Drone 23.3

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“Mr. Chambers?  Weaver’s here to see you.”

He called out from the opposite end of the room, “Send her in!”

I ventured into his realm, staring around me as I entered the space that was apparently the hub of costume design and marketing for the PRT.

The wall to my left had a map of North America.  Cities had been identified, with clusters of portraits around each major city.  Protectorate members on top, Wards on the bottom.

To my right, there were glass cases showing off costume designs, old and new.  A woman was inside the case, dressing a dummy.

Further down, there was Glenn.

Power was a funny thing.  I’d seen it expressed in a number of ways, with parahumans, but the unpowered weren’t quite so flexible.  There were people like Tagg, who relied on bluster and bullying, and people like Calle, with sheer confidence and a strict reliance on their own abilities in a particular field.  Piggot had been something else, someone who had known how to leverage people and situations, more like Calle than anyone, but with the added advantage that she’d had the authority to call in airstrikes and requisition Dragon’s A.I. driven craft.  Like Tattletale had said, Piggot wasn’t a genius, but she had her strengths.

I’d suspected that Glenn Chambers would be more like Calle, with a touch of Tagg’s tendency to bulldoze through problems.  Seeing him operating in his home territory, I wasn’t so sure that was the case.

Glenn Chambers wore plaid pants with red and green, and a pink dress shirt, His belt bore a buckle with the PRT logo on it.  His hair had changed too, parted neatly into what I assumed was ‘geek chic’, and the glasses had changed as well, with thick, round frames.  An ID card hung around his neck.  He didn’t fit any of those particular archetypes.

I looked at him and the person who came to mind was Skidmark.  Brockton Bay’s onetime loser villain, meth-head and drug dealer, later the head of the depraved, anarchist Merchants.  It was hard to pinpoint why, at first.  They were nothing alike, on an aesthetic level.  Their demeanor, their status in society, their appearance or goals, there were no similarities.

People milled around him.  Twenty-something men and women, who carried coffees and portfolios, cloth and paperwork.  Fat as he was, Glenn moved swiftly.  He sipped a coffee, handed it back to the assistant who’d delivered it, and sent her off with a command or clarification.  Men and women with portfolios were told to set up at his desk while he examined action figures in the light of the window.  His pudgy hands, almost childlike, took hold of an action figure by the arm.  He shook it violently, his cluster of minions backing away at the sudden flailing of his arm and the plastic figure.  The arm snapped off, and the toy went sailing through the air.  Someone scooped it up and brought it back to the group.

“Go, and hurry,” Glenn said.  “Tell them to fix it and cast another prototype before the run starts.  These are toys, they’ll be in the hands of children and collectors both.  The people who are buying these are fans.  What’s it going to say if their most immediate association with Esoteric is the broken toy sitting on a shelf?  It’s going to convey that he’s flimsy.”

The action figure people fled, and Glenn approached his desk, where the portfolios had been set out.  I approached, a touch lost in the midst of all of this, and nearly stumbled as another group entered the room, vacating to fill the void left by the group that was exiting.

“Weaver, come.  Look and tell me what you think.”

I approached the desk, and the group parted to give me space.  It was hard to put my finger on why, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were doing it at Glenn’s bequest and not mine.

The massive portfolio folders were open, showing poster images of various Protectorate members.  The leaders of the new teams.  The images were stylized, with splashes in pale watercolor in the background, an almost sketchier appearance to the heroes.  But the masks, necks and shoulders, the emblems and their characteristic tools were all done in hyper-realistic detail.  Chevalier, Rime and Exalt, with backgrounds in gray, blue and yellow, respectively.  There looked to be more behind them.

“They’re good,” I said.

“They’re crap,” Glenn countered.  One finger tapped on a blossoming of yellow and red watercolors at the tip of Chevalier’s Cannonblade.  “The last thing we want to convey are that things are a mess, and that’s exactly what the blobs in the background will do.”

I’d buy one,” I said.  “If I wasn’t already a cape, anyways.  Things are a mess.  I don’t see how you’d convince a non-cape me otherwise.”

Glenn sighed.  “We’re treading into philosophical and hypothetical territories there.  It’s a no-go.”

He turned to one of the artists,  “Something cleaner, tighter.  And don’t use a side-profile of Rime.  If she doesn’t want the post-effects, she’ll have to accept that her waist isn’t quite poster material.”

The poster people disappeared, fleeing Glenn’s presence.

I stepped into the gap, “I wanted to talk to you-“

“One minute,” Glenn dismissed me.  He turned to the group that had just arrived, “The interview?”

“It’s good,” a young man said, handing over a print-out.  “Chevalier is personable, but different from the old leaders.  Fits the ‘New Protectorate’ atmosphere you described.”

“Of course it does,” Glenn said.  He skimmed the paper, turning pages.  “I based it all around him.  Good call on the interview’s quality.  Quite good.”

Skidmark, I thought again.  Skidmark, who had built up a kind of momentum around himself, like-minded people falling into his orbit.  Despite being utterly repulsive and foul-mouthed, Skidmark had charisma.  People followed him.  Glenn wasn’t repulsive, but he grated.

Maybe that was part of their charisma.  Maybe the natural, casual narcissism, as much as it didn’t jibe with Skidmark’s meth-mouth or Glenn’s obesity, conveyed that they were the center of the universe.  Everyone wouldn’t necessarily be swept up in their delusion, but the fact that they drew in weak-willed sheep lent them a measure of clout that forced people to acknowledge them.  For Skidmark, it had been depraved homeless, addicts and thugs.  For Glenn, it was a cadre of college students hoping for a career in marketing, advertising or public relations within the PRT.

Or maybe I wasn’t thinking too generously about Glenn Chambers, given how pissed I was.  Maybe he wasn’t that bad.

“Well?” he asked me, as if I was making him wait.

I resisted the urge to react, forced myself to stay calm.

If he was really like Skidmark, in how he surrounded himself with loyal and terrified sheep and minions, there were two ways to mount an attack.  I could take the fight straight to him, like Faultline had with Skidmark, or I could strip him of his flock.

“I’d like to speak to you in private.”

“Impossible, I’m afraid.  I’m busy enough I shouldn’t even be taking the time to talk with you,” he said.  He offered me a smile, “But you’re my most interesting project.”

“It’s a matter of courtesy,” I said.  He wanted to play this on a political level?  “Please.”

Put him on the spot.  Force him to play along or look bad.

Glenn only smiled.  “Isn’t it just as discourteous to interrupt me in the middle of my work, when I’m already doing you a favor by meeting you?”

Fine.  He wanted to play it that way?

“Last night, Pretender got broken out of Dragon’s craft, our team crushed, and Rime shot.  I almost died.”

“I heard,” he said.  He looked at the woman who was just arriving with his new coffee, “Kayleigh, can you go talk to Mr. Payet?  He was supposed to call me in ten minutes and it’s been fifteen.”

“Yes sir,” she said, running off.

He either doesn’t care or he’s deflecting.

“Your insane restrictions on powers were a big part of that, Mr. Chambers.  The bad guys won, and it’s partially your fault.”

The heads that turned my way, silent and staring, only confirmed my suspicions.  The crowd of twenty-something assistants and designers around him were a defense system.  Not a power, but power in general.

“My fault? I wasn’t even there.”

“I asked to speak to you because I wanted you to know about the damage that’s being done.”

“Ah, this is about the butterflies.”

“It’s about a lot more than butterflies.  It’s the whole mindset.  The attitude of the heroes.  I’d talk to Chevalier, but he’s too busy.  I’d talk to Rime, but she’s recovering from being shot three times.  You’re the only other person I’ve met so far who really seems to be in a position to know what I’m talking about.  Besides, as far as I can figure, image and PR seem to be at the heart of the problem.”

“A complicated issue, something you could study for six years in college,” he said.  “But you’ve figured it out after two brawls?  The rumors of your intelligence must be true after all.”

“I wouldn’t make light of it.  Pretender got captured.  Either he’s in enemy hands, and there’s a body snatcher out there, or he’s dead.  Because of a fight we could have won.” I said.

“You’re sure?”

“There’re no certainties, but come on.  There’s got to be a point where the kiddie gloves come off and we actually put up a fight.  I saw the Wards struggling in Brockton Bay, as they faced pressure from outside forces, me included, and serious threats.  They got whittled down because, as powerful as they are, they didn’t get the chance to put up a fight.  Now the rest of us are starting to face the same pressures, and the PRT isn’t learning from past mistakes.”

“I’m trying to understand what you’re wanting to argue.  Are you saying our Wards, children with powers, should take your cue?  Fight more viciously?  Intimidate?  Be merciless?”

All your capes could stand to stop holding back.  Wards and Protectorate both.  At least in situations like this.  We lost Pretender, and we didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Vegas teams.  That played a part in losing them.”

Glenn frowned, glancing at his collection of underlings.  “Everyone but Weaver, out.  I hope each of you can find something to do.”

The flock scattered.

“You already know what happens if you speak on the subject,” Glenn called out to them, raising his voice as they got further away.  “I personally know everyone you might try to leak details to.  It’s not worth the risk!  Discretion!”

A moment later, they were gone.  His office seemed so empty without the young professionals running around.

“We must have a talk about which things can be said when,” Glenn said.  He took a second to tidy up stray pictures on his desk.

“I did ask if we could speak alone,” I told him.

“And I said no.  I’m much too busy, and as much as I relish our future discussions, hearing how you did what you did in Brockton Bay, the Vegas Wards are a large part of why I’m racing to provide the public with our new, upgraded Protectorate.”

“Misdirection and deception,” I said.  “You know, I do know about subtlety.  I kind of ran a group that ruled a city.”

“And I’m sure you did an excellent job,” Glenn said.  “But you’re a dog in a duck pond here.  You’re out of place, you don’t know the usual precautions, the customs and conventions.  You gave evidence to that when you talked about the Vegas wards, something that should be kept more discreet.”

That would be his mode of attack then.  I was the ignorant child, who didn’t quite know how the Protectorate worked.

“I’m not sure what you want, Glenn.  You guys know I can hold my own, but you ignore the fact that I took down Alexandria, that I’ve fought against three class-S threats.”

Glenn sighed.  He walked around his desk and plunked down in his chair.  “You’re going to be one of the challenging ones, aren’t you?”

“I only want to help people.  The PRT and the hero teams are falling apart, but you’re more focused on testing me than letting me do something.”

“Chevalier would be a better person to talk to about this,” Glenn said.

“You want me to fight with nerf weapons?  I can.  Put me up against just about any Ward, I could probably give them a pretty hard time, whether I’m using regular bugs or just butterflies.  I could win against most.”

“Your strength isn’t in question.  We’re not sure you’re dependable.”

“I can show you that I can make the butterflies work.  I just want the a-ok to use my full assortment of powers against the real threats.  Like the sniper and whoever that woman in the suit was, last night.  If I’d had a real arsenal in reserve, I could have attacked either of them before they really get underway.  Give me the ability to match the strength of the tools I’m using to the strength of my enemies.”

“Beginning an endless loop of serial escalations,” Glenn said.  “No, Weaver, that’s not what I mean when I say ‘dependable’.  Wrong word.  We have footage of you snapping, shifting from calm to homicidal in an instant.  Was there motivation?  Yes.  But it doesn’t inspire confidence in your allies.  We wanted to see how you functioned in high pressure situations, your willingness to follow our restrictions, as unfair as they might seem.”

“Always testing me,” I said.  “Okay.  I listened, I followed your orders, and the test doesn’t serve a purpose as long as I know about it.  Can we call it quits, at least with the butterflies?”

“You didn’t follow the orders,” Glenn said.  When I glanced at him, he locked his eyes onto mine.  “You stung Bambina.”

“To save people.  She was going to pick us off.  Would you blame me if I picked up a dropped gun and shot someone who was aiming a surface-to-air missile launcher at me?”

“It’s a little different.”

“It’s an almost exact parallel to what I was doing!  She’s a living surface to air missile, only she ricochets all over the place, and she keeps going.  I didn’t even use a gun.  I debilitated her, maybe enough that Vantage could hit her with his bolas.  Nonlethal weapons, exactly like what the Wards are supposed to use.”

“The focus isn’t on lethal or nonlethal,” Glenn said.  “It’s on whether we can trust you to keep on the path you’re walking.  If you start taking shortcuts now, what happens a year down the line?  If we decide you can go all-out in one specific situation, does that open the door for another?”

“Maybe, instead of setting rules and restrictions in place, you could ask.  Talk to me like a human being, negotiate certain rules.”

“Rules you then break or circumvent.  You take rather naturally to it, and no, that isn’t a jab at your iniquitous backgroundIt’s a statement about your particular abilities.”

I grit my teeth.  “I’m good.  I have more experience than some of your Wards who’ve been on their teams for two years.  I’m versatile.  If you need someone in Vegas to deal with thinkers and strangers, I can hold my own, the embarrassment with August Prince aside.  If you need someone to track down groups like the Nine, I can do that.  Recon, assassination, communication…”

“The public’s watching this too closely for us to let you off your leash so soon after Alexandria’s death.  When things quiet down, it might be a possibility.  Our heroes in Vegas tend to be a little grayer than white, and an ex-villain would fit.  But not now.”

I exhaled slowly.  “You guys wanted a newer, shinier protectorate.  You guys need wins.  Give me the chance, I’ll give them to you.  But this isn’t me.  I’m not about butterflies.”

“We know what you’re about,” Glenn said.  He touched his keyboard, then typed out what I presumed was a password.  A second passed, “Look.”

He spun his monitor around.

It was me, entering the PRT office in Brockton Bay.  A video feed from a surveillance camera.

It was me, crawling through a window.  That would be from the night I retaliated against Tagg.  Odd, seeing how the bugs moved in coordination with me.  When I turned my head in the video, the orientation of every bug in the swarm changed in the same moment.

All around me, PRT employees were howling in pain, their cries silenced by the lack of an audio feed.  Either the camera hadn’t picked it up, or Glenn had muted it.  They thrashed.  One reached for me, for the me on the screen, and I could see how I moved out of the way without even glancing at him.  The swarm concealed me at the same time, briefly obscuring the Skitter in the video from both the man on the ground and the security camera.  When it parted, she had shifted two or three feet to the left.  A simple step to one side in the half-second she couldn’t be seen, but it misled the eyes.

And I couldn’t remember doing it.  I’d never consciously added the trick to my repertoire.

“If you told me that girl was a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine,” Glenn said, “I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.”

It was like hearing my voice played back to me, but it was compounded over several levels.  The movements, the movements of the swarm, it wasn’t familiar to me.

The head turned towards the security camera for a moment, and I could see the yellow eyes of my lenses in the midst of the thick black swarm.

“That isn’t marketable,” Glenn said, oblivious to just what I found so bothersome.

“There’s a middle ground,” I said.

“When I asked you to use butterflies, it was to break a habit, see if it changed how you functioned in the midst of a fight, just like I might ask someone to try on a particular outfit and see how it fits them.  I didn’t think it would throw you off kilter as much as it has.  But that isn’t a bad thing.”

“It is if it means Rime nearly dies and Pretender gets taken.”

“We collected the three members of Bambina’s group.  Not a complete loss.”

“They’ll get free and continue their rampage,” I said.

“Most likely.  We’ll strive to hold on to Bambina at the very least.  With luck we’ll be able to recruit the little prince, maybe Starlet as well.”

I looked at the video.  Glenn had paused it.  The momentary turn of the head, the yellow lenses…

“I can work on being a little less nightmarish,” I said.  “But there’s got to be a way for me to be more effective.  How long are these restrictions in effect?”

“Until you come of age and join the Protectorate,” a voice spoke from behind me.

It was Chevalier, accompanied by Defiant, my ride.  Chevalier wore his gold and silver armor, heavily decorated and etched until every square inch looked like a miniature work of art.  It didn’t strike me as something that would hold up to any abuse, but I’d heard how tough it really was.

“Until I turn eighteen,” I said, feeling a little hollow.

Chevalier approached.  “You murdered two people.  Three, going by your admission while in custody.  Two PRT directors, one major hero.  When Dragon and Defiant suggested we bring you on board, we were divided.  It was Glenn who offered the compromise that we ultimately agreed to.  This compromise.”

