Crushed 24.4

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Particulate said something, and the amount of invective in his tone was enough to make it clear, even if I couldn’t understand the language.

Phir Sē said something in response, his voice calm, almost as though he were talking to a child, then took another drink of his water.  His eyes didn’t leave the screens.

Behemoth had nearly reached India Gate.  The defense continued to be staggered.  One to four parahumans working together to slow him, to impede his progress and buy time for the others to wear him down.  When they failed, the measures circumvented or the capes in question killed, he advanced, the heroes retreated as best as they were able, and they enacted the next counteroffensive.

But each time they fought, he did damage.  Capes perished, tinker devices were turned into lumps of hot metal.  Each time the capes mounted a defense, the defense was weaker.

“Something is wrong,” Phir Sē said.

“Chevalier was attacked,” I answered.  “They were planning a coordinated defense, I think, but someone beheaded our group at the worst possible time.”

“I see.”

“I’m not going to ask any questions about how you guys operate, but it’s obvious you’re organized.”

“Careful,” Phir Sē told me.  He didn’t even look at me.  The defensive line was using Clockblocker, now.  They’d erected a loose grid of wires, almost invisible, but for the flashing lights set at regular intervals.  Alexandria and Eidolon were trying to hammer the Endbringer into the barricade.

“You’ve got secrets to protect.  Fine.  Cool.  I’m not going to pry.  But maybe we’ve walked similar paths.  We had similar practices, probably.”

He cast me a momentary glance over his shoulder, meeting my eyes for a second before he turned back to the screens.  An acknowledgement, without accepting or denying my point.

“My old team wasn’t nearly as effective as you guys seem to be.  But we operated in secret, we understood some key elements.  The need for information, having to know when to go on the offense, being unpredictable against enemies who are already expecting you to try and catch them off guard.”

“Talk slower, please,” Phir Sē told me.  “My English is not strong, and I am very tired.”

He looked like he might drop any minute, like he’d barely eaten, hadn’t slept…

“How long has it been since you slept?”  I asked.

“Three days.  We thought an Endbringer would attack soon, so I prepared, to be ready when the time came.  Too early, I had to stop, restart.  This time, he came, but I am weary.  The talking, is good.  Distracting without being dangerous.  Continue, please.”

What happens if he nods off?  I wondered, looking at the ‘time bomb’.  The same thing he’d stated would happen if he were killed or knocked out?

“Okay,” I answered.  I took a second to compose my thoughts.  “You mentioned how you have to be hard, heavy handed if you’re going to succeed in a situation where your enemies are as scary as the people you and I have gone up against.”

“Yes.  Heavy handed.  Like the judge’s hammer…”

“Gavel,” I supplied.

“The gavel.  Harsh justice.  Crush the enemies who cannot be converted to your side or convinced to do otherwise.”

“Yes,” I said.  I thought for a second, then made my argument.  “And you know the power of having all of the information.  The power of having a group that can communicate that information.  Communication is key, and a group that doesn’t even need to communicate because they function so well together is better yet.”

“You had this.”

With the Undersiders.  “We were close.  And losing that, it’s scary.  Maybe the least fun part about being a hero.  But you understand?  You agree, about information and communication?”

He didn’t respond, as he watched the screen.  Is he going to nod off right here?

On the monitors, a successful hit on Eidolon’s part struck Behemoth into the grid of wires.  It had taken time for the Endbringer to approach the wires, set safely outside of his kill range, and some were already coming free of Clockblocker’s power.  Still, they sank deep, cutting a diamond-shaped pattern into his hide, shoulder to heel.  Alexandria charged, trying to drive it home, and Behemoth struck out with one claw, a swipe.

He must have captured all of her forward momentum and motive impact and redirected it at her, because he didn’t move an inch in response to the hit, and she crashed into the ground at a shallow diagonal angle.  Her body carved a trench a few hundred feet long, judging by the cloud of dust that rose in her wake.

Behemoth lurched forward, and the grid of wires cut him again on their way out.  Chunks of flesh were carved free.

The Endbringer clapped his hands together, and forcefields went down, defenses and defending capes falling in response to the impact.

Clockblocker’s grid of wires dropped out of the sky, blinking white lights falling like sparks from a large firework.  I suspected that I knew what it meant.

Shit.  I hoped he was okay.  Clockblocker wasn’t a bad guy, as heroes went.

“I agree,” Phir Sē told me, belatedly.  “And I think I see what you are going to say.”

“Let’s communicate with them.  With everyone.  Half the screwed up crap I’ve seen, it’s been because we’re fighting between ourselves.  The best achievements, the truly heroic stuff I’ve seen?  It’s been when we worked together.  So let’s maximize our chances.”

“You have been doing this how long?  A year?”

“Months.”

“I have been doing this for ten years.  I admire you for retaining your…” he trailed off.

“Idealism?”

“Not a word I’m familiar with, Weaver.  Faith?”

“Faith works.”

“I have none left, after ten years.  No faith.  We are a wretched, petty species, and we have been given power to destroy ourselves with.”

“Ironic, given what you’re trying to do here.  You’re going to kill people, kill bystanders, on a gamble.”

Phir Sē peered at me.  “What chances would you give this gamble?”

“One in three?”

His stare was cold as he met my eyes.  “One in three.  That is… perhaps unfair.  No matter.  If I’m wrong, we lose this city.  If I’m right, we kill Behemoth.  I would take those odds, Weaver.  I would take them, I would watch this city be wiped from the earth, knowing that people I am fond of would die.  I live in a civilian guise most days, waiting until I have a task from those more powerful than I.  I would perhaps be killing the butcher I talk to every day when I walk to the store for food.  I would kill the widow who lives next door to me, her child, if they have not evacuated.  I have mentioned my daughter, much like you in her abundance of faith in people.”

“I wouldn’t exactly call myself an idealist to that extent,” I said.  I paused.  “Phir Sē-“

We’d started talking at the same time.  He talked over me, half of his attention on the screens.  “I will take this gamble and perhaps kill those people in the process.  I will kill those people who can make me smile and feel more human than I am, I will grieve their deaths, and then I will take that gamble again.  Because one city, however grand, is worth that chance.”

I thought of doing that, of rolling the dice like that, with my father, with the people in my territory.  “Easier to say than do.”

“I have done it, Weaver,” Phir Sē told me.  “My wife, my sons, years ago.  A similar problem on a smaller scale.  I can walk through minutes, I could have walked back to save them, but I let them die because it meant a monster would remain gone.  What merit is a gamble, a sacrifice, if you stake things that matter nothing to you?”

I stared at him.  He was young, no older than thirty-five, but the lines of his face, the slumped posture, the slowness with which he moved… they spoke of a horrendous exhaustion.

I didn’t have a response for Phir Sē’s question.  He smiled a little, and turned back to the screens.

Behemoth was roaring, a sound that didn’t reach us underground.  With the monitors on mute, it didn’t translate there either.  Still, the images vibrated, the flickering intensified, and the defenses the heroes had established were crumbling.  India Gate was damaged, an incidental casualty of the fight more than a target.

My bugs sensed motion to my left.  I glanced at Particulate, and saw him holding his scanner behind his back.

It was pointed at Phir Sē’s ‘time bomb’.

His other hand was drawing a slender gun from a pocket in his combination lab coat and jacket, a gun like something from retro science fiction, with no barrel.  There was only a small extension on the end, much like a satellite dish.

Another disintegration gun?

He saw me looking, glanced at Phir Sē, who had his back turned, then looked back at me.  His eyes flicked over in Phir Sē’s direction, his intention clear.

He had a solution in mind.  A way to disable the explosion and stop Phir Sē.

I had only an instant to decide, before the teleporter intervened, or Phir Sē noticed what was going on.

I met Particulate’s eyes and nodded once, curt.

The scanner disappeared into a pocket, and he drew something like a grenade from within his flowing coat.  Then he drew the gun on Phir Sē.  I felt the tug of the thread in my hand, attached to the gun.

Without thinking, I hauled on it, pulling it off-target.  The gun hit one screen, two feet to Phir Sē’s right, at stomach level.  It exploded into a swirling cloud of black dust.

Phir Sē whirled around.  He barked out a word I couldn’t understand.

“No!” I called out.

Phir Sē made a gesture with his hand, just as the teleporter flickered into existence.  The man didn’t intersect Particulate, but appeared behind him, deftly disarming him of the grenade and pistol before flickering back out of existence.  He took Particulate with him.

“Don’t kill him,” I said.

“You would feel… blameful?” Phir Sē asked.

Blameful?  “Guilty,” I corrected him, before I realized what I was doing.

I could see the small smile on Phir Sē’s face, disappointed and proud and a condemnation at the same time.  “I watch you.  In reflection of screen.  You set him up, to put yourself in my good will.”

Had I?  Not wholly consciously.  I’d set up the string, but how much of that was intentional?  Was it habit, now, to have a measure on hand when dealing with any weapon?

I focused on the swarm, focused on the cords and threads that traced the room.  One in the doorway, one at each of Phir Sē’s feet, just waiting for me to finish the deal and bind him.  Others extended between us, spiders poised to cut the threads or tie them, as the situation demanded.

The passenger, or was it me, being wary?

“I guess I did,” I said.  I made the spiders cut the threads between us.

He shook a finger at me, “I was not born yesterday.  This silliness could have gotten you killed.  Would have, if I did not feel need for outsider to challenge my ideas.”

“I guess…” I said, searching for the phrase, “A gamble’s not meaningful if you’re not staking something important, right?”

He smiled a little, and there was a slight twinkle in his eye, “Your life?”

“I suppose,” I said.  My heart was still pounding, my mouth dry, and it wasn’t just the Phir Sē thing, or the teleporter.  The passenger.

“You think.  So we know where you stand, now.  You are crafty, dangerous.  Underhanded.  You turn on an ally and use him as a pawn to express something to me.”

“He wasn’t quite an ally,” I said.  “He helped us get inside this underground base.  But he was reckless.  Breaking into this chamber in the first place, preparing to attack you.  A chaotic element.”

“I do not know this ‘chaotic’ word, but I get your meaning, I think.  There was no communication,” Phir Sē said.  He smiled as though we shared a private joke.

“I’m doing what I have to, to ensure we all come out of this ahead.  Just like you, but I didn’t get the ability to manipulate time, or to create this sort of ‘time bomb’.  I work on a smaller scale.”

“I get the joke,” Phir Sē told me.  “It is joke?  Small?”

“Sort of,” I said, and I smiled a little in return, behind my mask.  This guy was borderline unhinged, too much power in too unstable a package, and I almost liked him.

“What is it you wish to express to me, Weaver, that you would sacrifice a pawn and risk your own life?”

I wasn’t sure I had a response to that.  I tried anyways.  “You want to hit Behemoth with your time bomb?  Okay, let’s do it.”

“Oh?  You protested only minutes ago.”

“I’m not about to change your mind, I’m not about to stop you.  So let’s make it happen.  We’ll let the defending heroes know what’s up, set up something-“

“Slower.  Speak slower.”

“Let me go.  We work together with the heroes.”

“The heroes will die in minutes.  Before you arrive.”

I glanced at the screen.  How bad was it?  It was so hard to get a sense of how many heroes still stood.  An ugly feeling gripped my chest.

“We’ll try.  Let me try.  I can give you a signal.  You strike then.”

“You are asking me to have faith.”

Let me go, Phir Sē,” I told him.  “You said you have to stake something that matters on a gamble.  Stake your doubt.”

“I do not understand this,” he said, suddenly sounding weary.  “My English-“

“It’s not your English; what I’m saying doesn’t make a lot of sense,” I said.  I had to resist the urge to rush and hurry through the explanation.  “But your doubt, your lack of faith, it’s something safe.  No disappointments, no fear things won’t work out.    Risk that.  Risk losing that.  I did, when I became a hero.”

“Not such a hero,” he said.  “Bargain with the madman, turn on an ally.”

“I’m realizing I’m a pretty lousy hero,” I agreed.  “But I’m trying.  I made a leap of faith.  I’m asking you to as well.”

He smiled a little, then reached forward and took my hand.  He raised it, simultaneously bending over, and kissed the back of it.

“One more,” he said.

“One more?”

“To wager on a gamble.  A pleasant conversation I might look forward to.  Gone, when you die.”

Die?

He spoke a word, and I tensed.  I tried to pull my hand back, but he held on, my fingers wrenching painfully as I tried to get away.

The teleporter appeared just behind me.  His manifestation was followed by a gentle brush of air, as oxygen was displaced from the area his body now occupied.  I could feel my heart skip a beat, the air catching in my throat.

No pain.  A second passed as I made an assessment, realized that he hadn’t impaled me with one of his limbs.  Only surprise, and that vague sense of a killer instinct.

The man’s hands settled on me.

“Fifteen minutes, Weaver,” Phir Sē told me, releasing my hand.  “Fifteen minutes, or if the heroes cannot put up fight any longer, whichever is first.”

And I was gone, out of the basement, planted in the midst of the battlefield.  Phir Sē wasn’t even in my range.  I’d made the call to work with him, and now it was set in stone. There would be no going back to change his mind, to stop him.  He’d strike, guaranteed.

Even with the filter of my mask, the smell of ozone and the heated air burned the edges of my nostrils.  Acrid smoke was so thick in the air that I could taste it, breathing in through my nose.

And Behemoth loomed in front of me, far too close for comfort, his silhouette shrouded in the smoke around him.

I turned and activated the antigrav panels, running to help get up to speed before it could help me lift off.  

The ground abruptly tilted under my feet, a steep shelf of street and underlying rock rising in front of me, blocking my path.  I managed to grab the uppermost edge with my hands, hauling myself forward enough that the flight pack could take over.

No bugs.  I’d left them behind in Phir Sē’s lair.  If I’d thought about it, I might have asked for time to collect them.  At the same time, I couldn’t have spared the minutes.

Two or three thousand bugs, the only silk I had were the cords that were still attached to me, the ones I’d stretched between Phir Sē and myself and then cut.  I had my taser, laughably petty in the face of Behemoth, a small canister of pepper spray, and the flight pack.

