Drone 23.4

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“I’m so sorry I’m late.  I never do this,” Mrs. Yamada said.  She entered the office, a raincoat, boots and a messenger bag in her arms, her hair a touch damp, clearly flustered.  “What a way to start us off.  I’m so embarrassed.”

“It’s okay,” I said.  “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”

I knew right away that it wasn’t her office.  It just didn’t fit her, in any sense.  She was average in height for a woman, which put her a little taller than most Japanese women, her hair cut short in what I took to be a utilitarian choice, but was styled enough to show a degree of effort.  Her clothes and shoes were much the same.

The room, by contrast, clashed with her demeanor.  There was a level of care that went into it.  Like, I couldn’t help but feel that the desk in the corner and the chairs were antiques, or at least very expensive.  There were model airplanes on the shelves and pictures of airplanes on the walls, and Mrs. Yamada didn’t give me the impression of an airplane afficionado.  The sheer heft of the chair and desk seemed out of proportion with Mrs. Yamada as a person.

Was she borrowing a colleague’s office?  For the last while, I’d been ferried here and there.  Dragon and Defiant were my custodians, and between them, they were traveling all over America, making it relatively easy to schedule a pick-up and drop-off.  It was almost easier for me to go to Yamada’s office than for her to come to me, but we’d come here instead.

“It’s a matter of professional courtesy,” she said, more like she was talking to herself than to me.  She was still getting herself sorted out, her raincoat hung up, rain boots replaced with slippers she’d been holding beneath the coat.  “Being prompt, it indicates that I respect and value your time.  You can’t confide in me if I don’t respect you.”

Respect me?

I looked down at the floor for a moment.  She was looking at me when I raised my eyes to her.  “With all sincerity, it was due to forces entirely out of my control, with complications at every turn.”

“Bureaucracy,” I said.

“You’re not wrong,” she said, “But it was something else.  A patient of mine, institutionalized, she’s reacted badly to certain events in the last month.  Someone she idolized left the Wards, and-“

I could see her stop, composing herself, the stress and preoccupied attitude melting away.

“-And this isn’t about that.  This session is about you.”

“About me.  This could be a long session,” I said.

“My instinct,” Mrs. Yamada said, as she settled uncomfortably into the large, somewhat ostentatious chair, “Would be to ask about the little details you’ve seeded into the conversation already.”

“Details?”

“How you seized the idea that it’s bureaucracy that would be holding me back,” she said.  “Or your facial expression when I said I want to approach this meeting with respect.  But there’s other points I think we should cover first.  We’ll get back to that, if you’re interested.”

I shrugged.

“FIrst off, let’s start off with the basics.  How are you?”

Pretty basic.  “Fine.”

“You’re in prison, and will be for at least two years, maybe longer.  By all reports, you’re chafing under the new restrictions you face as a member of the Wards.  That’s without touching on the fact that, two weeks ago, you murdered Alexandria and Director James Tagg out of fear for your safety and the safety of your friends and teammates.  In this room, or wherever we go to talk, it’s okay to answer ‘how are you’ with an admission that you’re not okay.”

“I’m- I feel better, after talking to Glenn and Chevalier.”

“How did you feel before?”

“Restless.  I still am, really.  Very restless.  If one feeling is taking hold of me, it’s that.”

“How so?”

“Before I was in jail, I ran every other morning.  I can’t run now, but my body still wants me to, at the usual time and the usual pace.”

She nodded, making a note.  “When did you start?”

“About a month after I got my powers.  February.”

She nodded.

I went on, “And there’s the other stuff.  You might not believe me, but I was helping people.  Hurting people from time to time, but mostly helping.  I was getting food out to people who were hungry, checking everyone had what they needed, laying long-term plans for the future, so that people who’ve never had a chance in their lives would finally get one.  I’m helping people less now that I’m going out with the Wards.”

“Do you think that maybe you’re hurting people less?”

“But the sum total is worse.  It’s like, if you go back to the very fundamentals of right and wrong, you have to ask, ‘if most people acted the same way I’m acting right now, would society be better off?'”

“Okay,” she said.  “And you think society would be better off if everyone acted like you?”

“Sort of,” I said.  “Yes, I hurt people, but I hurt people who deserved it.  When I had the resources to do it, I helped a lot of people.”

“In this hypothetical reality where most people think like you, correct me if I’m wrong, transgressions would be punished?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Guess so.”

“Would it be fair to say they’re punished harshly?”

She was thinking of Alexandria and Tagg, no doubt.  Maybe Valefor.  “Yeah.”

“Kind of medieval, isn’t it?”

It reminded me of my dad, that idea.  “Guess it is.  But capes are naturally violent.”

“And what about the Wards?  I wasn’t there at the time, but one of my colleagues started seeing the Brockton Bay Wards a short time after Leviathan attacked the city.  Did they commit a transgression that warranted the pain they suffered at your hands?  The ones that aren’t Shadow Stalker?”

I didn’t have a ready answer to that.  She waited in silence for long seconds before I shrugged.  “There was stuff, the fact that they tolerated people like Shadow Stalker, but I’m not sure I could explain it now.  Feels like a long time ago.”

“A lot’s happened all at once.  It might contribute to the restlessness you feel now that things are quieter.  You said you felt better after you talked to Glenn and Chevalier.  Why?”

“I got a chance to talk stuff through.  More of a sense of why they were putting obstacles in my way.  And on my way over here, I gave Dragon some notes on an updated costume and gear.  She’ll probably email it out, they’ll discuss the options and tear the proposal to shreds.  If they accept any of it, though, I’ll bring me a step closer to being me, to being more comfortable with what I’m doing.”

“That’s a good lead-in to the next big question I had in mind.  Who are ‘you’?  I make a point of asking all of my clients this, but what should I call you?  Weaver?  Taylor?  Skitter?”

“All of the above?  Maybe call me Weaver.  I’m still trying to get used to the name.”

“Okay, Weaver, and my next easy question is whether I can get you anything?  Water?  I remember you had a coffee cup in front of you in the interrogation room in Brockton Bay.”

“It was tea,” I said, “And not right now, thanks.”

“Okay,” she said, making another note.

“Writing down some profound insights?” I asked, gesturing towards the pad of paper she had in her lap.

“Details about you, your tastes and priorities.  Maybe I’ll have tea ready the next time we meet.  Black, green, herbal?”

“Black.”

“Okay,” she said.  Another brief note.  “This is the first date, Weaver, if you’ll excuse the metaphor.  This is when I get a sense of who you are as a person, the fundamentals of who you are.  I then use that to help you and inform you.  You aren’t obligated to take my feedback without question, or to take my advice as orders, but if we wind up being a good team, then hopefully you’ll want to, because you find it genuinely helpful.”

I nodded.

“I know only a little about you from context, but I don’t want to be one of the people who jumps to conclusions about you, so I’m second guessing every detail that you don’t personally share with me.  I drew up a timeline, which was why I asked when you started running, trying to get a sense of what was happening for you and when.”

“Any insights?”

“Some, but we can talk about that another time.  Later today, maybe.  My point is, I’m trying to figure you out.  So please forgive me if any of my questions seem too simple, or if I’m asking about things I should already know.  The next set of questions are a little more serious.  Do you want therapy?

“It’s kind of obligatory,” I said.

“I’d change my approach depending on whether you hated this but were playing along, if you really did want help figuring things out, or if you wanted therapy but didn’t want it with me.

She let that last bit hang in the air.

When I didn’t respond, Mrs. Yamada said, “I would understand if you felt like you had to be on guard against me.  When you were dealing with the Protectorate and PRT in Brockton Bay, it might have looked like I was one of the enemies.”

“You were pretty decent to me, all things considered.”

“Good,” she said.  She smiled a little.  “Thank you.  Let me pose the question another way.  You’ve said you’re able to tolerate my presence?”

I nodded.

“Okay.  Given that you’ve accepted me, I’m wondering what you think my goal is.”

“You’re going to report back to the guys in charge of the PRT and the Protectorate and tell them whether or not I’m of sound mind, whether I can join the Wards team without snapping and murdering someone.”

“That’s not it,” she said.  “In fact, I may well do the opposite, depending on how this meeting goes, and avoid commenting altogether.  My only goal is to help you.”

“Help me?”  I asked.

“There’s two very different paths we could take.  The first is simple.  I’d act as your therapist.  I would be an objective ear, and I could equip you with tools to handle things like stress, anger, or anything else that concerned you.  Anything you said would be entirely confidential, and I would decline to comment when the time came for your placement in the Wards, so as to preserve that confidentiality.”

“Isn’t that damning?” I asked.  “If you don’t have anything good to say, they’ll naturally assume you know bad things.”

“I don’t think so,” she said.  “I’ve had upstanding heroes choose to exercise their right to confidentiality.  If we started off by establishing this as therapy right off the bat, there would be enough forewarning that it wouldn’t reflect badly on you.”

“Okay,” I said.

“The second route would involve me not being your therapist, but your advocate.  We’d set you up with someone else as a therapist, and I’d focus on serving as a middleman, in working with the PRT, Protectorate, the Wards and the warden at Gardener.  I could, for example, talk to the warden about you getting a chance to run in the mornings, testifying that it’d be a good, healthy release.  When the time came for you to be placed with the Wards, I’d testify with all of the good and the bad, from what we’ve talked about here.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” I said.

“There’s a middle ground between the two options,” she said, “I could certainly be an advocate for you if you were coming to me for therapy, or offer you a listening ear if you were coming to me for advocacy.”

“With the knowledge that anything I said could be used against me, in that case.”

She nodded.  “So long as you know.”

“I could really use an advocate,” I sighed.

I thought of how she’d composed herself, pulling herself together.  It struck a chord.

“But I think I’d rather have you for a therapist.”

“Thank you,” she said.  “And I respect that you’re willing to ask for help.  That takes a kind of strength.”

I shrugged.

“Is there any particular place you’d like to start?”  she asked.  “We already touched on bureaucracy, you seemed a touch bewildered that I would respect you.”

She paused, as if waiting for me to chime in.

“There’s other things, but it’s hard to articulate them.”

“Give it a try.  It’s sometimes easiest if you start with the underlying emotion.  I feel, followed by the emotion, then talk about why.”

I nodded.  “I feel… anxious, because I’m worried I’m not a very good hero.”

“Assuming it isn’t inexperience, is that so terrible?  Being less than stellar?”

“Doesn’t it say something ugly about me, if I make a pretty excellent villain and a crappy hero?”

“Maybe it says something about your power, or it’s simply past experience.  I stress, you are new at this.”

“When I was new at being a villain I took on established heroes and robbed a bank, walking away with a small fortune.”

“You had a team with you.”

“I felt a hell of a lot more effective, when I count everything that’s happened without teammates at my back.  I dunno.”

“So you’re restless and anxious-“

“And genuinely afraid,” I said.  I sighed.  “I feel… afraid, because I’m starting to think that maybe my power isn’t entirely under my control.  There’s a monster taking up real estate in my brain, deciding to use my power when I don’t want to, and I’m pretty sure it’s been getting more effective over time.”

“Is this monster metaphorical?”

“That’s a very good question,” I said.  I leaned on my knees and stared at my hands.  “Is it just me?  Or is it my ‘passenger’, some inscrutable life form from a parallel universe that decided to give me powers, currently helping me manage those powers so my brain doesn’t overheat?  Or is there even a distinction?  Did my trigger event fuse us to the point that the line is blurred beyond recognition?”

“I can see where the idea would be frightening,” she said.  “I’ve heard of some of these things, though the particulars and names differed.  We don’t know enough about them, about powers, even, and the unknown is daunting, especially when it affects you as deeply as your power seems to affect you.  This lack of control, it-“

“If I tell you I’m dangerous, that I’m going to hurt someone, intentionally or by accident, are you obligated to report it?”

“Yes, if the risk is grave.  Forgive me for asking, but are you going to hurt someone?  Accidentally or otherwise?”

I shook my head.  “No.  But it makes me wonder if something like that is a possibility.”

“I’ve worked with a lot of young parahumans who had uncontrollable powers.  There are options.”

“Like?”

“It depends on the form this lack of control takes.  Is it perpetual?  Does it hinge on you losing focus?  On your being tired?  Illness?  Anger?”

“I’m not entirely sure.  Sometimes when I’ve been knocked out, I’ve found that my power keeps going without my instruction.  It’s not brilliant, it makes mistakes, and the logic isn’t always there, but I’ve had my power keep working when I was unconscious, after a concussion, and when a cape used their power to wipe away my volition.  When I was tranquilized, after setting my bugs on Director Tagg, they apparently kept going after him.”

“Let’s start with the fundamentals, then.  I almost always recommend relaxation exercises and meditation to my patients with control issues.  There’s almost always a degree of improvement.  The next trick is to find a way to track this.”

“I’m getting a new costume.  Maybe a camera?  The most recent time I noticed it was when I was with Glenn Chambers, he showed me a video, and I saw myself using tricks I’d never taught myself.”

“Perhaps a camera, then.  Is it reassuring, to know that there are answers?”

“I’ll be reassured when I see improvement,” I said.  “No offense.”

“None taken.  But you raised two problems.  Your lack of confidence about being a hero.  That’s more immediate, if less ominous?”

“It’s pretty ominous, honestly,” I said.  “I staked a lot on this.”

“You have options in mind, am I right?  You said that you were suggesting a new costume and new equipment.”

“But that doesn’t fix things if I’m a round peg in a square hole.  I’ve thought about compromises, stuff beyond the gear and costumes, but I feel like I’m almost betraying myself.  The me that spent three months after getting powers, with the idea that I’d be a hero.  I had all of this idealism, all of these ideas of how I’d help, big and small, and I wind up doing more good as a notorious villain than as a hero.”

Jessica Yamada made a note on her pad of paper, then set it on the small table to her right.  She glanced at the window, then at me, “Are you still restless?”

All the time,” I said.

“Want to go for a walk?”

“Hell yeah.  Am I allowed?”

“I’ll need to make a few phone calls.”

Middle schoolers swarmed around a very unhappy looking team of Wards, pushing, jostling, calling out, reaching to touch armor and costumes.  The overcast sky was only just clearing up, causing the colors in the park to be all the more vivid.

Why?” I asked.

“Why are we here, or why is this happening?” Mrs. Yamada asked me.

“Yes.”

“This is happening because of you, in a roundabout way,” Mrs. Yamada said.  “When your secret identity was revealed, it didn’t take the media very long to discover that you’d been bullied in high school.”

“Oh hell no,” I muttered.

“People asked why more hadn’t been done to reach out to you and individuals like you.  This was the response.”

“I’m not sure this is a good thing,” I said.  “These assemblies and events were always atrocious, with really bad speeches.”

“I saw enough of them when I was in high school, I know.  But superheroes have the ‘wow’ factor, at least.”

I looked at the very uncomfortable Boston Wards.  They had enthralled the kids, but they couldn’t do anything with them, with the crush of bodies.  The teachers seemed to be enjoying the break, sitting on the far end of the field, in the shade.

“Want to wow them, too?”

I glanced at her.

“Not a fight, but a chance to be heroic.  The PR that’s been forced on your head won’t be a handicap here,” Mrs. Yamada said.  “And maybe it will help you feel a little more human, at a time when you’re worried about the monster inside you.”

“A little heavy-handed,” I commented.

“A lot heavy-handed,” she said, smiling.  “But it’s a chance to be outside, instead of cooped up in yet another room, without worrying your life’s at risk.”

“I’ll take it,” I said.  “Thanks.”

I ventured into the fray.

A hundred kids, all probably from one school.  I almost would have rather been up against Bambina.

I called on every butterfly in the area, across the whole park.  It took nearly a minute before they were gathered.  I sent them into the crowd, flying over and around the mass of kids.  Some of them screamed, others ducked, covering their heads.

Not quite the delight I’d hoped for.

Was this another point where I was underestimating what the effect of the swarm was, or were the kids just overreacting?  It was only five or six hundred butterflies.

“Whoever catches the most wins!” I called out.  “Go!”

The kids stared at me.  Some were still reacting from the rush of butterflies.

“Go!” I said.  “There’s a prize!  A good one!”

They scattered.

Butterflies wove in around one another, around trees, out of reach and over heads, between legs and under tables.  I watched the crowd, got the kids to bump into one another, gathered them into clusters where I had ten or twenty students running after one group of butterflies, conserving effort and increasing the confusion when two groups ran into one another.

When the mass of kids had burned off their initial energy, I joined the Wards, still controlling the butterflies.

“Thanks,” said one heroine in pale blue.

“A bit much?”  I asked.

A guy with a fox mask said, “You can’t really interact with them when there’s this many.  There’s no point.”

“Good memories,” I said.  “Better than nothing.”

“But not great,” fox-mask said.  “Good memories aren’t exactly why we’re here.  Somewhere in that group, there’s kids who could be the next wave of capes.”

I watched the kids run.  They’d succeeded in surrounding one group of butterflies, and some had taken off rain jackets to form improvised butterfly nets.

That kind of organization deserved a reward.  On the flip side of things, they were liable to murder one another over a handful of butterflies.  Competition trumped reason.

Making the butterflies simply rise into the air was too easy, and there were some kids who were sitting on each other’s shoulders, to get more height in anticipation of the tactic.

I swept up butterflies with dragonflies, carrying them out of reach, through the crowd.

Some of the kids rushed up to me, red in the face with exertion.

“You’re cheating!”

“Not fair!”

“I used to be a supervillain,” I said.  “I’m allowed to be a jerk.  Go!  You two are in second place, but you’re falling behind while you complain.”

They gave me death glares, then ran off.

I focused on my power.  The power I wasn’t entirely sure I could trust anymore, and I identified the stragglers.  The ones without a group.  The ones who weren’t participating, or who weren’t able to maneuver around the crowd, solitary in the midst of groups of friends.

“Can you guys do me a favor?” I glanced at fox-mask.

He nodded.

A few quick instructions, and the Boston Wards were mobilized, tapping on shoulders, saying hi to each of the ones I’d identified.

We gathered at the picnic tables.

“What’s the point of this?” one kid asked, a twelve or thirteen year old with hair draped over half his face.  Never understood that hairstyle.

“A break can be nice,” I said.  “Whether it’s from school or saving the world.”

“Inviting us here, I mean.”

“You want the cheesy answer or the real one?”

“Cheesy,” one heavyset girl said, with just a touch of snark.

“Cheesy answer is you didn’t seem interested in going squee over these guys, you didn’t feel like chasing butterflies, so I figured I’d invite you to hang.”

“It’s so fake, ridiculous,” she said.

“It is,” I said.  “Fake can be good.  Reality sucks sometimes.”

“What’s the real answer?” the guy with hair over his face asked me.

“The real answer is that this whole thing is a ploy by the good guys,” I said.

He rolled his eyes.

“They want to get on your good side, just in case you get powers,” I said.

He rolled his eyes again.

“Powers?” another kid asked.  He was shorter than all the others, and his eyes were disproportionately large for his face.

“Powers,” I said.  “And you guys, I’m thinking, are among the most likely to get them.”

I was getting funny looks.

