Interlude 15 (Donation Bonus)

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

Darkness.  Almost a physical presence, bearing down on her as though she were deep underwater and the weight of all of the water above her was pressing against her head and shoulders.

Some of that was fatigue, some of it was hunger, some was thirst.  She had no idea how much time had passed.  She might have been able to guess from her period, but her body had decided such would be a waste of precious resources.  It hadn’t come, and she had no idea how many weeks or months it had been.

Darkness, so absolute she couldn’t tell if her eyes were open or closed.  As she breathed, it almost felt like the dark was pressing down on her, making exhaling harder with every breath.  It didn’t help that the room smelled like an open sewer mingled with body odor.

Reaching out, she fumbled, felt the dim warmth of skin.  An arm so thin she could wrap her hand around it, middle finger and thumb touching.  Her hand slid down the arm and her fingers twined with those of a hand smaller than hers.  The physical contact seemed to put the physical sensations of air on her skin into a kind of context.  The sense of pressure faded.

“I’m hungry,” the girl beside her spoke.

“I am too.”

“I want to go home.”

“I know.”

There was the sound of a key in the lock, and her heart leapt.

The light felt like knives being driven into her eye sockets, but she stared anyways.  A man, tall, tan and long-haired, entered the room, a lantern in one hand and a plate of food in the other.

He set down the food and then turned to leave.

“Thank you!” she called after him.  She saw him hesitate.

The door slammed shut after him.

“You thanked him?” The words were accusatory.

She couldn’t justify it.  Her heart was pounding.  She stared at the plate.  Soup and bread: enough food for one person, barely enough for two.  She could have said she did it in the hopes that he would feed them more often, but she wasn’t sure she would be telling the truth.

“Let’s… let’s just eat,” she spoke.

“I knew you were here when I was a block away,” Alan spoke.  “The number of lights on in these offices is asking for troublemakers to notice and come by.  And the doors were unlocked.”

Carol looked up in surprise.  Composing herself, she answered, “I’m not concerned.”

The man laughed, “No, I imagine you aren’t.”

“You’re back?”

“For a little while, at least.  The partners asked if I could come by in case we had to close up shop in a hurry.”

“In case the city is condemned?”

“That’s it.  What are you doing?  Are those the files from downstairs?”

Carol nodded, glancing at the crate of paperwork marked ’1972′.  “We’ve been saying we would copy them over to digital format the next time business got slow.  It won’t get much slower than it is now.”

“The idea was that everyone in the office would pitch in,” Alan answered.

“Everyone in the office is pitching in.”

“Except you’re the only one here,” Alan said.  His brow creased in worry, “What’s going on?  Are you okay?”

She shook her head.

“Talk to me.”

Carol sighed.

He sat down on the corner of her desk, reached over and turned off the scanner.  “Talk.”

“When I agreed to join New Wave, Sarah and I both agreed that I’d keep my job, and I’d strike a balance between work and life in costume.”

He nodded.

“I felt like I had to keep coming, even after Leviathan destroyed the city.  Keep that promise to myself, keep myself sane.  This filing helps, too.  It’s almost meditative.”

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to stay in the city, with everything that’s gone on.  I heard things in the news, but it really didn’t hit home until I came back.”

Carol smiled a little, “Oh, it hasn’t been pretty.  Addicts and thugs thinking they can band together to take over the city.  The Slaughterhouse Nine-”

Alan shook his head in amazement.

“My husband was gravely injured in the attack, you might have heard.”

“Richard mentioned it.”

“Head injury.  Could barely feed himself, could barely walk or speak.”

“Amy’s a healer, isn’t she?”

“Amy has always insisted she couldn’t heal brain injuries.”

Alan winced.  “I see.  The worst sort of luck.”

Carol smiled, but it wasn’t a happy expression.  “So imagine my surprise when, after weeks of taking care of my husband, wiping food from his face, giving him baths, supporting him as he walked from the bedroom to the bathroom, Amy decides she’ll heal him after all.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.  But we can’t ask Amy, because she ran away from home while Mark called to let me know he was okay.”

“Something else happened?”

“Oh, quite a bit happened.  But if I got into the details of the Slaughterhouse Nine visiting my home, the ensuing fight destroying the ground floor, Bonesaw forcing Amy to kill one of her Frankenstein mutants and inviting her to join the Nine, I think that would derail the conversation.”

Alan opened his mouth to ask a question, then shut it.

“This is strictly confidential, yes?” Carol stated.  “Between friends?”

“Always,” he replied automatically.  After a moment’s consideration, he said, “Amy must have been terrified.”

“Oh, I imagine she was.  Victoria went looking for her after she ran away, returned home empty-handed.  I think she was even more upset than I was, with Amy taking so long to heal Mark.  She was almost inarticulate, she was so angry.”

“Your daughters are close.  The sense of betrayal would be that much stronger.”

Carol nodded, then sighed.

“Quite a lot to deal with.  I can understand why you’d need some quiet and routine to distract yourself.”

Carol fidgeted.  “Oh, that wasn’t even the worst of it.  Victoria’s been flirting with the notion of joining the Wards, and she went out to fight the Nine just a few days ago.  Apparently she was critically injured.  She was carried off for medical care and nobody’s seen her since.”

“Carried off by who?  Or whom?”

“The Undersiders.  Who have dropped off the face of the map, in large part.  I’ve tried finding them on my patrols, but all reports suggest they’ve spread over the city in an attempt to seize large tracts of territory.  It’s a big city with a lot of stones to overturn and dark corners to investigate.”

“So Victoria’s missing, now?”

“Or dead,” Carol said.  She blinked a few times in rapid succession, fighting the need to cry.  “I don’t know.  I was patrolling, searching, and I felt my composure start to slip.  I feel like shit for doing it, but I came here, I thought maybe if I took fifteen minutes or half an hour to center myself, I could be ready to start searching again.”

“I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it.”

“She’s my daughter, Alan.  Something’s happened to her, and I don’t know what.”

“I’m sorry.  Is there anything I can do?”

She shook her head.

“I could call some people, if we organized a search party-”

“Too dangerous when you’re talking supervillains and the numbers of armed thugs on the streets.  Even civilians are likely to attack first and ask questions later, if confronted.  Besides…” she picked up her cell phone from the corner of her desk.  She showed him the screen, “Cell towers are down.  No service.”

He frowned.  “I- I don’t know what to say.”

“Welcome back to Brockton Bay, Mr. Barnes.”

“Carol, wake up.”

Carol stirred.  She was sleeping so much of the time now.

There was a man in the doorway.  Her heart leapt in her chest.

Then he moved the lantern.  A stranger.

“Time’s up,” he spoke, his voice heavily accented.

“Don’t understand,” Sarah spoke, her voice thin.

“Where’s… where’s the other man?” Carol asked.  She felt almost ashamed she didn’t have a better name for him.

“Quiet,” the man snapped.  He moved the hand that wasn’t burdened with the lantern, and Carol could see a knife.  She gasped, or maybe moaned.  It was hard to tell what it was supposed to be, because it was involuntary and her voice caught, making the sound come out more like a yelp or a reedy shriek.  She shrank back.

“No, no, no,” Sarah squeaked, shaking her head.

Time’s up.  Sarah had to know what he meant, now.

They’d spent so long in the darkness, in their own filth.  They’d eaten so little, grown so weak, and now they’d die.  And the thing that upset Carol most was that they would never understand why.

“No!”  Sarah shrieked, her voice raw.

The light was so bright it momentarily blinded Carol.  She covered her face with her arms.  When she looked up again, the man was on his hands and knees.  And her sister… Sarah was standing.

Except standing was the wrong word.  Sarah was upright, and her legs were moving, but her toes were barely touching the ground.  She wasn’t supporting her own weight.  She advanced on the man, raising one hand.

Again, that blinding light.  It didn’t burn the man, nor did it cut him.  He reacted like he’d been punched instead, stumbling backward through the doorway.  She hit him again, over and over, wordless cries accompanying each attack.  Carol saw only glimpses of the man’s bloodied body in the split-seconds the light hung in the air.  He was being beaten, pulverized.

She couldn’t bring herself to protest.  For the first time in long weeks or months, she felt a flicker of hope.

Darkness reigned over them for a few seconds as Sarah stopped to catch her breath.

Carol tried to stand and found her legs were like spaghetti noodles.

She was so busy trying to maintain her balance that she almost didn’t see.

The man who’d brought them the food.  He stepped into the doorway and raised one hand.  A gun.

The report of the handgun was deafening after such a long time in the quiet room.

But they weren’t hurt.  Sarah had raised her hands, and a glowing, see-through wall stood between them and the man.

He’d tried to attack them?  Carol couldn’t understand it.  He was the one who’d taken care of them.  When he’d appeared, she’d been happy.  And now it felt like that had been ruined, spoiled.

She felt betrayed and she couldn’t understand why.

Again, the gun fired.  She flinched, and not because of the noise.  It was like she’d been slapped.

Then silence.

Silence, no hunger, no pain, no sense of betrayal.  Even Sarah and the wall of light she’d put together were gone.

A flat plain stretched out around her, but she had no body.  She could see in every direction.

A crack split the ground.  Once the dust had settled, nothing happened for a long time.

More cracks.

It’s an egg, she realized, just in time to see it hatch.

The egg’s occupant tore free from the crack, unfolding from a condensed point to grow larger with every moment and movement.

Others were hatching from the same egg, spreading out like sparks from the shell of a firework.  Each unfolding into something vast and incomprehensible within seconds of its birth.

But her attention was on the first.  She felt it reach out and connect with another that shared a similar trajectory.  Still more were doing the same, pairing off.  Forming into trios, in some cases, but most chose to form pairs.

A mate?  A partner?

Each settled into a position around the ruined egg, embracing their chosen companions, rubbing against, into and through one another as they continued to grow.

The egg vibrated. Or did it?  No, it was an illusion.  There were multiple copies of the egg, multiple versions, and they each stirred, deviating from one another until subtle double images appeared.

Then, one by one, they crumpled into a single point.  The egg at the center of the formation of these creatures was the last, and for the briefest of moments, it roiled with the pressure and energy of all of the others.

Then it detonated, and the creatures came alive, soaring out into the vastness of the void, trails of dust following in their wake, each with a partner, a companion, traveling in a different direction.

And she was back in the dark room, staring at the man.

The betrayer.

The memory was already fading, but she instinctively knew that whatever had happened to Sarah had just happened to her.

His gun was spent, which was good, because Sarah had fallen to the ground in the same instant Carol had, and the wall of light was gone.

Carol advanced on him, her emotions so wild and varied and contradictory that she’d seemed to settle into a kind of neutrality, a middle ground where there was only that confused sense of betrayal.

A weapon appeared in her hands, forged of light and energy and electricity.  Crude, unrefined, it amounted to little more than a baseball bat.

When she struck him in the leg, the weapon sheared through without resistance.  That’s good, her thoughts were strangely disconnected from everything else, because I can’t hit very hard right now.

He screamed as he fell to the ground, his leg severed.

She hit him again, then again, much like Sarah had with the other man.  Except this wasn’t simply beating him to a pulp.  It was more final than that.

When she was done, the weapon disappeared.  Sarah hugged her, and she hugged her sister back.

When she cried, it wasn’t the crying of a thirteen year old girl.  It was more basic, more raw: the uncontrolled, unrestrained wail one might expect of a baby.

There was a knock on the door.  She looked up.

It was Lady Photon.  Sarah.  “What are you doing here?  I’ve been looking all over.”

“I needed a few minutes to myself to think.  Get grounded.”

Lady Photon gave her a sympathetic look.  She hated that look.

“Why did you want me?”

“We found Tattletale.  In a fashion.  We made contact with her and struck a deal.”

Carol didn’t like the sound of that, but she wouldn’t say that out loud.  It would bother her sister, start something.  “What was she asking and what was she offering?”

“She wanted a two-week ceasefire.  The Undersiders won’t give any heroes or civilians any trouble, and we ignore them in exchange.”

“That gives them time to consolidate, get a firmer hold on the city.”

“Maybe.  I talked to Miss Militia about it, and she doesn’t think they’ll accomplish anything meaningful in that span of time.  The Undersiders have their hands full with white supremacists and some leftover Merchants, the Protectorate and Wards aren’t part of the ceasefire and they’ll be putting pressure on the Undersiders as well.”

“I’m not so optimistic,” Carol commented.  She sighed again.  “I would have liked to be part of that negotiation.”

“We didn’t know where you were.  But let’s not fight again.  The important thing is that Tattletale pointed us in the right direction.  We think we know where your daughters are.”

Daughters?  Plural?

Carol couldn’t put a name to the feeling that had just sucker-punched her.

“Give me thirty seconds to change,” she said, standing from her chair.

“Stand down,” Brandish ordered.

“Now why would I want to do that?” Marquis asked.  “I’ve won every time your team has challenged me, this situation isn’t so different.”

“You have nowhere to run.  We’ve got you where you live,” Manpower spoke.

“I have plenty of places to run,” Marquis replied, shrugging.  “It’s just a house, I won’t lose any sleep over leaving it behind.  It’s an expensive house, I’ll admit, but that little detail loses much of its meaning when you’re as ridiculously wealthy as I am.”

The Brockton Bay Brigade closed in on the man who stood by his leather armchair, wearing a black silk bathrobe.  He held his ground.

“If you’ll allow me to finish my wine-” he started, bending down to reach for the wine glass that sat beside the armchair.

Manpower and Brandish charged.  They didn’t get two steps before Marquis turned himself into a sea urchin, bone spears no thicker than a needle extending out of every pore, some extending twelve or fifteen feet.

Brandish planted her heel on the ground to arrest her forward movement and activated her power.  In an instant, her body was condensed into a point, surrounded by a layered, spherical force field.  It meant she didn’t fall on her rear end, and she could pick a more appropriate posture as she snapped back into her human shape.

Manpower wasn’t so adroit.  He managed to stop himself, slamming one foot through the mahogany floor to give himself something to brace against, but it was too late to keep him from running into the spears of bone.  Shards snapped against his skin and went flying.