I glanced at Glenn, who shrugged.

Glenn?

“You have blood on your hands.  We need to know that you can hold back, that you won’t simply snap as you did when you were in custody in Brockton Bay.  We’re still wanting to ensure that this isn’t a long-term scheme on the Undersider’s part, as unlikely as it might be.”

That’s why you’re waiting two years?  You think that it’ll take that long to vet me, before you can give me actual responsibility?”

“It’s one consideration of many.”

“It’s ridiculous.  The world is going to end before I have my eighteenth birthday.  I’m giving you full permission to use me.  Send me to round up tinkers who could find the Nine’s pocket dimension I’ve been a villian.  I’ve got some reputation I can fall back on.  I can talk to people you guys can’t.”

“I won’t say this is set in stone,” Chevalier said.  “Maybe in a few weeks or a few months, we can discuss options.  For now, we’ll find you a team, get you settled.  Once we know where we’re situating you, we’ll find a different institution to keep you in.  Possibly low security, or in the Wards headquarters, depending.  The rest… there’s time to figure that out.”

I sighed, closing my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Chevalier said.  “Really.  I was there for the fight against Echidna.  I saw the Undersiders in action.  I saw you in action, and I’m willing to credit you with the maneuver that turned the situation around in the final stages.  As long as your rap sheet may be, I’ve heard of the good you did.  It strikes me that you’ve likely saved one person from death and injury for each person you’ve assaulted, if I were to count what you did before Shatterbird hit your city.”

“But that doesn’t matter in the end.”

“It does.  More than you suspect, but you have to be patient.”

“You’ve faced a great deal in the span of half a year,” Defiant said.  “Take this for the reprieve it is.”

I grit my teeth.  No use.  The legitimate avenues were failing me.

I couldn’t put up with this.

“Then there’s one last thing,” I said.  “If I can’t help directly, let me help indirectly.  I can outfit your heroes.  Most of them.”

Glenn and Chevalier exchanged glances.

“We were going to raise the idea somewhere down the road,” Chevalier said.  “We can work out a deal, like we have with our tinkers.  An allowance, with payment for each costume produced.”

“I don’t want money,” I said.  “But so long as you’re offering, maybe we could talk about a workshop?”

I glanced at Defiant, “And equipment?”

Spiders moved through the back corridors of the prison.  It was a space where the plumbing and heating for the two interconnected prisons ran through pipes, and where the flooring was little more than metal grates, easily removed and replaced in a pinch.  Almost lightless, but that didn’t bother me.  My spiders could manage, and it only meant I had some time to hide them if someone entered and hit a switch to turn the lights on.

I’d thought of ‘Weaver’ as a hero on the straight and narrow.  That was out.

Being a villain with good PR just wouldn’t work either.

No.  A middle ground, then.

The spiders found a rat.  It backed away from the mass, hissed.

A spider dropped on it from above and delivered the first of what soon became a series of bites.  Fatal.

Working together, the spiders set to devouring it.  They weren’t natural scavengers, but meat was meat.  Meat meant the spiders could get the sustenance they needed for breeding.  Breeding, in turn, meant I could start mass-producing silk.

It was calming, a relief to do something concrete after an afternoon in Glenn Chamber’s company.  When the time came, I could carry any materials and the spiders onto the bottom of the Pendragon, moving them to my workshop.

“Hebert,” the guard said.

I raised my head.

“Mail day.  You’re a popular one.”

It was a bundle of mail, bound together with tape marked ‘USPS’.

“They’re already open?”

“Rules.  We don’t read it, or we’re not supposed to.  But they check there’s nothing illegal inside, and the dogs give it a sniff.”

I nodded.  She studied me for a second, then moved on to the next cell.

Mail from all around the United states.  From strangers, from fans.

Words of support.  Criticism.  Death threats.

I opened the ones from Brockton Bay last.

Taylor.  Weaver.  Skitter.  Is it bad that you’ll always be Skitter to me?

I could hit you, hug you, yell at you and hold onto you for hours all at the same time.  It’s fitting that I want to kiss you and throttle you at the same time because that’s what you were to me for a long time.  You drive me crazy and I can never understand what’s going through your head.

This isn’t easy.  I’m not good at this.  Not with where we left off.  It felt like an incomplete break, but I don’t think it would be much better if we were still together or if we’d broken it off completely.  I’m not the type to write heartfelt letters.

I hope they don’t read your mail and give you a hard time because of this.  I’d erase that part but I’ve already started over three times.

What ever am I even supposed to write?  That I want to yell at you because I told you I couldn’t be leader and you left anyways?  That you shouldn’t worry and Tattletale and I have it covered?

You’re an idiot.  I want you to know that.  You’re an idiot, Skitter.  You’re brilliant and reckless and I’m betting it makes sense to you to do this but you’re an idiot.

I’ll write again, when I can figure out what to write.

Grue.

I read it three times.  I could almost hear his voice.

I opened the next one.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! what the fuck???

There was only a little circle with devil horns at the bottom, in place of a signature.  I rolled my eyes and moved on.

Tt here.

You probably want to know the situation.  We’re all alive, Accord hasn’t turned on us yet, things are getting more exciting but we’ll manage.  Heroes are leaving us alone, like you arranged.  Trick will be to get Regent and Imp to stop prodding them for reactions when they cross ways.

Heartbreaker making initial forays, decided to pay a visit.  Can’t tell if he’s invading or after Regent.  Red Hands are a little more aggressive but not too bad.  Meeting for negotiations tonight.  Lost Garden approacheth, sending members after us and trying to clear way for Barrow to advance.  Annoying but no problem until they enter city limits.

Grue wasn’t okay at first.  Worst days since right after Bsaw.  He won’t say in his letter but you would want to know.  Got better when Red Hand and Heartbreaker came.  Busier, something to do other than wallow.

Regent&Imp constantly together.  Mucho annoying since you gone.  They’re testing the waters, seeing what they can get away with.  Will see how it turns out.

We got Flechette.  She a pair with Parian.  Lovey-dovey.  Best case scenario, really.  Not sure if you arranged that, good call if you did.  Flechette’s going by Foil now.  Likes those F names.

My head’s better as of yesterday.  Tryng to take it easier.

Managed to get hold of Rachel.  She said she’d send letter.  She can’t read/write but she insisted she would anyways.  Interesting to see how that turns out.

Everyone on edge of their seat waiting for Endbringer to hit.  Won’t be Bbay but we participating.

See you there, hun?

P.S.  To the asshats reading Taylor’s mail, there’s no codes in this message.  Promise.  Don’t bother.  You want to know what we’re up to, call me.  I’ll fucking tell you.

P.S.S.  Gathering all letters together, 12 hours ltr.  None from Reg, he said to say hi.  Meeting with Red Hands went ok.  No alliance but nonaggression pact mebbe

I took it in and sighed.  There were no less than three villainous groups converging on the Undersiders, and Grue had been in bad shape.

And yet it was still reassuring.  Things were, for better or worse, normal.  Much as I’d expected.

Atlas died.  I wanted to let you know.  Tattletale had him, but he wouldn’t eat or move.  We asked for him, and we found a place for him.  The guys say they think they know a good way to make a mold.  They’re covering him in brass.

A way of saying you’re still with us.  Take care of yourself.

-Char

It affected me more than I would have thought.  Not him dying – he’d never been more than an automaton, a freak of nature made to do little more than obey my commands.

But it was one more tie to the Undersiders that had broken.

The last letter was handwritten in a spidery script.

(She said to write what she said.  All of it.)

(She hasn’t said anything for a long while.  She growled at me when I started to walk away tho.  Oh here.)

I did what you said.  Is quiet.  Have tents and dogs and am hunting with dogs.  Hunting fucked up bull things.

(Bison)

Very quiet with no people.  Learning to cut them up.  (The bison not people).

People are cutting down trees to clear space around portal, but easy to stay away from them.  Simple way to live.  Nice but miss toilets.

(We all miss toilets)

Tattletale visits, brings dog food and tools, tents.

Is what I wanted for long time.  Except others, my people, but they are okay and I can take a break and ride for while if they get on my case.

Being around you wasn’t simple or quiet but things made more sense.  Your minion with dark hair said we need to be around people but I’m around people and still feel somethings missing.

Fucked up.  Makes me angry.  Tattletale tried explaining but whatever.

Going to take puppies to your place again soon.  Show the kids to them.  Might help.

You have plan, okay.  But if your plan means you’re thinking about fighting us you should know I am getting very good at hunting and skinning things.

Sucks somehow but can’t really understand why.  Maybe see you at next Endbringer fight.  We both stay alive.  Try hard.

That’s all.

(Signing off – Rachel and Rachel’s excellent minion/henchperson/letter writer)

Stay alive until we can see each other again?

Doable.

‘Try hard’?

Maybe that was the push I needed, such as it was.

I collected the mail, wedging it into a space between two of the library books on the little table in my cell.

Withdrawing a notepad, I started sketching out the designs I was thinking of.  Alterations to the costume, weapon ideas, tools and concepts.

Payloads for bugs?  Something I can drop?  Caltrops?  Something toxic?

Back to my roots, to where I’d been after my powers had manifested.  Only then, I’d been writing in a black speckled notebook.

Darker fabric?  Must talk to Glenn about costume style.  Butterflies are in, but can I complement them?  Need official word.

It was moronic to have a white costume.  Equally moronic to have butterflies.

What about containment foam?  If Dovetail can use it what does it take for me to get permission?

I’d pay homage to Atlas and push Defiant and Dragon to create something that would let me fly.  Pay homage to Skitter and settle on a middle ground in costume design, in combat effectiveness, weapons and utility.

I thought of Atlas, and added a note – jetpack?  With beetle wings?  Flight system?

I was nearly through the pad, and it was pushing four in the morning by the time I had the sketches and outlines at an acceptable point.

The costume Defiant and Dragon had given me was theirs, not mine.  The fighting style that had been dictated was Glenn’s and Chevalier’s.

This, this would be me.

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374 thoughts on “Drone 23.3

  1. Thanks for reading.

    A bit shorter than the last few at 5300 words. I was on a train today, visiting family, didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked.

    For similar reasons, it’s maybe not the most thrilling chapter with ups and downs. More about pacing, setting the tone and touching base here and there.

    Hope you enjoy nonetheless.

    • honestly i did find this chapter thrilling i always love seeing interactions between the chracters out side of combat situations its like smaller scale world building which i always love to read

    • “it’s maybe not the most thrilling chapter”

      You need to stop worrying about this. These types of chapters are the glue that hold the story together.

      Yes I’ve been a very long time lurker.

      • I agree. I think the Wham chapters have the impact they do because they’re supported by chapters like this that help us stay connected to Taylor and the rest of the characters as real people.

        It’s not a matter of “saving up the cool stuff” either. I enjoy chapters like this just as much as big shocking plot changing chapters. It’s fun to spend time with Taylor and be in her headspace.

      • Agreed. Wildbow, if you hit the readers over the head all the time with a sledgehammer, you’ll only breaks shards even further, and the effect of the hammer will be less and less.
        If you give us time for our mindscape to reform to it’s crystalline structure and then apply another concussive therapy, the impact will once again break everything.
        We need that glue to put the shards into new form, so you can break them again.

      • Agreed. I talked with you about this in IRC the other night.

        You’re concerned with making the story “move along”.
        That’s cool and all. But fleshing out the story, even if the plot slows down a bit, helps make the story more immersive.

        Going *WHAM!*WHAM!*WHAM!*WHAM!*WHAM!* with the story soon stops drawing the emotional reaction to important events. Because people get numb after a while.

        Chapters like this, that aren’t combat chapters, and involve smaller, more subtle interactions between characters is what allows for a more rounded development of the characters.

        So don’t be afraid to slow down the pace if you feel the story requires it.

    • I like the touching base parts of the story. They keep everything moving together and consistent. If a story spends a long time focusing on only one character, time gets distorted and checking back in with other major players becomes a bit of a whiplash to catch up. Having little reports of what’s going on helps alleviate that.

    • I don’t/can’t use ideas that people send to me.

      Even if the person in question were to say ‘I give you full permission to use this’ it’s sort of a gray area. IIRC, the original creator could still come back and say “I came up with this, you owe me a cut of your profits.”

      That, and if someone’s sending me an idea, I can’t be 100% sure that the character wasn’t inspired by something else, wittingly or unwittingly. It’s one thing if I have a character that is inspired by a work I read & completely forgot about; I can generally figure it out at some point along the way. It’s another if I take a reader’s and tread too close to the source material.

      Honestly? Go write that story with the character you have in mind. You may struggle, complain, groan, get writer’s block, but you’ll be happier with yourself in the long run.

      I’m grateful for the feedback you gave along the way, as you’ve forged through the archives. I haven’t had a chance to implement all changes, but it was noticed. I’m also glad that you were inspired by Worm. The reason I started writing it was to tell the kind of superhero story I’d want to read. If people are inspired by it and create stuff in a similar vein, then that’s fantastic – it’s more stuff along the lines of what I’d want to read. Superb.

      Thanks, Dmol8. Hope to see you around the comments section.

      • A Psycho Gecko welcoming is truly an event to be prepared for. Rest well, drink lots of fluids, and practice relaxing your sphincter. And remember, you can’t spell ice cream without ream.

  2. Hello all, I started a subreddit for worm, and other related things, right now it’s pretty empty, but it could be an awesome place for us! reddit.com/r/parahumans

    • …please, just stop. It’s gone past embarrassing, through annoying, and is currently traversing the blasted wastes of pathetic.

      • Um, that seems like a bit of an overreaction. Yes, this isn’t the first time Rhaen has posted a link to the subreddit, but a lot of people don’t read all the comments — just look at how often people come in asking, “Is there a bonus update Thursday?” — and it’s not like Rhaen is the only one posting to it.

        If wildbow added a subreddit link to the “READ & PARTICIPATE” section on the main page, then it’d be a different situation — then, I think posts linking to the subreddit should be limited to, “here’s a new subject thread just opened up” kind of things — but he hasn’t.

          • It’s the same person. With the same post. Every time.

            And when I say “the same post”, I mean right down to the wording.

          • @ The Sandman: So? He’s free to promote a subreddit he created for Worm. It’s not exactly what I would classify as “spam”. If it bothers you that much, stfu and ignore it?

  3. Good to see Imp being as supportive as she can be. I’m sure Taylor would be lost without Aisha’s caring words.

    I’ve got to say there is something touching about Bitch’s letter though.

    • Yeah, that really /is/ supportive from her.
      She /could/ have been all “you abandoned my bro when he needed you, Ima kill ya”

  4. A transition chapter. Cool.

    …you know, it just occurred to me: is this only the second time Taylor has seen an outside view on what Skitter looked like? The “Villains Step In” photo from Tangle 6.2 is the only other time I remember.

  5. Damn it Glenn! So Atlas did end up dying, and Glenn is complicated. Still an idiot, but complicated. At least Taylor seems to have a plan to get them to let her cut loose, and soon every hero will be wearing spidersilk. It is also confirmed that they beat bambina and co. Curious about the new costume. I am loathe to agree with Glenn, but an all black costume might be a little too much a reminder of skitter. So I think she should compromise and make a black/grey costume, and keep the blue eyes. I say keep the symbols to a minimum and pick an alternate color for them. I also think wear a cape similar to what she had when she fought the nine. Small, that hangs off her shoulders, where she could hide a few more select bugs. She could always cover herself in spider silk to give more weight to her name.

    • Only problem is, her old costume was black and grey. But anything is better than what she has right now. Horrible camouflage for if they ever allow bugs to crawl over her again, which sera in motion many of her best strategies.

    • Glenn isn’t in the wrong at all here, in my opinion, although he explains himself badly. The reason Weaver wants to be a part of the Protectorate is because she wants avoid conflicting with heroes she’d rather cooperate with, with the end of the world in mind. She cannot do that until she has a relationship of some degree of trust with them.