Long odds, even at the best of it.  I pressed the button on my armband, spoke into it, and got only silence in response.

My bugs moved throughout the battlefield, and I marked every cape I came across.  Shelter was scarce, and hard to make out in the smoke.  Each flash of lightning marked an unfortunate cape who’d found themselves too far from cover and in Behemoth’s sights.

In the midst of it all, I could speak and I couldn’t make myself out.  It was almost like being in Grue’s darkness, before his second trigger event.  Couldn’t see.  Couldn’t hear.  My movements, even, were harder to judge.  I felt like there was a pressure, here, as if the smoke had substance, and even Behemoth’s existence, somewhere nearby, was weighing on me.  Was I tired, or was everything heavier?  Or, it struck me, maybe the oxygen content in the air was lower.

I wasn’t sure about the ramifications of that.

So few bugs to draw on.  Five to ten touched a single cape, allowed me to check if they were anyone I recognized, then all but one would leave.  One bug per cape, the rest scouting.

Ligeia was the first I recognized.  The conch shell mask, one of Accord’s people.  Citrine would be close by…

Or not.  I swore under my breath, touched ground to reorient myself, then hurried around a corner.

She was creating a massive portal, widening it with every passing moment.  It made me wonder if there was a reason there were so few recordings of the Endbringer attacks, if the PRT hid this sort of thing.  They’d hidden the particulars of the Echidna attack, and one of the reasons Alexandria had argued, a reason I had argued in favor of that, was because it wouldn’t go over well with the public to know just how much devastation a single parahuman could be capable of.

Her portal was perhaps twenty feet across, circular, and cold water gushed out, as if forced by an incredible pressure.

It was the sort of defensive measure that you employed when there weren’t any frontline combatants left.  A desperate, violent one, like Sundancer’s sun.  My bugs found her ear, and I communicated as clearly as I could, “Run.”

She didn’t hear.  Doggedly, she stood her ground, drenching Behemoth, widening the portal’s radius.  So hard to tell just how much, without losing bugs to the spray.  Twenty five feet?  Thirty?

Run,” I tried again.  I muttered, “Run, Ligeia.”

He erupted with lightning, and I could momentarily see his silhouette in the distance, the light cutting through the thick clouds of smoke and dust.  I could see the tendrils of lightning as though through a strobe light, holding positions as they followed the flow of the water, then changing to other targets, finding solid conductors to latch onto.  The entire geyser was lit up.

She changed tacks, and the portal began sucking.  The lightning disappeared, and Behemoth stumbled forwards towards the opening, the water now reversing direction.

Eidolon appeared like a spear from the heavens, striking him between the shoulderblades.  Behemoth nearly crashed through.  His claw settled on the portal’s edge, as though it had a physical mass to it, slipped through.  The lightning wasn’t traveling far, now, and the image of it was soon lost in the smoke.

The portal closed, and Behemoth managed to claw his way back, simultaneously fending off Eidolon, the lighting growing stronger with every passing second.

He lurched, and dropped several feet, the ground shaking.  The light show marked the geyser spraying up around his leg, apparently having sunken into a portal.

Close it, I thought.  Sever it.

But she didn’t.  Not an option, it seemed.

Move, Taylor.  Deal with your own jobs first.  How long did I have?  Fifteen minutes?  Thirteen?  Twelve?  So hard to keep track of time right now.

My underlings.  Wanton, he was nearby.  Larger.  He carried stretchers with the wounded, which moved around the very periphery of his range, where they rotated slower, and other objects closer to his core.  An armband, a dismembered arm with scorch marks at the base.

His or someone else’s?

Once I caught up to him, I found the others a distance away.  Tecton had fashioned something crude to attach to his armor, a shelf on his back that would hold injured capes.  He rode his three-wheeled bike forward, stopped to slam his piledrivers into the ground to erect a wall of stone, punched through an obstruction, made more forward progress, and then created another wall.  A staggered retreat.  Grace, Cuff and Golem followed, each with wounded behind them on their vehicles.

Annex?  I couldn’t find him with my bugs.  He was either swimming alongside them, helping to clear the way, or he was injured.

I was on my way to catch up to them when Ligeia was struck down.  A chance lightning bolt had struck her, just like that.  Behemoth surged to his feet.  Lightning traced the arc of the water that still geysered up, less impressive with every passing second.

Even killing her hadn’t forced the portal closed.  Damn.

I came to a stop at Tecton’s side.

“Sorry,” I panted.  My voice sounded so rough-edged.  So hard to breathe.

“Tecton can’t talk,” Cuff said.  Her voice was oddly level, in contrast to how she’d acted early in the fight.

“What happened?”

“Clipped by another cape,” she said.  Still with no emotion, no affect.

“Doesn’t matter,” Grace cut in.  “Where the fuck were you?”

Tecton’s hand moved, settling on her shoulder.  Grace backhanded it away.

“I found what Behemoth wants,” I told her.  “Where’s Rime?”

“Dead,” Golem said.  He carried a small child, and was falling behind,

“Who’s next in command?”

“Prism, but she’s injured,” Grace said.

“I need to communicate with someone in charge, and we don’t have time,” I said.  “Dragon?  Defiant?”

“Metal suits are all toast,” Grace said.  “No clue about Defiant.”

“Revel?  Your boss?”  I asked.  Then I corrected myself.  “Our boss?”

“Saw her two minutes ago.  No word on chain of command.  She said we should run, take anyone we can help.  Scion’s dropped off the radar, but last we heard, he was heading north.  Not east, not west.  He has to be trying to avoid this fight,” Grace almost snarled the words.

“It’s not hopeless,” I said.  “We’ve got a shot, here.  Behemoth’s target is a weapon.  Kind of.”

“A weapon?” Golem asked.

“A bomb.  Maybe big enough that it makes an atom bomb look like a hand grenade.  Something that’s supposed to take down Endbringers.”

“No shit?”  Grace asked.  I could see a trace of hope in her expression.

“An energy weapon,” I clarified.

I saw that hope become confusion.  “But that’s-“

“It’s something that could go really right or really wrong,” I said.  I saw the confusion become a momentary despair.  “Which is exactly why we need to get in touch with someone that matters.  Where are the heroes?  Where was Revel?”

Golem pointed.  “That way.”

“Citrine?  Woman in yellow dress.”

“Yellow bodysuit now,” Golem said.  “She stripped out of the dress when he pushed past the command center.”

Fuck me.  Now that he mentioned that, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d sensed her with my bugs and dismissed her as a stranger.

“I think I know where she went,” I said.  Same direction Revel went.  I was already lifting off the ground.  “Go, drop off injured, then come back if you can.”

“Revel told us to scram,” Grace said.

“I’m telling you that we need to distract that motherfucker for five seconds,” I said.  “Where’s Annex?”

“Here,” Annex said, from behind me.

I turned to look as he stepped out of a building.

“You’re with me,” I told him.  He didn’t have any wounded with him.

“I need to ride something,” he said, “Not fast enough.”

“Define ‘something’,” I told him.

“Something heavy enough to hold my entire body mass.”

Could I hold an entire other person?  No.  I could hold a child, but that’d be a stretch.

“Climb inside my costume,” I told him.  “The flight pack too.”

He gave me a bewildered look.  “You realize I’d be right against-“

“Move!”  I barked.  How long did I have?  Not enough time.  Modesty was not an issue.

He flowed into my costume, and I could feel him against my skin, his body strangely cold and smooth.  A lump of him stuck out over one shoulder.  His head, not quite normal, not quite his specter form, had formed itself in my shoulderpad.

And we were too heavy for the antigravity.

I’d have to gamble, make compromises, take risks.  I looked to the others, “Reach deep inside, find your second wind.  Find your third wind, if you can.  Rendezvous with me over there if you can make it in eight or ten minutes.”

Then I deployed my wings, activated the propulsion system alongside the antigrav.  It was slow to lift off, but it was faster than running. 

If I got shocked, or if the electromagnetic radiation got any worse, this could cut out on me any second, but I needed to move.  I needed assets, even if I didn’t know for sure what I’d do with them.

The Chicago Wards peeled away behind me, abandoning the defensive walls and careful retreat in favor of speed.

We found the defensive lines in a minute, if that.

The Undersiders were there, fighting.  Three stuffed goats and the dogs provided an added barricade for them to hide behind, while Foil was firing her needles.  Regent held her quiver, handing her bolts to fire, while Imp lurked on the far side of the street, her back to the wall.  Citrine was peering between two dogs, erecting a field of golden light near the Endbringer.

Grue wasn’t with them.

“Gah!”  Regent cried out, as I landed, folding the wings back into place.  “Jesus fuck!”

Right, I had two heads.  “Out, Annex.”

Annex flowed out of my costume and straight into the ground.  Within seconds, he was shoring up the wall, drawing in debris and using it to rebuild and reinforce.

“Where’s Grue?” I asked.

“Hospital.  Burns,” Imp said.

I nodded.  “Bad?”

“More mentally than physically.”

Ah.

I could only hope he’d bounce back.  To business. “Revel.  American cape with sort of an Asian-themed costume, lantern.  Where is she?”

“Zapped,” Regent said.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

My disbelief was tempered by a measure of alarm.  I was limited in time, and that was bad enough, but if Phir Sē decided our defending forces weren’t sufficient to put up a fight, he could strike sooner.  If I couldn’t find someone capable of leading the defense, if we were little more than scattered remnants, why would Phir Sē wait?

“Revel absorbs energy, kind of,” I said.  “She might be okay.”

“She got hit by lightning,” Regent told me.  “Kind of lethal.”

Rachel snorted.

I glanced at the dogs.  She didn’t seem to mind that they were somewhat exposed, huddled against the ruined wall the Undersiders were using for cover.  One of the dogs seemed to be reacting badly to the lightning strikes, and was huffing out deep, very un-doglike noises each time one struck nearby.

“Listen,” I said.  I flinched as lightning touched nearby.  He was focusing more on a quantity of bolts than on the really heavy hits.  Cleaning up the remanants of our defenses.  “Revel.  Where did she fall?  Or you could point me to anyone else that might be in charge?”

Parian pointed, almost absently.  I couldn’t tell if she was dismissing me or if her focus was taken up by the stuffed goats.  One took a lightning bolt, and she was patching it up and reinflating it within a second.

I took off.  Again, I tried my armband.  Static.  Better than nothing, but not ideal.

I passed over the contingent of Yàngbǎn.  Just getting near them, I could feel my powers swelling, my range growing, a crackling at the periphery of my attention.

And then it was gone.  I was leaving them behind.

Eerie.  Uncomfortable, even, with the recent reminder of how my powers were feeling vaguely out of my control.  A boost in range wasn’t worth any surprises on that front.  Bugs were almost useless here, more bugs wouldn’t make a difference.

Revel was in Dispatch’s company, alongside a cape in white, with a starburst worked into his helmet, radiating from the eyeholes and the gap for his mouth.  She was lying down, using a piece of rubble for cover.  She stirred as the ground rumbled, marking Behemoth’s rapid footsteps.  Not a run.  It felt off, saying something like him was running.  But a lope, like how a gorilla might move, that fit.

“She conscious?”  I asked, as I landed.

“She is,” Revel answered for herself.  She seemed to have to work to focus on me.  “Weaver?”

“I found what Behemoth is after.  Who can I talk to?”

Dispatch stepped out of the way, so the man in white with the starburst helm was free to act.

“Me,” the man in white said.  “I’m Exalt.  Interim leader.”

“The Texas Protectorate leader.”

“Houston Protectorate, yes.”

“A local cape has gathered up a whole mess of energy.  Enough to wipe India off the map.  He’s planning to hit Behemoth with it, in two or three minutes.”

“It won’t work,” Exalt said.

“I know it won’t work.  But he’s going to try, no matter what we do, and we need to distract the Endbringer long enough to give it a chance.”

He exchanged glances with the others.

Hurry, I thought.  I was panting, my mouth thick with the taste of ozone.  Even with my lenses, my eyes were watering from the peripheral smoke.

“Go,” Revel said.  “Expend it.”

Expend?

“It’s too soon,” Exalt said, “And we don’t have all the informat-“

“No time!  Decide now!”

I saw him hesitate.

Swearing under my breath, I turned on my heel and flew away.

I was burning bridges, but that was a hell of a lot better than everyone here dying.  How long did I have?  I couldn’t even begin to guess.  Two minutes?  Eight?

Big difference between the two.

Fuck it.  A waste of time.  I’d burned precious minutes finding them, and they’d been too slow to help.  I wasn’t sure I could work with the Protectorate, with the Wards.  Not if they failed us like this at this crucial juncture.

Assets.  Didn’t have enough resources here.  We needed to pull something decent, something that could…

I had no fucking idea.  How were we supposed to keep Behemoth sufficiently still and distracted, controlling a detonation that had the potential to level a continent?

The Chicago Wards were arriving, minus Wanton.  I signaled them with bugs to fine-tune the direction they were traveling, putting them en-route to the Undersiders.

And behind me, as if they were feeling guilty, Exalt and Dispatch were giving chase, rapidly catching up.  Dispatch moved in bursts of speed intersped with moments where he ran at a normal pace, Exalt flew with Revel in his arms.

I found the Yàngbǎn and approached.  They were reacting even before I’d landed, turning, hands raised to attack.  There were twenty of them, or close to.

“English?” I asked the Yàngbǎn.

They were silent, almost cold in response.

They were nationalist capes.  I was a foreigner, maybe an enemy by default.

“English, please.  This is it, the deciding moment.  Your help, it’s… it’s essential.”

No response.

Exalt, Revel and Dispatch were slowing as they approached me.  I drew an arrow in the air with the few bugs I had left and pointed them to the Undersiders.  They ignored the instruction, setting down just behind me.

“Weaver,” Exalt said.  His voice was grim.  “They aren’t allies.

“We need all the help we can get,” I said.

“The Yàngbǎn pulled an assassination attempt on Chevalier,” Exalt told me.

My eyes widened.

“A traitor among us,” a young man spoke, his voice badly accented.  Another snapped something at him, and he responded in Chinese.