Lady Photon opened her mouth to shout a warning, but it was too late.  Flashbang fell to one knee as a shard bounced off the ground near him, reshaping into a form that could slash across the top of his foot.  Brandish caught only a glimpse of the wound, primarily blood.  She didn’t see anything resembling bone, but Marquis apparently did.

There was a sound like firecrackers going off, and Flashbang screamed.

The needles retracted.  Marquis rolled his shoulders, as if loosening his muscles.  “Broke your foot?  How clumsy.”

Lightstar was the next to go down, as one splinter that had embedded in a bookshelf branched out to pierce his shoulder.  Fleur caught him before he could land on top of more of the bone needles.

Brandish shifted her footing, and the slivers of bone that scattered the ground around her shifted, some reshaping into starbursts of ultrafine needle points, waiting for her to step on them.  She knew from experience that they would penetrate the soles of her boots.

Lady Photon fired a spray of laser blasts in Marquis’ general direction, tearing into bookshelves, antique furniture and the rack of wine bottles.  Marquis created a shield of bone to protect himself, expanding its dimensions until it was taller and wider than he was.

He’s going to burrow, Brandish thought.  He’d done it often enough in the past, disappearing underground the second he’d dropped out of sight, then attacking through the ground, floor or rooftop.

“Careful!” she shouted.

Lady Photon spent the rest of the energy she’d gathered in her hands, spraying another spray of lasers at Marquis’ shield.  Then, as they’d practiced, she prepared to use her forcefield to shield Flashbang, Fleur and Lightstar.  Brandish and Manpower could defend themselves.

A barrier of bone plates erupted around one corner of the room, rising just in time to keep some of Lady Photon’s salvo from striking a closet door.  Marquis emerged from the floor a short distance away, driving a spike of bone up through the ground and then deconstructing it to reveal himself.

“What are you protecting?” Lady Photon asked.

“I’d tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me.”  He glanced around, “I don’t suppose we could change venues?  I’ll be good if you are.”

“Seems like we should take every advantage we can,” Manpower said.

“If you’re talking purely about increasing your odds of victory, yes.  But should you?  No, you really shouldn’t.”

This isn’t his usual behavior, Brandish thought.  His power let him manipulate bone.  If it was his own, he could make it grow or shrink, reshape it and multiply it.   It made him, in many respects, a competent shapeshifter.  His abilities with the bones of others were limited to a simple reshaping, and there was a nuance in that the longer his own bone was separated from his body, the less able he was to manipulate it.  Every second he was wasting talking was a second that the bone splinters he’d spread over the area would be less useful to him.  He was putting himself at a disadvantage.

Well, only in a sense.  They still hadn’t touched him, and two of their members were out of commission.  Three, if she counted Fleur being occupied with a wounded Lightstar in her arms.

But the fact remained that Marquis wasn’t pushing his advantage.  The way his power worked and his very personality meant he was exceptional when it came to turning one advantage into another.  Or turning one advantage into three.  It was in his very nature to trounce his enemies, to grind them into the ground without an iota of mercy or fair play.

Was he distracted?

If he was, it was barely slowing him down.  She felt something clutch her from behind, covering her eyes.  When she tried to tear it free, she found it hard, unyielding.

She dropped into her ball form and then back into her human form, taking only a second to break free of the binding.  She caught the offending article in one hand before it could hit the ground.

It was a blindfold of solid bone, but it had been a skull of some sort beforehand.  Probably something that had sat on a bookshelf behind her.  Stupid to overlook it.

In the seconds it had taken her to deal with the blindfold, Marquis had trapped Lady Photon, binding her in a column of dense bone that had likely sprung around her from the floor or ceiling.  From the glow that was emanating through the barrier, she was apparently trying to use lasers to cut her way out.  She was strong enough to do it in one shot, but she couldn’t do that without risking shooting a teammate if the shot continued through.

That left Marquis to duel with Manpower, striking the hero over and over with a massive scythe of bone that extended out from his wrist.  Manpower was strong, and he was durable thanks to his electromagnetic shield – sparks flew as the scythe hit home over and over.  Even so, the hero didn’t try to fight back.

It took her only a moment to realize why.  Each swing of the scythe was calculated so that if the movement followed through, it would strike either the crippled Flashbang or Lightstar.

And Flashbang can’t shoot because Marquis will just armor himself before the sphere detonates.  Lightstar is injured, Fleur needs her hands free to strike, and Lady Photon’s incapacitated.

“Brandish!”  Manpower shouted.  “Same plan, just the two of us!”

Right.  Their battle plan wasn’t useless, now.  Just harder to pull off.

This would take some courage.

She charged forward, manifesting energy in the shape of a lance, driving it toward Marquis.

He cast a glance her way and stuck one foot out in her direction.  His toes mutated into a jagged, uneven ripple of bone that stretched out beneath her.  Unable to maintain her footing, she had to cancel out the lance, using her hands to brace her fall.

Spikes of bone poked out of the ground in a circle around her, rising to form a cage.

She created twin knives out of energy, slashing out to cut through the bars.

The hardest part would be what came next.  Brandish threw herself in the way of the scythe’s swing.

Marquis’ weapon virtually exploded into its component pieces, blade, join and shaft flying past her.

“Careful now,” Marquis chided her.  “Don’t want to get decapitated now, do we?”

No longer on the defensive, Manpower charged the villain.

Marquis surrounded himself in plates of bone that resembled the petals of a flower blooming in reverse, and sank into the ground.

Any other day, Brandish would have followed him into the room below.  A wine cellar, it seemed.

Instead, she turned and charged for the closet, creating a sword out of the crackling energy her power provided, slashing through the plates of bone that had surrounded it, then drawing the blade back to thrust through the wooden door-

Marquis emerged between her and the closet door.  She plunged the sword into his shoulder without hesitation.  She could smell his flesh burn, the wound cauterized by the same energy that formed the blade.

“Damnation,” Marquis muttered the word, sagging.

She let him fall, and then pressed the sword to his throat.  If he gave her an excuse, she would finish him.

She stared down at him.  That long hair, it was such a minor thing, but there was something else about him that stirred that distant, dark memory of the lightless room and the failed attempt at ransom.  Her skin crawled, and she felt anger boiling in her gut.

It took some time for the others to recover, getting their bearings and ensuring their wounds weren’t too serious.

“What were you so intent on protecting?” Manpower asked.  “This where you stash your illegitimate gains?”

Marquis chuckled.  “You could say that.  The most precious treasure in the world.”

“Somehow I missed the news report where you stole that,” Lady Photon replied.

“Stole?  No.  It would be better to say a devoted fan and follower gave her to me.”

Her?”  Brandish asked.  But Lady Photon was already reaching for the door, pulling it open.

A girl.  A toddler, not much younger than Vicky.  The girl was brown hair, freckle-faced, and clutched a silk pillow to her chest.  She wore a silk nightgown with lace at the collar and sleeves.  It looked expensive for something a child would wear.

“Daddy,” the girl’s eyes were wide with alarm.  She clutched the pillow tighter.

“Brigade, meet Amelia.  Amelia, these are the people who are going to take care of you now.”

Brandish was among the many faces to turned to stare at him.

He chuckled lightly, “I expect I won’t last long without medical care, so I’ll hardly be turning the tables on you and making a break for it.  You’ve won, I suppose.”

“What do you mean by taking care of her?”  Lady Photon asked.

“I have enemies.  Would you like to see her fall into their hands?  It wouldn’t be pretty.”

“They don’t have to know,” Manpower spoke.

“Manpower… do try to keep up.  The dumb brute stereotype persists only because people like you insist on keeping it alive.  They’ll always know, they’ll always find out.  You put that girl in foster care and interested parties are going to find out.”

“So you want us to take her?” Brandish asked.  She couldn’t keep the incredulity off her face.

“No,” the girl said, plaintive.  “I want you!”

“Yes,” Marquis said.

“The motherfucker has a kid?” Lightstar muttered the question, as if to himself.  “And she’s, what,  five?”

“Six,” Marquis answered.

Six.  Vicky’s age, then.  She looks younger.

“She’ll go to her mother,” Lady Photon decided.

“Her mother’s gone, I’m afraid.  The big C.  Amelia and I were introduced shortly after that.  About a year ago, now that I think on it.  I must admit, I’ve enjoyed our time together more than I’ve enjoyed all my crimes combined.  Quite surprising.”

His daughter, Brandish thought.  The resemblance was uncanny.  The nose was different, the brow, but she was her father’s daughter.

The idea disturbed her.

She couldn’t shake that dim memory of the nameless man she’d killed on the night she got her powers.  She hated Marquis in a way she couldn’t articulate, and if the memories that recurred every time she crossed paths with him were any clue, it was somehow tied to that.

She wondered if it was because she liked him on a level.  Was her psyche trying to protect her from repeating her earlier mistake?

“Little close for comfort, Brandish dear,” Marquis spoke.

She looked down.  She’d unconsciously pressed the blade closer.  When she lifted it, she could see the burn at the base of his throat.

“Thank you kindly,” he spoke.  There was a trace of irony there.

That cultured act, the civility that was real.  Marquis was fair, he played by the rules.  His rules, but he stuck to them without fail.  It didn’t match her vision of what a criminal should be.  It was jarring, creating a kind of dissonance.

That dissonance was redoubled as she looked at the forlorn little girl.  Layers upon layers, distilled in one expression.  Criminal, civilized man, child.

“You can’t take him away,” the girl told them.

“He’s a criminal,” Brandish responded.  “He’s done bad things, he needs to go to jail.”

“No.  He’s just my daddy.  Reads me bedtime stories, makes me dinner, and tells me jokes.  I love him more than anything else in the world.  You can’t take him away from me.  You can’t!”

“We have to,” Brandish told the girl.  “It’s the law.”

“No!” the girl shouted.  “I hate you!  I hate you!  I’ll never forgive you!”

Brandish reached out, as if she could calm the girl by touching her.

The girl shrank back into the closet.

Into the dark.  She felt as if she was separated from the child by a chasm.

“Let’s call the PRT,”  Manpower said.  “We should get Marquis into custody stat.”

“Wouldn’t mind some medical treatment, if you could rush that?” Marquis asked.

“…And medical treatment,” Manpower amended his statement.

Brandish walked away.  The others would handle this.  She would wait outside to guide the responders into the manor, past the traps Marquis had set in place.

She was still waiting when Lady Photon came outside, holding the little girl’s hand.  Lady Photon seated the girl in the car and shut the door.

Lady Photon joined Brandish on the stone stairs.  “We can’t let her go into foster care.  It’s not just the danger his enemies pose.  Once people found out she was Marquis’ child, they’d start fighting over who could get their hands on her.”

“Sarah-” Brandish started.

“Then they’ll kidnap her.  They’ll do it to exploit her powers, and she’s bound to be pretty powerful if she inherits anything like her father’s abilities”

“Then you take care of her,” Brandish replied, even as she mentally prayed her sister would refuse.  There was something about the idea of being around Marquis’ child, that uncanny resemblance, having those memories stirred even once in a while, even if it was just at family reunions… it made her feel uneasy.

“You know Neil and I don’t have that much money.  Neil isn’t having luck finding work, and all our funding from the team is going into the New Wave plan, which won’t happen for a few months, and we have two hungry mouths to feed…”

Brandish grasped her sister’s meaning.  With a sick feeling in her gut, she spoke the idea aloud.  “You want Mark and I to take her.”

“You should.  Amelia’s Vicky’s age, I think they would be close.”

“It’s not a good idea.”

“Why are you so reluctant?”

Brandish shook her head.  “I… you know I never planned to have kids?”

“I remember you saying something like that.  But then you had Vicky.”

“I only caved to having Vicky because Mark was there, and I had to think about it for a while.”

“Mark will be there for Amelia too.”

Brandish could have mentioned how Mark was tired all the time, how his promise had proved empty.  She might have mentioned how he was seeing a psychiatrist now, the tentative possibility of clinical depression.  She stayed silent.

“It’s not just that,” she said.  “You know I have trouble trusting people.  You know why.”

The change on Lady Photon’s face was so subtle she almost missed it.

“I’m sorry to bring it up,” Brandish said. “But it’s relevant.  I decided I could have Vicky because I’d know her from day one.  She’d grow inside me, I’d nurture her from childhood… she’d be safe.”

“I didn’t know you were dwelling on it to that degree.”

Brandish shrugged and shook her head, as if she could shake off this conversation, this situation.  “That child deserves better than I can offer.  I know I don’t have it in me to form any kind of bond with another child if there’s no blood relation.”

Especially if she’s Marquis’.

“She needs you.  You’re her only option.  I can’t, and Fleur and Lightstar aren’t old enough or in the right place in their lives for kids, and if she goes anywhere else, it’ll be disastrous.”

Brandish decided on the most direct, clear line of argument she could muster, “I don’t want her.  I can’t take her.”

Brandish glanced at the kid that they’d stowed in the team’s car.  The toddler was standing on the car seat, hands pressed against the window.  Her stare bored into Brandish as though little girl had laser vision.

The window was open a crack, Brandish noted.  The girl could probably hear everything they’d been saying.  Brandish looked away.

Lady Photon did as she’d so often done, ignoring reason in favor of the emotional appeal.  “You grew to love and trust Mark.  You could grow to love and trust that little girl, too.”

Liar.

Brandish stared at the teenaged girl.  Amy couldn’t even look her in the eye.  Tears were streaming down the girl’s face.

“Where’s Victoria?”  Brandish made the question a demand.

“I’m so sorry,” Amy responded, her voice hoarse.  She’d been crying long before anyone had showed up.

Brandish felt choked up as well, but she suppressed the emotion.  “Is my daughter dead?”

No.

“Explain.”

“I- I don’t- No-” Amy stuttered.

She could have slapped the girl.

“What happened to my daughter!?”

Amy flinched as though she’d been struck.

“Carol-” Lady Photon spoke, her voice gentle.  “Take it easy.”

They stood in the mist of a ruined neighborhood.  Amy had stepped outside within a minute of their arrival, blocking the door with her body.  There was no resistance in the girl, though.  It was more like the obstruction was a way of running, of forestalling the inevitable.

