Radiation – 18.5

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The energy rippled out as liquid lightning in a startling green-gold.  A shockwave from one massive stomp that came with a roar of visible energy that rushed out, multiplied on impacts, then immediately suctioned itself back into crevices and cracks like water settling to the lowest point in a crevice.

The initial shockwave made buildings rock back, surfaces cracking or crumbling, and it nearly tossed us off of the roof.

I wrapped my arms around Tattletale, one arm at her back, the other hand at her belt, and flew as the energy cascaded out to envelop the building.  Twisting in mid-air, I watched to see if I could make out our teams, even as I felt them scrabbling for holds, jumping, or rising precariously up.

The energy lanced through the deepest, darkest spaces of the buildings, while warping the edges that stood out the most, causing them to fork and flicker like flame.  What had gone up hadn’t come down, with chunks of building now floating in the air, like everything had detonated and now moved in low gravity or slow motion.

Rachel rode a dog to an edge, leaping.  The building beneath her apparently gave too much as the dog pushed out and down with its claws, making the effect more like jumping of a cardboard box than a proper roof’s edge.  Sveta reached out to catch the dog around the neck and shoulder as it got only one paw around the top edge of the building.  Straining, pulling to help the dog scrabble and find its grip.

I flew toward them, but the dog managed to heave itself over the edge before I was halfway there.

Titan Oberon didn’t raise its head as it put a hand up and out to grab a floating chunk of building.  It flung the chunk at another building.

Through my Syndicate connection to Foil, I could feel the vibration as the target building shook.  Parian seemed to have things well in hand, though.  Cloth reached out to give the Heartbroken, Imp and Foil something to grab onto.

The injured heroes on the ground were fleeing some of the damage, as the road peeled up and floated into the air, edges flickering with the green-gold breaker energy.

I flew closer to them, putting a hand over Tattletale’s ear that was closer to my mouth before calling out, “Do you guys need help!?”

Negation.

There were only four of them now.  Two were supporting a fourth teammate as they heaved up one end of a section of floaty road, then braced it with forcefield before using that as a ramp.

“Rooftop Champs finally getting to their namesake territory,” Tattletale muttered.

“Ah, that’s who they are?  Only talked to them online, offered to bring them into Hollow Point.  Looked up their leader’s portrait, recognized him in the crowd during the big briefing.”

“Alpine is probably dead,” she said.  “They have that look about them, like they’re missing that connection.”

“Fuck,” I said.  I felt a pang of sympathy, looking down at them.  They weren’t moving all that fast.

“All they wanted was to play up the ‘sports team’ angle of heroes, get people excited about their neighborhood heroes again.  Hollow Point didn’t fit that.”

Kind of like the Norfair Neighborhood Heroes.

“You better put me down with them,” Tattletale told me.  “You’re giving me a wedgie.”

“There might be some justice in the world after all,” I told her.

Still, I floated down, letting go of her.  The Rooftop Champs were looking ragged, two with injuries from the gas that made holes.  One with a missing arm, shocks of an inflamed red through the skin that was visible past the haphazard bandaging and tattered costume.

Tattletale paused to adjust her belt and straighten her coat, probably fixing the wedgie in the process.

A guy with holes across his face, a mask that had once been a complex arrangement of ribbons now hung on only by strands and the hardening effect of the gas.  He was hunched over, fingers prying inside holes near his temple and hairline.  A translucent green-pink maggot the size of a hotdog with bun included writhed beneath the surface, burrowing in deeper, escaping his fingers.  A woman with a  feathered dragon motif had holes across her arm and front.  She stood by him, hand on his shoulder, her bad hand trembling.  The other two Champs were digging inside a kit.

“Let me,” Tattletale said.  “I think I can get it, able bodied as I am.  We’ll re-wrap that stump.”

“Thank you,” the able-bodied Champ said, quiet.  He looked like the rookie of the team.  Teenager.  “Didn’t expect a villain to help.”

“When shit’s this bad, those labels stop meaning anything,” Tattletale said.  She pulled out some needles.  “Those are the rules.  Let’s see if we can pin that bastard down.”

“Don’th- sthab…”

“Don’t stab his brain,” the feathered dragon woman said.

“Can’t.  This gas gets extradimensional.  Which is the only reason you’re not dead.  Upside is it might mean it goes away and you go back to normal after,” Tattletale said.  “Can’t make guarantees, but if it helps, I’ll tell you I’m the person chiefly responsible for figuring out how to make the portal to Gimel in the first place.  My intuition is pretty good.”

“Thank you,” the woman with the holes in her arm said.  The trembling in the arm didn’t seem so bad.  Her hand went to her collarbone, where gloved fingers hooked on the open holes there, some large enough to drop a golf ball into.

I saw a maggot writhe within.  I almost pointed it out, but I saw Tattletale glancing that way, and she locked eyes with me a second later.

“For a team as huggy as yours is,” Tattletale said, “That breastplate of yours is really uncomfortable when you get mashed into it.  You bruised me.”

“You mean when I was saving your life?”

“Don’t go raising your voice,” Tattletale said.  “You’ll agitate this thing.  Almost got it.  Let me know if I’m poking anything you can feel.”

“I can’t feel much,” the guy with the head-maggot answered.  “Pressure as it squeezes up against the sides.”

I looked over toward the battlefield.  Titan Oberon was using the shattered, breaker-modified buildings to deflect and ‘catch’ the projectiles that Titan Eve produced.

I blinked and flicked through a few images on the heads up display, looking for context on what I was feeling elsewhere.  Two camps, it seemed.  Parian was gathering all the cloth she could from ruined buildings, fashioning large-size dolls that were doing the real legwork in getting people to safety and deflecting incoming attacks.  On the other side of the street, some of my team had joined Rachel and her dogs in huddling behind Tristan.  The context I was missing was that he was creating motes in the air.

I saw from a distance as Titan Oberon flung another chunk of building at that group.  Motes of orange light coalesced into stone, melding into the flying chunk of building.  The shift in weight and the weird aerodynamics of the breakered building chunks made the chunk veer off course.

Lookout was only just now getting to the room Syndicate was in.  The Malfunctions were with her.

“I’m going,” I told Tattletale.  “See what I can do for our teams.”

“You have to see what you can do about Eve,” Tattletale said.  “She’s winning now.”

In the distance, Titan Oberon leaped skyward, disappearing into the cloud cover.

Titan Eve turned smoke into spikes, taller than her.

He landed amid the spikes, twisting his hulking form to avoid being skewered, even sliding hooves along the length of the largest spike.

Tattletale hissed as she pulled the suturing needle away from the maggot, letting the ground and the building we were on shake.  “Come back here you little bastard.”

Spikes had dissolved into gas, but he was already bounding forward before that gas could touch him.  A flip forward, hooves passing over his head, while he held a chunk of building like a bludgeon, crushing it into Titan Eve’s head.  When she was off balance, he struck her, producing a shockwave.

Gas hardened to solid as the shockwave met it, and shattered rather than be blown away.  Shattered gas became ambient gas, creeping in on him from every direction.

Even from a distance, I could see the blood weep from his arm as chunks fell free, cracks spreading up the limb.

He leaped back and away, while Titan Eve slowly rose to a standing posture.

“I’m not sure I trust this gas mask against everything she can do,” I said.

“We need to do something about her,” Tattletale put emphasis on the ‘need’.

I nodded, floating higher.

I would have to figure something out.