      Using butterflies is a terrible way to win fights, but its a great way to demonstrate that you can follow the rules and bend to authority, which is exactly what Weaver needs to do before anyone can trust her to be proportionate and not go nuts on them. Right now, she values her experience and ability to think outside the box a little too much – she resorts to escalation even when lives aren’t on the line, and she trusts her judgment to the exclusion of all others’, even when it’s clear that others have valid priorities and concerns that she isn’t accounting for.

      The reason Alexandria is dead right now is because 1) Skitter grossly misread a situation, and 2) Skitter decided that lethal force was an acceptable response. Don’t get me wrong, she was under a lot of pressure at the time, but she falling victim to her own propaganda now: what she did then was wrong, both in terms of correctness and in the moral sense. She has yet to demonstrate any kind of remorse for her actions, despite the fact that she widowed an innocent and puts potentially thousands of lives at risk in the next Endbringer attack. She seems to believe that her behavior that day somehow vindicates her – that her demonstration of power makes her worthy of respect, despite the fact the she went completely unhinged with it. It doesn’t. She has a lot of making up to do, and she doesn’t even realize it.

      • Nitpickery ahoy! A failed Endbringer defense actually risks millions of lives rather than just thousands, as demonstrated in Japan and Switzerland.

      • Agreed, typos or not. Danny was right that there’s a monster in Taylor, and Glenn is right that people won’t be able to trust her until they know it’s not going to eat them. His approach is, I think, stupid — but he’s right about Taylor needing to prove that she’s not going to go crazy.

      • Alexandria was still serving Cauldron’s interests, and actively fighting attempts to reform the Protectorate and PRT, even after Taylor’s rather selfless gesture to help it. She stayed compliant with Cauldron for /years/, and never tried to investigate a better buisness model for them, or steal their formula and research to see if the Protectorate could start making it’s own capes without the disgusting moral cost of cauldron’s other activities. She was happy with the status quo, she was reinforcing it, and that status quo was leading humanity to extinction. Plus she victimised and bullied a teenage girl, and attempted to psychologically torture her by making her think her lover or one of her closest friends had been murdered- and she showed utterly no remorse for the prospect of such a killing.

        I’m not sure the help she provided against Endbringers (which rarely seemed that decisive) can make up for fighting to keep the Protectorate on a path that people like Dragon, Defiant, Miss Militia and Taylor had already predicted would destroy it. (What the hell does that do for humanity’s chances against the endbringers, hmmm?) Not to mention, Dragon, who has access to a lot of in-universe info that we don’t, has said that Cauldron are probably MORE dangerous than the Endbringers- do you think she’s wrong, or that Alexandria’s continued existence is that much of a plus for humanity in that light? Whose corner would she really be in, if it came to it? She certainly didn’t seem to feel the way legend or eidolon did about things.

        Alexandria’s death at Taylor’s hands was certainly a tragedy, a crime of grief from a young girl striking out at her literal TORTURER. But on balance, given Alexandria’s affiliations and the obstacle to reform she represented, long term I think she might have represented more of a threat to humanity than she did a benefit- her years of useful service were past her. I think there’s a reason that Dragon, Defiant, Chevalier and Miss Militia were still willing, even more willing in fact, to deal with Taylor after her death*- and I’ve never got the impression that any of them thought the part about her being a traitor as a lie, just the /reason/ they gave for her being a traitor.

        My main sadness isn’t that she’s dead, it’s that Taylor has to deal with being a murderer, and the cost that represents- why must such a young girl bear such a heavy load, and carry so many sins for humanity? Why must she pay for the sins of her elders with her innocence, the precious, bright bit of yourself that* /never comes back/ after you’ve exposed yourself to violence. That’s the real tragedy, for me, along with the people who believed the myth of Alexandria who also got hurt (even if that myth was ultimately going to cost humanity). Alexandria herself can go hang for her crimes*.

        *(And the fact that they were only ABLE to deal with Taylor after her death helps to highlight)
        *(Trust me on this one, having experienced a 1000th of what Taylor has w.r.t. violence and it’s real versus fictional effects. Not fun stuff, I’d recommend Marc MacYoung’s writing on the topic.)
        *(Though I’d obviously prefer prison/rehab, it’s not really an option for Superwoman if she doesn’t want it.)

        • You talk alot about how killing Alexandria wasn’t actually that bad morally or for humanity, but what about Tagg? Tagg’s big crime was that he tried to put the screws to a criminal that had admitted to murdering his predessecor and trying to overthrow the local government. Sure he was an asshole about it, but being an asshole isn’t a reason to kill him. Taylor snapped and killed everyone that was causing her problems, so the PRT is quite reasonable in wondering what happens the next time she snaps. Will she go and murder Glenn for trying to restrict her? Or maybe Chevalier for not living up to the standards she wants from the new PRT.

          • Tagg’s biggest crime was that he intentionally stood in the path of any possible compromise to help save the PRT in Brockton Bay, and prevent needless conflict against the Undersiders. Even Miss Milita accepted that he needed to be replaced, so intent was he on fighting a war in which the civilians would be the ones paying the price. From a purely practical perspective- there’s a n even stronger case for needing him out of the picture than there is for Alexandria.

            He also did such lovely things as outing a sixteen year old girl as a villain, despite her having done more good than bad (Chevalier’s words, not mine), breaking all normal practices in doing so. (As well as having the bright idea to do it by attacking a crowded school.) He then threatened her father when this didn’t work after her fellow students had rallied beside her in support. Then there’s the fun little matter of forcing Taylor to endure a ten minute long cavity search purely as a technique for degrading her. (You seriously don’t believe they have scanners that couldn’t do that job instead, or that Taylor is in the tinker-device related risk category to warrant such measures?)

            And lastly, after all of that, we have the fact that Taylor believed her had just murdered her lover, or one of her best friends. She was not in her right mind when she attacked him, but given all that had happened before, and what she had believed at the time, her reaction was understandable, driven by trauma and grief. It’s regrettable for a number of reasons, not least the harm done to Taylor- but she cannot be held accountable for her ignorance or the state she was in at the time. I have to admit, I find brushing off someone attacking their abuser in grief after they’d just seen him complicit in the murder of their loved one as “killing anyone that was causing her problems” more than a little nauseating.

            If it was your family, or your lover, and you had been tortured and threatened by a person like that, and you could end them /painfully/, right there and then, would you have acted differently? I sure as hell know I wouldn’t.

            Even Defiant said outright “they forced your hand”.

            • You know, at least in my country Skitter’s lawyer could’ve tried to have the Tagg/Alexandria case dismissed.

              It could be hard to argue for temporary insanity, since she only attacked Tagg and Alex, and stayed away from her dad, Miss Militia and her lawyer.

              However, the lawyer could’ve said that skitter lashed out to prevent the deaths of the rest of her friends (Which could be considered “legitimate defense”).

              And I wonder what would a jury have said of the way the interrogatory was done.

              • Let’s consider each homicide separately.

                When Taylor set her insects and spiders on Tagg, he had just attempted to draw a firearm on her. Even after being disarmed, he assaulted Danny Hebert in order to reach and assault Taylor. I think she had more that sufficient cause to believe she was being threatened with imminent, lethal harm, and that she lacked either the ability to retreat or any way to defend herself short of lethal force.

                As for Alexandria: according to this Lexis Nexis page:

                Generally speaking, a person is justified in using force to protect a third party from unlawful use of force by an aggressor to the extent that the third party is justified in acting in self-defense. This so-called “alter ego” rule, as applied in early common law, required that the third party had to in fact have been justified in self-defense, irrespective of how the situation would have appeared to a reasonable person. Today, however, the majority view is that the use force may be justified if it reasonably appears necessary for the protection of the third party.

                I think a reasonable person in Taylor’s situation would be well justified in believing that Alexandria intended, in the immediate future, to kill one or more members of the Undersiders if her demands were not met, and that Taylor had no reasonable way to arrange for them to escape her reach. Trickier is proving that Taylor had no recourse short of lethal force, given that Alexandria said the Undersiders would be spared should Taylor yield, but given Alexandria was apparently willing to kill a member of the Undersiders simply because she was not satisfied with the course of negotiations, I think a reasonable person would be justified in believing that surrender to her demands would be no guarantee of the survival of the remaining Undersiders.

                All that said, there’s one more point which needs to be established to justify these two homicides: that the deaths prevented would have been unlawful. And, in fact, that’s where your point about the course of the interrogation prior comes in.

                “It’s twenty minutes to six. I’m not in a particular rush, and I actually enjoy the idea of some field work. We can talk for five minutes, and then have ‘Alexandria’ remove one of your teammates from the field. Depending on the situation, I will either arrest them and take them to PRT offices in New York and Boston, or I’ll kill them.”

                Alexandria is threatening to kill members of the Undersiders when she has explicitly stated that she can take them alive. This is an outright admission of intent to commit unjustifiable homicide. Her later claim that it would be “self-defense” because of Tattletale’s (presumed) ability to detect weaknesses is a blatant lie — she said not five minutes prior that she was unstoppable.

                Which, in my opinion, is more than sufficient to justify belief in a reasonable person that the proceedings are unlawful — that Alexandria and Tagg intended to commit murder.

                …all of which is a longwinded way of saying, “I don’t think you could justify dismissing the case in the United States, but the equivalent of ‘legitimate defense’ probably applies, and could be used to justify her exoneration.”

              • Very good analysis PB, I hadn’t thought about the fact that Alexandria had threatened to kill the Undersiders and the whole legitimate defence angle, with a good lawyer you might manage that one. Probably part of the reason why they were so terrified of the full tape of the interrogation getting out.

                I mean, Defiant said outright that both of them had forced Taylor’s hand, I think that’s a pretty fair appraisal overall.

              • @Admiral Skippy (re: “Very good analysis”): Thank you! I was basically just formalizing Ragnar Lodbroke’s argument, but I’m glad to hear that it makes sense.

              • Well Defiant/Miss Militia said outright in the last chapter of Cell that if the full video of Taylor’s interrogation got out (her lawyer had managed to get hold of it), then it would do massive damage to the PRT. And yes, I’d argue that her killing of Alexandria could be put down to temporary incapacity/insanity, or at the very least manslaughter rather than murder. Tagg’s death was arguably self defence even before you lump in all the other factors.

              • @Admiral Skippy: I don’t think “temporary insanity” applies — remember, the legal defense of insanity relies upon there being some defect of reasoning that led the criminal to either not know what she was doing or not know that it was wrong. To say that she committed the act of homicide in a moment of passion out of motives of revenge would reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter, not exonerate her completely.

              • Good point. I did mention that it would probably at least get knocked down to manslaughter, but I forgot that detail. With a good lawyer and the right jury though, might you be able to make the argument that she genuinely wasn’t aware what she was doing*? Due the accumulated trauma and then seeing one of her loved ones murdered, isn’t there a legal argument that says that makes her temporarily incapable? (This may be my misunderstanding, or a difference between UK and US law). It would probably be stretching things a little.

                *(Even though we know she was aware, unless you go with the theory of her passenger making her do it.)

          • I should probably clarify this- I still view Tagg’s death as sad, and feel sorry for his family, for all that he was an evil bastard. So did Taylor, after the fact, even when she still believed he’d been complicit in murdering Grue or Rachel. But there are many things that happen that are regrettable, and often they aren’t clearly anyone’s fault, and often they’re necessary.

            The wormverse ain’t no fairytale world, kids.

            : (

          • Tagg -drew a gun and moved as to use it to commit murder AGAINST SKITTER himself-. You bring a gun to the table and you leave yourself open to lethal force self-defense. Notice how -no one else died-. Only Alexandria and the person who tried to kill -her-. Not even the guys who were laughing at the body in the bag.

          • We just gonna conveniently forget his little rant about his post Simurgh actions? The heavy implication that he at best, murdered the people effected by the Simurgh with the insistence that it was the only way (HA! Like I buy that), at worst he bombed out their neighborhoods and families. I don’t care if he felt bad about it (OH NO HIS POOR MAN-FEELINGS) I don’t care whatever jackboot-ass, Jack Bauer rhetoric says it’s necessary, motherfucker was a war criminal.

            Fuck that guy. Wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. The PRT is likely crawling with indoctrinated cro-magnon shitstormtroopers just like him that are asking for a prolonged bug-mauling.

            Shit, atleast Piggot was smart, and had style.

            • Hell, as I recall, by the time Tagg was Director, Piggot had recommended they compromise with the Undersiders and try to ensure the safety of the city by going after the real villains. (She was working as an advisor I believe.) That’s how far off the fucking deep end he was, Piggy of all people was calling him out on putting his war over the needs of the people!

              I have a lot of respect for Piggot, overall, despite her being a little nutty. She was a decent PRT leader, outmatched when trying to contain people like Coil, but you could do a hell of a lot worse.

              As we saw : (

              • I can’t give Piggot too much props for her handling of Brockton, no matter how much I liked her. It’s still her administration that had to be lobbied to get the Wards therapy, she still enabled Shadow Stalker.

                Also, I can’t muster up alot of care for Tagg’s family either. Yeah, I’m sure they’re devastated, whatever. But how many other families have lost loved ones in this city? The city that Tagg wanted to escalate into open war? His daughters got a trip to France off of daddy’s blood-stained Goon Squad paycheck.

      • >The reason Alexandria is dead right now is because 1) Skitter grossly misread a situation, and 2) Skitter decided that lethal force was an acceptable response.

        The reason Alexandria is (presumed) dead right now is because 1) Alexandria pushed her and pushed her and pushed her when she was being more than reasonable, which didn’t break her, UNTIL SHE BROUGHT BACK A BODYBAG. For someone who supposedly reads people amazingly like she does, she read Taylor horrifically wrong, and assumed that she’d break instead of surviving. She’s being held accountable for that entirely, instead of the blame being appropraitely meted out to her AND to Alexandria AND to Tagg who, typically enough, approached it like a warzone and tried to fucking KILL Taylor.

        The only monster in Taylor is the one they themselves have bred with the way they’ve treated her. If anyone should be bending in this situation it’s the PRT- Even if it’ll never happen.

      • >The reason Alexandria is dead right now is because 1) Skitter grossly misread a situation, and 2) Skitter decided that lethal force was an acceptable response.

        Well that’s a gross over simplification. Yes that’s true, but it fails to take into account that Alexandria was deliberately provoking her for exactly that response, and underestimated Skitter’s power and ability. She even reminded Skitter of her weakness (which does lend credence to her faking her death) and failed to realize despite her intelligence that she was/is oh so proud of that you can’t breath with lungs full of bugs.

        There is also Tagg’s attitude and the general inflexibility of the PRT.

        Like she said afterwards they convinced her that it was better for the PRT to burn then to continue trying to work with them.

        • Sure, there were plenty of factors that led to Skitter making the decision she did, but ultimately, Skitter killed Alexandria with full intent and awareness of the consequences, while not being in mortal danger. That’s murder.

          I’m not saying that she’s irredeemable or even a bad person because of that, but when she killed, she didn’t just kill Tagg and Alexandria the bullies. She also killed Tagg the loyal husband and Alexandria the savior of, on balance, thousands of lives or more. There were good sides to these people, and Skitter killed them off just as much as she killed a pair of thugs who thought nothing of emotionally assaulting her.

          Taylor hasn’t recognized that, and she needs to. She needs to realize that she’s cost some perfectly innocent people something she can’t ever restore to them. And she needs to have some remorse over that fact. If she doesn’t, she’s going to find an excuse to kill again, and it’s going to be surprisingly easy. The only thing stopping her from being a complete monster is her self-control, her moral core that tells her that killing without being in mortal danger is never, ever an appropriate escalation. She’s losing that, because she got off super lightly, and because she’s had no exposure to her victims’ loved ones. She’s in major danger of losing any capacity for empathy she ever had, and until she figures out how to regain it, the PRT is absolutely, 100% right to rein her in at the cost of her “effectiveness”.

