Snare 13.9

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

“With the shoulder bone connected to the,” she paused, “Hip bone…”

Bonesaw sang to herself as she drew a scalpel from her sleeve, investigated it, then laid it on the counter.

“And the hip bone connected to the… back bone.”

She drew a pair of forceps from beneath her dress, another two pairs of forceps were retrieved, joining the first.

“And the back bone connected to the… knee bone.  And the knee bone connected to the… hand bone.”

I was scared.  I could admit that.  I could barely think straight, I couldn’t move, and whatever she’d dosed me with was rendering me unable to use my power.  It was there, it wasn’t like what Panacea had done; it hadn’t shut it down entirely.  I could sense what my bugs did, and I could maybe give them crude instructions, but I couldn’t do anything even remotely complicated or delicate.

“And the neck bone connected to the-” She rocked her head to either side as she finished, “Head bone.”

I could see the open door of the refrigerator out of the corner of my eye, but couldn’t turn my head to get a better look.  Brian could see us from where he hung.

I didn’t want to go down without a fight.  I couldn’t give specific directions to my bugs, but if I tried, maybe I could give one.  Maybe, just maybe, I could rely on my subconscious to guide them, even if my conscious mind wasn’t up to it.

I controlled my breathing, in then out, and gave the order.

Attack!

If the commands could be analogous to words in my head, this was a shout.  There was no control, no guidance or direction.  I didn’t have the facility.  Still, every bug in reach, within a range of five or so city blocks in every direction, began to converge on our location, veering towards Bonesaw.

She noticed almost immediately, drawing the can of aerosol spray she’d used to wipe out the first swarm I’d set on her.  One hornet managed to sting her, and with my power as limited as it was, I couldn’t stop it from contracting its body in such a way as to inject its venom into her.  I wouldn’t have if I could.

The rest of the bugs died on contact with the spray, their bodies shutting down.

Except my order was a continuous directive, much as my calling my bugs to me had been when I’d passed out while fighting Bakuda.  It worked on its own, without my direction.  It was eerie to track their movements, to see just how much initiative they took without my conscious mind guiding them.  They spread out, navigated past obstacles, they organized into ranks and tried to attack her from behind, while she was spraying the ones in front of her.  Some of the flying insects were even dropping spiders onto Bonesaw.

“This is annoying,” I heard Bonesaw comment.  I couldn’t see her in my field of view, which was primarily limited to the floor, Imp’s mask and if I looked as far to my left as I could manage, the fridge that held Brian.  Few of the bugs were getting past that spray, and even the droplets of the spray that had settled lingered on Bonesaw’s skin, hair and clothing were enough to kill or incapacitate them on contact.

I was unable to respond to her statement.  I focused on breathing, and taking in every detail I could.  My eyes could still move, my fingertips could twitch, but nothing else.

“Just so you know, I’ve rendered myself immune to all those pesky little venoms and allergens,” she said.  “And I can turn pain off like I’m flicking a switch.  Don’t want to do that on a permanent basis, but it does make this easier to deal with.”

So I wasn’t even hurting her.  Damn it.

“It’s still annoying.”

I could feel my bugs congregating on her as she put the aerosol down and fumbled around inside her pockets.  Test tubes: I could feel the long, smooth glass. She dropped something into each, then stabbed the aerosol can.  The smoke that plumed out killed most of the bugs in the area.  I couldn’t follow what she did with the can and the test tubes.

“It’s interesting,” she said.  I felt small hands on me, and she heaved me over so I was staring at the ceiling, and at her.  Clouds of what looked like steam were rising around her.  From the test tubes?  It was having the same effect on my bugs that the aerosol had.  She’d erected some kind of gaseous barrier.

“See, there’s this part of the brain that people who study parahumans call the Corona Pollentia, not to be confused with the Corona Radiata.  It’s a part of the brain that’s different in parahumans, and it’s the part that’s used to manage powers, when the powers can be managed.  More specifically, there’s this part of the Corona they call the Gemma, that controls the active use of the power, the same way there are parts of the brain that allow us to coordinate and move our hands.”

She ran her fingers over my exposed scalp, massaging it, as if she were feeling the shape of my head.  “The size, shape and location of the Corona and the Gemma changes from parahuman to parahuman, but it tends to sit between the frontal and the parietal lobe.  Beneath the ‘crown’ of the head, if you will.  They can’t really lobotomize the Corona in criminals.  Some of that’s because the location and shape of the Corona depends on the powers and how they work, and trial and error doesn’t work with the scary bad guys who can melt flesh or breathe lasers.”

She tilted my head back and felt around the edges of my mask, trying to find the part where she could pull it off.   “I’m really good at figuring out where the Corona and the Gemma are.  I can even guess most of the time, if I know what powers the person has.  And I can pry it wide open, make it so the powers can’t be turned off, or I can temporarily disable it, or modify it.  The powder I blew into your face?  It has the same prions I put in the darts I shot your friends with.  Cripples the Gemma, but it leaves your powers intact.  Can’t experiment with your abilities if I’ve fried your whole Corona Pollentia, right?  Right.”

She angled my head and stared into my goggles with her mismatched eyes.  “Dealio is, the Corona’s way too small to be doing what it’s doing.  As parahumans, our brains are doing these amazing things.  The framework, all the details our minds are using to decide what works and what doesn’t, the sheer potential, even the energy we’re using, it’s too much for our brains to process, and it’s waaaay too much for a growth that’s no bigger than a kiwi.  All of that?  It’s got to come from somewhere.  And the other reason you can’t just carve out the Corona?  If you do, the powers still work on their own.  The person just can’t control them.  It becomes instinctive, instead.”

She began feeling around my mask for a seam, buckle or zipper, searching.  She talked as she grabbed the part of my mask that bordered my scalp and tried to peel my mask down towards my chin.  “So you can see why I find it very interesting that you still have the ability to control bugs, even when your Gemma is out of order.”

She gave up on pulling my mask down.  The armor panels made it too difficult, and the fabric wouldn’t tear.  She snapped her fingers, and one of her mechanical spiders stepped close.  She removed one of the tools at the tip of the spider’s leg – a small mechanical circular saw.  It buzzed like a dentist’s drill as she turned it on.  She began taking my mask apart, thread by thread.

“I’m ten times as excited to take your brain apart, now!  You might give me a clue about the passenger.  See, I think it’s something that’s hooked into your brain.  It was alive up until your powers kicked in, it helped form the Corona, then it broke down.  I’ve seen it at work when I’ve provoked and recorded trigger events, seen it die after.  But I’m pretty sure some kind of trace is still there, linked in, cooperating with us and tapping into all those outside forces you and I can’t even comprehend, to make our power work.”

Breathe in, breathe out.  I was having to consciously maintain my breathing.  Whatever her dust had done to me, it had also jammed up the part that handled the more automatic things.  My pounding heart wasn’t in sync with the speed of my breathing, and I was beginning to feel dizzy and disoriented.  Or maybe that was the powder.  Or fear.

“But I haven’t been able to find it.  It’s not physically there, or it’s so small that I haven’t been able to track it down.  If your ‘passenger’ is strong enough to let you work around a disabled Gemma, if your powers work without your say-so, maybe it’ll be easier to spot.”

Her progress through the fabric of my mask was slow.  She stopped to clear loose material from around the tool.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll put your skull’s contents back when I’m done looking.  Then we can get to the real fun.”

She peeled my mask off.

Breathe in, breathe out.  Don’t want to pass out.  Or maybe I should?  Maybe I didn’t want to be conscious for what came next.

Her scalpel slid across my forehead, so fast and precise that it barely hurt.  I caught a glimpse of her untangling her fingers and her scalpel from my long hair before the first dribbles of blood flooded down into my eyes.  It stung, and I was momentarily blind before I managed to blink the worst of it away.  I wanted to blink more, faster, but the response was sluggish at best.  I couldn’t tell if my contacts were helping or hurting matters.

I was put in mind of the incident just days before I’d gone out in costume.  The bathroom stall, the showering in juice.  It had started with cranberry juice in my eyes and hair.  How had I gotten from there to here?

“I can’t tell you how excited I am.  It’s like Christmas, opening a present!  Thank you!”  She bent down and kissed me squarely in the center of the forehead.  When she sat up, there was crimson all over her lips and chin.  She wiped most of it away with the back of her hand, uncaring.

She glanced at the circular saw, and it started up with that high-pitched whine.

Then it stopped.

“Clogged up with teensy-weensy bits of silk and whatever that armor’s made of, too slow.  But don’t worry!  I have a bigger saw somewhere else.  I was using it for one of the other surgeries I did earlier.  Let me see if I can find it.”  She stood, then stepped out of my field of vision.  My bugs couldn’t feel her, but I could tell that she was carrying one of the steaming, smoking vials with her, as bugs died on the other side of the room, then the hallway, then a nearby room.

I tried to move and failed.  My fingertips twitched, I could blink if I focused on it to the exclusion of everything else.  My eyes, at least, moved readily enough.

I couldn’t do anything.  Even an instruction as basic as ‘find Bitch’ was beyond my abilities at present.

Bonesaw had talked about this ‘passenger’.  My ally, my partner, after a fashion.  Was there some way to use it?  To put more power in its hands?

Help!  I tried, putting every iota of willpower into the command that I could.

Nothing.  Too vague.  Whatever aid my ‘passenger’ provided, it wouldn’t think of something I couldn’t.  My bugs didn’t respond.

It was the perfect time for a rescuer to show up.  My bugs had stopped going after Bonesaw because we weren’t aware about her current location, so they hovered in place, clinging to walls and feeling around for people who might be their target.  There was a chance that they would bump into someone else.  If a rescuer was coming, my bugs would see them.

There was nobody.  No people on their way.

None of my teammates were moving, either.

If I had the ability to use my power properly, I might have done something with the smoking vials that Bonesaw had left behind.  Used loops of silk to drag them away, perhaps.  I didn’t.  My power was clumsy, now, a brute force weapon at best.

And hell, I was just so tired.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  So many burdens on my shoulders, so many failures that had cost so much.  We had fucked up here, had underestimated Bonesaw.  I’d gone with Trickster’s plan to set Hookwolf’s contingent against the Nine and buy us the chance to infiltrate and rescue Brian, even though I’d known the strategy had too many holes, too many unpredictable variables.  I’d been too tired to think of something else, too preoccupied and impatient because Brian was in enemy hands.

I would have resigned myself to a fate worse than death, but how did one do that?  How was I supposed to convince myself to give up?  It would be so easy, on a level.  It was alluring, the idea that I could stop worrying, stop caring, after so much pressure for so many weeks and months.  After so many years, if I counted the bullying.  I wanted to give up, but a bigger, more stubborn, stupider part of my brain refused to let me.

Bonesaw returned all too soon.  “Threads, Skitter?  These yours, or leftovers from before?”

Threads?  I hadn’t set any tripwires.  I should have, but I’d been more focused on a quick rescue mission than preparations for a potential fight.

My bugs felt movement.  Except nobody had entered the building, to the best of my knowledge.  It was in one of the hallways.  Big.

The huge stuffed animal I’d noted in the hallway.

Of course.  Parian’s creations had deflated without her power to sustain them, hadn’t they?  The stuffed thing was inflated, heavy, so she was here.  My bugs couldn’t detect her, but she was here.

“Outlet, outlet, need an outlet.  You’d think there’d be more in a kitchen, but nooooo,” Bonesaw muttered.  She passed through my field of view, holding a saw twice the size of the one she’d held before.

The stuffed animal moved forward clumsily.  My swarm’s contact with it was intermittent as it made its way towards us, then past us, venturing into a hallway.

“Gonna have to cut a hole in your skull, Skitter.  Unavoidable.  I’d go up through your nose, but I couldn’t reach the top of your brain with the equipment I have.  Going to make a little window.  Just big enough to get my hand through.”

She turned on the saw, and it screamed, a shrill whine on par with nails on a blackboard, but unending, ceaseless.

The stuffed animal was turning around, coming back down the hallway, towards us.

Have to stall her.

I looked up at her, then deliberately blinked three times in a row.

The saw stopped.

“Trying to say something?”

I blinked once, hard.

“Is that one blink for yes, two for no?”

I blinked twice.  Just to confuse matters.

“That’s confusing.  You’re not just trying to delay the part where I carve up your brain, are you?”

I blinked twice.

“Not getting what you’re trying to say.  One blink for yes, two for no, okay?  Now, do you actually have something meaningful to communicate?”

I blinked once, hard.

“Are you going to tell me to stop?”

I blinked twice.  She wouldn’t listen if I did, and then it would be right back to the surgery.  I trembled, but I didn’t take my eyes off her.

“Tell me when to stop.  Last requests, threats, your friends, um… science, art-”

I blinked once.

“Art?  Yours?  Mine?”

Another blink.  If anything would get her talking, it was her ‘art’.

“What do you want to know.  About your friend there?  It’s more research than anything else.  Or maybe about you?”

I blinked.  The stuffed animal was close.

“Art and you, huh.  You want to know what I’m gonna do when we’re done with my investigation?”

Why not?  Knowing had to be better than wondering.  One blink.

“I’m going to go all out.  Way I figure it, I set your Gemma lobe to attract bugs around you, then remove it, so you’ve got no conscious control over it.  But there’s a point to it!  I make some physical modifications to you, see.  Implant some of Mannequin’s equipment so you’ve got enough sustenance to keep you going, and sustenance to keep the bugs you bring to you alive.  You become a living hive, see?  We could even make it so they crawl inside you and build nests there.”

The stuffed animal pushed the door open and walked into the cafeteria.  The room darkened as it passed in front of a window.

Please don’t notice it.

“I’ve got a regular mod for your amygdala, to make sure you behave, and a frame I implant to your skeleton and heart to help control you, make you stronger, more durable.  I figure we’ll try to go for a cosmetic shift.  I have to say I admire this armor, so why not let take that to the logical conclusion?  We’ll give you an exoskeleton.  It’d be awesome.  Compound eyes, claws.  We’ll see how far we can go.  Won’t that be fun?”

The stuffed animal had stopped in the middle of the cafeteria.  Either it didn’t hear Bonesaw or something else had its attention.

I could feel that not unfamiliar sensation of darkness creeping in around the edges of my vision.  Was I passing out?  How much blood was I losing?

I blinked three times.  Stall.

“No, no.”  She stroked my hair, and my forehead lit up with a burning pain where she’d cut.  “We should get this done before you drop dead.  Don’t think I can’t see the changes in your breathing and pupil dilation.”

She started up the saw and pressed it against my skull.  The horror of what she was doing was compounded by the most god-awful noise, and a grinding vibration of my skull.

If it hurt, I didn’t register it, because the noise of the tool had drawn the stuffed animal’s attention.  It charged for us, slamming through the glass sneeze guard of the dining hall’s serving counter.  It struck Bonesaw, hard, and the saw slid across my head, cutting through my hairline.  I didn’t care.

My rescuer was some kind of cartoonish dinosaur made of black and blue fabric.  I could see the logo of this health club repeated several times over the stuffed animal’s exterior.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Bonesaw slowly stand.  The two combatants were at opposite points in my peripheral vision; Bonesaw stood to the far left, Parian’s creation to the far right.

“That’s really rude,” Bonesaw said, putting inflection on each word.  “I was having a nice conversation with Skitter, and you interrupt?”

She snapped her fingers, and mechanical spiders leaped from a spot I couldn’t see to latch onto the stuffed dinosaur, much as they’d done with me.

Needles, saws, scalpels and drills attacked the dinosaur, and it, in turn, smashed the spiders to the best of its ability.  Though it clubbed the spiders into pieces with its hands, feet and tail, it still continued to march steadily towards Bonesaw, moving over me and the others.

Bonesaw, for her part, was retreating, holding a pair of test tubes in one hand, dropping what looked like color-coded sugar cubes into them with the other.  She glanced around quickly, then lunged for a nearby counter, grabbing a bottle of water.  She upended it over the test tubes, going for haste over precision.  More than half of the water splashed around her feet.

Parian’s creation struck the villainess a second time.  Bonesaw was thrown into a metal shelf unit with enough force that she dented it.  One test tube slipped from her fingers.

The other, she whipped at the stuffed dinosaur.  It hit with enough force that it shattered on impact.

The dinosaur struck Bonesaw a third time.  Heavy as the impact was, Bonesaw was cornered and she couldn’t go flying as she’d done before.  My view of the scene was limited to the back of the Dinosaur’s head, and the occasional view of an stubby-fingered arm as it was drawn back for a haymaker punch.  It pounded her, one hit after another.

My heart sank as I saw the stuffed dinosaur begin to deflate.  It backed away from Bonesaw, and I saw a spreading area on its side where the fabric was thinning out, bleaching.  Once the first holes appeared in the fabric, the rest of the process was swift.  It crumpled almost explosively, revealing a figure inside.

Parian threw off the cloth that had covered her and used her power to rip away her sleeve and part of her dress where it was disintegrating; whatever had eaten at the fabric of her dinosaur armor was continuing the process with her clothing.

I could see Bonesaw too.  Her face was bloodied, her nose gushing blood, and her cheek was a ruined, abraded mess.  Whatever had eaten at Parian’s dinosaur had gotten on her too, devouring the edges of her dress, one sock and part of the shoe on the same foot.

Rude.”

“You killed my mom,” Parian’s voice sounded hollow.

“My teammates did most of the actual killing, so I don’t think I did, if that makes you feel any better.”

“My aunt, my best friend, my cousin… they were all here.”

“Wrong place, wrong time?” Bonesaw shrugged.  She slapped at a wasp that had managed to get in position to sting her.  She wasn’t in the area of her anti-bug smoke anymore.

“They told me to run, to protect the kids.  But they were supposed to escape while I handled that,” Parian sounded lost, dazed.  “I thought they’d get away, so I played dead.  I didn’t know.”

She wasn’t a fighter, I remembered.  She had held her own against Leviathan, but she didn’t have experience.  I wanted to scream at her, to make her stop talking, to do something to Bonesaw.

“If it makes you feel any better, some of them might still be alive.  We didn’t kill them all.”

Parian snapped her attention to Bonesaw, “What?”

“Some we left alive, so I could give them five-minute plastic surgery.  My spiders handled most of it.  Implants under the skin, some chemical dyes for hair…”

“Plastic surgery?”  Parian shook her head.  “What?  Why?”

“To make them look like us.  They’re all running around out there, drawing enemy fire and freaking out.  It’s funny.  And of course, it’ll take a dozen visits with doctors less talented than I to get something even resembling their old faces back.  Can you imagine how many people are going to double take when they look at them, before they’ve all been fixed?  Like, ‘Oh no, it’s Siberian!’, except it isn’t.”

Parian flung one hand in Bonesaw’s direction.  I didn’t see what happened next, but the bugs that were still drifting in Bonesaw’s direction to attack her were telling me that there were threads stretching between the two of them.  A bug settled on the point of a needle where it had impaled the side of Bonesaw’s neck.  Twenty or thirty needles with attached threads extending between them and Parian’s sleeve.

Bonesaw crunched something in her mouth, “You’re playing so rough.  Ow.  I think you broke one of my teeth, with your dinosaur.”

Parian ignored her.  A twist of her hands, and Bonesaw was lifted into the air, spread-eagled.  Bonesaw’s skin stretched where the needles pulled at it.  Parian advanced towards the villain.

Broken tooth?  No.  When I’d kicked Cherish earlier, hadn’t she said that Bonesaw had reinforced her teeth?  Surely the psycho would have done the same for herself.

She was lying.

And there was nothing I could do to alert Parian.

Parian picked up one of the scalpels Bonesaw had placed near me.  Her hand was trembling even after she had it in a white-knuckled grip.  “I don’t want to do this.  I never wanted to fight.  But I can’t let you walk away.  That’s the most important thing.  I’m willing to compromise what I believe in, compromise myself, to do that.”

Bonesaw rolled her eyes.

Wall!  Barrier!