I heard the buzz of her communications device, the five pound cell phone.  I hesitated.

“Can you get that?” she asked Ms. Dragon Feathers.

I hesitated, listening.  Ms. Dragon Feathers held the device to her ear, though.

“The group fighting Auger lost,” the heroine reported.

“He was fighting the Machine Army?”

“He still is.  The giants that the Red Queen made are holding him back, but he’s taking the machines apart and using them.”

“Using how?” Tattletale asked, fishing the maggot out.  It looked like she was struggling to keep from cutting it in half, using suturing needles to hook it, while grabbing at its ichor-slick body with a gloved hand.

“Tinkertech,” Dragon Feathers said.

“Auger was a tinker?” I said.

“He’s one now,” Tattletale glanced up at me.

“It’s the full package,” I remarked.  “When people become titans, every possible power that agent could have handed out goes to the Titan.”

I gestured in the direction of Titan Oberon.  Surrounded by breaker-ized chunks of building.

“Mm,” Tattletale grunted, focusing on her task as the only really able bodied, able person in this little group.  “What’s the bad news?”

“The heroes on the scene were blindsided by Titan Skadi.”

“Anyone we know?” I asked, tense.

“No,” Tattletale said, before the heroine could answer.  “That’s not why it’s bad news.  The Auger Titan beat Titan Skadi.”

“Yeah,” the heroine said.

“Stay on guard,” Tattletale told me.  “This just got about five times harder.”

I nodded, then wasted no time in flying away.  If there were updates to be had, I’d get them from others.

Skadi was one of the titans who didn’t have any connection to any of the others.  Now she’s networked to Oberon and Auger?

How much of his decision to do this floating shockwave stomp had been because that battle had turned?  Was energy shared between them?  Had he been contributing something to Auger?  What did a connection mean?

“You guys managing!?” I called out to Capricorn, as I got close enough.

“Is anyone!?” Rain called back.

I could see Deathchester now.  Ashley was using blasts to ascend a series of Gibbet-made bits of rubble that stuck out the side of a building.  Getting closer and closer to Oberon.

Oberon leaped, getting out of the way of a plume of gas, while simultaneously putting about three hundred feet of distance between Damsel and himself.  Damsel blasted a wall, was nearly knocked off her perch by the recoil, then blasted with two hands to fling herself into the hole before the gas swept over her.

Parian’s group was using the stuffed animals, but they were gas damaged, and she was having to amputate limbs and sew them shut before discarding the excess cloth.  Interesting that the gas didn’t really affect the stuffed animals as much as everything else.

But that group didn’t have a lot of mobility, and they were in the thick of the maggot-ridden area.  The maggots crept up through the building and over the edges of the roof.  Chastity, Foil, Roman, Juliette and Imp were killing the things, but for every two they killed, there was one more just appearing.  That might have sounded doable, but they were constantly having to relocate and move, which made it a losing battle.

“I’m asking if you can manage, or if you need help!” I called down.  “Others are struggling, but if you’re stuck here-”

“We’re managing,” Tristan said.  He had a sheen of sweat to his face, and a bead of it had landed on his chestplate.  This was at the same time his breath was fogging.  “But if you could intercept anything and spare me having to-”

“Got it.”

I flew across the street, but I didn’t fly in a straight line path.  The sections of building were floating, and they had different physics than they would have normally had in reality.  I flew into the largest chunks, catching them with a half-dozen hands, and then shoved them hard before flying in another direction.  By the time I reached the third chunk, the rooftop of a Chili Cricket’s fast food place was crashing into the side of a crack in reality.

There was a good chance he’d use another stomp to give himself more ammunition, but for the time being, I denied him his ammunition.

An arm motion and sudden movement from just about everyone who wasn’t in the computer room with Lookout grabbed at my attention.

A wall of gas, tearing my way.

Spinning to produce some external force that might repel the gas, I flew up and away.

A new gas.  This gas was a lime green, but thinner, with a wet shimmer to it.

And every surface it touched was left slick with slime.  Fires here and there were quenched, and the weight of the slime pulled at already damaged structures.  The rumble of buildings falling joined the whistle of wind and the low rumble of the Titan’s movements.

I could feel Parian, Chastity, and Foil struggling.  I flew straight to them.

Slime made the already sloping roof’s surface slick.  The dolls, too, were fighting to stay upright.

I had to take evasive action as a plume of black smoke washed down the middle of the street.  In my peripheral vision, I saw Oberon leap, gathering up energy around himself.

Another shockwave imminent?

We’re just running damage control.  I know I have to go after Fume- after Titan Eve, but there’s no damn opportunities!

I flew to the group.  They were fighting to stay upright.  Roman was crouched, feet slowly losing traction on the rooftop.  With the lip at the edge of the roof it didn’t look like anyone was about to fall off, but they were sitting ducks.

I reached out with my forcefield.  Many hands for many people.  But strength wasn’t traction, and the forcefield hands slid off, leaving brief, streaky handprints.

“Cloth,” I said, looking at Parian.  She turned empty doll eyes my way.

She unspooled cloth, but the vast majority of it was slimy.  The stuff permeated everything, seeping through cloth.

As her power reached cloth, it formed bubbles, the power forcing slime out and finding the miniscule gaps in the fabric.

Above us, Oberon reached the apex of his leap.  Clouds parted in his wake, forming a ripple in the sky.

Which wasn’t enough.  There were too many people on this rooftop, and not nearly enough clean cloth for those people to grab onto.

More of the slimy mist continued to settle around us.  Parian wiped at her mask, trying to get slime out of the eye sockets.

At the same time, my forcefield was collecting it.  Most of it wicked off, but it was viscous enough that the ‘wicking’ took a few moments.

I couldn’t drop my forcefield and use my coat, because then I’d be in the same boat as the rest of the group.  I could just take the mostly dry end of the long bit of cloth and try to hug my forcefield around it to try and keep it dry.

“Here!” Parian called out, knotting the end of the long roll of cloth she carried on her back, now completely undone, every bit of cloth spent.  “Come!”

As Roman and Juliette approached, Parian lasso’ed them, tightening it around their armpits.

The slime was slippery enough that they were squeezed out and sent sprawling like bars of soap in wet hands.

“No, no, no,” Parian said.

Above us, Oberon crashed into solid smoke, clearly intended at interrupting his descent.  The smoke had some slime on it, and he tumbled head over heels as he fell.

“Impale someone!” I told Foil.  “skewer them to the cloth!”

“Won’t work!” Foil answered.  She was being tied together with Parian, and there wasn’t enough slime there to make it slip.  Enough telekinetic power in the cloth itself, apparently.

“Chastity!” Roman called out.  “Berserk strength!  I know it’s weak but-”

“I have my whip!” she raised her weapon.  She’d managed to keep ahold of it.

“I have to hit someone!”

“Then hit Juliette!” Chastity said, voice pitched.

“Ugh!”

The Heartbroken were running for it instead of taking my suggestion.  ‘Running’ being a polite way of phrasing the way they waded through slime.  It was maybe the first time I’d seen them working together.

I saw the shift in their bodies as Roman used his power.  A burst of raw emotion, rage and hostility flowing through them and making veins momentarily bulge.  It came, apparently, with strength.  Enough for them to leap toward the nearest building face.

‘Leap’.  They had no traction on the slimy roof.  They tumbled forward with some velocity, enough to briefly meet the building face.  Roman slammed his hand against a window frame to adjust his fall, crashing through a window.  Juliette grabbed on with sheer strength, fingertips hooking around holes in the windowsill, and displacing any slime on the rim or on her fingers by sheer strength.

