looked at her and disabled her power temporarily, or possibly because he could see her after he’d looked at her and put her in a trance. And Canary affects everyone who can hear her, regardless of if she can see them.

        Rain’s doubt and Antares’ awe/fear are Shaker powers dealing with emotions, not Master ones. They don’t count.

  9. Maybe she did, or maybe she’s just been around enough parahumans to know it’s not all fun and games.

    The people Victoria saw were rushing in, hoping for power. Colt wasn’t of that mindset in general.

  10. So, I’d say we can rule out Shaker, Brute, Tinker, Blaster, Master (while she does generally feel isolated and alienated, this doesn’t really play into her trigger event), Changer and Stranger based on Colt’s trigger event.

    Of the Thinker types, only the Skill Thinker trigger seems to fit (helplessness, being out of her depth).

    That leaves us with Mover (she was trying to escape from Flor before Imp pushed her back), Breaker (kinda hard to determine if it really fits, but her conflicting feelings of wanting to fight and flee combined with her drug-induced altered state could lead to a Breaker trigger, I think), Striker (immediate, in-your-face threat from a singular object or individual? check) and Trump (Trump 7 definitely fits).

    Interestingly, both Breakers, Movers and Trumps are mentioned to feel “disconnected from the rest of humanity”. I guess we’re going to see if her powers affect her personality going forward.

    1. Don’t forget the trump types. There’s seven for sure, might be two as well if one or more of Colt’s teammates could be considered as trying to help.

      The question is though, is a broken shard going to follow the rules like normal? Something clearly went wrong somewhere; this might be WB trying to introduce something that only applies in Ward’s context, or that didn’t get to be explored before.

      1. The shard might not be broken, as the cycle would not have been complete just yet even if Eden had survived and new capes would have appeared to keep the games going. Scion has deliberately sent shards that would bind much later with their programming complete, unlike the broken shards that weren’t properly set with limitations, secondary required powers and general host-maintenance.

    2. I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out Shaker: she was surrounded by both enemies and abstract threats (like the consequences of failing Love Lost again) in a chaotic environment, desperate for any means to regain control of her situation. Flor and Imp were just the last straw.

      My guess: some sort of day-ruining AoE Mover/Shaker/Breaker/Trump power.

  11. Don’t really like Colt after this, but she’s the first person we’ve seen in a while actively turn down power because she knows how dangerous it is. So definitely props for that. Also can’t exactly blame her for seemingly being willing to do anything to survive here, if we’re being honest with ourselves a lot of us would probably be just like her in the given situation

  12. ‘This is your trigger on drugs’ 😛

    “She stood on the edge of that pit, and the power was there for the taking.
    She stepped away from it, even in her desperation.
    Into the real world, where the ground beneath her hands was cold.
    She had a power, but just as she’d refused the greater body of power, she fought the urge to take hold of this. To do so threatened to pull her into that pit.”

    Yeah this fits with some connections and theories I made recently. When I read the Snag bit:
    “HE IS FAR AWAY AND HE IS CLOSE. DEAD AND ALIVE
    HE SHOUTS AT ME FROM THE BOTTOM OF A WELL FILLED WITH
    THE POWER OF A DESTROYED ALIEN WORLD AND I HEAR ECHOES OF WHISPERS”
    it reminded me of the broken trigger guy in 2.4:

    “I’m on a brink, and I can’t see it, but I can feel it,” the man said.
    “Try not to think about it,” Rocketround said. “Okay?”
    “I can feel it,” the man said. He wasn’t paying much attention to Rocketround. “All the way down to this vast well, partially filled with potential energy. Like I’m on the lip of a volcano and it’s an impossibly long fall with only magma at the bottom. I don’t know if I’m better off throwing myself down into that or leaving it alone.”
    “Leave it alone,” I said, my voice joining more than one other person’s.
    “What if my thoughts and brain get made into a part of that? One piece in that thing’s construction. What if it makes me immortal, forever a part of this thing? A recording of me in there, how I think, how I do things.”
    “We’ve studied parahumans, powers and power sources a lot,” Roadblock said. “We’re pretty sure that’s not a thing.”
    “Yeah,” the guy in the clearing’s center said. “But…”
    He trailed off.
    “It’s not a thing,” Rocketround’s voice joined Roadblock’s.
    “But I’m standing closer to it than you are,” the man said. “And from where I stand, I feel like it might be.”
    “I’m the last one standing on the brink now,” the man said. “I don’t think I can do this much longer. Do I embrace it or turn away? I wish I could see you, to-”

    I’m pretty certain those three things are connected. The pit/well.

    1. Isn’t Scion currently in a sort of well or pit? Yeah, I know, he was “destroyed” in this and adjacent universes, but the destruction amounted to making him feel bad enough to give up, sticking him with a couple of rods, and then hitting him with a tinker-powered “ram” to knock him back into “the world beyond him, a world he’d shut off, to which his body was the only conduit.” Is he trying to climb back out? Is there a specific broken trigger event that will let that happen? Suspense!

      1. That’s what the tinker-ram was meant to do, but since it was charged with Sting, they probably killed him for real.

        Keep in mind that the defenders were unaware they literally had a purpose-built godkiller on the team. Using said godkiller, even by semi-accident, made for a more dramatic result than was expected.

        Or Scion used PTV to fake his death and make himself a new mate and now we’re all fucked. I mean, it could go either way.

    2. 1. All these broken triggers talk about standing on the edge of a vast well of power and/or energy. However, this isn’t a thing other triggers experience; only the broken triggers are referencing it, or triggers where something went especially screwy.