None of the heroes replied.  I couldn’t bring myself to speak, couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would be remotely diplomatic, in the midst of this.

“We do need all the help we can get,” Exalt said, not taking his eyes off the group.  “You want to make amends?”

The English-speaking one translated for the others.  I fidgeted nervously.  How many minutes, now?  Why hadn’t I asked for more time?

Shì de!” one cried out.

“Shì de!” the group called out in unison.

“That’s a yes,” Exalt said.  He was already turning, taking flight.

Twenty Yàngbǎn members.  Exalt.  A dazed Revel.  Dispatch.  The Chicago Wards.  The Undersiders.  Citrine.  Me.

The sum total of our defensive line.

And Behemoth was getting too close.  A hundred and fifty feet?  A hundred and twenty? He was swiftly approaching the hundred-foot mark we’d been warned about, where he could close the distance with a single leap.

There were so few heroes capable of holding him back.  He was covering ground at twice or thrice the speed he had been earlier, and the Undersiders didn’t have the means to know.  They were on the ground, blinded by the ambient smoke and the dust of the hundreds of buildings that had fallen across the city.

Run,” my bugs communicated.  But nobody responded, nobody reacted.  Too much ambient noise.

Run, they spelled out words, shaping letters with their bodies.  Too much smoke.

I bit them, stung them, and that spurred them into motion.  Maybe too late.

He wasn’t even a full city block away from them.  Only a few half-destroyed buildings stood between him and the Undersiders.  They were still sorting themselves out, getting mounted on the dogs for a retreat, but it was too little.

Behemoth leaped.  Not the monumental leap he’d used early in the fight, but a leap nonetheless.  He landed in the midst of a building, knocking much of it over, and the impact was enough to bounce Citrine off one dog, to knock Tecton over.

The Endbringer had closed half the distance.  A mere twenty feet separated them from his kill aura, if that.

I landed beside Citrine, helping her up, using my legs and the antigrav to try and help her  onto the dog’s back.  She kicked her heels the second she was seated, shouted an order I couldn’t make out.

The dog, scared, growled and held its ground against Behemoth.

“Rachel!” I screamed the word.  “Call him!”

She whistled, sharp, and it seemed to break the spell.  The dog lurched around and ran, nearly knocking me to the ground.

The Yàngbǎn were landing in the Undersiders’ midst, joining the fray.  I could feel my power swell, my range increasing by one block, two…

I could sense the underground complex, where Phir Sē was.  He swatted absently at the bugs that had been left behind, uncontrolled in my absence.

Wait,” I communicated to him.  “Almost.”

Either we’d manage this in the next few minutes, or we’d be dead and it wouldn’t matter.

I called the bugs, leaving only enough to speak to Phir Sē.

The Yàngbǎn opened fire with lasers, and erected forcefields to ward against the lightning bolts.  Golem’s hands rose, faster with the Yàngbǎn’s help, but too slow to make a substantial difference.  Tecton’s walls, similarly, couldn’t rise high enough to block Behemoth’s line of sight.  The power boost would increase his tinker abilities, but it wouldn’t empower the results of his technology.

Citrine’s power intensified in the depth of the yellow-gold light, in size.  Grace shimmered, Cuff was better armored, Annex covering more ground.

Why couldn’t the Yàngbǎn have helped like this sooner?  From the very start of the fight?  Damn people.  Damn them all, for their idiocy and selfishness and their small-mindedness.

This wasn’t enough.

Behemoth reached out, and lightning plowed through our ranks, left to right.  The Yàngbǎn forcefields fell in the lightning’s wake, and Tecton was struck from his bike.  Cuff was too far back, unprotected, dropped in an instant.  I ducked low, covering my head, as it crashed against a quadruple-layer of forcefields the Yàngbǎn had provided.  One of them was knocked prone as the last forcefield shattered.

A stray Yàngbǎn member, too far to the right, was knocked to the ground.  She started to struggle to her feet, then collapsed a second later.

Revel flew to the injured Wards, but didn’t have the strength to stand.  Instead, she raised her lantern, ready for the next strike.

The Yàngbǎn hadn’t even raised their forcefields again when he hit us with lightning once more.

Revel absorbed the initial impact, sucking it into her lantern.

I wasn’t close enough to benefit.  I saw the lightning twist in the air as Behemoth swept his hand out to one side, striking another two Yàngbǎn members, just out of the lantern’s reach.

Dispatch appeared next to me and other Yàngbǎn members, and in an instant, everything went still, quiet.  My ears roared with a high pitched whine.  My breath sounded too noisy, my heart beat so fast I couldn’t even see straight.

Like Clockblocker’s power extended a temporal protection, almost impossible to break, Dispatch’s power seemed to do the same, even if he was effectively achieving the opposite, accelerating us with the outside world moving at a snail’s pace.

The effect ended just as Behemoth moved on to other targets.  Another Yàngbǎn member was struck down.

And, inexplicably, he continued his lightning strike, carrying over to the far end of the street.

There was a yelp, and I could see Imp, all at once, sheltered by a wall that was shrinking in size with every second the blast continued.  She held the Yàngbǎn member who’d strayed too far away from our main group in her arms.

He’d seen her.  Sensed her.  And now, behind a wall no more than three feet high, she had nowhere to run.

I pushed past Yàngbǎn members, unstrapping my flight pack, tearing at the parts that fed down to my gloves, to get it off.  If I could get it to her…

I couldn’t.  I stopped, the pack in my hands.  The lightning would break the thing before it could carry her away.

If Grue’s alive, he won’t be able to forgive us for letting her die.

Citrine drew a yellow glow around Imp, and the lightning fizzled as it passed the perimeter.

The Endbringer switched to fire, and it passed through.  It seemed to halve in intensity, but that was enough.  I could hear Imp scream in alarm and fear.

He advanced a step, and the fresh angle afforded her even less cover.  His kill aura… if he simply ran forward a few steps, he’d murder us all in seconds.

But Golem’s hands held his legs.  One had sunk deep into a pit, hands of pavement gripping the knee, melting at the close contact, even as others rose to reinforce.  The other leg was raised, but held in much the same fashion.

Imp screamed again as he directed another wave of flame her way.  It was a scream of pain this time.

Foil shot him, but he didn’t turn away from Imp and the Yàngbǎn member.  Instead, one hand stretched out, casting flame towards her.  The cloth goats blocked it, and were promptly set aflame.  He maintained two columns of flame from his hands, one directed at Imp, one at Foil and Parian.

Revel launched a mess of spheres at his chest, and the surviving Yàngbǎn followed up with lasers.  Behemoth simply maintained the assault, almost uncaring as the lasers and disintegration spheres ate into his torso.  Negligible damage, in the grand scheme of things.

“Fuck it,” Regent said, his voice almost inaudible.  He was looking at Imp.

“Regent,” I said.  When he rose to his feet, I raised my voice, “Regent!”

“Hey Shitcrumb!”  Regent hollered, backing away from cover.  “Easy-“

Behemoth dropped the flame attack.  I could see Yàngbǎn members raising forcefields as he reached out, casting a bolt of lightning in Regent’s direction.  The forcefields did nothing, not even softening the blow in any measurable way.

Regent was snuffed out, dead.

A small sound escaped my mouth.

But there was no time to react.  Reeling, grieving, it would cost us.  He’d done what he did for a reason.  The antigrav on the flight pack kicked in, I waited until it started to drag me, then let it go.  It skidded across the gap, across the road, to Imp.  She caught it, and I controlled the motion of it to drag her away.

Retreat!” I called out, and my voice was strangely ragged.  “Citrine, cover!  We need forcefields too!”

And Exalt.  We needed whatever power he could bring to the fore.

Eidolon landed between us and Behemoth.

He said something I couldn’t make out, then raised his hands.

A forcefield, taller than Behemoth, separated us.  For seconds, Behemoth was muted.  He swiped his claws at the forcefield, fell short.  He couldn’t advance, with the way Tecton and Golem had him held with one leg buried up to the knee, couldn’t reach far enough to touch the forcefield.

One claw dashed a hand of asphalt to pieces.  Golem started to raise another to replace it, but Behemoth torched it, turning it to a liquid or a glass.  Something flat, shiny.

We pulled ourselves together.  I changed Imp’s direction, brought her to us.  She let go, and the thing careened dangerously, striking the ground a little too hard.

She crouched by Regent, touched his throat.

She shouted something.  A string of swear words, insults aimed at Regent.

Come on!” I screamed the words at her.  It took me a second to get the flight pack going again.  I steered it, like a fish on dry land, towards her, as Rachel hauled me up onto a dog’s back.

“Weaver,” Phir Sē said, almost half a mile away, still in the room with the monitors, “If he advances any closer to me, I won’t have any option but to strike.

Wait,” my bugs communicated.

Reluctantly, Imp reached for the flight pack, hugged it to her chest.  Not the best option, given the options I had for controlling it.  Still, it was a way to get her moving towards us.

Some heroes were pelting Behemoth from another direction.  So little, in terms of effect, but it was a distraction.

We needed to regroup.  Needed to form some kind of plan, however haphazard.

Fuck it.  Foil had the facemask… who else?  Citrine and Foil… the back of the head of the dog they rode.  Dispatch wore a helmet… but I could use bugs to draw an arrow on the ground.  That left Annex, where the hell was he?  My bugs couldn’t sense him.

My eyes could.  In the midst of the smoke, I saw the bike Tecton rode was lighter than the rest.  Annex was inside it.

I pointed them in the same direction I’d sent the others.

We converged on the same point.

“Dispatch!” I called out.  “Huddle!”

He reached the midst of our group, and his power surrounded us.

Silence, stillness.  The buzz of my power at the periphery of my consciousness was a fraction of what it might otherwise be, limited to the bugs that crawled in the recesses of my costume.  There was only the press of bodies, two dogs and all of the rest of us in an area smaller than my jail cell.

I tried to speak, and emotion caught my voice.  It threw me, as if it didn’t match how I felt, didn’t match the composure I felt like I had.

Nobody cut in, nobody used the silence to venture an opinion.

When I did speak, I did it with care, shaping each word, speaking slowly, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself again.  “How long?”

“This?” Dispatch asked.  His voice was low, grim.  “This many people?  Those dogs?  Four minutes.  Maybe two, if we’re all breathing this hard.  Once we run out of air, I gotta cut it out.”

I nodded.

Think, think.

“Sorry about your pal,” Tecton said.

I shook my head.  A denial?  He was important to me, but… what, then?  Was I wanting to focus on the situation?

“Not now,” I said, sounding angrier than I meant to.  “Need a plan.”

“A plan?” Dispatch asked.  “We run.  We pray.”

“Last I heard, Scion was nowhere near,” Foil said.  “Nobody to pray to.”

“Not funny,” Dispatch said.  “This isn’t the time to fuck around on the subject of God.”

I shook my head again.  Plans.  Options.  I had an idea, half-formed in my head, and I couldn’t bring it to the fore.  Some missing element.

“Rachel.  You wanted revenge on that motherfucker?”

“Yeah,” she said, “Leviathan killed my dogs.”

“Behemoth killed your friend,” Tecton added.

“And Leviathan killed my dogs,” Rachel said.  “They both pay.”

“They both pay,” I agreed.  “What the hell’s Exalt’s power?”

“Aerokinesis and telekinesis,” Dispatch answered me.  “But he spends a charge, takes a day or days to build it up again.”

Which explained why he hadn’t helped.  Fuck.

“Eidolon’s power… he chooses what powers he gets?”

“He gets the powers he needs,” Dispatch said.  “He can be receptive to new ones, hold tighter to ones he wants to keep, but that’s it.”

I nodded.  He was at the mercy of his passenger, it seemed.

I glanced to my right.  “Foil.  Can you use your power on just the tip of an arrow?”

“Yeah.  But why would you want me to?  Fucks up the trajectory.”

“Just thinking,” I said.

“You have a plan,” Rachel said.  There was a measure of smugness in her voice.  No, I was reading her wrong.  Satisfaction?

“Maybe, yeah,” I said.  I glanced at the space outside the bubble.  The people were moving at a glacial pace, heads turned our way.  Eidolon flew in the sky above.  “We need to hurt Behemoth, and hurt him badly enough that he gets distracted.  Then I signal Phir Sē, and hopefully we aren’t vaporized in the wake of all that.”

“Explain,” Dispatch said.

“Each of us has a role to play,” I said.  “Timing’s essential.  So’s luck…”

The bubble burst, and we moved into action.  Behemoth had barely advanced from his position.  The others were still running.  We’d earned ourselves two minutes to think, to plan and discuss.

I’d gathered countless bugs through my journey across the city.  I’d briefly lost track of them when I was teleported away from Phir Sē, but they were still there.  Relatively few had died, even from the start, their lives thrown away to test the boundaries of fires or gushing water, or shielding people from the roar.

A lot of bugs, held in reserve.

“Golem!”  I called out.  “Metal hands.  Doesn’t matter how big.  Find a way.”

He glanced at me, still jogging away from the Endbringer.  Still, he managed to find a shop with a metal shutter at the doorway.  He plunged his hand inside it, and hands appeared in various places across the street.  A large one from a rickshaw, another from a car’s engine block, small ones from the metal grilles covering windows.

Half of my bugs gathered.  Another half began chewing through power lines.  The transformers here were nightmares, tangled messes, and had an abundance of wires.

Each of the others was carrying out their tasks, their roles.  Rachel had a chain stretched between two dogs, and was attaching the chain from one dog’s harness to it to extend the thing further.  Annex stretched it further, extending it so each link was nearly two feet long, thin.  Citrine was tinting the area between us and Behemoth.

Dispatch called to Eidolon, and the ex-Triumvirate member descended.  Dispatch contained them.

Eidolon needed time, and he needed to hear the details of our plan.  Dispatch would give him both.

In the distance, Behemoth pushed his way through the forcefield, shattering it.  We had a minute, if that.

I waited impatiently as the others tended to the chain.

Dispatch’s effect ended.  He and Eidolon relocated to the other end of the street, Dispatch took a second to catch his breath, and then he used his power on Eidolon again.