The girl hugged her arms against her body, her hands trembling even as they clutched her upper arms.  Her teeth chattered, as if she were cold, but it was a warm evening.

Was the girl in shock?  Carol couldn’t muster any sympathy.  Amy was stopping her from getting to Victoria.  Victoria, who she’d almost believed was dead.

“Amy,” Lady Photon spoke, “What’s going on?  You won’t let us inside, but you won’t explain.  Just talk.”

Amy shivered.  “I… she wouldn’t let me help her, she was so angry, so I calmed her down with my power.  She’d been hurt badly, so I wrapped her up.  A cocoon, so she could heal.”

“That’s good.  So Victoria’s okay?”  Lady Photon coaxed responses from Amy.

Of course she’s not okay, Brandish thought.  What about this situation makes you think she could be okay?

“I… I had to wait a while before I could let her out, so I could be sure she had healed completely.  I-”

Amy stopped as her voice cracked.

“Keep going,” Lady Photon urged.

Amy glanced at Brandish, who stood with her arms folded, stone-faced.

If I change my expression now, if I say or do anything, I’ll lose it, I’ll break, Brandish thought.  Her heart thudded in her chest.

“I didn’t want her to fight.  And I didn’t want her to follow, or to hate me because I used my power on her again.”

Again?

“So I thought I’d put her in a trance, and make it so she’d forget everything that happened.  Everything that I did, and the things that the Slaughterhouse Nine said, and everything that I said to try to make them go away.  Empty promises and-”

Her voice hitched.

“What happened?” Brandish asked, for the Nth time.

“She was lying there, and I wanted to say goodbye.  I- I-”

Something in Amy’s voice, her tone, her posture, it provided the final piece, clicking into place, making so many things suddenly come together.

Brandish marched forward, fully intending to walk right past Amy.  Amelia.  His daughter.  She could never be my daughter because she’d never stopped being his.

A cornered rat will bite.  Amy realized what Brandish intended and reached out, a reflex.

A weapon sprung into Brandish’s hand.  Not so dissimilar from the first weapon she’d made, an unrefined bludgeon of raw lightstuff.  She moved as if to parry the reaching hand and Amy scrambled back out of the way, eyes wide.

Where to go?  Brandish glanced to the rooms to the left, then down the hall in front of her.  She looked back and saw Amy with her back to the wall.  She moved toward the staircase, glanced back at Amy, and saw a reaction.  Fear.  Trepidation.

Before Amy could protest, Brandish was heading up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

“Carol!”  Amy shouted, scrambling up the stairs.  There was the sound of her falling on the stairs in her haste to follow,  “Stop!  Carol!  Mom!

Only one door was still open.  Brandish entered the room and stopped.

She didn’t move as Amy’s spoke from behind her.  “Please, let me explain.”

Brandish couldn’t bring herself to move or speak.  Amy seemed to take that silence as assent.

“I wanted to see her smile again.  To have someone hug me before I left forever.  So you wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore.  I- I told myself I’d leave after.  Victoria wouldn’t remember.  It would be a way for me to get closure.  Then I’d go and spend the rest of my life healing people.  Sacrifice my life.  I don’t know.  As payment.”

Lady Photon had made her way upstairs.  She entered the room and stopped just in front of Brandish.  Her hands went to her mouth.  Her words were a whispered, “Oh God.”

Amy kept talking, her voice strangely monotone after her earlier emotion, as if she were a recording.  Maybe she was, after a fashion, all of the excuses and arguments she’d planned spilling from her mouth.  “I wanted her to be happy.  I could adjust.  Tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose.  I had the extra material from the cocoon.  When I was done, I started undoing everything, all the mental and physical changes.  I got so tired, and so scared, so lonely, so I thought we’d take another break, before I was completely finished.  I changed more things.  More stuff I had to fix.  And days passed.  I-”

Brandish clenched her fists.

“I lost track.  I forgot how to change her back.”

A caricature.  A twisted reflection of how Amy saw Victoria, the swan curve of the nape of the neck, the delicate hands, and countless other features, repeated over and over again throughout.  It might even have been something objectively beautiful, had it not been warped by desperation and loneliness and panic.  As overwhelming as the image and the situation had been in Amy’s mind, Victoria was now equally imposing, in a sense.  No longer able to move under her own power, her flesh spilled over from the edge of the mattress and onto the floor.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Betrayal.  Brandish had known this would happen the moment Sarah had talked about her taking the girl.  Not this, but something like it.  Brandish felt a weapon form in her hand.

“Please tell me what to do,” Amy pleaded.

Brandish turned, arm drawn back to strike, to retaliate.  She stopped.

The girl was so weak, so powerless, a victim.  A victim of herself, her own nature, but a victim nonetheless.  A person sundered.

And with everything laid bare, there was not a single resemblance to Marquis.  There was no faint reminder of Brandish’s time in the dark cell, nor of her captor.  If anything, Amy looked how Sarah had, as they’d stumbled from the house where they’d been kept, lost, helpless and scared.

She looked like Carol had, all those years ago.

The weapon dissipated, and Brandish’s arms dropped limp to her sides.

“I’m sorry,” the digitized voice spoke.

Carol watched Amy through the window.

Amy seemed to have changed, transformed.  Could Carol interpret that as a burden being lifted?  Relief?  Even if it was only because the very worst had come to pass, and there was nothing left for Amy to agonize over?  There was shame, of course, horrific guilt.  That much was obvious.  The girl couldn’t meet anyone’s gaze.

“Everyone’s sorry,” Carol spoke, her voice hollow.

“Even you?”  Dragon asked.

Carol stared as Amy shuffled forward.  The cuffs weren’t necessary, really.  A formality.  Amy wasn’t about to run.

“It’s your last chance,” Dragon prodded.

Carol nodded.  She pushed the door open and stepped into the parking lot.

Amy turned to face her as she approached.

For a long minute, neither of them spoke.

Prisoner 612, please board for transport to the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center,” the announcement came from within the truck.

The armed escort would be waiting.  No court- Amy had volunteered, asked
to go to the Birdcage.

Carol couldn’t bring herself to speak.

So she stepped forward to close the distance between herself and Amy.  Hesitant at first, she reached out.

As if she could convey everything she wanted to say in a single gesture, she folded her daughter into the tightest of hugs.

She couldn’t forgive Amy, not ever, not in the slightest.  But she was sorry.

Amy swallowed hard and stepped back, then stepped up into the truck.

Carol watched in silence as the doors automatically shut and locked, and remained rooted in place as the truck pulled out of the parking lot and disappeared down the road.

Numb, she returned to the office that looked out on the lot.  Dragon’s face displayed on a computer screen to the left of the door.  The computer chair was unoccupied.

“That’s it?” Carol asked.

“She’ll be transported there and confined for the remainder of her life, barring exceptional circumstance.”

Carol nodded.  “Two daughters gone in the blink of an eye.”

“Your husband decided not to come?”

“He exchanged words with her in her cell this morning.  He decided it was more important to accompany Victoria to Pennsylvania.”

“I didn’t realize that was today.  If you’d asked, I could have rescheduled Amy Dallon’s departure.”

“No.  It’s fine.  I prefer it this way.”

“You didn’t want to see Victoria off to the parahuman asylum?”

“Victoria is gone.  There’s nothing of her left but that mockery.  Mark and I fought over it and this was what we decided.”

“I see.”

“If it’s no trouble, could I watch?”

“What are you wanting to watch, specifically?”

“Her arrival?  I know the prison is segregated, but she’s still-”

“It isn’t.  There’s a bridge between the male and female sections of the Baumann center.”

Carol nodded.  “Then I have to see.  Please.”

“It’s going to be the better part of a day before she arrives.”

“I’ll wait.  If I fall asleep, will you please wake me?”

“Of course.”

Dragon didn’t venture a goodbye, or any further condolences.  Her face disappeared from the screen, replaced by a spinning logo, showing the Guild’s emblem on one side and the Protectorate’s shield on the other.

Carol waited patiently for hours, her mind a blank.  She couldn’t dwell on the past, or she’d lose her mind.  There was nothing in the present, and the future… she couldn’t imagine one.  She couldn’t envision being with Mark without Victoria.  Couldn’t imagine carrying on life as Brandish.  Perhaps she would continue filing.  Something simpler than criminal law, something lower stress.  At least for a little while.

For an hour or so, she occupied herself by reading the pamphlets and the back covers of books.  Reading a novel was too much.

Somewhere along the line, she nodded off.  She was glad for the sunlight that streamed in through the window, the glare of the florescent bulbs overhead.  Recent events had stirred her old fears of the dark.

It didn’t feel like hours had passed when she was woken by Dragon’s voice.  “Carol.”

She walked over to the screen.

It was a surveillance camera image.  The camera zoomed in on a door.  An elevator door, perhaps.  It whisked open.

“Would you like sound?”

“It doesn’t really matter.  Yes.”

A second later, the sound cut in.  An announcement across the prison PA system: “-one-two, Amy Dallon, AKA Amelia Lavere, AKA Panacea.  Cell block E.

Carol watched as the girl stepped out of the elevator.  She pulled off a gas mask and let it drop to the floor.  A small crowd was gathering around her, others from her cell block checking out the new resident.

How long would it take?

She would have asked Dragon, but her breath was caught in her throat.

He appeared two minutes later, as a woman who must have been the self-imposed leader of Cell block E was talking to Amy.

He looks older.

Somehow Carol had imagined Marquis had stayed as young and powerful as the day they’d last fought.  The day she’d met Amy.  But there were lines in his face.  He looked more distinguished, even, but he looked older.

Not the bogeyman that had haunted her.

And that’s Lung behind him.

Was Lung an enforcer for Marquis?  It was hard to imagine.  Or were they friends?  That was simultaneously easier and harder to picture.  But it was somehow jarring, as if it instilled a sort of realism in an otherwise surreal picture.

Lung and Marquis moved forward, and the women of the cell block moved to block Lung’s advance, letting Marquis through.

Marquis stopped a few feet away from his daughter.  Their hair was the same, as were their eyes.

The day I cease seeing her as his daughter and see how she could be mine, he takes her back, she thought.

“I’ve been waiting,” he spoke.

That was enough.  She had the answer she’d wanted, even if she hadn’t consciously asked the question.

She left the office, stepping outside into the too-bright outdoors, leaving the reunion to play on the screen.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

164 thoughts on “Interlude 15 (Donation Bonus)

      • Personally it depends. If you can, give me five minutes to watch you smack the crap out of the person who did it to me, then off me. If the persons not there, off me first.

  1. So sad. I guess Jack was right. She would have fit in with the 9. I didn’t like Glory Girl but no one deserved this. Even worse to have your sister do it.

    • Jack’s a manipulative bastard; Amy’s not a monster. She was just trying to do what she thought was the right thing to do in the moment.

      • She isn’t a monster, she did not do this on purpose. But she has spread as much pain, grief, and horror as any member of the 9.

        • My feelings are with Brandish on this. I feel so sad for Amy, but she did something unforgivable. I can’t even imagine what Amy is feeling, but hopefully she finds some semblance of peace someday.

        • Like, when? Shatterbird’s guilty of a small genocide every couple weeks. Bonesaw unleashes fates worse than death for fun. Cherish wrecks emotional devastating on people by the hundred based on her interlude. Amy’s done two things even close to that level largely by accident. I don’t think she really compares to the Slaughterhouse Nine, or really most of the villains here. I think Purity’s worse than her on utilitarian grounds. Heck, I’d say Assault probably did worse in his career. Raping a person, or ripping her brain apart, is not on the same scale as the Wormverse villains.

          • Assault honestly seems like one of the worst villains around. He may not have directly done all that much to people, but all the villains he released were definately causing their fair share of damage.

        • Nah. She is intrinsically not the 9. There is evil in man, but Amy’s sin is weakness, and ignorance. Contemptible, but hardly a crime. I’d go so far ad to say she’s their opposite: a victim of everything, herself included. At least in prison she’ll be taken care of under marques’s wing, because she won’t trust herself after this.

          • I don’t think that Amy is intrinsically part of the Nine. The issue is more that she has the latent potential. Jack is a manipulative bastard and Bonesaw has such a twisted view of things that together they could easily push Amy into thinking the way they want. She is inherently broken on so many levels that all they’d need to do would be to sit and chat with her for a few days/weeks/months and eventually she’d be twisted around his little finger being pushed just how he wants her. She is completely a victim of everything but honestly so was Cherish. She didn’t start out as a horrible mass murderer but her upbringing coupled with her empathy nature made turning her to that easy. She sought out the Nine for protection and Jack twisted that into making her even worse. Amy would’ve been the same way. Had he managed to get her she probably wouldn’t have survived with them for too long but she would’ve become just as psychopathic as the rest with the right influences. I’m glad she is with Marquis now since his firm code and honest love will hopefully put her back into a good frame of mind. Perhaps with luck one day she may even be able to fix Victoria.

  2. You know, I’m starting to get a feeling that this isn’t the last we hear about them and that Amy’s talents, when properly “cultivated” by the villain community inside the prison may well result in a massive break out.

    • Amy was an incredibly stupid person to put in the birdcage.

      I get why they did it, but that was one power that should NOT have been put in there. I think the heroes will come to regret it soon enough.

      • If she can be convinced to boost people’s powers, yeah. Not that she can do much, except for Masters. And giving people Mini Endbringer physiology. With enough biomass. That Marquis can supply. Yeah, crud.

        • The upside, though, is that Glastig Ulaine’s zombies, notably Bakuda, probably count as alive enough to heal. I was sad when Bakuda died.

  3. Well….. I feel like I should have seen that coming, but I honestly thought Panacea would pull it together to fix her sister. My big question is how did she not know how to put her back together, to restore her to a functional human at least physically? She spent so much of her time working on fixing people’s bodies that I would think she could fix the shape even if she couldn’t figure out how to fix her mind.

    There is a worrisome gathering of powers in the Bird Cage now. Panacea alone seems like she should be capable of snatching enough people and kind of merging them together into something that might be able to escape. Now she wouldn’t do that on her own, but give her a few decades and maybe she would give it a shot. Or even worse, someone might convince the mind control singer to force her to try to break them out.