“Do you know what trigger events are?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Um,” one of the boy heroes said, “Not sure this is approved.”

I cocked my head, turning to the kid with the hair in his face, “See?  It’s a ploy.  Big secrets.”

“Not that big,” Fox-mask said.

“I didn’t find out about trigger events until months after I’d had mine,” I said.  “It’s how you get superpowers.”

Okay, that had their attention.  Twelve or thirteen pairs of eyes were fixed on me.

“It takes something pretty lousy to happen to you,” I said.  “You get attacked, or you get hurt, or someone attacks someone or something you really care about, and you have nowhere else to turn, and you get powers.”

“It doesn’t work if you force it,” Mrs. Yamada said, approaching the table, “so don’t try.”

“Right,” I said, though I was digesting a tidbit of information I hadn’t had.

“Why are we going to get powers when they won’t?” another kid in our cluster asked me.

“Because you were alone.  It’s a bit of a trend, I think, one I’ve noticed.  I’ve seen a lot of powers, and I’ve seen a lot of people with powers who had similar things wrong with them.  Labyrinth, Bakuda, Night, Fog, Mannequin, Siberian, Lung, August Prince… again and again, it’s their ability to communicate that’s missing, either because of their powers or because they chose to hide or mask their voices.  I was thinking about it, and I think we parahumans tend to be loners by nature.”

Which might explain why we struggle so much as a community.

“So you’re here to make nice, just in case?” the boy with hair in his face asked me.

“That’s the gist of it.  I think the PRT’s cunning plan is to get you on board before you get powers.”

“As if,” the boy retorted.

“Hey,” fox-mask said, “Not cool.  We’re trying to be nice here.”

I could see a scowl, the glance away on the kid’s face.  I was put in mind of Regent for an instant.  A similar personality?

“No, let’s be fair,” I said.  “Being a villain’s an option.”

“You did not say that,” Fox-mask said, incredulous, “It’s not an option at all.”

The girl in blue looked at Mrs. Yamada, “Ex-villain’s corrupting the kids, and you’re not stopping her?”

Mrs. Yamada was frowning at me.

“I’m going somewhere with this, honest,” I said.

“If you’re sure,” she said.  “I can stop you at any time.”

“You can.”

I looked at the gathered kids.  A few of the less successful butterfly catchers had drifted away and approached.

“I always hated the speeches when I was in school, the preaching in auditoriums, the one-note message.  Stuff like saying drugs are bad.  It’s wrong.  Drugs are fantastic.”

“Um,” Fox-mask said.

Mrs. Yamada was glaring at me, but she hadn’t interrupted.

“People wouldn’t do them if they weren’t.  They make you feel good, make your day brighter, give you energy-“

“Weaver,” Mrs. Yamada cut in.

“-until they don’t,” I said.  “People hear the message that drugs are bad, that they’ll ruin your life if you do them once.  And then you find out that isn’t exactly true because your friends did it and turned out okay, or you wind up trying something and you’re fine.  So you try them, try them again.  It isn’t a mind-shattering moment of horrible when you try that first drug.  Or so I hear.  It’s subtle, it creeps up on you, and you never really get a good, convincing reason to stop before it ruins your life beyond comprehension.  I never went down that road, but I knew a fair number of people who did.  People who worked for me, when I was a supervillain.”

I had their attention now, at least.

This was probably going to hit the news as something like, ‘Ex-supervillain Wards member recommends drugs to kids’.  Whatever.

Maybe I’d get a shit placement in the Wards, but I felt more like the Weaver I wanted to be.

“It’s the same, being a villain.  I went there, I did that for a few months.  Risked my life, hurt people, made an incredible amount of money, but I look back, and it wasn’t worth it.  I value the people I got to know and love far more than I do the money, the power, the fame.  They’re the only thing I regret leaving behind.”

“How much money?” the heavy little girl asked, grinning.

“You’re missing the point,” Fox-mask said.

“Fifteen or twenty million,” I said, ignoring him.

“Shhh-ugar,” one of the heroes muttered, just behind me, deciding on a new word midway through.

“That’s so worth it,” a kid said.

“I think this is bordering on counterintuitive,” Mrs. Yamada said.

“Do you have a piece of paper?” I asked.

She only frowned at me.

One of the young heroes, a boy with goggles, handed me a pad of paper.

“Pen?”

He handed me a pen.

“What’s your name?” I asked the boy with hair in his face.

“Ned.”

I wrote it down.  “Ned.  And you?”

I got the names of all of the kids I’d picked out.  The stragglers.  Maggie, Bowden, Ryan, Lucas, Jacob, Sophie… the list went on.  Fifteen kids in all.

I ripped off the sheet, then tore another sheet into squares.  “More pens?”

The goggle-guy handed me a handful of pens.

“Each of you write down the most horrible thing you can think of, that you can reasonably expect to happen to you in the next few years.  No need to get too complicated.  Think of something horrible that would give you a trigger event.  Write it down.”

I waited while each of the kids wrote something down.  Other kids were gathering now, but they’d be bystanders.  It was the stragglers who were the focus now.

“Hand your sheet to the person to your left.  Boston Wards, help me on this score.  We’re going to make up powers that sort of fit the trigger events, in a vague way.  No need to be specific.”

“If it helps,” Mrs. Yamada said, “More mental powers for mental stress, physical powers for physical stress.”

“She’s the expert,” I said.  “Let’s go.”

“I want to pick my own power,” Ned said.

“Too bad.  You don’t get to in real life,” I said.  “You think I wanted bug powers?”

By the time we’d finished, more of the butterfly catchers had come back.  They were watching, now.

“Ned gets the ability to fly.”  I’d left him for last. “And some sort of ranged attack.  Kind of like Legend.”

“Sweet.”

“But no power is really that simple.  So… you fly by blowing.  Like a balloon with the end untied, only with more control.  You attack by blowing too.”

“No!  That sucks!”

“Too bad,” I said.  “It’s not all fun and games.  What was your trigger event, Maggie?”

The heavyset girl frowned, blushing a little.  “Um.  Someone chopped my wiener off.  How does that-“

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.  Someone hurt you badly, and you got a more physical power?”

“Reynard said I got super strength, and regeneration.”

She looked at Fox-mask.  I had his name now.

A little boring, whatever.  “Okay.  Now, on the back of the sheet, write down whether you’re a hero or a villain.  Your choice.”

“This has got to be a trap,” she said, “So hero.”

“Okay,” I said.  “And do you join the Wards, or no?”

“Join us,” Reynard whispered, urging her.

“Kind of seems like a pain.”

Reynard groaned.  “I’m wounded!”

“So you’re on your own, or you join another group?”

“Another group.”

“Okay.  And… Bowden?”

The kid smirked.  “Screw that.  I want fifteen million dollars.  Villain.”

“Okay.  Ryan?”

We went around the circle, until everyone had their affiliation.

“I don’t suppose you’d have any dice?” I asked the Wards.

The goggle-hero handed me a handful of dice.

“Oh shit,” Ned said, “You conned us into playing dungeons and dragons!”

“Nothing so complicated,” I said.  “Roll, Ned.  A three is bad luck about your powers, a two is bad luck about your life as a cape, and a one is really bad luck.”

He rolled.  A three.

“Aw, what?  No!”

“Okay,” I said.  “Your powers came with a drawback.”

“I blow air!  I already got screwed.”

“Your power came with the ability to understand air currents, which you need to fly,” I said.  “But they erased something else.  Your sense of direction is gone, unless you’re using it to fly.  Wherever you go, you get lost.  It’s bad enough that you can’t do anything on your own.  Unless someone here asks you to join their team, your life is ruined.”

What?”  He asked.  He glowered.  “Fuck you.”

“Language,” Fox-mask warned.

“It happens,” I told the kid.  “Let’s hope others have more luck.”

We went around the table, there were a few more with bad luck.  I found it interesting when the Boston Wards volunteered penalties.  One involved a trigger event so public that a kid had to abandon the idea of a secret identity.  Another was traumatized by theirs, and wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep for ten years.

“Now let’s talk about what you do with your careers,” I said.  “Ned?  You found a team, and your power’s pretty good, so let’s say you win a fight against the heroes on a two or better.”

He rolled, “Six!”

“Now you fight other villains, who want to steal the money you just got.  Roll.”

“I’m a bad guy, I’m not fighting them!”

“Bad guys fight villains and heroes,” I said.  “But you can give up the money if you want to run.”

He scowled, shaking his hand in anticipation of rolling, dragging it on far too long.

“And because bad guys don’t always play fair, these guys kill you if you roll a one, and they win on a two,” I added.

He rolled.  A two.

“Money gone, you’re hurt, embarrassed, but still alive.  Maggie, your turn.”

The exercise continued.  Once we had a general system in place, crude rules or no, the Boston heroes took up the job, until each of us had three ‘capes’ and a small crowd of spectators.

“I’m not sure I get the point,” Maggie said, after a few rounds.  She looked a little nervous with a crowd looking over her shoulder.

“Okay,” I said, clapping my hands.  “Villains, raise your hands.”

They did.

“If you’re dead, maimed or in jail, lower your hands.”

More than half of them did.

“Heroes, raise your hands if you’re okay.”

Most of the other kids raised their hands.

“Sophie chose to be a rogue,” Fox-mask said, “She’s been in one fight, but she came out okay.”

“You’re screwing the villains,” Ned said.  “It’s not really one fight after another.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but was interrupted.

“Being a villain is hard,” Mrs. Yamada said.  Odd as it was, she seemed to have a measure of authority I didn’t, here.  Weird, that the kids would listen to her because she was an adult, and not someone who’d actually been in the thick of it.

Weird and frustrating.

“One in twenty might make it in the long run,” I said.  “If they’re lucky, if they’re good, if they have friends they can count on.”

“Pat yourself on the back a little more,” Reynard said, a little sarcastic.  The girl in blue elbowed him.

I made sure to look each of the participants in the eye as I spoke, “I wasn’t satisfied doing what I was doing, as a villain.  I switched sides by choice.  Think about that.  Even after all of that, after everything I had, even though I felt pretty good, spending all of that money on helping people in my neighborhood, being front page news, I gave it up.”

I knew it wasn’t time for it, that I should let that sink in, but people were talking more in the back of the crowd, jostling or getting restless.

“So let’s say there’s an endbringer attack,” I said.  “Time to decide.  Do you volunteer?”

Nobody moved.

“We need volunteers, or it’s over,” I said.  “Hero or villain.”

Maggie put her hand up.

“One,” I said.  “Not enough.”

Others raised their hands in turn.  Five volunteers out of the eight who were still in the game.  Ned was among them.

“Roll,” I said.  I handed over the dice, “One in four chance you die.”

The kids rolled, one by one.

Three dead.

“You rigged the system,” Ned said, a little petulant.

“I’m being a little harsh,” I said, “But this is it.  It sounds dumb, but being a cape means beating the odds, again and again.  If you’re a villain?  The reward is pretty damn good, but the risk is bigger.  You saw how few villains actually survived intact.  Even then, a lot of them lost their money, or got hurt.”

I glanced around the group.  “That’s my pitch.  Take it from someone who’s been on both sides.  Being on the side of good?  It’s safer, a hell of a lot smarter.  Know that there’s always going to be someone out there that’s stronger, and-“

The ringing of phones interrupted me.  Multiple phones, all at once, both the Wards and Mrs. Yamada.

A sick feeling welled in my gut.  The Wards looked at their phones.  Mrs. Yamada was the only one to raise hers to her ear.  I closed my eyes.

“Yes,” Mrs. Yamada said.  “You’re coming here?  Okay.  Yes.  Of course.  The Boston Wards are here.  Yes.”

I felt like my chest was clenching around my heart.  The kids had fallen silent.

“Weaver,” Mrs. Yamada said.

My voice was quiet, “I’m not ready.  My new stuff, it’s not prepared.”

“Defiant says he has your old costume, he can spray it white, if you want, swap out the lenses.  It won’t be pretty, but it’ll be better than what they gave you.”

I opened my eyes.  The kids were wide eyed.

“Which one is it?”  I asked her.

“Behemoth.  Seismic activity building in New Delhi.  He hasn’t appeared yet.”

I nodded.

“You don’t have to go,” she said.

I shook my head.  I thought of the Undersiders.  “I’ll go.  Have to.”

“Can I hitch a ride?” Reynard asked.  “At least to the HQ?”

I nodded, glad for the solidarity.  I wasn’t in this alone.  “Probably.”

I looked at the Wards, could see how some were standing taller, grim, fatalistic, but confident in their own way.  Others averted their eyes.  Shame, that they weren’t coming.

“Hey,” Ned said.

I glanced at him.

“Is it really a one in four chance?” he asked.

“Those are the numbers they gave me when I fought Leviathan,” I said.  “They probably won’t be so generous this time around.”

“They call him the herokiller,” Reynard added.

That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  We’re not ready.  None of us.  We’re still reeling from Echidna, from Alexandria.

The kids who were still in the field fled as three Dragon suits set down, crossing the park to rejoin the teachers who’d been sitting in the shade.  Doors opened and ramps lowered to welcome us into the dark interiors.

Defiant and Dragon were inside the Pendragon, waiting for me, Defiant carrying my Skitter costume, Dragon holding a new back compartment, wings extended, two mechanical limbs sticking out each side.

It wasn’t everything I’d asked for, but it was something.

I glanced back at the kids. The ones who hadn’t cleared the way for the crafts to land in the park were still at the tables, along with one or two Wards who apparently weren’t coming.

“Still owe you that prize,” I said.  My voice sounded funny.  “Was going to con Defiant here into giving you a ride.”

“Doesn’t matter,” a girl said.  She had the most butterflies.  “Really.”

I nodded.

It had meant something to me after all, getting the chance to do this.  I met Mrs. Yamada’s eyes, nodded.

She nodded back.

Gathering the Skitter costume and the lightweight jetpack into my arms, I watched the kids as the doors slid closed.

None of them wished us luck.

Maybe we didn’t need any further reminders about our chances.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

607 thoughts on “Drone 23.4

  1. Thanks for reading.

    Not going to pester you about votes or whichever this time around (links are in sidebar of site’s front page if you’re so inclined – there’s also one new blog added to the links). Been considering a side-arc, like Sentinel. Maybe like Migration, taking place in a compressed timeframe.

    Who would you want to see?
    Undersiders?
    Irregulars?
    Faultline’s Crew?
    Someone else?

    Open to suggestions.

    • Faultline has a new and probably pretty powerful organization now, but I really am curious about Weld and the irregulars. I consider Weld the best definition of a hero in worm. Maybe a guard in the juvenile parahuman center to check in on Theo and Sophia. The undersiders would probably be sad and depressing.

    • I love watching Faultline’s Crew operate. I think we’ve seen a lot of the Undersiders. The Irregulars could also be pretty interesting.

      To add a suggestion though we just got introduced to the New York wards. It might be fun to learn a little more about them.

      But overall my vote goes to Faultline’s Crew.

    • Hm…

      The pacing seems wrong for an extensive side arc. So much has changed so fast. Still, after the Behemoth fight we might want something like that, assuming another extremely intense period.

      Of those, the Irregulars seem like the most interesting choice.

    • Well, I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t turn down some exposition on what’s going on with the Undersiders, I don’t see how you can sweep that under the rug unless Skitter won’t be seeing them ever again.

      The other groups aren’t appealing because I just don’t know enough about them. If you can write something that really gets me engaged/interested in following the other groups, I wouldn’t mind an arc on them, but it does seem a tad pointless unless those groups will be more integral with the story as it moves forward. I’m assuming the Undersiders will become very important when the Portal fiasco starts, probably towards the end of the story, so an arc on them seems the most logical.

    • Vote for Irregulars first (I really, really like Weld, plus I’d be very interested in the kind of new characters you could introduce).
      Undersiders second (especially Pariah & Foil).
      Chicago Wards (really interesting characters, plus I always love meself some tinker action)
      Faultline fourth (not THAT interesting, the group feels somehow… flat. Then again, this might be a chance to really flesh them out.)

      Also, I’m throwing out the idea of either:

      Cauldron (probably too spoilery)
      Wards (multiple cities – BBay Wards meeting Foil, New York Wards)

      Would this side-arc take place immediately after the fight against behemoth (like the Sentinels Arc?).

      If you actually start it now and postpone the fight, I think we’ll all team up to give you the Cherish treatment – put you into a tank were you’ll have to write all day, every day, for the rest of our lives. So don’t.

      On second thought, we might do that anyway.

    • Maybe a short arc about Lost Garden? That way you could give the people who want a glimpse of the Undersiders a tease when Barrow comes a calling.

    • I vote for Lost Garden, especially if they make it through the portal.

      Or perhaps the Vegas team – what are they up to, now?

      Of those listed, the Irregulars. Definitely.

    • I would like either an arc about the travelers back on aleph, or an arc about the slaughterhouse 9 post-death of King but pre-Brockton Bay invasion.

      • Yeah, actually, I’d love to hear how the Travelers are doing. Consider that a solid vote from me, I’d really like to know how Marissa, Luke, Jess and Oliver are doing.

        • Well, yeah, but it doesn’t really fit right now pacing-wise.
          My vote’s for Undersiders or Irregulars first, but Faultline and various Wards would be interesting too. Maybe a good point to introduce new characters, and show the captains in their natural element.

    • I’d love to hear more about the normal, unpowered people. The “muggles” as it were.

      Thinking back, I enjoyed the fake forum post and such. Probably more work than it’s worth to do though.

      Really, i guess I just want to hear more about the people that have to live in a world full of superhumans and monsters.

      • Actually, agreed. I really like chapters with an outside point of view. …I’d really like to see that girl in charge of scion, but you’re probably saving that for the finale.

    • Absolutely the Irregulars. Weld is is about my favorite dude in the setting, and his crew probably has the most volatile mix, politically speaking, out there that hasn’t seen exploration.

    • We’ve seen a lot of the Undersiders, but that really just makes me want to see them more. The Irregulars and Faultline’s crew are great and all, but the Undersiders are the characters I really care about, after following them for a million words.

      I want to see if Grue’s really recovering, if the leadership is good for him, if he’s done anything cool with his new power. I want to see what Tattletale’s power tells her about Behemoth, about Cauldron, about the PRT, about Taylor. I want to see what’s going on with Bitch on the other side of the portal, and I want to see Accord raging some more about not being in control, and yeah, I’ll even admit I want to see Regent/Imp shipping. In short, I want to see some of stuff we could’ve seen if Taylor had made the other choice.

    • rhysdeanno’s comment gave me an idea: I’d like an arc about the teams developing and exploring the portal. Scientists, construction workers, surveyors, explorers, doctors, cooks, moonshiners … that could be really, really nifty.

      • Damn you for making me choose!

        But Irregulars. I want to see how they’ve set up, and how things are working out now that they aren’t part of the PRT.

        Then the Undersiders, I guess.

      • Don’t forget the pimps! Every frontier needs some ladies brought in for entertainment purposes. With the close eye of the government, the possibility of monsters showing up, and then recruiting women to go to another dimension, it really is hard out there for a pimp.

      • Oh, that’s interesting! Especially if that world really went through “hero phase” in ancient times (which lead to humanity’s extinction).