My bugs left Bonesaw’s presence to form a barrier between her and Parian, but they were too few.  Too many had died against Bonesaw’s bug killing smoke.  Parian ignored them.

In one motion, Parian stepped close and stabbed the scalpel into Bonesaw’s throat.  Then she did it again, and again, stabbing over and over, hysterical.

It wasn’t enough blood.  I knew it, and Parian had to know it.

Bonesaw spat into Parian’s face.  Her own flesh burned as whatever chemical she had been holding in her mouth spilled down her lip.

Parian, for her part, dropped the scalpel, tore her mask off and staggered blindly in the general direction of the sink, her hands over her eyes.

No.

What I wouldn’t give for the chance to change this, to act, to offer even one word of assistance.

Bonesaw turned her head and spat again, some residual chemical directed at the threads. When that didn’t achieve the desired result, she repeated the process.  The threads snapped and she dropped to the ground.

“Burned mah tongue,” Bonesaw said, to nobody in particular.  Or to me?  She stuck it out to demonstrate.  It was scalded, blistered and covered with dead white flesh in much the same way her lip was.  She spat again.

Parian reached the sink, cranked on the tap.  There was no water.  She threw herself to one side, feeling along the counter for something, anything to wash out her eyes.

“You’re lucky I’m so nice,” Bonesaw said.  She lifted up the tattered bottom of her dress to dab at her lip and tongue.  I could make out test tubes, equipment and pouches, all belted to her thighs and stomach.  “If I was a less forgiving person, I’d make you regret that.”

Parian sagged to her knees, hands still on the counter, heaving for breath.

“But instead, I’ll leave you alone to think about what you’ve done,” Bonesaw said.  She plucked some of the needles out of her skin.  “I’ll finish with these guys, and later, I can show you what can do with a needle and thread.  It’ll be fun.  Common interests!”

“Making friends, Bonesaw?”

No.  Any vestige of hope I’d had disappeared.

Jack leaned over the counter.  Burnscar stood beside him, looking troubled.

“Jack!  Yes!  I’m having lots of fun!  These people are so interesting,”  Bonesaw smiled.

“You hurt yourself,” Jack frowned.  “Your mouth.”

“The doll-girl ambushed me.  But I’m okay.  I can fix myself after I’m done here.”

“You’ll have to finish fast.  We’re going.”

“No!”

“Yes.  The enemy’s recouping from the first few hits, and they’re stalling Siberian and Crawler.  Only a matter of time before they engage in one good flank and blindside one of us three.  We leave now, and all they remember is how hard we hit them and how little they could do.”

“But I have research!”

“Bring three.  We won’t be able to bring them all along, and you know they get messy if you leave them like that for too long.”

“Only three?”  Bonesaw pouted.

“Only three.”

“Then, um.  Skitter…”

I felt hands seize my feet and pull me away from my teammates.  Burnscar.  She held me under one arm, my head and arms dangling.  Beads of blood dripped down to the floor.

“Um, um.  Tattletale.  I want to see what her brain looks like, too.”

“Tattletale it is.”

“And Trickster!  Because Ball-of-fire girl killed Hack Job.  I want another.”

Hack Job?

“Trickster it is.  Finish off the rest.”

“Can I leave Brian there?  I have to show my art to people to get known.”

“Brian, is it?  Hm.  I think that’s a very good idea.”

“Yes!  Then we’ll go from first to last.  The girl with the horns.”

Imp?

The small circular saw started up with its high-pitched whine.

Then it stopped.  I could hear a strangled noise.

“Aw.  Look at his heart beating!  So fast!”

Burnscar turned, and I could tell they were looking at Brian.

Another strangled noise, trying and failing to form words.  It was so forced and ragged that it made my own throat seize up in sympathy.

“You don’t want to see your sister die, huh?  That’s sweet,” Bonesaw said.  “Maybe you should have taught her the basics.  Don’t have to see her if she’s going to walk straight into a modified wolf trap.  Did you know?  She turned off her power just so she could beg for help.  From us.  She’s not very bright.”

He made a sound that might have been a growl or a howl of rage, but there was no volume to it, and it was more high-pitched than anything else.

“Don’t worry!”  Bonesaw said, “I’ll take good care of your friends.”

I felt a hand pat my cheek.

“Come now, Bonesaw,” Jack said.

“It’s just so funny, watching him react.  His heart beat faster when I touched her.”

“It did.  But we should go.  Burnscar?  Torch the ones we’re not bringing.”

“I wanted to!”

“You had your chance, little b.  You got distracted.”

I could feel the heat of nearby flame as Burnscar manifested a fireball in one hand.

Darkness rolled over Burnscar’s feet, a carpet.  There was no direction to it, and very little volume.  It pooled on the ground and spread.

“Yes!  He’s doing it!  Can I look?  I just want to get the hard drive!”

“No.”

“But-”

I could feel my heart pounding, pounding, then stop.  The pain was gone.  I was gone too.  I had no body, only perception.

The scene was familiar.  At the same time, I couldn’t have said what happened next.  It was like a book I’d read years ago and promptly forgotten, too strange to commit to memory.

Two beings spiraled through an airless void, past suns, stars and moons.  They rode the ebbs and flows of gravity, ate ambient radiation and light and drew on other things I couldn’t perceive.  They slipped portions of themselves in and out of reality to reshape themselves.  Push further into this reality to ride the pull of one planet, shift into another to ride that slingshot momentum, or to find some other source of momentum elsewhere.  Ten thousand thousands of each of the two entities existed simultaneously, complemented each other, drew each other forward.  They shrugged off even the physical laws that limited the movement of light, moving faster with every instant. The only thing that slowed them was their own desire to stay close, to keep each other in sight and match their speeds.  Yet somehow this movement was graceful, fluid, beautiful even.  Two impossible creatures moving in absolute harmony with the universe, leaving a trail of essence in their wakes.

I focused on one of them, and I got the sensation that this wasn’t a scene I’d seen before.

I could see what it saw.  It was looking forward, but not in distance.  Ten thousand pictures at once.  Seeing situations where it arrived at its final destination.  Earth.  The farther forward it looked, the broader the possibilities.  It was looking for something.  Paring away the branches where the possibilities were few.  An Earth in a perpetual winter.  An Earth with a population of hundreds.  An earth with a population of more than twelve billion, that had stalled culturally, a modern dark age with a singular religion.

And it communicated with its partner.  Signals transmitted not through noise, but wavelengths transmitted across the most fundamental forces of the universe.  In the same way, it received information, it worked with its partner to decide the destination.

It viewed a world, one point in time in the present, and in a heartbeat, it took in trillions of images.  Billions of individuals, viewed separately and as a tableau.  Innumerable scenes, landscapes, fragments of text, even ideas.  In that one heartbeat, I saw people who were somehow familiar.  A young man, a teenager, out of place among his peers, men who were burly with muscle.  They were drinking.  He was tan, with narrow hips, his forehead creased in worry above thick glasses, but his mouth was curled in the smallest of wry smiles over something one of the men was saying.  A snapshot, an image of a moment.

It was my world, my Earth it was looking at.

Coming to a consensus, it transmitted a decision.  Destination.

The reply was almost immediate.  Agreement.

More signals passed between them, blatant and subtle.  A melding of minds, a sharing of ideas, as intimate as anything I’d seen.  They continued to communicate, focusing on that one world, on the possible futures that could unfold, committing to none, but explored the possibilities that lay before them.

They broke apart, the two massive beings that spiralled together, and I gradually lost my glimpse into what they were thinking, what they were communicating.  Whatever view they’d had of the future, they were losing it.  It was too much to pick through on their own.

Where have I seen this before?  I thought.

But somewhere in the course of forming and finishing the thought, I’d broken away from whatever it was I’d seen.  It was slipping from my mind.  The void I was in was not the world of the entities, but Brian’s world.  Brian’s power.

The darkness coiled around me, through me.  It was different, slithering past my skin to brush against my heart, tracing the edges of my wounds, the gouge in my skull that Bonesaw had made with her saw, slithering over and through my brain.

I could feel my power slip just a little out of my reach, my range dropping, my control over the bugs just a touch weaker.

But I could still see through my bugs.  I could still feel what they felt.  They’d gathered for the barrier I’d tried to erect between Parian and Bonesaw, and they’d dispersed in the time since, touching everyone present.  Burnscar had put out her flame, was cradling her hand to her chest.  I could feel Bonesaw and Jack, standing a short distance away.  I could feel Trickster, Sundancer, Tattletale, Parian, Ballistic and Imp.  I could feel Grue, hanging from the wall of the walk-in freezer.

I could feel another person, someone who hadn’t been there a moment ago.  A man standing in the darkness.

The man strode forward, uncaring about the darkness.  He caught Burnscar around the face with one broad hand, and he brought it down hard against the counter.  I was dropped to the ground.  Burnscar fell across me, limp and unmoving, and the man flickered out of existence.

The darkness slipped away, retracing its steps through my body, undoing its passage between my organs and joints, through and inside my blood vessels.

A clearing formed.  An expanse of dim light, lit only by one shaft of light that managed to come in through the corner of a window.  Burnscar’s head was pulverized, unrecognizable.  She lay limp, unmoving, dead.

“Interesting,” Jack said, looking down at his fallen teammate.

“Yes!  I’m almost positive I got this on record!” Bonesaw squealed.

“Which you’ll have to leave behind.  We’ll retreat.”

“I just need the hard drive!  I’ve been trying to get data like this for ages, and it’s a new system!”

Bonesaw started to head for the walk-in fridge where Brian was, but Jack grabbed her by the back of the neck.  “No.”

“It’s ‘kay!  Two seconds!  I’ll be right back!”  She slipped out of his grip, running into the freezer, opening one of the cases that looked Mannequin-made.

The darkness continued to dissipate around Brian, and I was aware as a masculine figure flickered into existence in the midst of the cloud, in one corner of the walk-in freezer.

It was Brian, but it wasn’t.  It was colored in monochrome, with one eye open, the other half-formed.  Markings in white covered his flesh, spiraling out from one pectoral, covering his chest and stomach.  His hands were white to the elbow, and he was sexless.  A ken doll with only more white patterns between his legs.

Or maybe he was white and the markings were in black?

Almost casually, he reached out and seized Bonesaw’s hands, which gripped the drive.  He raised her off of the ground, her feet kicking, and she grunted as his grip tightened.

“The things I put up with,” Jack said, seemingly unconcerned.  He whipped out his knife, slashing at the pseudo-Brian.  There was no effect.  “Hm.”

Grabbing a meat cleaver from the kitchen counter, he hacked at Bonesaw instead.  It took three swings to sever her arms at the wrists.  She hit the ground running, her stumps jammed into her armpits.  They disappeared over the counter of the dining hall, Jack helping Bonesaw up.

Monochrome Brian lunged after them, but the floor of the freezer shattered beneath one foot.  He lost his orientation, then flickered out of existence once more.

I could see Brian from where I lay, as I struggled to breathe with the one-hundred and whatever pounds that were piled on top of me.  He hung there, haggard, glaring at nothing in particular.  The man didn’t reappear, but the stream of incongruent events continued; I could see one of Brian’s ribs twitch like the limb of a dying insect.

With a glacial slowness, his body parts began retracting back into place.  The metal frames holding his intestines and organs into place bent, then gave way in the face of the inexorable pull.

It took a long time.  Five minutes, maybe ten.  But his skin crept back, tearing where it had been pinned to the wall, joining back together, then healing.  Even the scratches that had criss-crossed his chest since he’d fought Cricket began to mend.

The healing stopped before it was entirely finished.  I saw the figure appear again.  The monochrome, half-formed Brian.  Mercilessly, it tore out the metal studs that had impaled Brian’s limbs to the wall.  It caught Brian, then laid him carefully on the ground.

He couldn’t walk, so he dragged himself towards us.

He had another trigger eventTwo new powers?  Three, if I counted the way his power was diminishing my own?

He touched my hand, held it between his own.  I could feel something thrumming through me, willing me to take hold of it.

It took me a minute to figure out how.  The exposed bone of my forehead itched, then sang in an exquisite agony as it mended.  My skin was next.  My seized up muscles were last.  My power was last to mend, and I regained my control, though the diminished effect continued.

I clenched my fist, struggled into a standing position.  Brian hurried to Aisha’s side, grabbing her.

Four new powers?

I hadn’t heard about anything like this.

“Come on,” he said, his voice hoarse, “Don’t have long.  I-  Damn it!”

His darkness flowed out from his skin, heavier than I’d ever seen it, slow to expand, but it seemed to generate itself.  It slithered through me yet again.  Slithered through my bugs.

It was minutes before the darkness dissipated.  When it did, Tattletale was standing.  Parian was standing on the other side of the room, eyes wide.  The three Travellers were huddled together.

“What the hell was that?” I asked.  “Brian, hey-”

I stopped.  He was on all fours, his head hung, his cheeks wet with tears.

I reached out for him, but a hand seized my wrist.  Tattletale.  She shook her head at me.

While I backed off, Tattletale reached for Imp, whispered something in her ear.

Imp bent down and took off her mask.  In a voice far gentler than any I’d heard from her before, she said, “Hey.  Big brother?  Let’s get out of here.”

Brian nodded, mute.

Aisha could approach him, but I couldn’t?

He stood, refusing Imp’s offer for help in standing.  He clutched one elbow with one hand, the arm dangling; it wasn’t an injury, I was pretty sure.  He’d healed the worst of it.  It was something else, some kind of security in the posture or something like that.

Darkness boiled out of his skin, a thin layer.  It moved slower than it had before, thicker, more like tendrils sliding against one another than smoke.  Just like the arm he had across his chest, gripping his elbow for stability, it was a kind of barrier, armor or a wall erected against the world.  He walked slowly.  Nobody complained, despite the proximity of our enemies and the fact that the darkness he’d spread out had to have alerted Hookwolf’s contingent about our existence.

I watched Brian as I walked behind him.  I’d just been paralyzed, about to receive involuntary brain surgery.  Now, in a much different way and for different reasons than before, I was again unable to offer him a hand.  I couldn’t even talk to him without being afraid I’d say the wrong thing.

Even compared to being in Bonesaw’s clutches, I felt more helpless as ever.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

131 thoughts on “Snare 13.9

  1. Hmm. The thought had occured to me before, but now I’m much more certain. The Nine do at least some of what they do with the intent of causing trigger events-and being there to witness them. And now the main characters have a record of a double-trigger event.

    • Just finished this chapter. My guess? Brian bought his powers from Cauldron, and was one of the people who was capable of experiencing a trigger event, but had not actually yet experienced one.

      If this ends up being a spoiler, feel free to delete the comment ;)

      • Early in the story he relates the circumstances of his trigger event in detail. Details which Aisha would be able to corroborate. Also, second trigger events have been mentioned prior to this.

    • I somehow don’t think that Brian got away from this unscanted with a permanent major power boost. Whatever Lisa figured out and told Aisha can’t be good. This might go beyond some mental damage and mere tiredness. His “don’t have long” comment could be interpreted in a number of very bad ways. Either his powers will soon settle down again to a more normal level or he might even be dieing….

      On a different note I would like to point out that if Jack ever loses his genial disposition of general unconcerned amusedness there will be real trouble. Even when Tattletale revealed Cherish’s plan and ruined his fun he die not do more than frown and express disappointment. He takes the death of a teammate without doing much more than batting an eye and generally acts like the father of an old time family sit come putting up with everyones antics.

      If Jack ever starts shouting in anger or gibbering in fear or running or is speechless from panic, you will know that the situation really is that bad and the shit has hit the fan.

      • Mannequin: Down. Burnscar: Dead. Shatterbird: Presumed to be dead by the Nine, and will be KoS. Cherish: If not dead soon, definitely not Nine any longer. Leaving Siberian, Crawler, Jack, and a fore-arm-less Bonesaw. 4 of 9.

        Other side of the coin, if Jack ‘escapes’ and this ‘shadowy goop’/Grue/Brian takes it upon itself to hunt Jack…

  2. I was hoping Skitter was the one about to experience a second trigger event but I suppose Brian more than deserves it after what he’s been through. Great chapter as always.

    • so you think she didn’t? (stil hoping)
      it was sad some chapters back that someone gets more powers if at the same time someone nearby gets powers and he got 3 of 4 new powers, so it is possible that skitter got some but just didn’t jet notice

      • What if Brian only got one new power and three other Undersiders/Travelers got one each? Maybe Brian got powers like Rogue from the X-Men, only he could use them through his darkness, and three others got regeneration, healing, and cloning themselves. They couldn’t use the new powers because they were paralyzed, but Brian could.

  3. Okay great chapter! Is Parian going with them? Very curious about Brian and the things. I’m sure plenty of people will analyze it better than I can! Now I gotta go donate again after a chapter like that!

  4. I really hope that Brian’s powerup is only temporary- and preferably mysterious, though the mystery and the deus ex machina factor have to be balanced carefully.

    I’ll admit that I didn’t really enjoy the rescue as much as what came before it, some of which was incredibly pulse pounding.

    The Dexter music started playing in my head, incidentally, once bonesaw’s little ditty left it(The serial killer, not the child scientist who is also surprisingly appropriate) and she started talking about passengers.

    “provided, it think of something” – Not sure what to suggest exactly; seems to be missing a word?

  5. Haven’t posted for a while, but I’ve been reading the whole time. With every chapter I think it can’t get any better, but then you manage to exceed my expectations.

  6. I remember it!

    Ah yes, what with everything being connected atomically, humanity being the descendants of long-dead stars in a sense, because the atoms that were part of them were cast off when they died. So you have planets that form, and then you have things on the planets that form. Eventually, intelligent life with a bond to the entire rest of the universe. But certain forces present in the universe can affect time as well, can make something instantaneous from the other side of the universe perhaps under the correct circumstances, or even affect their past. So people who were normal suddenly have had a new section of their brain set aside that handles different functions, set to go off now during this trigger event and bolstered by these odd links, this passenger, that is part of these two beings (possibly a child? Interesting take on sacrificing a “child” for another’s salvation)

    Perhaps they’re all linked in ways we don’t know either. The first guy saves a boat, some people on the boat gain powers, so on and so forth. Regent gains powers after exposure to a powered parent. All such kids from powered parents get them more easily. Taylor was affected by Sophia. Imp was affected by Grue. There are gaps, but it could be people who the individual didn’t know had powers, or even didn’t have powers yet as the trigger event could be a future event for which they’ve already been altered. Maybe, tracing it all the way back, there was some first cause and every new empowerment is an attempt to make up for it in some way. Maybe related to the Endbringers?

    Ah, but this is me going all inspired again, and while it makes for some interesting babbling, I doubt any of it is correct as far as Wildbow is concerned. Probably more relevant in this situation is Chuang Tzu, a daoist, who had a that he was a butterfly flying around all happy as could be, not knowing he was Chuant Tzu. Then he woke up, and couldn’t tell if he had been a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

    The important thing is that once and for all I have figured it out: the Undie Gun!

    *He blasts random passerby with the gun, which drastically shrinks any undergarments worn by the person and incapacitates them in the process, then runs off into the night repeatedly shouting “Undie undie undie undie undie!” to himself*

    • i thought of it more as of a blood donation not as of a child
      how propable is it that the endbringers are failed experiments of claudrin (didn’t find how it is spelled so … hope this works)

    • In regard to the origin of trigger events, if I remember correctly Scion was stated to be the first observed parahuman in the Wormverse. However, I don’t remember if he came before the Endbringers.

      Also, your Undie Gun has sort of already been done. Maybe you should go watch Mystery Men again :P

      • Scion came before the Endbringers. He was the first to make themselves known.

        If he hadn’t come before the Endbringers, the world probably wouldn’t be standing.

      • *Bangs on the Undie Gun with a hammer a few times, then presents the Undie Gun 2! He test fires it on people, the gun now teleporting a grouchy weasel into their undergarments.* I thought the concept was familiar. This will have to be an appropriate substitute then.

