Monarch 16.8

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There was a tap on the microphone.  “If we could have silence from the audience, please?”

The low murmur of conversation throughout the auditorium gradually died down.  The place wasn’t full, but four out of every five seats were filled, and there were more people at the back, primarily reporters, many from out of town.

My eye darted across the room, trying to assess the situation.  The heavy woman in the front row, was that Piggot?  It made sense that every person worth talking about would be present.  The disasters and Tattletale’s attack on the cell towers meant that there wasn’t TV, there weren’t phones, and the only way for interested parties to find out what the candidates had to say was actually attending.

Outside of the auditorium, Coil’s men gathering in the lobby and at the sides of the building.  Some were taking point on the roof, gathering in pairs, working together to assemble sniper rifles.  Preparing for a fight.  For a war.

Coil was in the lobby, now, and he was joined by others.  I could recognize Circus by the sledgehammer she was carrying, the metal head dragging on the floor.  Coil said something and she lifted it up.  Was he talking about the noise?  It shouldn’t matter.  He was accompanied by two others I didn’t recognize.  A teenage guy and a larger, more athletic man in a heavy metal frame.

“Thank you to everyone for coming.  Tonight is a three-way debate.  Let me introduce your candidates, starting with Mr. Roy Christner, our mayor incumbent.  We also have Mrs. Carlene Padillo, city councilor of communications; and Mr. Keith Grove, C.E.O. of Eaststar Financial.  Tonight’s subjects are crime, public safety and the state of the city.  Would you start us off, Mayor Christner?  What sets you apart from the other candidates in your views?”

I glanced over my shoulder to verify what I was seeing with my bugs.  A young man was making his way up the aisle with a toddler, straight for Coil.

“I won’t lie,” Christner said.  I glanced his way, saw how haggard he looked.  In a way it worked for him, made him look determined.  “Things are bad.  The situation’s improved from where it was weeks ago, but we’re still in an ugly situation.  No less than forty percent of the city has evacuated, hospitals are overflowing, and villains claim to own the streets…”

I looked back to the dad and his kid.  They opened the door, stepping through, and two of Coil’s soldiers were on them before they could open their mouths and shout a warning.  Putting hands over mouths, the soldiers retreated from the door, separating dad from child.  Within seconds, both were being gagged and restrained.

The door closed on its own, leaving nobody any wiser to what was going on.

“…involved with the defense every step along the way.  I’ve discussed the subject with Legend, with Dragon and with Chief Director Costa-Brown of the PRT.  Daily, I’ve been talking with and working with Director Piggot to see what actions need to be taken to see this city restored to what it once was.”

“That’s setting the bar pretty damn low,” Grove said, gripping the sides of his podium.

“No interruptions, please,” the moderator spoke.  Christner waved her off.  “You concede the remainder of your turn, Mayor?”

“Let’s hear what Grove has to say.”

“Very well.  Mr. Grove.  Two minutes to speak.”

“He wants to restore the city to what it was?  I think he’s wanting us to forget that half of our city was a cesspool before the Endbringer came.  Many of you in the audience live in the north end.  You know how bad it was.  Or maybe the Mayor is referring to the city’s heyday, when the docks were bustling with activity and the entire city could hear the ships coming in and out of the ports.  If he’s trying to convince you we’ll return to that time, he’s telling you an outright falsehood.  The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them.    That’s not getting into the cost of actually refurbishing the area and updating it to modern standards.  Or the fact that anyone approaching within a mile and a half of the area is subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair.  I visited.  I know.”

I sent a message to Coil, drawing words with my bugs.

‘I’m here.  Stop.’

He broke up the words with a casual wave of his hands, scattering the bugs.  Almost dismissive.  Of course he wouldn’t stop now.  He’d made little secret about how important his plans were to him, and to stop now, at a moment this important?

“The mayor wants to take us back to where we were?  That’s not good enough.  I’m proposing that we make this an opportunity.  The slate, in many ways, has been wiped clean.  Let’s start over again.  There’s national and international funding that’s been put in place to help recover from Endbringer attacks and events of gross parahuman involvement.  My budget, which is detailed in handouts that will be provided in the lobby, details how we’ll use our tax dollars and that recovery funding to rejuvenate the city.  The ferry, which has become a local in-joke, will be started up once more.  Low-cost, high-yield housing plans for the north end, demolition and reconstruction on a large scale for Downtown and other damaged areas, and marketing to the rest of the United States to promote and sell Brockton Bay as a symbol of perseverance and human spirit, drawing in new residents and tourism.”

“Councillor Padillo,” the moderator spoke.  “Any response?”

“Keith Grove is not addressing the question.  He paints a pretty picture, but he doesn’t mention the presence of the local supervillains or the pressures they put on us…”

I fidgeted.  Could I attack?  Should I attack?  If I left now, maybe stepped into the side hallway, I could maybe avoid the soldiers, get to a vantage point where I could mount a counterattack against Coil.

Except I didn’t know what he was planning, and my dad was here.  I could take my dad, but then I risked having to explain what was happening, and it would mean leaving Kurt, Alexander and Lacey behind.  It meant leaving all these other civilians behind.

It wasn’t practical to bring anyone else along, but I couldn’t bring myself to run from my dad, here.  I couldn’t say why, how or any of that, but I felt as though leaving my dad behind here would mean I could never come back.  That it would break our relationship, whether it was me getting outed as a supervillain, a break in whatever tenuous bond of trust we had or because one of us would die.

I tended to be more rational than emotional.  If I was being totally honest with myself, though, my rationalizations were pretty heavily influenced by my feelings.  I could come up with a rational justification for pretty much any course of action.  It had led me this far.  Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Councilor Padillo was still talking, even as my mind raced.  “…Points to a mismanagement of resources.  The Mayor would like us to believe that he was involved in genuine efforts to save this city.  I can’t believe he would want to be associated with the PRT’s operations as of late.  Loss after loss on the part of our heroes.  The losses aren’t the fault of the heroes, it’s even understandable, given the sheer power wielded by the likes of the Endbringer, of the Slaughterhouse Nine and the various other threats within the city…”

Coil was moving, now, his people getting in rank and file around him, his pet parahumans standing by.

I had to make my call.  Stand up to him and jeopardize everything I’d been working towards?  Here, now, with Coil drawing on his power, with three parahumans and no less than twenty elite soldiers who I knew were entirely capable of hitting what they were aiming at, backing him up?  Even if I stayed hidden in the crowd, I couldn’t say for sure that he wouldn’t spot me or my dad and order one of his people to move.

The alternative was that I could do as I’d been ordered, avoiding any costumed activity; trust Coil and his power to handle the situation.  I hated him, on a level, but I knew he was smart.  And I knew he knew I was here; I’d asked Lisa and she’d asked him if it was okay.  He had to have a plan for dealing with me if I took any action.

“…Open fighting in the streets.  No, the blame lies with the PRT and the mayor’s administration, which he admits was heavily involved in the decisions made.  Highly questionable decisions:  Holding back when they could have intervened.  Forcing confrontations when our heroes were gravely outmatched.”

I saw Piggot shifting uncomfortably in her seat at that.  Had this been arranged?  A staged scene?

Coil started striding for the closed double doors that led to the back of the auditorium, flanked by Circus and the other parahuman, rank after rank of his soldiers following.

I gripped my dad’s hand, held it tight, and stayed where I was.

The doors banged open.  Coil, Circus and… Über was with him, in a heavy metal suit, Leet stood off to one side, holding what looked like a ray gun.  People screamed, and it set off a chain reaction of responses throughout the auditorium.  People started running for the other exits, only to have their paths barred as more soldiers emerged.

My dad and I stayed in our seats, and I crouched low in front of my seat, pulling my dad down so he would be under cover.

“What the hell?” the Mayor growled into his microphone.  “Coil?”

“Mister Mayor,” Coil spoke.

“This is insanity,” Grove spoke.

“Genius sometimes looks that way to those who don’t see the whole picture.”  Coil had advanced far enough down the aisle that I could see him clearly.  He turned to take in the crowd, and for one heart-stopping moment I thought he’d stop when his eyes fell on me.  His head kept moving, and he walked further down the aisle, closer to the stage.

Grove said, “The local heroes-”

“Are occupied.  Fires started at select locations, areas where the damage won’t be immediate, but where they cannot be allowed to spread.  One such fire is at your headquarters.  My apologies.  I wanted to target high-priority areas.  The other fires will occupy the members of the Undersiders and Travelers and slow them down as they recover from the loss of their individual headquarters.”

I tensed at that.  How much of it was a bluff?

“You bastard,” the Mayor growled.  “First my niece, now this?”

Niece?

Of course.  I’d heard Dinah was niece to one of the mayoral candidates.  I hadn’t realized she was the niece to the mayor.

“She’s safe and sound,” Coil said.  “As are any people here without a title.  If you’re the mayor, or a candidate for mayor, if you call yourself chief of police, lieutenant, director or major, I’m afraid I can’t promise your safety.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Let me demonstrate.  Circus?”

Circus was walking through the assembled crowd as though she were on solid ground, but each footstep was onto the back of one of the auditorium seats.  She extended her arms out to either side, fingers splayed, then closed her hands into fists.  Knives stuck out from the spaces between each finger.

Mr. Grove and Mrs. Padillo ran first, and Mayor Christner was only steps behind.  It didn’t matter.  Circus flung her arms forward and each of the eight knives hit the mark.

People stood from their seats and for long moments I couldn’t see what happened on the stage after that.  I only felt the bodies hit the floor with the bugs.  I didn’t dare move the bugs to try to see exactly where the knives had landed.

Coil’s soldiers were holding the reporters and cameramen at gunpoint.  I raised myself up high enough to see him turning around to face the largest group of cameras.  “The other villains want to seize the city from below.  To start at the streets, out of sight, to remove any who would threaten their rule, and claim the various districts one by one.  They ignore the fact that there are others in power who aren’t superhuman.  Ordinary mortals with the power to make decisions that affect its citizens.