Oberon produced a shockwave before hitting the ground.  Slime everywhere rippled out and away from the point below him.

Moving it aside so he had more room to land.  He crashed down, and even that crash was dampened.

But the shockwave was as immense as the one that had leveled a city block.

I hauled on the cloth that had Parian and Foil, lifting them up and away.  Off to the side, Chastity was whipping at a bit of storm drain, taking two tries before she had a hold she felt secure enough about.

I saw falling bodies, and realized a moment later they were stuffed animals.  Juliette held on with one hand, her body still but her legs swaying in the wind.

Chastity yelled something that was lost in the rush of wind.  The blast of wind from Oberon’s impact washed past her, and she yelled something again, swinging in the wind, feet trying and failing to find something but slime.

Then Chastity dropped a good foot toward the ground.

The whip didn’t have enough of a grip on the drain pipe, and the drain pipe itself was flimsy.  She slipped down, and the force of her body weight coming down made the pipe bend, to the point it almost came free of the wall.

I could feel the lurch in her stomach through the Syndicate connection.

“Can’t-” Foil muttered.  She reached down to her boot, scraping through slime.  “Cleats.  Swing me, Vic!”

I felt her legs move, and I swung the dangling pair to work with that movement.

The crossbow fell, abandoned.  She threw two darts at Chastity, impaling her clothes to the wall, then very intentionally slipped free of the cloth, falling.

A dart in each hands, she staked herself to the wall of a building that was already starting to crumble.

She leaped from there, to another building that was in the midst of falling down.

I knew her intention.

I flew, swinging Parian out.  Chastity’s whip had fallen from the drain pipe and now dangled limp from one hand.  Her other hand gripped in a futile way at her coat.  It was now only tearing cloth that pinned her in place, and her hold on the cloth wasn’t enough to stem the tearing.

Threads and needles flew out from Parian, catching at Chastity’s clothes, flowing through, then lancing back.

Stitching her to the cloth that Parian hung from.

It took time, and we didn’t have a lot.  Small mercies that this building face they’d jumped to been out of the path of the gas; the only gas that painted this wall was gas that had blown back to touch the wall.

And that, really, was enough, especially when combined with snow and ice.  What might have been the best handhold became slippery in three different ways.

Off to the side, the window opened.  Roman, bleeding from a dozen places, reached down for Juliette.

“Massive blood loss is a good look on you, idiot brother,” Juliette said, looking up at him without reaching back.  I could see her fingers moving by small fractions.  Her own blood trailed down from where fingers dug into slimy, hole-riddled wood, like her skin was splitting at the beds of the fingers.

“This building is falling down.  There’s no time to fuck around,” he snarled.

“Saying you’d die too is the most convincing case I’ve heard for suicide yet,” Juliette said.

Her feet scrabbled, trying to get traction and finding none.  She kicked at the window with one boot-toe, trying to stand on the shattered glass edge, but it only crumbled.  She slipped further.

“Bite me,” he told her.  He reached down to her face, and shoved slimy, bloody fingers in her mouth.  I could see the muscles and veins standing out on his wrist as he clutched her lower jaw with every bit of strength he had.

She, for her part, bit down with matching fury.

With that as their hold on one another, Roman hauled Juliette up enough she could get through the window.

Threads Parian was using were snapping as I tried to test the weight of Chastity.  Others pulled free because of the slime, or made her coat tear more.

“Whip me!” I called out.  The Wretch was too slimy.

I held out my bandaged hand.  “Hit my hand!”

Chastity twisted until her back was to the wall.  Cloth tore more.

Only the fact she was at the corner of the building let her get her arm back far enough.  The full-body motion of even getting the whip up and moving in a loose circle before she could send it where she wanted cost her more.  Threads pulled on her and limited her arm movement, but many of those threads came loose.

Come on, I thought.

She struck out, whip lashing toward my hand.

It struck my palm, but the impact was only a graze.

The forcefield’s teeth bit into the whip itself.  A cue taken from Roman and Juliette.

I pulled back, gripping her that way.  Lowering her toward the ground.

Buildings weren’t crumbling as much here.  The same stuff that put the maggot-ridden holes in walls was making those walls more rigid, if… thin.  As the weight of the building pulled down and was jostled again and again by shockwaves, the buildings slumped down, like they were made of cardboard and more and more water was being poured onto them.

Imp, Roman and Juliette escaped the building from a lower floor.  Imp seemed to be in good shape, and was supporting Roman as he staggered a bit, the both of them skidding on the slime that had settled on the ground.  The crash through the window had done a number on him, and he had bites from maggots that I was pretty sure hadn’t been there when he’d made the leap.

Juliette looked only a bit better off than Roman, though she was slimy, straight black hair pushed back and away from her face, much in line with the backswept crown of spikes at her head.  Her dark eye makeup ran behind her mask’s eye holes.  The second set of eyes on her mask was perfect, in a stark contrast.  She wore her gas mask under her real mask, setting it slightly ajar.

Foil joined us, also with her gas mask on.

Text appeared across my field of vision.

HELP COMING.

“Help’s on its way.  Which is a good fucking thing,” I said, panting a bit.  “Takes us five minutes to handle what takes them seconds to fuck up.”

I glanced at Foil, and caught her staring at the slime-marred exterior of my forcefield.  It wasn’t much, but it did give the forcefield a texture.  When I moved the forcefield, she looked away, aware she’d been staring.

“I bet there’s someone out there with a thing for spooge and maggots who is having the best day right now,” Imp said, looking around.  The city in this particular stretch of the battlefield was barely recognizable as city anymore.  The vague outlines were the same, but it was spongy and organic, streaked with translucent lime green and neon green mingled with hot pink.  It made me think of coral, or some alien civilization.  “For all the rest of us, it’s pretty fucking miserable.  Wow.”

“We need to get off the ground,” I said.  “If any gas comes rushing through-”

Parian moved the slimy cloth, forming a barrier that closed up the alley.  The cloth was stitched to stretches of curtains, upholstery, and clothing, all taken from inside nearby buildings.

“That’ll help, but it won’t stop it.”

“I know,” Parian said, her voice muffled by the gas mask.

“Just get to safety.  Do what you can.  Foil?” I asked.  “You want to come help?”

She pulled her mask away from her mouth to answer, “Okay.  You look after the kids, Par?  Imp?”

Parian nodded.  “I’ll be making stuff and sending it.  I can look after these three while I do it.”

“Can’t do much,” Imp said, under her breath.  “But I think I can do more than babysit.  I’ll be out there.”

“You’re sure?” Foil asked.

Foil turned back to me.  “Ready when you are.”

Into the fray.  I had to work with Foil for a moment to find a place I could grab her where she wasn’t slick with the chilly ooze that came off everything in rivulets.

I lifted her up.

“Thank you for saving them,” she said.

“I didn’t do enough.  Roman and Juliette handled themselves.”

“They always do,” Foil said.

We were high enough up to see the Titans battling.  Oberon was on the back foot, and there were enough areas around the city that were cloaked in gas that he was reluctant to explore or roam.  He was leaping more, to skip over them, attack, or, most often, retreat.  Even when areas didn’t have gas, they often had slime.  Oberon slipped once or twice as I carried Foil high enough that we were above any potential hazards.

Titan Eve was finding her stride.  More gases.  More sustained attack.  Was that because she was stronger, or was it because she had conserved strength of some sort?