    • It seems that superpowers are like sitcoms, with the entities watching granting spinoffs to background characters that interest them.

      So Skitter is like Carl Winslow to Sophia’s Balki Bartokomous…

      • Ah, but are they Skitter, Brian, and Bonesaw occasionally having visions of the two entities, or are they the two entities whose dream of being Skitter, Brian, and Bonesaw are interrupted every once in awhile?

        Probably neither. My hypotheses make for interesting considerations, but I doubt it’s what Wildbow thought up. I’m always just off enough. Like thinking, based on one interlude, that Siberian wasn’t actually a super strong type who had speed as part of it, when instead that was later confirmed as what she is. Or in thinking that Skitter would get a second powerup due to how she was paralyzed and trapped. Somebody did, just not her. I’m just right enough to be wrong.

  7. Hmm story is made by struggle by limitations set upon our protagonists and the way they deal with them, thats why it would have been unwise to power up our main protagonist to much and empowering a secondary char “Brain/Grue” which was very low in the power scale to begin with is the better choice.
    On another note it seems to me wildbow likes to go with the smallest possible win in a situation, feeding us just enough that our hope and want for the story keeps on but not enough that any potential for conflict and struggle, for story is wasted.
    Can be very frustrating for us consumist readers XD who like to overeat.

    Feed us more you greedy little bastard ;P we want to DEVOUR, TO FEED, TO CONSUME
    –>slaps the hive mind,bad hive mind, bad

    As for Brian I think his new powerset might be dangerous for those around him, maybe making it impossible for him to touch people or making continious control necessary in order not to hurt,
    would fit into the requirements of drama and explains why Aisha might be a better choice to speak to him cause she can slip from the attention of his new power if it tries to lash out.

    Concerning Aisha I am really worried about her team role, her power makes it really hard to be a team player and its use is difficult, spying is made hard by other ways to detect, she has no additional defensive or offensive capabilities to use in a fight, no enhanced mobility
    and using it in specific ways is hard cause it slips when you focus on it.
    If not for this last point if I had her powers I would probably try to filter who my power targets and to manipulate the content of what is forgotten, maybe try to extend it to team mates, maybe try to reverse it so people pay attention only to me and no one else, try just to hide a weapon or armor so people underestimate what I can do etc.

    • Ah, but see, I love tormenting people. I’ve got a bit of a mean streak. I’ve seen people on Spacebattles & other forums saying they want Taylor to have a power boost. I know that there’s readers of ‘shounen’ series that are so used to the protagonist getting that next power increase (The week of training in an isolated location, learning that special technique, going super saiyan, whatever). I also know the traps inherent in going down that road.

      So it’s fun to tweak people’s noses just a little, knowing what they’re hoping for.

        • Agreed. The longest running drama/action shows on television and in comics don’t have that. I don’t like the “powering up” idea in my stories, certain exceptions aside, such as this chapter. It’s cheap cop out usually. It would be interesting to see an epilogue of sorts at the end to see how far Skitter has come. Her bugs can act on her direction fairly independently already. Creative uses of power, such as in the fight with Mannequin, among other things, are much better for the story.

      • it is good that the doesn’t get powers thrown after her but i sometimes miss the power growth
        (ever since one of the early chapters where it is speculated that her power controles creatures with very low, basic brain functions I am waiting for her to get the power to controle rats and scorpions and maybe snakes^^, she still cant here or listen with the insects)

          • Word of God says Skitter can only control invertebrates. So I’m sorry to ruin that for you, unless Wildbow charges that, we’ll have no Swarms of plague proportions. As far as rats and snakes go. Scorpions however fall with in her realm of control. So there is that.

          • Though the question is left about whether various unknown nervous systems such as an Endbringer’s could end up under her control should she get enough of a power boost. That’s probably a bit too unlikely though.

          • To quote the Cast page.

            “Taylor Hebert – A 10th grade student at Winslow High, Taylor is a bullied teen and aspiring superhero. Her powers manifested in January 2011, giving her the ability to psychically command invertebrates: insects, arachnids, worms, crustaceans and the like.” There you go, Word of God.

      • What really drew me to the series and to Skitter and the undersiders is that they aren’t brimming with cosmic power and aren’t constantly getting powered up , I rather like them as the B or c listers that are kicking but and taking names .

  8. Great chapter as always. For a moment, I thought it was Skitter getting the powers, but it makes sense that it is not her. The only reason I even suspected that was the thought that the aborted brain surgery might have done something.

    Other things. Great suspense there, and while some may accuse the rescue of being a bit Deus Ex Machina, I would wholeheartedly disagree. That great trauma creates powers is well known in this universe, and considering how horrified at what happened to Grue everyone was, I’m sure we can all agree that qualifies as ‘great trauma.’

    Two things. I’m assuming that even Bonesaw can’t bring someone back–at least not with powers–once their head is smashed? All of that talk of parts of the brain makes me assume that hitting the brain is the go-to way of making sure someone is dead?

    Second. You sly dog. When you were explaining last chapter why you made it so explicit, you said something about ‘so nobody expects Brian to just get up and save the group’ or something to that effect. And then he does just that.

    • Woof woof.

      Cue the rambling response to that last paragraph of yours:

      I was a reader of web serials before I was a writer of one, and one thing that caught me by surprise was how hard it is to communicate with an audience.

      It’s not that I don’t like/love you guys, or that I’m not hugely thankful for your support and continued reading. It’s more about the power/knowledge imbalance of being a writer vs. being a reader.

      It’s like talking with friends who are excited as heck to be watching the Game of Thrones TV series, when you’ve read all of the books so far. It’s so hard not to let something slip, and everything has to be phrased just so, so you don’t spoil that next big event or the next revelation (let alone the big ones!). Except it’s doubly, triply tricky, because you’re the #1 expert, there’s nobody else out there who has the spoilers in hand. As a writer you’ve been thinking about the story for hours a day for the past year and a half; You’re so intimately familiar with everything that’s going on that it’s second nature to you, and all it takes is one tired moment to let a crucial detail slip.

      But at the same time, if you ignore those people who are getting excited about the story, or if you default to not saying anything at all to be safe, then you risk losing that connection with your friend (or in the writer’s case, the audience).

      And all that said, readers have their own power, once the material is out there & read. One well placed word of criticism can be felt, and there’s that bittersweet reality when a reader understands a setting well enough to guess at what’s going to happen next, but simultaneously spoils something for themselves or others, when you’re just itching for that ‘woah’ moment when they get to the part in the story that you’ve been leading up to and everything comes together for them.

      So the sly dog comment makes me happy, because it means I’ve done something right. :D

      • Indeed. If you read the comments, everyone who was speculating was speculating on things like ‘maybe this is all a part of the plan’ or ‘Maybe Trickster will save them.’ Nobody, or at least nobody who wrote a comment, even got close.
        So yeah, great job on that!

        • To quote Psycho Gecko from the last section:

          “Now then, hopefully I shouldn’t be worried here. After all, we just took the girl who gained her powers when she was trapped in a dark, confined, disgusting space by someone she hated with a vengeance, and who gains increases to her powers in similar situations, and she’s now been stuck in the same room as Grue who has been flayed and vivisected and otherwise Gray’s anatomied, trapped in her own body, angry and scared at the person who did that to her and Grue, stuck in a cramped, dark space with nerve endings running over the walls and a flayed person hanging up.”

          I was expecting an increase to Taylor’s power. I was just wrong on the person. And on which room they were in too. And I phrased the end of that badly. I’ve noticed that I fall into the trap of “it all revolves around Taylor” lately, such as in expecting her to be a Nine Nominee.

      • When people are reading my serial, and speculating about what comes next, I’m often thinking, “But isn’t it totally obvious?”

        Usually, it isn’t, but because I’ve been planning things, everything feels inevitable to me.

        And that’s one reason I’m very careful about how I talk about what comes next. I’ve totally lost perspective on what’s obvious and what isn’t.

        • I think, -I hope-, that I still have a grasp on what my readers are expecting, for the most part.

          But my story’s shorter than LoN, and I’m expecting it to end before it gets to the same length. It ultimately depends on how fast I want to progress to the ending. I’ve been plotting out the last 33-10% of the story, and I’m wondering if I want to extend it considerably. I had story ideas in mind that I was thinking I’d move on to, but test writes haven’t really brought them alive the way I want, so why rush to a conclusion, right?

          • This is quite greedy and selfish to say, but PLEASE EXTEND IT CONSIDERABLY. I can plainly see that there are many stories to be told that haven’t really been touched yet, and won’t get the opportunity if the story is as close to being finished as you said it is. I stay up late every Monday and Friday night to read your story and judging by how fast the comments pour in, so do most of these people.

            I understand that you don’t want to write a story that gets too long for its own good (especially since that would make a book adaptation difficult), but I’m sure it’ll be a long time before we start leaving comments like “Ugh, a Flechette interlude AGAIN?”

            But you are the author so it’s your call. As long as you’re writing Worm, I’ll be staying up late on Monday and Friday nights.

          • Well, as a personal rule, I don’t repeat characters in interludes. Once we see things from one character’s perspective, that’s probably it. Probably.

            I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, but I suppose my concern is that if I do extend Worm, the tone, themes and/or atmosphere may get diluted over time.

            The story also gets harder to write as I progress. That’s partially because I tend to write enough to fill my free time, and while that wound up being 1.5 to 3k words at the beginning of Worm, it’s veering closer to somewhere between 4k and 10k words now. It’s also because I’m having to keep details consistent with prior events, and because there’s a limited degree to which the challenge or threats can ramp up before suspension of disbelief is left bleeding on the sidewalk and the story changes drastically. Lastly, it’s because keeping things interesting means I either have to move the story forward or parcel out information you guys want. In both cases, that’s something of a limited quantity.

            So, just going by my gut, I’d say there’s only a certain distance I can cover before I start stumbling.

            • I’ve begun keeping a section of character and building notes so I avoid messing up. That and I often reread sections of older stories and remind myself what happened.

          • You know, given that your normal installment is 3 times as long as mine (about 1K), Worm may already as long as LoN.

            That said, I’d say take as long as it feels comfortable. I’ve got two more major storylines planned. When they’re done, Legion of Nothing ends. It won’t be for a while though. They’re both roughly trilogy sized.

          • When I write my next story, I might try doing it with Scrivener. It’s built to allow you to collect notes, connect stuff, build timelines and break down the story by scene/chapter for easy searching and reference.

            A bit too much of an involved process to convert the existing story over to there, though, and if I can’t, there’s no real point.

            • I started using Scrivener last year. It’s still in beta and thus free on Linux.

              When it’s officially released, I’ll be happy to pay.

              For what it’s worth, I copied the entire LoN archive into it. It did take a while, but it made it easier to edit for the ebook/print version.

        • is there a collection / wiki where the different characters are collected (name capname abilety team famaly etc)?
          one question to scrivener would it be possible for us to read the timeline etc of what already happened
          it is good to hear that you will do another story,
          just got the thougth have you written other storys before (if yes where do i find them?)
          i am curious for the end of this story (even if i hope it is still fare away)
          is it possible to make the replys shorter one one side only not on both sides?
          13.x (bonus interlud) is placed last at the main page and chronological in the table of contents

          • On the front page, on the sidebar, there’s a link to the story’s wiki. It’s currently incomplete. I add what I can when I can, but there’s lots of missing details. Just putting it out there to my readers, but if you’re craving to do something to support the story and you don’t have money to donate and you don’t have any friends to recommend the story to (either because you’re a lone wolf or because your friends wouldn’t be interested)… stuff like writing reviews for Webfictionguide or setting aside 30 minutes to write a character description every week would be a huge help.

            Scrivener: I think you can view the timeline. I only have a little experience with it, so I can’t say for sure. I dabbled with it for an hour or so before getting back to work on Worm.

            I have written other stories before, but nothing I’ve made public. Worm is my first true offering to the world at large.

            Not sure what you mean by replies.

            And yeah, the placement of the interlude is sadly unavoidable. The main page automatically sorts it, and it requires all sorts of finangling to get things in the right order. I’ve given up as far as that particular one.

          • sry didn’t see the wiki and the cast page (not jet a long time reader^^)
            replies <– when i am reading it the replay has 0,5 cm less on both sides than the coment or reply it is refering to this makes the last replays smaler on other sides it is only on one side (left) that the replay is getting shorter [isn't realy important, just gets me wondering everytime i reply or read other replies]

          • It depends on what you reply to. As is, it forms into threads, where (if you reply to an individual), it forms a sub-branch, up to a certain # (5 or 6?).

            If you want to start a new thread, (as in, you’re not replying to something someone else said), you should see a box at the very bottom of the page.

  9. …My head hurts.

    Also I’m not totally sold on Brian getting healing powers, though I’m holding off on deciding my opinion of these new powers until we get more information on them. For now it seems ever so slightly kitchen sink, I’d expected more some expansion of existing powers then this. Not to mention that this is the second time I’ve thought you gave Taylor some new powers and it didn’t happen, just a little bug form stuff is all I need. She could fly!

    Yeah, all that out the way, now I can get to what I really want to say. Which is that this was incredible. I meant what I said last chapter, I’ve even started typing out -as in twelve pages and counting- my own headfanon (it is a crime that this story isn’t more popular and thus I cannot read fanfics of it for even more Worm verse joy, there’s so many branching paths I want to see) and generally once I hit that point with a story I find that I have lost emotional connection to the main continuity.

    Not in this case! I can say with full grammatical correctness that my pulse was pounding for most of this one. It hit somewhere in the feels, then expanded out to the excitement spleen and started that thing into overdrive (trust me, I’m a doctor of stuff) with extra excitiom receptors. I was on the edge of my seat for everything between Bonesaw singing and Jack arriving, and then I switched to cold acceptance only for Brian to fall out the awesome tree and hit every damn branch he could find.

    I will admit to being genuinely disappointed (as opposed to preposterously disappointed that my fanon doesn’t match the canon) that Taylor didn’t simultaneously trigger for some tag team badassery. But then I love the battle couple trope like a twisted mutant sibling. I will content myself with wild delusions about Brian’s heart beating when Bonesaw had her hand on Taylor. Oh why isn’t tuesday next to saturday!

    Wildbow, you are incredible. Honestly incredible.

  10. Wild Mass Guessing Time: Grue didn’t actually get that many powers, he’s just copying other people’s powers into his clone thing. I.E. Hatchet Face and Panacea.

    (So happy Taylor didn’t get murdered.)

  11. I have to say, when Taylor said she could feel Grue’s darkness inside her, I thought “cool, he got through the Manton effect”. The proxy body with super-strength surprised me. The healing? Making his own organs go through something built by Mannequin? I frankly have no idea where that came from or how it relates with his other powers. I’ll be looking forward to how it all goes.

    • Thanks Bobby, I now cannot read that chunk of this chapter without sniggering.

      In fact I will bet that if Alec finds out about these events one of his first comments will be dirty. My bets are:

      20%-”You were inside your sister? Dude that’s not good.”

      30%-”You were inside two guys at once? I guess we now know why you didn’t notice Taylor pining for you.”

      50%-”Oh? Well I bet Skitter was pretty happy about that. Hope you used some protection.”

      Honestly that might be pretty helpful for Brian, a spot of normalicy in a very bad day.

  12. Updated the donate button on the front page to be a little clearer (It was a bit blurry & I’d forgotten to change the size allowed for the image to accommodate the bar on the bottom, so it was resized into a smaller frame, too). You can also hover over it for the actual numbers. I erred in favor of minimalist and non-distracting over the extra text.

    Thank you to those who’ve donated recently.

  13. I hope Brian’s trigger event isn’t the world-ending thing that Dinah warned of–it seems very outside the scope of his previous “power set,” so to speak, which is ominous (particularly given Taylor’s more detailed vision of the power-granting beings). Also, I wonder if only Aisha can approach him on a permanent basis. His arm of darkness thing suggests that the trigger event gave physical form to his emotional trauma in a variety of ways. I think it’d be cool if some of them altered his relationships with the characters. Particularly because (as another commenter noted) he’s been less involved in Taylor’s story as of late.

    Speaking of the power-granting people, what Castronaut (was it you?) said about people with powers have access to a larger variety of laws than we’re aware of seems to be mostly accurate. Perhaps their access to other realities (or unknown-by-humans facets of this one, or a combination of those factors) is mediated by the “passenger” Bonesaw mentioned.

  14. We also learned a lot about Jack in this chapter!

    Part 1. He keeps his cool. Very good skill to have.
    Part 2. When he’s not sure about something he acts in ways he is sure of. Cut or stab Brian? No idea what will happen, but he knows what will happen if he hacks at Bonesaw’s limbs.
    Part 3. His power IS limited. He grabbed a meat cleaver instead of using his knife and it took three cuts.

    That last part is pretty interesting to me. I think I misunderstood his power. Skitter mentioned he could “Cut through crowds” I think, which I took to be basically an invisible long range Light Sabre type of effect.

    Does he feel resistance when he cuts? The chapter isn’t clear. He needed some chopping power though, so weight evidently matters to him. I would guess armor protects you from him as well, which is why Hookwolf wasn’t worried about Jack.

    It does make you realize how vulnerable he really is though. If, say, Glory Girl fought him, he’d have to get creative, and would probably lose in a straight fight. It helps reenforce the idea that he has to play it smart. At first I thought he was just blatantly overpowered, because I thought Purity was Super-Tough as well, so I figured he could cut through anything and was also three steps ahead of everybody else. Nope, he’s three steps ahead of everyone, cause if he isn’t even Skitter would rough him up. Good luck cutting her costume up Jack. Or have fun trying to stab or slash bugs.

    Also, he was in full on “Dad mode” with Bonesaw, which I found to be humorous. Black Comedy of course, but the way he acted was too mundane lol.

    JS: “No!”
    B: “Just a sec!”
    JS:”I said no!” *Sighs* “The things I do for this family.”

    It’s kind of humanizing for a very twisted monstrous character. I liked it very much.

    I feel kind of bad about Burnscar, but given how she explained her power to Labyrinth, she is probably in a better place. I don’t think she liked being one of the Nine.

    Is it interlude time already? This chapter had a good finish. I think it was a good ending spot. I wonder if we’ll get a bit of a gap between it and the next, like when Skitter rejoined the Undersiders and recounted what happened only afterwards.

    Author! Take 5 man, you deserve it.


    •    \ (._.)

      Funny thing. The first incarnation of the Nine, I think I’ve mentioned, was in ‘Guts & Glory’, which was a superhero story I wrote prior to coming up with Taylor/Skitter, based around Glory Girl and Panacea. Keep in mind that my memory’s a little rusty here – I wrote it years ago, and I don’t have access to it atm, as it’s on my old laptop, and my puppy chewed through the cord (ages ago).

      Anyways, Glory Girl had her powers, Panacea didn’t, and Panacea was perfectly happy as such. The Nine come to town, and they happen to attack the mall where Panacea and Glory Girl are shopping. Jack, a very different Crawler (then called ‘Skitter’, humorously enough), Siberian, Shatterbird (‘Breaker’), Nice Guy (a guy with Imp’s powers) and a few others.

      And Jack, being very much the same as he is here, trashed Glory Girl. Her forcefield protects her against even the heaviest hits, but it doesn’t protect her against multiple hits in close succession. Nice Guy ambushes Panacea, Breaker starts hurting civilians, and Panacea gets her powers. Boom.

      Just something that I found humorous when I read your line about Glory Girl.

    • I believe the cutting through crowds thing would work in the way you interpreted it whenever Siberian is touching Jack and granting her power to him. He could also cut through buildings, cars, the ground, etc…

      This has reminded me of the guy in Johnny Dangerously with the gun that can “shoot through a school”.