“I would take the more direct route.  Brockton Bay is mine.  I will make the decisions, claim and distribute the taxes and decide who sits in seats of power.  Anyone who would disagree will face the same fate as the mayor, Mr. Grove and Mrs. Padillo.”

I rose up enough to get a glimpse of the stage.  The mayor was lying on his back, chest rising and falling with too much force, as if he was sucking in lungfuls of air and then forcing them out with just as much strength.  He had a knife sticking out of the middle of his torso, another in his shoulder, and yet another in his leg.  My father pulled me down before I could see the others.

The mayor wasn’t dead, but he looked like the man might be dying.  Was I condoning this by staying silent?  I’d told myself I would let Coil’s plan play out until he did something unconscionable and this threatened to cross the line.  It was only the fact that the mayor was still alive and the fact that I couldn’t think of what I might do to intervene that kept me on the sidelines, hiding from the soldiers and the assault rifles they were wielding.

“You cannot expect this to succeed,” the voice blared over the speakers.

“Director Piggot,” Coil spoke.  “I must admire your courage, putting yourself in the line of fire so soon after your last escapade.  Kidnapped by the Undersiders, weren’t you?”

Through my bugs, I could sense how Piggot was leaning heavily on a desk just in front of the stage, using the debate moderator’s microphone.  “This plan of yours was doomed from the outset.  Just for what you’ve done, threatening these people and ordering the execution of those three on the stage, they’ll send the entire Protectorate after you.  America will demand it.  Or are you so mad you think we’ll let you crown yourself king?”

“Mad?  No.  A monster?  Maybe.  Better to say I’m a freak of nature.  My power is to control my own destiny, to reshape and cultivate it.  What you see here is only the tip of the iceberg.”

“There’s a greater plan, then.”

“Quite.  A shame you won’t discover it.  Circus?”

Piggot backed away from the table and ducked low.  It didn’t help.  Circus lobbed a throwing knife into the air, so that it arced.  She didn’t have eyes on the director, but the knife nonetheless went high, catching the light as it reached the peak of its flight near the high ceiling of the auditorium.   It plunged down to strike its target and screams sounded from the front of the auditorium.

“Someone contacted the heroes,” Leet spoke.  “My U.I. says they’re on the way.”

“Good,” Coil responded.  “Circus, come.  Squad captains, maintain order here.  We’ll be back the moment this is done.”

“The bitch is too fat.  Thinking I didn’t hit anything vital,” Circus said.

“See it through,” Coil ordered, turning to leave with Über and Leet accompanying him.  Circus turned to follow, flicking her wrist hard over her shoulder.  Three knives traveled through the air, their paths eerily in sync as they nearly touched the ceiling, converging together as they dropped towards Piggot.

I barely had time to think about it, rising to my feet and calling on my bugs.  I knew it was too few, too late, but standing by while someone got murdered?  Four or five cockroaches, some houseflies, it wasn’t enough.  I’d held the bugs back, keeping them in out of the way areas, and now I didn’t have enough to block the knives or divert them from their path.

There was a flash of light around Piggot, and for just an instant, I thought maybe she had powers.  Maybe she’d had a trigger event, or she always had them but kept them in reserve?

But it wasn’t her.  Weld caught the knives, letting them sink into his palm, down to the hilts.

It was the Wards.  Weld and Vista were at the foot of the room.  Vista was raising her hands, folding the walls into barriers to block those of Coil’s soldiers who weren’t holding the reporters hostage.  Kid Win was at one corner of the room, firing what looked like concussion blasts into soldier and civilian alike, a gun in each hand, and the hovering turrets at his shoulder adding still more firepower to the fray.  He’d taken the fight out of them with the first barrage, and the follow-up fire was apparently to take down the soldiers who managed to climb to their feet or raise a weapon.  The concussion-cannons were obvious nonlethal weapons from the casual way he was firing into the massed people, intended to stun and disable rather than harm.

Chariot had a gun that was firing off charges of electricity, similar to the one I’d borrowed from Kid Win, and was flying over the assembled soldiers, unloading shots on them.  His costume was different from the last time I’d seen him, with single-wheeled roller blades at his toes and a flight system that didn’t seem to be attached to him.  A disc the size of a car tire floated behind his head and shoulders, almost luminescent with energy, and the wings of his flight suit, tipped with jets of gold light, floated out to either side of it.

Clockblocker formed the final part of the strike party.  He wasn’t fighting- not directly.  He stood by a white cloth that had been frozen in time, covering the soldiers.

They were turning the situation around.  The suddenness with which they’d appeared, their positioning, they had planned this, assessing the situation, deciding where they needed to be to make a decisive strike and protect the crowd, and they must have teleported in.  I knew they had the technology to teleport objects.  I hadn’t guessed they had it for people, too.

“This way!”  Weld bellowed.  “Evacuate through the area at the back of the stage!  Stick to the sides!  And I need medical help for the wounded!”

Their group was a little battered, beaten and bruised, and they wore replacement costume parts.  Where I could see skin, I noted the welts of bug bites and stings that hadn’t yet faded.  Vista had covered hers with makeup, but they were there.

I was frozen by indecision.  I felt almost hopeful, strange as that sounded.  If the good guys got the upper hand, if they actually beat Coil, then I could rescue Dinah by simply visiting Coil’s base and opening the door to her room.  Coil was being ruthless here.  At his orders, four people had been wounded to the point that they might die.  If I stepped in to help…

No, my help wouldn’t be welcome.  It could even be dangerous, a distraction at a crucial time.  I would also have to escape.  A resounding victory might see them locking down the area to take down witness statements or make sure no soldiers removed their uniform and slipped out with the crowd.  Nobody had seen me gathering the bugs in my futile attempt to try to help Piggot.  But if they found out Skitter was in the building and won, then it would be a question of narrowing down which teenage girl in the building fit the profile.

And if I tried to help and Coil won, well, my dad and I would be fucked.  No sense in putting it politely.  He would be in a prime position to not only retaliate, but maybe even retaliate without losing the support of my teammates.

If anything anchored me in place, it was the way one of Dad’s hands clutched my own, the other hand holding my wrist, and the way he seemed to be trying to shield me with his body.  His face was taut with fear, his body rigid.

“Wards!”  Weld shouted.  “All clear!?”

“Clear!”  the cry came back three times, from Clockblocker, Kid Win and Chariot.  The soldiers had been taken down.

My dad tugged on my hand.  Enough people had made their way down the aisles that we had room to maneuver.  I followed his lead, letting him pull me towards the aisle.

“Regroup!  Optimal range, facing the doors!”  Weld ordered.  Vista, Clockblocker, Kid Win and Chariot hurried to the center of the room.  He stayed where he was, watching as civilians from the crowd tended to the wounded.  All but the mayor were apparently alive.  The only one I could wonder about was the mayor.  He was lying prone, receiving CPR at the hands of two people.

“Now!”  Weld shouted.

Clockblocker moved, lunging three feet to his left to tag Chariot.  Chariot froze in the air.

I stopped in my tracks, momentarily confused.  Had some of the Wards turned traitor?  No.  Kid Win and Vista seemed to be taking this in stride.  Both were working together to bind Chariot.

There were cries of protest from the crowd.  “What are you doing?”  “He didn’t do anything!”

“He’s a double agent,” Weld spoke, his voice carrying.  “Working for Coil.  Go.  Evacuate, get out of here.  We have this in hand.”

He radiated confidence.  Damn it, for all the times we’d fought the Wards, for every time I’d cursed the heroes for not doing what I needed them to do, I began to feel hopeful.

My dad and I were making our way down the aisle, past the soldiers that Chariot had laid low.  We were at the steps leading up to the stage when the doors slammed open.

Über led the way, followed by Coil, Leet, Circus and a squadron of soldiers.  His metal frame took the brunt of the incoming fire, and he used his arms to shield his exposed upper body from the blasts of electricity and the concussion shots from Kid Win’s guns and turrets.

Vista began shrinking the arms, but the progress seemed slower.  She had trouble using her power when there was living material in the way, but it was still working.

Being so close to the fighting, to the gunfire and flashes of electricity, people were reacting badly.  Screaming, shouting at others to move faster, pushing and shoving.  Worst of all, they were making so much noise I couldn’t follow everything that was going on.  Coil was saying something, his words carrying to the heroes, but I missed it in the chaos.

I didn’t want to out myself as being present, so I was limited in how many bugs I could deploy.  A small handful on Coil served to let me follow his movements.  He’d dropped to one knee behind Über, and Leet handed him a small remote control.  He wasted no time in pressing the button.

The noise of gunfire changed.  My head wasn’t the only one that turned to see what had happened.

Kid Win had stopped shooting, and a shrill whine was filling the air.  He turned to Weld, who began tearing at his armor.

Leet stepped out from behind Über and shot Vista.  She was thrown down the length of the aisle, slamming against the base of the stage.  He took another shot at Clockblocker, who froze himself.  Kid Win drew another gun from a side holster and shot Leet.

Weld had finished dismantling Kid Win’s armor, freeing what looked to be a power cell.

I could barely make out the words, but someone in the crowd did.  A woman screamed the words, “He said it’s a bomb!  Sabotage!  Run!”

In that instant, the crowd became a crush of bodies, each trying so hard to get up and through the stairwell that we barely made any progress.  Über, Leet, Circus and Coil began running towards the lobby, Über kicking down the door, leaving the heroes to deal with the bomb they were holding, which was squealing at a higher pitch and volume with every passing second.  It was glowing, brilliant in its golden radiance.

Kid Win pointed at Chariot.  The boy was frozen, still, but the wings and pack on his back were still active, not attached to Chariot’s suit and therefore unaffected by Clockblocker’s power.

Weld caught the setup out of the air, tearing away the outer casing the second it was in his hands.  Kid Win changed the wiring.  They were shouting something to one another, but I couldn’t make out the words.  Weld pointed up.

The bomb or sabotaged power supply disappeared, teleporting away in the same grid of lines that I’d seen Kid Win use to summon his massive cannon.  It dawned on me what they’d done.  Teleporting the bomb straight up into the sky, where there was nobody and nothing to be affected.