I wished we had some answers.

“I wish we talked more,” Foil said.  “You and I.  I miss talking with heroes.  I miss not having to justify everything.  Even saving people.”

“Is it easier with Parian, at least?” I asked.

“No.  I don’t struggle with Parian because she’s a villain.  I struggle with her because she’s different from me.  Braver in some ways, more scared in others.  There are things she doesn’t let go of.”

“We all have those things, don’t we?” I asked.  “Things we don’t accept?”

“Not all of us,” Foil said.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.  Was she referring to herself?

“I killed March, with Vista and Imp,” she said.  “Parian hated March, but…”

“But she can’t let it go?”

Foil shook her head.  “She says she can’t get the mental image out of her head.  That it makes some kind of sense with what she’s come to accept from Imp, even Vista.  But… it shook her image of me.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

How long had she been wanting to get this off her chest, to be venting it now?

“Give it time?” I suggested.  “Let her adjust.  You’re together, and so long as you communicate, as long as you show each other support, love, kindness, trust… all of that.  I think you’ll be okay.”

“I hope so,” Foil said.

I gave her my best reassuring squeeze before disabling my forcefield and letting her fall the one foot to the rooftop below.  No holes here, no slime.  It was the nearest, tallest, most upright building, which was about ten buildings down from where we’d left Parian, Imp, and the Heartbroken.  A clean rooftop and vantage point.

Foil wiped off handfuls of the slime from her bodysuit.

“I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you more, or maintain any contact,” she said.

I looked at her and saw her simultaneously look away from my forcefield, which was shedding its last traces of slime now.

Almost like she had been talking to my fragile agent, rather than to me.

“I can look past it,” I murmured, more to myself than anything.  “A whole human lifetime could be spent saying ‘sorry’ and it wouldn’t be enough to cover everyone’s regret from that period in time.  When things get that horrible, this horrible…”

I indicated the fight between Titans below us.

“…You have to conserve your anger for select targets.”

“That’s a whole lot of concentrated anger,” Foil commented.

I decided not to respond to that.

I could already see some of the reinforcements, appearing through portals.  One of the Rooftop Champs were creating a forcefield to mitigate the flow of gas, and that let the advancing group of heroes continue to advance.

“Have we found any weak points?” Foil asked.

“No.”

Damsel was atop Oberon, claws containing a mass of her power, which swirled in a vaguely spheroid form.

“Lost my crossbow,” Foil said.  “Had to drop it to get my hands free enough.  I’m low on darts.  Fuck.  I feel weak like this.”

“Would it have done anything?” I asked.  “The crossbow?”

She shook her head.  “Pelted both of them a few times.  Nothing.  I’d need to find something like a power center or brain to do anything.”

More text appeared in the black space outside of my field of vision.

GET A PHONE?

“Getting a message from Lookout,” I said.  I could see the sheer number of heroes.  If everyone had already been occupied dealing with other Titans, then two fights had been abandoned or lost if there were this many showing up.  “Be right back.”

Foil nodded.

I flew over the battlefield, seeing the more mobile heroes already getting to the perimeter of the battlefield.  They were finding our guys.  Capricorn’s group, with Sveta and Rachel.  Deathchester.  Parian’s group.

I could see the costumes of Girls at Bat, of Magic Dream Parade, Foresight, Wardens…

Portals appeared in the air, and Dragon mechs flowed through.  Six.  Two looked rough already, not in the sense that they were battle damaged, but they lacked the touch of polish I was used to seeing from Dragon.

Just have to survive, I thought.

Reinforcements will come.  We’ll find a way forward.

I landed near Capricorn.  Some of Advance Guard and Foresight had joined his group.  Relay, Shorcut.

“Phone?”

“We’ve got an extra,” Relay said.  He tossed me one.

“Going to assist the annihilators,” I said.  “I can get in close enough to help.”

“Annihilators,” Shortcut said, almost derisive.

“The people who can put actual, lasting holes in those Titans.”

I left without saying anything else, only a nod to Capricorn.

Damsel and Foil were key players here.

And so, apparently, was Dragon.

I put the phone to my ear, waiting.

No ring, no beep, no buzz.  Just Kenzie’s voice.

“Got it, think this is you,” she said.

“It is.”

“Great, cool.  Funny story.  I ran an algorithm to look through video and see what phones changed hands, working my way forward from when they were first handed out…”

“Lookout,” I said.  “Focus.”

“I got some scans of the cracks.”

“And?”

“And there’s a lot.  Way more than we saw last night.”

Holy shit, that really had been last night.  It didn’t feel that way.

“Something we can use?” I asked.

“Probably, but… that’s the wrong way of putting it.”

“Lookout, we can’t talk around the topic when I could be helping fight right this second.  Tell me, is there anything we can use?”

I felt Withdrawal step closer, leaning into the microphone.  “She explained it to us, quick and simple.  Can we use it?  Yes and no.  There are petabytes of data from a few shots she managed to get, and she didn’t get enough to encompass everything in even one area of the space down there.”

“Standard problem for any surveillance tech in the modern age,” Kenzie said.  “Gathering the data is easy.  Finding the right, usable data might take too long.  But it’s not going to be like you think it is.  It’s archives, history.  It’s Moose and Prancer’s entire history from the time they met their agent, from before, information about people they knew, codified and referenced and there’s whole forks of data that get cut off because old connections broke.  Both of them, because they merged.”

Merging.  Was that what Oberon and Eve were trying to do now?

I shook my head.  “That’s not that useful, unless it’s a sign they’re in there?  If we could reach them…”

“They aren’t.  Not as far as I could see.”

“They aren’t?” I asked.

“Traces of them, but they’re wiped out.  It’s only old tactics and strategies, memories of battles, informed by the past.  But what’s cool is that there’s other data, going further back.  Past worlds.”

“Worlds that won?” I asked.

“No,” Foil answered me, leaning closer to the phone.  “We talked about this with Tattletale a few months ago.  If they hadn’t won, they wouldn’t be here.”

“There’s other stuff, but it’s secondary,” Kenzie said, a little breathless.  “Really wish I could have stayed, but these guys dragged me off.”

“Sorry, but I’m not sorry,” Withdrawal spoke into the phone.

“You’ll be sorry if it turns out I could have gotten data from Titan Eve that verifies what I saw in Oberon, or more photos, or more anything that might have made a difference.”

I stood at the rooftop’s edge, looking down.  Oberon was taking fire.

“Other reason for my call: Dragon’s bringing out the big guns,” Lookout said.  “You’ll want to clear the battlefield when the phone alarm goes off.”

“Noted,” I told her.  I looked down, and I saw Damsel in the thick of things.  Trophy Wife was with her.  I’d have to evacuate a few people if the call came in.

“They said it worked okay against the Ophion Titan, before he escaped.  It overheated while they were using it to deal with his monsters.”

“Good,” I said.  “Alright.  Look, I gotta go.”

“Um!  And last thing?  Your sister’s out there helping with your family backing her up some.  I know I’m not supposed to mention her, but if they show up, and they might, I thought you wouldn’t want it to be a surprise.”

“I… really don’t want to know.  I should go now.”

“Oh, and another last thing-”

Lookout,” I said, stern.

“Just hang up on her,” Chicken Little said.  “Sometimes you have to.”

“Um, no you don’t.  I’m trying to be helpful!”

“That’s cruel,” Caryatid added, in the background.