        • His power’s supposed to be about extending a blade, right? His power is limited by what kind of blade he’s using. Some blades are designed to go through heavier hunks of meat in a slice, or even to handle bone. Others are designed for stabbing, which is generally a very effective tactic. To paraphrase Vegetius, you can slash someone all day long with a Roman sword and only do superficial damage, but if you stab them just a couple of inches deep they’ll die. Similar to that is a trench knife, which was designed to penetrate thicker clothing and even helmets of soldiers in trench warfare. Basically a spike on a set of knuckledusters. But then, some meat cleavers have more heft and are designed for slicing instead. The curved shapes of katanas and sabers make them better suited to slicing as well, which is related to their roles as cavalry weapons. And still others include little serrated teeth that are meant more for sawing through things. However, you sould avoid such knives in the event of a zombie apocalypse as they tend to get caught in things.

          As for why he didn’t attack Taylor during the ambush, I don’t know if that was a case of too far a distance or one of not having them sighted very well.

          I’ve wondered what he could do with a ballistic knife, actually. It’s not too much of a knife on its own, but then you press a button and the blade shoots off. A little tough to aim, perhaps, but a good surprise tactic.

        • So Siberian’s influence wouldn’t allow Jack to be immune to changes in the momentum of his knife swinging arc that might otherwise be caused by the presense of matter in its path?

          Also, interesting idea. I’m not sure what the amount of radioactive material required for a fission reaction is, but if it’s small enough to hold between your hands I wonder if Siberian could compress it and cause a nuclear explosion.

          Hm. I wonder if Siberian has to breathe.

  15. I’m guessing one of the mysterious beings mentioned manifested a bit here (or maybe all powers are a manifestation) as Brain’s new powers, and he wasn’t controlling them at the time since his conscious control was disabled. so some of those powers might be temporary? idk.

    Also, odd that these beings would choose to manifest this way, instead of directly fix or achieve whatever it is that they want, and that we would see these memories instead of whatever the being connected to Skitter and Brian here is currently thinking of. epileptic tree theory: Perhaps the two space-warping travelers got into trouble and are… in a coma, unconsciously trying to do good.

  16. I gotta admit that I was one of those people who saw this as a Deus Ex Machina. Yes, it was previously explained that people can indeed reach for super powers. I also suspected that there would be a “second form” thanks to the contempt that Scion showed during that Endbringer scene. Still, I thought this form did seem OP. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens later.

    In a way, though, it makes sense that we hadn’t really explored Grue’s true potential. We definitely had hints that Grue’s power was deeper than it at first appears.

  17. wildbow,
    your talent with this series is absolutely amazing. i cannot say enough how great this story is and how i look forward to reading about taylor/skitter each week. As someone who reads alot, (as in 2 to 4 books a day) i whole heartedly agree that you should refrane from extending Taylor’s story past what you have planned.

    However, don’t you DARE discard the Wormverse!

    A new story with a new protagonist and maybe even a new location, same universe. You’ve done to much world building to throw this away.

    And i like where you’re going with the development of Skitter’s power. Skill over power. Constant power increase makes for a crappy character, but when the character slowly becomes more skilled with even the lowest of power; they become much much more. Aqua man is an odd example, but good in this case. before writers got creative with his abilities and he starts using fish as weapons rather than gimmicks. (ie, shark-punching assholes)

    • It’s because I’ve done so much world building that I’m thinking of putting the setting to bed after I’m done. I might return to it for a novella (~50,000 words) centered around one character or another, but the motivations for writing that kind of story would be different.

      That’s the main thing. Motivations. Now, I’m pretty sure most would agree that Worm is a very setting-driven story. What really gets me excited as an author are the moments where I’m bringing things together, those clarifying moments when stuff that readers overlooked or details that seemed inconsistent come together. One of the things I write for are the moments when the reader goes “Ohhhh” and then they want to read back through the story to see everything in a new light. Or when some revelation (big or small) occurs and the reader can say “That makes sense.” Pretty sure the readers like them too, due to the ongoing speculation and the fact that chapters like that tend to be the most commented-on.

      Here’s the thing: those moments are a currency of sorts, and by the end of Worm, I’ll be spent. Maybe there’ll be one or two minor details, or I could raise smaller questions that could be answered at a later date. But will there be anything big for me to look forward to writing? If there isn’t, I suspect my own enjoyment will die, and that’ll be reflected in the writing.

      I’m an idea driven writer. I’d like to think I’m pretty creative. There was a 12 year period where I couldn’t write much farther than 20 pages before getting stalled, caught up in the next exciting idea I had. In the end, I do want to move on to something else. I’m pretty confident it’ll be cool.

      • As painful as it might be to your readers, Wildbow, end the story where *you* think it needs to end. Ursula Vernon did that with ‘Digger’ and I have to say despite the ending of the story it was *good* to see the adventure end, to have an idea that the protagonist had finished a significant journey.

        I hope it doesn’t happen for a while, but do what the Muses are guiding you towards, and leave no regrets on the table.

      • I’m in favor of you ending when you like, Wildbow. I think the reason people want more is because there are so many unanswered questions. As long as the story ends, and most of those questions are answered (nature of powers etc), I’m down. I do think it should be paced out, though, to give us readers time to play in your sandbox and really enjoy the world you’ve built before we leave it.

        If you write something else, will it also be posted online at some point? I’d be interested in reading it, and I’m sure many other folks would as well.

  18. Incidentally, I forgot to mention before that this chapter reminded me of a different Roger Zelazny story- “The Game of Blood and Dust,” where two alien intelligences toy with Earth’s history.

    Also, I wanted to say that though I’m not entirely sold(YET) on how this affects the plot, the imagery and the scene itself was excellent. Very satisfying on a sensory, visceral level.

  19. Question. Which Territory is Danny Herbert’s house in? What I’m pretty sure is a mention of him in this chapter got me wondering.

    Is there any chance you could give us a quick sketch map (as in literally a sketch, a doodle) of Brocton Bay. Because I’m still really confused as to the layout.

    • Brockton Bay

      Legend:
      1. The Docks/North End
      2. The Bay
      3. Downtown
      4. Boat Graveyard
      5. The Market
      6. Trainyard, Bitch’s Territory
      7. Boardwalk/Eastern Docks, Taylor’s Territory
      8. Boardwalk/Ferry station north
      9. Tattletale’s Territory, Docks Central
      10. Taylor’s House (In Grue’s territory)
      11. Captain’s Hill. Everything west of there is mountains.
      12. Grue’s Territory
      13. The College, Regent’s Territory
      14. Leviathan’s Crater
      15. Upper Downtown, Ballistic’s Territory
      16. Coil’s base
      17. Ferry station south
      18. The Towers, Trickster’s Territory, Purity’s place of residence
      19. Downtown Coast, Genesis’ Territory
      20. Shopping District, Sundancer’s Territory

  20. You know, Taylor needs to start using parasitic worms. Those little pests that eat you alive.
    Foot worm, foot bug (don´t know if the name is this in english), geographical worm (leaves a map in your skin).
    I doubt that bonesaw is imune to bugs eating her flesh.

  21. Wilbow, I gotta say. If something is cool enough to keep the attention of an easily bored ADD riddled living trainwreck like me… well it’s somethin’ special.

  22. This is my first comment. And it might just be the last. First off, let me say I’ve loved the story thus far. Wildbow, you’re a first-class world-builder. I’ve also recommended this story to my friends and voted for it as well.

    Also, let me say that I was one who wasn’t offended by the gruesome scene in the last chapter. On the contrary, I like that it upped the stakes. I was even prepared for Brian to die. In fact, I thought it was stupid that Taylor refused to let him. They’d confirmed his status. They could’ve killed him and exited safely, despite their rather ill-thought out plan (a contrast to the much better planned attack previously, but that’s okay. A good plan doesn’t always need to lead to a better one next time. Plus it was Trickster’s idea, not Taylors’).

    I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of superpower fiction. I don’t think I ever have been, although I’ve watched and read some of it. I like stories where wit, quick thinking or pre-planned strategy save the day, superpowers or no. It’s for this reason that I liked this serial when I found it as a link from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. When heroes are dependent on their powers alone, I don’t like them. Taylor wasn’t like this. Neither, to a lesser extent, were any of the other Undersiders, except maybe Bitch. It’s not the powers. HPMOR involves actual magic, after all. It’s the conventions that have come up around the genre that often irritate me. And one of those conventions is what’s happened here – gaining new powers when in a bad situation. I’ve never liked it. It reeked to me of Deus Ex Machina, even if hinted earlier in the story.

    I realize the situation was bad. I realize that Bonesaw was actively trying to cause a second trigger event. But it still broke the story for me. I had other issues (with Taylor specifically), but this was the worst. I don’t mind having characters I don’t like. Glory Girl, Shadow Stalker, even Bitch frankly. But I hate it when narratives don’t behave. And, to make matters worse, this seemed CONTRIVED. By that I mean that it just didn’t seem necessary. As long as they made their peace with Brian, I could see MANY ways in which they could have made it out. And frankly, not making their peace with Brian was just plain stupid as there was no way they could have got him down and out of there without several HOURS of time, even if they somehow managed to convince Bonesaw or Panacea showed up. Except, of course, for this ridiculous turn of events.

    I don’t mind super powers (or magic) so long as narratives still make sense without the Hand of God interfering. I’ve looked forward a bit to check out Brians’ new powers and the effects of this experience on him and confirmed my suspicions – this WAS contrived so the writer could move the story and team dynamic in certain directions. I know Wildbow likes to write his stories “blind” (so to speak), so if I give him the benefit of the doubt, then that means that he doesn’t share my reservations about Deus Ex Machina (at least he doesn’t see them the same way I do). Perhaps because he’s more comfortable with this genre and its conventions than I am. But I have to say, HPMOR involves actual MAGIC and I’ve still never felt this way in that. It’s always been reasonable how Harry wins or survives, even if the level of intelligence and creativity of our protagonist there does really boggle the mind. Here’s some of the variables that could have saved them without this Grue episode happening:

    1. Parian. You used her, but had her fail. You could’ve allowed her to succeed.
    2. Imp. You could’ve made something of the fact that we weren’t sure of her situation.
    3. Regent. With the other Nine out dealing distracting the villain army, he could’ve checked (with Shatterbird in tow) when his team didn’t respond for so long (I know they had no way to signal him, but they were in there a while. He could’ve become concerned).
    4. Bitch. You didn’t even use her.
    5. Genesis. Same as with Regent. She might not have needed to remain out there anymore.
    6. The Bad Army. Unlikely, but they could’ve decided to go in for a surgical strike rather than bombardment of the building and found them. Or a stray member could’ve come in, for any number of reasons.
    7. The Good Army. The heroes could’ve changed their mind and decided to attack after seeing the devastation. They would’ve been more careful and might have rescued our guys.
    8. If you REALLY wanted Brian alive, I could’ve even bought a half-decent explanation for how Panacea somehow stumbled into the scene. Though frankly, when someone gets to that point, I think a story just needs to let them go to maintain any sort of credibility.

    Options 1 – 5 would’ve left them rescued clean. Both 6 and 7 would’ve left us with a new situation, but that could’ve been dealt with. It would still be better than our current situation. And Brians’ death could’ve been the chance for some great character development. I, for one, don’t mind if a story kills off important characters, even well-liked ones.

    Character development brings me to another niggling annoyance that’s been bugging me for a while – Taylor. This is a lesser complaint, but….I liked her character initially. I still do, mostly. But nowadays I’m finding her insufferable and repetitive and also a trifle hard to swallow. Her ‘heroic’ characteristics seem to often go too far. I like how this story has flawed heroes. Unlike many others, I don’t think you’ve gone overboard and painted them all as terrible. There ARE GOOD heroes in this story (Miss Militia, Weld, Vista, etc.) as well as bad ones. Taylor’s lack of concern for herself and greater concern for “her people” fits with her character. But I think you’ve taken it TOO FAR. She’s also ridiculously pessimistic and lacking in self-belief. Again, this fits, but has gone too far.

    But my biggest gripe is her motivations. I’ve actually stopped thinking of her as a hero. Why? Because, the way I see it, her biggest motivation doesn’t seem to be a desire to help people as much as a desire to assuage her GUILT. Her character seems CONSUMED BY GUILT. It rules and colors her every action, her every thought. Maybe this fits, but frankly, it’s getting to be annoying. And it’s making her STUPID. I just can’t reconcile the keen tactician she is in battle with the frankly idiotic decisions she often makes elsewhere. And what’s worse, she doesn’t even have all that much REASON to be so guilty. Even with her personality, her justifications for blaming herself sound retarded sometimes. Also, look at her obsession with Dinah. Whatever her role in Dinah’s predicament, she’s destroying herself over rescuing ONE CHILD (who, btw, isn’t in the worst possible circumstance she could be in. There are other children out there worse off, maybe even in Brockton Bay) rather than looking at the bigger picture. That straight out ISN’T HEROIC. Reminds me of that book “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” actually.

    You can ignore my comments on Taylor if you wish. She doesn’t work for me anymore. She evidently still does for others. But my comments above on this “rescue” are more serious, if you’re planning on making this into a book. Please still take this positively. I’ve loved your work thus far and I sincerely wish you the best with it. It certainly seems to work for many other people. It did for me as well, until now. I might come back and read further, just to see if things get more acceptable down the road. But if this is the direction things continue going, then I’m afraid I won’t be finishing the book (There’s just too many chapters to plow through if it’s like this, according to the Table of Contents). This is, after all, why I (usually) don’t like superhero fiction. Anyway, I’ve said enough. This is one hell of a wall of text, but in my defense it’s my only one. So thanks a lot, Wildbow. Your story rocks, and you do too. :)

    P.S. : I will be checking for replies to this, in case anyone can convince me otherwise (perhaps by showing me how each of those options wouldn’t have worked and why this turn is justified). I really don’t want to leave this story. Of course, I’m just one reader, so it perhaps might not be worth it. I’m not going to go around posting bad reviews of this story anywhere, after all. Promise. :) Take care, all.

    • I’m here to comment on the nine ways that you suggest Brian could have survived without triggering again.

      1. What. Parian, the girl with the giant stuffed animals and nearly no combat experience, defeats Bonesaw and other members of the Nine. That would be more of a Deus Ex Machina than if Skitter got a second trigger and took control of the Nine…not a lot more, but still.
      2. When are you imagining Imp helping…and how? Bonesaw’s improvements made her unaffected by even being stabbed in the eye, and she is physically the most vulnerable of the Nine. Again, if it suddenly worked, that would have been a bigger DEM than the one you complain of.
      3. Concerned about the team not checking back in the middle of a mission? And besides…then what? Sure, he has Shatterbird, but if it was a one-on-one fight between Shatterbird and Siberian, Crawler, or even Mannequin, it isn’t Shatterbird who would be winning.
      4. Oh, yes, I’m sure her dogs would be SO much better against Siberian the second time around! Or maybe they would see if Mannequin bleeds all of a sudden? Or perhaps Bonesaw decides to wander away like the idiot child she is not? What would Bitch do? And I seem to recall her being captured…
      5. And what would she have done?
      6-7. Yes, because Hookwolf and co/the Protectorate have done so well against the Nine before.
      8. What the…Panacea is hiding on the other side of town and has no way (that she would be willing to use, at least) to stop the Nine.

      All of these eight “methods” to have Brian survive require ignoring how powerful one or all of the Nine have been shown to be! And this isn’t the first time second triggers came up; they were mentioned several times. Gregor tries to induce one in Faultline. It’s mentioned in the Wards’ class. And so on, and so forth. It’s been known to be possible, and as I noted in my lower-but-earlier comment, Brian’s power has screwed with powers in the past…the drained power is just going somewhere else.

      • Curious George (see below) came up with a better and more considered response to my posts. Anyway, allow me to clarify a few things here: FIRSTLY, pretty much all my solutions were meant for dealing with Bonesaw ALONE. The rest of the Nine only showed up later (and were distracted in the meantime and so wouldn’t have been able to respond to Bonesaw needing help), by which time our heroes could have escaped. SECONDLY, as Curious George notes, they aren’t mutually exclusive. A combination of them could just as easily occurred. THIRDLY, as regards plausibility, remember that I’m comparing these options (which were all in the cards in the given situation) to what happened i.e. Brain developing new powers (which wasn’t in the cards). Yes, I know it was hinted at before. Yes, I know Bonesaw was actively hoping to study it. But it did come out of nowhere in THIS situation since there were other more reasonable ways that the situation could have been resolved. So here’s my take on your take on my take on the situation:

        1. I don’t see Parian winning as being as big a surprise as Brian suddenly getting new powers. Remember, it’s Parian versus Bonesaw ALONE. This is before the rest of the Nine show up. Parian has no combat experience, but at least she has combat SKILLS, unlike Bonesaw whose combat abilities are creatively adapted from her powers rather than being pretty much the point of them. Also note that Parian might not have needed to win on her own since, as I said, none of these is mutually exclusive.
        2. Again, I don’t see how a factor in the cards is a bigger DEM than one which wasn’t expected. Her power is nifty. She may not even have had to beat Bonesaw, just free the others. Maybe she slips away and finds a cure to the paralytic, for instance. Then we have several supers versus one Bonesaw. ALSO, we weren’t sure of her situation with regards to her deal with Cherish either. Maybe she hadn’t been captured. Maybe a deal had actually been struck. Remember where we are in the story. Don’t think in terms of what happens later.
        3. Again, this is when Bonesaw is ALONE!. Regent plus Shatterbird stand a damn good chance against Bonesaw alone. She’s shown herself to be smart enough to retreat when necessary as well, so she may not even have had to be eliminated.
        4. Bonesaw. Alone. *sigh* How many times do I have to keep repeating this? The other members of the Nine were busy outside for the majority of this chapter. Bitch versus Bonesaw could go either way. As with Parian, Bonesaw’s skills aren’t exactly combat-oriented, only combat-adapted.
        5. The same as what Regent or Bitch might do – fend off Bonesaw and rescue our guys. What else? Her skill allows for some pretty good versatility to match Bonesaws’ inventiveness.
        6 & 7. I mentioned right after the list that these would result in a new problem situation. However, a new problem situation can have all sorts of new solutions. The point is that that would get them out of THIS terrible situation. And then we could have a couple chapters covering how they get out of the new situation.
        8. I said that this was a longshot, didn’t I? Basically, this was just in case the writer desperately NEEDED to keep Brian alive. Given what course he chose to get them out of this mess, it seems like he really was desperate to keep Brian alive. Even I was skeptical of this, but if it was necessary….
        9. Bonesaw isn’t God. I myself wouldn’t put option 9 (see below) higher in the plausibility list than any of the other options (except number 8 – Panacea) but it was possible. Maybe it isn’t even stupidity. Maybe she just wasn’t able to engineer a paralytic which is both instantaneous AND long-lasting. I’ve given you nine ideas, some good (I think), some not so good. And (I repeat) none of them are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. The point here is that so many other people (including 2 victims – Imp and, in this case, Skitter) could have saved them without this whole Brian thing occurring.

        When there’s NINE other ways a seemingly impossible situation could be resolved, it suddenly doesn’t seem so hopeless. And Brian developing new powers was supposed to have happened precisely BECAUSE the situation WAS hopeless (in story terms). The idea is – you put a hero in an impossible situation = he gets stronger. My point was that this wasn’t an impossible situation at all….

        • Again, it wasn’t completely “out of the blue”. Sure, Brian specifically getting a second trigger event wasn’t foreshadowd greatly, but second trigger events were clearly mentioned. Moreover, consider Brian’s response to Taylor confessing her affection for him, way back before Leviathan. He thinks of her as a sister. Now, who was Brian rescuing for his first trigger event?
          And as for your claims that they wouldn’t need to deal with the rest of the Nine…well, they need to escape, don’t they? That’s pretty much a guarantee right there. Given that the Undersiders captured a solid quarter of their members, the Nine aren’t likely to just let them walk away without a good fight and a strong showing on the part of the Undersiders. “Holy carp, Grue has new powers*!” is a pretty strong showing.
          *Technically just one, but they don’t know that.