Or that had been their plan.  It didn’t work out that way.  I saw a flicker of light from the lobby, the glow of the device, and Coil wheeling around to face us, his screaming lost in the midst of the shrill whine and the shouts of the others.

My eye to brain response was too slow to process everything that happened next.  I saw it in snapshots: the swelling energy of the sabotaged power supply, Coil’s body coming apart in pieces, the chairs of the auditorium and fragments of floorboards being thrown into the air as the explosion seemed to move in slow motion.

Then it hit us, and I saw only white, felt only pain.

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200 thoughts on “Monarch 16.8

  1. Okay, my next comment is a potential spoiler, but now seems a good time to say it.

    As soon as I read ‘C.E.O. of Eaststar Financial’ I was fairly sure that this was a plan that was going to end with Coil’s death, defeat or embarassment. I don’t feel the need to elaborate, if I’m right, I’m right. If you think about it though, it shouldn’t be too hard to see my theory.

    • Yes, yes, the east. The direction the sun rises in for morning. So a prominent star in the east is the Morning Star. It can be quite luciferous. Also some interesting possibilities with the Zorya.

        • Not likely, Keith Grove or the Mayor Roy Christner is in fact the real Coil, the person calling himself Coil when interacting with the Undersiders and the Travellers was merely a body double.

          • Whilst you’re not saying anything new to me about the ‘Coil’s real identity’ thing, I have to disagree about the Coil we’ve known all along being a body double. When the Undersiders agreed to join Coil, he showed them his power, and whilst it could have been faked (by having the real Coil whispering to him through a Microphone or something), I just can’t imagine him taking that risk, especially with people like Tattletale being able to out him, or other powers he might not know much about. I’ll grant, it’s a lot more possible than I had initially thought, but I still don’t think it’s a likely option. (Note also that if it had been the real Coil at first and a double later, the voice would be different, and Tattletale would pick up on that if nobody else would).

  2. What the hell just happened? I feel like everything I had been expecting just went out the window and Wild just bitch slapped me across the face.

    • Look at who Coil ‘brought’ with him. It’s Leet and Uber. And Skitter just ‘happens’ to be in the crowd.

      If I’m right, this is Coil disappearing into the shadows. “The greatest trick the devil ever did was convincing everyone he did not exist.”

      • Okay, this is the only thing that makes any sense at all.

        Leet and Uber are known to screw up enough that giving them a bomb position is unbelievably stupid, the plan itself was inane and am I the only one a little confused by Circus going from Catburglar to assassin in front of national camera footage?

        Coil being dead would also screw up the last apparent hope for saving the world and apocalypse seems too cliché for this series.

      • Very well could be. I’m wondering who played his doppleganger, if that’s what happened. Genesis is probably the one to pull it off unharmed.

        • No, the plan is excelent. He killed his adversaries, and he “died”, that way he wont take the downfall. Also, he separated himself from the Undersiders, “attaking” their headquaters (this remains to be see if its the truth), so undersiders arent acountable for the murders. This gives him a lot to work with, because no one will searching for him now.
          Option 2,he colapse this universe (BAD END)

          • Ooh, the ‘attacking the headquarters’ bit is a good catch. He specifically told everyone not to show up in costume today, thus forcing everyone to have an alibi for the attack, without having told them enough in advance to be able to spoil the plan. I think he’s taking the ‘Prince Lelouch’ option, though I personally am quite sure he’s not going to to end up dead like that.

            This also explains a lot of his actions up until now. The reason why he kept the connection between himself and the Undersiders/Travellers secret, the reason why he kidnapped Dinah, heck, the reason why he got exasperated when Skitter insisted Dinah be handed back ‘the day after tomorrow’.

            It also very interesting because Skitter’s original intention-to tell everyone who the mastermind behind the undersiders was-would have utterly scuttled this idea. Lucky for him that the Endbringers came along…

        • Genesis wouldn’t leave a corpse, and Coil wouldn’t bet on the heroes to bet on Coil being dead without seeing the body. More likely some unwitting schmuck.

          “Greetings, Jones. Yes, you bungled your last mission, but I’m a forgiving man. I will give you a chance to repay for your mistake. Listen carefully…”

      • This seems to make the most sense out of anything.
        See, we’re seeing realities where things worked out for him, and I highly doubt he’d so willingly let himself die.
        I’m thinking a body double of some sort, with, as Frozen Chicken said, the real Coil being someone up there on the stands. Possibly the EastStar Financial guy.

        • Ahhhh, so Coil is the only candidate to live, and thus he does end up ruling openly as the mayor. He can order the supervillains to stand down, or attack at his leisure to take out any villains he doesn’t control from entering the city. If that is true, I can see why he prefers Coil. Look out it’s KEITH GROVE!

          • Undersiders and Travellers arrive on scene to help with disaster relief. Villainous takeover is cemented and Coil has taken control from the shadows as Grove.

            What’s now making me think more this way is that the way the bomb went off is too convenient. Weld positioned to quickly shield Kid Win, Vista out of the blast and Clockblocker plus Chariot frozen. Too convenient. Coil and Uber plus Leet (ie, the expendables: Non-hollywood edition) the only ones guaranteed fucked.

        • Minor point of distinction: We’re not necessarily seeing the realities where things worked out for Coil, we’re seeing the realities that Coil pruned things down to based on the best knowledge available. It’s entirely possible for him to end up in a situation where neither branch works out in his favour.

          That said, it’s hard to imagine another branch having a worse outcome for him than this one apparently did, so… yeah.

      • Another point about who he brought with him.

        All of the villains who were left in the city and not part of the Undersiders/Travellers’ alliance were in that hall. All of them. Which is interesting.

  3. Okay…that was a sudden turn…and I appear to have greatly overestimated Coil’s intelligence.

    I mean wow, that was dumb from start to finish. Excellent writing as ever though, I guess things just couldn’t go well. ;)

    • Though if it was a ploy it was a smart one.

      Puts him firmly in the shadows after distancing himself from the Undersiders and Travellers. Since the only way he can rule the city is from the shadows this makes more sense then him making a lunatic attempt at open control of the city.
      This also showed a much more brutal kind of villain and thus contrasts with the more “gentle” territory holders.

      While I guess Coil can simply have screwed up, it just seems way too much of a screw-up for a smart man to make. Unless this was his back-up and his other universe had to be abandoned, but even that would be a planning screw-up I can’t see Coil making.

  4. The hell? What is Coil’s plan exactly? This ranks up there with the stupidity of old cartoon villains taking the UN hostage to take over the world. Not to mention that this bomb, the deaths of 2 mayoral candidates, and possibly the death of Piggot/Coil was the better alternative than the Universe B?

  5. Pure Genius, now that Colin is “dead” he can operate from the shadows, Uber and Leet only gives more sensation of an accident (they make explode everything anyway).
    Please, more details on the nature of the Bomb (maybe one of the last from Bakuda’s?)

    • This would only work if the “bomb” was actually a teleporter. He could fake his own death, and simply kill everyone he brought with him to make it look like it was a bomb. But there was no point to it. He was already operating from the shadows. Nobody realized the Undersiders/Travelers were working for him. There has to be something more to his plan, especially if Alexandria considers his plan one of the last chances to save the world.

      • Maybe he need the city to make experiments, the place is already a wasteland anyways.

        My theory is that he keep the city in this condition to taunt the endbringers, that way he could predict the attack ( this city is probably the worst place to live, and a second attack could cause a catastrofe….. japan type)

      • Maybe the plan is to provoke a nuclear response from the rest of the Protectorate? The way things were nobody was trying all that hard to take back the city other than the locals. But now I bet every other big name hero in the country is going to be charging in dick-first to retake the city.

        But to what end? Shit, who knows. But I really doubt Coil’s dead.

        What about the work around Coil said he had for Tattletales power? Maybe he learned how to bring events from one universe to the other?

  6. For reasons I can’t explain, I seriously doubt Coil’s dead. I mean, he could have failed that badly, and why would he have hired Leet and Uber? Part of me thinks he’s still alive, and the Coil that Taylor saw was an imposter he coerced into doing all this. Why, I can’t fathom.

    Damn these cliffhangers. This is the inherent issue and challenge with serials: each release needs to remind you of what’s happening, keep your attention, and leave you wanting, all done subtly so that when compiling them afterward, the flow doesn’t seem awkward. As a reader, it’s the “leave me wanting” part that really gets to me. Who will survive? How? Will Skitter have a second trigger? Will someone else? Will identities be revealed? Will sides shift? Find out next time, so you’ll have to wait!

    I now won’t be able to study for finals and finish my projects and work with this bugging my thoughts. (sigh)

  7. Hm…

    The obvious theory, as mentioned, is that Coil is tricking us. However, that seems difficult. It seems like he would need the cooperation of the Wards to pull this off, and they’re one of the few groups that he almost certainly has not corrupted.

    Hm…

    “The bomb or sabotaged power supply disappeared, teleporting away in the same grid of lines that I’d seen Kid Win use to summon his massive cannon. It dawned on me what they’d done. Teleporting the bomb straight up into the sky, where there was nobody and nothing to be affected.

    Or that had been their plan. It didn’t work out that way. I saw a flicker of light from the lobby, the glow of the device, and Coil wheeling around to face us, his screaming lost in the midst of the shrill whine and the shouts of the others.”

    Okay, this is rather interesting. I’m wondering if a viable reading is that Coil’s bomb actually was teleported into the sky, and he had another one on his person to fake his death in the explosion of the larger one.

    Anyway, it strikes me as likely that Coil’s plan DID fail in a way he did not anticipate. Either he was pulling off something complicated and happened to die because Kid Win redirected the bomb wrong, or my earlier theory, or something weirder.

    Now, wildbow has mentioned before that many powers have surprising weaknesses. It strikes me that Coil’s may hypothetically be that dying in either reality leads to his dying in both realities. Given that he is conscious of both realities at once it does not seem absurd that his death in one could kill him in both.

    Anyway, nice cliffhanger, though I think last Saturday’s was my all time favorite Worm cliffhanger.