    • I don’t know about that. The sheer guilt Amy must feel might prevent that. If someone tried to force her, I picture her doing what she tried to do to Jack. Turn her body into a virus factory, and take everyone out. Plus Dragon herself designed the prison. But I agree that I don’t think we have seen the last of Panacea.

      • Oh I am sure if someone tried to force Panacea physically to do it things would not go well for them. But remember the singer that could mind control people? I bet she make a pretty solid run at forcing Panacea to try to escape. Give the prison a few more decades and you might have a critical mass of powers and a serious chance at a giant army of criminals escaping.

        • If it does happen, I predict it will happen down the line in the middle of whatever “apocalypse” that is coming. Which will just add to the chaos. But it is now official. This is the darkest “realistic” superhero universe I have ever come across. I worry about Taylor’s future. Not that something happens to her, but what she could end up turning into after living in a world where the heroes aren’t so heroic, there are truly terrible villains who spread pain and horror, and things like this are occurring.

    • It seems like Amy’s power shows her how a biological system is supposed to work and what would happen if she made alterations to any aspect of it.

      Imagine that you open a box of Legos and find a completed Imperial Death Star made out of Legos, and a book of instructions for it. Also there’s a note indicating that when you change anything about the Death Star, the instruction book automatically changes to reflect your new version of it.

      Now, imagine you watch the Star Wars Christmas Special and during it you drop your Death Star on the ground. The instructions don’t change since it was the ground that broke it, not you. But you are so upset from having watched the Christmas Special that once finally reassemble your Death Star, you can’t help but to add on a few more laser turrets here, and a couple more exhaust ports there. Before you know it you have a several times larger sphere composed mostly of laser turrets and exhaust ports. Once you break out of the stupor and realize what you’ve done, it’s too late. The instruction manual now depicts how to make Death Star with hundreds of laser turrets and exhaust ports.

      So even if you wanted to turn it back to normal, you’d have no idea how to.

      • The problem is that during the stuff with Bonesaw and Mark she explictly mentions that she can sort of auto restore something to its natural state. To the point where she could restore a brain full of thing which would be represented at…well we actually have no idea currently how the hell things like a twist of a key are stored. We know where but it’s strongly suspected that what Panacea did would involve large amounts of sub-atomic manipulation.

        All of this she did without a shred of previous reference, DNA doesn’t code for any of that, just the brain itself and whatever turns out to be already in it at the start, so she cannot have been doing anything other then referring to a meta-data that exists separately to this world. Possibly that’s what her ‘partner’ aspect does.

        I find it odd that she would be worse at this for a physical task which is orders of magnitude less complex and fiddly and dangerous. I’m figuring thaqt she could still fix Glory Girl but went crazy and now it doesn’t matter because everyone put the broken young girl in a f*cking inescapable prison because she asked them to!

        The Wormverse sucks but they’re bringing a lot of it on themselves. Dragon must have been kicking herself that entire time. Maybe yelling at Armsmaster to hurry up the mods.

        Though I’m no longer as confident that he would have done the right thing by Dragon.

  4. Hm…

    So, how could this be reversed? Depends on just how badly damaged Victoria’s brain was by the process. Assuming brain death it would probably require something akin to time travel to reverse it. Other possibilities include the part of her brain that’s supernatural containing some form of backup. Assuming most of her old self is there, just scrambled or something, then Tattletale actually might be able to fix this. Superhuman intuition might be exactly what Panacea would need if she forgot how to fix Victoria. Indeed, Tattletale’s ability combined with Panacea’s might be sufficient to restore Victoria’s memories from nothing, though we get into “really a copy” issues there. Also the two are unlikely to be able to cooperate sufficiently to do this unless Panacea could read Tattletale’s mind with her powers. Hm, Grue draining both powers at once seems possible, but runs into the clear issue of him being weaker and less skilled than the originals. Bonesaw combining the two may run into the same risk.

    Note that this applies to bringing back the dead in general in this universe, though this would probably be a bit easier from a practical standpoint.

    Yeah. “Happy ending” is unlikely here. At the very least Victoria’s implied to have suffered severe permanent brain damage, and possibly a lot worse. If she can be restored than we’re seeing a whole lot more becoming possible in short order.

    • The whole situation is chafing at my suspension of disbelieve. How the hell did Amy turn her sister into a carricature with that mind control thing she did. You can do something like that with drug. Which may have consequences, but usually not like that.

      This feels mostly like the author adding darkness to spice the scenario or something. It’s starting to annoy me because it gets utterly predictable. It’s like a trainwreck that you see from three miles coming.

      First Taylor getting herself totally involved into the villain life (because she’s too stupid to plan for longer than two days in advance) then every fucking stunt they pulled. And finally it was obvious that Jack would escape as soon as the prophecy was uttered. Obviously Amy would horribly fuck up her already horribly fucked up situation even more.
      I actually start to sympathize with the endbringers at this point. Just nuke this crapsack world from orbit.

      • Amy turned Victoria into a caricature when she was repairing the damage Crawler caused, it wasn’t a result of the mind control.

        There are definitely some inconsistencies in the story, but my disbelief is still pretty suspended. I think Scrambles’s Death Star metaphor explains how the situation progressed and is pretty consistent with what we know about Amy’s powers.

  5. Jesus Christ, that was fucked up.

    But this seems like kind of a hopeful close to this part of the story. The stuff that happened was screwy, but the characters here put their best foot forward and didn’t make things worse. Good stuff.

    Well, Amy might have been a massive dumbass but she didn’t deserve any of this. Things are probably not going to get worse for her since she’s not only back up by her dad, but she’s probably the best healer in a prison full of people trying to kill each other.

  6. So wait, who exactly swore off attacking the Undersiders for two weeks? I thought New Wave was mentioned to have disbanded, so if it wasn’t New Wave, and it wasn’t the Protectorate or the Wards, who was Tattletale buying protection from?

  7. I can absolutely see why they’d not want to let Amy ‘heal’ anyone else after this.

    I am surprised that they would allow Amy into the Birdcage whether she wanted in or not. On the other hand, the Birdcage itself seems like a horrible idea to me, but a different and more bureaucratically realistic kind of horrible idea.

    Of course, Amy takes away the biggest narrative obstacle to Taylor entering the Birdcage- with her there a lack of dangerous bugs isn’t so steep a problem…

    ” to that degree.” is missing a close quotation mark.

  8. To those saying that this fate wasn’t deserved; Glory Girl and Panacea both misused power. When you have power -of any type- the universe demands that you use it and that you use it responsibly and intelligently. That is done through the simple fact that power acts on events like gravity acts on mass. By having power alone you become the focus of events and the effects and consequences of your every action gain in magnitude and importance. It doesn’t matter whether you want that power or not. It doesn’t matter if you know how to use it or not. It doesn’t matter if you are good, bad or anything inbetween. It happens – by your actions, the actions of others or events brought about by the existence of that power alone.

    For that reason, those that have power have only two options; use the power responsibly and intelligently, or suffer the consequences. And that is why “fair” does not enter the equation. It is as much a fact of reality as you being harmed if you ignore or misuse gravity – eventually you’ll fall and break something.

    • They got what they deserved? Glory Girl was rough in her questioning of gang bangers so she deserved to be mind raped, transformed into a mess of flesh and have her mind shatter because of it? That is absolutely insane.

      The idea that you use your powers responsibly and intelligently or suffer the consequences so clearly doesn’t apply in this setting. There is no karma, or Aegis and Gallant wouldn’t have been randomly murdered by Leviathan. This little idea you are spouting here falls apart in the face of Jack Slash or Bonesaw. They walked away clean, and have been doing so for quite some time.

      • There’s no such thing as Karma. Responsibly here means responsible to yourself – not others. Jack and Bonesaw are thus using their powers – and using them responsibly and intelligently thus they survive.

        Glory Girl thought she was invulnerable. She never took additional precautions and did not respect her own weaknesses – thus she suffered due to hybris. She did not try to use her connectionsto help or at least control her sister even though she knew there was a problem thus she fell prey to that problem.

        Aegis and Gallant sacrificed themselves – they willingly accepted the consequences of their actions, fighting even when knowing they could die. They decided that their dying for others to live was acceptable and thus the results we see.

        • I didn’t like them, but I wouldn’t say they got what they deserved.

          However, hubris is a VERY good way to put it. Glory Girl was an angry type. She let her emotions control her a lot more, and got out of hand. The way she needed Panacea’s help whenever she went too far dealing with a criminal and her unreasonable anger towards Panacea. Still, that didn’t actually lead to what happened. Her injuries weren’t the direct result of that flaw, nor was her healing.

          Panacea was cautious, and she liked Glory Girl a lot. She didn’t want to think about her powers so much and what they could really do. Hard to argue she should have experimented more, though. Coupled with her feelings towards Glory Girl, this went a bit far. Tattletale might have known too, why she wanted her to do it there. But Panacea wanted to heal her up more thoroughly and make improvements. Then she got carried away wanting to improve the girl she loved. It might have still turned out ok if she hadn’t feared her power so much. If she was more willing to actually make up for her mistakes with her power rather than run away every time she goes too far, she’d have been trying to put Glory Girl back together again rather than running to the Birdcage. There, at last, she’s finally relieved of her burden/responsibility/fear.

          • I’m not arguing that they got what they “deserved”. Whether your peers, your society or the readers of your story think you deserve something is irrelevant. Ultimately in-world your actions and decisions have consequences, regardless of why they happened, whose fault it was and who “deserved” what.

            Consequence-wise, it was Glory Girl’s attitude towards her “invulnerability” and her hero career that got her melted by Crawler’s acid. Even after Tattletale showed her so many months ago that she isn’t really invulnerable, she didn’t pick up any real training, she didn’t study tactics and she didn’t do anything to shore up this weakness of hers. Had she worn some decent protection, the acid wouldn’t have hurt her especially since her superstrength would enable her to wear a lot more/denser armor than most people. Had she trained up her reactions and fight priorities she’d have realized Crawler spewed acid on her and that as soon as her forcefield got a good hit the acid would go through – and thus would take a moment to spin the acid off her or wash it off by flying through some water. Had she studied tactics any, she would not have been meleeing Crawler with her bare hands – a steel spike through the head to mess up the brain and occupy brainspace as to prevent it from regenerating back could have ended the fight faster.
            Last but definitely not least, Glory Girl had realized her sister was messed up. Not trying to help her or failing that at least telling somebody else to do the helping led directly to her messed up sister doing something even worse to her.

            Panacea knew her life was not working. She was afraid of her own powers too. She could have spoken to her sister (before she messed up the first time) or her parents or even the authorities and they could have helped her. But no, she decided to hide – and thus messed up her life and that of others.
            Finally having the ungodly mess of her life revealed to competent adults, she could either have honestly worked under guidance and supervision to fix things but she chose to further mess up her life by willingly going to the Birdcage.

            The two sisters have no-one to blame but themselves. If they had treated their powers responsibly and intelligently, none of this would have happened.

            • Re: Glory Girl, I’ll just say that her super strength and invincibility are linked. Hard to distinguish hitting something and being hit. There’s still that big impact, so Glory Girl’s invincibility does shut down briefly after she whacks something hard enough. Wearing armor that requires super strength to lift could be problematic if her strength comes and goes.

          • This makes me wonder what happened in one of the earlier drafts of the story with the sisters as the protagonists. I believe Wildbow said he dropped it for not working right and for being too dark. I can’t picture how it could be any darker. Would this have been the last chapter of that story? One imprisoned for the rest of her life and the other a grotesque caricature of beauty, unable to move, and “hopefully” brain dead”

            • Oh. This is basically that same storyline’s conclusion, here.

              Wasn’t sure until I wrote this chapter, whether I’d use the same ending (Amy going to the Birdcage) – there were several other options I had in mind, and I wanted to come to those endings organically, rather than forcing it one way or another.

              The ending was different in the first draft. I didn’t like the early bit, where it was Carol in her office alone, I decided to give Carol more character/context, and it affected her response to Amy. That was the point the storylines really branched, I think.

              • Oh dear lord this was how Guts and Glory ended originally?! Thank you so much for changing to a different protagonist set! I don’t know if I could’ve handled forming bonds with characters who come to such an awful fate. There has to be some sort of a good note at the end of an epic and while the thing with Marquis is nice it is not even come close to elevating the inherent depressing nature of this ending for those two. Hell for the entire family! I would’ve be surprised if there is a cliff-note somewhere down the line saying how Mark commits suicide stemming from his clinical depression and losing both daughters.

  9. “Even civilians are likely to attack first and ask questions first” – I think that’s supposed to be ask questions later.

    ” victim of herself, her own nature, but a victin nonetheless.” – I think you mean ‘victim’.

    Anyway I admit, I’m having some trouble visualizing what exactly Panacea did to Victoria but despite that I certainly did not expect it to be possible for Amy to mess up even further than she already did but wow, I have no words for this.

    Also Panacea’s presence in the Birdcage won’t end well, that’s for certain. I mean, someone who can rewrite people’s biology to inside a prison? Given enough time, materials, and inclination and she could easily ensure that everyone in the Birdcage will have a biology adapted to Krogan and/or Ork level of resistance. Hell maybe, even Aegis levels of resistance.

    However, I have a feeling she way to depressed/guilty at the moment to even think about bioengineering everyone in super!parahumans but should she snap and the next thing you know, Dragon’s got a Tyranid nest inside her mountain.

    • Amy is just a weak character that temporarily snapped under the stress. If she was thinking straight, she could just have used some of her sister’s hair plus some organic mass to make a mindless “clone” of her sister using the DNA in the hair as a template. Then she could use the cloned body as a template to rebuild the really messed up sister in question without having to rely on her faulty, emotion-addled memory of hers.
      Of course, she wasn’t thinking straight. Hell, even back when she was Panacea, she never said “no” to helping for so many hours in hospitals even after she recognized that working that hard was emotionally damaging to her.