          1. Parian has combat skills? News to me. One of Parian’s defining character traits at this point is that she actively tries to avoid combat. No, the rogue new to the whole “fighting” thing defeating a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine in one of her first fights, when her power isn’t even that combat-capable (see Parian’s interlude–it’s not even “meant” for the purpose she uses it for, which makes things even worse) would be
          2. Alright, lets consider these possibilities. One: She slips away. Great what now? Get the Travelers? Excellent! Better hope Bonesaw, aka “Miss Surgical Modifications to a Crowd People Making them Look Like Members of the Slaughterhouse Nine in Fifteen Minutes or Less,” can’t do any permanent damage in that time! Oh, wait, she already did with that powder, assuming we don’t have access to a healer. Which we don’t. And as for a powder cure…well, that’s a DEM in and of itself. How many people are going to be captured by the S9 and then rescued? Who would have wanted and been able to make a cure to a specific tinker-made drug developed by the Slaughterhouse Nine? Wouldn’t they need to get a sample somehow? No, this is worse than a second trigger event. And what deal would Cherish and Imp have struck that could matter at all? Could Cherish inform Imp of the spot in the left armpit that doesn’t have any scales protecting it? Or just freeing the others…well, Bonesaw isn’t blind, and she isn’t alone, and Imp’s friends aren’t affected by her power. Also, wasn’t Imp unconscious?
          3. Yes, because Shatterbird can totally get inside without any of the Nine noticing, and because her power is so subtle, and because the Nine don’t give a damn about their precious bio-tinker, and because stabbing Bonesaw is so effective, and because she doesn’t have a swarm of mechanical spiders (with wetware computing, incidentally, so no dice there).
          4. Actually, Bonesaw has a variety of combat-related skills, like not being able to be killed without rigorously separating her constituent parts. And, even more than Shatterbird, Bitch’s power is as subtle as a sledgehammer covered in neon lights. The Nine would be investigating!Moreover, where would she get her dogs? And wasn’t she captured and subjected to the corona-pollentia-disabling dust?
          5. Genesis’s versatility is actually pretty limited, given that she needs to destroy and reform her body each time. The disappearance of the Crawler “clone” would indicate something decidedly wrong to the Nine, and don’t you think they would check once Bonesaw started screaming? The Nine care about Bonesaw–Siberian in a motherly way, the others in a “this little girl will save our lives someday, and she already made me invulnerable to conventional weapons” way. And, again, what would Genesis do. You seem to just be naming off characters who like the Undersiders (or not) and whose powers have enough versatility that you don’t think you need to explain what they would do. Well, Genesis’s abilities are not God-level. She can only make so much complexity. She could make a creature to grab and hold Bonesaw, but it would be nothing once the Mother Bear–er, Tiger–came in to save her little darling, or one of the other heavy hitters came in to save their tinker/medic.
          6, 7. Alright. Well, let me put it this way: The Undersiders would be power-deprived and in jail, waiting to be sent to the Birdcage. Or, alternatively, power-deprived and killed by the Chosen. Yeah, that’s easy to get out of, don’t need to explain that. You keep saying “X could do Y!” but not explaining how.
          8. Yes, you did admit it was a long shot. No, this does not make it likelier that Panacea would show up.
          9. No, Bonesaw isn’t God. She’s just pretty much invulnerable to conventional weapons and has allies and friends who include some of the most powerful parahumans in the world, nd who are right outside, and fully capable of getting to her before you escape if Bonesaw screams, or of ruining your day once you escape. You kept dismissing these concerns, since “They’re a whole 30 feet away!” And as for Skitter…Bonesaw had the bug-killing stuff, and the immunity to toxins, conventional weapons, etc. What do you expect her to do? Cover Bonesaw with dead bugs?

          And yeah, this was hopeless. Brian had no way out. Neither did the Undersiders. The fact that every one of your “solutions” involved a character who was either incapacitated, far away, antagonistic, or some combination thereof, somehow coming in and saving the day (assuming we ignore the rest of the Nine)…I’d call that hopeless.

          • Let’s see here: They have to escape? Yes, of course they do. How? How bout the front door? Or the back door? Or any other door to that building? You seem to think the rest of the Nine are just standing around outside. No, they’re not. They’re fighting a bloody army! Remember: They got in through the front door without being noticed by anyone (save Bonesaw cos she was already inside). And you’ve just admitted that Brian specifically having a trigger event wasn’t foreshadowed. On the other hand, all these other options were kept open by the situation. Lastly, there’s plenty each of them could have done. You seriously expect me to write several different versions of this chapter to refute you? Your inability to see any options available to these characters seems to stem from a fascination with Bonesaw (who, from your tone, is now sounding nigh invulnerable despite the story never suggesting that she is) and a general lack of appreciation for any of the other characters who I’ve mentioned. Now, to the numbers:

            1. Parians’ skill isn’t as useless as you think. The ability to make giant soldiers sounds like a pretty decent power to me. Even a non-soldier would be able to cause some mayhem with such a power. As opposed to little miss evil doctor. Bonesaw’s strength comes from her years of experience and training with the Nine in their fights. Think of it this way: I’m pitting an adolescent Superman against the adult Li Mu Bai (the hero from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). I’m willing to bet child Superman would kick Li Mu Bai’s butt, despite his years of training and mastery of his craft. Parian, of course, isn’t Superman level (not even close). But it goes to show that the nature of the power itself also matters. That’s why world-class snipers still hanker after better rifles. Cos a better rifle DOES matter. Also, I’d like to remind you that Skitter stood up pretty well against Lung the first time, despite her not having any combat experience either at that point. So would Parian win? I doubt it. But, as I said repeatedly, these options don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Maybe she creates an opening for Imp, for instance….

            2. Imp isn’t a total idiot. Of course she’s not going to try the same thing twice. So maybe she tries a different type of attack? Or maybe she acts sensible and finds a cure? Where would a cure be, you ask? Well, as the son of a doctor, I can tell you that any good physician makes sure to ensure that any safeguards against what they’re doing are at hand. Even Bonesaw doesn’t want to harm her subjects recklessly (only harm them in the ways which suit her needs). So it’s not a stretch to imagine she might keep some anti-paralytics around just in case she needs to wake them up (maybe for a test of their new anatomy or something…). How would Imp get it, if she keeps it close to her (or if its hidden away somewhere)? Well, she has a pretty nifty ability for that sort of thing. And remember that Parian could always be on the attack at the time, thereby tying up Bonesaw. Also, that deal? Well, that coud’ve lead to all sorts of alternate futures. Cherish isn’t an idiot either. She’s just really arrogant and full of herself. She was planning on enslaving the S9, for God’s sake. She may have failed, but do you really think someone capable of trying a long game like that isn’t capable of noting her opponents weaknesses….or any other number of alternate plans? With Imp, she has a new power with which to plan something out….

            3. The Nine are in the middle of a full-on battle. What do Shatterbird and Regent have to do to get in? Quietly walk in the door. What did our prisoners do just a little while ago? Quietly walked in the door while embroiling the Nine is said battle. It’s mayhem outside. A couple people disappearing won’t be noticed anytime soon (this applies to Bitch and Genesis too). Once inside, your arguments seem to come down to “Bonesaw is invincible”. Shatterbird has been clearly mentioned as being weaker than both Crawler and Siberian. But NOT Bonesaw. Indeed, Bonesaw and Jack are often treated as two of the weaker members of the Nine in terms of combat ability. I’d wager Shatterbird can stand up to Bonesaw preety well. And she has Regent with her, who might still be able to mess with Bonesaw’s movements or even free the others while Shatterbird occupies little miss insane surgeon. It wouldn’t even be necessary for Parian and/or Imp to get involved here, but they’re still options too. Stabbing Bonesaw not effective? How bout ripping her entire body to shreds with glass shards? I’d like to see how she might have prepared for that. Or she could just trap her in a glass cage. Yeah. Seriously hopeless, right?

            4. Bitch isn’t one of the captured, so she’s very much in play. Same as with Regent. Stabbing Bonesaw ain’t effective? How bout ripping her body limb from limb. Crush her skull and that’s the end of that. If she’s got reinforced armor there, then why not separate it from the rest of her so she’s alive (thanks to Mannequin tech, but harmless)? Even Bitch would come up with that idea soon enough. As for her lack of subtlety, remember that she just needs to free them quickly. Once that’s done, they make a quick getaway (the Nine might be a bit tied for a moment with a battle going on outside – focused on them!) or at least now stand a chance of fighting (or at least escaping from) Jack, Burnscar et al. And what if she’s brought Regent (and Shatterbird) with her? And then there’s always Imp. And Parian. So many options…oh, and Genesis too….

            5. The nature (and limitations) of Genesis’ powers is something only fully explained later in the story. As such, there’s plenty of room to work something out at this point. Would she be noticed? Probably. But look at what opens up despite that fact with Bitch (above). Also, she’d be noticed not just by the Nine, but also by Hookwolfs’ forces. If the Nine return to save their baby, why not Hookwolf and Co. as well? And then, you know, confusion is great for escape attempts…Also, it has been said that Genesis isn’t using her power as well as she could. That doesn’t mean that she’s a total idiot with it. She’s fought with the Travellers before. She knows how to fight and could at least pre-occupy Bonesaw, if not beat her. Even more options….

            6 & 7. I said they’d be in a new situation. Said new situation doesn’t necessarily have to be hopeless. You choosing to assume that it would be doesn’t make it so. After all, you’d like to think this situation (being trapped in a run-down building by a bunch of lunatics who are busily embroiled in an all-out war outside) is hopeless, which suggests that your standards for hopelessness aren’t all that high. I really don’t mean any offence by that, btw. Seriously. Anyway, I think otherwise. Whatever new situation comes up, all sorts of new ways to resolve might also arise.

            8. That solution was just for if the writer desperately needed Brian alive – and needed him rescued now rather than coming up with some sort of solution for a later attempt. I’d leave it to Wildbow to figure out some reason as to why she’d turn up here. He’s certainly a lot more imaginative than me. I will admit that this is my least-favored option, though.

            9. Bonesaw isn’t invulnerable to conventional weapons. When was that ever claimed?! She’s tougher than she looks, certainly, but that kind of power has been reserved only for 3 supers so far – Siberian, Crawler (and even he has his limits, as shown later in the story) and Scion. Yes, the bad guys are right outside. Guess what? So are the people they’re fighting! As for what Skitter would do, that’s rather a sad question, isn’t it? Don’t you appreciate her by now? Skitter has faced numerous situations where anyone might ask that question. Her fight with Mannequin began with she HERSELF admitting it was a fight especially ill-suited to her powers. To think that surrounding yourself with bug spray is all it takes for you to sign her off as a goner….her strength has always been her tactical brilliance. Despite my criticisms, I appreciate that fact.

            So no. Not hopeless. Not even close. And don’t forget – not only would any one of these options have provided a way out, they were also NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. All of them happening might be a bit of a stretch, but several of them occurring (say Regent, Bitch and Genesis coming to the rescue since they’re all on the same team anyway) is well within plausibility. And if the situation isn’t hopeless, then superhero fiction convention states that new powers need not develop/be revealed. Skitter beat Mannequin (who even she felt was her worst opponent) with people under threat and didn’t evolve any new powers to do it now, did she? Nope. Not even close to hopeless.

            • Starting with your statement about fighting a “bloody army”: Yes, congrats. The Nine have the capability to fight 1.2 bloody armies, and if they attack Bonesaw (which they’ll have to do to escape), she will probably get their attention, meaning that the Nine will know about them escaping. And I wasn’t considering Burnscar, who would complicate the escape, no?

              As to the stuff about Brian’s foreshadowing…congratulations on quote-mining. You ignored how I noted foreshadowing for a second trigger event, or the arguable foreshadowing. Why do you think Brian’s trigger event was the only one of the Undersiders’ to be mentioned, back when the subject was first brought up? Don’t you remember Brian comparing his feelings for Taylor to those for his sister? The idea that these options were “kept open” is ludicrous–they were never open to begin with.

              And as for your counterclaims, no you don’t have to write any alternate chapters. Just explain the plan required for X, Y, or Z to prevail against the Nine, why they would do so, and then try to fix the holes I poke in them. And do you remember the Defiant vs. Bonesaw fight? Bonesaw was ripped in half and impaled on Defiant’s spear, with whirling blades around the haft on both sides, but she still fought on. She is at least as tough as Aegis, if Aegis’s tissues were inherently difficult to damage.

              And now the specific examples.

              1. Parian’s critters aren’t that great. Burnscar can burn them, Bonesaw’s bots can cut them, even Bonesaw had that acid stuff. Parian was beaten by Bonesaw alone, with some Undersider support; a rescue from her is laughable.

              2. No, Imp’s…well, she sure ain’t honor roll material. She might not make the exact same mistake twice, but she might well make almost the exact same mistake. Anyways, how would Imp identify which chemical was the antiparalytic? Would she test it? “Hm, let’s try this. Oops, Rachel’s about to explode. Maybe the next one will work?”
              And don’t imagine that Cherish is a mastermind. Remember her grand plan? “Make the other Nine feel good when they look at them. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually, I’ll have them wrapped around my pinky finger!” She is ambitious, but she isn’t terribly good at planning. And, again, I ask you: What is this Master Plan Cherish came up with, and how is it not derailed by Cherish’s absence?

              3. Congratulations, Shatterbird! You have impaled Bonesaw with a thousand glass fragments! These are so much more effective than giant Tinker-made spears at killing Bonesaw. NOT. And, again, Bonesaw has vocal cords, Siberian has ears. What’s stopping Siberian from coming in to save her beloved Bonesaw, or Jack from ordering someone in to save one of the group’s core members? Mannequin, Burnscar, even Crawler are expendable; Bonesaw is not. And as for the glass cage: Glass isn’t soundproof, nor does it let them magically find the anti-parylactic which Bonesaw is likely to have on her.

              4. Ah, misremembered. Still…again, remember Defiant vs. Bonesaw? If Defiant’s spear can’t cut the mesh around Bonesaw’s saws, why would Bitch’s dogs be more effective? And, again, noise and the importance of Bonesaw. How the hell are you ignoring the naked, black-and-white-striped, indestructible, unstoppable elephant in the room? Siberian loves Bonesaw; if Bonesaw screams for help, you’ll have to figure out a way against Siberian. It’s not like she’d even have to sacrifice that much; charge in, grab Bonesaw, put her on shoulders, shred dogs/puppets/Genesis/etc as needed, return to battle.

              5. What, you think wildbow didn’t plan this out ahead of time? Anyways, you’re getting to the point where to rewrite a small flaw, you are demanding the rewrite of multiple characters–Genesis’s power and/or skill, Brian’s relationship with Taylor and his later psychological issues, Siberian’s love for Bonesaw, etc.
              And as to why H&co wouldn’t charge in? The Nine don’t need their whole force to save Bonesaw. Send in Siberian, have Mannequin and Crawler hold the line for 30 seconds. And as to the claim that Genesis isn’t using her power to its full potential…provide an example of a form that can deal with the bots, Burnscar, and Bonesaw without them alerting the Nine outside, or else get them out before Siberian or someone could respond, as well as how Genesis magically overcomes her limitations.

              6&7. So, instead of writing one way, you want wildbow to bend logic in a different way, which ends with the characters stuck in another dead end. Brilliant!
              And seriously, stop using the “X Could Exist!” argument. As someone who has argued against a number of creationists, that argument makes me absolutely furious, because it’s such a cop-out. I can’t find every possibility and prove it doesn’t exist. You’re the one making the claims, provide the evidence.

              8. Stop using the “wildbow could come up with something!” She did. Reread the chapter to find out what.

              9. Not literally invulnerable, but practically so, like Aegis. There’s no point in shooting either; you won’t damage Bonesaw’s well-protected vital organs, and Aegis’s can replace each other. And no, it’s not just that Bonesaw has “bug spray”. She also has no ability to move, scarcely any ability to control her bugs, Burnscar in the room, unconscious teammates, a firm time limit in how long it takes the Nine to drive off Hookwolf, and the need to not make Siberian worry enough to come in and check on Bonesaw (e.g, if she screams). And, if you’d read better, you’d discover that the second trigger needs to be similar to the first, while the MannequinxSkitter fight was nothing like; moreover, we also discover that Skitter already had a second trigger event, probably right after the first.

              And as for the claims of how teamups would help…well, Bonesaw can’t be killed or silenced by giant dogs or glass, how would giant dogs and glass help?

              And would it kill you to explain these nebulous possibilities you describe? Seriously, to play that card again, I’ve had creationists more willing to provide hard proof!

              Sorry if I’m coming off as a bit snippy, but this is seriously just the same thing you’ve been saying, and I also recently completed an extremely long rebuttal to a Creationist video on YouTube which didn’t help my spirits any.

              • You know, as much as creationists might irritate you (and, for what it’s worth, I’m not one myself. I consider myself an atheist) your desire to shoot down other people’s ideas seems to be overwhelming you. Remember that this is a work of fiction. No one is claiming that it’s real. I’m offering possibilities and you’re shooting them down because you don’t BELIEVE those possibilities would succeed. With the length of that message, I did the closest thing to writing several chapters about how each of those options might work – I outlined them. I certainly have no intention of detailing 9 different fight/escape scenes (far more actually, if you consider the fact that they can work together in various ways). You still turn them down with effectively little more “It wouldn’t work cos Bonesaw is too strong” (or) “It wouldn’t work cos the rest of the Nine are nearby” (or) both. I sure am glad Taylor doesn’t have your attitude in a fight or else she’d give up before even starting. I haven’t asked Wildbow to rewrite anything, btw. I specifically asked that you consider the story at this point – a common sense request when evaluating alternate story paths – rather than in light of what happens later (which, at this point, hasn’t happened). When a theory is advanced, that theory has to be tested to be proven true or false. Until then, we conclude that “We don’t know” and accept that (those creationists don’t like accepting “I don’t know” as an answer, but that’s the correct one and NOT “you’re automatically wrong because you haven’t proved it” even if it is treated as such in practice). The only exception to this rule being ideas that are glaringly illogical, in order to save time – Ex: The universe is a cupcake. I’ve advanced several theories, explained them somewhat (I am NOT going to write several chapters only for you to then say these chapters aren’t plausible in one sentence) and you seem content to shoot them down through the sheer force of admiration for Bonesaw and her friends (and, might I add, a rather pronounced lack of such appreciation for everyone else going against them). That’s why I added that line, “Bonesaw isn’t God”/all-powerful. She has her limits. So do her friends, for that matter. None of them have so far demonstrated the ability to be in 2 places at once, for instance (or, to be more precise, to fight 2 battles in 2 places at once).

                So how would you test a theory in fiction since, owing to the very nature of fiction, anything is possible? I would start by making sure that said theory isn’t a glaring slap in the face of the story’s internal logic. I don’t believe any of my theories are. The Nine have never been said to be invincible (save Siberian and, so far, Crawler). Both Jack and Bonesaw have already been outed as being generally considered weaker members. And just because this story involves supers (effectively magic) doesn’t mean that simply because Bonesaw is a medical genius, she can make herself invincible. Mannequin is the closest super in the story to another medical genius and even he isn’t invincible – he has to actively try to protect himself in a fight. There are a lot of supers I would bet could beat him, and similarly a lot that I would readily pit against Bonesaw and expect to win. Next I would ask if the theory stretches probability i.e. is it likely or not? All of my ideas are likely enough. Far more likely than Brian having a second trigger event, for one, since that’s already been stated as being a very rare event. So then what does it come down to? It seems to boil down to the fact that you don’t believe any of these people (or a combination of them) would succeed, while I do. That’s an opinion, not a fact. If that’s where we’ve ended up, then fine. You are entitled to that opinion. I know I asked for people to point out why the situation was hopeless and I was wrong, but I’m not convinced. I was hoping for something more than ‘Bonesaw/Her friends are too strong’. I was rather hoping someone could point out to me why these options couldn’t happen (why they were off the cards).