    • Two possibilities to note: The bomb was made by Leet, who is at his best when creating unique and unusual devices. Something like ‘Bomb that acts strangely around teleportation’ would have a pretty fair chance of success. Second, they used Chariot’s Tech in order to teleport the bomb. Given the fact that Coil has access to precognitive sources, it’s quite likely that the entire purpose of Chariot being there wasn’t so he personally could turn against the Wards-it was so his (deliberately faulty or Coil-targetting?) tech would be there for the Wards to try and use.

  8. Something interesting I just noticed:
    Before Coil sets of the Detonator, Taylor is being overwhelmed by the Chaos. Her multitasking fails her. She has also only a few bugs out at the moment.

    Also, the first time she was hit by a bomb by Bakuda, she got a minor powerup, didn’t she?
    If that happens every time, i can only say: One hell of a training method!

    • If the only way she can get more power is by almost being blown to smithereens, they’re going to have to start calling her Cockroach.

        • All the actual increases in power are temporary. Her general level of capability go up as she gets experience. She is becoming better at wielding her abilities rather than actually getting stronger with them.

      • Actually, if you think about it, this time is different, she stands not only to lose her life in the explosion, but her father’s as well. It strikes me that maybe, just maybe, that may be enough to set off a second, more permanent, trigger.

        • I don’t think she’ll have a trigger event from the explosion. She’d been blown up before by Bakuda, and that didn’t make that much difference. We do know that she is ridiculously good at doing things while in pain. Maybe the danger to her father would make a difference, but the sort of power she’d need to protect him — since the “motivation” for the trigger determines the powers — would have to be orthogonal to her existing one, which would be the sort of incongruity that a novel wouldn’t contain. (Then, again, it is Wildbow.)

          Now, if it were just herself, an appropriate power for her might be to dissolve into a swarm of insects and recombine later, since she’d been faking it, and, also, bugs may weather an explosion better than humans. (My sense is that they would be less vulnerable to the concussion but more vulnerable to heat.) Or, better yet, when she becomes a swarm, any insects she can control, if they can form a pile big enough, can recombine into her, even if they were not in the swarm she had originally become. (This is analogous to Burnscar’s ability to teleport through fire, except that she can “teleport” through a sufficiently large populations of bugs.) All that said, it almost certainly won’t happen, because Wildbow doesn’t give sympathetic characters handouts like that. (E.g., recruiting Panacea? Was never gonna happen.) That said, maybe if Skitter could never return to a human form and remained as a moving swarm consciousness permanently… I can almost see Wildbow doing that. Then, Skitter is the Worm (and a lot of other creepy crawlies).

          What I suspect will actually happen is that she will be knocked out and injured by the explosion, so that she will be picked up with the other victims by the first responders. As far as we are told, PRT doesn’t know who she is, but Dragon does, so it’s not clear if she’d be able to pull off the part of a civilian… (That said, if did know, they would have been staking out her father’s house using some means hard to detect using bugs. But then, if they did that, we wouldn’t find out from Taylor’s PoV…) Mind you, if she did find herself in the hands of the authorities close to being found out, that would make her feel trapped, giving her a range and reaction boost.

          Sorry about rambling…

  9. Thank you, Wildbow, for am amazing prelude to Christmas. I can’t wait to see Coil carving the turkey for his minions in what I can only presume is his new guise.

    I really hope that Taylor is okay- and I wonder how much of her getting caught in the blast was planned and how much was a reward from Santa. I mean, he knew she’d be there but the specifics would have been hard to peg short of him ordering someone to discreetly gib her.

    “”Points to a mismanagement” Maybe an ellipsis to show that it is a sentence in progress?
    “elite soldiers who I knew were entirely capable of hitting what they were aiming at backing” Maybe a comma or dash after ‘soldiers’ and ‘aiming at’?
    “made. Highly” Extra space.
    “way one of his hands clutched my own” Maybe specify that it’s her dad? For a brief moment I was reminded of Weld and Skitter right before the endbringer.

  10. I like the progression in the comments.

    Starts off with “What the fuck? This makes no sense.”

    Then people posing theories and putting things together.

    Maybe not a stellar chapter from a writing standpoint (at least, it doesn’t feel like it from my end – a little busy & a little under the weather as I wrote it) but fun for me for the comments that are coming out of it.

      • I have a couple ideas on this, actually, and two haven’t been stated already, at least not by the time I’m posting this. The third I think I can provide some perspective on.

        It’s true that he could just be in hiding here, but reasonable objections have been made. Also, while I like the idea of it wiping out the city’s other villains, we already know Coil was planning to screw over the Undersiders and Travelers. Why bother killing villains he brought into the place just to leave the ones he is going to kill in charge of their own territories. Uber and Leet were most likely just a replacement for his guy in the Merchants who used metal armor as well.

        Idea 1: Trickster found out Coil couldn’t do a damn thing to help Noelle. If only a situation came up where Coil would be screwed by someone teleporting a small bomb near him.

        Idea 2: Everything went according to plan. Cauldron’s plan. They wanted Coil to succeed in pushing out the heroes enough to attempt his coup. They needed it to happen, in fact, so that when a supervillain was openly assassinating the elected leader of a large city, it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back as the PRT demands greater power and even less accountability to handle these threats. After all, said power would be granted by elected leaders as well.

        Idea 3: Coil really is in hiding after all. He was known about in the city by other villains and likely by heroes. They just didn’t know what he was doing. Any potential link to Undersiders and Travelers is meaningless because he’s going to fade into a civilian identity as all the villains are killed or captured. Circus, Uber, Leet, Travelers, Undersiders. Oh, and let’s look at other affected major villains. Merchants? Faultline’s group? Kaiser and Empire 88? Hookwolf’s people and The Pure? The ABB?

        What a variety of coincidences has led to such a massive disappearance of the street gangs and major villains. I guess that just leaves the Travelers and Undersiders, who will find themselves unlucky soon.

        Idea 4: Coil will undertake plastic surgery and voice augmentation. In the wake of attack, and possibly death of the other candidates, the “Mayor” will retain his seat. After all, his heroes worked out after all, and there’s just not time for any more candidates. There may be some change noticed in his demeanor, but at least he’s got his niece back, campaigning successfully with her as a symbol by his side, and he’s probably a bit shaken or affected by the whole event more.

        • Hmm. There is the possibility of Coil intending to screw over the Undersiders/Travellers by suddenly ‘letting slip’ the info that they were working together. I suppose in this way, their absence could be considered a mark against them, although considering how much of it wrong, it paints _them_ as manipulative masterminds, screwing over their minions. Thus, the whole town goes to war against them, and the truth can be only be revealed by Skitter’s sudden revelation of her true identity and that she was injured in the attack!

          • But that is only after Coil stupidly attacked the mayor. The perception of him would probably be one of desperation at losing the city to the UT alliance and being stupid enough to think he could rule the city as the mayor. It doesn’t really help their image due to the PRT’s actions during the 9, getting the stuffing kicked out them/the director being kidnapped, and managing to lose several of the most advanced combat drones in the world. So the Wards are pretty popular, not that I blame them, from an average citizen’s perspective they had the balls to take on
            the 9, saved the city from Bakuda’s homemade nuke, lost several members fighting a freaking endbringer, and even dared to attempt to fight the dreaded undersiders. The PRT on the other hand is probably as popular as FEMA after Katrina. Heck of job, Piggot.

        • I don’t think he will betray the Undersider/Traveler alliance anymore. They have been so damn successful and resourceful at implementing his plan/agenda. On the other hand, you bring up a good point about the Travelers betraying him for not keeping his promise. Maybe a Undersider vs. Traveler/Noelle cage match is in the future? I am still iffy on whether he will release Dinah, whose uncle? the mayor just died. Her ability is so bloody useful he would be stupid to give it up. But he might not need her anymore, as if his plan is to become mayor, he pretty much rules the city. Skitter is also an amazing employee that I would do anything to keep happy and working for me if I was him. Not to mention that Dinah might end up living with her depending on the fate of the rest of her family and even Coil has to acknowledge that the drugs are having an effect on Dinah’s health. Coil might pressure Skitter to ask Dinah to use her ability in an emergency if it comes to it.

          • That’s the main thing that stands out to me.

            He has ten, TEN, powerful and resourceful supervillain employees. That’s not a resource you joke around with, it’s one he’s been very lucky to obtain. If they all turned on him he’d be utterly fucked. So would he attack them? I doubt it.

            If he really seriously burned Skitter’s base then he just killed orphans, lost Skitter, lost the other Undersiders and probably did similar to the Travellers with burning Genesis’. I just don’t see that as a clever plan.

          • Hmmm, I don’t know about Cauldron using Coils plan to increase the power of the PRT. They pretty much are the PRT already, and their contacts make them pretty powerful. Giving them more power after they have bungled so much already isn’t going to be too popular with alot of people, I wouldn’t like it if I was living in this world. I think that the plan Cauldron is counting on has something to do with Noelle who has attracted the Endbringers at least two times.

          • Bungled? Weren’t you paying attention? The Wards just took down Coil, and the headquarters of the alliance of supervillains are all on fire with other heroes forced to respond to those locations. Like Coil said they’d have to.

            That’s the perception of things at least.

          • But that is only after Coil stupidly attacked the mayor. The perception of him would probably be one of desperation at losing the city to the UT alliance and being stupid enough to think he could rule the city as the mayor. It doesn’t really help their image due to the PRT’s actions during the 9, getting the stuffing kicked out them/the director being kidnapped, and managing to lose several of the most advanced combat drones in the world. So the Wards are pretty popular, not that I blame them, from an average citizen’s perspective they had the balls to take on
            the 9, saved the city from Bakuda’s homemade nuke, lost several members fighting a freaking endbringer, and even dared to attempt to fight the dreaded undersiders. The PRT on the other hand is probably as popular as FEMA after Katrina. Heck of job, Piggot.

            Repeat, I picked the wrong Reply.