Come on, come on, I thought.  This could go awry with one lucky shot from Behemoth.

“Yangban!” I shouted, no doubt mispronouncing the title.  “Forcefields!  Protect the teams!”

Lightning crashed against the forcefields only moments after they went up.  Some diverted to the metal hands.

And my swarm started to arrive.  Millions of insects, bearing power lines that they were still stripping of insulation, hauling the wire itself, bearing the ones who bore the wire in turn, or hauling on silk that was attached to the wire.

I’d hoped to drape it over the hands, to wrap it around.  I was forced to attach it to the base of the hands instead.  Too heavy to move otherwise.  Conductive hands, conductive wire.

“Go!” Foil shouted.

The dogs moved.  Bitch rode one, hollered commands to get them to stay apart.  The chain stretched taut between them, long, thin.

I saw Dispatch’s effect end.  Eidolon took flight, following.

“This’ll work?” Imp asked.  Her voice sounded more hollow than Grue’s did when he used his power.  I jumped a little to hear her suddenly speaking beside me.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Because if this is revenge for Regent, it has to work.”

“It’s for him if it works,” I said.

“Mm,” Imp said.  “I’ll kill you if it doesn’t, then.”

“We’re all screwed if it doesn’t,” I said.

“Mm,” she said, and she didn’t say anything else. 

The Endbringer lashed out with a mess of lightning.  It caught one dog before it disappeared behind cover.  The dog slowed, but it recovered and found its pace, redoubled its efforts to catch up, as Rachel continued to shout commands to keep the chain taut.

Behemoth used fire, instead, targeting Rachel, and Citrine’s power dampened the effects.  That was her role in this.

It was just a question of whether it would run out prematurely, if the dogs would get far enough.

He clapped, and a shockwave tore through the area.  Rachel was already directing the dogs; they moved so there was cover, buildings between them and Behemoth.  The chain, imbued by Foil’s ability to shear through anything, cut through the buildings as though there was nothing there.

And just like that, they made it.  The dogs passed Behemoth, a hundred and twenty feet of chain maintained between them, and the chain cut through him as easily as Foil’s arbalest bolts had.

Too low.  There was just a little slack, and they weren’t high enough off the ground.  The chain cut through the soles of his feet, through the lower part of one ankle.  Insignificant.  He didn’t even fall over.

Then I heard Rachel through my swarm.  A shout.  “Back!”

The dogs stopped, one doing so so abruptly that Rachel was nearly thrown to the ground.  Nearly touched the chain, losing a limb.

The Endbringer moved his hands in anticipation of a clap, and Exalt used his power.  Blades of wind, a hundred strikes in a moment, a thrust of telekinetically controlled air from across the city, rushing past Behemoth, making the Endbringer stumble.  The clap arrested.

Rachel held on as the wind hit her, held on as each dog turned a hundred and eighty degrees.  They passed Behemoth a second time, only this time, Rachel shouted another command.  One of the first I’d heard her give.  I knew now that it was the command for ‘up’.

Her dog leaped up to the highest point on a ruined building, and the chain caught Behemoth at the knee this time.

They got halfway before Foil’s power wore off.  The dog tumbled in midair, Rachel thrown, flipping head over heels.

Behemoth crashed to the ground, one leg a stump.

Eidolon caught Rachel with one arm, and extended the other towards Behemoth.

Now,” my bugs told Phir Sē, as the field surrounded the Endbringer, a forcefield, extending into the Earth, surrounding Behemoth on all sides, a cylinder.

Phir Sē’s portal opened beneath Behemoth’s feet, aimed upward, and a plume of light speared into the sky, consuming Behemoth, covering him.

Eidolon’s power held.  He’d had the situation explained, had been given time to let his power build up to full strength, and his passenger had supplied something with a durability on par with Clockblocker’s ability.  Inviolable.

“That’ll do,” Imp said, quiet.  The light continued to flow upward, a narrow column no more than fifty feet across, billowing out only slightly as it reached the top of Eidolon’s barrier, parting smoke and clouds in a circular ring, revealing the intensely blue sky above.  The entire sky seemed to brighten as the light dissipated beyond our atmosphere.

Phir Sē’s light faded, and the barrier collapsed.

Dust continued to fill the area, plumes of it.

Behemoth lurched forward.

Not quite Behemoth, but a skeleton, something like a skeleton.  Emaciated, a black-red frame dripping with ichor, it had all of the key features, the basic underlying structure with the horns and the gaping mouth, the claws and the way the shoulders were broad enough to host his bulky frame, but a good eighty percent of him had been torn away, shredded.  A skeleton covered in a veneer of meat.

Go,” I whispered, feeling a quiet despair.  “Go home.  Go underground.  Leave.  We hurt you as badly as we’ve ever hurt you bastards.  That’s enough.”

He reached out, and lightning reached across the landscape, striking Golem’s metal hands, into the grounding wires I’d rigged.  The hands melted with the intensity of the strikes.

Behemoth wasn’t any weaker than he had been.  Not in terms of what he could dish out. As much as he was wounded, he was healing.  Even from where we stood, I could see him healing, flesh expanding, swelling, regenerating.

The Endbringer lurched forward on three intact limbs, starting to glow with that radioactive light of his.  He was ignoring or ignorant to Eidolon’s escape, as the ‘hero’ carried Rachel away, the dogs following on the ground.

He was continuing to make his way towards Phir Sē, who had formed another portal, was gathering power for a second strike.

“Retreat,” I said, only to realize I wasn’t loud enough for anyone but Imp to hear.  I raised my voice for the others.  “Go!  Retreat and regroup!”

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

578 thoughts on “Crushed 24.4

  1. So. Spellcheck refused to cooperate, and I finished writing (all 9245 words) at 11:45 (15 minutes before the deadline), so please excuse the typos. There’s going to be a fuckton of them. Sorry.

    Long one, and one you’ll probably hate me for. Sorry again.

    Votes on topwebfiction are appreciated.

    • I’m not hating you for it— yet. What I’m hating you for is that I now have to wait till Saturday to read more.

        • The problem with Bonus chapters is that they don’t tell me what is going to happen next! They just make things that have already happened make more sense. Not that I’m complaining though. I just really enjoyed this chapter.

    • Eh, character death is a good way of making things feel real. Plot Armor isn’t something that should be overused, and I’m glad it’s being avoided as much as possible. At this rate, I’m just happy it’s not Rachel or Grue or Tt.

    • Are you kidding? That was an great chapter.

      Regent left as he has lived: “Hey, Assface!”
      And he did it for someone else. Didn’t know he had that itself.

    • If there were any hate it’d be in a George R.R. Martin hate-because-we-love way. Your work hurts so good sometimes that I find myself counting time by Worm updates. Thanks for the great chapter.

    • Minor inconsistency.
      1) Phir Se: “we lose this city”
      2) Weaver: “wipe India off the map”.
      3) Narrative: (the inconsistency) controlling a detonation that had the potential to level a continent?

      • Presumably because hyperbole and informality are things that exist?

        I mean, it’s a giant laser, they might not even know exactly how powerful it is, and they’re all stressed- they were probably just coming up with the best expression they could for “ungodly powerful laser with the yield of multiple nukes at least”, y’know?

        • Sure, which is why the first two aren’t inconsistent. The third, however, is. Why would she be ‘thinking’ that they are going to lose the continent, when the person doing it has clearly said city? It could be explained by Taylor being hysterical – but she isn’t. Ergo.

          • It can if Behemoth manages to redirect it to his liking in a place with high tectonic instability.
            Lucky we’re talking about a place with no earthquakes whatsoever … oh wait.

      • The narrative is likely referring to the Indian subcontinent, and last chapter Phir Se stated that an uncontrolled detonation could destroy all of India. She’s probably thinking in terms of what Behemoth could do with it.

    • ” He was focusing more on a quantity of bolts than on the really heavy hits. Cleaning up the remanants of our defenses”

      Remanants should be remnants.

      • Also:

        “Millions of insects, bearing power lines that they were still stripping of insulation, hauling the wire itself, bearing the ones who bore the wire in turn, or hauling on silk that was attached to the wire.”

        Probably should be “still stripping OFF insulation…”

    • To continue my thought from above; It’s all hopeless isn’t it? None of them stand a chance. The Protectorate, the Yangban, not even Cauldron can manage it.

      It’s all pointless.

      • Well the title of the arc makes too much fucking sense. Confirmed assassination of Chevalier, and the next in command line of the Protectorate, Citrine, Regent, the Yangban lost half of their members and will never be fully trusted, who knows how many heroes, millions are surely dead at this point, and the PLAN WORKED PERFECTLY and IT DIDN’T MATTER! Weaver proves her badass credentials and maybe she can cover the skeleton in bugs if the kill field is currently offline which might interfere with his regeneration.

        • The Yangban lost half the members of the *contingent they sent*. And they expected to lose *ALL* of them. So far, that means they’re exceeding expectations by a very good margin, even with a wayward unit that went off-target.

          • BUT the assassination of Chevalier forever tainted their organization and this isn’t getting into what Tattletale could have figured out about their organization. Brainwashing, kidnapping American citizens, and being seen as incompetent/evil to allow this is going to hurt them pretty bad.

            • Reading this chapter, I thought back to my earlier thoughts, of how I’m just waiting for things to, inevitably, go to hell in a handbasket. Because it couldn’t be more obvious that that’s going to happen.

              So, anyway, about halfway through this chapter, I decided: Wormverse handbasket, meet the beginning of true hell.

              • In the middle of such a hellacious battle with so many who are going to die due to radiation, it’s ok to let them only count chickens after they’ve stomped on the eggs.

              • He is a master tinker, how about automatic cpr built into his red leather outfit, I mean: armour?

              • Laser to the gut is not fatal; it’s a self-sealing wound that would leave him incapacitated and in agony, but alive. Given that he was in the command center, he had to have been found early on and transported out to medical recovery. Anything less just seems silly.

  2. - Whoa-hahahahahahaha! That was … monumental. And Regent’s dead. Frankly, I expected Grue to be the one to die, have ever since Alexandria faked killing him.
    – nice touch having her stock on insects before coming up with the plan; beowulf cluster for the win.
    – Skitter is hard of core, bad of ass. Unfortunately, so is BEHEMOTH. Shit ain’t over.

  3. So, officially calling it- they’re not going to be able to kill an endbringer anytime soon. That was an absolutely absurd amount of energy poured into Behemoth. It seems like the stasis effects work- (clockblocker, foil) but short of that nothing’s been able to get through that skeleton.

      • should have portal-looped the energy again, leaving Behemoth in the middle. Then again, the density of the inner parts approaches infinity, so it’d literally take NI energy to conventional physics vaporize an endbringer.

    • I think such energy might have killed the other two since they aren’t as tough. But the Smurf would have seen it coming and manipulated things, and Leviathan is so fucking fast it might not have worked. If his killing field is currently offline, Clockblocker could have kept freezing him.

      • I’m sure that if Tattletale ever gets the chance to fully analyze a Endbringer (or Scion) she’ll have interesting things to say. The deck is totally stacked in the Endbringers favor, if they aren’t outright cheating. Sort of reminds me of the Planetary masters of Sol from Gaogaigar final.

        That said, how the hell is this losing? Or was Tattletale wrong about that?

        • Well it was supposed to be in a way that doesn’t risk themselves so maybe the Endbringers are trying to force humanity to develop countermeasures so that they can argue that any attempt to attack is risking destruction?

  4. God damn, I loved this chapter. So many deaths. Regent fucking DIED! Rachel’s dogs are unbelievably fucking tough. Skitter’s plan cut off a limb of Behemoth. Sorry, BEHEMOTH. The plan works perfectly, BEHEMOTH is a fucking skeleton, and it doesn’t fucking matter! They only have a small opportunity to try and kill him. Where the hell is Scion when you need the golden bastard?

    • Apparently South America. Sadly he doesn’t actually have a power that lets him know where he’s needed most.

      • I think he’s running since he was asked to kill the Endbringers. And Scion can’t, or doesn’t want to, or won’t. Won’t make a difference if they don’t live through this, though, as I doubt he’s coming to save them this time. Which sucks for them, because I thought the FIRST Endbringer fight was bad, and they still needed him to help them out in the end.

        • New reader just got caught up, and I have to wonder, is Scion not coming because of the kill order and what usually happens when he shows up. When he shows up the Endbringers start looking about getting ready to leave, If they get away he can’t kill them. The ‘Hopeful’ side of me then wonders if, he’s waiting for a moment where it’s weak enough that he can kill it before it escapes.

          Which is both a hopeful thought and a terrifying one. If from now on the defenders have to do enough damage to a Endbringer to draw Scion they can no longer play for time. I would find it an interesting balance then, and which would you prefer, knowing the terrible threat will keep returning but you need less force to hold it off…. or the chance of ending it but…. at a lot more force being needed to achieve it.

      • The guy who tells Scion what to do really needs to give him a phone or something! He’s never there when you need him!

    • I wonder if this means a Parian/Foil razorwire combo with Skitter-silk in the shape of a 5-storey fishing net can cut Endbringers into itty bitty pieces?

        • Wow, who pissed in your wheaties? It just feels pointless but there’s still plenty of options left. They’re not pretty, but the folks left ain’t dead yet.

          • Right now after all this basicly hasn’t actually done anything, people are going to be figuring that there simply isn’t any way to stop big B. Leaned helplessness is kicking in. NOTHING seems to be actually working. So of course some people are going to lose hope. Morale is getting shattered not just in universe, but for the readers as well. Unless your on team Endbringer.

          • The skeletons of BEHEMOTH and LEVIATAN are confirmed to break the laws of physics and enter deeply in Nightmare Fuel territory. Abandon all hope ye who enter the Wormverse.

            • Yeah it was the skeleton that got me. If you have stripped your enemy down to a skeleton and they show no signs of stopping/ retain complete combat effectiveness it pretty much equals a loss. There is no winning. Only despair now.

    • *hands you a tissue and joins in mourning* Atleast you showed that you were human, Regent. Almost wish there could be Implings, but alas for all intents and purposes is impossible.

