Tounetar 3.6

I had to admit, having the wildlings around made the time without Sarah much more tolerable.  They would try and get my attention, play with each other, or simply just relax.  As much as them taking turns getting petted helped keep me occupied, I was rather enjoying the opportunity to observe them.  I was learning a lot.

The baby, whom I’d named Goldie after his eyes, clung to his mother’s back when he wasn’t feeding or curling up with me.  It reminded me of a bat pup clinging to its mother.  The vestigial flaps of skin were interesting; already he seemed to be learning to pull them in to his body.  The adults seemed to still have them as well, and one had let me gently pull one out.  I wasn’t sure the purpose, but I was guessing that it was some sort of tactic to make itself look larger and more imposing.  Maybe they got up on their hind feet and spread that skin, making them look even bigger than they already were.

I’d been right about a communal pack.  When I’d woken up, Goldie had stumbled off of me only to be nudged by one of the wildlings back to Ocean.  After his feeding, Wavy had tried to play with him, but he was still pretty uncoordinated.  I was starting to wonder if Wavy was a juvenile, what with his near-constant squirming and all.

One thing that I noticed, however, was that I couldn’t identify which one was a pack leader.  If I understood things correctly, which I admittedly might not, then each grouping of predatory animals that worked together would invariably have one leader.  If they were holding true to that, then I couldn’t see which one it was.  It was mildly annoying, but that was alright.  There wasn’t a lot of observation done on wildlings in their natural habitat without the use of tinker or thinker powers somehow, and wildlings had a nasty habit of hunting down anybody who tried to observe them.  This would be a wonderful source of information.

I swiped a fingerfull of nutrient paste into my mouth, making a pleased noise.  Not that it tasted very good, but my standards were low.  I’d been through a lot and needed to make sure that my body still had everything it needed.  After a moment, I put a small dab on my finger and held it out to Ocean.  “C’mon.  You need to keep your strength up so you can make sure your little guy grows up nice and strong.”

She sniffed it with her little nose a couple of times before quickly lapping it off.  I smiled before getting back into my pack.  It was a little odd that they weren’t trying to investigate it in the slightest beyond curling up around it and rubbing against it.  No matter.

I got out a stick of butter and took a bite out of it.  I had regular rations as well, but I was trying to make those last as long as possible.  Still…  I hesitated a moment before drawing my boot knife and cutting a large chunk off.  After a moment’s hesitation, I tossed both chunks of butter onto the ground.

Almost instantly the wildlings were pouncing on the butter, sniffing it, taking tentative licks.  Wavy in particular was enthusiastic about getting some of the butter.  One in particular bit off a decent chunk and brought it over to Ocean before dropping it.  Ocean got a few licks in before dislodging Goldie, nudging him over.  Slowly, he began eating.

Interesting.

All of this had interesting implications for the various theories.  If wildlings were created by rogue passengers that were damaged in the fight with Scion, these could be created by the impulse to connect to humans.  If they were created by a tinker device that was randomly working after Gold Morning, then these would be the remnants of whatever assistants the tinker had created.  If a tinker was actively making them…  That’s where things got screwy.  Why would they be out helping us like that?

If they were spawned by a new Endbringer, the implications were long term and insidious.  Show that it is theoretically possible to come to Saint Louis, drawing people in.  It would encourage the desperate or hopeful to come to their certain doom.  If they were being spawned by a para like Nilbog, then it might be either the same reason as the Endbringer possibility, or perhaps their subconscious need for human contact.

There were more possibilities, of course, but this one singular breed was throwing a lot of assumptions about the nature of wildlings into question.

The pack suddenly turned almost as one towards the opening of the street, crouching down in alert mode.  A moment later, though, they all relaxed.  Most likely, Sarah.  I looked down to Ocean, grinning from ear to ear.  “Stay here, please.  Trust me on this one.”  She tilted her head curiously for a moment before nudging Goldie onto her back.

I took that as an agreement.  Pulling my pack back onto my shoulders despite the pain in my neck, I hurried to the entrance to the cave, grinning from ear to ear.

“Bro,” Sarah said, waving with her free hand.  Unsurprisingly, her wagon looked no worse for the wear.

“Oi.  How did it go?”