        • I think it was mentioned as about 6k yeas ago being the deviation point or extinction event. So about stone age, bronze age. In other words, cities and villages, first city states, leading to first empires, then or somewhere in there EXTINCTION!
          We speculated some bit about what event could lead to total human extinction at the time and came up pretty short.

          I kind of want to see an arc focusing on Earth Gimel and exploring it. I imagine Rachel trodding through some spectacular ruins and just mentioning “Big ass stone houses with horse shit turned to stone”, when in reality she just passed through the stables of Augias (famed in correlation to Herakles).

          • Yes. Think about it – the archaeological digs discovering sites of ancient battles between heroes and monsters.

            • Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright’ning…

              I can see that, but the scale makes it hard to believe for me. At the time the great human diaspora was already pretty much done – the species was established on every continent (with Antarctica being the odd one out) and most bigger islands and continental derivatives.

              For every human to die out you’d need to reduce all interacting populations to below 1500 people. Not tribes, mind you, but interconnected tribes or what have you. 1500 is a somewhat arbitrary but good estimate of the genetic bottleneck humanity could survive without detrimental genetic effects.

              Since a pathogen is only effective if it can spread, and once it kills it host it can’t spread anymore, something like a virus is limited in the devastation it can inflict. At some point it can’t infect anyone else since the host stopped travelling and trading. Without this connection… the infection runs its course and kills everyone or some will survive, perhaps having/gaining immunity.

              A local event like an asteroid impact doesn’t work either, because humanity was spread too far. The existence of megafauna is another opposing indicator.

              Single parahumans as terminator are also unlikely, since pure chance would favour some survival. Unless they had some global tracking power or something equally effective.

              Maybe a mass trigger event, though I wouldn’t venture what could cause this, unless powers are progressive and generationally self-perpetuating until a significant percentage of the population is powered.

              • Actually my bad was on rabid babies.

                Alternatively, the last of the Homo neanderthalensis/erectus triggered and it was the End of the World as We Know, but he felt fine with that.

    • I’d like to see an Arc like Sentinel, where you return to Brockton Bay but show it from various perspectives.

      That seems like the best of all worlds. We’d get to see what the Undersiders have been up to (and hopefully more Parian/Foil :P ), learn more about the Irregulars, and see how the Wards have been reacting to the events of late.

      • I was just thinking similarly. Be it from the Undersiders or Wards, a whip-round would be nice… and from BOTH? Well… I guess it’d be trickier to do without having a set number of people, though.

        Hmm, I’d really like to see something from the other Ward Leaders, actually. Get some more outside views of Taylor and what she does/how she’s doing, but I guess that might be too tied in to the one main plot there.

    • I’m going to put my vote in for Undersiders because I’m interested in seeing how Foil and Parian are working out, along with how they’re dealing with Heartbreaker.

    • My vote is for either the Irregulars or the Undersiders. The first because Weld is one of my favorites and we still have no idea what they’re up to, the second because there’s a whole mess of things going on back in BB.

      Honestly, though, I’d be happy with just about any group.

    • It would definitely be awesome getting to see things from the Undersiders’ point of view again. Of course, we really haven’t seen or heard much from the Irregulars, and I’m curious to see how they feel about recent events, as well as what they’ve been up to. I’m not so interested in Faultline’s crew, but I’m sure if it ends up being them I’m sure it’ll be good.

    • Irregulars.

      Though Faultline’s crew could use some characterization, it seemed bland somehow.

      Not Undersiders.

      Outside perspectives are always nice.

    • Irregulars first and foremost, but honestly would be interested in seeing a week of interludes which has each chapter focussed on a new team, or select a few teams and write a shorter episodal story for a week for each of them, so that we have several separate short stories to read at once.

    • Faultline or the Irregulars.

      Because we really haven’t had that much time with either group, and given the likely importance of Cauldron to the final arcs I think we need to spend some time with the ones most directly involved with them.

      If I have to choose between the two, I’d go with Faultline’s Crew, though. Partly because they’re more immediately relevant to the fight against Cauldron, partly because there’s more to build on with them, and partly because I’m pretty sure that most or all of them are going to die as the first major casualties (as in, named characters who’ve had some screentime) against Cauldron and it would be nice to give them a proper on-screen sendoff.

      The other alternative would be some sort of “snapshots from around the world” arc, to get a more direct look at things outside the US and Canada in the Wormverse than the hints and Interlude fragments we’ve seen until now.

    • i’m feeling like Irregulars or Faultline. as a distant third or maybe just for a curve ball, let’s see the old school teachers. the principal, mr. g, arcadian’s principal, etc…

    • I think it would be very interesting to have an arc on the Adepts. People who are playing the cape game in a way that actually resembles cops and robbers, and that local candidates for the wards consider a viable alternative.

    • people on the other side of the portal IF the world on ther other side is important rather then just the implications of it being there being important

      if the world on the other side isnt important then i vote for iregulars

    • Since people seem to want to see everyone (with a little preference for the Irregulars) what about a “Gondor calls for aid” sampling?
      Summoning.1: Irregulars
      Summoning.2: Undersiders
      Summoning.3: BB Wards
      etc.

      It could show the lead up and ingathering for the Behemoth fight, while also touching base with all the groups and characters outside Taylor’s view.

    • Very difficult choice. On the one hand, Faultline, Gregor, Shamrock and the rest of her crew are great. I would happily read a serial as long as this one starring them.

      On the other hand, I’ve been jonesing for a look at the Irregulars since Echnida got ganked.

      On the one foot, I’d love to see how the Undersiders are doing without Skitter. Also, Needle + Thread.

      On the other foot, would like to see what’s up with some of the old villains like the post-Hookwolf Chosen remnants. And Theo.

      Having run out of extremities, I’ll just keep going. Saint, maybe? Why he tattoo cross on his face?

      Some non-powered man-on-the-street viewpoint(s). An underview, if you will.

      • Most interesting perspectives can be covered very effectively in an Interlude. We don’t need a whole arc devoted to the Undersiders or the Irregulars or anyone else if the goal is to catch us up on things from another perspective. The only reason to have an entire side arc at all is if it’s going to end up tying into the overall plot.

        That said, if we have to have a side arc, I vote for a heroic group over anything. Getting a feel for more of how the Protectorate or the Wards work seems interesting, given the way things are going with Weaver now. The problem with the Travellers’ arc was that all the Travellers were boring. Weld and Clockbocker are anything but boring characters, nor are Dragon/Defiant. I vote for one of those two groups.

        • I didn’t find the Traveller’s boring- Jess was insightful, Noelle was alluring and tragic, and Krouse was kinda tragic whilst being a bit of a dick, but you felt awful because he was still just a kid and he was trying to rescue the one person who’d made his life worth living. I loved the Traveller’s arc, actually.

          And I laughed out so loud that people heard when I read them talking about how the team needed to pull it’s weight etc., and then it turned out they were competitive MMORPG gamers.

            • You’re almost certainly right there, I don’t know a great deal about online gaming.

              It was still hilarious for me though, at first I though they were an independent hero team or something. Wildbow played with my expectations so brilliantly it was Brian Cleavinger level.

            • It’s sort of half-and-half. There’s levels, gear, gold, running through dungeons created by a dungeon master, etc.

              • Levels gear and gold are MMORPG and MOBA both is actually the point I was getting at. The dungeon master format and the dungeons themselves whilst navigating them are more reminscent of D&D or the MMORPG genre with strategy and action hack & slash aspects.

        • A regular human got four appendages. If you’re twisty, you may use your head as well. If you’re male, or close enough to, you have a limited time clothes hanger. If you’re that guy from Faultline’s Crew who is not Gregor, Labyrinth, Shamrock or Faultline you’ve also got a prehensile tale helping you.

    • I think you should choose the group that will be the most important (apart from Taylor) in the rest of the story.
      Fleshing out the world further is nice, but I’d like to stay with Taylor and the people most important to her story.

    • Okay, I’m most certainly going to be the odd duck out, but I’d love to see a side arc of the Endbringers. We know exactly nothing about them, truly, and knowing your skills, wildbow, we’d continue to know nothing about them. Maybe we’ll learn how they came in to being, maybe we’ll see how their fights had gone over time, where they’ve hit.

      I just find forces of nature entirely too interesting, I suppose.

    • I’m most interested in the Undersiders and always happy to read more about them, but also sorta figure they’ll show up a lot later in the story one way or another. Wards and the Protectorate command team are next most interesting to me, but I imagine they show up a lot in the oncoming fight. I’m also interested in the Irregulars, to see who they are and what they’re getting up to, how they work as a team. I don’t think there’s been a European team PoV yet, so that could be interesting (who are the King’s Men, why are they so deep in the red?).

      • Also, what has gone on in the lives of the remaining New Wave members? Did they finish dissolving the group and go their separate ways, and to where?

        Reminds me of a theory I had way back when, that Clockblocker would throw down his badge ind disgust and end up duoing commercially with Laserdream. He’s gotta earn a living doing the work somehow, rolling solo probably isn’t a good idea for a squishie like Clockblocker, and he could maybe get Laserdream to take the lead, taking after her mom. There’s power synergy with him reinforcing her weak shields.. invulnerable polygons on demand is a pretty useful combo move. And who knows, maybe they even get along.. Vista could totally try to set them up, anything to keep Clockie out of the sinister spider’s grasp! Laserdream hasn’t had enough screen time for me to speculate about her motivations with any illusion of accuracy.

    • Personally, I would most like to read about the irregulars, because of all the teams that you mentioned, they’re the one we know the least about, so I think they’d be the most interesting.

  2. ….Oh my.

    Guess we’re gonna learn about the last one…

    Skitter’s speech to the kids was really amazingly done. Statistics may be a step past damned lies, but they’re still pretty damned effective.

    • I liked the way she did the speech, a LOT. I’ve been through the same “drugs are bad” things – my sister once turned my mom in for “sitting around doing drugs all day” because they had told her class (the day before an anti-drug assembly) that nicotine and caffeine are drugs – so much that they lose meaning. The powers / Hero/Villain exercise was really neatly done.

      As always, love it! Thanks Wildbow!

      • Also that whole “do them once and they’ll ruin your life” crap.

        And remember, kids, if you’re going to do drugs, do pot! You can’t overdose on it and it reduces your chances of bladder cancer!

        • Well, technically, you *can* OD on MJ, but it’s pretty hard to because the drugs in it are fat-soluble. But also because of that, you’ll automatically “step-down” if you quit, meaning you won’t get physically addicted to it. Mental/psychological addiction to the effects is still quite possible, though.

          Chemo patients often have problems with not wanting to eat; everything tastes funny and they feel nauseous. Light doses of cannabis reduce nausea and increases appetite. It can also help as a “super” painkiller.

          I’ve never tried that or any other such drug. I did write a paper and give a speech for a couple college classes on it, though. Btw, I completely agree with Weaver’s drug speech. It’s not usually the first time, but going down the slippery slope. And in this case it’s not a logical fallacy. :) If you never do drugs, you have no chance of destroying your life by them.

          • All painkillers have a chance of mental/psychological addiction, even aspirin.

            Take aspirin enough for headaches and eventually your body will have a headache because it wants the aspirin. Rebound headaches.

            • You’re describing a physical addiction and withdrawal. By psychological addiction I meant a desire for the drug that probably includes the idea that you just have to have it. Or just that you want the effects for whatever reason. Not anything that causes an actual physical reaction.

              • In that regard, marijuana is no different than the internet or porn or someone who enjoys the ability to relax with a little alcohol without actually getting drunk. Or someone who takes aspirin in order to feel better in their own head…

              • no, you can have psychosomatic mental withdrawl syndromes that mimic physical withdrawl. The things the human body can do to itself are scary and amazing.

            • True. Smoking is actually the least effective and most destructive way to take it. “Special” butter (possibly used to make brownies) is much better (no ash or smoke), but the best method is vaporization.

              • Just be careful you don’t let some overly religious folks catch you smoking or vaporizing it. Technically, only eating it is allowed if you’re a member of an Abrahamic religion.

                Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, which has seed in its fruit; to you it shall be for food.”

                So as long as it’s used in food, go right ahead!

                …and that’s why Psycho Gecko isn’t allowed to teach a religious studies course.

            • On the other hand, extracting pure THC and injecting it into your bloodstream….

              Reminds me of the lady who killed herself by ingesting a teaspoon of pure caffeine.

  3. Well, that’s a helluva cliffhanger. Was right with my prediction about it being Behemoth, wrong about the location. I wonder how the people who posted on the Parahumans Online message board got the general area right? How do they track this stuff?

    • I don’t think they could with Wildbow revelation on how inaccurate most predictors are. Dragon and Defiant’s new system probably helps immensely by giving a day’s more warning. So they will hopefully have time to gather and transport everyone there.

  4. Hopefully it’s an easy to use jetpack, since an endbringer fight isn’t exactly the safest place for flying lessons.

  5. “Fake can be good. Reality sucks sometimes.”

    Pretty good line there. Maybe that’s why some of us don’t mind a little wackiness and unapologetic fun. Also, some good hints in this for a fanfic I had in mind for whenever I damn well feel like writing it.

    Though another really funny line that indeed had me laugh out loud was:

    “They’re the only thing I regret leaving behind.”

    “How much money?” the heavy little girl asked, grinning.

    Well come on, the little girl had her wiener chopped off in public for a trigger event! At least let her have some money. Do you know how traumatic it is to be a heavy little girl with a wiener and THEN to have said wiener chopped off?

    • Not sure if it’s allowed, but I did the design work for Fingerprints, by May Contain Monkeys. It’s tough to navigate the site, and it’s currently out of print due to the self-publishing house going under, but it’s fairly similar. Description below.

      (not to wildbow / any other moderators: Please let me know if this is not okay to post)

      fingerprints

      A storytelling game of cause and effect in a world of superbeings

      What if there really were superpowers? Unique individuals with abilities far beyond the normal people around them. What would those abilities be? What would people choose to do with those abilities? How would the world react to them? How would the world change?

      Fingerprints is a unique role-playing game for 3 or more players. The game provides a structure for group storytelling, in the style of post-superhero comic books like The Authority, Concrete, or The Watchmen, using paper, dice, and free association.

    • Materials: Paper, pens, dice, one or more cape experts.

      Begin the game by sitting children in a circle and lecturing them about drugs, explaining not that they’re automatically bad, but that the long-term consequences in the end outweigh the short-term benefits.

      Next, give each child a piece of paper, and have them write down a potential trigger event.

      Have each child pass their trigger to the left. Keep an eye to make sure nobody passes to the right, that’ll just make things awkward.

      With each child assigned a pseudo-random trigger event, use the cape experts to determine a likely power that could result from this event. Be original.

      After each power has been assigned, each child writes down on their piece of paper whether they would like to be a hero, villain, or rogue.

      For each child, roll a six-sided die. If the result is three, have a cape expert pick a drawback to the power acquired. If the result is two, a cape expert or passerby picks an unfortunate circumstance relating to life as a cape. If the result is one, think of something horrifically bad and apply it.

      Hero Path:

      First, will you join the Wards, or a freelance group?

      Second, you get into a fight with villains. On a three or higher, you win. Two means you lose, and one means you are a casualty of the fight.

      Villain Path:

      Assuming you have a decent power (determined by cape expert), you manage to find a team.

      You then have to fight heroes on your first outing as a villain. Two or better gets you the victory there.

      After your successful heist, a nearby group of villains decide you pose a threat, and attacks your group. Three or higher means victory, two is a loss but all are safe, and one, once again, means your death.

      Rogue Path:

      Roll a die. On a three or higher, you are left alone. Two, a minor villain decides you are a threat. One, a major villain or group of villains decides you need to be gotten rid of.

      If you got a two, roll a six-sided die. Three or higher is victory, two is loss, one is loss and possibly severe injury or losing your home.

      If you got a one, roll a six-sided die. Four or higher is victory. Three is a loss, but you remain safe. Two is loss and a consequence, such as injury or displacement. One is death.

      On all three paths, you are eventually confronted by the choice every hero must make: Whether or not to fight an Endbringer. Have any participating children who are still alive raise their hands. If less than half do, the Endbringers win and everyone who raised their hands is dead.

      If more than half raise their hands, each participant flips two coins. Anyone who gets both as tails is now dead.

      Repeat until one child is still playing. ^_^

      • Sounds like a game Dragon could refine a bit and post on Parahumans Online! Some changes might be adjusting the chances based on the level of power a person gets, like a separate role that determines relative strength. Also having random events, and have like a sort of end goal, like after a certain number of fights or what not, the remaining players “retire” and their money, fame, power, losses, etc. are tallied up? Would make for a nice night of role playing.

        • It would be best if she could work in actual statistics on cape life — like how many fights the average supervillain get in versus the average hero and how fatal they are. Taylor did a little of that with the one-in-four at the final Endbringer fight, but that could be extended throughout.

          Might be a little like playing some of those old Avalon Hill wargames where they opted for historical accuracy over game balance. I remember playing Afrika Korps was revelatory in understanding how heavily outnumbered Rommel was during the northern Africa campaign in World War II.

      • needs tweaking, the rogue path has to include the choice to use the power or suppress it, and if said power helps in making money or is just convenient. not to mention, this is the wormverse, so it has to include the idea that random new capes show up, maybe the dead ones from the previous round can wait one round and “reroll” only the hero villain rogue choice is taken away and determined by the hero/villein ratio .

      • for rogues i would change it a bit.

        a two is a random villain group decides they want to recruit you despite being neutral. Choices: Join them, fight them, go to prt for help.

        a one is a random villain group decides to fight you to up their rep, or prove they own the local territory.

        For villains. when you join a team, roll a dice, if its a one, after each successful heist, roll again. if its a one again, you get into a fight with a teamate who wants your cut.

        • i would get a few hundred trigger events and side effects and put them on cards so that you could simply draw which is which. Also, i would make a point to have Reputation and Experience be a factor. the longer you’re active, no matter the path, you’re going to be more experienced. and reputation means that you lasted quite a while and was successful, so more capes will make taking you on a priority, it would also mean that you get better loot and/or support-from-the-community depending on your path.

      • You get the power to tele-replace yourself with the closest German bureaucrat whenever you feel anger! But you can’t turn it off.

      • Master. You want to force them to hurry up. You have the ability to give speed and agility to something. Now you have to roll to see what you can give the power to and if there is a drawback.

      • That would probably be a mental power.

        Bureaucracy makes me think of waiting in line for a really long time, so it would be time based.

        Off the top of my head, that makes me think speeding up time in a certain area to make the experience go faster or making someone think faster to replicate the experience.

        The first option has interesting effects like letting you or someone else accomplish a lot in a short amount of time like constructing something. Or you could use it in the middle of a battle to fire off a massive amount of shots in a single instance.

        The second option could let you think things through in an instant or be used in a fight to functionally let you have a faster reaction time because everything except your thoughts would be in slow motion for you. You could hit everyone on your team with it to basically be a buffer. If you were a villain, you could use it as a torture method by stretching a person’s perception of a few seconds into hour/days/months/years and drive them mad.