          • Then convince Ferocity to jump through his own portal and distract the Endbringer himself so he can die, which provides a signal for the futility of the attack for past Pharaoh Sea and allows them to do something different. I’m just saying it’s a possibility and Regent’s death occurred right in the chapter where Ferrous-Z talked about having a chance to save his own family but refusing so that a monster would die.

              • Nobody likes to handle cans of worms.

                Instead of that, maybe Pretender’s power only lasts so long and he can’t jump back to a body he’s been in, or maybe the body’s about to hit some rigor mortis and he won’t be able to stay. I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

                Heck, if that Alexandria is just the body and power double as I initially suspected, then this battle would be an excellent time for Cauldron to use Pretender to get someone on the Undersiders capable of controlling all their bodies.

  5. scion, why are you so incompetant? … or maybe he didnt show up because he knew that not showing up would lead to the greatest chance of killing behemoth.

    • How dare Scion not know that an Endbringer is throwing down half a world away! Its almost as if he isn’t omniscient! That bastard!

            • Didn’t think I was the first person to think that one up.

              So we’re talking a big Precog faceoff between Simurgh and Scion, potentially. Simurgh sets up dominos to fall that are even worse than Behemoth’s attack on India, so Scion has to intervene. So maybe Scion’s getting the upperhand on Simurgh?

              Well, maybe…unless Simurgh is only setting up those events knowing Scion will intervene so that a very specific goal of the other Endbringers can be accomplished without Scion’s interference there. Maybe a goal that is less damaging those events but still critical to what they are doing.

              And then maybe Scion knows and can’t let on that he knows and plays along.

              And maybe Simurgh knows that and is stringing Scion along and making said “playing along” useless.

              And on and on and on.

              • Given what’s gone down with the Smurf, I have to wonder if I am alone in wondering if the story will come to a conclusion when all of Noelle’s party are removed from Earth Bet, given that much of the worst things that have happened have involved them being near or central to the issues at hand…

                That means Cody and Klause need to leave or die. Preferably the latter then the former.

                And then, the Endbringer Nation attacked…

          • > He might even know and prioritize. Maybe the other disasters all have to do with Simurgh’s manipulations.

            Or he’s trying to prevent something else. Trigger events came to mind.

            However I so far read scion as… seeing things differently. Like a wraithguard. (There’s never a warlock around when you need one.)

      • Yeah stop beating on Scion for not being on a planet that has global communication and complete world knowledge the moment an Endbringer attacks! Even though the fights are probably able to be seen from space and somehow he knows where to go on other continents to go rescue people! Who cares about that

  6. Jesus fuck.

    Wondering what’s up with Scion. Is there a reason he can’t fight them? Fear? Some kind of mandate?

    Glad that wasn’t all it took to end Behemoth, kind of, but at the same time, really wish it had. I mean, I wish that was the end of things, on account of there being, what, between twenty and forty active capes still, more or less? It just would’ve been unsatisfying if that had actually offed the damn thing.

    Still, BEHEMOTH is scary as all get out.

    • Scion did show up to chase Leviathan out of Brockton Bay. But he has to know they are attacking, and he’s pretty out of it. Remember he keeps flying from one disaster to another. Since they are focusing on the disaster he’s stopping, nobody is exactly paying attention to what’s going on on the other side of the planet.

      • But for THAT fight, he hadn’t been expressly told/ordered to KILL them. I think the Most Powerful Man in the World may have led to a change of some sort.

      • That would be a very apropos way. What if Scion for some reason can’t/won’t kill Endbringers, but at the same time his handler, someone he seems to put some authority in, wants him to do exactly that. Scion can bypass these countermanding orders by not engaging in fights, thus not being in any position for them to clash.

    • Forgot to add, holy cow, Regent. Way to go out. Didn’t finish the line, but mocking an Endbringer to draw fire from someone you care about? Right on.

      This is a EXCELLENT example of how very effective Skitter is at planning. Sure, no kill. But against BEHEMOTH that was closer than anything to have come before, it sounds like. Hope the Protectorate remembers, if the organization survives.

      So, the Leviathan fight was excellent in terms of killing off a few characters that was expecting to survive, that the narrative had made out to be the next big thing until suddenly they were dead. Behemoth is good at just killing everyone I’ve ever cared about in any capacity, it seems like. Seriously, holy fucking shit.

      Also also also, Wildbow, this is the fifth or sixth chapter in a row that’s just hit it out of the park, I feel like. These have been of excellent quality.

      Even more alsos: Reread up through Sentinel, even more impressed second time around. Going to keep going. So many things foreshadowed, so many times I’ve wanted to comment but didn’t to avoid spoilers (Biter fought Leviathan?). I love this story so damn much. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to this, Wildbow. I think I’ve told pretty much everyone I know to read it at least once.

      • I think this is the moment when Weaver officially reached Skitter levels of awesomeness. Taylor will never be very good at following the rules, but being officially a hero (and not just actually a hero) was a large part of how she was able to draw Phir Sē into fighting with the good guys instead of just gambling on chance.

        • Been rereading earlier, forgot to refer to her as Taylor or Weaver, because you’re quite right, I think. This isn’t the same method as Skitter, quite. Her being a hero officially is really allowing her new ways to use her biggest power – her ability to plan and talk and organize people. The bugs are pretty secondary in comparison.

          • If there is no Protectorate, it’ll still mean something — like has been said earlier, Taylor has cred on both sides of the street, now. If it comes down to it, if the PRT, Protectorate, and Wards all go down the tubes, she could put out the call for volunteers and form a new team pretty quickly.

            • That’s certainly one possibility, and one to hope for.

              However, remember that she’s technically still a prisoner- I imagine things will get complicated if the Protectorate folds.

              • That’s very true — she can’t run anything from inside a prison, and if she’s broken out of the prison … well, could be dicey.

              • I mean, Taylor could basically walk out of prison whenever she wants, with a little work- but then she’s a criminal again. So yeah, could get tricky. The Protectorate failing is not the same thing as the PRT failing, let’s remember. And the PRT probably don’t like Taylor or value her help as much Chev, Defiant and Dragon do, or even Glenn or Rime.

                A vigilante or semi-sanctioned hero team formed from the remnants of the decent members of the old Protectorate is one possibility in the event of a collapse, I suppose. They might be willing to shelter Taylor, given the role she’s playing here.

    • Keep in mind, he got support from the Smurf. Her little pawn took out the command center, and more imporantly Tattletale, disrupting all the defense. I no longer consider the Endbringers to truly be attacking seperatly. Smurf at least is a team player, and that makes things one thousand times harder.

      • I don’t know. It think the Smurf’s attack was mainly to disrupt the PRT and the Yangban for future attacks then helping BEHEMOTH. Let’s be honest, I honestly don’t think it would have mattered at all except maybe slow the big bastard down a little if the Smurf had never interfered.

        • And would have reduced casualties, enabling better defense in future Endbringer attacks. The Endbringers are not attacking seperatly. They are all part of the same offensive, and the human race had better figure that out or they are boned.

          • Too true but I think the only one who has even a snowballs chance in hell of figuring that out is Dinah. But the question I asked was who is more dangerous/powerful? The Smurf’s machinations made the fight harder, will cause chaos in the PRT without a strong leader, and nipped the Yangban in the bud before they became too influential. While BEHEMOTH is just fucking unstoppable. Even if the Smurf had never intervened, they still wouldn’t have stopped him.

  7. And you surprised me Wildbow. Of all the Undersiders the one I least expected to buy it was Regent. And yet it was so perfect. Heartbreaker’s son, who he turned into a sociopath… Died for love.

    Of course it turns out that even all the damage they did can’t stop BEHEMOTH. I mean he’s a bloody skeleton, and he’s missing a leg, and it isn’t bothering him. To me this adds to the Projection theory. And it really makes me think that Scion has a connection to them, as he can actually hurt them and drive them off. It can’t just be raw power. And man did the Protectorate get worked over. They may want to offer pardons to the less evil villians just to get some new members. Yeah, Saint may not need to do much to get the birdcage open. A few more of these and they’d open it just to hope Long feels like a rematch with Levis.

    So how long before Taylor gets fed up with all the faliure to communicate and just decides to go for world domination so everyone will cooperate in the face of a serious threat?

  8. Delhi, India, adding new meaning to the term ‘Herokiller’ and Pyrrhic Victory with every chapter.

    R.I.P. Regent.

    And India isn’t gone *yet*.

    Though another thought comes to mind. Scion may be ‘killing time’ waiting for Behemoth to be at its utterly weakest before trying to spike it with Mount Everest’s peak…

  9. Ah! I knew it! I knew it would happen!

    Just counting my blessings since Regent is the one Undersider I could stand to lose. Glad beyond glad Bitch, Imp or Parian aren’t dead. It’s not a sure thing yet, but I’d consider Rachel fucking unkillable after this one.

    Hope Phir didn’t use up all his mojo on the one laser. What the hell is Scion doing, picking his nose? Either way, Taylor had damn well get a medal after this shit.

  10. And I thought Regent would be safe because he had unfinished business with his father. I guess Imp will have to finish that for him now.

    Taylor’s plan and coordination was perfect, too bad they don’t seem to have many heavy hitter left to take advantage of it and Phir Sē is probably so out of it due to sleep deprivation that with the next strike when Behemoth won’t be distracted he will play into his hands.

    With all the Protectorate leaders dead or wounded, this might very well be it for the new Protectorate. On the plus side. Most of everyone who is still alive will probably follow Taylor’s lead at this point, so all she has to do to to safe the day is come up with some brilliant plan.

    I really hope that Dragon and Defiant are okay, because I have a feeling that if Defiant bought it Dragon is going to be the next big threat.

    • Eidolon and that Alexandria-type-person are still around.

      Though, come to think of it, we didn’t see much of her here…

      • I think the last we saw of her was ploughing a furrow into the ground after having her attack redirect onto herself.

        She appears to be out of the fight for now.

        • So she can complain all she wants that “cape-geeks” underestimate her, but the sad truth is that she really can’t compete with Eidolon or even, albeit this is my perhaps slightly biased opinion, Legend.

          • If you’ve ever read the web serial Super Powereds, in Year 2, Chapter 142, one hero describes the job of a particular kind of superhero as very simple: hit and get hit. Because your enemies are going to be hitting something, and being able to hit and get hit means that they hit you instead of the people who can’t get hit — your fragile teammates, the civilians on the scene, so on and so forth.

            Weld did that. Aegis did that. Crawler was a freaking Sith Lord of doing that. And Alexandria did that.

            • Amen to that. Hell, Taylor’s managed that admirably in her career, despite being a skinny teenager without durability powers.

              If you can draw the enemy’s fire and avoid getting taken out by it at the same time, though, more’s the better, though I know I’m stating the obvious.

              • Skitter and Grue have both used their powers for decoy purposes, and it’s been effective — it’s a different style of tanking, though.

              • That’s certainly true. They tend to tank more like modern day warships and fighter planes do, using decoys and ECM and chaff, rather than taking the hits. To be honest though, what I had in mind at the time of typing was all the times Taylor’s let superhumans slap her around without decoys- like the Mannequin fight and the second one with Lung, or when she charged Leviathan. Most of those were calculated, but even so, girl has neutronium ovaries.

                Not that we needed reminding of this or anything. :-)

              • @Admiral Skippy: The times she’s let herself get knocked around have been pretty much desperation gambits, I think. She can take a hit better than most rearliners, and in both Lung #2 and Mannequin #1 she used a hit-and-be-hit strategy to avoid the worse options (being fried and civilians being killed, respectively), but as a rule that’s not how she rolls.

              • Not disagreeing with any of that, I did mention those two were calculated plays. I’m just saying, she’s damn impressive and damn brave.

                Not that this was a point of contention or anything, lol

              • @Admiral Skippy: No, your point was totally on target. I was going to say that Skitter didn’t play the hit-and-be-hit game, but you were right — she did.

                And you’re right about the other thing, too — I’m pretty sure you could made a brass-gonad Triumvirate for Wormverse out of Taylor, Lisa, and Dennis.

    • No, it’ll turn out that his trigger event was getting shocked when the radio he was listening to fell in the tub with him. So BEHEMOTH just caused his second trigger event. He’ll now be able to mess with BEHEMOTH.

    • I doubt this would happen, but it certainly wouldn’t shatter my suspension of disbelief. If Wildbow decided that Regent could live on as long as he had a body that he had broken in to jump to I would believe it. He just has to get back to Brockton and jump into one of the gang leaders he was running.

      • That’d be an intriguing idea if it worked like that. I doubt it, but I think it’d be perfect for Shadowstalker to break out of jail and wind up possessed by Regent. As all good equations do, this one leads back to an answer of lesbians.

        Like with E=MC(lesbians). Now, it’s true that this only affects straight men, but that’s Relativity for you.

        • Wait I know! One of his siblings is identical to him in everyway, and will take over so well they won’t even call him Regent 2! It’ll be like he never even died!

      • It would shatter mine — Regent’s power strictly works downstream of the consciousness. If it continued working after his death, it would basically be a quadriplegia button, not immortality, because none of Regent the person would be there to hold the reins.

  11. Wildbow I must applaud your creation of the Endbringers. Such powerful, unique, and creative monsters speak well to your universe. I so want a fanfic where they show up in the DC and Marvel universe just to see what would happen.

    • Yeah there are so many crossovers I’d like to see happen with Worm. I might have to write some, though I doubt I could catch the tone. It’s mostly things like the Endbringers, too. How would – or could – other universes react to that sort of concerted, constant threat?

      I’m mostly holding off until we know more about them, and how powers came to be, though. They’re still a pretty huge mystery. We might not find out, but even more speculation would be nice.

      One thing that got me, after the Leviathan fight, was that with everything else, they didn’t disseminate information on what happened TO THE COMBATANTS. I can understand keeping the public ignorant, but… I’d think telling people “this is what worked, what didn’t, so we know for next time” really should be on the table as part of the plan.

      • Superman would punch them to death, or Batman would Batman them to death, with lots of collateral damage and civilians and secondary characters dying to make it suspenseful, same as with all the other terrifying ridiculous shit they deal with.