          • Taylor is acting like she is above the law: she laid down a few death sentences and then implemented them on her own. I’m not up on my rules of law, but she possibly could have found a way to bring the crimes before a court and be named an executor, which would have then made her actions legal. I think the PRT is being more than reasonable in trying to rehabilitate her. They would be fully right in condemning her to death or the Birdcage or some such permanent method. The only reason they are keeping her is as Clockblocker stated in 23.1: “We want her on our side. Somehow, in some form. Because the alternative sucks.” She has the ability to provide real help in the extreme, class-S type situations, but they are trying to see whether she can express the maturity to *help* in lesser situations (as opposed to being the top dog [no pun intended, Rachel] and running/escalating the situation).

            If Taylor can show she recognizes the limits of the law, the PRT would relax many of the restrictions. She’s shown she can out-think and out-maneuver most opponents, but now she needs to show she can submit to others. The PRT isn’t just about image; they’re trying to show that parahumans are not under different rules from “normal” humans, and that is what Taylor isn’t seeing yet.

          • No. Tagg the loyal husband and Alexandria the saviour of thousands walked into a room where they had a girl chained to a table, fully intending to hurt her and break her. If Tagg (the loyal husband) got killed in there, it was because of his actions as Tagg (the utterly inflexible morally blind violence-addicted asshole). If Alexandria (the saviour) got killed in there, the responsibility falls on the choices of Alexandria (the war criminal and monster).

            Basically, people don’t get to leverage their ‘good’ aspects to walk off the consequences of their ‘bad’ aspects. They had a girl in a cell, who was being reasonable, who was making sense, and offering them a good deal, a girl who had always done what she could to save lives, even the lives of PRT personnel, even the lives of people who hated her. They chose to try to torture her into breaking down, and presented her with the death of people she loves. That those people had to die in order for that to stop is due to their choices. If Tagg (the loyal husband and father) didn’t want to die, then perhaps he shouldn’t have been letting Tagg (the monster of PTSD) make all his decisions.

            Effectively, there is no argument for condemning Taylor which does not have pretty much the entire command structure of the PRT swinging beside her.

            Which is what really bothers me about all of these arguments. People keep saying “Taylor is the villain now!” and I’m just like “Cool. She should totally go to prison. Along with EVERYONE ELSE who has committed crimes to equal or surpass hers, or who was complicit in setting up her crimes, or who forced her hand in order to ensure her own survival or the survival of others.”

            It always seems to boil down to “Taylor should be the bigger person, confess to being a monster, and let the utterly, totally, hideously, hilariously corrupt authorities put her away for the rest of her life.”

            How about a different tack: the people in power should stop being assholes, for just a little while, and see how it works out. Give Taylor a sound, reasonable, non-murderous, genuinely good authority to work under. See what happens.

            • I think you’re missing the point a little bit. It’s not so much that Tagg and Alexandria weren’t in the wrong – they clearly were. It’s not even that Taylor shouldn’t have struck them down with lethal force under the circumstances (though that’s closer to borderline).

              It’s that, having done so, a normal human would have been taken aback and taken the time to process and deal with it. Taylor doesn’t seem to have given it a second thought and, whether her actions were right or not, she *needs* to. She can’t keep it compartmentalised forever.

          • Also, I’m fine with Tagg’s wife coming in to scream at Taylor and spit in her face.
            AFTER she’s had a guided tour of Brockton Bay, from top to bottom. After she’s spent an half hour or so looking at the transfigured forms of Mannequin and Crawler. After she’s been brought to pay Cherish/Butcher a visit. After she visits the refugees, the shelters and camps. After she walks the streets. After she walks Skitter’s territory, and sees with her own eyes the literally hundreds of people who are only alive because of Skitter.

            And then, after she sits in an interrogation room, chained to the table, and is forced to watch over a live video feed as her daughter is shot in the head. (Not really shot, though. Just to make her mother think that she has been.)

            Because this shit goes both ways. Tagg proclaimed himself a hard man, making hard decisions, with his words. Taylor did it by saving the lives of thousands of people, and the PRT responded by utterly fucking her over at every single opprotunity they ever had, ever, ever, EVER.

            I think the PRT have, in your words, gotten off pretty damned lightly for their grand incompetence and mismanagement of Brockton Bay.

            • Don’t forget being stripped naked, forced to crouch under a shower before a masked stormtrooper and then given a ten minute long cavity search purely as a technique for degrading her!

              Otherwise, again, I wish this was SB so I could like your post, Jim.

              • Just reading it was rough for me, my heart practically stopped when Taylor thought “Oh. Worse than a beating, then.“, and I realised what was about to happen. It flipped every protective instinct I have simultaneously, after reading the whole passage I nearly punched the wall in anger and worry for Taylor.

                Damn wildbow for writing such an engrossing story, and making me bond with the characters!

            • Law and good are not the same thing, history is rather replete with examples of this. The reason why some people in the Protectorate and the PRT will never quite be able to forgive Taylor is because for all her mistakes, she tried to choose good, and rather often she got it right.

              That’s not to say it’s not smart to try and work with the law, or that there aren’t people trying to serve both- look at Chevalier and Defiant, even Glenn, bless his little heart. Taylor can work with people like them, and the reason they made a deal with her, saved her, is because they saw that she was trying to stay on the side of the angels, even if she had gotten on the wrong side of the law. This impressed and moved them greatly, especially given how young Taylor is, and what’s she’s been through. (Chevalier, Defiant, and Miss Milita have all more or less stated this outright at various point, the former did so in this update in fact.) Taylor can learn how to serve good and stay on the right side of the law- and that’s incredibly valuable, but it should never even be in QUESTION which is ultimately more important.

              So no, whilst I think her move to the Protectorate was a right one, and learning how to do good within the system is the right thing to do, I don’t think Taylor should throw away her moral compass and submit to authority for submission’s sake. It’s her most precious gift, and it’s what has pulled her through, not her wit, or her powers- her moral compass. Maybe it gets dented, or scuffed, maybe sometimes it gets too dark to find the way for a little while, but the lights DO shine in the end. Taylor will always find her way in the end.

              If she had to go back to being a villain again tomorrow, hunted by everyone, because it was the right thing to do, truly the only way to save lives? She’d do it in a heartbeat, just as she took the risk of being sent to be raped and tortured in the BirdCage because it was the best way she could follow Dinah’s advice, and the PRT needed saving from itself. She could no more grow wings and fly than fail to do so.

              She’s a hero you see, Packbat, and I mean a real hero, not just a label for the shade of tights you wear.

              • @Admiral Skippy: Oh, I understand you. I did say, “not just good”. Besides, we were talking specifically about what she needs to do in order to become more acceptable in the eyes of the PRT, not what she needs to do to become a better superhero.

              • Yeah, you’ll see that just above your post, I posted a quick note apologizing if I’d mischaracterized you in this manner, and gone off full bore as if you were putting the law above morality. I agree that learning how to do one without throwing the other in the window is very valuable, and probably crucial. Especially if you’re talking about what she needs to do to please the PRT, not be a better hero. As long as we’re agreed on which comes first, then yeah I think we’ve got a lot of common ground on that point.

              • There’s been a lot of discussion/debating/flaming going on over the particulars of that over on one forum or another, so maybe it bled over, Skippy?

              • Entirely possible, though I think it’s gotten especially lively here, on SB the argument kinda seemed to reach a vague consensus. I don’t think there’s been any flaming though, at least not on here or on SB that is, I wouldn’t know about anywhere else. As far as I’ve seen, everyone has been pretty adult and managed to refrain from any ad-hominems and strawmanning- it’s an emotive issue of course, but people seemed to have dealt fairly well.

                Of course for all I know, there’s another forum where the argument has already hit Godwin’s Law and two people have gotten banned haha.

          • @Packbat

            Before Taylor demonstrates that she can be a force for law, perhaps the law should demonstrate that they are not automatically corrupt and that their default solution to any problem is NOT to use their overwhelming force to destroy it, before wrapping themselves in their own legal immunity to escape the consequences of their actions.

            Because, uh, Armsmaster. Panacea. Piggot. Tagg. Coil/Calvert. Alexandria. Eidolon.

            People seem to be demanding that Taylor make some show of obeisance, neglecting the fact that she HAS. She’s here, isn’t she?

            Perhaps it’s time for the PRT to try meeting her halfway.

          • On second thoughts Packbat, it’s possible that you actually meant “trying to learn how to work with law to do good”, but weren’t saying that she should choose the law over good?

            If so, then my reply probably came on a bit too strong, and you have my apologies for that PB. I need to grab something to eat.

          • She was in mortal danger. Well she thought her friends were and she tried to protect them putting herself in mortal danger. And yeah it’s likely murder though a court might rule it a lawful killing as it was done in defense of others.

            However you can’t say that she killed innocents. Tagg the War Crinimal and Tagg the Loving Husband are the same guy. I mean that’s like saying Bonesaw is an innocent because she genuinely wants a family. (Okay extreme example but you get my point)

            And it’s hard to feel remorseful for killing someone who tortured you. Really. I don’t think Taylor has entirely moved past it yet and on some level has still given up on the PRT. Or perhaps she is expecting more change then what she’s seen.

            • Actually, I feel more for Bonesaw. Bonesaw is FUBAR, but at least she has a personality. Tagg is the banality of evil writ large.

      • Yeah. Taylor is the one not getting it right now. They do remember she beat Alexandria. And they are scared of her. The restrictions on her are a test to see if she really means what she says, and won’t bug out and maim or even kill when pushed. And she’s failing it because she’s trying to get out of it.

        That said they need to find ways for her to be effective while doing so. Supplement Butterflies with other bugs. A lot of young boys love Hercules beetles. Too bad she lost Atlas. I’m not going to assume he’s just metamophing into a bigger stronger form. This isn’t Pokemon.

        • as i see it, from Taylor’s Point of View, Alexandria had already MURDERED at least ONE of her closest friends, at BEST, and was getting ready to continue doing so until Taylor either stopped her, or Taylor broke like a Pane of sugar-glass. and as for Tagg’s wife, i have relatively little sympathy for her, since she was COMPLETELY ok with her husband undertaking a course of action that could have easily lead to an innocent man being murdered.

          • I got the idea that Skitter’s turning herself in was not just due to Dinah’s prediction, but also a part of Accord’s plans, or at least tied into them. Alexandria’s death may have figured into them as well. The PRT would need something major like that to shake them up. I’m not saying Taylor was right, but it still may have been “for the greater good.”

            • If it had been part of Accord’s plan then he wouldn’t have been surprised when she turned herself in.

              • It could still be one aspect of Taylor trying to get his “Brockton Bay: Crime and Public Safety” manual implemented. I didn’t remember Accord being surprised, so I had to look it up. He said he didn’t like being surprised, which could be taken that he wasn’t really expecting someone to take him up on his manual, or maybe that someone else would be the one to turn him-/herself in.

              • Nope, that’d be impossible because Skitter wasn’t going to implement anything from Accord until Tt looked it over. She hadn’t done that before Skitter turned herself in, so your speculation falls apart.

  6. Interesting that Bitch’s showing the kids to the puppies, and not the other way around.

    or that she maybe refering the puppies as her kids, and the skitterkind as the puppies.

  7. First thoughts:
    * Taylor’s really putting a lot of thought into her social-fu.. but I daresay she’s vexed Glenn sorely by testing him in front of his subordinates. I like that it didn’t take her a whole arc of failures to recognize that rolling pure-as-snow just wasn’t gonna cut it. Very decisive.

    * The video and Taylor’s reaction were a smidge chilling, which I reckon is good. More proof that someone’s got her back, but every time she looks in a mirror all she sees is her.

    * The long stay in purgatory does make a helluva lot of sense from the PRT’s point of view. I mean holy shit, she rage-murdered two of their people a couple weeks back. I know we all hated Tagg and Alexandria had her detractors, but those were real people in-story.

    * I love the jetpack, makes so much sense. Being able to operate three-dimensionally is just so fucking useful.

    • The only problems with jetpacks are carrying fuel. Real life ones only last a minute at most. Though I figure a Dragon made one would have anti gravity or something. In terms of tinker tech, I think she could benefit from a simplified version of one of Defiant’s halberds. She was always handy with the baton but her biggest weakness is up close since she isn’t super strong/tough. Way back when she nearly killed Triumph there was a discussion about expanding her arsenal. The two most useful were bug bombs and blinding lights. Even if her bugs don’t explode, they should be able to carry lightweight grenades such as flashbangs, smoke, explosive, etc. She also showed she doesn’t require sight to be effective so blinding lights in her helmet or smoke would give her an advantage in a fight. Too bad she can’t pull a spiderman and make web fluid on the fly. I wonder how much a bug swarm can carry? I picture a bunch of mini swarms carrying specially made, lightweight tazers.

      • A shame that Panacea is Birdcaged, and that the S9000 seem to have ganked the other bioTinker of note, because there are a ton of ways that insects, worms and other critters Taylor can control could be rebuilt to do that sort of thing.

        For a simple example, create a firefly that has what amounts to a flashbang in its tail. Or bombardier beetle variants that spit containment foam, caustic acid (for doorbreaking, lockpicking and so forth, since use on people is verboten), pepper spray or any other liquid that can be imagined. Mosquitoes that inject tracking devices into people they bite. Airbreathing mantis shrimp to combine “beautiful” and “deadly” into a foot-long terrifying package. A cousin to Atlas that can survive without constant supervision. More relay bugs.

        …okay, so maybe that turned into a longer list than I expected. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg where possibilities are concerned.

        • …Yeah, if Panacea and Skitter had teamed up long-term, they would basically be Nilbog, wouldn’t they?

          • Amy isn’t a Class S on her own because she can’t create self-replicating effects. She could create new life, as we saw, but they aren’t going to be rapid-cloning or producing any time soon. It takes time and energy to produce new life, even if the gestation and growth to adulthood is severely curtailed (see: Jem’Hadar for a humanoid example). She can’t propagate something from nothing, either; She MUST have the resources on hand to begin the chain, and must continually take in new resources.

            WITH Skitter, she doesn’t quite hit class S still, but definitely comes much closer because of the sheer biomass that Skitter can draw in at any one time. The problem inherant to it still is that again, there is a finite supply of insects in a given area. Once they’re exhausted, there are no more resources to draw upon.

            Note this is based just on power alone, NOT on how intelligently it COULD be used to make them a threat. Undersiders we all agree are a class S threat if they really wanted to be, with them all working together like a mini-S9, and they have a relatively low level power rating individually.

            • Actually, the fact that the reproduction cycle is fast or slow has nothing to do with getting labelled Class S. You simply need to be able to do it. Amy and Taylor individually are Class S threats with any sort of prep time. Especially Amy because of her ability to essentially create mutants, but Taylor too can selectively breed her insects for size, strength and lethality.

              Amy is ridiculous, with a wave of the hand she can mutate microbes into a disease that makes a cancer/bubonic plague crossover look tame. With a hive consciousness that obeys her.

              • She’s a little like Blasto, then — not a class S threat because she doesn’t want to be a class S threat.

              • Basically. Although in Blasto’s case he didn’t feel up to the challenge of living with a kill order, not because he didn’t want to be a class S.

            • Think of Panacea spamming various highly mutating highly contagious water and/or air based deadly viruses in minutes turns.
              Amy not wanting to be an Class S is the only reason she isn’t one.

    • * Liked the letters (and lack thereof) from the Undersiders, but Grue sounds kinda crazy, not the 100% good kind either.

      * Was wondering when Heartbreaker would show up.. I’d half expected Skitter to propose going after him back when she was full-villain, as part of a strategy of pre-emptively closing out likely threats.

      • I think the problem Brian has is that he never understood Taylor’s heroic side. Read what he says in Snare 13.10, starting with “I worry about you”. Read Buzz 7.7, where his first reaction to Purity’s rampage is “not my problem”, or Buzz 7.12, where he says he’d let Coil continue to keep Dinah as a drugged-out slave in order to protect Aisha. In Brian’s world, a person is either “one of them” or “one of mine”, and while he has no particular desire to hurting people, when it comes to one of them, their problems are not his problem — his loyalty is to his people, always. And acting otherwise seems stupid to him in the exact same way that fighting Bambina with butterflies seemed stupid to Taylor — it’s dangerous and it doesn’t help you.