        Chances are you would get the second.

        • You have a great mind too, it seems. Just not great enough to figure out how to make the 1st option horrifying. But that’s ok, I figured out how to do that all on my own!

          • Obvious limitation on making it horrifying would be you could leave the area, but that could be beaten putting someone in a cage an then applying your power to the area. This would allow you to instantly turn a person into a mummy.

      • The ability to force people to act quicker. Not super speed unless they have it. It just forces them to attempt whatever they’re doing as quickly as possible without regard to making themselves tired or safety or coordination.

        If it’s typing, por ejemplo, the computer may not be able to keep up, the keyboard will be bashed to shit, and their fingers will be bloody from smashing into it. It’ll also be full of the kinds of typos people make when they’re typing too fast.

          • Nah, best way to cope with human stupidity would be to turn into a big mean thing that doesn’t think and just smashes everyone around and violates Marvel’s copyright.

      • The ability to navigate the Byzantine ways and rules of bureaucracy, to always know exactly which office to turn to and which forms to fill out what you want, to know which rules for use for your own ends in any situation, to know how to make the system work for you. You will know exactly the right shortcuts to get “An application for an application form…”; side effects include gibbering insanity.

        If you are lucky.

        If you are unlucky it simply slows down your perception of time so much that things appear to be happening at a reasonable speed…

        • Don’t knock gibbering insanity. Gibbering insanity opens up a world of possibilities. Let me tell you, when you’re gibberingly insane, the world is your toilet.

          • Hey that gives me an idea. You get tired of peoples shit… And get Fecalkinesis. The downside is no one ever wants to work with you, even if you could really shit on an Endbringers parade.

      • I am with you there …

        Useless long waits could lead to … a time-shifting power maybe?
        I could use something like that in the “Amtsstube”

        • it’s not just long waiting. it’s papers being lost/misplaced, supposedly voluntary procedures being enforced in an underhanded way, promises broken, the necessity for something as basic as some piece of mind for a successful academic (or any kind of) life being outright denied…

            • exactly. I managed to pull through because one of the more influental professors knows and likes me and he’s a personal friend of the head of the department, so I finally got my BaFög.

              otherwise, I would be boned

              • Well, you could always move to the U.S., perhaps settle in the South for awhile. I’m sure that’ll be much more agreeable.

                *runs off laughing*

              • Hm, an affordabe and easy to pay back student loan that is a pain in the ass to get, and need to refreshed yearly, or an easy to get but crippling student loan?

                One wonders if the politicians even want anyone smart enough to vote consciously…

              • Spoken by someone who has never been to the South, Tieshaunn.

                Still, I suppose it’s good you didn’t have to be boned to get your thingamajigger. I’d hate to think how bad it would have been for the head of the department to take you and try to bone you. Even worse if your department is archeology or paleontology. I hear some of those paleontologists even bone dinosaurs. Have some decency people!

                Even if archaeopteryx is constantly trying to tempt me with those “come hither” eyes and its “jump on your back and slice you to death” claws. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it wants to bone me.

          • @comickry: I have no problem with the usual BaFöG process. It’s a pain in the ass, but as you said, it’s cheap (you only have to pay back half) and manageable.

            what I meant were problems of the “have to get by for an entire semester without any bafög, working my ass off while trying to also attend courses because one asshole gave me wrong information AND neglected to actually look through my application” kind.

            • Yeah, I got that.

              A friend had another problem – having had a falling out with her parents (not even speaking terms) she was unable to get Bafög, since they had the money to pay for their daughter’s lodgings and living expense, but were unwilling due to the aforementioned falling out. And the way the amount you get by Bafög being based partially on your parents income and ability to support their child… but try arguing this to the Bureaucracy.

    • Sure this sounds fun. My trigger event?

      Either prolonged isolation or trying and failing to rescue someone (likely resulting in me being injured.)

      • Ooooh, let’s go for the second for a combo of physical and mental powers. Let me think…
        How about the ability to grant temporary regenerative powers to others, with the downside that your own injuries take a longer time to heal? Basically be a type of healing. For the mental power, you could have the ability to grant or sooth pain.

      • For the first one, I would say the ability to manifest invisible friends. For added fun, let’s say they can interact with the world but only you can see them. The downside is a bit like Taylor’s in that they aren’t under your complete control (wouldn’t be friends if they were, would they? :P) and can tend to get bored which makes secret identities etc. tricky, amongst other issues.

        The second one would depend on what situation you were trying to save someone from. As a generic answer let’s say either the ability to make everything (and it has to be everything) within a certain radius inhumanly tough (I’d like to say “and immobile but then I’ve basically reinvented Clockblocker) or a complete inability to feel physical or emotional pain along with appropriate levels of resilience.

        There are probably better answers though.

      • Would depend a lot on the reasons you had to drop out of college. If it was due to money concerns you might get something like the ability to create diamond. If it was because the casework was too much for you, you might get something like eidetic memory (which unfortunately deletes predicting memories to make room). If it was because a jerk professor had it in for you, you might get something like an authority aura where people automatically kowtow to you. (Shame the name ‘Regent’ is already taken :).

    • D’oh, wish I’d been here when this discussion was active.
      Realistically, I’d probably wind up with some lame thinker power that would only be useful if someone would listen to my crazy ideas. And it would not help with calculus or essays, because this is the Wormverse we’re talking about.

      I think I was in the process of waking up when I decided I should have the same power as the immortal jellyfish. Then I realized how useless that would be in a fight and tried to add a thinker power to it. Then I remembered this chapter and decided to do it right… then I rolled straight 1s until I died.

      I wonder if it’d be more likely that someone else in my family would trigger way earlier, and then whatever I get might be somehow related to what she’d get.
      (Though, I wonder if just being an immortal jellyfish would be a good way to avoid unwanted attention until the end of the world comes? Na, I’m sure the Bible Belt capes would find out and things would get real. Those straight 1s say so, anyway.)

  6. I had Wildbow beat on something for once! The villainous PSA!

    “It started easily enough. Kicked the door in, hurt my foot, pulled the door so it swung out so I could walk in, and then, just because I was a little ticked off, I slapped a guy across the face so hard he swallowed his cigarette. Remember kids, smoking is bad. There are much faster ways to kill yourself, like styling your eyebrows with a flamethrower. I’m helpful like that. Sometimes, I even take those kids that cut themselves and just toss them in the ocean during shark season. Some of them survive, but they lose that cutting habit sure enough.

    Plus, I like to think I’m helping to feed starving sharks. For just 80 cents a day, you too could throw a bony child to hungry endangered wildlife.”

      • I’ve heard that before. But if anyone wants to read more, they’re welcome to visit villainousintent.wordpress.com and check out World Domination in Retrospect. The world’s not at stake, the villain’s not remorseful, and the angst is only available in Diet and Zero Calorie formulas.

      • Ya. The trouble is that Deadpool is so well known that any sort of smart-mouthed villain automatically brings him to mind, even if the resemblance is otherwise insignificant.

        It’s a bit like trying to write a humorous fantasy novel without being compared to Pratchett…

  7. Man. I hope someone was recording this speech. I’ll bet Glenn and fifteen minutes in Final Cut will do wonders recruiting.

    Looks like they’ll need it, tout de suite.

    “into a large, somewhat ostentatious chair” A nitpick but since the chair was already mentioned should it be ‘the’ instead of ‘a’?
    “-”FIrst off, ” Dash is outside the quotes.
    “The girl in blue eblowed him.” Elbowed.
    “in turn. five volunteers out” Missing caps.

    • I could see Taylor doing an anti-bullying PSA. And it’d be directed at the teachers and kids who stand by and watch. Just her talking about the pranks and the beatings and the emotional torture and concluding with “But the worst part was that everyone else saw. And they didn’t do anything.”

      • Yeah — definitely has the potential to be powerful stuff. I don’t think it’s something either Weaver or Glenn are interested in at the moment, but after she’s really established herself as a hero? I could see it happening.

  8. Loved the chapter and Skitters speech showed us a glimpse of who Weaver will be. But the chapter gave a glimpse into how much it sucks to be a parahuman in the wormverse. The boston wards gave power penalties so easily probably shows that Bitch getting screwed by her power probably isn’t an isolated event. The loners by nature statement also makes a scary amount of sense. The undersiders were very lucky to find each other, something Taylor acknowledges. I am also curious about the identity of the patient who is so upset at someone leaving the wards and who that person is as well. Maybe one of the new york wards greatly admired Flechette? But the big news is it is BEHEMOTH time. New Delhi has a population of 21.75 million people and it will be very hard to evacuate everyone in time. This attack is gonna suck. I hope there are no big deaths, and I am thankful that it is probably difficult to for the Undersiders to get there in time. If Dragon found a way to shield her suits, it might be enough to even the odds. As much as I would love to see Weaver pull of another miracle like her win against Alexandria, I don’t think she can pull it off. Though if Dragon’s tech is gonna get fried, Weaver might have to step up to coordinate and direct everyone instead. So there will be storms, heavy radiation, and everyone he points to dies. The only good thing is BEHEMOTH is slow. Gather a group, and use hit and run tactics to slow him down while waiting for scion. I’d say their best bet is freezing him, though the fact he might be covered in lava makes that hard. It’s up to you clockie. Freeze him, surround him with spider silk, freeze the silk, and do everything in their power to keep clockie alive so BEHEMOTH can’t move.

    • Dennis is going to die. His track record against Kaiju is amazing, in terms of his tactical contribution…not good in terms of his own survival.

      He freezes Leviathan, buys everyone time, nearly dies, would have died without Taylor and Krouse.

      He fights evil clones, gets mangled, helps Taylor take down Echidna, would have died without Scapegoat.

      Oh. God.
      He’s probably not going to go alone, either. Fuck.

      The Undersiders are probably going to be ok. Maybe.

      Maybe.

      • The main issue is getting close to BEHEMOTH. I don’t think anyone who gets in thirty feet of him instantly gets fried, I think its more that he can point to you and you die if you are in range. So a stranger power is best. Something to sneak him in close. The main issue will be when he unfreezes, and hopefully there is frozen silk surrounding him. He won’t be able to move, but Clockie will be his obvious target afterward.

        • Now maybe we’ll find out if the Cauldron capes really do have some sort of IFF inoculation or something going on.

          Like how Behemoth pointed at Alexandria, but fired at a different cape. And before that, with the Triumvirate around, he still fried one of the local capes first. And the point she made about fighting against the Endbringers so many times but managing to survive. And the way the Endbringers never just suddenly popped up where the Slaughterhouse 9 were.

            • A regionally bound threat that causes all kinds of conflict wherever they go, and yet they’ve never been paid a visit by any Endbringers hitting the U.S.?

              I suspect something about the formula changes how they perceive people who take it, possibly making them seem to be no longer targets unless actively attacking the Endbringers themselves. And Leviathan was heading for Noelle for some reason, so they have some ability to perceive the effects of it.

              • Some time back Wildbow mentioned how often the US had been attacked, and it was something in the medium single digits. Simple luck could have the S9 not being hit, the US+Canada+Mexico being rather big. Plus, they like to come after the disaster (not necessarily Endbringer induced).

                Which actually makes it likely they venture beyond Northern America, to increase their pool to pick from.

              • Conflict? More like misery. This is not the same.
                Conflict is between groups, misery is a condition of mind and circumstances.
                So no, I don’t see the Endbringers targeting S9 in the slightest. They’re too small scale, as ridiculous as that sounds, and they spread despair. The Endbringers… I’m not even sure if they are attracted to conflict. More likely to choose regions with conflicts, yes, but what was Newsunkland? Kyushu Under The Sea? Lausaratatataatatta?

        • IF Imp’s power works on Behemoth, she might be able to get him close enough.

          Grue is also a potential way of deploying Clockblocker, either through using his darkness to cover and guide Dennis in, or through directly borrowing his power and making the run himself.

          Other strategies, less likely to succeed, but potentially less risky: hookshot Behemoth from range with an extremely fast cable and have Clockie freeze the cable. No, Behemoth himself doesn’t get frozen, but he does get immobilised. Also has the benefit of potentially being repeatable. Hook him from the left, pin him. Hook him from the right, pin him. Move around behind him, pin.

          Provided you can get a cable onto him once per minute, and you can keep it up, keep reloading the cable launchers, using fliers and fast movers to try to prevent him from focusing long enough to break free…

        • Now I imagine him talking like a pro wrestler.

          “THE BEHEMOTH SAY YOU CAPES DON’T KNOW THE PAIN YOUR GOING TO BE IN! WACHA GONNA DO WHEN BEHEMOTHMANIA RUNS WILD OVER YOU?”

          That said I can’t see any way Taylor can directly fight him. I doubt sticking bugs in him to track him will work. He’d probably fry any bugs that get near him.

          I expect a body count. Sadly I wouldn’t be surprised if we do lose someone we love. Like Weld.

          One good bit of news though. If Scion shows up he might actually kill BEHEMOTH now that he’s been told to. That would do wonders for Morale.

          • I just realized that India probably has alot of parahumans. They, sadly, have alot of extreme poverty which could translate to alot of parahumans especially with so dense a population. I know it was said somewhere what the rate of parahumans to normal people is but I can’t remember what chapter it was. New Delhi has over 20 million people which should give us a chance to calculate the number of parahumans there. That might even the odds.

            • It was mentioned earlier that third world countries had a great deal more capes than in the West. Maybe something similar to that has happened in New Delhi?

              • So I guess they have a large population of rouges? Regardless, hopefully they step up to try and fight off BEHEMOTH. Alexandria mentioned in her interlude there would be 650,000 parahumans world wide in the next twenty years. What is the ratio of parahumans to regular people?

          • I expect plenty of capes introduced in the last few chapters as well as ones we have known longer to be involved in this fight.

            I hope Glenn planned for the possibilities when he designed the new face of the protectorate.

          • Behemoth talking like a pro wrestler? Trust me, I know the guy who fits Behemoth better for promo style than Hulk Hogan.

            youtube.com/watch?v=pb9aAXo-u78

            And suddenly, nobody can do anything but laugh at Behemoth.

        • Up from the depths, Thirty stories high
          Breathing fire, his head in the sky
          BE-HE-MOTH! BE-HE-MOTH! BE-HE-MOTH
          And he’s come-ing…

          (Brownies for people that get the song)

    • Where did the idea that Behometh is slow come from? A 45 foot tall monster is going to be able to cover huge distances pretty quickly based purely off leg length. Sure you could sell me on Behometh being slow in comparison to the flying Simurgh, or Leviathan in the water, but if you aren’t a mover he could almost certainly outpace you easily enough.

      • Alexandria called him slow in her interlude. But yeah, his stride would be huge. Hopefully he lurches forward very slowly or things are gonna get worse.

        • Ok, so he is slow in comparison to Alexandria. Who could fly pretty very fast. As I said if you aren’t a mover he can probably kite you to death by just walking backwards.

          • I still get chills remembering Leviathan doing a wall run. BEHEMOTH might not be able to do that, but it doesn’t mean he’s slow. Or he’s like Godzilla. He’s not fast, but he destroys all in his path and good luck getting him to change course much less stop.

            How flammable is New Delhi?

            • If I’m not horribly wrong in my timeframe knowledge, it’s currently August, which means the middle of the monsoon season. This generally means it’s going to be like fighting Leviathan all over again. ._.; He could boil the capital wholesale.

            • No idea.

              Issue is though, it’s STILL a backed urban environment with over 20 million people, and odds are, most aren’t evacuated yet.

              6 figure casualties are the LOWEST estimates I’m willing to say.

    • Anyone else think about how many insects would be in new dehli? just think about that mass of insectiod terror.

      • I’m thinking of not significantly different numbers than Brockton Bay a couple weeks after Leviathan, with all the bodies and what not floating around. The warmer climate lends to a higher number.

        Rather think of the variety of indigenous arthropods. Bird spiders, the local variety of cockroaches, and for the hell of it I can’t find a decent list of venomous insects in India (>_<)

        • Black Widows and Tarantulas can be found in India, along with 60 odd families of native spider.

          The Tsetse Fly is considered one of the deadliest insects in the world, but only because it spreads malaria and sleeping sickness, I doubt Behemoth is vulnerable to either.

          The real gem for Taylor is the insane number and variety of ants. They’re everywhere, huge and small, poisonous and not.

  9. Interesting.

    She’s not super good at it — I think she didn’t really plan out what points she wanted to get across — but her approach to dealing with the kids was fundamentally sound: she broke the unspoken rules about how Wards are supposed to interact with the public, but (a) harmlessly, (b) obviously, and (c) in order to be able to interact with them on a more equal footing, as someone who wants to talk to them instead of someone who has a lecture for them. (a) means that she’s not likely to get in real trouble for doing it, and (b) plus (c) means that she gets instant credit with the kids for being on their side, instead of the forces of boredom.

    • She was also able to leverage her reputation. Reminds me of a lesson in politics from James Carville about your candidate’s branding. You need to come up with something unique to say about your guy that can’t be said about the other person.

      The specific example he gave was Hebrew National and their motto: “We answer to a higher authority.” Something unique about the brand that Bar S and Oscar Meyer and Ballpark can’t say.

      Here, Skitter can say “I’ve been down that road. These other tightasses are going to tell you how bad it is without any knowledge of it, but I know how it was.”

      • Ooh, on leveraging reputation: these kids were scared of the *butterflies*. If she’s only going to be allowed to use butterflies, that’s what’s going to be scary to people, especially children: they’ll think she’s attacking them.

        Not that it matters for a while with BEHEMOTH coming.

        • Maybe BEHEMOTH will be afraid of butterflies? Nah, he’s got MOTH in his name. Probably follow them around batting at them like a kitten.

            • Somebody totally ought to write a Mary Sue fanfiction where Weaver can actually do that. “Suddenly, I realized he was a MOTH! I could control him! So I made him go attack attack Leviathan underwater! GG Endbringers!”

  10. Loved it.

    Read it twice, couldn’t find typos, but I’m pretty ripped up from work today.

    Sooooo… Behemoth. I have a distinct sense of dread.

    • That’s perfectly natural when talking about something named “Endbringer” and “Herokiller”. Though honestly I actually fear the Smurf more. Behemoth seems more straigtforward. The Smurf you don’t know how bad it made things until later.

      • That’s true in universe as well. I figure for the average civilian the order is the Smurf, Leviathan, and then BEHEMOTH for most feared. Just being near the Smurf ruins your life even if you weren’t chosen by her. Leviathan is so fast, and has such a large range of attack that he probably has the biggest bodycount with millions killed in one attack. BEHEMOTH was said to be slow in Alexandria’s interlude, which gives people time to get away. He’ll destroy the city, kill ALOT of people, and turn the place into a new Chernobyl zone but he probably won’t have the body count/fear of the other two.

        • They mention Behemoth maybe causing nuclear winter as a worst-case scenario in the Legend interlude. Presumably that’s if it isn’t immediately swamped with capes.

      • The Smurf is more of a long term threat to the heroes/world, while Behemoth and Leviathan are equivalent to natural disasters. Simurgh is scarier when you know what she/it can do, and if you have powers, but most of the population haven’t got powers or a clue, so Smurfy seems less terrifying than the others. However, Leviathan might be doing as much damage as the Simurgh at the moment, what with it attacking sources of fresh water and causing a global water shortage.