        Or if the Endbringers are silly enough to go to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe, Mary Poppins deals with them.

        • I’m not entirely sure that they would be able to deal with them. At least not in any timely fashion. Let’s face Legend and Alexandria can do most of what Superman can. There are more thinkers and tinkers who are much better at what they do than what Batman does. The JL’s main advantage would be the amount of people capable of taking a hit. It would really help them when fighting Behemoth and Leviathan. But it is all going to take a turn for the worse when Simurgh shows up.

    • Would not work in the DC universe.

      There’s Superman, and several heroes (and one mercenary) with similar power levels.
      Worst came to worst they’ll just pick him up and dump him on Jupiter.

      OTOH I can so see Weaver in Gotham.

      • I dunno I can see the Endbringers on Doomsday or perhaps even Darkseid’s levels (Behemoth here just no-selled the most powerful weapon to ever exist in the Worm verse), but yeah with guys like Superman, Captain Marvel, Black Adam, Captain Atom the DCU is probably capable of containing the damage far better than the Worm capes.

      • I would love to see the reaction of various DC characters to them, still. Especially if those are unaware of the Endbringer powers.

        “Did… Did that behemoth just explode Superman?”

        I know, not likely. The EB would need to get to a certain degree of notoriety first to get the attention of the heavy hitters. But it would still pretty much cement the fact of uh-oh.

        • I can imagine them getting into a stalemate with the DC universe. Too much power for either side to win. Except this is in itself a victory for the Endbringers, as collateral damage is basically their entire aim. A stalemate with the DC Universe’s heroes would probably destroy the world. Same with Marvel really. They might stand more of a chance than the Heroes of Worm, but then the Endbringers might go all out and attack simultaneously. Oh, and Simurg would probably manipulate events to kill everyone using their weaknesses. Then they’re all screwed.
          Basically, the Endbringers are unbeatable.

          • I wouldn’t put good money on the Marvel Universe. Everyone would end up fighting eachother over what to do about the Endbringers. Tony Stark would set up inter dimensional internment camps for Simurgh victims and put psychopathic super villains in charge of it. Cyclops would hunker down on some island somewhere and start a fight with the government over mutant evacuations and get all of them killed by Leviathan, Reed Richards would make a quantum bomb to try to kill the Endbringers but end up blowing up SHIELD with it or something. And Wolverine would try to stab Taylor because his favorite problem solving method is killing teenagers. Then someone tries to go back in time and ends up fucking their grandmother or something.

            That’s on top of the metric shitload of whining that would be going on and half the supervillains trying to HELP the Smurf. I find Cauldron SLIGHTLY more trustworthy than Hydra or the Red Skull

          • > Basically, the Endbringers are unbeatable.

            Not in the DCU, I don’t think so. There are too many foils. The JLA alone could probably tackle them.

            Aside from Supes (who has ice breath, so good luck with flames Behemoth), there’s Aquaman, whose power is to command the creatures of the deeps. For the smurf, eh even if you’re a precog good luck fighting someone who moves at the speed of light.

              • @DavidJohnson: sorry for the lack of clarity, I was referring to the mass giant squid attack that was proposed several times on the comments before the fact that Taylor cannot control octopi sank in.

            • I think a fight between the Endbringers and DCU would require Simurgh and Batman trying to outplot one another. Imagine the hilarity there. Batman is the guy who has effectively plotted for all possible contingencies, and the Simurgh is omniscient. Batman would most likely have a plan to beat her, but the Simurgh would know this, and Batman would know that she knows this and would have a plan for that too… ad infinitum.

              • He can throw energy around if it’s already there in the environment, but he’s not a walking cabinet of different flavours.

                Not to mention kryptonite is a totally outside his context, and probably has no analogue in the wormverse or the EB’s dimension of origin.

      • Skitter would be an excellent foil for Batman actually. She’d be a perfect Gotham city villain, if you handle her motivations properly. I have a feeling both of them would absolutely HATE dealing with the other one, since both are so annoying to fight.

        • I’d rather she be Batman’s enemy than having to deal with the bullshit that comes with being his sidekick. I love to see Bruce pull that “You’re a reckless punk, go home!” or “No, of course I’m not manipulating you’re emotions to get you to do what I want!” crap with her.

          • Back when Taylor was getting shopped around the Wards team I wondered what it would be like if Taylor got sidekicked to Batman. I figured Joker would end up getting his own pie to the face, and finding it full of roaches, and Poison Ivy would have the worst nightmare of her life.

            Now the MU under writers who actually remember Superheroes that are supposed to fight someone other than each other could do relitively well. They have a few things to try. Pym Particles to shrink the endbringer. Probably just make them harder to hit because they are smaller while doing little to weaken them. Then we have the Hulk. Much like Lung he gets stronger the longer the fight goes on. He’s also highly resistant to telepathic attacks. And he can break the laws of physics. Hulk once pulled something out from beyond the even horizon of a Black Hole. Now assuming that he isn’t useless Reed Richards can build a device to send the endbringers to the Negative Zone. Doesn’t matter how dense you are if you matter is being annhilated by contact with Anti Matter. Or Dr. Doom can use a time machine to send them to the end of the universe. As for coordination, the MU has one thing the Wormverse lacks. Lots of Telepaths. But sadly, as said above cooperation in the MU these days makes the Wormverse look like the worlds greatest sychronized swimming team.

  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icKsv4jA5ZU

    I think it’s pretty safe to throw that song out there on Behemoth’s behemalf.

    You’d think Behemoth wouldn’t stick around with his desire spent like that, but maybe they made him angry. I have a feeling they won’t like him when he’s angry. There will be a lot of smashing, I’m guessing.

    Also, of course, Regent. Kinda unexpected there. I remember someone sarcastically making a remark about him being not a monster and possible to rehabilitate. A little hard to rehabilitate someone who made a heroic sacrifice for someone they cared about. There’s always the possibility that a eulogy might become unnecessary like with Alexandria or whoever that is. I don’t know, it’d probably be even squickier for Pretender to jump into Regent’s body and wind up in a relationship with a 13 year old girl whose body he has absolute control over.

    Ah, fuck it, why the hell not at this point. Not any worse than what Alexandria had to do with Bambina’s foot.

    By the way, glad to see our sunshiney story is continuing to stew up lots of chicken soup for the soul here. Ignore the smell of bitter almonds. I mean, bitter almonds are a little dangerous. They’re nuts, and they didn’t like being left out. But such dark thoughts have no place in Worm. No way no how. Worm is all about fields of flowers and hugging puppies and stripdances from women actually named Candy, Chastity, and Uvula.

    You folks don’t look like you’re happy enough. That’s right. I’ll teach ya to be happy! I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!

    Now boys and girls, we’re going to sing a song about being happy. It’s called “The Happy Happy, Joy Joy Song”.

    Happy happy, joy joy, happy happy, joy joy…

          • it’s more apt than you think, meatloaf wasn’t exactly a serious person.

            in other news, my post on Regents sociopathic tendencies got referenced by PG, yay! i feel so validated.

          • Normally that’s the kind of line I save up for when a biker gets stabbed with an icepick by a transvestite. If it helps, just imagine him singing that song from just before. “Whatever happened to Saturday night? When you dressed up sharp and you felt alright. It don’t seem the same since cosmic light, came into my life, I thought I was divine.”

            • Setting: suburban house, interior, dining room.
              [Geko and Rika are squabbling over ROCK, then their father enters.]

              You’ve disobeyed my orders, son,
              Why were you ever born?.
              Your sister’s ten times better than you,
              Jesus loves her more.
              This music that you play for us comes from the depths of hell.
              Rock and roll’s The Simurgh’s work, she wants you to rebel.
              You’ll become a mindless puppet;
              The Smurf will pull the strings!
              Your heart will lose direction,
              And chaos it will bring.
              You’d better shut your mouth,
              Better watch your tone!
              You’re grounded for a week with no telephone! *
              Don’t let me here you cry,
              Don’t let me hear you moan!
              You gotta praise The Lord when you’re in my home!

              * Unless Weaver nicks one from a random tinker and insect-sends it to you.

              [En starts ripping posters off Geko's wall, but misses the one inside the door, on it there's Annex sitting on a high backed chair, with a goblet in his hands, and DIO witten over his head]

              (Told ya I think of you as joung Jables :P )

    • Of course it’s all about hugging puppies. Rachel is going to make them all hug lots of puppies to deal with Regent being gone. Now if she could just stop forgetting about Aisha…

    • I figure BEHEMOTH is trying to kill that guy that hurt him so he can’t be reused against a different Endbringer. Also because Weaver can’t have a crazy powerful Indian friend.

      Again worm isn’t dark, it’s realistic. Drawing fire tend to end with you dying, and heroic sacrifices tend to only save one not many.

  13. You know, maybe Phir Se IS onto something here. From all indications Behemoth is the physically toughest of all Endbringers. And he’s been more hurt by this one attack than any Endbringer was ever hurt at all. And he’s still attacking, which indicates the NEED to accomplish his goal. Because perhaps he knows that time bomb CAN kill his fellow Endbringers and he has to stop it.

    • I think this attack could have killed the other two IF it had hit. If I was Weaver, who pretty much is in command of what’s left of the PRT at this point, I would kidn….gently evacuate Phir Se so they could use him for future attacks. At this point they are going to need all the help they can get.

  14. Wow that was awesome, that gotta be the most damage done to one of the Endbringers so far and yet not enough…

    Maybe it is just me but Scion avoiding the fight like that made me think that since if he joins the fight he has to go for the kill then it is better for him to not join the fight at all…

  15. Regent reminded me of a character I played in a game of D&D long ago. In the end, dying was pretty much the only option left before he turned on everyone else. His ‘acquisition’ of Imp was the first step towards that end. Daddy really messed him up. Oh well.

    If Zion does show up (and yes I am using Kevin Norton’s name for him on purpose) I’m leaning towards Behemoth being totally destroyed now that Kevin corrected his original Deathbringer command from ‘fight’ to ‘kill the motherfuckers’. Now the question of if that is possible for Zion to even do so in this continuum will finally be answered.

  16. Another interesting point – why hasn’t Phir Se slept in three days? Has he gone back from the original Endbringer attack and started charging his attack back then?

      • Yes. But WHY has he started charging his laser three days ago? He had to know about the attack by then. So, why had he known about the attack but not who was attacking (he “hoped that it would be the Second or the Third”)? Why hasn’t he evacuated his family / alerted the city officials (who he probably has to have some contact with, if only as a local boogeyman)?

        • And now I shall talk for 30 episodes while I charge my spirit bomb to defeat a guy who can kill me easily. I’ll just float up here in the air under a glowing orb, completely inconspicuous.

          I bet that one is on there already though.

              • This is a problem that could be fixed.

                I mean, it’s a Wiki. It can be edited. By people who are not me, even.

                Hint hint.

                (No, seriously, I can’t add examples from works I’ve never seen.)

              • It takes a short amount of time to charge, long enough that destroying the weapon can critically damage the ship itself. The initial confusion over the aliens’ presence and then the shield are defenses against it in that time of vulnerability. The alien ship in the battle over Area 51 has no such defense, because the U.S.A was able to find and afford the A(lien)-Team. You know, an inspiring military leader, a crazy pilot, a guy who can con his way into the alien ship, and a guy who kicks alien ass and calls them fools.

  17. On a non “Oh fuck nothing can stop BEHEMOTH” or “Fuck Regent is dead” note… Nobody tell Brian that Annex copped the mother of all feels from Taylor… and that it was her idea.

  18. It’s been bugging me for a while. What are the exact rules surrounding Golem’s power? Can he use two sheets of tin foil to create a SOLID hand out of one, or would it be hollow? Or would he need 1 thick piece of tin and one piece of foil? 2 thick pieces? If one slab of tin was coated in another substance, could he still create a tin hand? Are there linits to how big or how small he can make his counterparts? If he created a wood hand would the cells of the wood be warped(assuming that he can affect wood)? Does whatever he shoves his hand into revert back to its ‘normal’ state after he removes his hand? What happens if the material at the BOTTOM of where he is creating the hand from is destroyed? Does he have some other sort of classification that allows him to literally ram his hand into any thing? Can his power bypass the Manton effect, ex. can he shove his hand into a person and have it create a hand from another person? Could he bypass welds bypassing of the Manton effect? Could he, theoretically, create a full body counterpart? If he shoved his entire hand into something, could he have SEPERATE pieces of that hand show up at the same time? If so, could they be different sizes and could they show up from different pieces of the same material? What would happen if he shoved his hand into a place where multiple materials meet or if he shoved it into something like a circuit board? How similar do the substances he uses have to be to be the same, ex. Can he shove his hand into a cement road and have it exit an asphalt road because they’re both roads? Finally could he create a hand out of a liquid(use the ocean to his advantage), could he create a hand out of something like wind(tornado hand), and could he he create a hand out of something that isn’t part of the physical realm like emotions(fist of rage)?

    • Most of these are unanswered, but I think it’s pretty certain to be (a) restricted to solid non-living objects and (b) linked to the material composition, not the purpose or style or the like.

  19. Not sure about the hate, really.

    Inspirational teamwork meets invincible foe. Whatever can beat an Endbringer, it isn’t force alone. That teamup had an amplified Eidolon containing the largest single strike anyone’s ever seen, with Behemoth distracted enough that he just tanked it without redistributing it. If that’s not enough to even force him into retreat… then the Endbringers have only ever been toying with their prey.

    That said, cutting a leg off of Behemoth is a staggering victory (pun intended), unequaled hitherto… and if it can be salvaged from the battlefield, brought before the right tinkers and thinkers, it may yet be the key to a later total victory. It’s more than anyone’s ever managed, and it points at the fact that force isn’t the only option against Endbringers. More conceptual capes, correctly applied, can do much.

    Regent went out nobly. For one convinced he couldn’t feel, in the end he spent his life to save his loved one, in a desperate fight against the common foe of all humanity, in a situation where his powers were all but useless, and in which he fought on regardless. He will rightly be mourned, rightly be missed. Heartbreaker may withdraw, without the lure of his prodigal son (unless Imp and Regent…) – but there’ll be none immune to him, either. Or he may try to retrieve Cherish, with… predictably troublesome consequences. Or Imp may simply (try to) kill him outright, as a memorial to Regent.