                As for the stuff I apparently missed, I didn’t. I just don’t think some vague hints earlier in the story trump very real possibilities in the here and now. Who knows when those hints would be be acted upon? Maybe another time Brian is staring at his sister and Taylor in danger in a situation that is REALLY hopeless, perhaps….Anyway, I’ll try to keep the points brief cos this really does seem to boil down to how much credit we’re giving Bonesaw and her buddies (Explaining each plan and their reasoning pretty much IS writing several alternate chapters. You’re asking for that much detail. And there’s so many possibilities = so many chapters. And then I’m supposed to defend them against ‘Bonesaw/her buddies are too strong’ again? No thank you.):

                1. “A rescue from her is laughable” is not a refutation. Parian can take on Bonesaw, either beating or distracting her. Smother the girl under a giant doll if you want to keep her out of action for a bit. Can’t scream through that either. I don’t care. She’s not necessarily alone. They only need to escape, not win. Burnscar isn’t in the room at this point. We differ on our opinion of whether she’d be of use, not whether she’s around to play a role. And her succeeding, to my mind, is far more plausible than some vaguely hinted at manifestation of new powers.

                2. So your argument is that Imp is an idiot and Cherish is an idiot (or, at least, they’re not very smart). Funny how much you’re willing to stretch Bonesaws’ capabilities while contracting those of the other supers. Anyway, I disagree. Which means it comes down to an opinion. If I were Imp, I’d first look at Bonesaw herself and then her tool-table (if she has one. Remember a doctors’ operating theater. She probably has her tools laid out on some small side-table or the other) for the cure. She’s not trying to hide it. So she most likely keeps in within reach during surgery (probably on her apron). That’s generally how doctors operate. As for Cherishs’ plan? That could be anything. I am not going to write several outlines of perhaps chapter-length (or multi-chapter length) plans. I hope you don’t take this attitude to writing fiction yourself (if you do that) or you’d never get started cos you’d simply shoot down whatever possibilities occur to you before they even get off the ground.

                3. So Shatterbird – a combat-oriented super with many years of combat experience – would lose. Okay. If that’s what you wish to believe. I don’t even recall saying that was the end of the fight. You don’t execute a move and then ignore it if the opponent gets back up. And I am not constructing a half-chapter length (at least) fight scene. Bonesaw’s buddies are busy. See above for where I’d start looking for the cure (and also remember that the cure isn’t some treasure. It’s medicine. With everyone else paralyzed, she’s not trying to hide it. She wouldn’t want them getting on top of her anyway, so keeping it there within easy reach isn’t stupid. She was just prepping for surgery, after all).

                4. Same as Shatterbird. You think she’d lose. I don’t.

                5. Same again. And her limitations are still not clearly defined at this point. So I’m not asking for any rewrites regarding Genesis. As for Siberian and Brians’ feelings….please. Just cos a mother loves her daughter doesn’t mean that she can always do something about situations her daughter gets into. Same with Brian. Love isn’t magic. Brian can still love his sister. I never asked for that to change. Fact is he’s strung up (literally) and so unable to help (save, of course, by developing new powers as shown here). Siberian is busy too. And there’s chaos outside as well, enough to noise to muffle a scream. None of my suggestions require any rewrites apart from number 9, which only requires a small modification to their situation (and even that doesn’t have to be done in the previous chapter. It could simply be clarified in this one ala “The paralytics’ effects seemed to be wearing off. Yes! It must be temporary….”

                6 & 7. This is fiction, mind you. Stop bringing science about the whether things exist in the real world to fiction about whether they could exist in this one. Yes, “X could happen”. What evidence? You’ve just admitted that these possibilities are there. And then you go on to imagine that the eventual new situation would prove to be hopeless. Once again, I sincerely hope you don’t bring this attitude to any writing you might be planning.

                8. Yes, Wildbow could come up with something – something different. Panacea is an existing card for getting Brian out alive. No new powers needed. Explaining why she’s there would again require a long half-chapter (since I suspect a one-line explanation would be shot down by you saying you find that hard to believe, for whatever reason). These messages are already ridiculously long.

                9. Ah. So Bonesaw is too strong again? Predictable. I did say it would be a challenge. I suggested that idea cos it seemed like a nice new challenge to throw Taylors’ way – for her to figure out how to win a fight with her bugs alone. It seemed like a rather satisfying new challenge for her to beat that would please her fans. She’s previously relied on her own combat skills as well, so this would be a new type of battle. Again, I am not going to detail an entire (probably very long in this case) fight scene. As for triggers, the convention in superhero stories is for new powers to develop in hopeless situations. As I’ve pointed out, I don’t believe this situation was hopeless. I’m well aware of the particular added detail in this universe of second triggers needing to be similar to the first. Kindly don’t insult my reading abilities. If any of my solutions had worked out, there would have been no need for Brian to power up. They’d have been saved well before it came to that. He would have died (except if Panacea had showed up), but then his power-up was caused by concern for others anyway, not himself.

                As for ‘teamups’, they open up even more possibilities. I hope you appreciate why I’m not going to write that much. Those creationists might be willing to write entire books to argue their point, but I’m not. Especially not when the rebuttals can be as short as (effectively), “Bonesaw/her buddies are too strong and everyone else is too weak”. The good army, for one, contains Legend, for crying out loud. Siberian may be able to stand up to him and save Bonesaw, but that doesn’t mean our guys can’t escape in the ensuing chaos.

                Would it kill me to explain these possibilities? No, but it would eat up as much time as Wildbow spends writing an entire arc or two (cos that’s how many possibilities there are, at least). Probably more time, since I’m not as skilled a writer as he is. And anyway, my point was that these possibilities are there i.e. the situation was NOT hopeless. That’s all I really need to prove. I believe I’ve done so cos you haven’t said a thing about why any of these possibilities couldn’t happen, only that you don’t believe they’d work. And you seem to find Brian conveniently developing new powers as far more satisfying. Well, I don’t. I was looking for someone to point out why they weren’t really available options, not that he didn’t believe they’d succeed simply cos the S9 are too strong. That’s a matter of opinion. And one I disagree with.

              • First off, I’m not asking for you to outline every possibility you see in excruciating detail. Pick whatever you think is the likeliest option, explain how they get there able to help, how they deal with Burnscar and Bonesaw, and how they escape without getting killed by the Nine or encountering problems from the, quote, “bloody army” composed of individuals with varying degrees of desire to kill/capture the Undersiders.

                Asking me to consider this point in the story while ignoring everything that comes later is absurd. Firstly, most of my “comes-up-later” stuff is nothing more than clarification of what came up to this point–demonstrations of the limits of Bonesaw’s durability, or explanations of Genesis’s power. wildbow had this kind of stuff planned out before she wrote this chapter. And yes, you never asked wildbow to rewrite stuff. I was saying that, if your changes were implemented, that’s what it would require–rewriting the way X, Y, and Z work.

                You seem to be confusing things. If you can’t provide proof, you don’t have a theory; you barely have a hypothesis. If you can’t provide a suggestion for how it would work, or if your opponent produces evidence for why it wouldn’t, you need to look for proof that helps support your point. You can’t just say “You haven’t proved me wrong enough yet!”

                You really think I’m going to shoot down a well-written explanation in a single sentence? You really think that I would shoot down this hypothetical several chapters with a single sentence when I’ve used whole paragraphs to counter mere paragraphs? You really still think I want chapters despite saying I didn’t several times? I don’t know what to say. I mean, ad hominem is one thing, but ad paleae hominem is something else entirely.

                None of the Nine are capable of duplication. You are correct. However, Siberian could enter the building, fight the Undersiders off, and return without significantly altering the result of the battle outside. The Nine are good at being outnumbered; they’ve been doing it for years, sometimes with more foes and fewer teammates than they have now. And as for “everyone going against them”…who is it that you are relying on to stop Siberian from taking 30 seconds to save Bonesaw?

                How to test theories in fiction? Same way I would in social sciences: Natural experiments. We can’t set up two separate societies on similar islands except for Factor X, but we can compare island societies that differ in Factor X. Similarly, we can compare similar situations to this one–and yes, we’ll have to look in both directions for good examples. If we look at the story as “Only what’s already been shown to not happen can’t happen,” we might as well make a new cape show up. And, on that note, second trigger events have been mentioned as happening, repeatedly, and while no obvious foreshadowing for the specific case of Bonesaw causing Grue’s 2TE, there are plenty of clues if you know what to look for (which is really the only way you find all but the crudest of foreshadowing). But, back on-topic. Parian, Panacea, and some of the other people you suggested somehow turning the tide in the battle against Bonesaw, her robot things, Burnscar, and any of the other Nine who are alerted by these two are slaps in the face of in-story logic, as they are inexperienced in combat and lost to the Nine or similar foes elsewhere in the story. Parian is an egregious example, as she was defeated by Bonesaw not ten minutes before this point in the story, without Burnscar’s help, and because cloth is highly flammable. And as to Bonesaw making herself invincible, look at the Defiant v. Bonesaw fight, or any of the times Bonesaw gets shot. And don’t you dare say that since it happens later in the story it doesn’t count. On the other hand, try to find one time when a conventional weapon so much as seriously inconvenienced Bonesaw. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You won’t find one, because they don’t exist.

                Now to your claims of Brian’s 2TE. You say that it is a very rare event. You know what else is rare? A random cape showing up and beating the S9. And, again, the clues are there if you look. Besides, even having one trigger event is rare, let alone thereafter encountering Leviathan and the S9 in under a month. Why aren’t you complaining about the Undersiders’ showing up to save Taylor her first night in costume? What’s the chance that there would be another group of capes following the same supervillain at the same time on the same day, let alone of them choosing to help Taylor? Or how about the chips that fell together for the bank robbery? Hell, every arc involves some improbable event or another. The difference is that you’re complaining about this one. Is it because Brian getting the trauma associated with his 2TE isn’t “important” to the plot, somehow, despite being a major concern of Taylor’s for several arcs?

                And what possibilities? That some of the few capes who don’t hate the Undersiders would somehow be able to thwart a group that defeated whole teams of heroes in the past? And, as to the idea that Brian wouldn’t see the situation as hopeless…well, what would qualify? He’s stuck, unable to even move. His friends are payalyzed, helpless, also unable to move. They’re in the “care” of a couple psychopathic supervillains who are part of a group rated as the same threat level as the Endbringers. No help is in sight–remember, your DEM’s aren’t known to Brian. He’s not expecting rescue, he doesn’t expect anyone to be able to get past the “bloody army” and the S9 to somehow save them all. If the situation isn’t hopeless because someone could, somehow, theoretically get in there and save him and his friends from a grisly death-or-worse…well, what is?

                1. Parian already lost to Bonesaw. That was when she had time to prepare a stuffed animal beforehand, mind you, and not just whatever she can throw together. Why is now suddenly different? How can Parian defeat Bonesaw now when she couldn’t before? You have never explained this. Curious.
                And why can’t the Nine just stay in one place for the scene? It’s hard to keep track of who’s where. ;)

                2. No, my argument is that they aren’t uber-Thinkers and they don’t have many options available. And I’m not “stretching” Bonesaw’s capabilities, I’m assuming that her durability goes past Tinker-made spears and knives in the eyeball. Nor am I “contracting those of other supers”; I’m merely doubting that these possibilities exist if even you can’t think of any. And yes, Imp can see Bonesaw’s tools. She can probably take some. So what? Aside from scalpels and the like, she’s not going to know what any of them do, or how to use them. What, will she un-paralyze the Undersiders by cutting…actually, I can’t think of any good snark here. Really, all Imp could do with that is give mercy kills. Anyways, I’m pretty sure she, too, was captured.
                And just because Cherish’s plan “could be anything” doesn’t give you free reign to avoid coming up with anything. Hey, guess what? Jack’s plan could be anything, too! And he’s actually good at manipulating parahumans. Oh, and we come to the “You want me to write several chapters” thing again. I’ll bold it so you can’t miss it: No. I don’t. I want you to think of what plans these people could make, what they could do. I want you to type out a general outline. A paragraph or two could be sufficient, and you’re typing a lot more than that already.
                And that thing about my attitude towards writing fiction? Low blow, and completely nonsensical. I’m taking this stance because it’s what the story supports as being able to happen, while yours is contradicted on several levels, from logic to previous events. When I write fiction, I take into account what can and can’t happen. And you know what? A lot can happen.

                3. Yes, because A. she isn’t in control of herself and hence won’t be using that experience, B. she is actively fighting Regent’s control which erodes his dexterity even further, and C. Shatterbird’s combat-oriented part of her power involves nothing more than shards of glass. Deadly against normal humans, sure, but so is being knifed in the eye or cut in half. Bonesaw survives both of these with nothing more than irritation at not being able to walk or needing to replace an eye. (Well, and surprise that she got stabbed when she didn’t see anyone to stab.) And what’s that about being the end of the fight? How does she go on?
                Stop saying that you have to create a massive chunk of text to prove your point. YOU DON’T AND I’VE SAID THIS MULTIPLE TIMES PER REPLY. Maybe now that I’m so annoyed of it I’m bolding and all-capsing you’ll notice. And, again again, there may well be a cure. But how would Regent know what it is? Ask Bonesaw sweetly?
                “Hey, Bonesaw, which of these is the cure?”
                “The little red bottle with a circle on it.”
                “Thanks! …Hey, why is Skitter swelling–”

                4. Well, why don’t you explain why you think Bitch would beat Bonesaw? Is it just “They pin her and start trying to outdo Tinker-made polearms in Bonesaw-killing before the S9 get alerted”?

                5. Gah. Stop trotting that line about undefined limitations out. Besides, her limitations were, IIRC, hinted at around the time she made that firefighting slug thing, which was after the Burnscar fight, which was before Taylor suggested they take the fight to the Nine, which was before this. Besides, the fact that something wasn’t mentioned later doesn’t mean it didn’t come up earlier. The stuff about Cauldron wiping the memories of the Case 53′s before kidnapping them wasn’t mentioned until more than halfway through the story, but the first or second time they were mentioned the amnesia came up. wildbow thinks these things through; it’s insulting for you to suggest changing things about Genesis to fit what you see as such a vital need in the plot. And yes, I know you’re not asking for a rewrite, somehow. I’m just implying such because it’s a lot less cumbersome.
                And are you seriously saying that the Siberian is impotent to stop Genesis? Even the Trirumvate, back when there were four of them, couldn’t stop her–and Siberian killed Hero and nearly killed effing Alexandria before escaping. The Undersiders are clever, their powers versatile, their plans flexible. They’d still lose to Siberian if she wanted to kill them. Hurt Bonesaw? Heck yes, she would want to kill them. And my point about siblingly love was more about the plausibility of the 2TE. And are you ignoring how #5 needs you to rewrite Genesis’s power, which was demonstrated several times before? Even if you said “Oh, the limitations aren’t what they were later said to be,” one still will wonder why Genesis was limited to them before. And the rest…well, I’ve covered them there.

                6,7. That first bit about science makes no sense so I’ll ignore it.
                How did I “admit that these possibilities exist”? I didn’t. I clearly said that to work, they would have to bend logic. Are you twisting my words or just ignoring them? Either way, that’s a strawman.
                And again, yuo bring up your idea of how this strawman you’re making would treat writing. No, it wouldn’t be that way. If I needed my characters to escape, I would give them a way out. wildbow did–the 2TE. She didn’t make other ways out that would have ended well, because she didn’t need them and because they didn’t make sense to add.

                8. I don’t need seven chapters, I don’t need two, I don’t need half a chapter. A paragraph, or even a couple descriptive sentences, could get your idea across if you had one. If you spent half the effort and words you’ve been using to describe how unreasonable my requests for a little explanation are, you could have satisfied the, at least once.

                9. How else has Taylor ever won fights? Lung–fought with bugs. Wards @Bank–fought with bugs. Protectorate–Fought with bugs. Lung again–fought with bugs and a bit of Newter’s blood. Levathan–didn’t fight. Wards @PHQ: Fought with bugs and, for a bit, a stolen half-made gun. Assorted goons–fought with bugs. Old E88–fought with bugs. Mannequin–fought with bugs and silk. Her own combat skills were always secondary to biting, singing, silk-stringing, and so forth with the bugs. The Lung fights, most of the fights with the two Wards, defeating Armsmaster and the other top Protectorate capes (Velocity doesn’t count, being not “top”), the goons from the Merchants and elsewhere, members of the old Empire Eighty-Eight…all fought with bugs and no weapons, some fought without Taylor ever laying eyes on them. Taylor “needing” to solve a problem with bugs isn’t a new problem any more than MacGuyver needing to improvise some kind of device is, or Superman needing to punch bad guys until they fall down.
                Aside from the “non-hopelessness” (what do you qualify as hopeless? Being shot in the head?), stop with this “Conventions” stuff for a sec. Is this a candidate for a second trigger event? IS it similar to Brian’s original trigger event? Yes. Is it stressful? Yes. Is it traumatic? Yes. Is he unable to do anything about it? Yes. The only problem is that you think second trigger events should never happen because they’re too rare.
                And none of your solutions would have worked. I’ve been explaining why for days.

                I don’t want you to write books! I want you to write sentences! By the way, how do you make text bigger? If you don’t get that point yet…well, I’m running out of options. And no, my rebuttals are not that short. I’ve been explaining why the wannabe-cavalry are too weak, why Bonesaw & co are strong, showing examples in both cases. And are you seriously saying that Legend’s lasers are going to somehow make a barrier that stops Siberian from killing the Undersiders? Why didn’t he do something like that to save Hero?

                And, again, I don’t want you to write an effing arc, I want an effing paragraph, or a few sentences.

                And the definition of hopeless isn’t “No stroke of God can save them,” it’s “The person has no hope.” Brian has no reason to think Parian, Imp, Bitch, Genesis, or the others will be able to save him and the others. He has no hope of such a thing happening. And, really, hope from “Maybe Genesis will make a form more powerful than she ever has before to save us, or maybe Parian will suddenly be able to beat Bonesaw despite losing badly all of five minutes ago, or maybe Imp will be able to find the antidote…” is stupid. Not an insult of your intelligence, mind, that’s an insult to the intelligence of this hypothetical Brian.

                It’s okay to have opinions, but when you are asked to defend them, do or don’t. Don’t go halfway.

              • There seems to be a limit on how much a comment thread can be stretched out. So since I can’t reply above, I’ll take it up here.

                Let’s see: Firstly, rewrites. Of course it would require substantial rewrites of the rest of the story to incorporate a future in which Brian is dead. Did I ever ask Wildbow to rewrite the story? No. You’ve misunderstood me. I was saying it wouldn’t require a rewrite of the story upto this point. You seem to think I actually expect Wildbow to change the entire tale just to keep me happy. I’d have to be pretty arrogant to expect that. I’m critiquing this part of the story. I know the rest of it is already written and so this isn’t going to be changed. That doesn’t stop me from sharing my two cents. Sure Wildbow had this all planned out before. So what? I’m saying I don’t like the direction he chose. As for the “comes-up-later” stuff being clarifications of what’s already established, how so? If it was already known, why explain it again later? That’s done precisely because the exact mechanisms and limitations haven’t been set down in the story yet. Which leaves room for things to have been different. Don’t tell me the future chapters have already been written. If it helps, imagine this critique as being of this chapter right after it was written i.e. before Wildbow even began on the later ones. Why you think the future has to have any say on the present is beyond me. That’s not how causality works.

                Don’t have proof? Proof of what? What is proof here? This is fiction. In fiction we can literally make the stars turn into giant balls of egg yolk if we wish. The only criterion in fiction is plausibility. As a side note, I do hope you don’t take this same attitude to the ideas of theoretical physicists. They have eminently plausible ideas as well, often with little proof apart from the mathematics. Their ideas are still considered theories worth paying attention, even if not scientific fact yet. Anyway, plausibility. It’s not that you haven’t proven me wrong enough yet, it’s that you haven’t proven me wrong at all. Even you admit that (implicitly) that all my ideas could have happened. You just don’t agree on the outcome. And, as I said, that seems to come down to a matter of opinion as to whether the Nine would prevail or not. There’s no proof to military strategy (cos it’s a plan, not a statement of fact), only likelihood of success. And we seem to disagree on that likelihood. Oh, and btw, what evidence? You’ve just kept saying (effectively) “Bonesaw/her buddies would win”. If you’re considering your hypotheticals as evidence, then what of mine? They ought to count as evidence as well, then. In truth, they’re not. Neither of them. They’re both conjectures.