  11. To get away from what what has been discussed, if the theory is true then Coil deserves the mastermind status, I noticed a few interesting things from the debate. Only Forty percent evacuated, that means that there are ALOT more people still in the city then I thought. I thought it was practically a ghost town. If Coil is Keith Grove, notice he is taking it to Piggot, whose credibility has taken a major dive. Someone FINALLY is calling her/the PRT out of their stupid decisions and their name is pretty much mud right now. The wards still seem to be popular, probably because they are still kids, they have saved the city before, and they still dared to fight people that greatly outmatched them in power and experience. Which brings me to the last point in that the Undersider/Traveller alliance is mentioned in the same breath as the Endbringers, and the 9 in terms of sheer power. So they are probably internationally famous now for owning the heroes and Dragon. I can’t help but wonder what the World thinks of Skitter now. She has even more followers than before, is known for planning, and is helping people.

    • Lunatic bug villain who acts like a humanoid swarm queen.

      Unpredictable is probably the watch word.

      Yeah, the forty percent thing stood out to me too, also seemed close to 47% for a fun reference.

      Also, just realised that he wasn’t making a joke about the ship graveyard being crummy and miserable looking. Cherish is now acting as a living blockade. An amusing end for her.

        • Until someone bothers to torpedo her ass.

          Clarification on what I meant by Skitter being perceived as a humanoid swarm queen.

          Does she like you? Consider you as one of her hive? She’s your best friend and the most wonderful boss ever, she’ll do everything right, she’ll take a bullet for you. Even more incredible, she’ll fight the nine for you, and win!

          Does she not like you? Did you just kick her proverbial hive?

          Run.

          Or more likely, this but concealed under a few dozen layers of speculation and assumption. People likely think she’s an outright humanoid abomination. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has reached urban legend/scary story status by now. I would also hazard that news of her and Grue forming a relationship would induce tabloid frenzy. Since his power makes him a similar bogeyman-type villain.

          • Poor boogeymen. Everything went downhill for them when disco died.

            That’s romance for you. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Like a marriage contract with the devil, and I’m quoting anecdotal evidence there. Although Mr. Deity and Lucy get along real well, despite the time she hired Nietsche to kill him. The religious amongst you might not want to look that reference up.

            But as they say in Old School “Love, eh? It’s a motherfucker.”

            Just about the only way to fight it is to make peace with the idea that you’re not going to get someone. But that takes a firm resolve, balls of steel, and toys of latex.

  12. By the way, if Coil really is gone, there is a fairly simple explanation for why he didn’t do so well.

    He’s been playing in the shadows so long, he doesn’t know how to properly go out and be a supervillain. Like the mad scientist who forgets to load the deathray before threatening to murderate the Eastern seaboard or the hulk who tears up the bank and tries to eat hostages before realizing he never yelled out that it was a robbery or tried to get any money at all.

    • His (supposed) inability to understand Latin was big mark against him as a credible diabolic mastermind villain.

      The setting seems a bit low on these anyway. We have plenty of insane psychopaths and more-force-of-nature-than-evil type of villain as well as the super powered gangs and their leaders, but no real take-over-the-world-while playing-Togata-and-Fuge-on-a-pipeorgan type evil geniuses.

  13. This is the first time that I had to earn a chapter by using a certain characteristic I lack. And you know what? It was amazeballs. Now, sir, you have my unwavering support in each and every endeavor you choose to partake. I offer you my trust, my loyalty and if I am ever in the position to give you icecream, I will certainly consider it.

    On the topic of Coil’s shenanigans, I am with those who believe that this is another one of his plays. With his power, even if it’s not foolproof (as admitted by Coil himself when he confessed to never sate his exotic cravings on those vital for his masterplan), there’s no chance that he would die in an attempt to take over the city. I am quite certain that when he executed the plan, he had another reality of him tucked away in his bed with a good book in his hand and smooth jazz playing in the background.

    Then again, on the off chance that he destroyed the said reality the moment he found cover before the detonation of the bomb, he could be really dead. But we all know he is not that stupid, and in the grand scheme of things, it would a very anticlimactic end to an unusual and intriguing man/plot.

    Also, I would appreciate clarification on what is actually meant by Leet shooting Vista and Kid Win shooting Leet. If Vista ends up dead, Wildbow, disregard my first paragraph and know that I will come after you in the good old lynching style. I don’t know why I care, but either way, I have not led a good lynch in quite a while and I remember it as a delightful experience. You have been warned.

    That is all for now. Thank you for the great chapter and I hope to not end up standing over your lynched body anytime soon. (:

    -Raven

    • Well, Raven, you have to remember that lynchings were entertainment too. See, back in the old days when they had gotten a hold of some poor fellow of at least 1/32nd African American ancestry who was caught doing something truly heinous, like walking near a white woman or not smiling at a white man, you might just see a band of prominent community folks come along, including the local law enforcement, and grab that fellow.

      Beating and light torture may occur. But then the town might have themselves a nice day out at the limits where they take our fine friend and hang him from a tree. Everyone watching, smiling. Having picnics and getting pictures taken, the local sheriff just smiling along with everyone. Ha ha, what a fun time it was.

      Just imagine swinging there, slowly suffocating. Anyone who might help you out would be beaten or killed for trying. And most of the white people around just want to enjoy the event. Enjoy your murder. Get a picture with your dead body. Maybe make jokes about how your body shits itself when you’re dead. Dump you off in the woods rather than have a proper funeral.

      But you don’t have to worry. You’re safe. Because only a few individuals do things heinous enough to be called crazy.

      When a town does it, it’s called society.

      (Wow, that got really dark didn’t it? It’s so dark, I hope it doesn’t get lynched.)

      • Wow, that escalated quickly… O.o
        Talk about taking the fun out of metaphorical lynching. And I was going for the burning at the stake deal, in all honesty. Warlock style.

        You did make me rethink my life. Lynching has never held as much appeal as kidnapping and ransom demands. Is this PG enough for you? Would adding some tickling make me into a monster?

        This turned me from a reader threatening bodily harm to the author that might be trying to go against my will into a… well, racist murderer. I don’t know how race came into it, but damn, my record is still spotlessly clean.

        Well, I’m slightly more depressed than I was 5 minutes ago.

        -Raven

        • Bah, you’re ok. Wasn’t accusing you of anything racist and we all know you didn’t mean it in a bad way.

          Some real life events have me in less of a good mood lately and I think I wrote it that way for some point I’ve made enough times already. That’s why I shouldn’t comment when a mood is on me.

          I mean, maybe if it had been funny. Like the dead baby comedy in the last interlude. Ok, so maybe I’m the only one who had fun with that, but I didn’t even like this bit that got you depressed.

          I’ll try and make it up when I have more time to type.

          • Oh, I got over that quickly. Saying that it made me slightly more depressed is an overstatement. I take as much damage as I deal and I’m quick at that. I’m somewhere in-between a rogue and a tank. If I were range, I wouldn’t be punched as much, would I? And that’s no fun.

            Okay, sorry, I’m not even sure what my point was when I slipped into bad RPG analogy. hehe

            Dead babies – they can be funny given certain contexts. But that could be just me and my anti-baby policies interfering with my feminine side. Or it could be my sick sense of humour.

            Ah, the moods. We all have them sometimes. But going by the comments I’ve witnessed, your moods rob many of some fine entertainment. Wait, that sounds like something nice. Um, your handwriting is ugly! Ah, fixed – balance restored.

            I am all over the place and overly chatty without producing any relevant points because of the opposite. Good moods make me slightly manic. Given the fact that I just got my new baby pet, I am excited enough that it’s endangering anyone I come in contact with.

            -Raven

          • I have a great dead baby joke about the difference between pitch-forking dead babies off a truck and pitch-forking live babies off a truck, but it has a visual component, so I can’t tell it here.

            Hg

  14. Ok. Coil died in front of Skitter’s eyes. She seems, shall we say, unlikely to take this at face value. She knows he’s a clever supervillain with a power that makes him very hard to successfully assault. So her natural assumption is, he’s bluffing, and is going to take over the city under a civilian guise. This will naturally make her suspicious of anyone who takes over – could they be Coil? Only the Undersiders/Travelers are a safe option, who will usher in a new age of drugs on every corner and spiders in every bathtub.

    What if it’s a double bluff? She thinks he didn’t die, but really he did die, and there’s no way she’ll ever find the real Coil, because there is no real Coil. It’s the perfect plan!

      • Wasn’t right of me to do that to Raven. Poor innocent Raven. *licks Raven* Poor sweet Raven who could use a dash of basil and a light teriyaki glaze. And some brain bleach.

        Sorry Raven, and everyone else.

        And actually, no holiday blues. I like the holidays and Christmas. For those finding that contradictory to my rather well known atheism, start looking up the origins of Christmas and its traditions.

        No, I’ve got a little of that “Fuck Everything, Nation Reports” from the Onion mixed with a little bit of some disagreeable people around here. Really a time I should be cultivating some laughter instead of dickery.

  15. This really makes me wonder just how nuts Coil is about biblical mythology. Or maybe Paradise Lost? Perhaps these thoughts aren’t immediately relevant. But knowing how seriously he takes himself as a serpent would be interesting.

  16. I get why people are reluctant to think that Coil actually died, but if you think about it his power isn’t really THAT foolproof. He’s got two chances at everything, sure, but it’s not a save-and-reset type of power. He’s got two paths, and he picks the better one. With a major play with complex timing like this one, it’s likely he committed both paths to the project, and entirely possible that he got the boom in both of them, by failing to diverge enough during splits.

    That being said, I don’t think there’s any really good way to be absolutely sure he’s actually dead. That’s the problem with secret identities.

  17. Damn.
    That was intense. Tune in same Skitter time, same Skitter channel.

    I did not expect that for the apparent death of Coil. We’ll see if that was actually _him_, but it looks like that’s the way to bet.

  18. My dark thought for the day:

    So, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t Coil have the ability to choose between two (that we know of) different realities? My thought is, what if the entire worm saga, from the very first post by wildbow, was just one of the two realities that Coil was evaluating? He sees that he (and more importantly to us, Skitter) dies, so he decides to choose the other wormverse. Albeit a kick in the teeth, it would give wildbow a fairly clean slate to start with.