    Scion probably did not fail to notice the giant laser. Of course, with Phir Se trying again, the feared Phir Se – Behemoth – Scion redirection is still on the table. Then again, it took Phir Se 36 hours to build that charge. Unless he captured it after it passed Behemoth and is reusing it, any second shot will be much, much, weaker. Funny thing to hope for, but there it is.

    Aside from the fight itself, that desperate rally, with Yangban, Protectorate, Cauldron capes, Villains, and cold capes all desperately holding the line… that’s a sign of hope in itself. Despite all the mess, despite direct interference from the Simurgh, despite all the reasons to distrust… when it matters, they pulled together. Contrast the end of the Echidna fight. No one’s beaten an Endbringer yet, but this is as close as anyone’s ever come – and the fears of WWIII coming from the Yangban betrayal of Chevalier are probably put to rest for now. Take that, Simurgh!

    Don’t know how many will love Weaver, how many will trust her… but the Yangban, the Protectorate, and Phir Se’s group (including that untagged Manton-surpassing teleporter, who is absolutely terrifying in his own right), should all respect her after this. Note also that the only known intact formations left on the field at this point are hers, the Yangban, and possibly the cold capes. Individual Protectorate members, mostly command-staff, are fighting like heroes… but she’s the one with subordinates still in the game. Not as many capes as the Yangban, no, but something that will be very noticeable in retrospect. Add in the fact that the last plan was hers, and Weaver’s also logging some impressive command time in Endbringer combat, which will matter to the Protectorate (y’know, if it or its members participating survive the occasion).

    The body count is still going to be recordbreaking. At least the damage done to Behemoth will have been too.

    Dragon’s out – hopefully just due to Behemoth and not Saint. Defiant’s also missing, same hopes.

    Rachel knows Taylor has a plan. She always has, even when Taylor left them and became Weaver. Such faith, such a burden… such an answer.

    The fact that Phir Se can time travel means there are a lot of things about what’s going on that aren’t set in stone. Regent, Cuff, so many others may not truly die. On the other hand, time travel also means that things can always get worse…. retroactively.

    • Zion’s headed somewhere not India, by all reports. Zion’s been told to kill Endbringers, instead of driving them off. Some have theorized that Endbringers are projections. Zion’s about to say hello to the projector?

      Or, y’know, because we need more dark scenarios, he’s going to fly up and fight Simurgh in the stratosphere, knocking her to the ground, and now there are TWO Endbringer attacks going on at once.

    • Dispatch deserves a medal, seriously – buying time like that, shielding people, prepared to be the last man out. Forgot to mention him, but that was quite impressive.

    • Yeah, time travel adds interesting twists here. If it’s as straightforward as “he can walk back as far as he needs to,” then that’s a pretty big death flag for either him or Behemoth here. Not the only way it could end or anything if he’s extremely judicious about exploiting time travel, but still, indicative.

      • He says he can walk back ‘minutes’. Enough to be dramatic and useful; not enough to reset the problem out of existence. CLEARLY not long enough for him to charge his laser, or he wouldn’t have had to restart it – he’d have waited for Behemoth to show, walked back in time, and started charging.

      • My wife, my sons, years ago. A similar problem on a smaller scale. I can walk through minutes, I could have walked back to save them, but I let them die because it meant a monster would remain gone.

        He can only get a few minutes back. And going out on a limb here *high five to Shitcrumb* he can only have a pair of portals open at the same time or is too mentally taxed to do anything about Regent in time.

        • He can walk though minutes. This may mean that he can only travel several minutes back at a time. From the description of his power, he could well chain his portal. Make a portal, go five minutes back, make another, you are now ten minutes back, etc.

  20. Regent dead. Phir Se’s great weapon, useless against Behemoth. Scion half a world away. *takes steadying breath* Weaver needs to survive. She survives the end of the world, according to Dinah. But I doubt the Endbringers will tolerate any of them being killed again. Also, where is Alexandria? She could damage him more while Phir Se concentrates on firing his lazer again. Where are all the blaster capes?

    • Phir Se’s attack was hardly useless. It destroyed four fifths of Behemoth’s body.

      Unfortunately that’s not enough to drive the monster away.

      • got to remember that the endbringers get more dense on the inside if the skeleton and what was destroyed were the same density the skeleton would probably be bigger than what was blown away so four fifths may be some what optimistic

  21. I loved this chapter and did not hate it. Actually, this is one of my all time favorites. So good in so many ways…

    I actually didn’t notice many typos when reading either.

    • Guessing this is the typo thread:

      The effect ended just as Behemoth on to other targets. Another Yàngbǎn member was struck down.

      Behemoth moved on, I’m guessing.

    • Eidolon appeared like a spear from the heavens, striking him between the shoulderblades. Behemoth nearly crashed through. His claw settled on the portal’s edge, as though it had a physical mass to it, slipped through. The lightning wasn’t traveling far, now, and the image of it was soon lost in the smoke.

      There’s something wrong with the third sentence (what do the “as though it had a physical mass” and “slipped through” bits mean?), and the action is a little unclear. Did Ligeia rotate the portal to the horizontal so he would fall into it? Did he go in headfirst or feetfirst (at 45 feet tall, he wouldn’t fit sideways)? If feetfirst, how does that square with being hit between the shoulderblades — and if headfirst, why does he have the one leg caught in the portal after he climbs out?

  22. Yanno, this might be a good time to grab Phir Se and hightail it outta there. One of the concrete rules to winning a fight is figuring out what your opponant wants, and denying it to him. Weaver proved that the light bomb wasn’t going to get the job done. Time to get the old man to safety.

    Sad to see Regent go, but at least he went out awesome. He woulda liked having done so. Assuming he’s not a resident of Casa Imp now. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be so lucky.

    Finally, assuming Tattletale lives through this mess (I’m betting she will) she should be able to explain that the attempted assassination of Chev was not done on orders of the Yang Ban. Assuming she doesn’t try to extract some sort of favor from them in exchange for clearing their reputation. NOBODY wants to be thought of as siding with the Endbringers. That kind of crap gets the rest of the planet to try to nuke you.

    Side note: I kinda think Kid Win is going to take out one of these Endbringers. I really hope he does. I also hope that Dragon and Defiant managed to get clear before they got totally fried. They’re a little vulnerable to that sorta thing.

    I wonder if these “bones” count for the purposes of an osteokinetic. Or if Golem could use the matter from a severed limb to shape something dense enough to act as an effective weapon…

      • indeed. It would really depend on how the power actually counts, for the Marquis. Is it control of stratified calcium and protein deposits, or a control over whatever the Marquis understands to be “bone”? Likely the former. That being said, I’ve kinda been wondering if Golem could use, say, flesh as a crafting material (I may have missed it if he said one way or the other). The idea is interesting and gross. Also, if he could dive his whole body into a material, for a giant him.

          • Yeah, I’d normally consider that unlikely to work and unlikely to happen, except with the amount of narrative buildup around Theo . . .

            You’ve got to figure he’s either Taylor’s future boyfriend, Taylor’s eventual murderer, or someone who’ll do something like, well, that.

          • I can see it now:

            A giant hand sprouts out of Behemoth’s severed leg and starts beating him. Meanwhile, Golem on the ground starts shouting “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

        • Considering the Manton effect, it would have to be dead flesh.

          I’m pretty sure he hasn’t tried using corpses for his power.

    • Why would you expect/hope Kid Win to take down an Endbringer?

      He’s not all that badass by cape standards.

      Besides, he might well be dead.

      • It’s more hope than expect, just cause I like the scrappy kid. Also because he seems to go about his ideas in reverse order. He knows what he wants to happen, then finds a way to make a gadget that does it. If he decided to duplicate one of Bakudas time grenades, that might well have a shot at dealing with something like behemoth, as it functions through an alteration of physics.

  23. Dammit, we just need a few good heavy hitters to finish chasing him off. Where the hell’s all the superheavies?

    • Well Legend was taken out of action last chapter, and Alexandria was not mentioned again after Behemoth’s momentum trick so presumably she is lying in a crater somewhere. Eidolon just swapped out his powers over to defense to help pull off the laser trick, so he won’t be up to driving away Behemoth for at least a few minutes. Finally all the lesser ‘heavy hitters’ probably can’t even scratch Behemoth this deep into his core even if he hadn’t already murdered them all.

  24. Somehow I got the sense that Behemoth was actually pissed enough at the end there to start taking the fight more seriously, hence why he broke out the high-speed regeneration instead of the usual Endbringer tactic of retreating where nobody else can follow to sleep off the fight like a bad hangover.

    Because that is, of course, the worst possible interpretation of what Tattletale figured out about the Endbringers: they’re not fighting to lose because they have some greater goal, they’re fighting to lose because they like to play with their food and they know their food isn’t actually a genuine threat to them. Now that the food has demonstrated it actually can be a threat, the gloves come off.

    • And another Fridge Horror moment after Psycho Gecko’s up above. Despite all the death, horror, and destruction they are still fucking holding back. What happens if they decide to stop?

      • After all, all they’d have to do is take shorter naps between fights and all attack at once and everyone would die. Very, very quickly.

        • I thought the nap was necessary for them to heal but BEHEMOTH just proved that he at least doesn’t need a rest to regenerate. The real oh shit moment would be if they all attacked at once in three different locations in the same country. Though such an attack might band the world together when they realize how bad things are going to become.

          • It may not be to heal, but rather to gather and store energy. High speed regeneration, and all that Dynakinesis may be draining BEHEMOTH’s reserves. So he may have to spend longer charging up before his next attack.

  25. For a moment, when Regent got lightning bolted, I was sure he was gonna get time-rewound, until the dots connected. Then I thought for a moment that he’d surely still be around in some form, a voice in someone’s head, but I would have expected that someone to be Imp. End of the day, he’d totally say “fuck it, YOLO”, I don’t think he felt he had much to lose.

    • Also, interesting to see Taylor’s passenger trying to help and really, really not. Except for the part where it stopped India from getting nuked flat, that part was exceptionally helpful.

  26. Hang on.

    Did Behemoth’s leg get cut off or not?

    It says that the team got halfway before Lily’s power wore off. But then it says that Behemoth’s leg was reduced to a stump.

    Which is it?

      • Not quite. It got a little more than halfway through one leg, severing the ‘skeleton’. The explosion eradicated the remaining flesh from the other side.

        • Thank you for the clarification.

          Now, if we know if the severed limb exists in its skeletal form…
          Well, a few possibilities.
          1) It exists. Conclusion, there’s no ontological core keeping the physics breaking up, but it’s self contained.
          2) It doesn’t exist. Conclusion, whatever powers the Endbringers give them their physicsbreaking. If one can destroy this, they can be killed.
          3) It regenerates. Conclusion, we have a new Shitcrumbs at hand.

          • If the part of behemoth that got sheared of is still there, than what you primarily have is a weapon. You have a skeletal leg-bone of the same material as Behemoth’s ultra-dense skeleton. What Taylor also has is a bunch of capes specialising in using that sort of thing.

            Sometimes the only way to get your point across properly is to beat an opponent with their own severed limbs…

            • She can shove his own leg his own ass – metaphorically speaking. But yes, unless his body recognises it as its own cells/whatever and incorporates it. Which would be bad.

        • Ah, okay.

          Thanks for the clarification.

          The “stump” line was from before the explosion, though. Dunno whether or not that’s an error.

  27. Also the fact that Behemoth is still going and Phir Sē is setting up again is terrifying.

    I’d kind of assumed that it took a long time to charge to the level that would either draw Behemoth or hurt him, but apparently they both think it’s still worth it?

    Either that or Behemoth isn’t really going after Phir Sē; he just wants to break this one video screen, two feet to Phir Sē’s right, at stomach level, which was later going to bring about an age of happiness and prosperity for all the world and eventually the cosmos. (That kind of target is usually Simurgh’s thing but they have a bet going about who can get it first.)

    • He could be going after the teleporter. If said teleporter can bypass Manton effect, he may conceivably sacrifice his life to teleport a big chunk of iron inside Behemoth, bypassing his defenses

    • Okay, now that I’ve calmed down a bit, it’s possible Regent may have survived by boddy-hopping into Imp. His power works by formatting people’s nervous systems so that he can inhabit their brains, so he might be pulling an Altered Carbon right now. I mean c’mon guys, he’s a funny guy and all, we may like him, I certainly do, but he’s a high-functioning sociopath, do you really see self-sacrifice in his resume if he doesn’t at least suspect he has a reasonable chance of coming out alive?

      • He wasn’t really a sociopath, any more that some kid from a broken home who steals a mobile phone is Arsène Lupin. He was a young man who’d been hurt in ways no one should be hurt and was never given a fucking chance. Inexplicably, beautifully, somehow, for a little while, he found some love in the world anyway, and managed to love despite how he’d been injured inside.

        Don’t cheapen his sacrifice.

        • Dude, fictional character, cheapening nothing. And yes, he is a sociopath, Tattletle’s power confirmed it in her interlude. I’m not saying it’s his fault, Regent’s a victim, but it is a fact of his character.

          • To think that all sociopaths are unilaterally incapable of love, or that they’re all the same is deeply flawed. They just find it much more difficult.

            In any case, it seems unlikely we’ll agree, and you bore me, so this is pointless.

              • Erm, look, I still don’t agree with you about what we were arguing about, but after thinking about it, I apologise for the boring comment and any hurt feelings it may have caused. There was no call for it, you don’t deserve it. Regent’s (fictional) death should inspire me to be more loving, and cherish the peace and love I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, and try to bring more happiness into the world- not hurt people’s feelings.

                Sorry, I’m taking this kinda hard, is all.

      • I took it he was remote controlling them, while still inhabiting/being his brain. I see Regent as dead as it gets. There is very little ambiguity here.