        And he still cares about Taylor. Taylor — Skitter — is the girl who came over to his apartment to help him put together furniture for Aisha. Who paid attention when he had things to say, granting him real respect for his expertise. Who took things seriously, like he did. Who mounted a rescue mission on his behalf when he was captured, and who helped him regain his footing in the aftermath, when he was suffering constant panic attacks and flashbacks. She’s the one who helped him when he had just been through the Echidna nightmare dream, got him moving so his sister could take him home. She was his first girlfriend.

        He cares about her, and now he’s had to watch her dive headfirst into yet another dangerous situation for reasons that don’t make sense, and he can’t even do anything about it.

        • So maybe Taylor gets that about Brian and made him leader of the Undersiders again in order to activate his protective instincts cause now that they control the city, he will percieve the city as ‘his’?

        • This seems a spot on analysis.

          I really hope that he doesn’t die in the next EB attack, and they manage to get a moment together. It would probably have to be in a deserted half-destroyed building, with Dragon and TT running interference to give them an hour or so to themselves, but it would be something at least.

          Losing you first boyfriend/girlfriend when you’d just started to work out all the really fun bits and genuinely cared about each other is really awful : (

          • Honestly? I think they need to make a clean break. Taylor is not going to stop throwing herself into danger to rescue people she never met before, and Brian’s not going to stop freaking out when his people throw themselves into danger. They would be happy with other people.

            • I take your point, it probably would be the smart thing to do. I think Brian’s kinda worked out that that’s who she is though, even if he can’t understand it, but even so… In a better world, yeah they’d probably make a clean break, and look for other people. (Though Taylor probably wouldn’t have to throw herself in to harm’s way and Brian wouldn’t be a crime lord in a better world, so it’s complicated, to put it mildly.)

              But in the world they live in? None of them have much time, and you need to find solace where you can, even if you know it can’t work out. I can see them falling into that solace if they see each other again after the next EB fight. Even if it’s the last time, even if it only takes them somewhere better than the broken world they live in for half an hour. I’d also note that love kinda doesn’t care whether or not you can understand it, or if it’s smart, and Brian and Taylor don’t just seem to have had a relationship, they seem to have fallen in love.

    • Yes. I distinctly remember her own father saying something about her turning into a monster. And considering the first thing he did after finding out she as a villain and meeting her face to face was comfortingly hold her shoulders and then support her in negotiations, that says something.

    • Well if the PRT doesn’t want operatives who might get enraged by someone going way too far, then they’d just better stick to Dragon, because apparently all humans are now out of the question.

      If Glenn wants to cry over being tested in front of his subordinates, he should not be in front of his subordinates. She asked him nicely. He said no. He gets to deal with the consequences. If he doesn’t want to look stupid in front of people, he shouldn’t wear red and green plaid pants with a pink dress shirt.

      The jetpack beetle reminded me of supervillain The Beetle from Marvel. The original armor was stupid as hell, but it got improved over time to a much better suit of power armor.

    • Agreed. Taylor is a great protagonist, I love watching her think – but she’s not seeing the whole picture here, and she can be smug (a smug sixteen year old? Never!). It’s nice to see her get a bit of an interpersonal smackdown; she was (mentally) pretty scathing about Glenn, but I think the dude is, annoying or no, spot on here, Chevalier too. The Protectorate isn’t perfect, but they’ve been dealing with huge looming threats for a lot longer than Taylor’s couple of months. Maybe she+Tattletale/Dinah is smarter than who they’ve got, but the Protectorate has experience with global crisis and a lot of it. Just because someone, maybe even a reliable source, says the world is going to end soon, it doesn’t mean you don’t deal with today’s problems or plan for five years down the road. And Skitter’s temper and trustworthiness are today’s problems.

      • It’s a predictable concern on Glenn and Chevalier’s part, understandable even, given they have a much less full dataset to work with than we have. Chevalier even left the door open for more leeway within months, and noted the good she’d done. Defiant seems to know better, or he should, but seems happy with the status quo for now, plus his power to change things on his own is limited. Ultimately though, even though their concerns about her trustworthiness and temper are understandable, we know enough to know that they’re mostly baseless. Striking out at your abusers after they’ve degraded you and then murdered your lover is not a symptom of anger issues, it’s a symptom of being human!

        Taylor had got into the habit of leaning on her scary persona a bit, and it’s good to see she’s letting that crutch go. I think that was what led her father to say their was a monster inside her, but ultimately? There’s a monster in all of us. That’s part of what it is to be human! Most people today just don’t get close enough to violence to see their monsters or those of others, thankfully.

        But you know what else is true? Monsters can be fought. Monsters can be tamed.

        Taylor is in many senses a girl who fights monsters, so that others don’t have to.

        • I’m under the impression that part of the monster is her Passnger. Passenger’s gear their hosts for conflict, a part of that is likely because hey require or enjoy it. When Taylor first surrenders her Passenger flips out tring to push her into attacking the guards. Killing Tagg and Alexandria was the first release of violence it had since she got locked up. Then she got knocked unconscious and it got to act all on its own. I think her dad is right, that wasn’t his little girl, not entirely.

  8. Stupid wild-ass speculation thread!!

    She’s going to get so fed up that she goes home, skywrites the word SKITTER over Brockton Bay to announce she’s back.

    Looking toward next Endbringer fight. I can’t see what she can do against behemoth except team up with Clockblocker to try to repeat their trick against Echidna. “We have a time-stopped thread hanging horizontally at ten feet high across Avenue B. Try to lure him down it at speed, and for God’s sake, don’t run into it yourself.

    As for The Simurgh, I have this vision that her bug communication ends up having this weird synergy with the telepathic screaming, and she may be able to hear it in a different way or even talk back. In my more adrenaline inspired scenarios, she’s able to make her hold still for a crucial few seconds to allow all the heavy hitters to unload on her at once without the prescient dodging ability letting her make them all miss.

  9. Let’s do math! YAAAAY! Ok, so, “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can” + “nanananananananan, BATMAAAN!” = “In the dark, she hits her mark. Not in the clear ’cause Weaver’s here. It’s the end, bugs she will send. WEEEAAAVERRR!”

  10. It may have been shorter, but it was excellent nonetheless. We got to see Taylor start working on how to make herself an optimal force of anti-evil, plus some contact from the Undersiders. It was also interesting to see her watch a video of herself. Oh, and of course, Lily/Sabah! Woo!

  11. As always, interesting to see Skitter looking in. Honestly, she has no defense for what she did. She attacked a bunch of people, and walked through that crowd acknowleding them with…about one sentence. Still, S9? Ouch, that hurt for me just to read it, Taylor must have felt that hard.

    I like how your symbolizing her transition with butterflies and the costume. It makes sense. Costumes have always been well described in worm, and therefore important to Taylor. It’s pretty much showing what kind of attitude fits her, and such, and that’s food symbolism. Not completely transparent, not hard to find. And the fact that the word butterflies, and all it’s in context meanings have come up so much in a story like this is just funny. But do any tropers think butterfly of doom when they read this, or is it just me? Therefore, random speculation: at some point, the butterflies will be important in the end of the world scenario.

    One last thing- I honestly don’t hate Glenn. Not sure if I’m supposed to or how wildbow feels ant him or wants him to come off, but I think of him pretty amorally. He’s just trying to help, in his own slightly twisted way, and a lot of what he says makes a lot of sense. Not in 23.1, though. He sounds insane there. But in here, giving his reasons, he makes sense. And with the voting for Taylor to join, I’ve reached a personal conclusion for now: he’s looking out for Protectorate in the best way he can, despite its mild twisted-ness. Looking for to Weaver’s rebirth, and thanks for the chapter, wildbow.

      • Fucking Glenn asshole. I still hate him and think he should suck on spiny cat dick!

        I’ll tell you why, too, and it’s not just because I’m the comment section equivalent of the Unseen Academy’s Head of the Department of Post-Mortem Studies. Not a god damn one of them ever bothered to ask. They’re all so quick to see only the bad side of her that they are failing to extend a little dignity like that. Just a little dignity?

        Oh, I’m sorry, they nearly got heroes killed because they couldn’t just go “Hey, we’d like to work on something less lethal from now on, and we’ll tell you why, and we’ll let you know you’re being tested because we can’t fucking understand that it might be reasonable for someone to be mad as hell just finding out someone they care for was murdered casually by a murderous, kidnapping bitch.”

        Geez, I can SO see how it’s so nuts in their eyes to snap when someone you care about was murdered by the person publicly recognized as a hero and beloved by many who despise you. So instead of considering this a reasonable response, we’ll put some lives at risk.

        • And he’s only wearing fucked up clothes as a point of the power differential, daring anyone to speak up so he can claim, like he did up there, to know more about what he’s talking about. Because Taylor only has “two brawls” not counting the city she took over and the numerous fights she’s had in only a few months.

          So they’ll speak up reasonably about him acting dumb just because he can get away with it and he’ll shut them down claiming he knows what he’s talking about purely for the satisfaction of asserting himself over them.

          • I’m willing to forgive that because it reminded Taylor of Skidmark. Skidmark was hilarious. Anything that is reminiscent of Skidmark can’t be all bad.

        • Oh, I’m not saying he’s not being stupid — just that on the scale of stupidity, he falls at the perfectly normal “I saw it, therefore it is true” degree, not (as previously thought) the “I need you to draw me a square with three corners and five sides” degree.

          • If you want to see Glenn get it, might I suggest imagining what would happen if he met Tattletale?

            “And your the one who’s been stealing lunches out of the employee fridge.”

      • Skitter being nominated to the S9 when they first came (perhaps by Jack, since they both seem to be in tune with their passengers), and somehow ending up joining, would be a pretty amazing AU to see.

        • Jack did mention that he regretted not trying to recruit her. And blamed Cherish for that poor evaluation, as another of the marks leading to their dumping of Cherish.

          • I think Cherish was right to omit Skitter from the list of Slaughterhouse Nine candidates — Taylor’s motives are too prosocial, and she’s too damn smart. I don’t see any way the Nine could engineer a Face Heel Turn for her that she wouldn’t either (a) prevent or (b) identify as being their efforts.

          • Remember, at this point Skitter was more or less obsessed with saving Dinah. It would be difficult, but it’s possible Jack could have leveraged that somehow if he had found out, and maybe pushed Skitter down some sort of slippery slope. Partial brainwashing ala Hookwolf might also have played a part.

    • Seeing her kile this? It is S9 Material … the main point of the S9 is fear …and i would fear the hell out of Skitter like this. As stated the Undersiders had an similar group-dynamic but with A LOT LESS bloodshed.

    • Glenn could have shown a video of a lot of people and said he wouldn’t be surprised if they were members of the Slaughterhouse. Specifically, he could have shown video of Regent, Bitch, Armsmaster, Panacea, Oni Lee, Noelle, and the other potential Niners. While we’re at it, lets show video of Dragon, who as far as he knows is a mysterious woman hardly ever seen that sends out dragon-shaped robots that run around, sometimes attacking civilians for being in certain places. Maybe let’s toss out Alexandria, capable of fighting S-class threats, who also went around kidnapping people for human experimentation.

      Any others?

      Sundancer: tended to be seen hurling flaming balls to kill either Noelle or a dragon mech.

      Shadowstalker: multiple attempted murders, believes she’s a human predator

      Bambina: childlike glee in destroying everything she can find. Only difference is that it’s her mom pulling the strings, not Jack Slash

      I’m just curious how a guy who is only going off of what the heroes have noted in video (aka, someone committing a crime) gets to figure out which one of what he’s seeing is the same as the Slaughterhouse 9, a group that runs around murdering, forcing surgery on people so they’re targets, eating babies, killing cities, and taking over people’s bodies to make them help (unable to starve or suffocate due to the machines keeping you alive as you wait for them to wake up, standing in one place, unable to call for help or even scream at the pain of what they’ve inserted into you as your muscles ache and you lose your mind due to lack of sleep, boredom, and the fact that you’re helping the Slaughterhouse use your inventions to destroy the world, knowing that any escape you could possibly have will lead only to death as you’re ordered to fight heroes or are simply killed by them as accessories).

      • Yup yup. And if most of them were in Taylor’s place he’d probably be telling them the same thing he’s telling Skitter: *Look* at you – you are scary as hell. That’s a pro when you’re a villain but as a hero you need the public behind you. To believe you’re there to save them.

        He’s not saying Skitter is *actually* like the S9. He’s saying that when a member of the public sees a monstrosity composed of bugs bearing down on them, moving in that apparently inhuman way she does, their reaction is *not* going to be “Yay, the cavalry is here!”.

        Crowd control *matters* as a hero. The last thing the PRT needs is the public running away from their new hero directly into an endbringer attack or something.

  12. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to pay our last respects to Atlas.

    Atlas, the big bug, the beetle that beat all. He was apparently mindless, meant to die from the start, a side effect of the hero’s paranoia about Taylor’s intentions. Grue gave him the ability to live, but he was still incapable of surviving on his own. We all knew it was going to be a slow death, being away from Taylor, but it was still easy to hold out hope for some instincts in there.

    It was not to be. The most we can take comfort in is knowing that the problems in its brain most likely meant it didn’t suffer so much as it died of starvation. He will be remembered, not just as the dog made to be kicked by the heroes, but as the symbol and companion for Taylor, however briefly. His death is a further sign that Skitter is gone. His statue and memory is a testament to how they both will not be forgotten.

    Atlas, here’s to you.

    *toasts the bug with a glass of blended cockroaches*

    • Gotta feel bad for a man-made abomination created for the sole purpose of being controlled and ferrying someone around. After such a thankless life, I’m glad he’s rewarded in the end.

      • How does a rock musician fit into this?

        And can we leave characterizations of such historical figures out of this discussion, please?

        Neither the time nor the place for such.

    • I’ll happily drink to Atlas with you Gecko. Maybe not the cockroaches, but I agree with the sentiment. Atlas was great, the only bug to really be a character, mindles though he was, he will be missed.
      But his memory will live on as a statue and as a FRICKIN’ JETPACK that Weaver plans to get.

  13. Something I’m wondering, actually: what exactly did her swarm do during the period last arc where she was unconscious?

    I mean, aside from murdering the shit out of Alexandria and Tagg.

    Because I keep getting this sense that something that happened during that period is the reason why they’re being so very thorough about this vetting process, and why they seem to be so flat-out terrified of letting her use anything that looks even remotely like her old methods.

    Maybe her swarm just got a whole lot nastier about how it was killing Alexandria and Tagg once her passenger got behind the wheel? But even that shouldn’t have been enough to cause the complete evacuation of the building between when she was knocked out and when she woke back up.

    …will we ever get to see exactly what happened during those missing hours?

    Oh, and before I forget: Farewell, Atlas. May your rest be peaceful and full of delicious nectar. ;_;

      • Can’t be, because she didn’t have her costume. I think the video was from 21.1, during her assault on the PRT headquarters after they outed her.

        • That, and she was moving around on her own in the video. Kinda hard to due that when you’ve been knocked unconscious.

          • Y’all are right about the costume, but I was going with it being another case of the passenger moving the body, like with Noelle. You know, as in Taylor was knocked out, but instead the passenger took control and went on a rampage. Doesn’t seem to have happened, though.

    • I would find it hilarious and a bit scary if there was still a bug swarm moving and attacking any person that looks like Alexandria/Tagg now that her passenger seems so eager to follow directions and please her.

        • The thing is, Taylor’s passenger didn’t do that originally. That raises so many new questions. What caused the change? How common is this phenomenon? Will it continue to change? It seems helpful and wants to please Taylor but I am surprised she isn’t more worried about it. Some possible uses are having the bugs make costumes while she sleeps, maybe creating a way to relay bugs/expand her range, and bug clones that act more realistically.

          • I think it’s growing in strength. I think that when Dhiana predicted Skitter being alive and different she saw Skitter as being a cape who was true hybrid with her passenger. And the reason she survives is because she’s so close to her passenger.

          • The fact that her passenger seems to be changing could be due to all of the situations similar to her trigger event that have happened (relatively) recently.
            Noelle, getting unmasked at school, Alexandria, all of these might be strengthening her passenger somehow.