    • I think it was implied that he was limited to two concurrent verses at a time and the interlude from Dinah’s perspective where Crawler came to visit seemed to show him using his powers. At least that was what Dinah thought at the time.

    • Pretty sure Wildbow say that there wasnt going to be any chapter in wich Colin Colapse that Choise/Universe (exception: The chapter in wich we are show how he colapsed that universe)

  19. Interesting theories here. I agree that this is probably what Coil intended to happen.

    I am also somewhat curious about the mayor. He has a son that he arranged to receive powers from the Cauldron and a young nice who also has powers. We don’t know where Dinah received her powers from. He also doesn’t have his own tag, meaning he probably isn’t important enough (few non-parahumans have received tags so far). I almost suspected him of being Coil, but 15.9 where he appeared wasn’t tagged with Coil either, so there goes that theory.

    I expect that Coil still has a source close to the mayor even if he isn’t close to him himself. somehow he has to have learned about Dinah’s powers. (And it would perhaps explain his attempt on Skitters life by sending him to a family gathering where Triumph would be in attendance)

    There is probably stuff going on that we aren’t aware of.

    It seems like Coil is playing both sides against the middle here. Killing off the criminal mastermind identity and trying to take over the town legitimately certainly makes more sense than hoping the powers that be would allow him to get away with it. I have still no idea how this ties in with Cauldron’s plans. Just being in control of a city alone doesn’t seem like much if they are trying to safe the entire world especially compared to the resources already at their disposal. Maybe it is only the first step towards more power or maybe there are plans to high-jack the rebuilding effort to turn Brockton Bay into a Fortress City (ala Evangelion) or a giant endbringer trap or a comsic ark or something. That of course would imply that the plan included the city getting destroyed since before Leviathan’s and the Nine’s visit…

    We will see.

    Right now I am more concerned with who saw what of the little Taylor did. Coil was aware of her presence. Did anyone see her trying to rescue Piggot? What were Coil’s plans for Lisa and everyone else who knows about his powers and would thus doubt his death. What about Dinah?

    Finally, I have to wonder about the ship graveyard. The mental effect (if it is real and not just a rhetoric exaggeration) does not seem to have been mentioned before. It might indicate the location of the final resting place of what’s left of Cherish. Or it might be something even worse.

  20. Chances, to one decimal place, that we’ve seen the last of Coil: 0.0%

    All the best,
    Meta-Dinah

    Seriously, Coil’s a villain who is *actually intelligent*, for one, and can furthermore get a second chance at everything. And it looks like he’s got Cauldron on his side, too. There’s no way he just slipped up and died. That would be a cosmic joke–and we all know how Wildbow is about humor.

    Random thought: Leviathan may have been headed for Coil, rather than Noelle. They were in similar locations, right?

  21. hey, its Circus!
    I’m a fan of her never-the-same-outfit-twice rule as I enjoy visualizing the various costumes throughout Worm.

    You know she might share the same love for fashion as Parian. Perhaps in a not so distant AU the right circumstances are brewing for Circus and Parian to forge an uneasy alliance.

    Throw flechette into the mix and crazy lesbian love triangle would ensue!

    • Fun fact. Parian’s first real adventure was a Circus-centric story where ‘The Elite’, a villainous organized-crime enterprise including The Number Man, ‘Mother’ (Bonesaw), Contessa, Winter and one or two others. First story Bitch appeared in, as a side bit. These guys are taking over the Eastern seaboard with a ‘join or die’ approach and they hit town, forcing the local solo villains & rogues to band together. Not wanting to group too closely together, the local villains form into small groups, and Parian and Circus form a duo.

      • Sounds like quite the colorful yarn.

        Maybe Parian was just helping Circus pitch a tent?
        Wait, no, that doesn’t sound right. But I bet they had a lot of fun between the sheets. I mean Circus couldn’t keep her hands off Parian’s pillows. The pair just strike me as so close-knit that Circus would hold Parian’s needle and give it a good polish.

        • Those puns are tearable. But I do kind of get the feeling that those two were cut from the same cloth. Sorry, I probably shouldn’t be stringing this along.

      • The Elite sound interesting. Might we see a version of them in the future? After all, any organization would want the Undersiders after all they have accomplished.

        • I folded the Elite into Cauldron/the Nine. I don’t think I could do this. Haven’t alluded to them at all, or anything like that, so they’d be coming out of nowhere.

          I did consider using them (and I think I briefly mentioned something along these lines in a previous comment somewhere) but decided they’d be too similar to the Nine in how the conflict unfolded.

          • Why not just mention them as a background group?

            One thing I find myself disliking, sort of, is that as the story goes on the world shrinks a little. We used to get a lot of reference to external heroes and villains that had nothing to do with this particular story, but since Alexandria’s Interlude there’s been none of that.

  22. Just a little note, the table of contents link for 16.8 here is pointed at 16.7.

    I have nothing intelligent to say regarding this episode, because it’s already been said, and also because there is no sleep. So, uh… I Coil shenannigans! Me like Worm. Worm good.

    Oh, hey, one observation: Daddy was trying to shield Taylor with his body in the middle of the piece. Methinks he stands a very good chance of being seriously hurt, and there is now a spectacularly good chance of Skitter being severely horked off (is horked a word? I’m sure I’ve heard someone say that, and if not, I’m making it a word). Even if Coil fully intends to hand Dinah over tomorrowly, he’s done for.

    And here’s how you kill Coil: Just plan to do so. Set a date well in advance, track his movements, and be serious with yourself that no matter what’s going on at that date and time, Coil dies. Thus you get him in both realities. Skitter could almost do this by her lonesome; with Imp’s participation, it would be trivial. Admittedly Imp’s participation isn’t at all guaranteed just yet, and the whole thing is about to undergo a shift with Coil not being Coil anymore.

    I am apparently incapable of being brief. Me like Worm.

    • Actually, this isn’t really that certain. Coil is noted to have a consistent pattern of canceling certain types of timelines where he performs certain actions. For instance, staying up all night in his fortress reading while another version of him sleeps. He never has a good reason for saving that timeline. It seems likely that things such as this could seriously throw off assassination attempts like the one you suggested. A large number of timelines are likely to leave no evidence that anyone but Coil remembers.

      • He varies his habits, yes, but I’m talking about actively tracking his movements in the time leading up to the appointed moment of the kill. The Skitters and Imps of the world can do the tracking part rather trivially. You can’t *react* to Coil and kill him when he shows up to do something naughty, like in this episode, because the backup is safe. But it really seems to me that once you’ve decided, “I’m going to stick to Coil like glue and kill him at 11:34 AM next Wednesday, wherever he is,” you’ve eliminated most of the spooky-ookie factor of his power.

        Once you’re operating on your own timetable and Coil’s death is your goal, provided you understand his two-realities shtick you “only” have to deal with the hazards of killing a rather smart, well-protected normal baddie who happens to have twice the normal chance of realizing “Hey, I’m being followed.”

        He’d be a real pain to keep imprisoned, on the other hand, because even if you catch him in both of his realities he can afford to dedicate one path to pulling every harebrained escape attempt imaginable while at the same time sitting peacefully as a model prisoner in his “safe” reality. So you do have to kill him. Taylor has the pieces she needs to get Coil, but needs to be willing to take that step.

        • Basically, because Coil occupies two concurrent realities you need to coordinate across realities to get him. For a non-Coil person, the only way to coordinate across realities is a timed strike. So it goes:

          1) Decide to kill Coil.

          2) WAIT. Set a date and act later. You need to wait a significant period of time so that you can be sure your decision to kill him carries forward and doesn’t disappear in one of his random branchings.

          3) Strike only at the appointed time. This means skipping opportunities in the meantime where it looks like it would be easy to get Coil, and resigning yourself to doing things the hard way if necessary at the appointed time, because otherwise you’re only getting one Coil and it doesn’t matter.

          • Yeah, the problem with that is you have no idea whether you came up with this idea, or set this course in action, in a branch that will later be collapsed. In the other branch, you may not have set anything up, or even thought about it. This idea only works if you think about it, and choose to act on it, while Coil’s power is not active.

            Hg

          • Slow poison is good. I like that. Two ways!

            Hydrargentium, that’s the purpose of the “waiting period.” You’re waiting for Coil to collapse any irrelevant realities with ordinary use of his power. You can go wrong if he’s operating two concurrent realities without change for weeks or months, but if that’s the case he’s really getting poor use out of his ability for his everyday villainy needs. You can also go wrong if the only universe in which you’ve decided to knock off Coil is the one that gets collapsed, but that’s sort of a wash because you won’t be in trouble, there.

            When he builds a new branch, everything that’s already in place from the branch-point will remain a part of the new reality. If “intent to kill Coil for Dinah’s birthday” is already two weeks old when Coil builds a new branch, he’s caught. If he has no reason to collapse your branch, you’re golden. If he does collapse your branch before the birthday declaration roots in both of Coil’s realities, no harm is done (and Coil will undoubtedly be inspiring you to kill Coil again later, OR Coil will have turned into such a nice guy that it doesn’t matter that you no longer remember that you need to kill him).

            Coil’s existence is like a video game where you’re only keeping your savegames in one slot. If you screw something up on level 5, and save over it up to level 10, when you realize on level 11 that something you did on level 5 would be better if you changed it, you can’t go back without restarting the game (an option Coil doesn’t get). :)

          • That is a very good point. Dinah offers an extra level of complication that I hadn’t been considering, and their powers working together are mindbreaking.

        • That is hilarious. Coil pulling one great escape style plan after another. Constantly collapsing them back to him sitting quietly reading.

          This probably also explains how he is so often calm. He can just split off another reality and yell at everyone in that one. XD

          • Heheheheh. I do that all the time. It’s called imagination.

            (Reminds me of the joke about the guy in an elevator, who suddenly realizes this half-naked woman is cringing in the corner and screaming at him, to which he replies, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought I was undressing you with my mind….”)