                The Nine aren’t the only ones who’ve been fighting all their lives here. Hookwolf has too, for one. So have most of his gang. The rest of the army outside aren’t newbies to violence either. They may not be as strong as Siberian on their own, but they do outnumber the Nine. My point being that there’s no need to put the Nine on such as exalted pedastal where they’re nigh untouchable. They HAVE been beaten before – they’ve lost members, they’ve been forced to retreat (they were forced to retreat here too, btw). The reason they keep going is because Jack stays alive and keeps replenishing their numbers. So would the army outside win? They don’t need to. Remember that all I’m trying to do is rescue our guys, not beat the Nine. If they succeed as an effective distraction, that’s more than sufficient.

                Why do we have to look in both directions? Why does the future have to have a bearing on the past? I’m critiquing the story at this point, not for what happens later. Yes, we could have a new cape show up, then. And I would find fault with that as well as being far too convenient. Notice the similarity: New Cape is approximately the same as New Powers (which is what happened). That’s Deus Ex Machina. Oh yes, it was vaguely foreshadowed, wasn’t it? Well, what if the New Cape turned out to be Alexandria? Or Scion? They were “foreshadowed” too. After all, they’ve not only been mentioned, we’ve also seen them in action. The point being that them showing up (or new powers, in this case) is just rather too convenient. If it was Legend, it’d be fine since he’s been mentioned as being part of this equation already. Brian developing new powers is pretty much the same as Alexandria or Scion or some other random previously mentioned cape showing up out of the blue.

                Parian may have been first in my list, but that doesn’t she RANKS first as an options. That list wasn’t a ranking. She’s an option. She can play a role. She doesn’t have to manage it alone. I find it rather convenient that when criticising, you chose Parian and Panacea specifically (they aren’t even next to each other in the list – number 1 and 8) to name and the rest are just “the rest”. Those two are the ONLY ones in that list with no combat experience.

                Also, you’ve misread the time of all this. I’m not talking of Parian AFTER she lost to Bonesaw. I’m saying she could have won (or distracted or whatever role she plays) when she first came out. Burnscar isn’t around at this time. It’s just Bonesaw. As for Defiant v/s Bonesaw and what that tells us, that hasn’t happened yet and so at this point whatever it tells us we don’t know. Bonesaw at this point only has the abilities that have been shown so far. I’m well aware you disagree with this approach. Sorry to say, it’s standard procedure to evaluate a situation based on circumstances at the time and not based on what happens later. If we followed your logic, the criminal justice system would go haywire.

                Arguing the improbability of everyday life gets us nowhere. That’s a tired cliche. Useful for philosophers and physicists, but not here. Everything in life is improbable. Literally everything. Yes, a random cape showing up and rescuing them would be unsatisfactory. I’ve dealt with that above. And Brians’ perspective: Yes, he doesn’t expect help. That’s not the point. I’m saying they could’ve been rescued before it got to the point where Taylor and Imp were about to be diced up. After all, if help arrived after that point, it wouldn’t be of much use, would it? The numbers:

                1. Parian hasn’t already lost to Bonesaw. As I said, you’ve misunderstood. I said she could’ve succeeded against Bonesaw the first time. And what success means here is that our guys escape, not necessarily that Parian beats Bonesaw. That lowers the bar considerably.

                2. You aren’t doubting these possibilities exist. You haven’t said one single thing against them being possible. You’re doubting they’d succeed. Imp could un-paralyze them, actually. An anti-paralytic would simply be another vial of medicine. How would she recognize it? Actually, it’d probably be labelled. Bonesaw may be a Tinker, but it would be rather silly for her to manufacture her own medicines (at least the regular ones) when she could just steal them from a pharmacy whenever she needed more. Tinkers don’t only use Tinker materials. There wouldn’t be many (if any) to choose from on that table (or apron) since she’s prepping for surgery, not chemotherapy. Hell, it wouldn’t even be out of character for Bonesaw to flaunt the cure to Taylor since, as we seen in this chapter, she rather likes to talk. Or she could go outside and get Regent or any of the others now that Cherish isn’t around to detect her. Maybe she could assist Parian.

                The point about Cherishs’ plan actually hits a rather sore spot. Why was that even mentioned in that chapter before? The way it plays out, that plan never amounted to anything. It was just mentioned. Was that really the only way Wildbow could think of to get Imp to be revealed and thus captured? That’s silly. She could simply have been noticed by one of Bonesaws’ robots. Wildbow specifically made it such that she WAS NOT noticed by the robots, but rather captured by Cherish promising her a deal. Why? Why do it that way if the deal never got touched on again? If he really does plan things out in advance, then what was the purpose of this? It seems to have been allowed to just go to waste.

                Anyway yes, Jacks’ plan could be anything. How does that invalidate my ideas? Jack simply doesn’t do things differently from what happens here, but one or more of the people I’ve mentioned do. Anything could be different. That doesn’t mean that it will be. As you’ve implicitly agreed that these ideas could have transpired (if not succeeded), you do admit that the story supports that they could happen. There’s nothing in the story that suggests they couldn’t. I don’t see what logic or previous events countermand them. “A lot can happen” – Exactly.

                3. If it was merely an outline I’d have to produce, then I’ve already done so (albeit in scattered form) in my replies. The reason a mountain of text would be needed is precisely because you’d simply shoot it down as implausible. As Chomsky says (in the context of commenting on 2-minute news soundbites), if your ideas go against the prevailing opinion (in this case, yours), you’re expected to go into detail as to why those ideas are right (or, in this case, even plausible would do). Not so when you simply agree or reinforce those ideas. An outline hasn’t worked and won’t work. I would absolutely have to detail everything in order to have a chance of convincing you that it’s plausible, including (I suspect) their respective mental processes (their thinking) as some of your refutations are related to their respective characters

                Shatterbird is a fighter. Bonesaw isn’t. Defiant versus Bonesaw hasn’t yet occurred to show us that she’s immune to all conventional weapons. And guess what? Shatterbird doesn’t even need to beat Bonesaw, just occupy her while Regent (or Imp or Parian or whoever else I’ve mentioned) saves our guys. How would Regent know? Read the Imp paragraph above. Or if Bitch or Genesis gets involved, then he could just cart them away as is on her dogs and let the paralytic wear off later. Or if the Panacea thing happens, then she could un-paralyze them. Or Parian could offer to help (they’re innocent victims too and she’s got a soft heart) and they could use her dolls to get out. All are options. The ones involving escaping with Bitch, Parian or Genesis are likely to make a scene, but so what? The Nine aren’t concerned about them. They don’t even know they’re there. Bonesaw is safe (once Regent leaves), so there’s no reason to chase after them when there’s an army actively attacking to deal with first. Btw, THESE ARE OUTLINES. Many of them. And I’ve put them up before as well. What you expect really is (at best) a short chapter each. At worst, you want a long multi-chapter escape routine complete with the protagonists train of thought so you know they’re acting in character. EACH.

                4. Bitch doesn’t have to beat Bonesaw. This is an escape, not a battle. It is possible (though not probable) for her to win, though. And she isn’t necessarily alone. The last part of the above paragraph explains why I’m not going to give you what you ask for. Also see it for some other ideas since the Bitch, Genesis and Regent ideas all have a lot of options in common.

                5. You still insist on treating this as a battle rather than an escape. Question: How did Brian get them out in this chapter after pulling himself together and killing Burnscar? Did he defeat the Nine? No. They were distracted and so decided to leave. I imagine they (our guys) walked out the front door (it isn’t mentioned since getting back home is a triviality that story understandably skips). He didn’t fight them. So why does everyone else I’ve suggested have to? The point is to get them out, not to trump the Nine. So what if Siberian can beat Genesis? That means she isn’t stopping the others. Which is a useful enough role for Genesis as is. I repeat, this is not a battle, it’s an escape. And I haven’t suggested changing anything about Genesis, merely involving her in their current predicament.

                6 & 7. Wildbow certainly did choose his way out of this situation. I’m simply saying there were other ways that were more plausible. And you did admit that these possibilities exist because you haven’t come up with a single explanation as to why any of these people couldn’t GET INVOLVED (except perhaps Panacea. In her case, the burden is on me, I admit). They were all part of the situation. Your denial is specifically concerned with whether these possibilities would succeed i.e. you don’t think they would be able to successfully execute a rescue if they tried. Wildbow made his choice. I didn’t like it. Fine. All I’m saying is that there were other options. Plausible ones, not some random new cape showing up (Brians new powers, as mentioned earlier, are almost as if a new cape showed up. Not quite, but close). You don’t think these options make sense, but give no explanation as to why (in the case of these two) apart from a preference for not dealing with a new situation. That preference does not count as an argument for them not making sense.

                8. As covered above, you actually do. I’m deliberately avoiding feeding that fire. It’d be a lot worse than these long paragraphs. In regards to this one, I wouldn’t even bother anyway. I don’t like it myself. I’m quite content with Brian dead. It’s just that it seems Wildbow isn’t. He wants Brian alive. So I put it in. But frankly, if he wanted Brian alive, then I don’t know why he’d put him in such a hopeless situation in the first place. The only explanation seems to be that Wildbow doesn’t have issues with rescuing Brian in such as (in my view) blatantly convenient manner.

                9. Let’s take one of those examples – Mannequin. Fought with bugs. True. But were the bugs able to sting him or anything? No. He was invulnerable to the usual tactics. So she fought with bugs in another way. She made something with them instead. That’s creativity. Meanwhile, her combat skills were used – to occupy him. Now that option is off the table. Improvise. And remember that she isn’t alone. Potentially 8 (or more that I haven’t thought of) other factors are in play here. Who said she had to win, or win on her own? She could simply play support for once. And she doesn’t need to win, merely get out of there. On her own, that means she’d probably have to beat Bonesaw. With help, that might not even be necessary. And I don’t think second trigger events should never happen. I simply don’t see it as being necessary in this case. It seems rather too convenient. The level of scrutiny and questioning you’re applying to my ideas you don’t seem inclined to apply to the second trigger even solution. Why? Why is that solution so accepted? Partly cos it’s perfect. It’s conveniently arranged to be able to get them out, sort of like ordering up a custom-designed new super to come rescue them on cue. Try applying some of that prodigious cross-examination skill to the solution number 10 – Brian developing curiously well-suited new powers (I mean come on, how many types of powers would enable him to pull himself back together from that state?) As Chomsky said (I mentioned him earlier), the default stance isn’t subjected to much scrutiny.

                Your last paragraph (skipping the few before it that basically reiterated stuff. Oh, and I don’t know the exact circumstances of Hero’s death and neither do you, so no comment on that) deals with Brians’ state of mind. As mentioned earlier, this is irrelevant since pretty much all these options would occur well before it got to the point at which he had his second trigger. I don’t know where you got the idea that they’d happen only at that point in the story. Parian, for instance, attacked much earlier than that point.

                Lastly, what do you think I’ve been doing? I have been defending my stance.

              • Just take it to another window and reply in the alert box, like I did last time.

                And you misunderstand me. I’ve said before that I was using that as shorthand for saying “Your idea contradicts canon, so to go your direction would require large changes, which would overall probably make the story worse and which would definitely have far-reaching effects, which disproves your claim that this was just to let Brian survive.”

                Three considerations. One: It’s less that the stuff was “obvious” and more that it was there. Think of, say, Tattletale heading out to the bank’s computers, It’s a bit odd then, but after reading what she was doing with them it makes perfect sense. If it hadn’t been explained, it would have still been mysterious. Two: Just because X is obvious to us doesn’t mean X is obvious to the characters. Three: You aren’t proposing a slight change in the operation of Genesis’s power or something. These are significant changes.

                And, again, the future does matter. Saying they shouldn’t is like someone criticizing a scientific paper before it’s finished.

                Proof in this case is also known as “canon”. What happened in the story? What does this say about what happens in our theoretical scenarios?

                I take theoretical physics seriously because they prove their ideas. You just say “This could have happened!” and try to brush off my requests for evidence; taking the scientific metaphor, you’re like theorists for the Theory of Abrupt Appearances.

                And again you go with misrepresenting me. Theoretically, Parian could have tried to fight. She WOULD NOT HAVE WON, just like she lost the first time. That’s my point for all of these–the circumstances could have happened, but victory would be a long, long shot at best.

                And what evidence? I’ve been providing examples. “Bonesaw survived being impaled by Defiant’s spear. She’s tough enough to survive shards of glass.” “Siberian has been shown to love Bonesaw. She would intervene once she heard her scream.” YOU, on the other hand, have been discounting or ignoring all my evidence and my pleas for proper explanations. Perhaps I should apologize to the ToAA people I compared you to a couple paragraphs ago; you are starting to seem more like ID proponents.

                Hookwolf has been fighting all his life? Not on the same scale as the Nine. Work that the Empire did was not against armies of heroes, like the S9 so often was, nor did he have such a small number of allies. The Nine as a whole are untouchable, and Bonesaw never did get killed or captured. And the army beating the Nine is kinda irrelevant, overall.

                Why does it have to keep the future in mind? Because the story is incomplete. Would you criticize the Theory of Relativity after reading the abstract? Would you decry the theory of evolution after just the first chapter of On the Origin of the Species? Would you consider Coil’s trick with the coins bad writing because it wasn’t explained until later? Really, the only explanation I can see for your insistence that future chapters don’t count is either an unusually narrow point of view (which further explains your lack of concern for later events caused by this–Brian’s trauma, Skitter shouldering more of the load, [spoilers], for instance.) or the knowledge that your ideas don’t stand up if we add in events of later chapters.

                How could Parian have won? She lost. You saw that. Explain how the doll girl could have beaten Bonesaw and her robots with blades. And again we go with “Only the abilities she has so far count!” I suppose you raged when Legend mentioned his Breaker power, or when Alexandria’s Thinker power came up, huh? And we’re not discussing a criminal case–we’re discussing what could happen. It’s more like questioning the conclusions of an experiment due to later evidence which comes up.

                1. Ugh. PARIAN LOST. Even with “Imagine that I’m criticizing it at this point,” it still doesn’t work. In addition, consider this: If a random rogue with powers questionably useful in combat could beat a prepared Bonesaw in her own laboratory, why would the Slaughterhouse Nine be a threat?

                2. How would a normal anti-paralytic deal with Bonesaw’s drugs? Why wouldn’t she make it a bit stronger than that, to make it difficult? And why would she label them in ways that make sense to outsiders, when she knows that (say) the triangle means that it negates the effects of something and the red means it’s negating the paralytic? Why would she have the chemical in question right there on the table, since she’s preparing for surgery and not the post-surgery recovery? Why would Bonesaw flaunt the cure? It’s not special to have cured your own disease, nor would it add to her point, nor would it have any psychological effect on Skitter that Bonesaw would like, nor would it make any sense.
                I don’t know about Cherish’s plan. It makes as much sense as, say, Heartbroken being mentioned and developed, and then never seen. If I had to guess, I’d say it was more characterizing Cherish as a planner whose plans are never that good than anything.
                “Jack’s plan could have been anything” does not invalidate your ideas, just like “Cherish’s plan could have been anything” doesn’t invalidate mine. And no, I have not agreed these things could happen. I’ve been arguing against them.

                3. Look, seriously, compile your ideas into one. You’re the one claiming that Parian could have beaten Bonesaw, it’s on your shoulders to prove it–especially since I’ve provided evidence she couldn’t have. Same with the others, in their own ways. Or pick one.
                And as to “Shatterbird is a fighter, Bonesaw isn’t”…BS. Bonesaw is capable in combat, and there isn’t a dividing line. And I’m sick of you denying evidence because “IT DIDN’T HAPPEN YET IT DON’T COUNT!!!” It’s annoying. And as to your other ideas…well, what stops Siberian from noticing 2-3 parahumans, including the rather-prominent Shatterbird, entering the warehouse? What makes you think that the paralysis is temporary and doesn’t last long enough that it might as well be? Why wouldn’t the Nine be concerned with the Undersiders escaping? Don’t you remember how they wiped out the Nine for the heinous crime of hiring them? They’re the vengeful type, and the Undersiders have invited a lot of vengeance by beating some of their top members and capturing a couple of them, including their best large-scale attacker and main recruiter..
                And thanks for providing outlines. It’s a nice change. Was that so hard? Now please explain how to fix the flaws, which are some I have brought up for the individual parts.

                4. Covered above. How do the Nine not notice their entrance, how do they not care when they leave, etc.

                5. More “intimidated” than “distracted,” I’d say.
                Siberian would take barely any time to beat Genesis. Toss her body through a wall and she’s basically done, unless Genesis made a turtle or something, in which case Siberian would barely care. Heck, why would she care about Genesis? To paraphrase you, this is a rescue, not a fight. And it’s not like Genesis has any bodies capable of blocking Siberian. Anything that can impede Siberian more than Alexandria and Hero did would require a major change to Genesis.

                6,7. The question is, which is more plausible: A method repeatedly mentioned, with subtle foreshadowing of its possibility in previous chapters; or some character suddenly displaying additional competence and defeating a member of the S9 and/or said Nine not being as vengeful as they were shown to be.
                You want to know why they don’t make sense? I’ll say things I’m pretty sure I’ve already said but whatever. The heroes and Hookwolf’s group would need to kill or cripple enough of the Slaughterhouse Nine for them to call Bonesaw out of their current (fortified) base and into the open, probably abandoning all of her (difficult to replace) tinker gear, before running. This require a pretty bad situation; given that the Nine are known to have triumphed over larger groups who work together better, this seems fairly improbable. Moreover, their method of driving off the Nine and the Nines’ method of escape would have to be ones that leave the Undersiders able to escape and not noticed by the heroes or villains after the Nine start retreating. Oh, and they somehow need to have their paralysis healed. How would this work?
                And one more thing. You say that the reason you don’t like the way wildbow did this has to do with how “unsatisfying” it is to have Brian develop new powers all of a sudden. Let’s imagine the hypothetical chapter that involves the heroes/villains driving off the Nine. It works pretty much the same up to the point that Brian triggers. At that point, Tattletale, Skitter, and Trickster are hauled off and everyone else is torched by Burnscar. Then the Nine leave. Reread the chapter and explain how it would have ended differently.

                8. So now you’re telling me what I want? Arrogant.

                9. Let’s start with the Mannequin bit. Are you seriously going to claim that Taylor’s feeble attempts at hand-to-hand combat were required for her victory against Mannequin? At best, they stopped more people from being killed. I also notice that you only picked one where I admitted that her own combat skills played a secondary role…and left everything else untouched.
                Skitter has to play a support role? You mean, like at the bank, or for most of the second ABB fight, or for significant parts of other fights?
                When should second trigger events happen? The situation was highly stressful, as well as much like the original trigger event.
                Why am I not applying the same level of scrutiny? Because I already have, as should be shown by how much I’m explaining why it works. And, overall, because it works. The situation is stressful and traumatizing–more than many first trigger events are–as well as highly similar to his first trigger event, which was given great detail. It’s possible, it’s plausible. The things you are suggesting barely count as possible, because they are implausible.
                And, as to how “convenient” it is…have you actually read beyond this point? Is that why you don’t want to use evidence from later? The new power is pretty clearly explained as an extension of a previous aspect of his power, albeit a minor one. The only reason he “pulled himself back together” had to do with the circumstances. And how many new powers would let him pull himself together? Healing, regeneration, a power like Eidolon’s, stealing/copying regeneration from someone else, tele/micro/ferrokinesis plus biollogical tinkering (since Bonesaw had to abandon her tools)…the list goes on and on if you think about it.