        • They probably know of Lausanne. And if they do, they know she came amongst them, then suddenly the slaughter began. Even if they haven’t, they likely learnt from the terrorist-style activity following which would be snatched up by media, and the rules and methods of dealing with the zones where she appears, that she is unilaterally the most dangerous one.

        • Remember that one of the travelers was aware of the Simurgh’s full power set despite being from a world where she wasn’t a constant threat. I expect most betians know what she can do.

  11. Off topic (and reposted from the comments section to Thursday’s chapter): I suspect there’s a number of people here who have read “Interviewing Leather“, the story of a freelance writer for an entertainment magazine being sent to write a piece on a supervillain. (If you haven’t, I recommend it — it’s a good story, and it offers an interesting take on why someone might become a supervillain.)

    Reason I mention it? The author — Eric Burns-White — posted the first chapter of a sequel, “Interviewing Trey“, yesterday. Supposed to update every Friday.

    End PSA.

    • Got done reading Interviewing Leather a few hours ago.

      It’s certainly a take on it, but it’s its own universe. Doesn’t necessarily hold true outside of it, though I think I picked up on one possibility that brought up.

      The misogyny that gets mentioned has a little bit to do with the differences between Darkhood and Leather. I’ll try to be a little less spoilery.

      Her reasons were very much centered on the way women are viewed in our society. By physical aspects as deciders of how far they’ll go, with public attention as some sort of goal they’re all supposed to be for.

      He was less worried about such things. Why would he worry? He’s a dude. His life was never about how his ass looked. It’s not spelled out in the story itself, but I sense the effects of privilege.

      And my own personal take on things…not everyone’s in it for attention, whether that’s the attention of people watching the news or the attention of one lone hero. Also, villain moving companies die swift deaths if they have big mouths.

      • Oh, I didn’t mean to imply more generality than existed — I know a lot of character’s motivations for supervillainy are nothing like Leather’s*, and I know a lot of the details are particular to Eric Burns-White’s universe.

        Interesting thoughts on the privilege aspect. It’s a lot harder imagining a male in Leather’s position.

        * SUPER SPOILERY FOOTNOTE: In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of Leather’s psychology in the story is the way she assumes her opinions are universal when they’re really, really not. It comes up explicitly with regards to Darkhood, but your point about things like the moving companies is also super valid.

        • Wasn’t meaning to chop you down there. Was just pointing out something I saw. Pretty normal for a lot of people to see their opinions as universal, and the ending with the liquor store points out another way she was wrong in how people saw her. Plus you can tell she still had an affinity for that stuff. And the idea that villains might be a fan of some of the heroes isn’t entirely wrong.

          I know I’d be a lifetime fan of Superman if something like http://s684.photobucket.com/user/haven_bucket/media/1245822166636.jpg.html was even capable of, say, moving me to tears every time I saw it. And that’s without even reading the big blue boyscout.

          • She enjoyed her outing as Dynamo Girl so much, part of me hopes that maybe she resurrects her as a hobby. Not that she’d reform or anything, but wasn’t the whole reason she became a villain because she “decided to enjoy the world instead.” In that case, why can’t she have both?

            (Plus, imagine the amount of extra media attention she’d get.)

            The parade of one night stands with nutjob heroes and villains is a shame, too. I commented to chapter seven about how that’s not really necessary, with just the modicum of communication and inventiveness that many couples employ anyway.

            …Yeah, I’ll admit it, when I bond to a character, I want it to turn out alright for them. A happier Leather with some of her issues resolved, who saves people as Dynamo Girl as a hobby, and had a steady relationship with like a nice thoughtful guy who runs a book shop and makes up for his lack of super durability by giving really good head… It’s a happy mental image for me, and one can hope at least…

              • Especially if it’s with someone who actually likes you for who you are, rather than being a mental case in tights who is either using you for their fantasy or thinks they can “save” you. Then I’d imagine it would feel pretty damn good indeed. And they make you homemade orange ice cream rather than poison stun grenades, and your dates consist of watching a film together or going to the park, rather than one of you beating the other one half unconscious while trading bad puns. Hopefully once Leather gets a little older she’ll realise she can still have that, it’s not like she’s thick or anything, that kinda stuff just takes a while to work out.

              • I wonder if Cat-Tales holds up to the non-redemptive genitalia standard that it’s not about being “saved” by someone. At first memory it doesn’t seem to suggest Batman would have redemptive genitalia, but I haven’t read it through that particular filter.

                Still, it’s another good long-runner if anyone wants to pick it up.

                As usual, I enjoy the Joker’s parts the most, especially the quote “So now I think there’s this serial locksmith out there with a whole truck full of pink shit.” Also has a great take on Clayface.

                http://catwoman-cattales.com/

                On a note that involves less of a plug for someone else, someone once suggested that I needed to find a woman with redemptive genitalia. Technically, she was not killed horribly after making such a suggestion.

              • To be fair, whilst in Leather’s case the heroes who think they can fuck the villain out of her are clearly misogynistic nutters, in general

                I’ve known someone whose genitalia had a somewhat redemptive* effect on me, at a really tricky time in my life, I wouldn’t imagine I’m the only one, and I didn’t feel like I was being condescended to. Quite the opposite, in fact.

                I think all of us deserve at least one person like that at a tough spot in our lives, actually.

                *(For a given value of redemptive at least, not like I was robbing banks and she made me stop or anything, but you get what I mean.)

              • The description on the site about most of the comics being PR and what not… it reminds me of the premise of The Black Company. Totally different setting, but tangentially related idea: What if the usual Adventure Stories in fantasy are the after-the-fact written propaganda? It’s what an account of the real events would look like by a mercenary company in employ of the Big Bad…

              • Also, thanks for the link, have been enjoying Cat-Tales, it’s amusing stuff, and some bits tug give a tug on the old heartstrings as well.

      • More or less agreed here, though Leather clearly had issues, her position was understandable from the trajectory she started on. She was a tragic and alluring and endearing figure all at the same time, really.

      • It’s interesting that gender issues and what is, essentially, Darkhood’s privilege comes up in this discussion — especially with Leather’s assertion (this is also a bit spoilery, for which I’m sorry) that Darkhood is “old school.”

        My super secret inside sources (all right, it’s my cat) tell me that gender issues will be a big part of Interviewing Trey as well. In a very different way, mind. But then, it’s a different story entirely.

        One point the Admiral raised with me was Leather’s youth, as well. She’s a remarkable woman in a lot of ways, but she’s also significantly less experienced than she thinks she is.

        Thanks for reading. :)

        • I could always hop over there and comment the shit out of that stuff. I’ll comment you so hard, your cat’s babies will be born with laughing, facepalming, and having migraines.

          • Yes, do that, please!

            I felt kinda lonely commenting when the other comments were six years old, together we can be a zany commenting duo!

            And then ice cream!*

            *(You have to buy or make your own ice cream I’m afraid, for the last few weeks my teleporter has just kept making noises like a crying child and teleporting blood whenever I’ve tried to use it… Note to self: need to get that fixed.)

              • If I could sacrifice it to Satan at a later date in order for Leather and Todd to eventually get something approaching a happy ending*, then this sounds like a plan…

                *(Just before posting I realized this wording might imply that this ending would have them together, that was seriously not meant to be implied, the idea is silly.)

        • Will we ever get to see Leather again?

          I’d like to know how it turned out for her, and I can imagine Chapman getting into enough trouble with Jack that Dynamo ends up leaping through a window to his rescue at the last moment…

  12. So, …
    1. At four chapters this is the shortest arc yet, and already seems to be concluding (unless the arc continues to follow the endbringer attack).
    2. I’d make some reference to the tv thing, but I’m a little distracted by my next point.
    3. So Behemoth’s up next…
    … CALLED IT!!!

  13. Excellent transition from calm to suspense.

    Approve of, and am amused by, the voting praeteritio.

    Generally would trust your choice for the arc on who’s interesting, and relevant to what’s happening and what will happen. (E.g., very few of us would have picked the Coil/Piggot flashback, but that had excellent bang for the buck)

    Cauldron is probably impractical – too many secrets there, right? Very curious, but not sure it’d make for the best overall story.

    Faultline’s crew – unless they’ve come up with a way to deal with Contessa – is basically stymied as I understand things. They still want to publicize and bring down Cauldron, but their only option right now is try, fail, and die. If they’re moving on to a new purpose, or found a plausible way to pull of their goal, sure. Else, like the characters, but not sure where they can go right now. Maybe playing SG-1 with the gates they’re apparently setting up elsewhere?

    Irregulars might be very interesting – a sideways view of how Weaver looks to those who have their own, very good, reasons for being skeptical about the Protectorate. Their own reasons for hating Alexandria. But also their own reasons for choosing heroism, despite the system’s betrayal. Not sure if they’d take her without the tattoo, and Vegas is looking probable right now, but that would be a dark horse candidate for Weaver’s new team.

    Undersiders – would rather see more separation than a week or so before seeing what they’re up to from their own viewpoints. Besides – reunion time in New Delhi!

    Man on the street’s always interesting. Worm’s-eye view – what the unpowered think of what’s going on.

    If you’re planning on running the Behemoth fight from a non-Taylor viewpoint… well, that’ll be quite the change. Also, Dragon can’t talk right now – Weaver might be acting as mission control out of necessity, then. Not exercising command, but handling coordination and communications.

    Otherwise… it’ll be interesting to see. Weaver’s got multitasking and range, and those seem really helpful… if her target weren’t nigh-invulnerable, and much better than Lung at setting himself on fire. (Bugs, like ninjas, cannot catch you if you’re on fire.). How do you even fight a dynakinetic who ignores the Manton limit? Distractions, blindside him, super speed, simultaneous attacks, otherwise try to hit him and get out before he can think to use his power? Endless waves of expendable combatants? Or just pray for Sion?

    • Yeah, I’m betting on her doing coordination. No way her bugs can get close enough to do anything, but she would be able to know where people are and relay messages. I’m also betting on her using someone else’s toys- borrowing a tinker’s super-heat-resistant wire to use like spidersilk, for example.

      This is not going to be a fun fight for her, methinks.

      • Ooh that’d be neat. Though if it went that well for Weaver, I’d expect it to be balanced out by a couple of people she (and we) care about not making it out alive.

        • Well, Saint was hired to make the world so bad that they will open the birdcage. So, sabotaging an End Bringer fight is an idea. Perhaps sabotaging Dragon to do this.

    • Hmm, concievably Tattletale could be a great asset even if she didn’t go personally but instead was given all of Dragon’s/PRT’s data feeds of the battle and a line to the capes fighting him. Same w/ Accord if he’d be willing to help.

    • I am looking forward to the unlikely and incredibly awkward Dragon-carpool between the Boston Wards, previously Boston-based Ambassadors, the Undersiders, and Weaver and co.

    • It’d be a good way to keep them out of the fight, since they don’t necessarily have Plot Armor. I’m also unsure about how effective some of them would be. I’m sure Foil will be going because of her power, and I can see Parian going as well. I can’t see Bitch or Imp being very helpful in combat, but they could both be useful in getting downed capes out of harm’s way. I don’t remember whether or not Regent was able to do anything to Leviathan. If he was, he could be very useful, but otherwise not much more helpful than a normal person.

      Whether or not Grue would be useful is really something to think about. He could copy other capes’ powers to use for himself, but then they’d be essentially hamstrung. Of course, if he doesn’t need to completely surround someone in darkness to use their power, he could be much more effective. If that were the case, he could partially cover several Blasters or other capes with powers effective at long ranges, and help out that way. If he couldn’t do that, though, he could always use only the powers of unconscious, but non-critical capes, so as not to hinder others.
      As for using his power on Behemoth, now that’s an interesting thought. First, would a lack of sound and light hinder Behemoth much? It’s entirely possible that wouldn’t even slow down the Endbringer, and only make it harder for everyone else to hit him. But the other possibility is that he would be able to use Behemoth’s power resulting in him being a massive asset. Though we don’t even know whether or not Behemoth’s abilities could be copied that way.

      Tattletale should definitely be able to watch the fight closely, whether or not she would actually need to be there, or if she could be just as effective watching through a video feed is unknown. I expect we’ll be getting some insight into the nature of the Endbringers though. And if Grue does end up copying Behemoth’s power, and Tattletale is able to observe that, I can see us getting a lot of new information. That is something I’d like to see happen.

      • Behemoth lives underground, so deep nothing can touch him. I think he can handle a little darkness. The question that comes to mind is, can Brian copy HIS powers?

        Probably not.

        • He burrows down to where the molten earth is so bright from the heat he can see… though not really far, given it’s all molten earth. :P As far as we know, it’s just a straight drill down through the earth until he reaches the mantle. His visual acuity might be affected by Grue’s darkness regardless of his actual ability to see because it’s a cape power-derived darkness, and thus affects the crystalline Passenger *finger* that they deal with.

  14. I really love these parts where she’s just talking to people outside her previous realm of association about this stuff. And then that ominous call. I had just been wondering at the beginning of the chapter whether or not enough time had passed for that to happen yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what role she takes in the Behemoth fight, and of course, whether or not Scion is going to come in and finish off Behemoth for good. There’s also the things I’m not looking forward to, like who is going to be coming back alive. I can’t see the casualties being so conveniently focused on people who were enemies of Taylor, or relatively less cared for by us readers. I also am hoping the most powerful man in the world’s last order to Scion doesn’t have any unforseen consequences.

    Oh, and crazy idea; what if Scion does kill Behemoth, and that is a part of the chain of events leading to the end of the world situation?

    • That last thing…I think it’s really, really likely. And ironic. Killing the Endbringers brings the end of the world about.

      • From what has been stated the world will end 15-30 years down the line if they aren’t permantly stopped anyways.

        • Nah, people will just start freaking out that Scion’s actually killing now. Maybe governments, maybe regular folks, maybe the PRotectorate or PRt, with their emphasis on PR, but someone’s going to lose their shit and bring about their own destruction.

          • Ooh, yeah. The knowledge that Scion will kill, even if he’s only seen killing an Endbringer, could make a lot of people uncomfortable.

            • Yes everyone is going to be sooo upset Scion has decided to kill the giant monsters that each have death counts in the millions, and that really can only be stopped by him or Lung on a really good day. I think it’d be more of a relief for people.

              • You’re thinking like a reasonable and intelligent person. Stop that and you’ll get a better sense of the reactions of most people in the Wormverse.

              • Sure, it’s fantastic Behemoth’s dead. But hold up, Scion kills now? Does he only kill Endbringers? Will he be killing other Class S threats as well? Will he be killing Class A, B, and C threats? Will he be killing anyone who does anything wrong? Will he even only kill people who do something wrong?

                The people of the Wormverse didn’t get the Most Powerful Man in the World interlude; they don’t know why he does what he does. Hell, that guy doesn’t even really know. In fact, we honestly don’t even know exactly how Scion will process his orders. We can only wait and see.

      • My money is that killing them is so hard, Scion ends up reducing most of the area into barren wasteland trying to kill Behemoth, who then gets away. This is then promptly repeated with every other Endbringer until he finally kills them and than at that point, he’s done so much damage trying to kill them that it barely even matters that they’re dead.

        Basically, it’s as if people just barraged nukes at them every time they appeared. They get rid of them but the collateral damage is through the roof.

        • Interseting theory. Though when he was attacking Leviathan wasn’t it just disintegration balls or something?

          Or it might turn out that if you actually kill an Endbringer, it just causes a new one to spawn.

          • I figured he was ‘holding back’ during the Leviathan fight. Doing enough to make him leave but not enough to accidentally nuke the area.

        • How about Scion goes all out, Behemoth instead of retreating treats it like a battle to the death, and Scion loses.

          Feels more like a “it got worse” scenario.

          • Or, this being Worm, Behemoth dies, but so does Scion. And there are still two Endbringers.
            (Also, wasn’t the Smurf starting her descent towards the Birdcage? They don’t ever attack at the same time, but if she attacks a few days after, there won’t be anyone in good enough shape to fight her.)

  15. This chapter was pretty damn great. I really enjoyed the Wards reactions to what Taylor was telling those kids. The whole saying Drugs are bad is a lie part made me die laughing. And now we finally get the Behemoth fight. I can’t wait.

    • Yes, kids, drugs are bad. Just imagine if someone went off crazier than usual and there were drugs out there that could help him maintain and become a productive member of society with remorse for their actions?

      Sends shivers down some spines, doesn’t it?

      While we’re at it, let’s all join Scientology!

  16. Excellent chapter in my opinion. From the time you introduced Mrs Yamada I was hoping she would become Taylor’s therapist.

    One part seemed a little odd to me
    >“Is this monster metaphorical?”

    >“That’s a very good question,” I said. I leaned on my knees and stared at my hands. “Is it just me? Or >is it my ‘passenger’, some inscrutable life form from a parallel universe that decided to give me >powers,currently helping me manage those powers so my brain doesn’t overheat?

    I think this is a very odd way of phrasing this. Might come off as a little crazy, since she has no idea if Mrs. Yamada knows about the passengers. What we’ve seen from the non-cauldron capes and parahuman researchers suggests to me that very few people are in the know. If I were in Taylor’s situation, I’d be careful about not saying potentially damaging things like “There is a monster inside my head” without being very clear beforehand about what passengers are and how she knows about them.

    >….”We don’t know enough about them, about powers, even, and the unknown is daunting”…
    Speaking of which- how is Yamada in the know? What does she (and the PRT/Protectorate in general) know about passengers?

  17. Wow, I’m stupid. I only just realized why Maggie might imagine someone cutting her wiener off: because transphobes think that being a girl means not having male sexual organs and violent transphobes might take that thought as a suggestion.

    Good writing, wildbow.

        • Sorry Gecko, I’m going to have to cut this line of commentary short. If we give it a chance to grow, it’ll just be really hard to deal with, so I’m afraid I’m going to end it sharply.

              • You don’t want to make anyone a eunuch. They get a bit of a Napoleon complex and next thing you know they’ve taken over China and spend their nights in their harem.

              • I get the distinct feeling you’re talking about someone specific. Most mongolian entries into the Chinese dynasties didn’t seem very eunuchian, so whom are you referring to?

              • Was more of a reference to the eunuchs that held a great deal of power in the Han Dynasty, specifically after the Yellow Scarves rebellion when the Emperor was rather easily manipulated. Eunuchs were entrusted with positions of power because they’d be unable to establish their own dynasty due to the lack of equipment.

                There was a power struggle with one extremely powerful group of eunuchs attempting to assassinate the General of all the armies/co-regent of the Emperor, and a successful attempt after he urged the other co-regent to execute the eunuchs. This led to a big fight in the capital and that group trying to hold the emperor hostage, and then a big power vacuum that, combined with the effects of the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, led into a period of civil war lasting almost 100 years. It’s better known as the Three Kingdoms Period.

                The harem part was just because harem guards have traditionally been eunuchs. Turns out that was the original answer to the question “Who watches the watchmen?”