“It’s mercy,” Darlene said, sounding worn out.  “Sorry Lookout.”

I hung up before getting more.

Then, walking over to the rooftop’s edge, I put my gloved hand on the metal railing.  My bandaged hand smarted where the whip had caught me at the heel of my palm.

With my power, I began to tear up the railing, molding it by squeezing it.

“My weapon?” Foil asked.

“Any objections?” I asked, forcing the torn end of it into a point.

“No.  A little rough.”

“Have you gotten picky, Foil, since you started living with a villain fashion artist?”

“No,” she said, but she smiled a bit.  “Let’s see how much damage we can do.”

“Any chance you could arm me with your spear?”

“Specially made bolts, yes, if I had any left.  This?  No.  The power would conduct to the part you held, and you’d hurt yourself.”

“Even with my forcefield?” I asked.

“Hold it out?”

I did.  A bit of falling snow or ash settled on an outstretched hand.

The spear shimmered, taking on a faint but complex hue like it had been dipped in a puddle with a rainbow sheen of oil on the surface.  She laid it gently across my forcefield hand.

The forcefield went down.

I quickly put my mask on, just as a safeguard.  I waited.

The forcefield took a little while to get back up to full strength.  I flexed my limbs, making sure nothing had been ruined.

“No luck,” I murmured.

“Deliver me,” she said, looking down over the edge of the roof, no longer with a railing.

With my forcefield, I grabbed her.

“Eerie,” she said.

“Mask,” I told her.

She raised her visor, giving me a flash of her expression, so very tired, and put the gas mask on, fixed her goggles, then flipped her visor back down.  She gave me a curt nod.

I used my own body to block the worst of the wind as I pulled her down after me.

A plunging descent, toward Eve.

“I will catch you if something happens,” I pledged.

I felt her nod through the Syndicate connection.  Felt her heartbeat, the hand clenching the spear shaft.

I controlled the descent, bringing us close, as we landed on Titan Eve’s shoulder, amid rolling clouds of gas.  I let go of Foil and slammed down hard, to create enough of an impact that the worst of the gas would be shoved away.

For her part, Foil plunged the twelve foot spear in deep, then slashed.  What had been supporting railings were now like teeth, sawing on the way out.

It was almost effortless in how it cut, even with its weight, screwed up balance, and crude makeup.

The spear shifted from its rainbow shimmer and effortless cutting to being normal, stuck where it was, while Foil adjusted her balance and used it for leverage to change position.

She was doing a fair amount of damage.  Blood washed out of the wounds, always in short spurts that ceased within seconds of starting, always unobstructed flows, like water from an opened dam, but thicker.

My skin prickled beneath my clothes, and I backed away from Foil, before using my forcefield and spinning to try and displace the smoke.

Titan Eve shrugged, then raised a ‘hand’ our way.

But we’d distracted her.  Titan Oberon pounced, leaping to close the distance in a flash, driving hooves into her upper chest.

The impact and the shockwave that rippled out around her jarred Foil from her perch.  She toppled through the air, and I caught her, swinging her around and throwing her back toward Titan Eve.

It really fucking helped, having Syndicate to give me a clear view of where Foil was in this foggy mess.

The wounds Foil had delivered had been something like a person might have managed with a scalpel and a few seconds to work on someone’s upper shoulder and collarbone, but the hit from Oberon was far more severe.  Stone cracked, blood flowed.  Had she been human, her upper body might have caved in.

As it was, it slowed her down, made her bend over, and put her into a defensive mode.

I heard the roar of Damsel’s power, located her, and watched as she used the recoil of her blast to direct her descent.  She’d been atop Oberon, apparently, and in the wake of his attack, she was crossing over to a new target.

She fell past Titan Eve’s head, raking the side of her ‘face’ with a singular blast.

Gas reached up, forming spikes, dissolving, forming more spikes, dissolving further.  Filling the air like she was building a forest around herself, only the appendages couldn’t decide if they were bare branches stabbing toward the sky or if they were loose clouds of greenery.

I pulled Foil back, and I flew toward the plummeting Damsel, who was trying to both stay back from the gas and to slow down her fall.

“Stop blasting, let me in close!” I shouted, as I pulled Foil behind me.

She kept blasting, claws whipping around herself, using her annihilation blasts intermittently, when it wasn’t clear she had a good sense of when she was facing down.

“Trust me!” I shouted.

The blasting stopped.

We continued to fall, and I was forced to find a speed where I wouldn’t pull Foil’s arm out of the socket, but would still catch up to Damsel and have room to control her fall.

Gas was expanding all around us.

I placed a hand around her bladed fingers, pulled her closer, then did it two more times.  Phantasmal hands gripping blades, still trying to find that gentle balance where I wouldn’t squeeze so hard the blades cut through my forcefield, but where I wouldn’t lose my grip on her either.

I focused more on keeping Foil from getting whiplash than I did in saving Damsel’s arm from being ripped out of the socket.  I knew her shoulders were strong, she’d been augmented, and her Manton protections no doubt covered some of the damage that constant recoil might have done to her.

I pulled both of the women into the air, up and away from the wounded Fume Hood.

My borrowed phone blared, its warning given.

We’d hampered them enough, we’d slowed them down.  Now Dragon’s ship, mounted on a rooftop, was preparing its shot.

Everyone out of the blast zone.

Down there on the road, wobbling, a frantic Torso was trying to get the hell away, wobbling precariously.  I flew after him, thinking I could pick him up, but another cape was already on the scene, doing a sweep.  They picked him up, lifting him into the air.

Come on, I thought.  I turned my attention to the Dragon craft, and the line of heroes at the edge of the damage.

Come on.

A blue light flared at the top of the Dragon craft.

A shadow fell over the battlefield.

Almost hidden because a building stood nearly as tall as she did, covering up most of her body, Titan Skadi stood behind the heroes’ lines, clad in red and black armor.

With a swipe, she destroyed the Dragon craft.  Whatever had been charging detonated, bright, white toward the center and blue at the edges of the explosion, in stark contrast with Titan Skadi’s armor, which ranged from red to black.  Too bright to look at.

No.

With a second swipe, she took out three more Dragon craft.

Come on, get out of there!  Everyone-

Raising two bladed limbs above her head, she plunged those limbs down into the heroes’ lines.

Hitting no less than ten people in the process.

She straightened, moved like she was taking a step forward, and everything that wasn’t in deepest shadow disappeared.  Those deep shadows disappeared a moment late.

She had reappeared next to Oberon.  She didn’t attack him.

Auger beat her, and Titan Oberon had been connected to Auger.

We got our backup, and Titan Oberon just got his.

The connected ones are coordinating.

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45 thoughts on “Radiation – 18.5”

  1. Everything in this chapter screams BADASSERY:

    -Victoria being badass as always.

    -Foil and Parian making such a badass team.

    -Juliette and Roman making such a badass team.

    -Damsel being badass in all her “reincarnations”.

    -The whole Titan vs Titan and little people vs Titans fights was the epitome of badassery.

    I love this arc so much, one of the best arcs.

    Victoria just found a new call. She should become a marriage counselor because everyone ask her for her advise everytime when they have troubles with their romantic relationships: Weld, Sveta, now Foil :).

    Speaking about Foil, she and Parian are so adorable together and it will be a shame to break up over such an insignificant reason (after all, March is not Foil’s first murder. She killed Gray Boy and plenty of Nine clones too. March is just another monster that Foil killed in order to protect Parian and herself and Parian should understand her).