  14. I’m seeing Taylor’s jetpack as dragonfly shaped, with the wings as directional fins and a prehensile/retractable tail with rocket boosters/flamethrowers at the end; flight mode resembles a dragonfly and ground mode, the wings and tail retract to resemble Atlas.

    • I agree that the wings should look the king of flying in the insect world. In terms of the tail, I wonder if Dragon couldn’t pull a defiant with her bugs by wiring them to machinery and creating her own version of bonesaw’s spiders. Or simply creating an complicated series of switches for her bugs to control machinery. With her multitasking skills she should be able to easily coordinate them to move something as simple as a tail. Heck if she can control the tail, then why not move up to her own version of Doctor octopus tentacles?

  15. If Taylor got allowed access to venomous spiders (those with the best silk) for the purpose of the silk production and costume making, then she could also negotiate / provide venom production in large quantities for medical purposes. Also, zooplankton farming. I wonder, how complex a sea creature could she control? For example octopuses – could she control them?

    She could also produce honey with special admixtures, which, if maybe not fully commercially viable (debatable), will make wards like her (children may like sweet things)

    • Her power seems limited to arthropods, hence the crab jokes in the comments a few updates ago. And the PRT in general, Glenn in particular, will never ever let her have venomous spiders. Ever.

      • Not willingly, but I think Defiant still has enough pull to allow her to have some spiders in her workshop as long as they never go on field trips.

      • Not really, because she can control worms, too. I don’t think she ever actually has, on-screen, but the first time she met Grue for coffee, she told him she could She said she thought the only requirement was that they have really simple brains.

        Later on wildbow made a comment that she couldn’t control anything below a certain size (maybe because the brains become TOO simple?), but there doesn’t seem to be an upper limit on size, if Atlas is an indication.

        • Size=/=complexity. She can’t sense control skin mites and the like because they are too small in size, not because they are too simple.

          • So far, the distinction has been irrelevant, since dust mites are simpler because they’re smaller. But, for example, the question of being able to control jellyfish, which have no brains at all and a very simple nervous system, might come up sometime, and then the distinction might matter, even though jellyfish are not, as a rule, particularly tiny.

            • Might have something to do with the brain/nervous system. It needs to be in a certain range of complexity to work. Hence Polyps won’t work, just having a nerve net. Could be “must have nerve cords” as a general rule, with too much complexity in those being a cut-off point. It’s speculation, either way.
              I think octo- and decapodes were excluded, though, or all cephalopods.

  16. Letters from home and hunting rodents with spiders to work of stress…

    It is good to hear that Rachel is doing better and not holding a grudge over Taylor’s betrayal.

    We also saw Chevalier again, which is good, he seemed to be on the periphery in the last few chapters without actually appearing and I was beginning to fear that there was some sort of sinister reason storywise to not have him confront Weaver until later.

    Since nobody mentioned Dragon suffering from any after-effects, I assume she will be okay.

    If they give her workshop inside the prison to make better costumes for herself and the wards, this will seriously test the illusion that Taylor is actually trapped there. At this point everyone who knows about her should realize that she could walk out if she really wanted. Give her the right set of tools and it becomes too obvious to ignore…

    At least she and Glenn seem to be on the way to finding common ground and she has the idea I advocated for to have dragon built her an Atlas replacement, with perhaps a jet pack or dragonfly pack.

    The new Weaver persona is slowly taking shape. It will be a kinder gentler kind of Weaver with butterflies that won’t make people think she is some sort of inhuman monster, but it will still be a scary enough cape to give people second thoughts.

    The Undersiders seem sort of convinced they will meet with Taylor at the next Endbringer meet-up. I am unsure how for example Regent or Imp would be any help. Maybe just Grue, Tattletal and Bitch plus Parian and Foil would go. I wonder how they expect to get there? Hitch a ride with the local heroes?

    More importantly is the protectorate willing to unleash Taylor against the next attack? How will the new Weaver fair against an enemy like that?

    I have the bad feeling, that if we get another Endbringer fight quite a lot of the new faces we have seen in this arc might end up among the fallen.

    • Imp can cover others with her power so an Endbringer will ignore them to get the wounded away, or to set up ambushes like she did during Echidna. Regent can simply take over a nasty villain, and force them to fight to the death without concern for their safety.

    • Just got hit by a srtay thought. Grue copies powers. So, if Grue got in the range of Leviathan / Simurgh (not Behemoth, since I think his “insta-death” reange is longer than Grue’s “power copy” range)… What happens?

      Or are endbringers immune to those kind of powers? Because if they aren’t… Grue may be a perfect anti-Simurgh weapon. Get him into close enough range (under protection of other heroes), get him to copy precog – this negates the whole point of the attack.

      • Probably not a viable idea.

        Grue’s darkness takes time to fully deploy, and when it does, it’s as much a hindrance to the heroes as it is to the Endbringers. More really, since the Endbringer can just run around blind without fear and with the certainty that at least someone is going to get crushed underfoot.

        Moreover, he gets a much weakened version of the power, and only a single power at that. That’s not nearly enough to match an Endbringer.

        He’d be better served by allying with a ranged attacker, maybe covering them in darkness up to the knees, or however much it takes to copy their power and provide a little additional support.

        Of course, if there’s a plan to use the darkness tactically to cover the heroes as they approach an Endbringer, that’s an option. But only if the plan is worked out in advance, or else it’ll only end in disaster.

        • I also forgot to mention that teaming up with a healer wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Better to bring a powerhouse of a cape back into the fight, than attack with a much weakened copied power.

  17. No whams – but necessary.

    She does need to find a viable path, and it will take some work. Still, given Tinker support… she might go full Batman utility belt. The way she was originally half-planning, back when she thought bugs weren’t all that dangerous. And if she can use her bugs to deliver tiny little dosages or devices… well, that’s how she took out Lung, the second time. Might actually make her more dangerous than she was as Skitter. Flying is also a major upgrade for her – melee is not where she wants to live. Stealth-camouflage would be another – she’s a very effective ambush predator.

    The letters were all fitting.

    That said, the fact that she’s been in maybe a week, and the Protectorate hasn’t revamped their tactical doctrine yet, or let her operate unrestricted is… totally reasonable.

    Not much else to say until we see what comes of the reimagining.

    Chevalier with Tinker support may have Defiant’s advantage in another form: enlarge armor to the size of a building, build in whatever tinker devices you need, shrink, wear. Might explain why it’s so fantastically finely detailed.

  18. Complicated and Heartbreaker approaching Brokton Bay is worrisome. Although Imp and Regent already have a counter to his powers.
    Taylor is back to planing mode and I really wonder what kind of craziness the PRT will get out of it.
    Interesting to note that they could simply let her loose in Vegas. In one year she would be controling the city and perhaps would even give back partial control of the situation to the protectorade.
    Waiting for two years with her contained is really stupid if you consider that the world will end in two years, she even pointed it out.
    Glen mistakes a middle activity (PR) with an end activity (fighting crime and endbringers). The reason for the existence of the PRT should be fighting threats and not looking good.
    The way that he mistreats Taylor may have been a test but it also shows that he considers himself more important than the heroes that he advises and this is really a mistake.
    Once I heard a PR guy stating that if there is no real good qualities to sell no PR will solve the problem. Same here, if they suffer defeat after defeat, no PR will save them.

    • I think you are mistaking the goals of the PRT and protectorate as a whole. They are there to stop the Endbringers, stop crime, and make sure that parahumans aren’t seen as a monstrous other. The things he is doing to ensure that are not some secondary objective, they are absolutely critical. Alexandria’s first response after the death of Echidna was covering up how dangerous the capes are. They absolutely do not want to have to deal with a hostile public, and avoiding that fate is clearly one of their primary objectives.

      • “They are there to stop the Endbringers, stop crime, and make sure that parahumans aren’t seen as a monstrous other.”

        So, mc2rpg, the organization has three objectives. Why should a bureaucrat (in the sense of someone that works in a bureau and not in the field) consider his job, the objective that he is pursuing for the organization, more important than the other two areas?
        OK, he is a why level employee of this organization and has little available time to deal with every field agent, no matter how powerful. In this case, he should delegate and order one of his subordinates to solve the problem.
        But, if Glen concentrates all decisions on his hands, he has to find time to talk with the people in the field.
        In the end, the three objectives of this organization are not independent. To fight endbringers and crime you need good PR, but if you fail against endbringers and crime no good PR will save you.
        In other words:
        You can`t lie to everybody all the time and expect people to keep believing you. Sooner or latter the fact that they are loosing heroes (by death or defection) because their PR department is more concerned with “looking good” than with winning fights will be worst PR than winning fights with questionable methods.
        It is better if the PRT/protectorade looks more like BOPE . They are famous because they NEVER arrest anyone alive, but this is a really, really popular organization around here than to look like a nice, but ineffective organization.
        About BOPE: one of their former captains worked as expert consultant in a brasilian TV channel for a while. After watching the guy talk in more than one debate I have to admit, they may be evil, but they study their jobs. These guys would never act like Tagg.
        Their website is http://www.bopeoficial.com/ , forget the writtings in portuguese, just look at their banner and the little detail that their motto is “knife in the skull”.

        • In the end, the three objectives of this organization are not independent. To fight endbringers and crime you need good PR, but if you fail against endbringers and crime no good PR will save you.

          I remember in Moneyball it was mentioned that hiring baseball stars to play on a losing team led to the stars becoming nobodies, whereas hiring nobodies to play on a winning team led the nobodies to become stars.

          • Exactly what may happen with Taylor. Keep her on loosing teams and the “bug girl” will be forgotten or considered incompetent by the public.
            And this may be very bad for the PRT/protectorade also. Imagine a specialist in security stating in television that the PRT is so incompetent that the girl that looked very effective working against them proved to be a hoax when working with them.

            • That seems eerily plausible. It would be bad for the Undersiders, too.

              Taylor’s reasonably good at communicating without treading on people’s egos, though — unless she ended up subordinate to someone truly hostile, like Jouster, I think she’ll be able to help train them to a higher standard.

  19. I’m going to have to figure out more tropes for Glenn. I feel like there must be a trope for being the guy in the center of the maelstorm, sending everyone every which way to do every job that needs doing, and there has to be some kind of trope for the fact that the “you’re restricted to butterflies” thing is not purely stupidity.

  20. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the alternate world. The wormverse doesn’t get lucky breaks. I’m waiting for the super disease, giant super predators to come out of hibernation, or water that causes everyone to have a trigger event at once to happen.

    • If there are plenty of Bison than the world probably isn’t too diferent from ours. So probably no T-Rex or Raptoprs lieing in wait. On the other hand some of the more recently extinct megafauna might be fun for Rachel to hunt: Smilodons and Dire Wolves etc. And diseases are probaly much more likely to cross over if the worlds are so similar.

        • Maybe the reason the dogs turn out how they do compared to wolves is because her power is actually meant to be used on wolve, but dogs also work because they’re bastardizations of wolves, twisted by humanity… Just like she was?

          • To be pedantic, dogs and wolves are the exact same animal at the genetic level, canis lupus. Subspecies are mostly for easier classifications of diverse populations (they could even be applied to homo sapiens if not for… troublesome social implications).
            Dogs being lopsided when enhanced, while wolves are not is probably rule of cool. A nice touch for sure but I would not read too much in it, since it seems wildbow usually does his research.

            • Dogs are bred with certain genetic traits as an end goal, one of those traits is easy domesticity. Wolves lack that, and it could be what Bitch’s power resonates with.

              • To be even more pedantic, that’s phenotype, not genotype.
                i.e.: all canis lupus have the “good dog” gene, however is it only expressed in dogs, and “hidden” in wolves (please excuse the oversimplification, but it was for the sake of clarity)

              • To be pedantic as well, not every individual of Canis lupus, regardless of Canis lupus familiaris or plain old wolf, has the required mutated genes. But we’ll be drifting off into interesting, but overly scientific, debate if we go any much further. Lets leave it at Wolfs and Dogs can successfully interbreed, and for some reason Rachel’s power works better on wolfs.
                She really ought to try other animals, though. Going up the phylogenetic tree is recommended.

            • I’ve thought that the difference between Rachel’s dogs and the wolf is for similar reasons to how dog breeds, when inbred sufficiently, are prone to nasty diseases and other things that just ain’t right. Dogs have been domesticated for 10 000+ years, but that’s pocket change in the geological timescales of evolution, so the changes we wreak upon them come with an assortment of problems that time and natural selection hasn’t had time to iron out. Wolves have been wolves for a really long time. It would be interesting if we saw the differences (if any) between a monstrosified, say, Shar Pei, and a really mixed mutt (which tend to be healthier).

        • There are bound to be many of those still around give that they were only hunted to extinction a few centuries ago, but they were native to Eurasia not North America. You would need to cross an ocean to hunt them.

  21. I started reading Worm a few weeks ago and this is my first time on the comments, sooo…
    First things first, Wildbow. You are an incredible writer, and Worm is one of the best works of fiction I have ever read. And don’t worry, I imagine this is exactly the kind of chapter everyone has been waiting for.
    On the chapter itself, it’s nice to see Taylor start to resolve that conflict between her dream to be a hero and her past. Though exactly how she resolves it will be interesting to see.
    I’m not that good for analysis, but it seems like Defiant would be a little more pragmatic by this point. He doesn’t seem to be treating her with the respect he had given her before she became Weaver, which could be because she has, in a way, become his subordinate by joining the heroes.
    Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now.
    -Cerberi

      • I… honestly can’t remember.
        I think I might have been on TV Tropes at the time, but that’s only because it’s the most likely explanation rather than any definite recollection.

    • Short, but one or two well said things in there nonetheless.

      So, you plural of a Cerberus, you have now joined us in the comments section. Well done. You’ll learn a lot more plurals while you’re around. Not just octopi (3.14 octopus) and cacti (enough cactus to make a noose around someone’s throat), but also Elvi (plural of Elvis), meese (plural of mouse), and fishes (plural of fish only used when someone is sleeping with them).

      There’s a gaggle (enough geese to keep someone from speaking), a herd (enough goats or cows that you can hear before you see them), a congregation of alligators (a group of now-full alligators that have found where a church does their baptisms), a sleuth of bears (for when you’ve just walked into a group of bears, Sherlock fucking Holmes), a flock of bustards (flock you, you flocking bustards), a business of ferrets (when you’ve acquired so many that people mistake your house for a pet shop), a gaze of raccoons (with those masks and stripes, clearly the most flamboyant of varmints), and a smack of jellyfish (usually describes multiple jellyfish in the process of being thrown).

      And in Worm itself, you’ll likely learn what the plural of apocalypse is between the Endbringers, Cauldron, the Slaughterhouse 9, and whenever the story itself ends.

      Welcome to the comments, Cerberi

  22. In other news, I foresee an Earth-bet re-imagining of that Lunestra commercial. The one where the glowing butterfly zips by as the insomniac finally gets his much-needed rest. It flutters down, perching briefly on the guy’s lips, taking off after only a few moments of stillness. The guy sleeps extra-deep.

  23. Just reread the chapter one more time. Just realized what Taylor is (probably) doing.

    She’s going all the way back to scratch. She’s taking a look at what resources Weaver will have and inventing an entirely new way to fight — new armor, new equipment, new techniques — based on her new situation, and let Glenn, let Chevalier, let Dragon and Defiant, let Skitter go hang. Weaver isn’t going to be what any of those people want her to be. She’s going to be better.

    I’m feeling really jazzed, now. Can’t wait for Saturday.

    • Not sure about /better/, but at least it’s better than where we were.

      If she’s allowed to keep a reserve of pepper spray butterflies, then at lot of the capbability gap between Skitter when she was keeping herself non-lethal (which was always the maximum degree of force she would have been allowed) and between Weaver currently is gone. I’d still hope for a reserve of somethinglike ladybirds or dragonflies, because they seem a little tougher or faster than butterflies and might be able to carry payloads better- the chapter seemed ambiguous in whether that would be allowed.

      Also I now love Chevalier for being decent to Taylor and having the balls to be honest about the good she did.