        • “Each of you write down the most horrible thing you can think of, that you can reasonably expect to happen to you in the next few years. No need to get too complicated. Think of something horrible that would give you a trigger event. Write it down.”

          • “Each of you write down the most horrible thing you can think of, that you can reasonably expect to happen to you in the next few years. No need to get too complicated. Think of something horrible that would give you a trigger event. Write it down.”

            I waited while each of the kids wrote something down. Other kids were gathering now, but they’d be bystanders. It was the stragglers who were the focus now.

            “Hand your sheet to the person to your left. Boston Wards, help me on this score. We’re going to make up powers that sort of fit the trigger events, in a vague way. No need to be specific.”

    • I was never clear on the timeframe of that interlude. Did it really happen between the last Endbringer fight and now?

      More importantly even if Scion does interpret the order correctly, does he have what it takes to carry it out?

      I think even in the best case scenario where Scion actually tries to the Endbringer, a lot of capes are going to die before he shows up.

      • From comments by Wildbow earlier I think Scion could have the power to kill an Endbringer if he showed up late enough in the fight. After the heroes and villains have died in droves weakening the thing. If Scion showed up too early I really doubt he could kill an Endbringer before it escaped.

    • Can you imagine the looks on all their faces?

      They’re all depressed, little hope now that Alexandria’s dead and Scion flies in, murders the fuck out of Herokiller like it’s no big deal.

      • With the denser-than-physics-says mass at their cores, I imagine the Endbringers go up in one helluva nuclear reaction when their will/powers are unapplied from their bodies.

    • More I think about it, more I think Scion is going to be the loser if they get serious enough, and then everyone’ll be more screwed with no Golden Boy to save them.

      Or he will kill Behemoth, only to have some terrible consequence. Maybe the corpse splits into two little Behemoths.

    • I’m half expecting the BEHEMOTH fight to end in the next escalation of Taylor’s accomplishments. The last time she thought her friends might die, she killed an invincible powerhouse. If the Undersiders show up for this fight like they said they would, the same thing could happen again.

  18. Okay, time for a discussion about Grue in the Behemoth fight. First off, can he copy Behemoth’s power? If he can, I’d like to see what he might learn about it from that. Or what Tattletale might learn about it from that. Or what Grue might learn about it if he simultaneously copies Tattletale’s power. If that doesn’t/can’t happen, I can see him being used to combine Clockblocker’s incredibly useful ability with one or several Brute powers, resulting in someone with the potential to actually get close enough to freeze him. Of course, you could also just have every cape cluster together and see what happens when one person has all of their powers at once. No matter what, I can actually see him being a huge asset in this fight.

    • I actually hope they don’t show up. It hasn’t been too long since they have seen each other and I worry that they lack plot armor. Taylor would be devastated and blame herself if something happened to one of them. He can only copy one power, and lacks the passenger to control it properly. I figure his best role would be to support others by copying useful powers. Having a second clockblocker, a second forceful user, a second healer etc. as needed. I don’t think he’d survive getting close to BEHEMOTH.

      • Oh, shit. I totally forgot about that. Well, that completely shoots down almost that entire train of thought. Though whether or not he can get Behemoth’s power would still be a valid question.

      • Leviathan always was the loner of the Endbringers. He just liked to sit and watch his goldfish swim in their little bowl, all orange and happy and stuff.

        Then, one day, the humans came with their little nets and their plastic bags and their county fair.

        It was horrible. Leviathan vowed his revenge on humanity for what they did to his little goldfish. Mr. Poopster and Goldilocks will be avenged!

  19. Not ready….

    Yes, it appears that way. Even from a story perspective this seems to early.

    We never learned how recovered Dragon is from being freed from her programming and her collapse in Vegas. Considering that she was the one doing the coordination in past Endbringer fights that would be important.

    And 4 Chapter seems like a really short arc. Even if get a full chapter with travel and preparation before the fight starts it will be short.

    Maybe there will be something anti-climatic? The fight is over before Taylor can join or make any significant contribution?

    Maybe next chapter has her waking up looking at an unfamiliar ceiling like Shinji Ikari…

    • Taylor- “Uhh… What happened… And why is there a can of raid next to my bed?”
      Defiant- “You sort of turned into a giant bug monster and beat the tar out of BEHEMOTH. We felt a few precautions were in order.”

    • > And 4 Chapter seems like a really short arc. Even if get a full chapter with travel and preparation before the fight starts it will be short.

      Arc 8 had over three chapters of Endbringer fighting, plus three chapters of denouement. I don’t think it’ll be overly short.

      • Yes, but I wouldn’t think that ‘Drone’ would be a fitting title for an arc focused on fighting an Endbringer. It sort of fits the working and stuff Taylor has been doing, but massacre of heroes not to mention all the civilians really seems like it would not fit.

  20. And finally Taylor gets some therapy. About damn time. Although it seems like their is way less therapy for capes than they actually need. I mean Weld had to put in a request for his team after they all saw friends die. Not to mention that anything that works for a trigger event is truamatic enough to warrent it.

    No surprise Taylor has issues with buracracy. Or really with the system in general. In her experience it fails. Look at how well they dealt with her being bullied. Look at how often they sided with the bullies. Hey, punishment only works as a detterent if you actually punish the guilty party.

    At least Taylor seems to have inspired a anti bullying campaign. They must really be afraid of another Skitter showing up.

  21. Somehow, for the Endbringer situation, I’m picturing something like was mentioned above, the visualization being the collapse of a full-barrier defense in a particular adapted anime syndicated series that was common in the mid-80s. Nothing lives for miles. But the heroes won! Kind of.

    As far as the ‘game’ Taylor was playing, she’s already taken two or three steps for that group of students to *not* get their theoretical trigger events. By focusing on them, giving them the attention, now they’ve the potential to be the ‘popular’ kids… or at least as not-outcast as they were. And, by consciously raising the idea of trigger and stress and scenarios and the like, may have reduced the possibility of such events occuring as well. Masterfully played there.

    The Call O’ Doom reaction was fittingly appropriate. The same reaction happens/happened onboard naval vessels going to General Quarters (During a non-drill scenario), firefighters getting a bad call, fighter pilots during the Blitz scrambling to provide cover, etc, etc. That moment of “Oh crap.” followed by “Well, we’ve got a job to do. Saddle up.”

    I would hate to be a Ward that didn’t have an appropriate power and was basically instructed to ‘stay home’ while the rest of my team was out there risking their lives. The survivor guilt would be worse than someone who was actually ‘in the thick of it’.

    Terrifying food for thought, here. What if Zion doesn’t hold back, and the capes are actually legitimately beating the Behemoth for once, on their own, without Alexandria…

    • ->Terrifying food for thought, here. What if Zion doesn’t hold back, and the capes are actually legitimately beating the Behemoth for once, on their own, without Alexandria…

      Hell, this is the first time PRT will fight an Endbringer without Cauldron capes in the lead.

      If Zion starts killing Endbringers now… Think of the implications. Of what analysts will think. Cauldron removed from PRT -> Zion stops holding back -> Endbringer permanently defeated. Conclusion: destroy Cauldron and everything related to it as the first priority.

      Hell, even Number Man may come to the same conclusion. Wonder what it’ll do to him. Him and Legend / Eidolon.

  22. God that was a good chapter; probably one of my favorite to date…definitely top 10.

    I was really happy to see the interaction with Mrs. Yamada. Taylor gets a chance to start working out some of her issues, and someone in the bureaucracy will finally know something about what goes on in her head, and what was going on in her life. Taylor has needed a chance to talk some things out for a long time, but hasn’t had the time or the right environment to do so.

    Even better was the scene with the kids. I can imagine that activity, or something like it, having a serious impact with the students. Taylor was REAL with them in a way that most probably haven’t experienced before, and hopefully that impression will last. I wonder if the PRT will see its value, and try to replicate it in other schools. It would be appropriate that Taylor had such an influence on a program that she is indirectly responsible for.

    Ending with a call to face Behemoth was a master stroke. Both in-universe, since it has that much more of a visceral impact on the students, and from the reader’s perspective, since it nicely queues us up for some violence after the more peaceful and reflective (relatively) chapters we’ve just had.

    I can’t wait for the next installment, I’m sure it’ll be earth-shattering ;) Thanks for writing!

  23. Man, I make a comment about how Weaver can take out Behemoth, and the very next chapter Wildbow pulls out the guy.

    My cape name is Jinx-tongue, and I’m going to STFU for the rest of the next chapter as a precaution.

  24. Behemoth: Meh. I could her…
    Heroes and Villains in unison: RUN AWAY!
    Behemoth: Yes, run from me you teensy little fleas!
    Clockblocker: Not YOU! (points at Weaver) HER!
    Weaver: EAT DOOMY BUTTERFLY DEATH MOTHER*BLEEEEEEEEEEEP!*
    Defiant: Language!

    • Glenn: Weaver, we need you to look a little less violent while you’re decapitating the apocalypse monster. Less bloody too. And Defiant says you’re cursing too much. Cut that out.

      • Hoyden: You need to listen to Glenn, Weaver. About dressing the right way and keeping your hair impeccable while you’re beating down the Herokiller…

        Vantage: How to talk so you command the butt-ugly kaiju’s attention…

        Jouster: How to HOLD yourself so everyone knows Hadhayosh is your bitch.

        Behemoth: *sob*

        • It’s a widely known fact that the Endbringers cannot be slain. Weaver was however, the first person to make one beg for mercy.

  25. I am hoping that Scion shows up and he and Behometh both die during the fight. It would be great for slowing down the Endbringers, and proving they could die would be wonderful. On the other hand the whole ‘delay until Scion arrives’ plan would become useless, so I expect the number of losses caused by the Endbringers would skyrocket.

    • Maybe not. Leviathan at least has no way to instantly stop the flock of Dragons suits, and their nano thorn tech might be enough to soften him up for others to do enough damage to force him to retreat. The Smurf probably would just do what she always had. I doubt Scion has really made much of a dent in preventing the damage the Smurf has done. Her main plan of creating Echidna went off without a hitch even though Scion showed up almost as soon as she did according to Wildbow. The smurf might have more time plan out her attacks, but overall I doubt she would even notice.

      • I think it is quite reasonable to believe that Scion has interfered in quite a few of Simurgh’s plans. The problem is that Simurgh has alot of plans, and most of them are very dangerous. The reason I believe this is that the Simurgh can’t see Scion’s future, so at least some of the time Scion must have shown up and interfered with Simurgh’s plans before they could be put into action.

        Also, Leviathan doesn’t need to instantly stop the Dragon suits in order to win, he just needs to keep killing people long enough to cause giant tidal waves. Not that the suits aren’t a huge boon to fighting the endbringers, but Leviathan ripped one suit apart pretty casually, so destroying all the suits in a battle is quite possible.

        The most important thing is that delaying until Scion arrives is one of the two primary plans for the capes, and if that option is off the table any battle where they can’t push the Endbringer back early will probably end in a loss.

        • The Nanofog (nanoscopic scale molecular disassemblers, to be precise) are probably only useful against Leviathan.
          They are susceptible to heat (like everything on that scale), Behemoth is somewhat close to a lava giant.
          Simmy can scramble electronics, so she could screw them up and remove the apoptosis/deadman switch/suicide/non-reproductive modules and restrictions and we have a Grey Dust scenario at hand.

          • I imagine that Scion has stopped plans of the Smurf’s before. Probably messed up some of her disaster dominos at some point. But she seems to have a lot. And she even puts some in motion when she’s supposed to be asleep. Remember Maquis chapter?

  26. i very very much like these chapters with the therapist they give so much insight into the chracters she talks to also what weaver did with the kids was awsome

    • I’m honestly appalled, actually. So far we know of what, three therapists for the whole Protectorate + Wards? They’d ought to have a dozen with the constant crises and threats of death!

      • I imagine Yamada as one of the “better” ones employed by the PRT, and is thus getting deployed to the toughest cases. The bay wards? Right after all the crap they dealt with, sending your best person seems like a reasonable call. Her position at the asylum-whose actual name I forget at the moment-also lends credence to her competency. Edilon also looked her up, and even if she was the only game in town, he found her good enough to hear his confession. Finally, Yamada has talked to the wards in the Bay, and has a little more context on Taylor’s actions from the mouths of the heroes who have faced her. Seems like a pretty good HR decision to me.

        • Hm, okay. Might be dealing with a case of observation/selection bias, since we haven’t seen significantly more than her.
          Still, is a psychologist per local chapter (protectorate + wards) too much to ask for? Weld’s asking for one for Brockton Bay indicates some neglect there…

          • I think that neglect was part of Priggots regime since she really didn’t care about her Wards. (Pun very much intended)

  27. So, Taylor is going to be in the old Skitter costume working along with the Undersiders and D&D this time. I think this is going to be the middle ground she was looking for. Taylor will no doubt be going all out on this fight, ignoring anything Glenn or anyone else says in order to pull off a win. The stakes are simply too high for her not to. So, if Taylor pulls off the win (and hopefully finds way to kill Behemoth), the images splashed across the world will show her in an outfit that is a combination of her old villain outfit with heroic modifications, bridging the gap in more ways than one by having the heroes and villains standing at her side. You’d have her at her most heroic and most terrifying at the same time. Millions of people would probably not care at that moment that she didn’t use her pansy butterflies and instead find a new symbol of hope to replace Alexandria. At the same time, I would imagine the public outcry at her remaining imprisoned after such a feat would force the PRT to release her from prison well before her 18th birthday.

    The story is starting to reach the near end, so I think an Endbringer getting offed is in the cards soon, and this presents the big chance. At least that’s my hope.

    • I don’t see how she could possibly do it but after finding a way to beat Lung, Dragon’s most powerful suit, and Alexandria, I will never underestimate her again.

      • For the sake of delicious schadenfreude, Taylor needs to kill Behemoth. Imagine Emma’s reaction to knowing she was provoking someone who offed an Endbringer.

    • I doubt Taylor could pull a win at this point, I expect it will more likely be a major assists if she is involved in a significant way in the fighting at all.

      Thanks to her just acquired flightpack (if that is what it is) she will once again acquire mover classification. Between that and her swarm she will be ideally suited to assist by transporting things and people in addition to her normal role of acting as recon/intelligence/control.

      A tinker made gadget/bomb carried close to the giant by her swarm to hurt and distract him at the right second. Perhaps helping a repentant Legend make a heroic sacrifice by distracting Behemoth at the right moment. Carrying a wounded and dyeing cape close to the hero killer so that they can try to take him with them. That sort of thing.

      I also expect India to have lots of local capes. With a big population to draw from there should be enough local capes in the region to make any contribution from foreign capes less relevant especially with Alexandria gone. Either Weaver gets relegated to the sidelines or by the time the North American heroes arrive the hero-killer will already have slaughter his path through much of India’s defenders.

      • I hope Wildbow takes the local culture into consideration in naming the capes, if names are a concern. Yes, I’m still miffed at the Richter in Germany, it just doesn’t fit.
        Being unaware of the religious implications, but there are a lot of gods they could name themselves after. Also, the bible belters are likely to be the only religious capes, and what with the way religion is deeply ingrained in India, be that Hindu and Islam as the main religions, or the implications of caste in that whole debacle – lower caste people being more inflicted with traumatic events, hence more lower caste parahumans. This could actually have lead to a distinctive societal change, now that I think of it.

        • I fixed the Richter, changing them to something else. Combination of it not fitting and me already using Richter elsewhere (Dragon’s creator).

            • I have the image of a group of heroes with craftsmen themes (probably mostly tinker and striker types) who instead of having a wards program have a bunch of Azubis, Gesellen or Lehrlinge as colourful sidekicks.

              This could actually work now that I think about it.

              • I’d like to see how they came to be. What we’re talking about are rather specialized themes, and the way powers work there isn’t overly much wiggle room in what theme one can choose for their mask.
                Now I’m thinking of them as villains and trying to make Torfrock’s “Wir unterkellern Schleswig-Holstein” happen…

  28. I have a question regarding the legalese of writing and publishing on the net.

    Especially, one of the drawbacks of writing and publishing on the web is the author ceding/using up their first publish rights. I get that, and can see the line of reasoning traditional publishing houses have with trying to avoid works already published in some form.
    The real stinger for me is, how much rights to the work does the author cede to the web platform used? Namely, could wordpress use parts or the complete work of Worm and publish it to showcase how good a service they are? The form or medium used is irrelevant in that – could be books, ebooks or whatever. I suppose the terms of service specify their claim on your work, but, well… the terms of service are not necessarily compliant with the current code of law.

    Also, distantly related, just to probe the waters, how would you, Wildbow, feel about a fan effort to make Worm into an audio book or podcast, akin to Methods of Rationality? Given your update speed it would be a long runner since it couldn’t really keep up with the work involved, unless it was adapted to audio drama form, which in turn would also require work, so probable either case it’s update slower than the original.
    Alternatively, one could adapt parts of Worm, kind of a Best Of, or try to replicate the tone of the story with a selection of scenes.

    I am not trying to infringe on your rights here or anything, I wouldn’t even know if I had the time and confidence to participate in such a project, but your thoughts on the matter would be enlightening.

    A last point: Using dependent clause liberally in English, but also being used to applying punctuation* generously, I’m confused on the when and where to use comma or not. Is there some rule beyond generally kenning or “feels right to put one there”? Because that’s the way I do it now, basing off when I would pause for breath and emphasis.

    • that in and of itself would require a serious consideration, as well attention to background noise/effects and music. plenty of free sources, of all of those, and the voice talent could be found if some-one paid for it. But considering the fact that wildbow will take the whole story after completion, polish it off into one or more books, it would be prudent to wait until said book is ready before trying to make an audio format.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dependent_clause may answer your last question.

      If the clause functions as an adjective, you may need to separate it from the independent clause with commas. Specifically, if it is a non-restrictive adjectival (aka relative) clause, you should use commas. Restrictive relative clauses are ones that specify essential information about the noun they modify, as opposed to restrictive clauses, which supply non-essential information. (“that specify essential information about the noun they modify” was a restrictive clause just there, and “which supply non-essential information” was a non-restrictive clause.)

      There is little correlation between when speakers pause in conversation and when the rules of written grammar dictate that a comma should be used. Despite the fact that many English teachers suggest using this as a guideline, it really isn’t a good one.

  29. I just re-read Alexandria’s interlude to get a better idea what Behemoth will likely be all about.

    I was struck about the repeated references to two plans to deal with the same problem one involved the Protectorate and Alexandria was beginning to think it was not going to work and another seemed to focus on finding the right individual…. There was also talk about a body double for Alexandria with similar enough powers. Food for thought certainly in light of recent events.

    As for Behemoth, dynakinesis seems like a sort of do-everything power if taken literally. Thankfully what little we saw of him indicates that he is not very imaginative or sophisticated with it, but he doesn’t really need to be with that sort of powers.

    He pretty much appears to be able to do one-hit-kills against everyone but Alexandria. The only hope for someone like Weaver would be to attack from beyond his range and out of his sight, but I doubt that bee-stings will do much against him. Using her strands of web to trip him seems like it probably wouldn’t work either…

    On the other hand Weaver seems to be uniquely suited to help with search and rescue looking for survivors in an area devastated by an earthquake. Her powers will be a lot more useful in the aftermath of the attack than during it.