“A little longer than anticipated,” she confessed as he drew closer.  “Had to do some skirting around to avoid a few packs.  Nest also has a good amount of corpses around it — those explosives are working fine, but they’re drawing attention.”  She paused, giving me a once-over.  “You sure you don’t want me to take your wagon?  I-”

“It’s fine,” I said quickly.  “How’re they holding up?”

“Good, for the most part.  A little shaken.  They’ve had a flock of fliers attack, and the walls weren’t much help with those.  Left them a little shaken, but they’re alright.  I, uh, I didn’t tell them about our wildlings, and I’d like it if you didn’t either.”  She let go of her wagon to give me a quick hug.

I frowned a little.  The thought of lying to them like that wasn’t exactly appealing, but if she was insisting…  “Okay.”  I took a deep breath.  “Now for my bad news.  We’ve got a hurting unit here.”

“What?”  Her eyes went wide and she started looking around.  “What happened?  How bad?  Did any of them…”

“C’mon.  I’ll show you.”  I turned and lead the way into our little cave, pointing at Ocean.

“What…?”  Sarah paused for a moment as she tried to process what she was looking at.  Once she got it, though, she let out a high pitched squeal of joy that made all the wildlings dance.  “Oh my god will you look at that?!”

She moved so quickly that she almost slid on her knees up to Ocean.  “Oh!  Oh my goodness Kyna, you had a baby?!”

Snuggles let out a soft huff before turning to keep an eye out for danger.  I couldn’t help but grin.  Still…  “Kyna?  I’d been calling her Ocean.”

“What kind of name is Ocean?”  Sarah scoffed a little, rubbing at Ocean’s chin with one hand and petting the baby on her back with the other.  “What kind of lame name did you give this little girl?”

Well, now I felt dumb.  I had less experience with animals than her, how was I supposed to be any good at naming them?  Still, I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot over it.  “Goldie.”

Sarah paused, still focused on the baby.  “Alright, I’ll let you pass on that.  Oh, you do have the most brilliant eyes, don’t you?  Yes!”

I chuckled a little, feeling a little bit better.  “I’ll leave you here with them, then.”  I didn’t want to go, not really.  The wildlings made it easier, but I wanted to stay closer to Sarah.  But I knew that the sooner that I got it done, the sooner I could get back.  “The cave’s good, keeps the wind out, so you should be good.”

“Cave?”  Sarah snapped to look at me.  “Why did you…?”   Her words trailed off and she hung her head.  A moment later she lifted the faceplate on her helmet and looked at me with apologetic eyes.  “I’m so sorry, Bro.  I should have unlocked a house for you.”

“It’s cool,” I said with a shrug.  “I was comfortable, to be honest.”  Not entirely the truth, but it was close enough.

“Would it be horrible of me to use one myself?”

“Nah.  You should take a nap while I’m gone anyway.  Plus, Goldie and all.”  I stepped out of the cave, scanning the nearby buildings.  “How about that one?  The windows give a good sight line, and the wildlings should be able to have enough room to do their business without stinking up the place.”

Sarah joined me for a moment before nodding.  “Yeah, I can do that.”  She turned to give me another hug.  “Always being the responsible one.  Probably would have been killed by now if it wasn’t for you.”

I blushed a little, giving her a squeeze.  “Helps that I have a good partner.”

“Yeah, well…”  She shrugged a little.  “Keep safe, Bro.  Head down, senses sharp.  It isn’t a clear run out there, so be careful.”

“Avoid, not assault, I know.”  I flashed her a grin before heading back for the wagon.  “Don’t worry.  What could go wrong?”


I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the walls of the encampment.  My neck was killing me, my knee hurt just as bad, my leg and halberd were completely caked in mud, and I was sporting a scratch on my face that wouldn’t scar but had needed an application of antibiotics.  On the plus side, I’d successfully avoided any wildlings.  On the downside, I’d successfully summoned Mr. Murphy and had stood in his court, suffering the judgment of his law.

I was thankful for my armor, or else I probably would have been in even worse pain.

As I drew close, I heard a voice call out.  “Hail, bossman!  Shut the wall down, guys!”

After a moment, the doors opened for me, revealing two bright and shining faces.  By the studded leather armor, Phil and Francis.  “Hey.”