  2. TATTLETALE: we have to fight Titan Eve now.
    VICTORIA: yes, that’s true. *hesitates twice* *diverts to rescue people* There’s just no opportunity to attack Fume Hood!

    1. Just maybe her old connection to Fume tells her she’s the wrong target. We know shards tended to do that with their hosts already.

      1. This reminds me about that time in Worm when Tattletale told Panacea to revert the changes to her sister’s brain as soon as she could, and how Amy found a hundred reasons to postpone it until it was too late. These Dallon sisters are in some ways way more similar than they appear to be at first glance…

  3. And I got really excited when we got the Victoria and Foil team-up, imagining Vic wielding eight Foil-spears at once and just tearing up Titans, but nooo, the of course the powers won’t cooperate like that.

  4. Typo thread.

    > Even from a distance, I could see
    > Off to the side, Chastity was
    > For all the rest of us, it’s pretty fucking miserable.
    (I don’t think these commas are necessary.)

    > There was a good chance he’d use another stomp to give himself more ammunition, but for the time being, I denied him his ammunition.
    (The second comma is unnecessary. Also maybe re-word this sentence to avoid repeating ‘ammunition’.)

    goes to the Titan.” > goes to the titan.”
    A dart in each hands, > A dart in each hand,
    see the Titans battling. > see the titans battling.
    Relay, Shorcut. > Relay, Shortcut.

  5. 1. Well, looks like March’s death has been finally confirmed. I still think that it was a mistake to kill her. Now the copy of Foil’s may be doomed to spend “aeons” trapped with the mad hare. Looks like Foil really doesn’t have mercy for her shard and possible future clones…

    2. Considering that Kenzie managed to pull memories of hosts from past cycles from Oberon, I wonder if there is a chance the heroes will find something potentially useful there – like the fact that Withdrawal’s “juice” almost managed to interrupt the cycle once. After all fact that none of the previous host species managed to defeat the Entities doesn’t mean that they never had anything that could be potentially useful against the shards.

    3. As soon as Kenzie told Victoria that the reinforcements were coming, I already suspected that all they will manage to accomplish will be to lure Skadi in. Unfortunately I was proven right. But if it was so simple to figure out, why did the heroes decide to risk doing it anyway?

      1. They should have known better. I guess this is what you get if you put Tattletale in the field instead of a command center.

  6. More Typos

    with forcefield > with forcefields (or with a forcefield)
    said, “That > said, “that
    her,” Tattletale > her.” Tattletale (or her,” Tattletale said, putting emphasis)
    now,” Tattletale > now.” Tattletale
    “skewer > “Skewer
    whip!” she > whip!” She
    jumped to been > jumped to had been

  7. Noooo….
    Stop punching Fume Hood.

    She makes good life choices!

    (BTW, did anyone notice her “sticking her hand out” this chapter? Any of the heros? Victoria? Shame it got interupted, but that’s the first we’ve see of communication)

    Also: Skadi is Serious bussiness. Gosh.

    1. Just like we saw Vista killed on screen in interlude 12.all? Nothing that we saw in interlude 12.x confirmed March’s death 100%. All we know is that she was stabbed. She could be just wounded, and could get medical aid from her allies who were already coming, and were most likely only delayed, not stopped, by Vista. Don’t forget that Foil herself pretty much admitted she had a good reason to leave March alive (from interlude 12.x):

      “You’ll see,” March said. “There’s nothing you can do to change it. It’s inevitable. You, me, Homer, together for a long enough time it might as well be forever.”
      More snow blew. Foil threw a nail. March deflected it.

      “Come on, don’t be childish,” March chided.

      “If that’s true, then I can’t kill you,” Foil said. “I’ll have to trap you somewhere else, in another state.”

      “Even Gray Boy’s famous bubbles will only last ten thousand years or so,” March said. “I asked when we were working on the ways to break the time effects. That’s like delaying an eighty year marriage by two days.”

      Foil’s neck was rigid, hand clenching her weapon.

      “Then…” Foil said, and she was clearly floundering. “Then I have to destroy you.”

      “That-”

      “You, March. Your identity, every inch of you that wants to talk, your personality, your understanding of english, every other language you could speak. You.”

      My theory was that Foil simply found a way to damage March’s brain, leave her alive but unable to speak or otherwise annoy her when they meet in the shard space – a solution Foil might think about, considering that she knew exactly what selective brain damage did to Weaver, and might be able to implement, since in interlude 12.all March managed to perform a “brain surgery with a blade” on Jotun, preventing him from being absorbed by Kronos Titan, but leaving him alive. And I don’t see a reason why Foil wouldn’t be able to perform a similar “neurosurgery” – her non-explosive variant of Sting seems to be even better suited for such tasks than March’s is.

      1. Of course it is still theoretically possible that Foil did not kill March, and lied to Victoria, but why would she tell admit to a murder she didn’t commit instead of simply not mentioning it at all? Maybe it could have something to do with the fact that Victoria knows both Imp and Vista, and Foil wants at least one of them to be 100% convinced that March is dead? Doesn’t seem very likely to me…

  8. Well, for me, March was confirmed dead when she stopped terrorizing Parian and Foil. Only death stopped this crazy bitch from making their lives am everyday nightmare.

    1. March could be alive, but unable to act – for example in vegetative state. The fact that we probably haven’t seen Tori since that day made me thing that she was busy taking care of badly disabled March. Remember that Tori almost certainly survived – her wound wasn’t something that would kill her if she got medical aid quickly, and she probably did, considering that her clustermates were already coming. In my opinion if March died, and Tori survived the Goddess cluster (and possibly other clusters March helped at various times) wouldn’t stay quietly on the sidelines for all those weeks that passed since then – they would be trying to avenge March’s death somehow, and we haven’t heard about any such attempts by members of this cluster on any of March’s killers.

      1. They can’t get their revenge because they’re in Wardens’ custody and they can’t move a muscle without alerting Wardens about their intentions. Probably they tried to avenge March offscreen, and this failed attempt allowed Wardens to capture them.
        I also think that, if Tori survived, she’ll prefer March to be death than suffer such a fate worse than death. She loved March in her own crazy way.

        1. Goddess cluster may be working with the Wardens now, but I don’t think they were captured right after the events of arc 12. They were probably free to act at least for a while since then.

          One possible explanation for Tori’s absence comes to mind. What if the other members of her cluster decided that as much as March did for them, releasing Kronos was just something that March deserved to die for, and instead of avenging her they decided to imprison, drain, or even kill Tori so that she wouldn’t bring Wardens’ and Undersiders’ wrath on their heads by trying to attack Foil, Vista or Imp on her own?

            1. This is very unlikely in my opinion. Remember that after defeating March Foil, Imp and Vista left Tori bleeding, but alive. I have little doubt that Tori got medical aid from her teammates, and survived that day. This means that to be killed by Imp Tori would need to come after the Undersiders later without her cluster’s aid (if she did use their help, then presence of members of the Goddess cluster in the command center in last arc would probably not go unchallenged by Vista). I doubt that Tori would be stupid enough to do so, especially if her hand is not fully healed yet, which it probably is, since I doubt that Tori has easy access to a parahuman healer who would just fix her hand and let her go, and the sort of damage she took doesn’t seem like something that could be fully healed with conventional medicine, at least not in the 1-2 months that passed since she was wounded.