      As for how bad things can be if she ever decides to break out of prison? Heh. She could increase new cell production within peoples’ bodies by, say, 10%. Then, have those cells be not so much cells as nanites built on organic chassis and organic electronics. Designing them to be able to survive vacuum, communicate remotely with nanolaser tightbeams and have them spread out of the prison and find all of Dragon’s tech. Then they sit on that tech’s internal circuitry. When it’s time for the escape, they detonate the micro-charges inside themselves, disabling all of Dragon’s tech at once.

      • There has to be failsafe like a nuke or something involved. Some of the villains are simply too dangerous to be allowed to get free. I think the chance of Amy using her powers to experiment are too small due to guilt. But mc2rpg pointed out that they have all the time in in the world to get her to change her mind. Either way, I admit it was extremely stupid to put her in there. But then again this is a government that violated the rights of that singer simply because she has powers.

        • A nuke has to be activated. If you got a couple hundred trillion microscopic, nigh-undetectable scouts that can find and infect machines then disable them, it isn’t going to do anything. Amy could even design organic nanites/microorganisms that could feed on the organic contents of the containment foam.
          Hell, if she was really pissed for some reason, she could design nanites that hid among the Birdcage’s organic wastes, survived any recycling attempts and escaped to the outside to visit a couple dozen self-mutating megaplagues upon the world.

          Amy’s powers essentially enable her to design organic machines more complex, reliable and variable than the vast majority of tinkers. They also enable her to do so with materials that exist practically everywhere, without physical effort or design on her part, without being limited to the Manton effect except for herself and without any tools or facility requirements. Plus, her creations can be self-replicating, self-sufficient and self-directing if she wants them to. She is potentially an order of magnitude more dangerous than Bonesaw or Dragon.

          If only she weren’t stupid…

          • I still have doubts on Amy doing it. Theoretically she should be able to do everything you said. But her mental state may make this impossible. You pointed out several ways she can figure out a way to change her back, but she simply didn’t have the imagination to do it. Skitter, when she saved her life, thought up several ways she could use her power better than Amy could. Other inmates may give her ideas and support, but I just can’t picture the girl who wouldn’t make Skitter a bigger or more survivable bug, even though she had just saved her life and was fighting the 9, doing anything for them.

          • Nukes again. As if there couldn’t be some Hulk-like super in there now who gets stronger off it. Or just a bunch of people in the Birdcage who have some way to avoid being killed by a nuke. It’s a question of if the destruction of the entire Birdcage facility to deal with a massive build up of supervillains who are prepared to break out of that facility while destroying it themselves is really justified.

            Remember that having the power to nuke also means one should use it intelligently and responsibly. It’s a fact of reality that you can be harmed by misusing nuclear weaponry- eventually, one is going to fall on you and break something.

  10. hi
    thanks for the chapter

    I’m kind of surprised that noone ever mentioned the idea of making the birdcage movable and dropping it on an endbringer (not something i am for, just surprised that it never came up)

    attack first and ask questions first
    –>attack first and ask questions later

    • Why would you do that? For one, it would remove the primary deterrence of the birdcage, drowning in the foam. For another, what if the criminals just run away instead of fighting? I am more surprised that there isn’t some form of parole system where if you fight an Endbringer 3 times they let you back out.

      • Like a Worm version of the Suicide Squad, perhaps? DC had a team of supervilains they called the Suicide Squad forced to perform missions that the U.S. government couldn’t be associated with. If they served well, they got a full pardon (even for some future actions it seems) but if they tried to escape or were insubordinate, the bomb collar or the bomb implant would be set off.

        I bet there’s plenty of Birdcage types who would laugh at a bomb collar or bomb implant.

        • Well the suicide squad was government backed. I am very curious how the military treats or uses people with powers. The merchants were able to create a few using fairly simple yet brutal methods. Do they have a secret squad of black ops supers? If no, why did they decide not to try and make one? If yes, where the bloody hell were they when the 9 and the endbringer showed up?

  11. …um…could we stop having interludes now please.

    I’m noticing a distinct trend which involves the next one showing something that wouldn’t be out of place in Warhammer 40 000.

    Also, irony here, Carol and Mark seemed totally incapable of giving their kids distinct rules and codes. Sure they instilled vague moral guidelines (very much along the lines of a criminal lawyer’s thinking I notice) but those turned out to be utterly bloody useless. For once I genuinely blame the parents here because I am certain that if Marquis had raised Amelia then she would have no such problems with this kind of thing.

    Instead highly neglectful and ultimately uncaring parentage led to this mess. No wonder Carol and Alan Barnes get along. Oh, and led to Amy being unaware of her true father and how much they loved one another. That was just downright spiteful to take from her. What is more if she had grown up knowing about her childhood in full, and with the option to find out her father’s crimes in full also, then she would likely have had a far more sane and balanced view of the world.

    I don’t like this end to Amy and Victoria’s stories but then a good deal of that feeling is because I hate endings full stop. In story it is brilliant as always. Though I don’t really get how some of it happened since Amy could still use DNA as a back-up (or photos, memory, heck if she just took the time to calm down she’d likely be fine) and her going to the birdcage even voluntarily seems absurd. Her crimes amounted to messig up at a surgery, you don’t go to prison for that even without having had long term headcases messing with your mind at the time.

    I was extremely disappointed when the undersiders didn’t spring her at any point, though I guess Tattletale probably wanted to and realised on finding her that it was too late.

    In closing I love Marquis so damn much. He’s easily one of the most awesome characters in this setting. Not least because he alone seems to have stuck with his beliefs when so many others in this setting don’t. I kind of wonder if Amy yielding to Skitter so easily was because she reminded her of her father on some level. Marquis was also insanely cultured and composed. ““Wouldn’t mind some medical treatment, if you could rush that?” Marquis asked.” was a classic.

    • I agree with you on the parenting. According to jack Marquis actually tried to fight them like Taylor did. But Amy kidnapped, mindraped, and did horrifying surgery against the will of the participant. So I do think she deserves imprisonment. I don’t think she is dangerous to anyone anymore though. The only reason she is going to the birdcage is because it is the only prison designed to hold people with powers. Once Taylor finds out what happens, she is going to feel guilty she didn’t try to help. Hopefully the next interlude is a bit more uplifting. There has to be one honest to Scion hero in this setting who isn’t broken, under the thumb of an evil organization, or an asshat. Well I think after all the bad luck that has happened to New Wave, there aren’t going to be too many heroes who will try to go public. I wish the best of luck to LazerDream, the last hero of her generation of the family.

        • No LazerDream is the older sister of Shielder, and Glory Girl/Amy’s cousin. She has lost her brother, and father to Leviathan. Now she has lost her cousins. I was hoping that the bad luck doesn’t continue and nothing personally bad happens to her.

      • No kidnapping. The whole ‘carrying Glory Girl around in a cocoon healing her’ thing was actually done at the insistence of the Undersiders when they dropped her heavily injured sister on her after the bombing of the Nine.

        • Wrong way around. Tattletale wanted Panacea to restore Victoria’s brain, heal her of Crawler’s acid, and leave. Panacea wanted to keep Victoria safe while she fully recovered from said acid. Tattletale knew this was a bad idea, Amy ignored her.

    • I agree about Marquis, and have no comment about Carol and Mark’s parenting (we didn’t see much of it), but about Amy going to the Birdcage: That’s more due to Amy’s personal guilt than any wrongdoing she did. As evidenced by her requesting to go there. (Evidently, there are laws in place to prevent various legal methods for her family to claim she wasn’t in her right state of mind and have her sent somewhere else.)

    • I completely agree that this can be laid on the parents’ doorstep. Carol is a bit of monster honestly. If the woman had ever given Amy the love she needed things wouldn’t have turned out this way. What’s even worse is she knows it now and knew it then and still let things go on. She never should’ve taken the toddler in with a mindset like she had. Yes she had an extremely traumatic experience that broke her. I understand. But if you know in your very core that every time you look at “your” child there is a small core of hate you have no business being in that kid’s life. Children can sense a lot of things and I see how she turned to Victoria with a mother who literally hates part of her and a clinically depressed father. So much of what Amy is makes sense and is just so darn tragic now.

      I can’t really blame Mark so much though. I was also clinically depressed for a while and the only thing I blame him for is not getting professional help. He wasn’t there to do anything for his kids because he honestly wasn’t in a place to do so. It doesn’t help matters at all but knowing this was happening to him is even more reason not to have allowed the adoption of Amy.

  12. Marquis’ manipulation worked out. A reminder to Amy of her father, something to mess up her control and get her thrown in the Birdcage. It looks like he really cared for her, and vice versa, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have a plan to escape that includes himself, Lung, and Panacea.

    We learned something new about the Birdcage too. It is not a one-way trip. Amy’s only stuck in there, “, barring exceptional circumstance.” They have some way to get them back.

    I wouldn’t be bothered so much about a critical mass-style breakout. That kind of crowd unified behind a single leader? Ha! The real reason no single supervillain could ever take over the world is because the other supervillains won’t want to serve under him or her and will wreck their plans. That doesn’t even take the prejudices into account. Racial gangs. Superfeminists, super mysoginists, super transgendered (not as radical, just that they cause divisions amongst people too). Radical fascists versus radical communists. Super terrorists of various nationalities and ethnicities. The Atomic Whig versus Tory-Saurus Rex. Zombie Reagan versus Lenin the Undying.

    I am disappointed we didn’t get a better idea of what Glory Girl looked like at the end. Would have liked to see the Guts & Glory. Was it anything like this? http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/gravesnitch.htm

    Or this? http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/germalady.htm

    Or this? http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/gromory.htm

    How about this? http://www.bogleech.com/mortasheen/prednaught.htm

    Or is it anything like SCP-610, aka The Flesh That Hates: http://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/scp-610

    Inquiring minds need to know.

    • I believe the way out is teleporters. The heroes seem to have quite a few of them, and I would think a really strong one could just grab someone out of the birdcage so long as they knew where it was.

    • More like an apparently female shoggoth, actually. But with human limbs, heads, and upper torsos rather then random eyes, mouths, and tentacles with hands and feet at the same time.

      …Please tell me you know what a shoggoth is, Psycho Gecko.
      If only to save us from the aftermath of when you read up on the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Again.

      Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. You never listen. Why do I keep returning to this point in time? Is it schadenfreude? Is it morbid curiosity?
      …Crud. This thing’s still on, isn’t it.

  13. Yep, I’m more confident than ever that the next major villain will be Genoscythe the Eye Raper. Somewhat like Panacea, he can affect people’s bodies, but by way of making them living weapons. Like he picks up a guy, fleshcrafts the guy’s body into a fully concious sword, and uses it to kill the guy’s wife and kids. Except for the the baby, that one he probably fleshcrafts into a helmet that is forced to feel the pain of stopping bullets fired by police wanting to stop Genoscythe the Eye Raper. And don’t let him catch you alive and not turn you into a weapon. He gets hard for a good socket.

    He’d fit right in, don’t you think?

  14. Woo caught up again, this last chapter has been amazing wildbow!

    I am however starting to hope Cauldron HAS infiltrated the highest levels of government – it would at least offer some explanation over how stupid they’re being. You do not send the asset with tremendous potential for harm and good to a prison just because she asked to go, you send her to therapy with optional bullet through the head plan B.

    However on the trouble she might cause there, it seems that all her stuff is still comprised of proteins and thus will have hard limits on survivablity, certainly not the potential for magical super nanites. Give the prior examples of her abilities I am pretty surprised at the result with victoria – the *only* way her earlier examples of healing, especially long term injuries, could function is if she somehow had access to a store of ‘correct’ metadata about the organism to work off, ‘forgetting’ wouldn’t come into it. I’d have expected her to have accidently wiped Victoria’s mind rather than end up with any physical aberration as well.

  15. Anzereke said, up above, that he wanted a break from interludes (he might have been kidding on a level?), with how dark they get. There’s still one bonus chapter due next Thursday.

    That seems like an opportunity to remind you guys… On the donation page, I suggested that I could do regular or interlude chapters for the bonus updates. I could do a regular chapter next Thursday, if you wanted. Interludes generally get the best/strongest responses in terms of viewership and discussion, but a regular chapter will break up the flow & prevent mood whiplash.

    If you have opinions one way or the other, please do let me know.

    • I was kidding completely when I wrote it, but on thought…if the next Interlude is anything like this and the last one then maybe a break would be nice.

      This is emotionally flaying, you utter genius.

    • I like the interludes. They give us more context to this world, and remind people that everything is going to shit all over the place.

    • Just finished an archive trawl a few weeks ago, and I’m loving the series. I am pretty disappointed that you are starting the wrap up, but onwards you must go. Keeping in mind that you are working to finish the story, I’m going to go ahead and say an interlude would be better. I like getting the background info from the interludes, which is something you don’t get as much in Skitter’s story.

      Also I liked how dark this one was. More black paint!

      Anyways, thanks for the awesome writing Wildbow!

      • I wouldn’t really worry about the wrap up. Stuff might start falling into place, but the more I think about it, the more ground there is to cover. I don’t want to force it.

    • I personally would prefer an interlude; after all, a missed interlude is a facet of the world that might otherwise be forever lost…

      On the other hand, I trust your judgement as to whether we can emotionally handle another interlude like that!

  16. Holy shit….

    This and the Regent interlude w/Shadow Stalker are without question the most impressive things I have ever read, and I read a LOT. I don’t know of any other time I have identified so strongly with a character, and on their first “from my perspective” piece that I read to boot.

    Please tell me you are able to write for a living, or if you don’t it’s by choice.

  17. While people might consider what Amy had done as horrific, what law did she break? I think doctors have an obligation to do all that they can do for their patients. Considering how her family pushed Amy into healing Flashbang, they are not averse to desperate and experimental treatment; whoever had the right to override Glory Hole Girl would’ve asked Amy to fix things, given a chance (which Amy would know).

    Even if she did do something criminal, isn’t she still a minor? Surely, they have to have some leeway for minors who are still learning the extent of their powers?

    Oh, since it probably won’t come up in story, I was wondering just how bad is Glory Hole Girl’s condition? From the description, I assumed that she still looks human, but not exactly like she did before. I imagined that the mother’s hysterics colored her initial impression. Everybody else seems to see a monster, though. Not that it matters, I suppose. There are enough humans that don’t look human in this universe that she could still adjust to society.