    • On the other hand Weaver seems to be uniquely suited to help with search and rescue looking for survivors in an area devastated by an earthquake. Her powers will be a lot more useful in the aftermath of the attack than during it.

      Ooh, good point! I’m remembering when she was talking to Coil in 15.4 about the sweeps she did of her territory — her recon ability is incredible.

      I wonder to what extent she can get an idea of the structural stability of the debris, as well — which way things are likely to shift if certain items are removed, that sort of thing. Depending on the depth survivors are buried, the data might be more complicated than even she could interpret.

  30. Personally, I’m looking forward to what Clockblocker is going to try. Number one on the list is of course doing the spider-silk combo, but I can think of lots of ways to stop ‘Moth… OH. MY. GOD.

    Behemoth > ‘Moth > Moth!!

    Weaver is able to control Behemoth!

    Anyhow, one tactic: Clockblocker could do the rope trick… With two or more ropes. Create a cage with one set of ropes (at a good distance and wearing lead-lined trousers), freeze it, interweave another ropes, freeze that after thirty second, interweave a third, stack them, etc. If Behemoth has legs and space underneath to weave a rope through, he can’t escape. As a last trick, do the silk thing, except Behemoth can probably fry the line as it closes in…

    In any case it will all go horribly wrong, and Weaver will salvage the day by becoming a super-efficient command HQ.

    • This was addressed before “Able to control Endbringer = too scary to be allowed to live”.

      Although, Taylor is a hero now…

      • If anyone was able to control the Endbringers and tried to use them for anything aside from destroying themselves that cape would be hunted like a dog. By everyone. It wouldn’t matter if it was a hero or a villain, the chance that they could have the Endbringer operating constantly would be the kind of threat that requires elimination as the only sane option.

        • But… What if an Endbringer can’t kill itself?

          Let’s say that Taylor (or someone else) can take control over Begemoth.

          The range is limited to six blocks / less than a mile. When she tires too much / sleeps control will slip. It can’t kill itself. Heroes don’t have enough firepower to kill it. What to do?

          Personally, I would do the following:

          1) Damage it as much as they can

          2) Secure Taylor in the most secure facility possible

          3) Construct a spaceship that will deliver Begemoth into the Sun after control can be established next time

          4) When the next attack comes, place Taylor and Begemoth onto the ship.

          The loss of one cape is acceptable cost.

            • Finally someone sensible! I mentioned this exact line of reasoning a few chapters back, and unless we got a black hole handy I wouldn’t throw anything into the sun that lets physics give them lapdances!

              Though stuffing him into Uranus might be feasible.

              Unless he builds a fusion flare and coasts the whole planet through the solar system, which would be a nice case of Nice Job Breaking/Fixing it as well as Class 5 Apocalpyse.

              • I don’t know if he’ll fit in Uranus. While it can be quite gaseous and hostile to life there, I wouldn’t put it past him to escape Uranus more pissed off than ever.

              • No flight should make it hard for him, unless he explodes the planet or gases in such a way to propel him some 22km/s at the least he’s screwed.

                Unless he makes a fusion flare, which is essentially a planet-sized propulsion system. With BEHEMOTH being a dynakinetic…

              • If he could do that with Uranus, he could do it with Earth. Seriously, if you fire him into space don’t aim at *anything* – just fire him off into deep space…

  31. Quick thought:

    Smurfette can scramble electronics, but we don’t know if this is known in-universe. Dragon was on her own since Newsunkland. Dragon’s possible trigger event was 2007 or something? Now, we don’t know when she became active on a recognizable scale, establishing the birdcage, deploying her suits, but, and here’s the point:

    What if Simurgh scrambled Dragon’s automatic satellite backup, effectively giving a trigger event where there oughtn’t be one, and then destroyed the local copy?

  32. As a sidenote, I’m currently reading the rpg.net threads, and Wildbow just hinted towards something about Siberian’s powers and the vials and the travelers and Wolfwood2 figured out that the formula numbers for the sample Siberian took is the same one that Jesse/Genesis took.

    • Both were projections.

      It would have been interesting to know if Manton was able to control Siberian’s look and make, i.e. if he could have made Siberian be anything.

      Regardless of that, maybe Manton just took a much more potent formula of the same basic design. The Unstoppable Force and Immovable Object is very potent in my mind.

      • In Battery’s interlude didn’t they say that even if it were the same formula the powers might be different? Manton got less versitility and more power than Genesis.

        Man I sort of miss the Travelers now. Particurly Sundancer. Maybe the end of Worm will be Taylor finally thinks she can take a bread, then a portal opens up, Sundancer steps out and…
        “Skitter! Earth Aelph deperatly needs your help!”
        “Sigh. It’s Weaver these days.” Pulls on mask.

        • > In Battery’s interlude didn’t they say that even if it were the same formula the powers might be different? Manton got less versitility and more power than Genesis.

          Yep. And they mentioned in Number Man’s interlude that adding Balance tends to reduce the strength of the powers (while simultaneously reducing the probability of bad side effects).

          (Your Earth Alpha story reminds me of The Nocturnal Adventures of Sir Coffee {SFW page in deeply NSFW webcomic}.)

  33. It’s good that Taylor’s able to talk out her issues, not so great that Yamada seems to be pushing a version of the PRT’s narrative about Skitter, but I suppose that’s understandable based on the information she has to work with.

    • You mean by pointing out that the Brockton Bay Wards didn’t deserve to have their asses kicked repeatedly (Shadow Stalker excepted)? Frankly, I’m inclined to agree. I didn’t see a lot of other propaganda from her.

      • The Brockton Bay wards were almost always attacking her, with the intention to bring her in, in those situations. It’s a little hard to be an undercover agent/rescue Dinah/help people/fight the S9 if you’re in a prison cell. She never sought out the BB wards and hurt them simply for the sake of it, she defended herself when they attacked her. Still a regrettable situation, but it takes two to tango.

        • Taylor had claimed that the people she hurt deserved it. The Wards didn’t deserve it. Triumph didn’t deserve it. Even if fighting them was the right decision from a utilitarian standpoint, that needs to be acknowledged.

          • “Deserve” is a twisty, difficult concept, and I’m not certain she said that literally everyone she hurt deserved it. However, I do take your point, that does need to be acknowledged, if it hasn’t been. But, if we’re acknowledging that, we also need to mention the utilitarian/self defence thing- and neither Taylor nor Yamada did.

            Damn morality, why must you be so complicated?

            • If you’re talking about Weld, Clockblocker, Vista, Kid Win, and Flechette, no, it’s not twisty or difficult.

              As for the utilitarian point, I believe she didn’t use it to defend attacking the Wards specifically because she’s honest enough with herself to realize that Skitter had been evaluating the Wards unfairly to help relieve her cognitive dissonance.

              • It’s tricky because as much as they didn’t deserve Skitter’s violence, she didn’t necessarily deserve their violence, or having her liberty taken away. (And Dinah, or the people she took care of, or those she rescued from the S9 sure as hell don’t deserve that either.) “Deserve”, much like “should”, is a concept that gets tricky and messy in the real world. I mean sure, you can say that the Wards didn’t deserve Skitter’s violence, and she didn’t deserve theirs, and the people she was helping didn’t deserve her being taken from them. But at that point, “deserve” doesn’t necessarily represent quite the definitive moral litmus test we expected it would, does it?

                It’s almost as if it’s complicated, imperfect world, where decent people trying to do the right thing end up hurting each other due to the machinations of other’s conflicting agendas and their own imperfect information, or something.

              • @Admiral Skippy: I was about to say something along the lines of “desert is not something you can merely cancel on both sides of the equation”, but I think at this point our differences spring from differing philosophical intuitions, and those arguments never end. Neither of us propose that Skitter should have gone to more effort to hurt the Wards, and neither of us propose that Skitter should have surrendered rather than hurt the Wards, and the other issues we discuss are mostly just words.

              • I certainly wasn’t saying it cancels, that would almost be simple, what I was saying it was twisty, and a difficult concept to employ usefully in these sort of situations.

                And yeah, on the substantive issues we more or less seem in agreement.

          • Ok. The Wards didn’t deserve to be covered in hornets.

            What did Taylor do to deserve, oh, everything the PRT have done to her life?

            Here’s the thing. So long as people want to yell about how Taylor assaulting PRT personnel is somehow bad, there will always be an answer which shuts that shit right down, and it’s the following list of names: Shadow Stalker. Armsmaster. Panacea. Piggot. Coil. Tagg. Alexandria.

            The PRT have never actually paid for their long list of fuckups, fuckups which occurred through either incompetence or malice.

            • Ok. The Wards didn’t deserve to be covered in hornets.

              What did Taylor do to deserve, oh, everything the PRT have done to her life?

              Nothing. That’s not the point. Taylor’s therapy sessions are about helping Taylor, not seeking justice, and Yamada is helping Taylor evaluate her past decisions and motivations as a way to make Taylor more able to make good decisions in the future. Understanding exactly how large a negative the damage she did to the Brockton Bay Wards is necessary if Taylor wants to make a truly fair determination of whether Weaver is doing more good than Skitter did. Understanding the ways in which her prior situation led her to lie to herself, and helping her unravel those lies, is necessary if Taylor is going to evaluate the merits of her future actions.

              Taylor’s problems with bureaucracy are going to be discussed in the future — Yamada made a note of it. A lot of those problems will be legitimate. And if, at that time, Yamada focuses on making Taylor ignore those problems instead of learning strategies to deal emotionally with the stress caused by those problems, then I’ll change my tune. But for now, I think Yamada’s approach is eminently appropriate.

              • Going by what’s happened to date, I don’t think we will ever see someone who is PRT personnel (and that’s what Yamada is) openly just come out and say “Yes. We fucked up. We are partly to blame for this entire messed up situation, and we need to stop trying to punish you for our mistakes.”

                Taylor’s in jail. Her public identity is dead in the water. She has come out in front of the entire country and confessed to some pretty damned serious crimes. While she was at it, she did NOT out the Protectorate as being a cat’s paw of Cauldron. She came and personally turned herself in to try and make some good out of the situation. She’s dealing with bullshit restrictions on her abilities which have already lost the PRT a serious engagement. She is, right now, on her way to fight Behemoth, and she didn’t hesitate for a second.

                What the hell do the PRT WANT? Like, they really, really need to stop being unreasonable. They need to stop responding to requests for negotiation by trying to torture people into total surrender. They need to stop just writing people off for shit reasons, and they REALLY need to let go of the bullshit cops and robbers, heroes and villains dynamic, because it is at the heart of everything that is going wrong.

        • Including the time the Undersiders ambushed Shadow Stalker, mind controlled her into “capturing” them so they could get inside PRT headquarters and steal the PRT files on the Slaughterhouse 9?

          Or when she attacked and humiliated them after Tagg blew her secret?

          The BB Wards have sought a fight with Taylor once (the bank job) and every following fight happened at her instigation.

          • Taylor knew nothing about Shadow Stalker and the others kept it from her due to how furious it would make her, and the first mission into the PRT headquarters was ordered by Coil, as was the attack on the Mayor’s house, in which she urged for caution and moderation and Trickster was the hothead who escalated things.

            Her attack on the PRT after Tagg outed her is a fair point, though she was kinda seeking a fight with Tagg rather than the Wards.

            She certainly defended herself when the Wards attacked her, and she was willing to enter into situations that would lead to that if it was for an important reason- but she never deliberately sought them out and attacked them specifically for the sake of it. Not claiming she was Ghandi or anything, but it’s an important distinction to make.

            • You’re mixing up Shadow Stalker and Victor. Tattletale left Skitter in the dark about the plan to hijack Victor, but Skitter was fully complicit in the plan to hijack Shadow Stalker — in fact, she picked Shadow Stalker. Yes, it was convenient because Shadow Stalker was easier to bait out than the other Wards, but it was also a moral choice because Sophia Hess i.e. Shadow Stalker was practically a villain herself, unlike the other Wards.

              Colony 15.3. Search for “What the fuck was that?”.

              • Actually, yeah, you’re right- I was misremembering from the fact that Regent kept Skitter in the dark about all the other stuff he pulled with SS afterwards. Taylor tricking her so she could be taken over wasn’t a vindictive act against SS though- it was to serve a purpose. Taylor was not pleased when she learned Regent had taken it further, and felt fairly uncomfortable with the whole thing.

        • But that was their job…very first meeting with the BB Wards, she robbed a bank. She humiliated them at the party. Are they just supposed to sit back and do nothing?

          • Of course not. But my point is that she never deliberately sought them out for the purpose of attacking them, is it that tricky a distinction to get? Taylor fought back in self defence, whilst pursuing other objectives, (usually serving a greater moral purpose), objectives which brought her into conflict with the Wards. Taylor certainly wasn’t shy about pursuing those objectives if she felt it was for a good cause, but she wasn’t pursuing any kind of vendetta against the Wards or anything, and she can’t be expected not to defend herself.

            • “And what about the Wards? I wasn’t there at the time, but one of my colleagues started seeing the Brockton Bay Wards a short time after Leviathan attacked the city. Did they commit a transgression that warranted the pain they suffered at your hands? The ones that aren’t Shadow Stalker?”

              I didn’t have a ready answer to that. She waited in silence for long seconds before I shrugged. “There was stuff, the fact that they tolerated people like Shadow Stalker, but I’m not sure I could explain it now. Feels like a long time ago.”

              Taylor is trying to justify it with “But they had Shadow Stalker on their team.” Thing is they didn’t have much choice. Sort of like you were stuck going to the same school as your bullies. Heck we see in the Wards arc that they didn’t like her, and that she would bully the others as much as she could. Look at what she did to Vista. And how Weld caught Regent controlling SS. I really doubt anyone in the Brockton Bay Wards was all that upset Shadow Stalker was gone. More likely to be worred about Regent.

              • I wasn’t arguing in favour of Taylor’s justification of her actions, she’s on the wrong page to a greater extent than Yamada if that’s her only justification, though I think in truth she was perhaps thinking in more moral terms than practical ones. But the simple justification is that she was defending herself, and they would have taken her in otherwise, it’s not complicated. The pain they suffered is certainly regrettable (though Taylor tried reasonably hard to minimise it), but the context is vital.

              • I wholeheartedly agree with you, Skippy. read your posts over on Spacebattles, and they were very insightful. I’m rather saddened that people look at therapy as some sort of magic “Focus on YOUR problems and what YOU did wrong and everything fixes itself!” instead of the realities of what therapy really is, which is bringing you to terms with it and allowing you to find your balance with your issues, and if they can be directly touched upon in a non-destructive manner, to do so as part of the therapeutic process.

                The worst part of all of this? All this would never have even occured if they didn’t give Shadow Stalker preferential treatment and cover her tracks for what she was doing on a constant daily basis to Taylor in civilian guise- Things that schools sadly do ALL THE TIME even if there isn’t a governmental body pressuring them to keep things quiet. Or if they had properly kept Shadow Stalker in custody and given HER therapy she so desperately needs, so she wouldn’t have been so maladjusted and have such a skewed worldview. Another hero -team of two- would have been on patrol and would have dissuaded Lung’s crew from even starting what they did towards Emma and her father (Since Shadow Stalker explicitly stated AND showed that she lets criminals commit crimes against hapless bystanders before she goes in so she can then go in and half-kill them), and she would have been shocked, maybe a bit frightened, but she wouldn’t have been broken like she was, and she’d still have been there for Taylor, who would have been there for HER as well.

                So yeah, Taylor has done some bad things, and she does own up to them- But don’t for a second DARE throw all that shit at her like it’s entirely her fault those circumstances occured and that they weren’t thrust upon her because of circumstances outside her control. She has been shaped by what has been thrown at her every step of the way, shit she shouldn’t have ever had to deal with but was forced to because of a negligent government body that doesn’t seem to believe in even the existance of PTSD let alone proper treatment for the mentally deranged, ON TOP of the same shitty broken school system that advocates a so-called “zero tolerance” policy but forever looks the other way and administers at best slap-on-the-wrist punishments that do nothing to actually punish the offenders, but make the defender’s life a miserable hell all “because they talked”.

                …Geh, I’m done here. /rant

  34. UNF, this is going to be so great, ENDBRINGERBRAWL 2013!

    “Hey folks, this is your announcer Bob Genericson telling you to bring the popcorn, you won’t need a microwave because Big Behemoth’s TURNING. UP. THE. HEAT!

    Yes folks, clocking in at 45ft high and covered in ultradense para-dimensional pseudo-obsidian crystal, Behemoth is a real contender for Endbringer of the year after a poor showing by Leviathan in the later stages of the Brockton Bay league. Whadda ya say, Jim?”

    “That’s right Bob, after a magnificent showing in Kyushu in which he brought his total Confirmed Civilian Bodycount higher than the competition by several orders of magnitude everyone was expecting a great showing from the Ravenous Reptile but by all accounts the Brockton Bay Heroes just cut him off at every turn leading up to a late-game intercept by Scion. You know he’s gotta be going back to the Abyssal plane disappointed after that, he had the homefield advantage with Brockton Bay’s natural aquifer and coastal position and he still lost it.”

    “Mmmm, mmmm, so what do you reckon to Behemoth’s chances in the upcoming matchup, I understand that he’s going to be facing some of the Brockton Bay crowd in this match too?”

    “You bet, but don’t forget New Delhi is an unknown quantity in this game and we’re looking at a region with a lot of potential for some great capes but Behemoth has shown he can really thrive under some stiff competition, they don’t call the big guy Herokiller for nothing, Bob.”

    “Ha, that’s right Jim, for the benefit of new viewers Behemoth currently tops the charts in the highest number of Confirmed Parahuman Kills. Current estimates peg this Endbringerbrawl at likely 150-300 Cape Down’s if he’s to continue his track record.”

    “He’s facing some pretty stiff competition this time Bob, rumours that Armsmaster will be coming out of retirement with a new team and a new attitude after his public withdrawal last season. You’ll remember he really kicked things up a notch in Leviathan’s last showing with a nanobush glaive and adaptive combat kata-calculator that really gave the Leaping Lizard a run for his money, some folks actually wondered if it was curtains for his career before a last minute powerplay put him back in the game.”

    “Classic Leviathan.”

    “Also in the news a lot, young Taylor Herbert AKA Skitter AKA Weaver, the warlord of the boardwalk, the butterfly bruiser, this newcomer has shown she really has what it takes to cut it in the big-leagues. If you remember it was her combat intel that really helped the Heroes keep Leviathan in their sights and she’s shown herself to be a real adaptive player, pulling off some stunning third-inning power plays in the midyear leagues.”

    “One to watch for, and you’ll watch it all here, on ENDBRINGERBRAWL 2013!”

    Don’t forget your sunscreen, SPF OVER 9000!

    • The problem with tallying up the points for the Smurf is that the real damage doesn’t kick in until much later. So five years later the guy who’s power she knocked off line goes made from parasites in his food and blows up a nucular power plant, do you count that for the year she attacked or the year he made the explosion?