            2. Imp literally SLIT TORI’S THROAT with obviously killing intent.

              “Tori felt the pain at her throat, then the flood of blood washing down her front and onto her lap. Her one hand wasn’t enough to staunch the entire flow, and immediately, her thoughts began to go dark and fuzzy, like all of the buoyancy and light had just dropped out of her brain, leaving it dark and heavy.”
              “Tori saw the arm in shadows. Her second thoughts and resentments fell away like the blood from her slit throat. She did love May. She would-”
              “The thought gripped her as the darkness carried her away. The warped length of a dropped rapier and the distortion of the ground around her reverted to normal, leaving only snow and blood to alter the ground.”

              I doubt that her team had enough time to save her before bleeding to death. And Imp is an experienced killer already. She knows where to cut :).

            3. > Imp literally SLIT TORI’S THROAT with obviously killing intent.

              Yeah, I’ve just noticed the same, and was about to take my words about Tori’s likely survival back.

              It makes me wonder though – what exactly happened between Vista and the Undersiders after Taylor left Brockton Bay? We know that Imp used to date a Ward, and Vista herself become good friends with Rachel, but still it seems off that Vista, who always insisted on being a proper hero, would be fine with Imp murdering Tori. I even find Imp’s decision to kill Tori odd. After all she’s always been quite selective about whom she killed, and as far as they knew without March Tori wasn’t exactly a threat that couldn’t be relatively easily contained using non-lethal methods at Wardens’ disposal.

            4. It also makes me wonder just how much must have March been out of touch with reality at the final moments of her life, if her reaction to seeing Tori with a slit throat was:

              “Come on, Tori. Let’s get you looked after,” March said, as the pair fell to the ground behind her.

            5. Or maybe Vista’s lack apparent of reaction to killing Tori had less to do with her relationship with the Undersiders, and more with the fact that she spent too much in places like this battlefield presumably somewhere in Bet’s Africa we saw in Valkyrie’s interlude?

              Either way I imagine that Victoria will be quite disappointed when she realizes just how fine Vista is with taking lives these days. I think that even Taylor would be disappointed with how Imp handled Tori – she would probably go for pepper spray or capsaicin-coated bugs, and Imp definitely could use the spray or something like Regent’s taser (and I imagine that if Taylor still was the leader of the Undersiders, she would insist that Imp carried a non-lethal weapon for situations like that).

            6. Hey, Vista herself is a killer. She killed Shatterbird, Bastion and helped Foil to kill March. If she’s herself a killer then she won’t have any problem with other people killing when its necessary, right?
              Taylor was an even bigger killer. She killed Coil, Alexandria, Tagg, a shit load of clones, Case53s. She killed a freaking baby and do you think she’d say no to Imp when se wanted to slit Tori’s throat? No way, she’d have encourage Imp instead.
              Victoria also killed someone during Teacher base raid.
              Nobody is really clean so nobody have any right to judge others when they have to do what is necessary.

            7. The thing about Taylor is that she put a lot of effort to make the Undersiders the best people they could be. Part of it meant getting her hands dirty so that others wouldn’t have to. This is in my opinion the most important reason why she insisted on being the person who killed Coil – she protected what innocence her teammates and even Coil’s mercenaries had. Took most of the of guilt and blame for them.

              Later she did the same for Golem by killing Asther. Sure, she had other reasons – she might have thought about it as a mercy kill, sparing the girl a worse fate in Jack’s hands, sparing Purity having to see her daughter killed or worse – caught in a time loop with her, maybe taking away from Jack the satisfaction of being able to kill Asther like he promised Theo when he outlined the rules of their two-years-long “game”. Part of the reason might have even been that she was in “kill everyone on sight that isn’t a teammate” mindset needed to deal with Nice Guy clones (remember that she even killed one right before Asther).

              But… I think Taylor’s most important reason to kill Asther might have been that she didn’t want Golem to end up in a situation when he had to decide between doing it himself or letting Jack win. Taylor knew that no matter what Theo decided in such situation the outcome would be bad. If he let Jack win, it would mean the end of the world. But if he killed Asther instead, then well… remember that Golem still a very sensitive and innocent boy compared th Weaver at that point. He made it clear in Killington when he called her out on her Jack-like methods and way of thinking. Her ability to play Jack’s “game”, to push away her thoughts about the people who died in this “game” in order to strategize, to plan her next move. Let’s not forget that out of all Chicago Wards Taylor probably cared about Theo most. It would make sense for her to ensure that he never had to live with knowledge that he killed his half-sister, or that he let the world end because he decided to spare her.

              So ultimately I think that one of the main reasons Taylor killed was to spare the people she protected from doing the same. She was willing to take a blame, and become an arguably worse, more monstrous person, a person with less holding her from killing another time, to prevent people she cared for from going down the same route. It was a part of her self-sacrificing, self-destructive mindset that Jack described in his words to Amy in chapter 14.10 of Worm:

              The monster that dwells in Skitter’s heart is very similar one to yours. It’s a lonely thing, desperate for a place to belong, and the only thing it wants to be brutish to is her.

              The reason why Taylor would be disappointed with Aisha is not that she wasn’t a killer herself, but because Aisha was a person whos innocence both she and Brian tried, and ultimately failed to protect. Maybe things would turn out differently if Brian did not fall apart after his second trigger or if Taylor didn’t leave the Undersiders. Factors like Aisha’s power that made it difficult for anyone to control her more questionable behavior, or that her past made her rebel against any sort of supervision by her elders, or even her relationship with Alec – arguably most callous and amoral of the Undersiders – probably also played a major role.

              Another difference between Taylor and Aisha is that despite Taylor’s huge bodycount (especially if you consider people she sent to die against Scion), she never was as casual about killing as Aisha is. She always, even during her confrontation with Scion, looked for ways to achieve her goals while minimizing loss of human life. Maybe she wasn’t always doing enough to avoid killing, but she always considered other solutions, and used them if she found ones she considered viable. She even spared Valefor’s life after all! On the other hand killing seems to have become Aisha’s go-to method of dealing with dangerous opposition. Not to mention that she reached the point where she doesn’t have much respect for the dead enemies anymore – just look at her reaction to Foil spitting on March’s dead body.

              I think that Tattletale may be trying to teach Imp to be more responsible for her actions, by letting her take care of the Heartbroken, and by doing so maybe also make Aisha less casual about killing, but so far it doesn’t seem to work too well. It might be that Asha become a serial, unrepentant killer at too young age, and simply doesn’t know how to stop anymore.

              Similar story with Vista – the problem with child soldiers is that once they start killing, they lose all psychological breaks that prevent most people from committing murder. Some even become straight up addicted to killing and start looking for opportunities to kill people just for the thrill of it. It happens much less often with adults simply because children’s personality is more malleable. In fact judging from what I read about Polish teenaged resistance fighters during World War II, the age around which psychological barriers against killing that most people have can’t be brought down is around twenty years old. Vista is still much younger than that. The way I see it one of the bigger goals of the Wards program was to prevent it, but in Vista’s case it has failed. Probably partially because she was too powerful not to be deployed against S-class threats, partially because the world and the Wards program with it ended when she was fifteen. And chances are that she was deployed as by Wardens as a combatant to various battlefields since then.

              Finally there is Foil. I think that Parian is right to be concerned about her. Aside from the fact that Foil has also killed while she as pretty young – before GM, there is also the reason why she killed March. Her duel against March wasn’t like battle against S9000 that had to be stopped before they ended the world. Not for Foil at least. This was personal. Foil basically succumbed to the same kill/kiss mechanic that turned March into a monster, and Parian may be afraid that Foil may eventually become a similar monster as well. Especially if she keeps being encouraged by people like Imp. Perhaps Foil should focus more on her relationship with heroes like Victoria who, for all her brutality, is far more reluctant to kill?