    • Kidnapping- Glory Girl clearly fought desperately against going with her. Mindrape- Amy put her in some kind of hypnotic trance similar to what Canary did and was charged with. Surgery against her will. I am not actually sure what the law is but I don’t think you can force someone into surgery or treatment against their will. Malpractice maybe? She destroyed her body, any chance of a normal life, and depending on what exactly she did, her mind all without consent or real training/practice. Based off of Canary’s interlude, the laws against people with powers seem to be new, unfair, and harsh. Canary’s rights were clearly taken away from her, and she was treated like a dangerous animal. Even Dragon didn’t think she deserved what she got. Amy however deserves to be imprisoned, but not in the birdcage. She is not going to hurt anyone else, or escape, and according to other commentators, she is a security risk to the prison. If I were them, I would get her some serious therapy, and teach/train her to practice her powers in private so that someday she might be able to change her sister back. She is also a HUGE potential resource. She seems to be able to cure cancer. Even knowing what she did, I am sure there would be a huge number of people with terminal illnesses volunteering for her. Who knows what she could help with down the line.

      • That said, I stand by original statement that she spread as much pain, and grief as any member of the 9. She didn’t do it on purpose and she did it out of the desire to help, but the end results is similar to something Bonesaw could have done.

        • You might want to go back and reread the Nine interlude. Or any scene where they are just chilling and torturing people. The idea that she spread as much pain as any member of the Nine is laughable. If she had joined them and gone around with them and had more time, then she could have concievably done that much damage, but she didn’t.

        • She doesn’t think it’s possible, she said she can’t remember how it was or something to that effect. It might also be kinda like what happened after she accidentally tweaked Victoria’s mind–she knows on a cognitive level that she can do that, but she can’t do it on an emotional level.

  18. Okay!

    Well, let me start off by saying this was a very emotional chapter. Very dark, very draining. I liked it quite a bit, but to read more in this vein would be taxing. I don’t think the part where the two girls were captured was strictly necessary. Not that it’s out of place or anything, but it was pretty dark and I think the later portions where Carol (I think?) alluded back to it would have been enough for me to understand even if it were cut out. So just saying, if you had wanted to trim down this chapter I think that part could have been cut. But nothing was wrong with it at all.

    Starting off, Carol messed up badly raising Amy I can say that. If she treated her like a daughter instead of an unwanted guest things might have been better. Anyways, as for the sympathetic view, I could *feel* her worry and frustration when she mentioned the Undersiders took Victoria. They’re the slipperiest and least predictable group in the city. At least she loved Victoria, and yeah circumstances might have been bad, but you know what? If you have problems or flashbacks or whatever you talk it out with your HUSBAND and see a therapist. Especially if you have serious trust issues with a SIX YEAR OLD GIRL. What a ****.

    Next up! Marquis! Pretty cool guy, I liked him. At least SOMEBODY cares about Amy, even if he is in prison. I think she’ll be okay with him around.

    Now, Amy. Obviously she is pretty messed up. I think she’s lost her mind to some degree. I figure this is the end of her part in the story, and Glory Girl’s too. A depressing end, but that’s the way things are sometimes.

    I think Tattletale made a tactical error trading for 2 weeks protection. Sure, it would have been odd offering the information for free, and that’s probably why she made a deal, but I think this is going to come back to bite her. First off, New Wave wasn’t a threat. As mentioned, they couldn’t even find the Undersiders. Next, they’ve been weakened from Leviathan and the nine, and haven’t exactly been too active anyways. So, what did Tattletale gain? Protection from a group that could easily change its mind, a group that wasn’t even a threat, in exchange for revealing a critical piece of information: The Undersiders are doing something, probably something big, in the next two weeks. Miss Militia knows, which means the Protectorate knows, and probably means Coil will find out. I get the feeling this is going to bite TT in the ass. She should know better.

    Okay, on the Birdcage. A lot of people mentioned how Amy could cause huge problems and a mass breakout, but I think they are thinking too limited. If villains could break out of the birdcage they would have by now. We don’t know all its defenses, so there’s something, probably a few things, that we’re not seeing. For instance, if there was an attempted breakout there could be something like that Cache guy, to just grab anybody who got out and put them back somewhere else. And there has to be something that stops Tinkers from breaking down Dragon’s cameras for parts.

    Oh, and nobody said the government had anything to do with Amy’s imprisonment. She didn’t even go to court. I imagine some heroes, or Dragon at least, has authority or the capability to drop somebody off in the Birdcage just like that. My guess is something like that happened.

    And last, I’m not sure what you meant by maybe a bonus interlude or regular chapter? Next week. If I’m reading right, there is going to be an update on Thursday, and you’re asking if it should be an Interlude or chapter? If that’s the case I vote interlude. There’s nothing stopping a later reader from skipping right over it if it interrupts the story too much and going back to read later. Again though, I’m note sure I read that correctly.

    • As far as Carol & the opening part goes, I felt like if I left it too vague, then people would comment, “All Mom’s fault in the end!” and leave it at that. Kind of like they’ve labeled Glory Girl based on her one interlude (and that then maybe created bias toward her future appearances.).

      Not that they’re necessarily wrong, but there’s more to it, and giving the context, I felt, couldn’t hurt.

      • As the resident supervillain of the comments section, I have the right provided by my union, the Local Doominators #187, of which I am a card carrying member, to do the wrong thing. Nor am I under any obligation to like any superhero.

        Maybe myself and other saw things the wrong way, but were we supposed to like Glory Girl? It’s not like she was bad enough for us to cheer for anything like this kind of fate, but she was still someone we weren’t supposed to root for, like Armsmaster. Plus, the comments indicate my own changing sympathies for Amy’s situation.

    • I find it really odd that you’re the first commenter to realize that Amy went crazy. “I got carried away with fleshcrafting the girl I’m obsessed with, and now I can’t remember how to put her back” is obviously insanity. She wasn’t just “upset,” she was having some sort of nervous breakdown and/or psychotic break. She was progressively less stable in every single appearance we saw. Interestingly, she seemed to use her power for progressively more “powerful” applications each time, as well, though screwing up Vicky was probably less “powerful” than creating a prion anti-epidemic in under a minute.

      Amy had herself locked up because she knew she couldn’t trust herself any more. She had been leaning on her rules for years, and her delicate balancing act came apart. Having seen what she was capable of when she lost control, she lost all confidence in herself and her ability to stay sane.

      The instability that was at the heart of all her issues, however, I think is Carol and Mark’s fault. They, of course, had their own issues that caused them to fail as parents, and getting those issues probably would’ve taken more effort than just going to a therapist, but they should have realized early on that they couldn’t do right by Amy. Carol knew it, but she let Sarah push her into adopting Amy anyway. She already knew that she couldn’t depend on Mark, as well, even if he hadn’t been officially diagnosed. He was failing Vicky, apparently. Even if putting Amy in the foster care system wasn’t an option, they could have found another solution. Let another superhero couple adopt her, for instance. That may not have turned out any better, given the general calibre of people populating the capes and tights crowd, but I doubt it could have been much worse. Imagine what a good mother Alexandria could’ve been, for instance. Give her a few months and she can have perfect recall of every book of parenting theory ever written. Hm. In retrospect, that might not actually be a good idea. Hey! Here’s an idea. Let Dragon adopt her. Super-Pinocchio, the AI who wants to be a real girl, might actually have been a really good (if highly unusual) parent.

      Anyway, I just find it disturbing how many people’s comments imply that they think Amy and everyone else’s issues could be overcome by simple, short-term solutions such as just calming down or thinking things through. These are deeply broken people. I’m sure they’d love to just take a deep breath and put the scars of (for instance) being kidnapped, imprisoned, and nearly killed behind them, but they can’t. They’re psychological conditions that run incredibly deep.

      In a literary sense, they’re also tragic flaws, which means they will ultimately lead to the downfall of those characters. It’s not a matter of “deserving” their fate. It’s cause and effect. Carol is too deeply scarred to trust, so she can’t give Amy a loving upbringing. Amy is emotionally unstable, so she screws up Vicky and convinces herself that she’s a danger to everyone around her. That’s just how it goes in a tragedy. Since we don’t know the ending of Worm as a whole, we can’t say for certain that it’s a tragedy, but it certainly seems like one so far. Glory Girl and Panacea’s sub-story obviously is a tragic one, and I’d be satisfied to see it end here. Giving these characters a “happy ending” would strip significance away from what they’ve been through.

      • I find it hard to tell the difference here between unstable people going mad and regular people who have bad things happen for awhile. What we know about Amy and how she thinks hasn’t seemed to change much over the course of the story. She went through a trauma conga and ultimately couldn’t handle it. Some people can, some people can’t. I don’t say it meaning some sort of smug superiority, it’s just that people have different thresholds for handling stress. Amy’s may have just been worn down before we got introduced to her in the story by all that she did. She’s afraid of her power, doesn’t like the responsibility, and she didn’t feel like a full part of her family (knew she was adopted, that her father was a villain, could probably feel that she wasn’t completely trusted, and then there were the feelings for Victoria).

        Further, the idea that one incredibly horrifying moment in time can rule your existence constantly is not as set in stone as people think. It may, it may not. About like how they are portrayed in the story. I don’t mean to downplay real people’s experiences, but it really is the case where some horrifying experience that affects someone for life just won’t have the same effect on another person.

        I do think that a thoughtful and reflective way of thinking helps to work through all that, though. Emotions aren’t the enemy. They’re just a natural phenomena, like tiger attacks. While both emotions and tiger attacks can cause problems for you when you need to do something, and there is a limit to dealing with them, being able to think about them and from what they arise is a step in allowing someone to overcome them. In a more emotional state, you just think in more simplistic terms. Us versus them. Bomb that country. Black and white. Yes or no. The problem with yes or no questions is that sometimes the question is “Yes or no, have you ever eaten ice cream or screwed a hippo?”

        And as for Victoria? Well, this is the worst thing to happen to a Victoria since Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory.

    • In regards to this biting TT in the ass, it sounds like New Wave was blaming the Undersiders for Amy and Victoria’s disappearances, and perhaps even thought it might be some sort of kidnapping.

      Given that this clearly wasn’t the case, letting New Wave know the truth could easily save them from a dangerous misunderstanding in the near future. If they can leverage that information to get a truce (regardless of whether it’ll be honored), all the better, but even if that truce is worth nothing to them, getting the truth to New Wave is an important CYA measure.

  19. If Glory Girl’s invulnerability and super-strength were linked, wouldn’t that be all the more reason to use a weapon? I.e. hitting people without having to be hit back? Just saying…

    • Using a weapon might still affect her power’s shutdown. Breaking Crawler’s legs with a baseball bat or shooting him in the tentacles with a gun still causes that force to act on the person using the weapon. The weapon would have to be encompassed by her power as well.

  20. Panacea in prison (the cause of Jack being able to escape the city and prompting Dinah’s prediction) could potentially be another apocalypse scenario. We don’t know much, if anything, about any kids born in there, but people are kept in there for life and women and men have been known to have sex with each other from time to time, or so I hear. Not like we’re just swimming in photographic or video evidence on the internet, you know, but anecdotes get out all the same. We also know that Panacea is a 2nd generation super. And thanks to Piggot we know that 3rd generation supers are particularly volatile.

    IIt’s not the same as a nun being locked into an asylum for the criminally insane and having a kid fathered by that kind of bunch, but I expect volatile could involve some variation of “that kid inadvertently just released every single one of these vindictive imprisoned supers back into the world while the heroes are off fighting some Endbringer. The Canary has flown the Birdcage and she is pissed.”

  21. OK, the “heroes” of this setting have just sent a traumatized child to jail without a trial.
    They should be the powered adults that could see a mistake for what it was.
    I agree with some of the commentators, the right thing to do is to imprison panacea somewhere far away from this city, let her try to fix her sister and give her a few years of therapy in a calm environment.
    Doing what they did was falling into Marquis trap.
    Also, Panacea can`t fix Glory Girl not because Panacea`s powers do not allow it, but because her mental state with her self justifications do not allow it. In the end, she knows that a restored Glory Girl will hate her.
    By forcing Panacea to swear acting in her own interest Jack finished to break her.
    A detail: OK, Panacea mind raped Glory girl. But taking her when she was almost dead and trying to heal, even without consent is not so dark. After all, Glory Girl would be dead anyway.

  22. Well I am not commenting very often I just rarely get the feeling I have anything worth saying, Or words worth playing with, nevertheless right now I have the impulse to express my opinion.
    The best word to express the emotion I feel is “Why”?

    Reading wildbows work, It leaves me confused in some way, you see I don´t read thrillers that often I find their darkness to be somewhat depressing and mood dampening .
    It leaves me to wonder about the motives of reader and author to inflict such pain upon themselfs.

    However I know about my own weaknesses and shortcomings in regards to writing, I know I lack the depth of understanding and familiarity with personalities, with the variety of emotions and incarnations an human mind can manifest in and I can see how beautiful wildbow manifest that essence, how he paints a hamony of inner monologue and events.

    So as I acknowege his artistic superiorness I keep asking myself why?
    Why does he feel such appreciation for the dark turns why does he turn such cruelty upon himself by devasting his own creations?
    Is this really the cold blade of reality? Is this something necessary for keeping a story pure?
    Is it some morbid fascination? Is it just honesty towards the darker tastes in the authors soul?

    Maybe I am overthinking, but I see a little boy before my inner eyes a silent tear drops from his
    cheek while he is holding a furry bundle inside his arms, his puppy died and he looks at me with big eyes and spindly limbs and asks me “why?”

    P.S:
    I call the boy “compassion” he is directly behind the dagger I feel in my heart
    ………..^^ I think I will look at kitty pictures before I get even more overdramatic.

        • Hopefully the next interlude is more uplifting. We haven’t done Clockblocker yet right? He seems brave, has a sense of humor, and keeps testing Piggot’s boundaries. All good qualities in my book. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet. I also wouldn’t mind returning to Faultline’s crew. Maybe see how they recruited shamrock. Grue remains the only Undersider who hasn’t had an interlude yet. Or maybe we go to one of the solo heroes running around to get some perspective on what the rest of the city makes of the events that have happened. I would love to hear from Circus, Parian, or Scrub.