                The exact circumstances of Hero’s death were mentioned in…one of the interludes, Piggot’s I think. The one where she saw the video of Siberian killing Hero and devastating the rest of the Triumvate?
                Alright. Yes, I misunderstood you. I thought you were talking about the Undersiders being rescued at some point after they were paralyzed and left in a pile in front of Brian. Oh wait, you are. Parian attacked in that time. The Nine were scared away from their base in that time. It doesn’t matter if Brian is in that exact second or not–he’s still going to feel a bit hopeless from the complete lack of hope.

                You’ve sure been trying to. Finally, you’ve given one situation where your ideas are put together, although it requires that the Undersiders do exactly what you think they should do despite that not being what they were told (how do they find out about the situation inside, anyways?), plus that the Nine, the heroes, and the local villains all just let them leave.

  23. I just realised there could’ve even been a ninth possibility for saving our heroes if you’d changed a few things in the previous chapter (although it kinda makes Bonesaw look stupid, so I’d treat it as a longshot). This would’ve pleased all the Skitter fans out there too. Skitter could’ve saved them using her bugs if you’d just tweaked the effects of Bonesaws’ darts and powder to make it a simple paralytic. Bonesaw would’ve still had defenses against her bugs and Skitter would’ve been unable to move, so it still could’ve proved to be an interesting battle. She’d have had to find a way around Bonesaw’s defenses without fighting herself. As for leaving, as outlined in the options, someone could’ve come in and dragged them away. Or the Nine could’ve been driven off (Bonesaw having run so they didn’t come back for her), giving our heroes time to recover. Or, simpler still, you could’ve just made the paralytic temporary and short-lived (Bonesaw probably using a second substance before surgery, in this case. It would make sense for an instant paralytic to have a drawback to balance it out. Here it would’ve been its longevity).

    • Bonesaw being stupid is a major plot hole. She has had years to hone this stuff, guided by Jack Slash, who has years more. And that would have been anticlimatic, assuming that the bugs worked, or completely pointless if they hadn’t.
      If they had worked, it would have gone against how even stabbing Bonesaw in the eye only caused surprise, half-blindness, and (until turned off) pain. Besides, it would have lasted all of until Siberian investigated Bonesaw’s screams of pain, or Mannequin/Crawler/Jack did so, or until any of the Undersiders inside decided to go outside into a battle between the Nine (who hate them), the Chosen and such (who hate or dislike them), and the Protectorate (who certainly don’t like them).

    • I’m interested enough to take a crack at this:
      1. I think Parian’s failure is fairly realistic, due to her lack of combat experience and the various protections Bonesaw has built into herself. The tinker may tend to hang around Jack and the others, but she’s not weak or unable to look after herself in any survival sense. As we see in the chapter, Parian is trying to muster the will to kill, but she is dazed by the sheer horror and loss she has experienced – and then she learns that some of her loved ones might still be alive, or could be dying right then at the hands of the S9 or the Brockton Bay local supers. That’s a hell of a distraction for her to cope with.
      2. Imp could have “appeared” and acted to help out our heroes; this one is fairly reasonable. That said, her tendency to go cowboy is a liability, and her prior attack means that the S9 likely updated their security arrangements. Given what we’ve seen in the past, my guess would be that Bonesaw upgraded her spider bots or tweaked their programming, and that is how Imp was caught. This would fit with the fact that Imp doesn’t have a history of planning, patience, or caution that we’ve seen.
      3. Regent indicated that he was having some trouble using Shatterbird and her power effectively, and we know that his power doesn’t give him the multitasking advantages Skitter seems to have. For him to come help would likely require that both he and Shatterbird successfully disengage from their opponents, particularly difficult since Shatterbird was distracting the Hookwolf & Purity’s forces and trying to avoid leading them to Grue and company. Again, not impossible, but it would be surprising.
      4. Bitch is all about brute force; her arrival would likely bring unfriendly company and make the situation worse. That said, there is a small chance that she could have closed the distance rapidly enough to surprise Bonesaw, thus creating an opening for a more conventional escape…except that she could never load all of the captives onto dogs by herself (or even with Parian’s help). She may not even have enough transportation for everyone, since the group at that point includes Grue, Imp, and possibly Parian in addition to the initial team. I’d rate this one more difficult than Imp helping, about even with Regent.
      5. Genesis is an interesting possibility, but has many of the same problems as Regent and Bitch. She has to get there, in a helpful form, soon enough to stop Bonesaw and Burnscar. Then she has to hold out on her own until more help arrives, or beat 1-3 of the S9 singlehanded, which would be stupid. As Taylor sort-of observed in the past, Genesis doesn’t necessarily make the best use of the powers she has, so this would be a surprising success.
      6. You yourself say this seems unlikely, so I won’t belabor the point. It is possible that, say, Hookwolf following Jack and Burnscar into the building could turn the situation on its head for our heroes, or that Purity destroying a couple walls could merge the indoor and outdoor battlefields. Some options there, but I’m not sure there’s anything that could reasonably save them from imminent incineration except for the roof collapsing on top of Burnscar without hurting the Undersiders/Travellers. That would have been a real Looney Tunes-style Deus Ex Machina. Could be hilarious in a humorous cartoon-logic Worm fanfic, I suppose.
      7. There are two main issues with this one. First, the heroes have just indicated that they don’t trust the Undersiders, and we know they don’t really trust any of the villains. Their procedure thus far has been very cautious, so a sudden shift would require some explanation to make sense. Second issue is response time. The fight hasn’t been going all that long when this chapter ends. I can conceive of the heroes showing up if, say, they got word that the S9 were in Dolltown in general, or had passed through at least. But that would likely make things more confusing, with impostor S9 and super-powered white supremacists running around. Could be helpful, could make it worse; it’s a bit of a toss-up.
      8. As you say, this would be pretty blatant, especially since Panacea seems more inclined to run away from trouble than toward it based on what we last saw of her. Not a significant option unless they can secure the area first and then track her down and convince her to help, I think. That would be a bit much to believe, given that the fight outside involves the S9 and the remnants of E88.
      9. The paralytic idea isn’t too bad, but since Bonesaw also has a gas to kill the bugs, I’m not sure it would really help much. I suppose that option would also leave others potentially free to use their powers, but that seems like a bit much for Bonesaw to miss; keep in mind that she’s done this before. She created Murder Rat from Ravager and Mouse Protector, among other mashups, and has had lots of people to experiment on. She may be the best in the world when it comes to Parahuman test subject security, so a screwup like that would seem out of character to me.
      Overall, I don’t think any one of these ideas quite holds up, but combining two of them – say, Imp arriving to help as Purity accidentally blew in a wall while aiming at Jack – could plausibly have created circumstances allowing our people a chance to escape. They would probably have to suffer some injuries in the process, but it could be believable, I think, so you’re not totally off base. 1, 3, 8, and 9 seem like the least reasonable to me, while combining some combination of 2, 4 ,6, and 7 would be the most believable. Not sure what I think of 5. I think you successfully make a case that there could have been other ways out of this, at least.
      That said, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that this is a Deus Ex Machina. Trigger events and their timing and nature have been touched on before, and are an important part of the setting. Brian, in this case, is being pushed almost as far as it is possible to be pushed. He is in excruciating pain (and has been for hours, possibly) with no quick death in sight, several friends and his sister are looking at either immediate death or later, lingering unpleasantness, and Bonesaw is terrifying as can be. What happens to Parian may also be a factor, along with the general accumulated stress since the story began and particularly since the S9 arrived. The main point, I think, is that Brian became a supervillain to provide and care for his sister. You can say that’s a dumb choice, but it was the central choice of his life, and has defined him and mandated his actions ever since. In this moment, at this place, she is about to die. I’d say that if he were to have a second trigger event under any circumstance, this should be it. It would almost be stranger if he didn’t, really. I mean, if this doesn’t trigger him, what the heck could?
      Generally, none of our main characters are at their best. Everything Brockton Bay has been through and their personal tragedies have taken a massive toll. Taylor is exhausted and not thinking straight, and she’s the most level-headed person on the team in a crisis. The way Scrub (the kid from the Merchants) had his first trigger event laid some groundwork for this, as have other past events. As noted by others, Grue’s powers have always had some interesting effects beyond simple darkness, such as interfering (somehow) with Shadow Stalker’s parahuman ability. Miss Militia’s interlude also comes to mind – she got her powers precisely when she needed them, and that seems to be almost the rule rather than the exception.
      Lastly, I think it’s a mistake to assume that the author is using this power-up as a contrivance to move the plot in certain directions. You can say that about anything that happens in any story, and there’s no way to obtain proof without reading the author’s mind. Having finished the story, I was satisfied that the characters develop in ways I believe and the logic of the powers is internally consistent, which is about all you can ask for. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think Brian gaining a new ability is a contrivance in the context of the Wormverse. I take it as part of that initial story conceit that we must accept in order to read Worm, just as I accept magic when reading a Fantasy story, even when everything about that magic isn’t explained to me at the very beginning. I also think the Wildbow’s general tendency toward worldbuilding and foreshadowing serves as compelling evidence that contrivances aren’t likely to be a problem in this story. With all the said, you are entitled to your own opinion.

      -CG

      • Thanks for the considered response. You do make a convincing case against any of my options (at least, any of them alone). If you’re interested, I have defended them against another critique by ‘greatwyrmgold’ (see above). My point was here was simply that the situation did not seem as hopeless as it was made out to be and so the second trigger event didn’t seem necessary to extricate them i.e. in terms of plausibility of those ideas, I was weighing them against the plausibility of Brians’ second trigger event. Perhaps that solution is more plausible than I gave it credit for. I suppose that comes down to opinion.

        All that said, I did end up reading ahead anyway. Though I’ve taken a hiatus for a while owing to life concerns, I might very well end up returning to the story in due time. I was just very upset at this turn of events and so felt compelled to comment on it. Thanks again for taking the time to consider my ideas. :)

        • I have read through your other comments, and greawyrmgold’s, and found both interesting. I did think you both raised some good/interesting points, which is why I replied at such length; it caught my interest, and I didn’t want to make a half-ass reply. I won’t repeat my earlier points or lay down another massive block of text here, but have a gander at my latest thoughts if you’re so inclined:

          As far as the hopelessness of the situation and Brian’s triggering, I think it’s important to remember that trigger events seem to be predicated on the situation as people perceive it, not necessarily the situation that actually exists. Even if Regent, Shatterbird, Imp, Bitch, and Genesis were about to burst into the room and stop Bonesaw, and we knew it, I don’t think the reasonable-ness or Deus Ex Machina-ness of Brian triggering would be affected, since he wouldn’t be aware of the fact, so that may be something worth keeping in mind. Also, Brian has been in that closet for a while; he’s going to feel far more hopeless than Taylor does, and she’s close to despair here.

          Secondly, I think a lot of the objections to anyone intervening to save the captives from Bonesaw can be summed up in the following four points:
          1. They would be hard-pressed to defeat Bonesaw one-on-one without her doing something horrible and escaping. This is especially true since Bonesaw doesn’t have to finish whatever she decides to do in order to completely traumatize someone for life, and interrupting her mid-surgery could easily be worse than letting her finish, or simply result in the patient’s immediate death. Also, while she is not a front-line combatant, Bonesaw is difficult to face because she fights like Taylor, always doing something unexpected. She has a broader bag of tricks and more prep work, but less tactical brilliance than Taylor, of course, but she’s similarly hard to anticipate. Plus, the fact that she’s a kid is unnerving to people, even if they know better intellectually. I imagine this may also account for some of Parian’s hesitation.

          2. Any aid, especially from the people available, seems (to me) unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the situation without drawing the attention of the rest of the S9. Keep in mind that they do this sort of thing on a regular basis, and remember how sharp Jack Slash is (pun unintentional).

          3. In any rescue, one of two things needs to happen. Either the paralyzed captives have to be moved by the unparalyzed rescuers, or the area must be secured until the paralysis wears off or can be counteracted. Frankly, I’m having a hard time thinking of alternate solutions to the simple issue of transportation, though I won’t claim it can’t be done; the Undersiders and Travellers are pretty resourceful, and people tend to underestimate Bitch’s ability to improvise despite the fact that she avoided capture on her own for a substantial period of time.

          4 (Which I hadn’t thought of before). Assuming that the people we’re talking about as possible saviors (Regent, Bitch, Genesis, or even the Pure/Chosen) are engaged with the S9, one or more of them disengaging from the fight could quickly cause the tide to turn in the S9′s favor. That might cause the S9 to stay outside longer (because they don’t feel the need to run or b/c they are enjoying taking out/chasing their opponents) or could cause more of them to return sooner (to check on Bonesaw or b/c they are under less pressure). Not sure which is more likely, but food for thought.

          So now that I’ve accidentally made another wall’o text, there you are. Hope it clarifies some of what I meant before, and my new additions. And I have to say, I’ve enjoyed considering the hypotheticals, even though I somewhat disagree with your initial point. I try to keep my comments civil regardless of differences in opinion, and I like finding someone who’s willing to tackle me head-on verbally. Keeps things interesting, and tends to make me consider my opinions and why I hold them, which is to my net benefit.

          In a broader sense, I’ll just say that I’ve finished Worm and I believe it was a rewarding read from this point, even though there were one or two points when I doubted whether Wildbow could write something satisfying; I chose to continue, and my leap of faith was rewarded, so I do think it’s worth your time when you have a chance.

          CG

          • I’m impressed that you actually read all of that. All together that exchange is probably as long as a full chapter, if not more. And yes, it did degenerate a bit (both of us are at fault for that), but thankfully it hasn’t come down to simply insulting each other or name-calling. I’ll try to keep this brief:

            Brian triggering at that point is certainly right. If we was going to trigger, that would be when it would happen. Mt solutions were all meant to happen before that point, however i.e. before Brian was staring ar the imminent dissection of Taylor and his sister. Parian attacked earlier, for instance. I was not suggesting she attack again, but that her first attack could have achieved something. All the others would’ve come in earlier as well.

            1. Bonesaw is difficult to face, but she doesn’t even need to be beaten, only driven off or distracted. This is an escape, not a battle. Also, as mentioned above, any rescue attempt would be occurring well before she had started surgery.

            2. It probably would. greatwyrmgold has made a lot of that. But it would also attract the attention of the other parties involved here. If the Nine turn, so will their attackers. And remember that our captives aren’t their priority. The rest of them don’t even know they’re there. They’ll come to save Bonesaw. They’ll be followed back by their attackers. If a cure is found (see the above comment train), then our guys might also be back in play. So things gets messy. Which is good for an escape, which is what this is. They haven’t shown any particular inclination to kill our captives before, despite being able to, so I doubt that desire would suddenly overtake them now. Bonesaw would be their main concern.

            3. Both Bitch and Genesis present options for moving our guys. And, as I’ve pointed out in the comment train, it would make sense for Bonesaw to keep an anti-paralytic around, which would negate the need for such transport. As for securing the area, that actually did happen. The Nine scarpered at the end of the chapter. So it is possible for them to leave, it seems. Brian didn’t seem to need to fight anyone else when they left.

            4. It might change the battle, yes. How that goes is anyone’s guess. Though not all options lead to that. Parian and Imp aren’t part of the battle. The ‘bad army’ idea was more of a piling on of pressure rather than a disengagement. The ‘good army’ idea obviously turns the tide against the Nine and makes it likely they’d not just return soon (to collect Bonesaw), but scarper. As I said, it isn’t assured they’d just kill our guys if they returned. If they wanted that, they’ve had plenty of opportunities already. They might want to keep them as captives (Bonesaw would, at any rate), but that would slow them down (Note that they made no attempt to do that in the actual chapter either). The Nine survive not just because of overwhelming power (like the Endbringers), but because of a certain level of tactical (and strategic in Jacks’ case) brilliance. Killing or capturing our guys serves no purpose to anyone but Bonesaw. They’re not viable hostages, and the Nine don’t use hostages (for protection, not decoys) anyway. It’d be more “fun” to let them live.

            Well, so much for keeping it brief. :P Anyway, I’ll keep your vote of confidence for the story in mind. :)

            • You make good counterpoints, and fairly convincing ones. It’s been a pleasure examining and talking over this stuff, but I think at this point we’ve about talked it as far as we can, so I think I’ll let it rest. Between the two of us and greatwyrmgold, I don’t think there are any possibilities left to raise other than the truly outlandish. I hope to see you further on in the comments some time, or around the internet somewhere. It’s a small world sometimes.

              As for the overall quality of Worm, I think it’s worth noting that my favorite parts of the story are probably the emotional/moral components (though I certainly enjoy the action as well). I think if I did a top ten favorite moments of the story, most of them wouldn’t have come up yet at this point – and I definitely like the story up to here.

              CG

  24. I remember the first time I read this chapter, wondering what the heck Brian was doing. Knowing what’s revealed next chapter, it all makes sense…so keep reading, true skeptics. There should only be one notable loose end after that, and it gets cleared up before the arc ends.

    • I’m not sure if that was intended as a reply to my comment. In case it was, I’ll just say that I have read ahead to find out what his new ability is. My point wasn’t that his new ability makes no sense, but rather that it came out of the blue (Deus Ex Machina). The convention of people just getting new powers when the situation calls for it is what I have issue with. It’s too convenient. Also, as outlined in my comments, in this situation it wasn’t even necessary. I mentioned NINE possible ways in which the writer could have extricated them from this mess without having to invent a new power. In fact, later chapters suggest that this getting into this mess (which was Taylor’s fault, really, since they could’ve just left/killed Brian and escaped) was solely ENGINEERED by the the writer in order to give him a new power. In case the idea of killing Brian doesn’t appeal to the writer, it would’ve been entirely possible for the him to simply make his situation less hopeless so that he could’ve been rescued without such a plot device. Less horror impact that way, of course, but it does allow you to save him without relying on new powers. As other readers have commented, this wasn’t the most horrific scene they’ve ever read, so the loss of horror might not have been too bad. Or it could’ve been quite the challenge to create a situation which was horrific, but not rendering Brian irrecoverable. Perhaps something connected to pain rather than outright bodily harm. I hope my critiques aren’t taken negatively. I still loved the story. :)

      • It was not in reply to your comment. It was talking about the chapter in general, to future readers; if I wanted to reply to you, I would have done so.

        And there were a number of considerations that this opened up. It gave exposition on the nature of powers, a slight but additive amount. It shed light on the nature of…well, you-know-what, I presume. And it isn’t like there were no hints that Brian’s power could do this–it wasn’t completely out of the blue. Grue’s darkness has been affecting powers since the story’s start, some more obviously than others. It set up additional considerations for Brian’s interactions with the team, and kicked off a brief new development in that vein…remember how Brian re-triggered because of Taylor? And so on, and so forth; now let me locate these nine ways to beat the Nine.

  25. Whoa. Wacky, weird stuff going on here. The healing does seem awfully convenient… I guess I’ll wait a couple of chapters before I form a conclusion whether it’s deus ex machina or not.

  26. Whoa. Wacky, weird stuff going on here. The healing does seem awfully convenient… I guess I’ll wait a couple of chapters before I form a conclusion whether it’s deus ex machina or not.

  27. Thoughts:

    This *does* come across as a deus ex machina but honestly that doesn’t bother me. The Undersiders have had the odds stacked against them for so long at this point that it’s about *time* luck was on their side for a change.

    BTW, I read some of the back and forth about whether this was the most appropriate way for the Undersiders to get out of this pickle. I wonder if it’s worth looking at this from another perspective. This advances the mysterious giant creatures plotline and the source of superpowers plotline. Odds are good that Wildbow had to slip a development like this into the plot somewhere. So why not insert a trigger event at the point where it makes most sense – when they are in inescapable need?

    I have *not* read ahead so this is pure speculation, but to me this smacks more of laying groundwork for future developments than of an author desperately scrambling to get his characters out of a jam…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s