      2. The broken triggers started after Scion died, and were implied to be the shards he kept for his personal use that went out to find hosts.

      3. … maybe they’re all still connected together, and trying to re-integrate?

  13. This chapter felt weak to me. Colt wasn’t quite as sympathetic a character as some other viewpoints. And the end felt like kind of a ham handed diabolus ex machina. “Oh a new cape just happened to trigger at exactly the right time for the trigger vision to knock imp out I. The crucial fight.”
    “Even though the other side clearly isn’t playing by the rules and they just shot a kid, damsel decides for once in her entire life to use massive self control and not respond to a kid getting shot by fighting seriously with her power.”
    This just felt like a chapter where the writer had plotted out what they wanted to happen on some outline, and even though that’s clearly it what would actually happen with these characters meeting in this way, the writer just forced it.

    1. > “Oh a new cape just happened to trigger at exactly the right time for the trigger vision to knock imp out I. The crucial fight.”

      Given the nature of trigger events, it’s fairly expected for them to happen in the middle of fights. We see it happen for the second time (the first being Scrub), and for the first time it changes the outcome of a plot-important event. I’d say it makes sense in-universe.

      > Even though the other side clearly isn’t playing by the rules and they just shot a kid, damsel decides for once in her entire life to use massive self control and not respond to a kid getting shot by fighting seriously with her power.

      Here, I rather agree. Though after Damsel’s incident with BoB she might willingly use more self-control as she normally would otherwise.

  14. – wait, Colt didn’t *already* have powers? 😳
    – one of the Heartbroken (Roman?) puts himself and a designated opponent in a shared berserker state. Simultaneously potent and super-super-risky. Definitely a power that needs a team to be properly utilized (or Teacher enhancement or emotion-cape synergy to let him cheat his own power and remain calm)
    – Colt’s new power remains unknown
    – Damsel is getting very good at using her power as an exclusively Mover thing (albeit with the implicit threat of pissing her off beyond tolerance ever-present in her foes’ minds)
    – how *is* it that Love Lost is so badass? So unrelentingly *capable*? Not an admiring statement disguised as a rhetorical question but an actual genuine question. Being a cop shouldn’t have been enough to equip her so intensely for cape/merc life.
    – then again, if Taylor could, then why not? Never mind!
    – emotion-sensor capes are hard counters for Imp as pre-established by Cherish in Worm. Hence, Love Lost fighting empty air every now and then. Nice.
    – I am becoming dumb in my old age; who did Colt shoot?

    So, it’s possible for a person’s flight reflex (as in fight-or-flight) to be so strong that they can reject a trigger event? Or perhaps, more accurately, she rejected a broken trigger by resisting the urge to dig too deep, thus acquiring a regular old trigger.

    1. She shot Samuel. Heartbroken with a people-sense, showed up in Imp’s epilogue of Worm with Flor to take down Nero.

      And I have no idea what she did regarding that power, but I think it might be a wildly destructive Breaker state.

      1. It’s also implied that she may have shot Lookout when she was blind firing. She references shooting a kid as a reason why Love Lost would be pissed at her, but Flor and Lookout were the only two young enough to count as kids in Love Lost’s eyes. They would be the ones she pointed out at the beginning of the fight as the two that Colt wasn’t allowed to kill.

  15. Just letting everyone know that I decided to try what some of you suggested (Ethical in particular), and posted one of my random theories on reddit. The post in this thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/Parahumans/comments/ai7zvv/ward_events_and_khepri/
    For now it is simply an experiment. Based on reactions I get here and there I may or may not post more on reddit in the future.

    By the way, here are a couple of my thoughts that have more to do with the current chapter than that theory I mentioned above does:

    1. Considering who was captured and wounded by Love Lost’s group. Sidepiece and Disjoint may soon learn that (as much as they were disappointed with her) a known devil Damsel is better then unknown devil Damsel.

    2. Remember how Rain said his power was so bad, that it put him below people without powers in eyes of the Fallen, because it meant that he had almost no chance to trigger with something useful anymore? How about a power that makes you immune to mental backlash from someone triggering next to you. Would it be classified as Trump 1? Best thing about this power? It is not entirely useless, and could in fact be very useful for Breakthrough/Undersiders alliance to have when Colt triggered.

  16. Given all this speculation on what kind of power Colt just manifested based on her trigger event, is there some (semi-)official guide out there that gives an overview of all the power classifications, power ranks, what kind of trigger tends to grant which type of power, and what personality traits, behaviors, and neurosis tends to come with different power types? Because I still don’t have a clear idea of some of the less talked about classifications and don’t really understand the numbers beyond higher numbers meaning stronger powers and can follow little of the Colt power speculation.

    1. Yes. Weaverdice is a role-playing game, still being worked on, which gives a guide to what kind of triggers cause the various types of power. There’s a reddit dedicated to it and several other associated handbooks, most incomplete and hand-made.

    2. Aside from Weaverdice Earl of Purple has suggested, there are plenty of other canon sources with useful bits of information on the topic – both words of in-universe characters, and Wildbow’s comments. You can find links to many of them in the References section of the article on trigger events in the wiki:
      http://worm.wikia.com/wiki/Trigger_event

      Just remember that while we can pretty take anything from WoGs and similar Wildbow’s comments as accurate (if not necessarily complete – he still probably has a few surprises for us in store when it comes to powers and triggers), everything said from point of view of the characters may not always be.

      1. Articles in the wiki on individual power categories (links to those are on the main page of the wiki), also provide plenty of useful information on trigger conditions required to get particular powers, though most if not all of this information appears to be just a compilation of stuff found in sources mentioned by Earl of Purple and me.

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