          • I’ve been trying to avoid putting off ideas I have for the story, so I’m not constantly saying ‘I’ll do that later, I’ll use that later’ (I was going to put off last week’s bonus chapter and decided not to, I think it turned out well). At the same time, I want the interludes to fit the narrative. So I face a dilemma when I have one idea for the next interlude but worry it’s too soon for it. It’s a funny interlude because it’s so radically divorced from the narrative overall.

            And I think it could fit into a kind of special event that’s unlike the others we’ve seen.

            Aaaand it raises/answers a great many questions, which may be too much so soon after last week’s interlude.

            Nobody that’s been mentioned by name, to forestall speculation (unless someone’s up to a rather close read of the text – and even then I think you could miss ‘em).

            May have to wait. Yeah.

            Circus… not sure. Nothing brilliant springs to mind at first thought.
            Parian… it would perhaps be continuing the trend of ‘rather dark’. Maybe later.
            Scrub? Interesting.
            Grue? I have ideas.
            Faultline’s Crew… tricky. I don’t think so – they’re odd in that they’re hard to fit into the narrative, there’s really no place for them. I almost wonder if I’ll scrap them entirely in the final edits/conversion to book, with some members finding their way to other teams (or as solos).

            • I hope you don’t cut Faultline and her crew. They’re interesting characters and add to the story. Besides, taking them out would be taking out a major part of the Case 53s’ narrative origin (if that makes any sense) as well as much of Burnscar’s characterization. Besides, the concept just…works.

          • Whatever you think is best. I am most interested in what you consider a funny interlude just to see how you handle pure comedy. Second choice would be Scrub, because you consider such an interlude “interesting”.

          • Oh. I have no sense of humor. Anything funny is pure happenstance/accident. And I don’t know how something could be funny and still touch on one of the subjects/threads I’m hoping to tie together before the story reaches a conclusion. Something that’s purely off the wall, irrelevant, etc, it’s probably the last thing I’d do, the last thing I’d want to do, and trying to make 500 words of funny would be harder to write than 10,000 words of your usual content.

            If that sounds too forceful a refusal, I’m sorry. Just trying to convey that such would be a horrible, sad mistake.

          • Just realized you didn’t mean funny as in HAHA. Plus the setting doesn’t seem to lend itself to pure comedy. Uber and Leet seem a little ridiculous though.

          • Ahh, now I get where that came from.

            No, it wouldn’t be a funny-ha-ha interlude. Funny as in odd, coming out of nowhere. Still very relevant (I’ve been considering variations on it since I was writing Arc 1).

            There’s a few chapters like that (The Endbringer arc was a series of such) where I’ve been looking forward to writing them and consider them for months/a year and a half in advance. There’s a few rolling around before terribly long.

          • Just throwing this one out there; I wouldn’t mind an interlude with the three ABB gangers. Do they leave the city? Do they stay and risk the wrath of Skitter?

          • Somewhere in Nevada…

            A man whose skin is made up of lots of little rocks slammed his hand down on a table. A very frustrated man. Clattering brings to his attention that one of the confiscated weapons just fell to the ground thanks to his annoyance. He bent down to get it, keeping one eye on his tied-up prisoner. He picked up one of the many odd items his foe had on him when captured and set it on the same table holding his tray of bloodied instruments. Knives, a branding iron, a club, a whip. That was his stuff.
            A machete with a grenade taped to the handle. Half of a pack of cheese crackers. A potato peeler. Shades. A rubber chicken. Bananas. A bottle labeled “Yellow Springs Mineral Water.” That’s what the supervillain had been carrying on him when he was caught. Ridiculous, thought the man, using the mirror above the table to keep an eye on his prisoner. As he looked past his reflection, it didn’t even register anymore how his powers had altered his body from the outside in. He hadn’t shaved in weeks, but there was no beard, no stubble. His hair wasn’t receding, but it was falling out. His eyes were crystalline and jagged rocks poked out of his gums in place of teeth. No knife, or potato peeler, could get deep enough to hurt him.
            But that wide grin worn by the man in the chair could still rile him up. “What are you smiling about?”
            “I don’t know, I just felt like smiling. I’m one of those people who smiles at times when I shouldn’t. I mean, a lot of the time I’m the reason people around aren’t smiling, so I really kinda should, like that time when I was giving the elderly painting lessons in Borja, Spain. On second thought, maybe that doesn’t count.”
            “I wish you’d shut up until you ever had a first thought.”
            “Awww, Gravel, don’t be that way just because your little knife tricks don’t impress me. I’m going to want that nipple back, by the way. I’d trade and give you a finger, but my hands are tied on the matter. Be a pal?”
            “Do you ever shut up?”
            “Do you ever follow due process?”
            “Everyone I kill is guilty.”
            “Everyone’s guilty of something, period. You’re the one going around killing people for the crime of conspiracy to evade taxes in the nude.”
            “You kill them for no reason. And stop trying to get me to picture you naked again. The surveillance tapes were enough.”
            “Bring that knife over here and you can see the real thing in person.”
            “No, just no.”
            “Ha! You tease. Spend all afternoon whipping me, but I’m the one going too far…”
            The prisoner chuckled to himself, white-out eyes never leaving Gravel. Or at least Gravel couldn’t tell if they left him. To hell with getting a confession. Gravel reached for his holster hanging on a wall hook and slipped out the Five-seven handgun. He turned, clicked off the safety, and aimed right for the heart. A squeeze of the trigger and a loud bang left a grin on his face.
            It left Psycho Gecko staring down at a hole in his chest for a moment before looking up at Gravel, offended, and said loudly, “Well, OOOW. Bastard.”
            With a growl, Gravel fired again while stepping close. A gunshot wound blossomed on Gecko’s collar. Gravel held the gun to Gecko’s forehead, point blank. Just as his finger squeezed the trigger, Gecko rolled his head to the side, then low in front, and up the other side, only losing a little scalp to the gunshot. He then used the momentum to drop himself and his chair to the ground and spouted, “How you like that slow motion Neo shit?”
            Gravel adjusted his aim, but Gecko kicked at one of his legs. He shifted to maintain his balance and dodge the attempt, but didn’t fall. Then Gecko dragged his feet and the bottom of the chair back from the kick and against his other leg, sending Gravel down against the table of gadgets. He saw the potato peeler go flying. He shook away the pain long enough to aim for Psycho Gecko as the villain who ought to be dead wiggled his way over to the peeler. It was while he had grabbed the peeler and was turned towards Gravel that the vigilante saw the flesh on Gecko’s collar and chest surrounded by a silvery liquid and being mended. Time-delay nanites, he realized.
            Red light flashed from behind Gecko in time to a humming noise and the former prisoner brought his hands forward to fire a laser from the back end of his potato peeler, cutting the gun free of Gravel’s hand and then searing a line across his throat, opening it up. No blood came out, but he had to gasp to try and breathe out of the new hole. Gecko used that time to cut himself the rest of the way out of his bonds and melt the end of the Five-seven’s barrel.
            Gravel stood to fight Gecko, sure he could take him hand to hand again even in this condition, but Gecko just grabbed one of the bananas, smooshed it up, opened one end, and flung the mashed up banana into Gravel’s eyes. He flailed with one hand while he tried to clear away the fruity obstruction. If only Gecko would start talking again, give him somewhere to aim.
            “Got this just for you when I took the job to hunt you,” Gravel heard. He threw a punch, feeling mirror shards fall on his arm. Then his head was yanked back as a knee was shoved into his lower back, keeping him off balance. Something was forced into the hole to his throat. He threw an elbow behind him and then grabbed at the hand as he tried to keep from swallowing the liquid. He couldn’t even force himself to throw it up. He pulled Gecko’s wrist away and twisted it. The villain’s knee fell away as he had to keep from falling. Before Gravel could take advantage of this, he felt a roiling in his stomach.
            “What was that?” He could barely spit the words at Psycho Gecko as he glanced at the supposed mineral water bottle in the captured hand. Yellow Springs Mineral Water, a Gekko Tekk International subsidiary.
            “Just a little something from Mix N’Max. He remembers you from that time in Colorado Springs and hopes you enjoy what he likes to call ‘Hyper Laxative’.”
            “Oh shit.”
            “Exactly.”
            A roar erupted from Gravel’s belly. It was the last thing he ever heard.

            Psycho Gecko stepped calmly out of the shack and threw up, making sure not to get any on the head of the vigilante that he held in his left hand. Not that it would have done any more harm to it. They were both covered in the light brown remnants of Gravel’s last meal that had been quickly metabolized into explosive excrement by Max’s formula. In the midst of losing his own last meal, Gecko couldn’t help but giggle. The resulting vomit up his nose kept him from smelling anything else, at least.
            The Cartel didn’t find it as funny. They held their noses as he handed over Gravel’s head and collected his money for the hit. They didn’t even appreciate the rubber chicken shoved in Gravel’s mouth. In fact, they hardly paid it any mind at all, until its legs started moving. That only drew their attention closer to it, which was a poor place for them to be in when it exploded in a spray of small, sharp stones.

            Somewhere in Nevada…

            A man who normally wore a black suit met with a man who normally wore power armor who he would have pursued for the government. Money for the hits changed hands, and the supervillain left a slightly richer man. But the agent got the better end of the deal, he thought. He left knowing that his brother’s execution by Gravel while serving as an undercover operative in the Cartel was paid back. In full.

          • I kind of felt that a lot of the charm of Faultline’s crew was how out of touch with the narrative of the other groups they are. It makes Brockton Bay feel much more real that there are groups in it that have completely different goals and ideas.

  23. Yep, the way that the readers react remind me of George R Martin … or Dark Icon (www.darkicon.com – be carefull, this web page may eat you alive).
    But actually less “everybody piloting against everybody” than game of thrones and less “lets kill the big guy that uses his innards as tentacles” than Dark Icon.
    In other words, this stuff here created a middle ground of dark. A bit like “The Girl Who Leved Tom Gordon” from Stephen King, but not equal.
    As to why write this kind of thing and why reading it? It is cathartic, isn´t it?

    • Personally I think a big chunk of how dark Worm is is the writing style and atmosphere at work. Possible upcoming apocalypse and superpowered serial killers aside alot of the fuckupedness is due to people being flawed than being outright evil, and the characters we root for haven’t been completely broken, they’ve been through shit, but they seem to be pulling through. It’s not as excessively brutal or nihilistic like ASOIAF or Warhammer.

      That’s not a knock against wildbow mind you. It takes some damn good writing to make us dread the next chapter without beating us over the head with the darkness of the setting.

  24. This is a bit late, but, after thinking about this, I have to ask – why didn’t Panacea and/or Glory Girl experience a secondary trigger event? After all, both of them are second generation parahumans, which means lower trigger thresholds and the events they went through were at least as traumatic (both psychically and physically) as normal first stage triggers for first generation parahumans.

  25. I’m not buying it.
    I mean, I had issues back with the leviathan situation with the total ignorance of aquatic invertebrates Skitter was displaying, but this?
    1. Even if Amy couldn’t fix her sister on her own, there’s no way she wouldn’t be able to create a viable human form.
    2. She’s their best shot at fixing, well a LOT of things. Whether she wanted it or not, shipping her into the Birdcage is like dumping a megaton of food and diamonds in the middle of the ocean. Or perhaps dumping a ton of refined uranium in the middle of north korea.

    Basically, the Idiot Ball and Conflict Ball are way too obvious here. The only reason for this to happen is because the plot demands removing a powerhouse like Panacea from the equation, and that’s not a believable reason.

  26. IMO its all tattletales fault. there was a great healer that devoted her life to fixing the injured, and then tattletale ruined everything in order to rob a bank. obviously i cant put all the blame on tattletale, there were circumstances that she simply took advantage of, but the story implies that everyone has secrets tattletale can exploit to ruin there life, and she did, and it did. i wonder when shell be the next big bad.

  27. This turns of events makes me rather sad.

    Victoria’s fate is pretty depressing, of course, but she’s not really there to experience it. Amy, on the other hand, not only ruined her sister (adoptive sister, whatever), but also went to the birdcage…on top of all the trauma from the past few chapters.

    I feel kinda sad to say this, but part of me hopes that the Undersiders get sent to the Birdcage. Panacea was one of my favorite capes.

  28. So a couple weeks ago I started reading Worm, and I have been reading it daily, obsessively, ever since. I finally decided to create an account to tell you how much I love your story. It’s one of my favorite stories ever thus far, If not my flat out favorite. My favorite author is Brandon Sanderson, but you are now my second for sure. If you ever get this in an ebook format, know that I’m a for sure buyer. Hell, I’ll buy it again if you get it in print. I can’t wait to keep reading, but I truly dread reaching the end. The only thing that makes sure I don’t get TOTALLY bummed out about the possible end of Worm is the fact that I read your list of future plans and I’m so excited to see all the stuff you will do. You could truly go far as an author and I BEG you to find a way to get published. You WOULD be famous. I have no doubt.

    Anyway, this will probably be my only extremely long post full of ass kissing. The rest will be normal posts I’m sure. No promises lol. Thank you!

  29. That is a RETARDED waste of a priceless asset!!!!
    It doesn’t matter that Amy essentially killed Glory Girl, putting her in the Birdcage is a ridiculous waste of someone who could save billions!
    Just put her in a lab with monitored contact with people!
    Dragon would know this and as there was no trial she would not be obliged to put Amy in the birdcage.

    This really seems like a diabolus ex machina. It makes no sense!
    Why the heck would Amy do large scale fleshcrafting that resulted in Victoria being unable to move? Hell, making her into a copy of Crawler would have at least made some sense!
    Why would she destroy Victoria’s personality and memories? And if she didn’t then Victoria is still there just with some personality modifications for happiness and loving Amy, so why send her to the asylum?
    What Amy did makes as much sense as Skitter suddenly deciding that her friends internal organs would work better if made up of bugs, it’s a total arse-pull, tragedy for the sake of tragedy.