      • “Don’t worry ENDBRINGERBRAWL fans, we use a foolproof method of assigning score to the Simurgh. Every citizen marked with a Simurgh Warning tattoo after PRT vetting gets added to her score as a confirmed kill, with a triple point finesse bonus. In addition, we here in ENDBRINGERBRAWL HQ have a whole room full of Thinker brains in jars hooked up to Tinkertech-… one moment…”

        *Currently Experiencing Technical Issues*
        =ENDBRINGERBRAWL coverage will return shortly=

        “Appologies for the interruption, folks. So anyway, I was just talking about how our crack team of news analysts…” *wink*

        “Oh shit is he winking, get that idiot to stop winking!”

        “…scour the headlines for anomalous events and whatever percentage of them we can trace back to Simurgh above the global averages for violent crime, extortion, suicide and other metrics, she gets the points for in the annual rankings! So don’t worry ‘Brawlers, we make sure ol’ Smurfy gets scored fair and square, and I for one welcome her rule and the eon of terror it will usher in for those who are unfortunate enough to survi-.”

        *static*

  35. ” Labyrinth, Bakuda, Night, Fog, Mannequin, Siberian, Leviathan, August Prince… again and again, it’s their ability to communicate that’s missing, either because of their powers or because they chose to hide or mask their voices.”

    Is LEVIATHAN really supposed to be in this list? Or, for that matter, Siberian, considering she knows he was a Cauldron-cape?

    Also, Taylor, might want to throw in a few heroes next time. They’ll think only the villains have social problems or something!

  36. Well, crap.

    They are going to need the following capes for this fight:
    – Chevalier with some kind of grappling hook weapon
    – Flechette for penetration and ensuring the projectile above actually reaches BEHEMOTH
    – Clockblocker for the obvious step 3 in the above plan
    – Chronicler if he’s still alive as a literal force multiplier
    – Eidolon of course (if his passenger lets him bust them out again, gravity attacks might be one of the few things BEHEMOTH can’t counter.)
    – Kid Win’s teleport tech (ideally, to materialize stuff inside the monstrosity if possible)
    – Skitter Taylor Weaver Spy for her nigh-unmatched command-and-control capability. An essential backup for Dragontech if BEHEMOTH starts throwing EMPs around.

  37. I’m wondering how the endbringers fit into the lifecycle of the passengers. It is almost as if they exist to disrupt the ecosystem necessary for the passengers to make use of a world, and their generation occurs with the passengers making contact with a world.

    Which makes me wonder if the passengers cause the end of the world as a part of what they do in their lifecycle, at least much of the time. I’m sure it will get developed more.

    As to the density of the endbringers, Wildbow stated it was only to the molecular level, not the nuclear level. Which has its own implications as to what will hurt them, what can stop or kill them and what killing one of them will do.

    But this chapter endcapped so neatly. Tight. I’m looking forward to what happens next.

    • If it’s only molecular level, then it might be some kind of bond stronger than covalent and ionic and metallic bond. None of those hold up to judicious appliance of heat. Like a nuke.
      We’ve been told nukes had no effect. If we base this on the smaller nukes, well, it’s still a controlled runaway nuclear chain reaction with millions of Kelvin in the centre of the blast. I have no idea what can top that.

      • not true, graphite of sufficient purity can survive a nuke at ground zero, even structurally as the case may be. The experiment that demonstrated this had two spheres of graphite placed 30 yards or so away from zero point and they survived with minimal scouring (granted they ended up 5 or so miles away, but moot)

        • I know, part of the conclusions of this experiment was feasibility of graphite shielding for the old Orion design at the explosion buffer plate.
          It ablated layers, though. It could be the same case for Endbringers, and the drawback is the truly enormous effort required to reduce them beyond recognition.
          Also, what for the graphite in the centre of the explosion? Though that might actually limit the force and energy since graphite is a neutron brake or whatever you call it, decelerating/limiting the runaway nuclear chain reaction

          • neutrons slow down when passing through carbon, lead, and few other elements do to the weak atomic bonds applying enough pressure to reduce there momentum. however, this applies stress energetically in the mass causing fracture. like a resister being overloaded, but since the energy is already expressed over a longer period of time a carbon mass at ground zero would focus the blast and then shatter. akin to shaped explosives used by the military, however it would take ALOT of graphite to shape said blast into anything useful, (thus the general failure of the Orion project in practicality)

    • That is an interesting theory. Someone should put it on the TVTropes WMG page.

      Of course if that came out everyone would start killing capes in the hope of preventing Endbringer attacks.

    • The Endbringers help create the chaos that leads to trigger events, so they might be a catalyst to the process, not a hindrance.

  38. I’m Back.

    Has everyone forgotten that Saint is going to be making things worse? All those nifty dragon suits might turn against the heroes halfway through the fight.

    I think this upcoming fight is going to be an absolute disaster, unless Scion manages to show up early and wrecks Behemoth.

    • I don’t think we’ve seen any real indication that Georgie-boy is really utterly batshit insane, though. That’s what would be required for him to do that. They’re mercenaries, not lovecraftian cultists.

    • If Saint’s smart, he’ll wait until later, when all the heroes are tired and Behemoth is driven away. Assuming, of course, that the big bad kaiju takes precedence.

    • He doesn’t really need to be insane though. If he’s not in New Delhi, then it’s no skin off his back to slow down the suit response times or activate a self destruct or two.

      Plus, it makes Dragon look bad, which means he might get put in charge of the Birdcage and other Dragon stuff.

      Not only that, but strike when the enemy is weak. And the Protectorate is at it’s weakest right now. No Alexandria, huge loss of capes from the Case 53s leaving and anyone who left after the Cauldron business started, like the Vegas Heroes. And now they have to fight the Herokiller.

      If he wants to make things worse, and possibly get the Birdcage opened, he’s not likely to get a better shot.

      This all depends on his personality of course. We don’t know enough to know if he’d take advantage of this situation or not.

      • Except if he gets caught, he’s fucked. Messing with the defense during a Endbringer attack? Instant kill order. No one will want to do buisness with him. Even most villians will want him dead. He’d be violating the terms of the truce so bad it wouldn’t be funny.

        • PRT’s been perfectly willing to jump in bed with him before. He’d have to be outed to everyone, and then that’s hoping they have heroes willing to take him and his Dragontech down right after a massive Endbringer attack.

          • The PRT’s been willing to jump in bed with him before because they saw him as a potential asset, and the idea of not having Dragon on the team, let alone as a rogue element, is terrifying. In this scenario, he’s just committed unimaginable treason, against the PRT and everything they believe they stand for, and against humanity itself. Also, Dragon’s still loyal to their cause, and he would have handily demonstrated her loyalty to them by choosing to attack her as a method for weakening their defences.

            As for having capes on hand to go after him? In this scenario, all the defenders that are left alive will probably learn that he had culpability in the deaths of their friends, team mates, and lovers in some cases. An Endbringer attack has a massive number of capes to go with it, so even if their casualties are vast, that’s still a lot of capes that are out for his blood. Maybe it takes some time for a formal response to be mustered, but if the defenders on the ground find out about his role, that won’t matter, because he will have a parahuman lnych mob heading his way. And the PRT will provide them info and transport, or at the very least turn a blind eye.

            (Also, comment on Interviewing Leather Part Seven, my comment is the only one that isn’t six years old and it’s getting lonely.)

  39. Out of curiosity, do you think we could get a link to that Worm timeline someone made added somewhere to this site? Might be helpful to have on hand.

    • Also, I don’t know if anyone has asked this yet, but is there a limit to how many bugs Taylor can control at once?

      • None that she has found. In 11.2 she spent fifteen minutes spiraling through her territory summoning all the insects within range and she still didn’t hit any limits.

      • There’s also the distance limit of a couple city blocks. I think that’s been slowly growing, although she can apparently get a temporary instant boost if she’s feeling trapped. But the range doesn’t directly influence the number of bugs controlled beyond the basic bigger area = more bugs correlation.

        • Seems to be a range limit only. Considering the city in question, we might see her hit her limit.

          Not sure how big Brockton Bay is supposed to be, but I suspect New Delhi is still quite larger, and while bugs of various species can survive quite well on their own, they also do much better with humans providing food, hosts, and warm places to sleep. The more humans, the better for the bugs.

          • I think I broke it down once, calculated an educated guess at the Brockton Bay population at various stages. Should have been something like 500k or less before Leviathan. New Delhi is about 40 times that, depending on definition of area and what not.

  40. Pet theory of mine: the Endbringers are actually projections- made partly of physical matter, but projections nonetheless. This is because from Blasto’s interlude, we know that the EB don’t actually contain living tissue in the conventional sense, they just have a sort of fractal crystal structure to their “flesh”, repeating at increasing levels of magnification. I’m not saying that we should expect them to look like normal tissue, but if their bodies where the totality of their existence then you’d expect something dynamic, something moving and alive, if you looked at a low enough level.

    So it makes sense to me that the real living creature is probably elsewhere, tucked in a pocket dimension or on another earth, and the body we see on Earth Bet is an appendage. It could be that all the Endrbringers are controlled by one source, or it could be that they each have a true body in some other place. Or perhaps the true living portion is kinda intangible, but rides along with the endbringer in the core of it’s body.

    The upshot is, even if their bodies are destroyed, it might just mean they take much longer to reform, rather than dying, unless you can attack their true forms. So Scion maybe able to by the Earth some time, for as long as he lasts, but ultimately killing them might mean grappling with the real deep issues we’ve seen hinted at before, rather than a superpowered brawl.

    • We already know that passengers aren’t solely attracted to humans and that for example even an AI can trigger.

      So far we haven’t seen any parachimps or paradolphins etc but who knows.

      If we go with the Gaia theory and consider the planets ecosphere itself as an entity it certainly has been under enough stress lately to undergo a trigger event. So Planet Earth plus Deus type passenger with projection powers might actually be creating manifesting the Endbringers.

      Of course Gaia powered elemental themed defenders sort of makes this sound like a twisted version of Captain Planet. I guess Simurgh has shown that heart really is an awesome power…

      Alternative theory: The Endbringers are so alien, because they actually are aliens. They are what is left from the previous cycle when Passengers descented on another planet empowering individuals. They are so powerful because they are all that is left. They came to earth to prevent things from happening again, but their system of values is just to different from ours to make sense.

      • My best guess so far is that they’re predators of parahumans/passengers. The schedule is so they don’t overgraze. They kick over cities, oil fields, the Birdcage, etc.. ‘cuz it draws their prey like flies to shit, and spreading the pain ensures that the herd is replenished. Behemoth is hungry, eating his fill, while the Simurgh’s methods suggest she’s mostly pushing her food around with a fork; Leviathan’s somewhere in the middle.

    • *Endbringers* are but *fingers* of the *Passengers*! They just want to *party*. Do you want to *party*?

      This said, read Brandish’s interlude’s trigger event scene, and then I believe it’s one of the two Skitter viewed, about the two beings coming together and crystallizing the world. El Sock made a collation of the trigger events, posted up on the subReddit Parahumans.

    • It’s not about that – it’s mainly so the parties in question know I’ve received the donations. I’ve had people mention when I slipped up and didn’t add it to the total.

      For a while I was sort of unsure how to acknowledge it (email’s iffy/unreliable), and I settled on this.

        • I did suffer oxygen deprivation at birth (born 11 weeks premature), was just tying it to my lack of a sense of humor in general.

          Is past midnight, far too warm for comfort. Please forgive me if I touched on a sensitive subject. I’m just being lame.

  41. Rika brought up a good point, about PTSD. Functionally every triggered cape or parahuman has had psychological trauma of some kind, with some likely slipping into PTSD.
    What I’m wondering now, had there been case or comparative studies accrediting or discrediting PTSD and related in the field of psychology? I remember from the Theo interlude how the TA talked about trigger events and Ms. Yamada tangential awareness of the passengers’ connection, but have there actually been put measures in place to deal with all this kind of crap?
    I’m getting at, effectively every cape ought to get some treatment to deal with and learn to live with their trauma, but does the field of psychology address this at all?

  42. Started a play-through of Star Control 2, and even though I’m rooting for Weaver&Grue, couldn’t resist:

  43. Here is a stupid question that actually hadn’t occurred to me until now:

    Where did Defiant get Skitter’s old costume?

    She wasn’t wearing it when she surrendered and I can’t imagine him casually dropping by Taylor’s old lair to pick it up. Did Tattletale mail it to him in anticipation of her needing it or what?

  44. Yes, this is a classical one. I`ve heard it in university here in Brasil in a little twisted version.
    Here comes another one related to the university:
    As everyone knows, sometimes advanced courses in physics have only three or four students. It is not unusual see one lone student taking classes of Eletromagnetism II or Statistical Physics.
    Well, the tale told to me is that in a certain holiday the four students that were having classes of Statistical Physics with a certain professor in USP decided to travel and, instead of studying for the test on monday, they used their whole time to party.
    As a result, they phoned the teacher on monday and told him that they would not be able to return to the university that day due to a flat tire in their car. The teacher surprisingly accepted the excuse and postponed the test a few days.
    When they got the test a few days latter they were surprised to see only one question in the evaluation sheet: Which of the four tires went flat?

  45. Added throwaawy’s ‘Shattered Glass’ to the fanfiction page. If you have fanfiction of your own, let me know and I’ll add it.

    Worm is likely to get a mention in the Epiguide podcast on the 10th or 11th (will link when I know the date).

  46. At least as far as the English version of this joke goes, the 1st postulate should involve all hell breaking loose. If you’re Serbian it’s understandable that you’d mistranslate an idiomatic phrase that way, but the joke isn’t really funny if you just say hell explodes.

      • I replied more because it was the topic of humor. I’ll admit my knowledge of humor outside the U.S. isn’t extensive. I think I know two Russian jokes.

        As for the joke I mentioned, I’m afraid I’ve already spoiled it somewhat. It has some variations though, little things that change from person to person.

        These three guys were driving along through the countryside when their car broke down. They were near a farmhouse with a barn and it was getting late, so they asked the farmer if they could stay the night. He says they can stay in the barn, but they’d better not think of touching his daughter.

        Well they do, and the farmer finds out about it. He’s got his shotgun on them and he marches them outside and tells them to go out on his farm and pick their favorite fruit. They do. First guy comes back with grapes. The farmer then forces him to shove the grapes up his own butt. The second guy comes back from the orchard and he’s got apples. So the farmer makes him shove those on up his rear. While they’re waiting for the last guy, the two guys start laughing.

        The farmer asks “What’s so funny?” and one of the guys tells him, “He’s coming back with a watermelon!”

      • As for the Russian ones, one is from the Soviet era:

        “How do you know that Adam and Eve lived in the USSR? They had no clothes, one apple between the two of them, and were told they lived in paradise.”

        and “We were burying my mother-in-law. We broke two accordions.”

  47. Two more thoughts:

    1) If Citrine has decent range on her power, she just might be able to give the others a vulnerable bullseye to hit on BEHEMOTH’s hide.
    2) Many readers, myself included, believe Alexandria survived Skitter’s attack. However, we’ve been assuming she survived it. What if the person Skitter bugmurdered wasn’t Alexandria at all? What if it was her aforementioned body-double, perhaps speaking words fed to her by the real Alexandria via bluetooth headset.

    • Did the body double have flight and enough strength to break through the ceiling of the PRT/building where they interrogated Taylor?

      I think Alexandria is really dead, unless the whole PRT decided that it would be better for her to “disappear” and possibly return as a different cape, sorta like Armsmaster/Defiant. But I think that’s unlikely. The more people in on a secret, the less likely it’ll stay a secret. And with the current instability of the PRT, the more likely it is that secrets/lies will be exposed.

      • Usually I’d agree with the conspiracy part, but who was in the conspiracy of Cauldron? The Triumvirate, maybe a few of the highest echelons of the Protectorate. Most of the rest who bought their powers were isolatedly aware of Cauldron, since they gave them their power and maybe knew one or two others who bought them as well (due to favour or something other).
        My point is, while encompassing, Cauldron is rather small, conspiracy-wise.

    • Of course, and I think I know who is hiding her…

      *breaks into the Elvis/Tupac safehouse!* Come on out here, you bastards!

      *finds Elvis dead on the commode and Tupac shot dead*

      Huh…well…I’m guessing she’s not here then.

  48. Interesting hypothesis. It must have been a good double, then, to trick Skitter with close-up observation of her. But who says there wasn’t some power at work (by the double or another person)…

    • i do think its odd that alexandria reminded skitter of her only weakness about ten minutes before pushing skitter hard enough to use lethal force.

      • Lets not forget that Alexandria was working for Cauldron, and Cauldron has resources. Give someone plastic surgery, the right powers, brainwash them, and boom! Fake Alexandria. Course she shows up again Taylor might end up killing her for real.

  49. I’m thinking of introducing this story to a cousin of mine. Should I start her with Gestation, or should I go for a more comprehensive intro to the world (I’m thinking the Migration arc would be best for this purpose, as it introduces multiple universes, the Simurgh, capes, the Cauldron formulas, and Echidna)? Both have their pros and cons, as I see it.

    • Start with Gestation. The reason Migitation is so amazing to read is because of everything that happened before it.

    • Migration first would probably be bad.

      they are going to spend alot of the story waiting for the travelers to show up. then just when they start getting more screen time…

  50. Considering the population density, it seems like it would’ve made more sense to send the Simurgh. But I can understand why Wildbow decided on Behemoth; He’s the only Endbringer who’s hasn’t had any extended screen time. Both Leviathan And the Simurgh Got the better part of an entire arc.

  51. Holy carp. The Behemoth interrupts this nice little moment. Because Weaver can never catch a break. I mean, even less than Skitter could.

    I wonder how many of those kids actually get powers.

    That drug metaphor was kinda amusing.

    • “It doesn’t matter,” I said. Someone hurt you badly, and you got a more physical power?”

      There’s a quotation mark missing before ‘Someone.’

  52. That was great. I’m a little disappointed Taylor didn’t get to rattle off her experiences in response to the kid’s whine that it was one fight after another. But I can understand it would’ve taken half the chapter.

    I imagine it going something like:
    Week 1, I robbed a bank and we had to fight off the Wards, Glory Girl and Panacea. Then Uber and Leet attacked us to steal the money. Bakuda backed them up and we barely survived. Then, in week two… xD

    About halfway through:
    We got this far with the help of a powerful probability manipulator who gave us +2 to all our rolls. He died. Then seven Dragon suits came to take us in…

  53. I love Yamada. That woman is pure awesome. They must rotate psychiatrists because she’d be overworked actually fixing everyone.

    Weaver with kids…um…probably one of the most lol moments in recent memory. Seriously I can’t believe someone didn’t cut her off before she started making sense! Sure her approach actually probably reached a hell of a lot more people than anything else would’ve but it took her so darn long to start making the point I am simply astounded she got that far. Oh and the game concept was a fantastic idea.

    I’m really not all that sure about what Weaver can do against BEHEMOTH…all I can think of is the Clockblocker Silk Line Of Death trick again or simple Command and Control if Dragon gets taken out.

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