The light haired one frowned a little.  “Man, you get assaulted or something?”

“Long story, don’t ask.”  As soon as I was inside, they worked the doors closed.  “How are things holding up here?”

“Arright.”  The dark-haired merc smiled thinly at me.  “Better than the two of you from what I hear.  You alright to be doing this?”

“Don’t have much of a choice.”  Though the gel in my neck was more than a little annoying.  “Fliers keeping you on your toes?”

“Only one flock so far, but yeah.  It was enough to keep us awake for a day.”  He shook his head.  “The walls are doing good work — we’ve got enough meat that we’re eating easy, and can send more back with you, if you want.  Got plenty cooked and wrapped, if you like.”

“Much obliged.”  I moved the wagon to one of the armored carts before taking a break.  They had the two far enough apart to have a fire between them.  Not a bad idea; it would help keep the horses warm, too.

Armando climbed down from the wall.  “You look like you could probably use a bite of something warm.  I’ll heat some up for you.”

“Danke,” I said, offering him a genuine smile.

Phil and Francis looked annoyed by that, but didn’t say anything.  Instead, Francis cut in.  “Honestly, we’re gonig a little stir crazy here.  It’s hard to keep our nerves down.  We heard you singing to yourself a ways back, and I’ve gotta admit, it was nice to hear something other than wildlings and explosions.”  Had I been singing as I walked?  I honestly wasn’t sure.  “I wish we had comms gear to call back to Twain.  Even just reporting in and letting them know we’re alive would help, I think.”

Something in the back of my head tickled, but it wasn’t quite forming yet.  I decided to give it some time.

“We’ll unload for you,” Phil said quickly, earning a glare from Francis.  “You’ve seen hell, and you’re hurt.  You just rest.”  He bent down to grab the TV.  “Gonna get dark soon.  You gonna spend the night with us?”

Given what I’d gone through just getting here, I was sorely tempted.  “Wish I could, but I gotta get back to Sis.  She’s hunkered down back there, but I’d feel better if I was there to watch her back.  If anything were to happen to her, I wouldn’t forgive myself.”

“I hear ya,” Francis said softly.  As soon as Phil had climbed into the cart, he hefted a bag up to his brother.  “She says you soloed over fifty wildlings on your own.”

I didn’t like bragging, but I knew what Sarah had done; part of our job was giving reports, and so she was making sure that even if we didn’t make it, they’d get solid intel back home.  Plus, people bragging us up would increase our rep.  Never underestimate word of mouth.

“She helped with a few of them, but I’ll be honest.  I don’t count my kills.”  I leaned against the wagon and started focusing on getting the muck off my halberd’s shaft.  “I usually have more important things to worry about.”

“Yeah, like what other wildlings might bite your face off.”  He flashed me a grin before hauling more up to his brother.  “I hear ya on that one.”

“What’s it like in there?” Armando asked quietly.

“Hrm?  In the zone?”  I took a breath, trying to find the words for it.  “Creepy.  Eerie.  You kind of expect people to just show up out of nowhere.  Like the world is paused there, and it’s going to restart at any minute.  But all you can hear are wildlings.  There’s no birds, and not much in the way of insects.  The entire ecosystem there is based around them, and I’m guessing that they fill in the roles that bugs might have.

“There’s also…”  My face twisted in a frown.  Words were hard.  “It feels like…  Not like someone’s walking over your grave, but like everyone is, you know?”

“Yeah,” he said with a nod, rotating what looked like some sort of wildling leg over the fire.  “Yeah, I can dig that.”

“It doesn’t help that the wildlings just wander around like they own the place, or fight with each other.  It’s so dang surreal that I’m not sure how to describe it.”

They seemed to accept that for the moment.  Good.  It gave me time to work on getting the mud off my leg and try to figure out what was rattling about in the back of my head.  I had realized something, and I knew it, but not enough for it to form into a full thought.  I hated when I got like this.

“Hey,” Phil said finally.  “What about your report thingie?”

Report?  Oh!  “Geeze, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached.”  I moved to the other wagon and climbed up into the driver’s bench so I could get at the satchel.  “Thanks for reminding me.”

“So, what’s in that report anyway?”