          1. Maybe you’ll not like what I’ll tell you now, but this is my opinion and I hold onto it. I think that Lily was perfectly right to kill March. If she gave March a second chance, March would have terrorized them again and possible kill Sabah next time when she have the chance. Inly death could stop a monster like March and Lily understood this very well. Giving a second chance to these monsters is not always the best thing. Cradle got so many chances, he almost got everyone killed, Valefor got a second chance, he enslaved and killed heroes, Teacher got so many chances already and who knows if he’ll not escape again and do more monstrous things. There are people who doesn’t deserve a second chance because they’re too far away from any redemption and humanity (they completely lost their humanity and killing them is like killing some monsters with human face- doesn’t make you a monster too because they’re already monsters). Parian have no right to be afraid of her lover because Lily will not start a killing spree only because she killed some of the worst monsters, she kills only monsters, not innocents. When Foil will start to kill villains less evil than March and Gray Boy or worse, innocents, then I’ll agree with Parian, she’s going too far. But, right now, she’s doing what is necessary for her and her girlfriend’s survival. If doing what is necessary mean killing then I agree with her. Better to prevent than be too merciful and lose. There are HARSH TIMES. Being too merciful during these harsh times is similar with being suicidal. Imagine our world after apocalypse. Do you think most people will be so merciful and against killing like they’re now? Nope, they’ll do whatever is necessary to survive including killing people who want to hurt them, if they don’t have any other means to stop them. I’ll probably do the same. You’ll probably do the same. Survival and protecting our loved ones are two imperatives that can turn even the most peaceful ones of us into “beasts”.
            So, I agree with Lily, Aisha and Missy, they realized that giving a second chance to some of the most despicable people is not such a good idea and they’re acting as best as they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from these despicable people, even if this mean that they have to end their lives. They’re doing what is necessary and they can’t be blamed.
            Imp also killed to save lives. If Heartbreaker was still alive, his children would be turned into soldiers terrorizing and killing people. Imp not only saved these poor children-soldiers, but she saved so many lives. Consider that. And who knows, maybe killing Tori was necessary too, she didn’t want to let a dangerous parahuman who probably who have avenged her lover, alive.
            Not all killers are monsters, Alfaryn, some of the only want to survive, do what is NECESSARY or protect people close to them. I’ll not be disturbed to have Lily or Missy or even Aisha as my best friends because I know that these girls will protect me through any means and I’ll feel more safe in their presence than in the presence of someone who’ll give enemies so many chances then will wonder why enemies are trying to kill them.
            Rain and Sveta also have a huge body count yet they’re some of the nicest people and most loyal friends. Teacher probably never killed anyone with his own hand and we know that he isn’t nice at all.

            1. I’m not denying that March needed to be stopped. Or that maybe killing her was the only way to do so. All I’m saying is that Foils shouldn’t have been the person to do so, because for her it was too personal. I’m afraid that Foil’s actions were guided by her hate of March more than any sense of justice or rational assessment of March as a threat. Compare it to Victoria who not so long ago wanted nothing more than see her sister exiled or dead, and because she recognized that she couldn’t pass a fair judgement on Amy, she let Wardens decide. So yes, not all killers are necessarily monsters, but I’m afraid that Lily may be becoming one, because she killed March for wrong reasons, and likely in entirely wrong state of mind.

            2. Parian should be the last person to judge Foil. Sabah tried to kill Bonesaw as revenge for what Bonesaw did to her people. She brutally attacked Bonesaw (well, she had a very good reason but she did exactly what Lily did, tried to kill someone as revenge) and Bonesaw was saved only because she was very well prepared against any type of attack. Otherwise, probably Sabah would have killed her, doing the same thing as Lily did with March. So, Sabah have no right to judge Lily and understand that Lily had her reasons for waning to kill March, just like she had for wanting to kill Bonesaw.

              I trust Lily that she’ll not change, she’ll not become a monster. Hope I’ll not be disappointed but I hold onto hope that Lily will remain the same badass yet kind girl despite killing someone as revenge.

  9. Nobody:
    No one ever:
    Not a single soul:

    Wildbow: brain maggots.

    OTOH lots of cuteness and awesomeness and great power usage.

  10. “Um! And last thing? Your sister’s out there helping with your family backing her up some. I know I’m not supposed to mention her, but if they show up, and they might, I thought you wouldn’t want it to be a surprise.”

    […]

    With a second swipe, she took out three more Dragon craft.

    Come on, get out of there! Everyone-

    Raising two bladed limbs above her head, she plunged those limbs down into the heroes’ lines.

    Hitting no less than ten people in the process.

    Oh my…

  11. Nobody:
    No one ever:
    Not a single soul:

    Wildbow: brain maggots.

    Eh. They’re creepy, but they ain’t got nothing on Yeerks.

  12. Time for Lung to ramp up and show us all what he can really do!

    I find it interesting though that Parahumans Two still has mysteries because with Wildbough we know it’s not because he forgot things. So, what is he up to this time?

    And oh, yeah, Eve is connected to Kronos so maybe (para)humanity still has chance?

    1. If Kronos joins this battle it’s going to pretty unhealthy to stick around 4 titans duking it out.
      Better follow the wise example of brave Sir Robin.

      Time to eat the minstrels.

  13. I wonder if the really important thing that Kenzie missed by not scanning Eve Titan is that this particular titan is likely still far more human than Oberon Titan is. Partially thanks to Kronos’ help, partially because Moose shot Prancer in the head before their titanization was completed.

    It makes me wonder about Fortuna. To what extent is she still human inside? On one hand she is not connected to Kronos, so she doesn’t have the benefit of his helmet that likely keeps his mind (and by extension Eve) from succumbing to their shards, on the other hand Fortuna has been able to break the usual rules regulating host-shard behavior before. In fact this was the first thing she did with her power, when she used it to ensure she remembered her trigger vision. Could she find a path to retain her humanity? Maybe Simurgh’s involvement with her is an important indicator? Could it be that Ziz moved from Kronos to her, because she still has a human mind that can be manipulated by Simurgh’s song?

    1. On the third claw, Fortuna has allowed herself to be put on auto-pilot by her power for most of her life, so she isn’t that great when it comes to resisting her power.

      1. Or maybe it is not that her shard overwhelmed her mind the way it did with Khepri for example, but that she has lost all hope and sense of freedom of choice once she got full access to powers provided by her shard? Remember that while most of her blind spots were a result of Eden’s tampering, there was one that may be a result of Manton limit – inability do predict her own future decisions. Before Eden’s shard ended up attached to Fortuna, it created a pretty accurate vision of possible future decades from the moment Eden planned to land. There is a good chance that it can also perfectly predict behavior of a few titans, including Fortuna herself.

        If this is the case, Fortuna may still have a very human-like mind, but still want to arrange her situation so that her shard couldn’t predict her future beyond some point. It would be the only way for her to feel that she is free. And the simplest way to do it could be to re-create an Entity. After all even before it was separated from Eden Fortuna’s shard was unable to predict Thinker’s own mistake that lead to Eden’s death, so a complete Entity may be a natural blind spot for its own precognition by virtue of being too complex to be modeled by its part responsible for precognition.

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