        • From the wording, I can’t tell if Taylor is intending to keep to the letter of Glenn’s restrictions whilst (rightly) undermining their (moronic) spirit via giving her butterfiles payloads, plus her gadgets and new suit/wings. Or on the other hand, if she’s actually expecting to soon be able use a wider array of nice-looking bugs. The wording when she talks about “payloads for bugs” kinda makes it ambiguous.

          She should be moving to a nicer prison soon, or possibly even house arrest in a ward headquarters, which is something I guess. I also have a lot of respect for Chevalier at the end of this chapter, he’s been very reasonable and is aware of the good Taylor did. From the info he has to work with, his reservations are understandable, even if they’re infuriating. The fact that he took the time to personally remind her of the good she’d done and that it wasn’t forgotten was kind, and he seemed to be somewhat flexible about giving her more leeway in the future.

          • Trala-la-la-laah, Magical Butterfly Girl Weaver has arrived! I will punish all evil doers with the power of Love! Go, my beautiful ladybugs, go my gorgeous dragon flies, go my butterflies and fireflies, go and devour my enemies tongues until their screams wake the sleeping dead!

            • Weaver: “Butterflies and attractive dragonflies, I choose you!”

              Glenn and Chevalier look on in smug approval, Defiant chuckles, the others look at him bemused.

              Weaver: “FIRST BUTTERFLY WING, DROP PEPPER SPRAY BOMBS!”

              “DRAGONFLY SHOCK ATTACK UNIT, DEPLOY SILK NET CANISTERS!”

              “SECOND BUTTERFLY WING, DROP CONTAINMENT FOAM GRENADES!”

              “FIRST WING, COME BACK TO REARM!”

              Chevalier and Glenn look dumbstruck, Defiant is now having to hold on to a table to stop himself from falling down laughing.

              Chevalier: “You knew this would happen, didn’t you?”

              Defiant: “You got off lightly, trust me. Now might be the time to point her at some people you’d really like to have in custody, though. You do not want to see what happens if she gets bored when she’s in a thoughtful mood.”

              Chevalier nods mutely.

              Glenn is busy frantically sketching all the new accessories that will go with the Weaver action figure, whilst a coterie of fashionably dressed 20 year olds massage his back and give him mochachinos.

            • Just for your information, there is a parasite, Cymothoa exigua, that supplants the tongue of a certain orders of fishes. So yes, chewing tongues is fun!

  24. This is a pretty random comment, and not related to the story, but I wanted to ask…how exactly to the strongest Brutes (such as Alexandria) cut their hair, shave, or trim their toenails? It would seem at first guess that the very factors that make them indestructible would also make proper grooming impossible?

    Or is this one of those quirks that gets overlooked as part of creative license?

    • possible Answer 1: Don’t think about it.
      possible Answer 2: The invulnerability perhaps doesn’t extend to hair and nails, though that could cause some weird interactions with torn fingernails.
      possible Answer 3: Industry-grade stamps and diamond saws.

      • Now that I think about it, If the effect extends to hair, and there is a way to cut it, wouldn’t the hair be a good material for bulletproof vests or something? Even ignoring problems such as low material volume and the possibility of Bio-Tinkers harvesting DNA.

        • I think in most cases it would lose its supernatural durability when cut off from the subject’s corona potentialis. Some of the case 53s might be an exception, but I imagine even ones with physical manifestations have a partly metaphysical nature.

        • Could be the same answer John Byrne came up with for Superman: She isn’t actually inhumanly tough, but rather possesses a skin-(and-clothing)-tight forcefield. Or, this being Worm, a field that translates a proportion of kinetic and other energy directed at her into another dimension.

          This allowed Superman’s costume to remain intact while his cape became artfully tattered, as well as explaining how his toughness could go up and down based on the amount of sunlight he receives.

          If Alexandria has something similar she could be consciously or unconsciously lowering (or shrinking) part of the field when she needs to cut her hair or whatever…

    • Possibly the signs of time passing that need day-to-day maintenance are simply meant to return to how they looked on the anniversary of the trigger, or the initial dose in the case of Alexandria, over time. I’m assuming the obvious bugs with this setup (e.g. what happens if your hair is half-burnt off a day before the anniversary) are in “gloss-over” territory.

    • Good point. Unlike her bionic eye and tinker made costume her hair wasn’r described as having burned of after being blasted in the Echidna fight so her invulnerbility would extend to it.

      Superman got around such things by for example using a reflecting scrap of his spaceship and his heat-vision. Alexandria didn’t have those, but either she has some voluntary control over her invulnerability, some tinker made toys that can cut her, or a power-leaching cape at her disposal. Cauldron probably has all sorts of resources. Perhpas there was some obscure of-shot of her required secondary powers that helped keep her alive despite her invulnariabilty at work. Invulnerability has to fuck up the normal workings of a body in all sorts of ways if you think about it too much.

      • Actually the mythbusters posted a short video trying to figure out how superman shaved in honor the new superman movie. My favorite theory is he flies super fast just above the ground so his stubble is burned off with the ground. He shaves and we get new roads.

        • Couldn’t Superman just use a kryptonite razor? Or get Zatanna to magic up his Gilette? That would work too.

          As for Alexandria, I always assume that a brick-cape is strong enough to be able to hurt herself, and that she would be able to rip her own hair or something.

        • Pft. he just uses a reflective piece of his crashed spaceship and reflects his heatvision off it. Do you even Superman?

    • I asked something similar in the RPGnet thread a while back.

      IIRC I came to the conclusion that at least one of the other Triumvirate members is an amateur hairdresser.

    • Eidolon, hairstylist extraordinaire.

      He probably has a power that lets him cut hair and toenails and so on. Most likely it is considered to be a fringe benefit of joining the PRT.

  25. Hmmm, well we seem to be moving towards something somewhat saner, although there still seems to be a happy compromise that’s being missed- ladybirds or dragonflies at least. Hopefully the butterflies will at least be allowed to carry pepper spray or other payloads.

  26. “If you told me that girl was a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine,” Glenn said, “I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.”

    Shit, that was powerful. Damnit, Glenn making a good point? Must be hard having to manage PR for someone who can become the center of a mobile arthropodan genocide machine with a thought.

    • I think we have a new quote and a possible new nightmare fuel. Taylor has never seen herself in action and she seemed a little scared at what she looked like. I think there is a trope for that. We already have mook horror show, but a trope that shows that while Taylor doesn’t think she is so bad, everyone else thinks Skitter is scary as fuck.

    • I think the current main concern is not that she can become the center of a mobile arthropodan genocide machine with a thought, but that she can become the center of a mobile arthropodan genocide machine without a thought.

      Everyone else fears that she might flip out agin and start murdering people like she did with Tagg and Alexandria. Her fear is that she might lose control, have her passenger (or what she thinks is her passenger) take over and start to klll people.

  27. I think what Skitter is chafing under is the ‘peacetime’ mindset of the PRT and Protecterate. They are acting like the world will continue for generations yet. While Taylor is in a full apocalyptic mindset. Her mind is fully on the fact that the world is going to end in the next two years and she’s devoting her energy and her life to making sure that as many people will survive it as possible. In Taylor’s mind this is exactly the time when you stop messing around with the kiddie gloves and be harsher. Be more powerful and let yourself be feared for the short term benefits because there is no guarantee there will be a long term to reap benefits from.

    I also think that she’s so disturbed by how she looks on camera because of how much her passenger is influencing her actions. When she uses her power like that she isn’t entirely human anymore and it’s obvious to see.

    • Less ‘peacetime’ than ‘cops and robbers’, I think. Some fights you really do want to approach from a cops and robbers perspective — if you remember the Wards fight with the Travelers in Arc 9, that was a definite case where escalation would be super risky — but if you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t pull their punches, someone like the Slaughterhouse Nine, you need to have an A game to bring.

      The passenger thing I’m still not entirely sure about, but assuming there’s a passenger influence that is certainly one of the times it would be stronger.

  28. I just had a thought about Talyor’s new jet-pack/wing-pack. If she wants to convince Dragon to build her one to act as a replacment for her dead mount, she might want to get one that she can steer and control with her powers.

    Dragon has been shown to combine bilogical control units and machnized suits and Taylor even saw one of them. If Dragon can adapt that technology to use inesct based biological matter, then Taylor could control her flight pack with her powers. A nice, big dragonfly or cockraoch brain in a vat (or better a number of them working in paralell for better redundancy and error correction) with sensors that control the equipment. This would allow her to make use of her natural instincts and multi-taking abilities along the way and even have her passenger/sub-consciousness fly her away when she gets knocked out. (There would of course be a backup manual control, but having bugs’ brain as the main user interface would be definetly a good idea.)

    This is not even all that far fetched considering that in the real world scientist have actually created things that work the other way around. Google remote controlled cockroach to learn more.

    Taylor just has to be careful with the fact that she won’t be able to maintain the tools a tinker makes for her herself and will be dependent on them.

    Oh, and she should be careful that the flightpack if it get wings (either functional or for decoration) get dragonfly wings not butterfly or fairy wings, image be damned.

    • We actually have things exactly like that in real life – see mouse brain operated robot, where mouse’s brain (well, neurons) is the CPU.

      But it you go this way, why not make the full armor with tons of things (including sensors) with bug nervous systems as processors? Basically, get past the “nastiness” of Taylor’s power by encasing bugs in power armor.

      And suddenly I’m reminded of Earthworm Jim.

      • It is already implied that Tinker made gagets in this setting ar mostly used by their creators because no one else can properly maintain them to keep working correctly and safely.

        The simpler the thing is the easier it will be to keep working without having to run back to dragon all the time.

        I think the biggest problem would be keeping the biological units alive. Maybe Dragon fix it so that it will be self-service. She has her insects tear of the wings and limbs of some cockraoch and slot the remains into an opening where it will be automatically connected…

        • You guys think too small.

          Remember how Skitter defeated the Azazel suit? By exploiting the vulnerabilities of the A.I. Defiant helped Dragon install in each of her suits so multiple numbers of them can operate at any one time.

          Now imagine Weaver controlling the whole lot of them a la Iron Legion.

          Hell, add Clockie to the mix. All Weaver needs is a swarm of Dragon mini-suits with the basic capability to fly, string silk between each other, and have a link to the Clock. Weave a time-stopped matrix around him, and even Behemoth’s day is done.

    • > Taylor just has to be careful with the fact that she won’t be able to maintain the tools a tinker makes for her herself and will be dependent on them.

      At this point, the only way Taylor ends up in a situation where she has no Tinker support is if she is no longer a part of the Protectorate or Wards. If Taylor is no longer a part of the Protectorate or Wards, then Taylor will no longer need to be acting under Glenn’s restrictions.

  29. I think you used “compliments” when you meant “complements” and Chevalier said “you city” and probably meant “your city.”

    I really like these transformative chapters.

  30. I’ve done some number crunching, and (counting the interludes) we are at the 240th chapter of Worm right now. Rather impressive, I must say.

    And to anyone who’s been following my TV show idea, I think I just figured out what the season 4 finale would probably entail (the endbringer fight).

  31. Ah. This is the chapter where we are reminded that Taylor … is a teenager. For all her talent and scary-competence, she is a teenager with the self-shaped blindspots inherent to that state of being.

    Of course, she learns fast and she pays attention so that won’t be a factor for much longer. For this alone, she should be grateful to Glenn.

    Other thoughts;
    – Heartbreaker’s coming. Poor bastard. With or without Skitter, he’s going to get schooled so hard.
    – …

    … huh. I have nothing else to say. That’s never happened before.

    Hmm.

    • I wonder if the reason Regent did’nt write was because he was worried about his Dad’s incursions and imminent invasion as well as wavering between choosing to act as Taylor advised or being a cheap knockoff of his dad.

      • I’m guessing it was more than he figured telling someone to say ‘hi’ for him was enough. It was the bare minimum to avoid being unfriendly, and I don’t think the idea that Taylor could really use some emotional support while she’s in prison is on his radar. In the abstract “I was supposed to send a letter like everyone else, wasn’t I? Nuts.” sort of way, maybe.

  32. So, among the other things he’s doing, either intentionally or unintentionally, Glen is giving Taylor something that’s fairly safe to rebel against. Butterflies in combat make just enough sense from a PR perspective to be believable while at the same time being ludicrous enough that no one’s going to be too surprised with Taylor pushing back against it.

    As was brought up in the chapter, part of the PRT’s goal here is to see how she pushes back against it. In that sense her talk with Glen was a huge success. No one got bug-murdered and all parties remained able to discuss the issue like sane adults.

    What occurred to me though is what, or maybe how much, does Taylor NEED to rebel against something as Skitter/Weaver?

    The narrative that we get is filtered through her conscious thoughts, but as we’re seeing there’s more going on with Taylor and her power than what she’s consciously aware of.

    Looking at her life pre-powers, we’ve seen a girl who was good in school, good at home and largely free of any behavior problems. Then her mother dies. Then her best friend wages a campaign of terror against her. Then the school officials fail her and reject the legitimacy of her suffering. And all that time, she’s still a good student, and still not striking back.

    Cut to her first night out and she brutalizes the hell out of Lung. Entirely justifiable in my view given his powers and her situation, but still, it’s the first time we know of that she struck back. Then the Undersiders came along and she decided to infiltrate them, again for reasons that were consciously quite plausible, but still the decision put her in a place where she was going to have to “act up” and at least pretend to be a “bad girl”.

    We never saw a desire for that in Taylor, and I don’t even think she’s lying to herself or the readers, but I do wonder now whether being a villain might have been something she actually needed. She’d pushed down her rage and her isolation and her fear but that kind of pressure tends to find a release one way or the other.

    “It was calming, a relief to do something concrete after an afternoon in Glenn Chamber’s company.”

    This is the line that got me thinking of how important rebelling might be to her. The “concrete” thing she’s doing is killing a rat and having her spiders feast on it — a direct (though minor) violation of the rules that are being imposed on her.

    There’s been discussion going way back on what Taylor’s life would look like if Armsmaster hadn’t been a jerk to her. I’m not saying he did her a favor, or that everything turned out for the best, but I do wonder if Taylor had been Weaver from the get go how stable she would have been.

    I can even picture a “What If” that starts Taylor off in the Wards and has her as the one who defects to join the Outsiders because (consciously ) she sees the corruption in the PRT and subconsciously she really needs to lash out still.

    • If Glenn is actually playing that game, then he goes up immensely in my estimation. Chevalier and Defiant’s words would be consistent with them being in on it, since Chevalier outright said thing might be able to change within a few months or weeks.

      Rebellion thing seems a little contrived to me. There’s hardly been a shortage of things in her life that someone in Taylor’s position might feel the desire to rebel against, without her having a complex to do with it.

      • I am a firm believer in Glenn’s crazy-like-a-fox-ness. The man knows how to handle his charges without looking like he does. He’s a lightning rod for superpowered annoyance.

        • Personally, I almost never attribute to cleverness what could be due to stupidity or simple lack of thought- the prior probabilities are very much against cleverness. I need clear evidence that the person is very very sharp beforehand- not sure I’ve quite gotten that yet. But maybe this is the time of the month when we get lucky?

          I’d like that to be true : )

            • Sure, but in that instance it wouldn’t be part of a wider strategy. Defiant and Chevalier wouldn’t be in on it, and they wouldn’t be waiting to step in and give her a little more leeway and slightly condescendingly congratulate her on finding her own middle path, and it wouldn’t have been deliberately calculated to ensure she was rebelling against something they’re happy for her to rebel against. Glenn and Chev aren’t going to be in a position to leap into action taking advantage of Taylor’s new direction and using it to make themselves appear smarter and on her side, because they never intended it to happen in the first place, you see what I mean? The defining advantages it would enjoy, were it a manoeuvre of cleverness, aren’t really present if it’s an accident.

          • Personally, I almost never attribute to cleverness what could be due to stupidity or simple lack of thought- the prior probabilities are very much against cleverness.

            Someone speaks my language! *smiles*

              • I was actually just short of paraphrasing a quote instead of my language comment, namely…

                “Skippy, you bayesian bastard, I read your BOOK!”