Crap, I hadn’t considered that.  My mind raced to come up with something.  “Basic pack movements.  Where they’re setting up, what sorts of places we’ve observed that they’re hiding in.  We found a few buildings that looked like they once housed wildlings long ago, and some general notes on that.  What we’ve observed about packs clashing, that sort of thing.  It’s all compressed in the notes, otherwise it’d be a few more pages.”

I hated lying to them like that, but I was trusting Sarah on this.  She usually had reasons for the things she did.

“See, this is why we should have had some sort of comms gear.”  Francis paused as he hefted something heavy.  “Then you could report back to the Wardens each time you unloaded.  Faster and safer.”

“Hey, now.  Don’t forget the Dragon’s Teeth.”  He made a good point, though.  I grinned as I put the satchel away, glancing at a box.

Almost immediately, what was tickling the back of my head jumped to the forefront, crystallizing into a direct answer so fast that it took me a moment to process what I’d realized.  My grin doubled in size and my heart began to hammer in my chest.

“That meat warm yet?  I need to get a move on, ASAP.”


As soon as my fist hit the door, the wildlings inside began with their keening noise.  It was super late, and my eyes were burning.  My body felt like a ton of bricks, and I didn’t want to deal with their noises.  After dodging more wildlings, laying in ditches and holding my breath as they moved past me, and hurrying to avoid packs, all that I wanted to do was collapse and sleep.  I didn’t care if it was in a bed or on the floor; so long as it was sleep, I was fine.

After a few minutes, the door opened a crack.  “Bro?” Sarah whispered.

“In the flesh.”  My voice was rough, but I still tried to smile.  I wasn’t sure if I managed it or not.

The door closed for a moment and I heard a chain being worked.  Quickly, she threw it open, a worried look on her face.  “What happened?”

“I’ll explain later.  Help me bring the wagon in?  I don’t wanna risk leaving it outside.”

I couldn’t see her expression in this light.  “It should be fine, Bro.  Nothing’s gonna happen to it.”

“It’s not the wagon I’m worried about.  I brought back a package.”  I ran my tongue over my cold lips.  “Please, I’ll explain everything later.  Right now, though, I’d give my right testicle to get horizontal for a few hours.”


I hadn’t gotten nearly as much sleep as I would have liked.  I’d stripped my leg off my armor, hoping that it would be cold enough in the building to help with the swelling in my knee.  The first time I’d woken up, I’d realized that it wasn’t going to happen.  The second time, I’d woken up to wildlings packed around my leg, apparently sharing body heat.  That had helped a bit, but not enough for me to sleep peacefully through the night.

Sarah had apparently slept just as poorly as I had, barely saying anything before we left.  She’d made us both a little tea, apparently needing the caffeine.  Almost wordlessly, we’d packed up to head out.  Even then, neither one of us really counted as awake.  I’d still been yawning enough to leave stains of dried tears on my face.  The only upside was that my neck was feeling much better now.  It wasn’t healed, but in another day or three I would barely even know that the wound was there.

It wasn’t until the first time that the wildlings had begun keening that we’d snapped awake.  Nothing like a little danger to make the blood start flowing.  Even still, we’d ducked into a building to catch a quick fifteen minute nap.  Now we were moving much easier, actually working to keep ourselves quiet and unseen.

I held up a fist to stop.  As soon as I was sure that Sarah had paused, I fished the map out of one of the easily accessible pouches on my pack.  Finding our way was a constant struggle, not because the street signs were faded from the sun, but because they were covered with twenty years worth of grime.

“You gonna tell me where we’re going?” Sarah asked.

I frowned a little.  “Saint Louis Avenue and North Grand Boulevard.”  I folded the map a little to try and help narrow down which route we should take.  We’d already been at it for two hours, and from what I could tell, we had a little over an hour left to walk.

The wildlings suddenly started keening again.  As quickly as I could I folded the map to jam it back into the pouch.  I’d barely gotten my hands back on my halberd when I heard a guttural snarl, making me whip around just in time to see an angular wildling pounce on one of ours.  Immediately more started dropping off the wall, and ours began their counterattack.