            Hg

  23. Now that I’ve had some time to digest this chapter, there are a few things that stand out.
    1- Taylor wasn’t wearing her costume for the explosion, so i don’t see her moving around very much/well in the next chapter. I also think there is a very good chance she has permanent eye damage.
    2- Her dad is in some serious trouble, cause the only way I can picture Taylor surviving is a combination of miracle and her dad shielding her with his body. That was a lot of shrapnel being churned up after all. (If this is the case then he has REALLY bad luck with shrapnel.)
    3- An accident is a pretty fitting death for Coil. Though after reading the comments here I have some doubts of this being Coil (full body suit makes for EASY doubles). Helping that is that he seems to be acting out of character, being much more… aggressive isn’t the right word… impulsive? He’s acting more like Trickster than Coil is what I’m trying to say. THOUGH:
    “This is insanity,” Grove spoke.
    “Genius sometimes looks that way to those who don’t see the whole picture.” – Coil(?)
    And we definitely don’t have the whole picture.
    Saturday is going to take forever to get here.

    • 2- Her dad is in some serious trouble, cause the only way I can picture Taylor surviving is a combination of miracle and her dad shielding her with his body. That was a lot of shrapnel being churned up after all. (If this is the case then he has REALLY bad luck with shrapnel.)

      Trigger Event for Daddy dearest?

      • I was wondering about something like this actually, has there ever been a parent who has had a natural trigger event in this universe when their children have gone through the same? (Not including genetic inheritance in families).The “natural” trigger events that I’ve seen usually involve tragic separation of some sort. This would throw in a whole new conflict if Taylor’s father becomes an official superhero as well. Might be cheesy in the hands of someone other than Wildbow, who I’m convinced can write anything amazing into his story while still making it realistic. Of course, I’m still putting my money on Taylor’s dad death, considering the tension so far.

      • I think it’s been said that sibling-sibling and parent-child link can produce powers, but a child-parent cannot. So, even if your kid has powers, unless you too have active powers, you’re incredibly unlikely to have them.

        • You’d think that there’s a possibility he could potentially have powers that simply hasn’t been activated yet. Not that he’s getting them from her, but that whatever it is has not yet expressed itself yet because he hasn’t gone through an appropriate situation.

          Some people have the potential and some people don’t, but not all that get the potential might activate it before they have kids that they pass that potential on to.

        • Yeah I was thinking more along the lines of “shapnel gets deflected by Dan’s bones so that Taylor only gets hit in non-vital areas” than “Danny gains super powers”. Mainly because super powers as an out is just… no. Super powers are not plot armour. Unless that IS your power… getting back on track: this is a horrible disaster (not calling it an accident until the investigation is done) where most of the leadership of the city has died.
          The funeral is going to be heartbreaking, and Taylor might not even be in any condition to attend.
          While I’m here: 4- There are fires burning in 9 locations around the city, at least 2 of which are no-go zones for heroes: Bitch and Skitter’s territories.

      • I dunno, killing him now would waste a huge amount of possible development for a relatively cheap emotional event. I mean even if this was a double and Coil remains in with the UTI and taking over as Mayor (which does seem to fit) she’s still going to have another bout of self-loathing.

        It’d be a shame to distract from that.

    • I guess I’m not the only one who thought that Coil sounded more like Trickster here. I think that would also help explain the flash coming from the lobby: Trickster tried to switch the bomb with something out there. He fails because Chariot’s device interferes with his powers. That’s when he turns around and screams. He realizes that it’s too late to swap them in time.

      I can imagine Coil deliberately choosing this timeline because getting rid of Trickster would be convenient for him at this point.

      • You have excellent points, Trickster dying seems…very plausible here.

        And he was just speaking to Coil a short while ago…

        Anyhoo, I kind of want to see Skitter succeed as a villain now just to see what she does when things go well. When she has Dinah, and Brian and everything is good…what goes through her mind.

        Does she try to use that power to make things better or does her resolve fail and she abandons the gains her sacrifices and darker actions so far have gotten her?

  24. Gex, Drugs, and Rock N’ Roll.

    (Aka Psycho Gecko knows you think he is going to hell, but don’t get offended until you’ve at least read all the way to the end.)
    (Widlbow has veto rights as always.)

    “Gecko, you’re upset.”

    The speaker pulled a chair out and spun it around to take a seat backwards, facing Psych Gecko and not getting his burgundy coat bundled up. “And you’re smiling,” said Gecko with a slur, tossing a drink back. It splashed uselessly against his helmet and dripped down to the growing puddle on the floor. Max did indeed wear a smile framed by black lipstick on his pale face. “You’re always smiling. Damn cheery goth. Why bother with white and black paint and all that when you could just add a red nose and make it colorful? I know why, you sample too much of your own product.”

    “Actually, he hasn’t,” came a new voice. A man in a black leather surgeon’s outfit and mask took another seat stiffly, laying a worn scalpel on the table. “Unlike you, Mix N’ Max is a consummate professional.”

    “Good Doctor, I don’t care what you professionals do, you don’t have to share the consummatin’ with me. No offense.” Gecko lifted a bottle of Bailey’s and toasted them.

    “We know you enough to tell you mean none,” the Good Doctor said, motioning toward the rest of the bar. Empty tables ringed Psycho Gecko’s perimeter.

    “The Yakuza aren’t quite as understanding. They’re the ones who let us know something was up,” Max pulled a vial from his coat and added a pinch of salt to the glowing green contents, then held it to the bottom of Gecko’s helmet to catch a few drips of the various liquors dropping off its edges.

    “Bah, I paid them back for their annoyance with all my talking.”

    “Cutting off a pinky doesn’t mean as much to them when they know you’ll just grow them back. And they didn’t ask for all the middle fingers either,” said Max with a snicker. He capped the vial and raised it to eye level. He shook it a few times expectantly, then sighed and slipped it back into his coat.

    “It’s those children, isn’t it?” spoke Good Doctor, motioning to a wall.

    Max elbowed him, “You have the x-ray vision on again.”

    “My apologies.”

    Psycho Gecko just sat there, watching the pair he had run into several times. They had somehow all found themselves running in the same circles from time to time. “It’s hard to call them out on all their petulant, childish behavior and point out how they let evil win in their very institutions after something like that happens. And yes, the children are a sore point for me in particular. That guy gives homicidal maniacs a bad name.”

    “I’ll drink to that,” said Max as he motioned for someone to bring over glasses.

    “Gentlemen, pick your poison,” Gecko responded, flicking the various bottles on the table in turn.

    After a long silence, Max waved off the waitress and the Good Doctor gave a simple, “No.”

    “That’s it, Gecko, you don’t get to provide drinks anymore. Just like Doctor doesn’t get to bring sandwiches.”

    “And Max isn’t allowed to light any incense around us.”

    Mix N’ Max and the Good Doctor nodded in unison.

    “We need to get you out and killing again. You want to poison some podunk town’s water supply?”

    “Fucking fracking.”

    “How about starvation?”

    “Damn illegal immigration crackdown.”

    The Good Doctor’s crisp voice spoke up “How about a game of brinksmanship where you threaten to blow up half the world?”

    “You are truly old-fashioned, Doc, anyone ever tell you that?”

    Max shook his head at the Doctor as well, then asked, “Can you think of anyone you’d like to teach a lesson to that would cheer you up? For gods’ sakes, there’s got to be something. How about finding killer religious fanatics?”

    Psycho Gecko stood up suddenly, “Quickly, to the flying machine!” He rushed off, leaving Good Doctor and Max to exchange a look and hurry after.

    Max called out, “I meant the dangerous ones, not just any of them!”

    ***

    A couple of days later, a lonely scout in the mountains spots a goat. He hadn’t seen his wife in 3 years. It hadn’t even been 2 years that they had been married. But now he was off joined in a grand war against the great satan of the West. He glanced at the picture of his wife that he kept with him. He could tell she was smiling through the covering. He was off fighting for her. He knew she was lonely. She’d been so upset, she tried to go to school last month. Out of respect for his own holy work, the men of the town had only beaten her, not killed her.

    But he had needs. And so he approached the goat. He cooed at it like he remembered and found it did not run off. It looked back at him with wide eyes as he stroked its back fur. Then he lifted his robe.

    The goat’s eyes glowed as metal clamped down on flesh inside its body. The scout was trapped, his gun just out of reach. And that’s when a man in overalls wearing a large floppy hat like Elmer Fudd stepped out, a shotgun in hand. “Oooh, looks like someone’s caught like a pig. You like pig? I bet you can squeal like a pig,” the man said as he slapped the scout’s ass. “Squeal for me, come on. Eeeeeeeeee!” The scout didn’t know what to do. He tried to wrench himself away, but the pain was too great. He nearly passed out as he felt his flesh stretch. “Aww, looks like we don’t got ourselves a squealer,” the hunter called back towards a nearby outcropping. The scout could see a surgeon in leather and an overdressed pale man, or perhaps a woman, shaking their heads, palms firmly planted against their faces.

    The Good Doctor called out, “God love you, Gecko. Somebody has to.” With that, Max bent over, cracking up.

    “Hey, don’t look at me like that,” said Psycho Gecko as he walked over to the pair, pulling out a remote from the overalls, “No need for anybody to be offended here. You said just the dangerous, extreme fanatics, and that’s what this guy is. If I just wanted to kill any ole Muslim, I could have, but no, you wanted one of these rare, few, indecent terrorists. In retrospect, we could have just gone after an abortion clinic bomber in the States, but I thought a change of scenery might be nice. If anyone has reason to be offended, it’s the guys who share a religion with this bozo. They should be embarrassed someone like this even exists.” He pressed a button, not even turning towards the sawing, wrenching noises coming behind him accompanied by a “Shunk!” and a scream that cut off suddenly as warm blood splashed against his backside. Gecko slipped the remote into his overalls. “Existed.”

    • I must say, Gecko, your writing is technically accomplished, but its subject matter and presentation is highly questionable. I’d compare the dark humor to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Yet, somehow, you always go that extra mile to cross the line THREE times, going from disturbing, to darkly humorous, to disturbing again.