    • Amy is a little nuts. That’s the whole point – Jack got to her, and Tt didn’t help. She had a nervous breakdown whilst messing around with her sister’s body. It is about Amy’s character snapping.

  30. Complete bullshit in the service of more angst.
    Not being able to bring herself to lift the “love me” mod? I could have bought that. Rapey as heck, but would follow established characterization.
    Crippling her sister like this? Complete bullshit out of left field that does /not/ fit power or character. Unless it is fake. I suppose she could have this up with an “undo” on a timer, in which case the entire point would be to get into the birdcage. That would fit.

    • I find it hard to believe you didn’t notice that Amy has been teetering on the edge of total breakdown for the entire story arc. This was the conclusion; it just happened “offscreen”, so to speak.

  31. The most unfortunate thing in the setting just might be the limiters put on Dragon. Because there really, really needs to be a psychiatric equivalent to the Birdcage, but there isn’t anybody else competent enough and she has too much to deal with already. We’ve seen ample evidence that parahuman asylums don’t have the security needed to actually deal with crazy supers so they aren’t a good option except in low risk cases, but this is a huge example of somebody who should be restrained, offered help, but not taken permanently out of circulation. Her abilities are far too valuable (and too dangerous) to just dump in the cage, and that girl seriously needs some fucking therapy.

  32. My first impression of Amelia ever since she “accidentally” tried to brainwash Victoria into loving her has been that she is one of the most batshit-crazy super villains I have ever come across with the most serious cases of denial I have seen in this story. My second impression after a few more chapters is that she is also one of the most stupid and emotionally confused characters I have ever read about. I’d say she is far worse than any of the nine would ever even want to be. The nine at least have goals with methods to achieve them and know how to make decisions that aren’t self-debilitating. Amelia has at best a vague concept of where she might like to be emotionally and no plan of how to actually get there. The sad thing is that this is New Wave’s fault. The happy side of all this is that she is finally back with the only person in the entire world that truly loves her and will be looking out for her best interest.

  33. Necro-comment: Six year olds aren’t toddlers anymore. (By definition, they toddle (are learning to walk), and they’re generally from 1 to 3 years old.)

    • Yes, that bugged me (and confused me last time, when the same comment was made during the bank robbery). I’m guessing wildbow just doesn’t spend much time with toddlers (reasonable enough), and it ought to be an easy fix.

      And I agree that in Amy’s case, the way to think of the Birdcage isn’t “maximum security prison” but “place to meet up with the one person who’s loved her most consistently and unconditionally in her life”. Remember the cunning way Marquis found to send a message to her from inside? And how he seems to be doing okay for himself inside there, plenty well enough to protect her? Okay, she clearly could benefit from a therapist, but time with her daddy might be just as good.

      Missing punctuation at the end of “she’s bound to be pretty powerful if she inherits anything like her father’s abilities” .

  34. This side story is easily the most interesting thing that you’ve written in the series so far, and that’s saying quite a bit considering how fantastic the rest of the story is.

  35. As a side note, I think that this chapter would have benefited from someone at least acknowledging that Amy was missing like three fingers from the whole Siberian thing. Perhaps with Carol noticing it when Amy folded her arms or something? Idk, just seems like something that wouldn’t be overlooked entirely in real life.

  36. Out of curiosity, did you choose age 6 because it’s the cutoff for the Westermarck effect? With the two of them meeting so close to the cutoff point, it might make sense for it to hit Victoria but not Amy.

    Also: sad. Amy fucked up hard, but I’d’ve liked to see her struggle for redemption and atonement and to be a person who did good in the world. There’s too much “well now you’re monstrous and the only thing left for you to do is to sacrifice yourself for the greater good” in our media culture as it is. Which isn’t to say that her actions are out of character, this is definitely a likely outcome, but it shouldn’t be the inevitable outcome.

    • It wasn’t even Westermarck confusion, I’m pretty sure. Wildbow confirmed an alternate theory in the comments at some point, so keep an eye out.

      • There are a lot of chapters, each with a lot of comments, can you give me anything to refine that search? I’ve finished the series, but I have no idea whether it’s forwards or backwards of here.

  37. It’s funny, but my first thought is that this outcome might have been avoided if Panacea had only fallen in with the Undersiders. I guess partly because the fact that they are supervillains means that they can all work together and even forge friendships with a sort of equality. They can forgive and look past each other’s flaws and take each other as people – broken people, maybe, but still human. The heroes in the Wormverse, perhaps because they are official and have to be concerned with image, seem like they might not have that level of frankness and acceptance in terms of how they relate to each other. The Travellers don’t seem to have it either. It’s messed up, but the Undersiders are the healthiest team we’ve really gotten a look at, interpersonally. Largely because of Taylor herself, of course.
    I am willing to acknowledge that we’ve had a limited look at the Wards and even less of the Protectorate, so they may be better in that respect than I know.
    The other thing that strikes me about this chapter is how stacked the deck was against the Dallon family from the start. Victoria seems like she was the healthiest individual out of the four, even though we know she had self-control problems with her powers and needed to cajole her sister into healing suspects after “interrogating “ them too vigorously. Her mother didn’t precisely want children and seems to have a difficult relationship with her adopted daughter and a strained one with her husband, who is chronically depressed and not the best father, either. Then we have Amy, who grows up neglected at best, becomes close to her sister and then has everything implode on her.
    I also wonder if Tattletale might have been able to guide her in properly “healing” her sister before it was too late, given the chance. Amy’s decision to go to the Birdcage is not surprising, given her past attitudes. It’s a shame and a waste, and worse than she deserves, IMO, since she never actually set out to hurt anyone and even took into account her own weaknesses and lack of maturity, wisely avoiding brainwork. Basically, I think that Amy needed someone in her corner for this to end any differently. Isolation is like starvation for the soul; the effects don’t hit all at once, but they undermine you and tear you down over time. One good friend to talk to might have been enough to save Amy, to ward of depression and desperation, but the only person she was close to was her sister, and that just got turned against her.
    This is a sad (but well-written) chapter. To everyone who condemns Amy, I’d just like to say that I see her as someone who has hurt people through good intentions, great power, poor judgment, and emotional instability. She may have failed her family and society, but they both failed her as well. No one is the “villain” here, even if no one’s hands are clean.
    On another note, I now firmly believe that Weld is the smartest character in the Wormverse, because he recognizes that sometimes people need psychological help.

    CG

    • I too think that with guidance she could have saved Victoria still. And I also think Weld is one of the smartest characters in worm :-)

  38. Most issues can be fixed by calming down. Taylor got mentally ill with the mind control pathogen, she worked out smart ways to deal with it and get through. Short term fixes made her barely functional enough to get through. That’s what smart people do. When they have a problem they do the bare minimum to get through it, changing slightly to adapt.

    Amy, likewise, could have used a short term fix to make everything better. She could have patched up her sister in a half assed way that would have been vastly better than her current state. Because she holds the idiotball, she can’t. Every step of this problem could have been fixed by her not being stupid. This is a story about stupid, stupid people who are unwilling to take basic steps to aid their self preservation or to help people they love.

    There are rats that you can make with genetic engineering lacking the dopamine receptor. Their brain lacks any motivation due to this. They will lie flat on the ground doing nothing. They can’t be bothered to eat solid food. They will only eat premushed food. They die easily.

    Amy is like this. She is a listless, pathetic rat who cannot do anything relating to self preservation without someone to push her. People are understandably frustrated at her because if she just got a little more motivated she could be useful. Even with mental illness she could do a huge amount of good, in a lab perhaps with biotinkers.

    Still, tis a fun story.

    It’s like watching a headless chicken slowly die, flapping around helplessly in a pointless manner. It’s a bit depressing- we read these stories to see fun powers used in a fun way, not to see them locked away because they are too powerful for the story to contain. But still fun.

    If this comment is reposting, sorry, the interface did something weird.

  39. “I had the time and the right amount of insane obsession so I decided to play with her genetics while fulfilling my fantasies and then I took a delirious nap and forgot what she was to begin with”
    Aww poor Amy! and poor Victoria, I didn’t like either but I do feel sorry for them, Vicky went nuts and burned her bridges from Amy’s first slip while Amy was so hard with herself that she ended up becoming the monster she imagined she was. Besides “monstering” her beloved (in more than one way) sister, she did a lot of good deeds, she even saved them all from the miasma. Too bad she would never forgive herself, she could have done a lot of good.

  40. Everyone who is so worried that putting Panacea in the birdcage is going to cause some catastrophe, please remember there’s a two year deadline for the Jackopolypse, so she’d better work fast or just forget it.

  41. I am not convinced with the whole Amy story since Glory girl got hurt. Someone mentioned how it seems odd how she could cure Flashbang relatively easily but couldn’t fix her sister. She cures people all the time of a variety of ailments, so I don’t really see what was so impossible that she couldn’t cure her sister. I am not a doctor so I am not talking as a professional, but it seems poorly explained as to why it was that hard. The personality change seems like a minor thing to fix compared to the brain surgery she did on her dad.

    Honestly, I might be running out of patience with this story. It started off great (and sometimes still is) but it seems to be turning into a casualty of the authors crazy world view. I had held out hope that this was something related to Taylor’s perspective. Something to somehow just grit my teeth and bear for a while, while waiting for relief from the interludes.

    Why I like the interludes so much is that they provide a completely different perspective from the distortion in the main story I like to call “Taylor-Vision.” It seems to give other characters a chance to express themselves away from Taylor’s seemingly universe bending tyranny. I am almost convinced that somewhere along the story we’ll find out that Taylor is some sort of Suzimiya Haruhi that subconsciously contorts the very substance of the universe to make herself seem right at all times.

    Ugh, must every hero in this story be so damn corrupt? I know subversion is ‘in’ right now and playing with expectations/perceptions is the ‘cool’ thing everyone’s doing, but I really think there should be a limit. And that limit should be where it starts to affect readers enjoyment of the story for the worse. Most of the slaughter house arc has smashed through that limit like freight train. It was a flippin’ chore for the most part, outside of brilliant parts like the miasma agnosia sequence.

    It is those brilliant parts that keep me going really and they happen most often in the interludes. Somehow, though, the rest of the story is creeping in to that safe haven. Taylor, not being content with the vast majority of the story, has set her sights in the defenceless interludes. Her enemies are being brought to justice. The heroes are all frauds. Amy’s increasingly bizarre and contrived situation has fully blossomed. Yet the true victim here is my enjoyment of the story.

    If the current trend continues finishing the story will tough. I might manage due to fond memories, investment and sheer stubbornness, but I don’t know if I will be able to bear the next story from this author. Which is a shame, but outside of these and other related concerns she/he is an amazingly good writer.

    • Reading between the lines, there are a few reasons Amy was unable to cure Victoria after being able to cure Flashbang. The big one is that her sanity had crumbled in the interim.

      Even if that weren’t a factor, she suffered from crippling doubt over use of her powers after the initial incident with Victoria. On top of that, part of her has to be reluctant to cure Victoria because, once fixed, Victoria would completely loathe her…

  42. I’ve finally got around to reading Worm and have been enjoying it quite a lot. I do feel a need to whine about an issue I have with Amy’s arc thus far.

    The problem with Amy’s storyline here is the same one I had with ones in Madoka. It’s painful to watch someone fuck themselves over so thoroughly due to what can charitably be called profound naïveté.

    From the very start the irrationality of Amy’s behaviour is so enormous that it ceases to be a character flaw and goes all the way into mental disability. It does not feel like she brought the situation with her sister on herself, to me it feels more like she’s incapable of making good decisions. Like watching someone paralysed slowly starve within reaching distance of sustenance, the experience is not terribly entertaining and there is no catharsis at the conclusion. Amy’s arc was enjoyable in a misanthropic kind of way for me, but as a conventional tragedy, I feel it is a failure. Maybe that was the intent.

    Overall the story is quite engaging and I’m having a grand old time procrastinating before exams with it. I hope something of value can be gleamed from this comment. Thank you for your time.

  43. Long-time reader, just now surfacing :)
    Loved the paragraph for the parallelism to Skitter: “That cultured act, the civility that was real. Marquis was fair, he played by the rules. His rules, but he stuck to them without fail. It didn’t match her vision of what a criminal should be. It was jarring, creating a kind of dissonance.”

    This is easily one of my favorite Worm chapters. Brandish’s voice really stood out, and her re-lived trauma and triggers were flawless. I know I’m a few years late to the game, but I’ll be suggesting Worm to all my friends. Thanks, Wildbow!

  44. Wow. Well I really kind of hated Glory Girl but damn. That’s almost as bad as what happened to Cherish and it wasn’t even intentional. I can’t believe Amy went so far so fast. Hell even Grue could base things off himself she should’ve been able to get things mostly back into at least a human shape if not Victoria herself…I can’t even imagine the sort of headspace that Amy must’ve been in to let things become like they are. I don’t know if the Birdcage is quite right but at least her father will be there to help now. Hopefully there are some therapists in there too because that’s really what the girl needs. Talk about your tragic monsters. Hopefully at some point either Amy figures herself out or *shudder* Bonesaw turns over a new leaf and one of them can fix Victoria. Yup I totally see why she could’ve fit with the Nine now. She really could be a horrible monster if she ever started enjoying doing things like to people.

    Marquis is one of the best guys in this setting. I can count the people who have stuck to their beliefs and code on one hand. And he honestly loved his daughter and quite literally submitted himself to lifetime imprisonment with no possibility of parole to save her. Then he went even further and made absolutely certain that she was taken care of while he was being locked away. I respect this guy so much. He and Taylor would’ve made an awesome team.

  45. Just gets more depressing as we go on doesn’t it? Love the world building, love a lot of the story arc. But you’re characters are just too fucked up. And I mean every single one. It just seems to constantly leech any hope out of the story and I find myself skimming allot of things now; it’s sort of like I’m just watching a catastrophe through the window or something and I don’t care what happens. I find any empathy I have is disappearing or literally getting destroyed. I just can’t really get invested in the story anymore… kind of making me feel like I’ve wasted my time…

    I’ll see how it goes I guess, spent so much time reading it I may as well get to the end.

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