The opponents were more narrow, but their dark brown skin was thicker and sharper than our own.  It reminded me of plate mail somehow.  We had them on numbers, a little over two-to-one, but almost half of our wildlings were forming a semicircle around us.

As I dropped my halberd and reached for my revolver, I heard Sarah’s power activate, sending one of the further ones skidding on the ground.  Good.  As much as taking on the closest ones was a priority, they were engaging in melee with our own wildlings.  It would be far too easy for us to accidentally hit friendlies.

I fell into a weaver stance and fired on another one.  It seemed to flinch, but I couldn’t tell if my bullet even penetrated the skin.  Our wildlings were fighting smart, using teamwork for hit and run tactics.  One would slam into one, either biting or raking at it with claws before immediately jumping back.  Instantly, another would attack from another direction.

If they were fighting at full force, it would have been an excellent tactic.  The angular wildlings wouldn’t be able to focus on just one, while ours slowly wore them down.  Unfortunately, with half of ours focusing on protecting the two of us, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.  Already, they were starting to get surrounded.

I quickly unloaded my revolver into one of the bad wildlings, finally drawing some blood near its haunches, and opened the cylinder.  Time to make use of my speedloaders.  I flipped open the pouch to get at it, only for my head to snap up as I heard a pained cry.  I only got to see one of ours tumble from a swipe, bad enough that I could see the spray of blood.

And that was when I snapped.

Rage flooded me and I jammed my revolver back into the holster.  Or, rather, tried to — with the cylinder open, it just dropped back out of the holster and onto the ground.  I didn’t care.  Almost instantly, the halberd was back in my hands, and with a twist, I disconnected the head from the shaft.

Fuck them all.  Fuck them straight to hell.  I charged in, holding the head of the halberd like a hand axe.  The edges of my vision were tinged red as I moved in, ignoring the bark of complaints from both the wildlings and Sarah.  Nobody hurt my wildlings and lived.

I made a wild overhand chop at the offending wildling, barely catching it in its blade-like tail.  As it turned to face me, my foot lashed out in a more accurate kick — I bet its face hurt far more than my knee did.  Rage was one hell of an anesthetic.

I was twisting my arm to hit it in a backswing when another wildling slammed into my side and knocked me to the ground, the halberd blade going from my hand.  I could have taken the blow without going onto my ass had I set myself right, but I was acting on rage.  I barely got my forearm up, jamming it into its mouth to keep it from biting down on me before it got me pinned.  That blade-tail slammed into my side several times.

Now I knew how it hunted, at least.

Our wildlings were slamming into it and dancing away quickly, trying to avoid that whipping tail.  With how I was pinned, I didn’t have many options.  But there were always options in a fight, and Chris had given me a hell of an armament.  My free hand slipped to my belt, swiping at the pouch and pulling a small ball into my hand.  I hadn’t tested this.

“Burn,” I snarled as I slammed my palm into its gut.  Instantly, flames burst into existence between the two of us.  It howled in pain for a moment before hopping off, flames still spouting from its lower body.  Almost instantly, one of our wildlings was biting its tail, keeping the thing from injuring anybody.  Another one of the brown ones lunged for me, but quickly backpedaled when I waved my flaming hand at it.

If I weren’t wearing my gauntlet, I’d probably be screaming myself.  Even with the cooling system in the armor, my hand was feeling warm.

I got my halberd blade back into my hand, ignoring the burning bastard for now to swipe at the one I’d scared back.  The blade connected with the chest, cutting deep and offering more resistance than I was used to.  The skin was definately armored, but not enough that the tinker-made blade couldn’t get some purchase.  Just not as much as I’d have liked.

Not that it mattered.  Our wildlings were almost instantly on it now that it was mortally wounded.  I turned to look at the now-tailless wildling, only to watch it go flying from Sarah’s power.  I’d forgotten that she was fighting alongside me.

A quick check revealed that one of ours was injured but still up, but another was still laying on the ground.  Fuck these things, I’d rip them limb from limb for hurting mine.  If they hurt Ocean, I’d destroy them, burn them into ash, then piss on the ashes.