      Then again, this type of crackfic is to be expected of you. Sometimes, I find myself thinking Wildbow should make a shout out to you, maybe with something you wrote as an alternate Earth that Cauldron accessed (then completely closed off to prevent its insanity from spreading).

      Gecko, you really are a staple of this community. Both as a routine, reliable source of entertainment, and as the little piece of metal lodged in your skin when you fumble trying to keep papers together.

      Wilbow, if you think humor is your weak point, ask your community for ideas and beta readers. As seen in the short story above, people like Gecko could sure help, though you’d need an extra hand filtering things out in that one’s case.

      Cheers.

      • I’m proud of the burka joke in there. And I did say I’d make up for my attitude. Also, to clarify, that scout was not raped in any way. I’m sure he’s all the happier for it. Or he would be. A guy like that is behind the times anyway. You might even say he’s late.

        If anyone else has some comments or criticism, feel free.

        If you’re wondering if they really beat women for going to school in some of those places, look up Malala Yousafzai. 15 year old Pakistani girl showed she had more balls than any of the Taliban by surviving that headshot. I’m not going to be the one to say her butt looks fatwa in any pair of jeans.

        Also a part I later realized would have been funny to add even if it doesn’t quite fit:

        “That’s it, Gecko, you don’t get to provide drinks anymore. Just like Doctor doesn’t get to bring sandwiches.”

        “And Max isn’t allowed to light any incense around us.”

        “And that Belial person isn’t allowed to do fireworks at the Fourth of July party. I swear guys, his van had ‘Enola Gay’ stenciled on the side. I don’t know what would have happened, but it would have ended in sterility.”

        • Actually, I really liked the burka joke too.

          And given that Malala Yousafzai was just on the cover of Time magazine as runner-up for Person of the Year, I’d guess that most people will have heard of her by now. And yeah, it doesn’t get much braver than her.

          Hg

  25. Can anyone say “mass trigger event”? This seems like the exact thing that could cause a massive influx of parahumans; Just imagine being crushed in a human wave as you try to escape what you think is a deadly bomb, only to have it explode in your face.

    My hypothesis is that Skitter and the Undersiders are going to have their work cut out for them for quite some time.

      • It’s weird, you’d think mass tragedies would cause lots of trigger events but they don’t seem to. The series’s first plot-hole, or evidence for how the triggers work? I’m going with evidence. The ‘potentials’ factor alone could explain it; most of the masses don’t trigger because they can’t. Potentially, the mysterious cause (those other worldly beings?) can only work on so many at a time, which is why they don’t just trigger the entire human race already (although perhaps the human race isn’t in enough stress/pain for that as well… crazy!theory, the Endbringers are a plot to inflict so much suffering on the human race that they can all be uplifted).

        • The subject of mass triggers comes up in 9.3, I think it is. Clockblocker’s interlude, the classroom.

          It’s relatively rare, and you can count on one hand the number of parahumans showed thus far who would fit that category, going by the evidence supplied.

      • Probably just a numbers game. Leviathan went for quantity of unhappiness, but for most people it meant being flooded-any closer and they probably didn’t survive. Slaughterhouse were the opposite: They really terrified and tortured the people they went after, but most of them didn’t survive. Grue had a trigger event from them though. Now, The Merchants were shown to be pretty effective, creating Scrub and possibly others from caged terror-matches.
        There was about half a thousand people in the town hall, and we can probably safely assume that a majority of them survived. In terms of actual level of trauma, this was probably more painful than it was horrific, but I think it still would have had the requisite level of ‘everything’s turned to shite’ for it to trigger people. I think it might not be unreasonable to expect a new cape or two.

        • It would actually be interesting in seeing how the different groups in the city would react to a new powered. The wards/heroes seem so outgunned they would gladly take someone new, but how would a new villain react to the UTI alliance? While we have only seen two new capes from leviathan, there is no reason that there have been more. They may have simply been hiding their powers to keep from getting noticed. If a new villain is created, they would definitely want to join up with the Undersiders if they had any brains. I can almost see Taylor trying to think up a initiation or test to prove themselves worthy of joining the group in an imitation of the 9′s joining but with their own flair. I can picture Regent making a drinking challenge, a test of strength from bitch, maybe a test of intelligence from Tattletale, a test of daring from Imp, and a straight up hand to hand fight from Grue. Taylor might simply do a secret test of character. The main issue would be the new recruit’s attitude and actions. Taylor wouldn’t want a indiscriminate murderer but some more muscle wouldn’t hurt. They could really use a tinker, a healer, or a brute that could take some punishment to round out their team.

  26. Here’s a new idea;

    Not only Coil is alive, but taking over the city was simply a test. As in, it had no more importance to either him or Cauldron than seeing whether Coil’s ability could offer enough backup to a team of hugely outnumbered, relatively weak powers for them to take out several times their numbers of enemies of far greater power — only to see if Coil’s guidance in a grander scale could help a similarly outmatched Cauldron overpower and take out its opponents globally.

    • Good point there.
      The whole city is an experiment of Overpowered super heroes V/S a bunch of ragtags with minor power (who kicked the Slaughterhouse 9 ass)

  27. Hey Wildbow, I just heard of a writing contest from Amazon. Fifty thousand to the grand prize plus four first in genre prizes worth fifteen hundred each.

    You’d probably win without any problems if that’s something that you’re interested in.

    • Hm. Do you mean in the sense of submitting Worm or something new?

      Problem with submitting Worm is that the story’s something like 780,000 800,000 words right now. I’d need to section off a chunk and then format it into something resembling a novel. Probably mean rewriting the beginning and hashing out more of an ending to Shell, pare off enough to meet the word count limit (Just arcs 1-4 would be 130,000 words).

      It would almost be easier to write something new, from scratch, and I’d be writing Worm on top of that.

      Not saying I wouldn’t be interested (though I’ll add I also have reservations about the contracts that big publishers put out – some aren’t very kind to the author) but that’s a fair few hurdles to cross.

      • Well, my answer is moot now, but I figured that you could easily write something new if you were to take a hiatus on Worm. I, for one, would be ok with you doing that even if you can’t or won’t post the new story on your site. I love Worm, but I understand that sometimes an author has to make certain sacrifices for her art.

        Besides, if I remember right, you were starting to get the itch to write something new anyway. Nobody wants to see you burn out or slog through something you don’t like just to appease your (voracious) audience.

    • Oops. Read the fine print. The prizes are actually writing contracts. They give you 50k or 15k, but they call it an advance on royalties. Oh well.

      • Yeah. It’s a pretty raw deal for writers out there. I hear stuff like Amazon doing a thing where they’re paying serial writers to release work, and then you look at the actual rundown of what you’re getting into, and it’ s not very good.

        So when I hear ‘X company is offering money for writing!’ I automatically wonder what the catch is. If one isn’t apparent after some investigation, then I assume the worst. Do that thing with Amazon and you might win, but you might also be signing away rights to your work or earning only cents per book sold in the end. I’d actually feel better if I knew just how badly I was getting screwed over as I signed up with some company or contest or whatever.

        Which is why I figure I’ll go the long and hard route – keep writing like I’ve been doing for Worm, maybe move on to other stuff, maybe keep writing in the Wormverse if it’s what people are clamoring for. Get some money from donations (if I haven’t completely sank that possibility and burned its corpse by raising the cap), polish stuff and get it bound into e-books and then see if they sell online. At least that way I have an idea of the demons I’m fighting and the traps I’m falling into.

    • Burning bridges? This is the worst apocalypse since October 2011. Now May 2011 was fun except for the people left destitute and jobless.

      Can’t wait for the next one though. I think someone’s been talking about 2013 and someone else mentioned 2017.

      Don’t worry, Wildbow. It’s the holidays so money is a little tighter with people buying gifts. Plus, people might hold back on donations because you seemed to be so burnt out. I expect that after Christmas you’ll get some donations due to the influx of Christmas cash. Unfortunately, I lack sufficient knowledge of Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year to account for how they’ll affect your donations. No need to take Saturnalia, Yule, or Mithra’s Birthday into account either (See Christmas).

      Happy Apocalypse Day 2012, everybody.

    • I wouldn’t worry about that Wildblow, it is the holiday season now, so everyone is a little more strapped for cash than they normally are.

      • That’s fair.

        Yeah, I do understand that on a rational level, but I gotta say, going into the writing of a web serial, I wasn’t prepared for how nerve wracking it all is.

        So yeah, guess what I’m getting around to saying is that I appreciate your support, readers. Your comments, donations, reviews, votes, or even the fact that you come back to check out the story, it’s much appreciated.

        /salute

  28. New idea, maybe this planso also tested Skitter loyalty. She didnt interfered so i guess she passed, now what could have happened if she messed up right there?

  29. Well, I have to say that Coil isn’t dead, he would never commit to a major attack without having his other universe self in a very safe place, that means that this is working out the way he wants as this universe hasn’t been destroyed.

    • Forgot to say

      “The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them”

      What? Where the hell did they get that number? There is no way they’re paying their 5 wards 5 procts or whatever the number is 23 million dollars. Since they’re not I’m pretty damn sure that Cache or Legend could clear it out in no time.

  30. Pretty sure Coil feinted his death to create the illusion of “the sistem works” he needs to operate a succesfull city and that is why he only used disposable henchman lik uber and leet

  31. “… Coil’s men gathering … ” They _were_ gathering. I would also drop the ‘gathering in pairs’ in the next sentence for redundancy. Just put ‘in pairs’ with ‘working’.
    ~~~
    HOLY WOW CRAZY — and the Commentarium explodes!!!!
    “… is he dead? … was that the plan? … did Cauldron know? … was it THEIR plan, or Coil’s or … who really survived? … and did it cause triggers? … and is Danny OK? … did he really set fires, or just SAY so? … ”

    It’s The Perils of Pauline with a live-broadcast Peanut Gallery!!!!

    What Coil intended vs. how it works out vs. what he wants people to THINK happened vs. how his team(s) will respond to what they think vs. …

    Wildbow doesn’t DO plot twists; he does plot SPIDERWEBS. WAY COOL!!! Every reader is stuck to it in a different place …

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