                Somewhat related, when the prof mentioned Bayes in my statistics class I couldn’t help but smile :)

              • It’s nice when those moments happen, yeah. I once ran into an elderly professor in my maths department who turned out to be a Master. (She taught the Games and Decisions module.) We then happily nerded out together and made fun of frequentists.

              • I really need to look into this. Maybe my university offers logic classes and I can get credit for those?

                The mind, it BOGGLES!

              • Well, I’d think your uni must have some courses on bayesian stats, or games and decisions which has a lot of overlap with it.

                I’d say go for it, if you like it.

              • You say that as if it’s a given. As a counter to your assumption, the guy who taught us statistics was a guest lecturer – not a bad fellow, mind you – but this does not speak well for the university. Still, worth a thought and the time to look into it.

  33. I think to some extent Taylor is projecting her own frustration when she says that the main problem the Wards and Protectorate have is the dictates of PR. She didn’t offer a single example of a fight where the Wards would have done better by operating under less restrictive rules of engagement.

    • Yeah, it’s basically inarguable that someone like Clockblocker or Kid Win doesn’t have to restrict themselves nearly as much to look good compared to Taylor. Well, Glenn’s standard of looking good, anyhow. She still managed to look pretty good to the hundred+ students at Arcadia who broke the law to shield her with their bodies.

      Doesn’t mean her concerns aren’t valid, but they’re not nearly as big a deal for the other Wards as they are for her. Not least due to their lack of experience compared to her, as much as her powers being less camera friendly. I mean, are we seriously expected to believe that someone like Leister is secretly waiting to be unleashed?

      Taylor’s seriously prokecting if she thinks so, I couldn’t even keep a grin of my face typing that : D

      • Good point. The citizens of Brockton Bay have had some time to get to know Skitter. They know how hard she works to keep things going well, and that counters her inherent scariness. The PRT may be trying to find some way to present Weaver to the general public that lessens the icky factor.

        • I really wasn’t making a point in favour of the Protectorate’s restrictions. At their current levels they’re moronic, and I’ve spoken at length about that on the comments over the last few updates and on SB. Just mentioning that they hit Taylor a lot harder than most other capes, and she probably is projecting a bit if she thinks that they hit they hamper the other Wards to the extent that they do her.

          • Ah, ok. I see what you’re saying. I would agree that she is probably projecting.

            My response was going more off your first paragraph about the Arcadia students (and other Brockton Bay residents) liking her.

  34. Man, really liked this chapter. I think I like Taylor best right after she makes up her mind on something.

    Archive re-binge complete too, now I need to find something new to read in the down times.

  35. I really like the way the pacing moves, and the way Skitter/Worm/Weaver got to see herself from a third person perspective. Looking forward to how Wildbow pulls the next sequence off.

    One thing that really hits me is that I don’t feel a need to second guess the characters at all or how they act or use their powers or assets. Been a long time since I felt that way reading this genre.

  36. So, a random thought, unrelated to the current chapter hit me as I was making breakfast this morning: Behemoth has a power that ignores the Manton Effect out to a (fairly) short range. His other powers work at greater distances than that but do not possess that ability.

    Why?

    One of the theories for the Manton Effect is that its a limit parahumans adopt so that their powers won’t be a danger to themselves. Another is that it’s the subconscious shying away from powers that would hurt others that easily.

    Behemoth’s power suggests there’s more going on that that. With the Endbringers never having been humans, it doesn’t seem like “subconscious empathy” is a viable cause for the Manton Effect. With Behemoth’s limit being “things close to me” it doesn’t seem like that would help keep him safe from his own power. It’s also arguable whether he needs any protection from it, Leviathan was burned to a cinder by Lung, or at least as much of Leviathan as could be burnt was, and Levi’s still rampaging just fine.

    The fact that the Endbringers have to deal with the Manton Effect at all was what struck me as interesting, but I’m not sure where that idea leads (aside from suggesting that they come from a similar/the same source as parahumans do, but that’s hardly the first time that idea’s come up.)

    • I personally took that more in conjunction with the powersets of the Endbringers.

      Leviathan is a physical monster, creates water in its wake and a macroscale hydrokinetic. He has no actual killing power, he just hits really hard.

      Simurgh is a medium scale telekinetic, precog and probably other things as well. Depending on the scale of her kinetic power she ought to be able to fling capes around nilly-willy, or rend them from head to toe. Supposedly she doesn’t do that, for whatever reasons. Might be her mind infecting them is more devastating than their mere death? Guessing here.

      Behemoth is a dynakintic or something, so he can literally make you explode in a puff of ash by plasmafying you.

      This comes down to Leviathan having no real Manton restricted power, only Behemoth and Simurgh do, and with the later I’m not entirely sure.

      • I suspect Leviathan’s power is Manton-restricted — the volume fraction of water in the human body is not going to be less than the volume fraction of water in an aquifer, and it was implied that Leviathan could manipulate the aquifer. Take away the Manton limit, and he can throw people around by the blood vessels.

      • Actually, it’s been theorized that each Endbringer has only one power – that is, the same kind of ability a normal parahuman would have, but at a heightened power level. My theory is that each Endbringer is the physical manifestation of a passenger, able to use its power to the full potential. If you look at them individually you’ll notice…

        Leviathan has Hyrdokinesis – and that’s it. He can’t do anything else except hit hard and take a beating. Those aren’t superpowers, they’re natural extensions of his body. It’s the same with the other Endbringers:

        Behemoth has Dynakinesis – supposedly without a Manton effect. He can manipulate all forms of energy within 30 feet of his body and…nothing else. No other powers worth mentioning other than strength and durability.

        The Simurgh is a bit tricky – she can fly, create illusions, see the future, and more. However, when you look a bit closer you’ll realize it’s all the same power – Psychokinesis. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychokinesis#Types)

        Psychokinesis allows: Telekinesis(Self levitation, ability to move, lift, and throw objects) telepathic projection(Illusions, psychic screaming), and the ability to influence events(“Seeing” the future, setting up scenarios to do the most long-term damage, influencing the ability to dodge attacks)

        Heck, even Scion has (basically) just one power(The same as Legends…read the Scion discussion page for details (http://redd.it/1ejlwa)).

    • I kinda wonder if the “Manton Effect” is an artificial category, not a real thing per se.. a bucket into which humanity tosses similar parts of the power puzzle that they don’t get. That is, all the stuff they’re observing is real, but they’re drawing correlations where there isn’t evidence, just lots of similar stuff.

  37. Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Taylor has ever considered importing insects (ie enough for a breeding population) from outside of America. Get some African or Australian insects to breed and use.

  38. I re-read Rachael’s letter again and a thought popped into my head: Is the reason Rachael feels so off not because she misses Taylor but because she really really really needs to get laid?

  39. Okay, I love how much of a teenager Taylor is being in the chapter. I can remember going into arguments, absolutely sure that I was right, and ran head first into reasonable counterarguments that I wished I was able to just shrug off.

  40. God damn, I love this story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s frustrating as hell, but I am addicted to it. Wildbow, you are a twisty-minded literary GENIUS. Keep up the most excellent work. Please. Pretty please.

  41. I’ll go ahead and post this once now and once on the next chapter, for those who are interested: I and others have previously recommended “Interviewing Leather“, in which rock-and-roll magazine writer Todd Chapman researches and writes a story about a supervillain named Leather. It’s a good story and an interesting take on the psychology of supervillainy, one that I think a lot of fans of Worm have enjoyed or will enjoy.

    Well, today Eric Burns-White, the author, posted the first chapter of the sequel, “Interviewing Trey“, scheduled to update every Friday. I think it’ll be good. Check it out.

  42. A thought has just occurred to me. Chevalier and the gang clearly know about a lot of Taylor’s good deeds, but do they know she saved the lives of everyone in Brockton Bay during the S9 battle? I.E. the time when she saved Panacea from Jack and Bonesaw, fighting both of them simultaneously and driving them off, whilst suffering brain damage at the time, and then convinced her to make the anti-prions?

    Or the incident where she refused to kill Battery, despite immense social pressure? (Basically confirming that Taylor would be one of the small proportion of people who would refuse orders if you put her in the Milgram Experiment.)

    I don’t think they do.

      • True, though they’re arguably the closest thing to authority figures that Taylor would recognise at that time, right? Grue and Tattletale were still at least notionally the leaders of the Undersiders at that time, weren’t they? Hell, it’s kind of worse than that, they were almost her family.

    • Flipping through the archives, I think you’re right — I think the only relevant chapters are 14.11 (Skitter briefs Bitch and Tattletale), 15.6 (Skitter talks to Flechette and Parian about Panacea, mentioning Jack and Bonesaw but not the mist cure), and 18.3 (Skitter talks to Miss Milita, Clockblocker, Weld, Flechette, and Kid Win about Battery and Panacea, mentioning Jack and Bonesaw but not the social pressure or the mist cure). The only way that anyone in the PRT knows that Skitter was involved in curing the mist is if Panacea told them — which I don’t think she did, because none of the Wards knew anything.

  43. “Glenn Chambers wore plaid pants with red and green, and a pink dress shirt, His belt bore a buckle with the PRT logo on it.” “His” shouldn’t be capitalized.

    Those are some real touching letters. Except Imp’s, of course.

    I wonder if I can fit the phrase “Holy carp” into this comment…

  44. Several thoughts worth weighing toward Taylor’s character development, especially if this is what potentially break her integrity (at this point tho), alas we don’t want Taylor to turns to be another Bella Swan (did i spell her name correctly? whatever) the hollow character that has no real standing in whatever situation deemed a sound and rational decisions, do we?

    1) well, she had issue with Shadow Stalker using lethal arms to serve her own ends. However, by asking Glenn to remove the kiddie-gloves policy, well, wasn’t that just like asking other Shadow Stalker-esque ward capes to start their bloody campaign?

    2) Up to this point, I still couldn’t understand what justified Taylor from killing Alexandria and that made other Heroes suddenly came in term with her right after that (gagged Alexandria to death). Sure, Alexandria was playing extreme ball with her, but that was Alexandria by the by, she uphold her duty by her measure, extreme measure that time. Someone please tell me, i know Alexandria is a giga-bitch herself, but is she even half as morally ambiguous as Taylor might be? She worked for Cauldron only by sole knowledge that Cauldron promised to bring a better way to deal with Endbringers and other S-class threats (either Wildbow forgot to mention another mega-evil agenda Alexandria hid under her sleeve or i missed it).

    I made this comment because i admire how Wormverse develop as a whole, but noticing Taylor the main character is dangerously start falling to become morally ambiguous character, it’s like i got a baby with mental defect soon to be discovered, a major heart break., well maybe a touch too dramatic, but that’s the point

    please, if there are justifications (sound and rational one) for those points, convince me, or probably those issue will be addressed later at farther chapter?

    I’d rather read a story where the main character is dead because he had uphold his rational decision, another generation took his place, because like Guy Fawkes said
    ~Remember, remember, the 5th of November
    The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
    I see of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
    Should ever be forgot.~
    mortals is destined to be dead, by natural or forced cause, but a sound idea, as provocative it might be, if it was worth a soul of a man that uphold it, won’t be decaying unless proven otherwise

    • 1. I think she simply failed to notice the similarity to Shadow Stalker, much the same way that I failed to notice it before you pointed it out. That said, Shadow Stalker seems to have been motivated by bloodthirstiness and pride, which isn’t the case with Weaver.

      2. Cauldron’s crimes were a lot worse than Skitter’s. Eidolon’s clone admitted culpability for Siberian, Shatterbird, Gray Boy, and Echidna among other empowered mass killers; culpability for manipulating the political process to control the parahumans while pretending to cede control to unpowered human beings; culpability for human experimentation on a massive scale, and the casting out of the results of those experiments as cannon fodder for their ‘heroic’ clients. And he named Alexandria as his partner in these crimes — and she admitted to being his partner in these crimes. Skitter, by contrast, hurt a few hundred people, killed a handful, and saved thousands (e.g. in Plague 12.5).

      Also, anyone who knew what Alexandria was doing in that room would know that Skitter’s actions were voluntary manslaughter at the worst, and a good lawyer (like Quinn Calle) could probably make a case that it was justifiable as defense of others on the grounds that Skitter had reasonable cause to believe Alexandria would murder other Undersiders.

      I’m not sure I understand the rest of your comment, but my read of the story up to this point is that Taylor has always been a morally ambiguous character, and it is only since she joined the Wards that she’s really been forced to confront it.

      • Eidolon and Cauldron are NOT responsible for Siberian, Shatterbird, Gray Boy or Echidna any more than Taylor is responsible for the hero deaths at Echidna’s hands. Yes, they were a cause, but Taylor was a cause of Maniquin killing some people, it does not imply culpability. Culpability requires a bad result to have been predictable given the information at the time.
        They did manipulate the politics and they did human experimentation and the did use the bad results for canon fodder.
        Those actions are far more justifiable than Skitter murdering Tagg and any good she did is offset by her killing of Alexandria (who has done FAR more good than harm).
        Whether you are utilitarian or use rules based ethics, Skitter is still worse.

        • Honestly, I’m not inclined to argue with you. But the question was “why are the heroes willing to cut Skitter more slack than Alexandria?”, and that’s what I was trying to explain.

          • Things certainly aren’t clear-cut, and I might change my mind, but I think Taylor has a better moral compass than most people. Basically, she’ isn’t self-serving and she never lies to herself about how her actions affect others. She keeps trying to make the best choice, knowing that she won’t always be right. If everyone appraoched life like that, I think the world would be in much better shape. Other characters, like Alexandria, tend to become loyal to institutions, which causes them to make excuses for actions that don’t line up with their morals. Taylor forces herself to always be in the driver’s seat, taking full responsibility for her own actions.

            Also, her “passenger” might be resonsible for some of her more violent actions. There are hints of that.

            Anyway, I think many members of the Protectorate, with Dragon leading the way, can see that Taylor has an admirable commitment to trying to do the right thing and not settling for the status quo. They see that she is fearless, not out of blind stupidity or an overblown ego, but fearless becuase saving the world is more important than saving herself. They want her on their side.

    • Main characters are not always nor have to be moral paradigms. Taylor has been morally ambiguous since almost the very start of the story, anyone who would call her good really needs to evaluate their morals.

  45. “I’d thought of ‘Weaver’ as a hero on the straight and narrow. That was out.”
    Why? Because they want to wait a few weeks to see how you cope you short-sighted girl?


  46. My head’s better as of yesterday. Tryng to take it easier.”

    Typo! Also I really don’t know that people would use random inconsistent short hand in their letters (ltr & tho), I know when I write a letter I don’t use short hand so I have doubts that they would. And that’s not how you shorten later anyway it’s l8r, go look at urban dictionary to see the difference in opinions. Like if they were always using short hand I might understand it, but most of it isn’t, even the handwriting where she’d had to write really fast to keep up with human speech.

  47. “Glenn Chambers wore plaid pants with red and green, and a pink dress shirt, His belt bore a buckle with the PRT logo on it.”

    Comma before “His” should be a period. (I wouldn’t ordinarily comment on this almost a year after the fact, but I saw a prior comment thread where Wildbow mentioned the prohibitive cost of professional editing.)

  48. I certainly didn’t expect to be crying again already, but those letters from home really got to me. After reading this much Worm, I care about the characters SO much. Most of the time, they’re too engaged with the crisis of fhe day to have time for expressing what’s going on under the surface. I only realize how emotionally attached I am to them all when they take the time to communicate with each other in a fuller way.

    Also, I just really love how lame the Protectorate and Ward setups are and how frustrated Weaver is with them. It’s super infuriating and pleasingly so, because it nails just how messed up and inneffectual government organizations can be.

  49. The letters were great additions. Grue’s was hilarious, Tattletale’s was spot on with just the right mix of caring and updates, Imp’s was totally expected and not nearly as bad as I had feared though it was sad to see that Regent didn’t send anything. Oh and I loved how Tattle said to call her and she’d tell them straight up what they wanted to know. She probably would too! Bitch’s was awesome. I hope that WagTheDog was the one writing the letter for her because it sounded like that was her comments and I like that girl.

    I really like Glenn actually.

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