I rolled my burning hand into a fist and charged at the next one…


Something grabbed my shoulder and hauled me back, making my swing miss the wildling underneath me.  How many times had I punched it now?  I’d lost count at eighteen, and that had been a bit ago.  I raised my smoldering fist to destroy whatever it was that had attacked me…

…only to find Sarah’s armored form staring back at me.  “Bro,” she said in a calming tone.  “It’s dead.  Chill.”

Chill?  Chill?!  No, these bastards hurt my wildlings.  My wildlings!  There was no way I was going to just chill.

But I took a deep breath, letting the anger ebb through me as I looked around.  She was right, mine was dead.  All of the brown ones were dead.  Two of ours were limping, but only one was bleeding.  That was good.  But there were a cluster of them around one on the ground.

If ever there was anything that could knock me out of senseless revenge, that was blind panic and guilt.  They’d been protecting us, but I hadn’t been good enough to protect it.  Silently cursing myself, I hurried quickly, working the straps to my pack.  No, no.  I’d handle the bleeding one here in a minute, but for now I had to address the one that was hurt the worst.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I lowered myself to the wildling.  My throat felt uncomfortably tight.  “I know I’m being stupid right now.”  I got out the med kit and looked to Sarah.  “I know it’s just a wildling, but-”

“Chill,” she said comfortingly.  After a moment, she moved to the less injured wildling.  “You’re golden, Bro.  I’d be more worried about you if you didn’t rush in to help it.  It’s fine, honest.  Let’s patch these bad boys up and move on to whatever it is that your hunch is.”

I nodded and looked back to my wildling.  The others had cleaned the wound, but it was still oozing.  But the critter was awake and breathing.  If I could keep it alive, maybe it would be able to forgive my weakness.


I disliked the hills in this city.  Really, it wasn’t bad, but when pulling a wagon it made things a little bit tricky.  Especially when each of our wagons had a wildling inside, even moreso with my knee screaming at me.  Ocean and Goldie were curled up in my wagon, and the heavily injured wildling in Sarah’s.  She’d named in Reba, though I wasn’t sure where she got the name from.

Already, Sis was in better spirits.  We weren’t saying anything still, too many wildlings and too many opportunities for an ambush, but I could tell by her posture and gait.  I wished that I could feel better.  I kept on as if I was purely focused on paying attention to possible signs of danger, but I still felt horrible over all of this.  Maybe if I’d chosen a different route, maybe if I’d been a bit quicker on the draw, or a bit more accurate in my shots.

We’d stayed at the site of the ambush longer than I’d wanted, but the wildlings had set into eating the corpses.  They’d had to work to pull the outer skin off, but as soon as they had, they’d set on the inner flesh with efficient glee.  It had, however, given me a chance to examine that flesh a little bit more closely.  It was like a white carapace underneath a layer of skin that happened to be one enormous callus.  Around the edges of certain points, especially the tail, the carapace barely poked out of the skin, making a cutting edge.

I was starting to doubt that a tinker could have made this, unless they could somehow imbibe these creatures with powers, like Nilbog.  It would be very hard to maintain that sort of skin otherwise.

A sign ahead told us that we were almost there.  I motioned, and Sarah flashed me a silent confirmation.  Almost instantly, my heart began hammering in my chest.  This was it.  Either I was going to prove my hunch correct, or we were wasting our time and effort.  We’d gotten into a fight that we hadn’t needed to, all on my silly idea as to what else Tattletale had sent us here for.

My heart began to sink.  This was stupid.  I’d been wrong, and I knew it even before we’d gotten there.  One stupid idea had sent us on a wild goose chase, had gotten us hurt, and had sent us far out of our way.  Almost two hours away from any of our other stops, which meant more wasted time and effort to do what we’d come here for.  How stupid could I get?

As we rounded the corner, though, Sarah stopped dead in her tracks and gasped.  “Bro, you’re a goddamn genius.”

I looked at the buildings just a couple of blocks away.  You couldn’t miss them at all.  Not with the large signs, not with the parking garage.  Back in the day, this area must have been lit up impressively.  Even with the way that things were now, I couldn’t help but feel a little amazed.

“Welcome to the PRT and Protectorate headquarters here in Saint Louis.”

She looked at me.  “So the battery will help us get inside?”

My smile fell a little.  “No, and that’s going to be the hard part.  It was designed to lock down if the backup power went down, so it’s going to be hard as hell to get in.

“No, this was a, if not the major communication hub for the Protectorate and the PRT.  There were cloud servers here…”  I looked at her, remembering who I was dealing with.  “The computer network here allowed for easy transfer of data between sites.  A plethora of tinkers and thinkers were here, safeguarding the data, backed up by Dragon.  Saint Louis was chosen due to its position on the continental divide.”

I looked to her, smiling a bit.  “In the initial days after Gold Morning, people didn’t recognize that this had gone down.  Even with so many places without power, the uplinks were still active from here via the satellite network.  By the time it went down, people were starting to realize that they had more important things to worry about than the internet halfway across the country.  By the time that they realized that it probably held vital data that would help in the rebuilding, it was too late.  The expedition to retrieve the servers was wiped out by wildlings.”

Sarah looked in my cart, frowning a little.  “And that battery will bring it back online?”

“To a limited extent, yeah.  It won’t last for long, though.  There probably would have been something like ten of these providing emergency power throughout the building.  The more draw that there is on the system, the faster it’ll go down again.  What I’m betting on, though, is that the satellite network is at least partially up and running, and they’ll grab as much data as they can from that.”

She nodded slowly.  “Tattletale probably made a deal with the Wardens, which is how she funded our little expedition.  It wasn’t that she was being nice or helpful, but the fact that she could get in good with them by finding someone with a high probability of success.”

I frowned.  “Why not tell us, then?”

She turned to me, crossing her arms.  “Think about it, Jordan.  Why wouldn’t she tell us?”

Sarah knew I wasn’t good at that sort of thing.  I frowned, thinking.  “Pushed by her passenger, maybe?  She, uh…”  I frowned, thinking about it.  “She’s a thinker who comes up with answers and information from the smallest of clues, extrapolating quickly.  She…  She was quick to reveal that she knew a lot about us, and that she’d been spying on our meeting with Mrs. Kallenburger.

“Okay.  So maybe…  Maybe her passenger has given her a superiority complex.  She has to manipulate people, has to flaunt how superior she is to everyone.  So she’s refraining from flaunting it to the two of us so that she can flaunt it to the Wardens and the Dragon’s Teeth.  Sort of saying that she’s so good, she can get people to do what she wants without even saying anything.  It kinda fits with everything that I know about her.”

Sarah grinned.  “You studied way too much with the cultists.”

I blushed a little, lowering my head.  “Parahuman History helped a lot, too.  All of the courses I took on it had at least a little bit on Brockton Bay.”

She scoffed.  “This from the guy who had to be tutored on history and still flunked it twice.”  Rather than continue to tease me, though, she looked back to the two buildings.  “So, how do we get in?”

“I have no idea,” I confessed.  “But if she did plan for us to hit this place up, she would have run the numbers about us getting inside.  Let’s see what we can figure out.”

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3 thoughts on “Tounetar 3.6

  1. Thank you for reading this chapter.

    Good gracious, new readers! Hello there! Welcome! Since E.V. is going to bed, I’m posting super early before heading home. Enjoy the slightly early update!

    This chapter was, at one point, over 13,000 words long. I want you to think about that for a brief moment. When I realized how long it was, I started editing it down. It wasn’t an easy task.

    The first thing to go was the bulk of the fight. I included it because this trip felt too much like a cakewalk, with not enough danger as advertised. However, upon reviewing it, I realized that it didn’t add much to the story in its entirety. It was a bland fight against mindless beasts who didn’t go down easy but whom weren’t a real challenge. I didn’t like that. Instead, I split it in two, including the things that I thought were most important.

    Next up was him returning to Sarah. They’d had a conversation about the nature of sinkholes, burrowing wildlings, Jordan’s sleep patterns and how he was driving himself to exhaustion. I needed to show him getting back, but the rest of it could be ignored. That cleared up quite a few words.

    Some more minor edits, and we got the version you see here. Since there’s so much to this arc yet to come, I’m trying to speed through as many events as possible while still letting the reader know that time is passing and the trip is taking a slow toll on the two of them. At the same time, I need to include enough for it to be interesting for the reader. That’s a tricky balance. I needed the practice, though. I’m going to need it for future chapters and projects.

    Liked by 1 person

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