        • Well I got that too, but that one quote from Tattle keeps coming back to haunt me, the one about most cape powers being able to do much more than the owner thinks they can. Just wonder if Regent might have taken that to heart and tried experimenting a bit. *shrugs* I dunno, just want a way for The Regent & Imp Show not to end, it’s barrels of laughs for all the family.

          • Sure, it’s about as comedic as Regent in Imp’s body going on a date with Theo. A real barrels of laughs in the making.

  28. After finishing this chapter. I sat for a minute. I then got up, and got out an old bottle of scotch. I poured two glasses, and walked out into the damp mourning. I looked up at the stars, and poured a glass out for regent. I raised the other to capes lost in this battle, the fights of the past, and for what is to come. Godspeed.

  29. “It had taken time for the Endbringer to approach the wires, set safely outside of his kill range, and some were already coming free of Clockblocker’s power.”

    Plausibly coincidence. No real reason to think that this is fate, or time shenanigans, or causality shenanigans, or cosmic shenanigans, or power manipulation, or situation management powers, or anything. Just ordinary tactics and strategy of fighting covers this.

    But this one?

    “They got halfway before Foil’s power wore off.”

    . . . that’s just disturbing.

    • No… not necessarily. I see what you’re getting at, his skeleton having some power nullifying effect.
      But Foil’s power was timed. Always had been. Otherwise her missiles would have overpenetrated during her previous applications of her power. So this was simply a case of her maximum application time being reached.

      But what confuses me is how her power can cut through Shitcrumbs at all. If I get her power correctly, she timedly phases stuff out and in of existence. How has that a cutting effect? Wouldn’t it effectively only swipe through stuff instead of shearing/cutting it?

      • Nope, that’s not what I’m getting at.

        The terrifying thing is that he *couldn’t* have timed that. Which is another sign that there’s more to their inevitability than just physical toughness: *something* selected for the universe where the power faded before his leg got cut through. Causal hijinks, time shenanigans, precog manipulation, Contessa-like autowin, Coil-like cosmic selection, but *something.*

        I mean, we’ve already been talking about these ideas, and Contessa brings them to the fore anyway. But . . . it’s just extra-terrifying if the actual center of his skeleton isn’t hyperdense cosmic stuff but fate.

        • So their centre is “undefeatability”…? That’s pretty potent stuff. I hope I’M not misremembering, but didn’t Tt told them they can be defeated? The context implied “by force”, but maybe her power meant more in the sense of “There are circumstances allowing for the removal of Endbringers from the equation during your lifetime”, like calling upon a higher power with the clout to displace them. Passengers or something. Or that portal by whomever with access to the waterfilled space, stuff them in there and close the portal. Removing the problem instead of cracking it.

          • I’m still not so sure that Behemoth won’t have bitten the dust in some sense by the end of this arc, actually.

            The terrifying thing is that there’s a part of me that’s not sure if that will turn out to have been a good outcome, in the final analysis.

            Despite my emotions and common sense screaming that regardless of any intellectual wanking about prophecies or grand designs, killing a monster like that has to be a fundamentally good thing.

            • Unless the Endbringers are like Galactus and killing one of them would screw the universe on such a scale that their rampage on Earth Bet is sort of trivial. i don’t know why but I find such hypothesis likely: the Endbringers are more than just big destroy-all monsters, they’re part of some bigger puzzle.

            • Well, I can follow your reasoning. But to counter it: Imagine the mythological Atlas stomping over the place and eating people, the afflicted peoples mounting a response and after much hardship and suffering defeating him, only to have the heavens fall down. They couldn’t have known and for all the Good killing Atlas did, the Bad outweighs it heavily.

    • Excellent catch. I didn’t put the clues together myself, but I love this idea. I wasn’t quite as interested in the Endbringers representing some kind of fate/concept before, but I am now.

  30. Wait wait, Regent is gone? But…but he had the epic fight with Heartbreaker to look forward to. He and Imp had to declare their undying love for each other. Rest in peace Regent, you may have done some terrible things but I think you have redeemed yourself with this.

    Continuing my ramblings on some other notes: Taylor and Phir Se’s conversation was, IMO, one of the best pieces of writing of the entire serial (and Phir Se is sort of nice for a self-professed monster) and wildbow has managed to make the Endbringers even scarier. Kudos to you, good sir, kudos to you!

  31. I have to wonder about the future of the Undersiders here. Brian just currently seems incapable of leading them for the moment, though Tattletale should get healed and might take over Accord’s role. I mean there are four ambassadors left, not including the other one who became a case 53, and I’m sure Tattletale will make them a good offer to work under or become a member of the Undersiders. Citrine seems like she can handle a leadership position under Tattletale, and Lizardtale’s power is too useful for Tattletale to let him decide to leave.

    • I don’t think Citrine would choose to follow when she could lead, unless it was someone like Weaver, someone demonstrably an order of magnitude more capable.

      I almost wonder if she might follow Weaver’s lead to the Protectorate, there are a whole lot of smoking boots to fill. There would be compromises, less money in the short run, but she’s also in a much less compromising position than Skitter was, and coming off this fight (if she survives) she’s a known high value asset. She wants power.. the question is, what sort of power, and where can she take it? She’s not a stupid woman, being a ‘practicing’ supervillain in this era is a bit like stealing deck chairs on the Titanic…

      • I almost wonder if she might follow Weaver’s lead to the Protectorate, there are a whole lot of smoking boots to fill.

        If she did, she would be disappointed — Cauldron capes aren’t allowed leadership positions in the Protectorate.

        • I don’t think the Protectorate is gonna survive this fight, but, if it does I expect it to see a world of reform. I suspect that would include a more nuanced strategy for dealing with the loyalty risks Cauldron capes present, after fucking up with Pretender.

          Not kidding about those smoking boots, it really looks like the Protectorate has been gutted in this fight. If they survive this existential crisis they’ll likely be facing another one within 48 hours of heading home, when everyone who has beef with the Protectorate realizes just how much the fight against Behemoth cost. If they want to survive they’re going to need to fill those ranks, so I think an opportunity will exist that hasn’t yet existed, to make the Protectorate (or whoever ends up in charge) accept more “reformed villains” on the villains terms. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for, ‘cuz the water cooler discussions? They will be full of win.

    • My take on the Undersider’s leadership was that Tt was the real leader and Brian was the field commander- they’d split Skitter’s duties, effectively.

      I think Citrine might be willing to work with Tt, she’s in a similar bracket to Accord.

  32. Ironic that Regent was the one warning Weaver not to tempt fate. With him presumably gone, and Imp heartbroken, I guess we are going into the “this-is-serious-now-as-we-have-killed-off-the-snarky-comic-relief-type-character-now” phase, which is saying a lot for this story. Then again, his story thread is still kinda just hanging there, as it seemed as though we were really building up to some major conflict / development for him what with Skitter’s previous concerns and Heartbreaker entering the story.

  33. >I weep for Heartbreaker: The poor bastard is not smart enough to avoid giving Aisha a reason to use him as a target for her anger stage of grief.

    Except that if Cherish is anything to go by, then Heartbreaker is perfectly capable of sensing Imp. Brrr, I just had an image of Aisha as part of Heartbreaker’s harem. I do however have enough faith in wildbow to think it’s highly unlikely for such thing to come to pass.

  34. Hm…

    Okay, here’s a theory, taking quite a bit from Jenna’s thoughts on the subject of the Endbringers being representations as much as individuals.

    Scion, Zion, seems to fit the “Endbringer” mode. He might be the same kind of being, as much a representation as a person.

    Zion was ordered to kill Behemoth.

    If Zion and Behemoth are two concepts and representations, at least in their bones, physical force is probably not the way to kill Behemoth, at least not by itself. Physical force is clearly part of the equation, but probably cannot be all of it.

    If Jenna is right, there’s something weird and causality/fate based in how Behemoth acts, then it stands to reason that Zion might act in similar ways.

    Now, consider Theo, Golem, and the theory we’re suggesting that he might be able to use Behemoth’s severed leg to make hands out of Behemoth material and hurt Behemoth. Think of all the fate and causes and effects that are involved so these particular people are the ones who survived. Remember that powers grow stronger under desperation.

    I’m thinking that this fight is what Zion helping actually looks like. He’s manipulating the fate of the fight in some way, making it more desperate while keeping key individuals, making sure that the people who can hurt Endbringers are gathered together under exactly the right stress to increase their powers.

    In the context of Worm, It Gets Worse. We all know that. Zion barging in and incinerating Behemoth is obviously not how Worm is going to go. This horrible, nearly apocalyptic fight being Zion working just as intended is horrifying.

    Remember that causality might not be particularly fixed in a straight line. Simurgh and Behemoth both definitely suggest that weird causality things are going on. The fight could go far as the proper Trigger Events happening retroactively. Theo’s whole storyline and epic narrative buildup would make a lot of sense if he’s the key to an understanding of Zion as this kind of force.

  35. And after everything that happened in this chapter, regent distracting an endbringer and biting it, eidolon doing the bridal carry thing with rachel, weaver cutting off an endbringer’s leg, phirsee firin’ his lazor… my first reaction was:

    aw cmon, now we have SKELEMOTH to deal with.

  36. Definitely one of your best chapters yet, wildbow.

    Regarding Regent’s death: I need to quote Linkara on this – “If you absolutely have to kill of one of your characters, you better make sure they go down swinging!” And he did. He totally did, being a hero for the first and only time in his life. I feel for Imp, though.

    But you just had to kill off Cuff, didn’t you? I loved that character! Great design (especially the three braids), cool power, an interesting beginning of a personality (scared shitless and still coming along) – there wasn’t time to give her an actual one – and a hint at a grander backstory (“For my parents.”) I would have loved to read more about her and have her interact with Skitter, but now she’s gone T_T I shall mourn her too…

    And I might plagiarize her for my own story, if only to give her a second chance at being a hero. Seriously, I fell in love with that character. I hope you won’t mind

    • I liked her too but we don’t have a confirmation that she is dead. She was scared shitless, but truthfully who wouldn’t be, but still forced herself to do her job. I’m betting her parents are victims of the Endbringers. Either killed by them or they are trapped in a city condemned by the Smurf.

      • That’s a complex question.

        Legally, I am not a lawyer — but random blog comments from lawyers suggest the main barrier to copying characters is trademark issues. In other words, if I want to sell a Superman fanfic (note: I don’t), I’m not going to make a cover that’s just Superman’s chest emblem plus my title, because I don’t own that brand.

        Morally — if the creator is living, I would suggest either making an inspired-by character or asking permission. In this case, Wildbow has said that fanfic is fine, but some artists are quite proprietary of their characters — in those cases, take what you like from the character, throw it in the blender of creativity, and proceed from there.

      • I was joking, really. just trying to make clear how much I like her

        on the other hand, if no one plagiarized, there wouldn’t really be anything new written anymore, or at least very little of it. coming up with completely original ideas, especially in the superhero genre (or the fantasy genre) has become very, very difficult

  37. That’s it. From now on every time I make a Mutants and Masterminds character I’ll make sure to give them at least one attack with “Resisted by Dodge” and “Incurable” just in case the GM is a fan of Worm. Probably with “negate immortality” linked to it, too.

    That aside, isn’t it statistically improbable that out of thousands of parahumans worldwide there are none who have a power that counters an Endbringer? In another fictional universe where Powers activate due to extreme psychological pressure, we have the “Dragon’s Teeth” effect. From the mythological Cadmus that killed the dragon but as the dragon’s teeth fell to the ground, an army of warriors sprang forth.

    Simply put, if someone is using powers or weapons to affect widespread destruction, people that would trigger powers do trigger then – with the widespread destruction as their trigger and their powers those need to survive or defeat it.
    Nuke a city of millions? Level it with your energy projection? Good job! You now got quite a few parahumans whose powers resist/defeat nukes or energy projection. And they want to have words with you…

    • I’m also going to make a gal who manipulates metal by touch – and is immune to lightning strikes. seriously.

      the problem with your theory is that powers seem to be largely random, the only rule that can be observed being that physical trauma produces physical powers and vice versa – usually. besides, being disintegrated in a heartbeat wouldn’t really give people time to be traumatized and trigger…

      • Actually I thought the TA at the university clarified that the power seems to fit the trigger event and it isn’t completely random. More mental stress equals thinker powers, and Purity, who seemed about to die of thirst, triggered allowing her to live off of sunlight. Chance defiantly seems to play a role though.

    • I can see your point. The number of trigger events that the Endbringers logically would have caused…
      But then, maybe nothing can stop them.

      • Or things get manipulated to the people with Rock powers never go up against the Scissors endbringer. They at best go up against the rock endbringer, or at worst the paper endbringer and get killed.

        • That’s what I think was happening with Cody and Particulate. Cody for sure, Particulate it’s not so clean cut but he matches the pattern.. the grudge, the reckless violence at a time when it could have caused maximum damage to humanity. Either of them could have caused Phir Se’s plan to fail disastrously, either by causing him to go through with it unmodified, or by disrupting his concentration. Tattletale just barely managed to avoid getting snuffed so she could direct Weaver to Phir Se, and Weaver’s passenger/subconscious/whatever stopped Particulate. Which means victory could be theoretically possible, if improbable.

    • That may be like asking “Isn’t it statistically improbable that out of billions of humans, not *one* of them could beat Alexandria in a fight?”. Whatever the Endrbringers are, they’ve proven themselves orders of magnitude more powerful than even the greatest known capes. Humanity likes to think it’s fended off Endbringer attacks, but Behemoth’s just demonstrated that they almost certainly could have kept going had they actually wanted to.

      We don’t know how Endbringers work. We don’t even really know how CAPES work. It’s entirely possible that the process that produces capes is *incapable* of producing something potent enough to permanently stop an endbringer.

  38. Random thoughts…

    1) Does Scion have autism?

    2) Damn this IS great. One of the reasons Worm stands out from other works, in this genre, is the blending of reality and fantasy. I can’t ever recall reading a comic or novel about capes that painted such a vivid picture. It’s like reading a war novel or watching Saving Private Ryan but with spandex.

    3) Pile on the hurt…. I think it would be a huge game changer if they managed to kill Bohemian Behemoth (a.k.a Stumpy) without SCION. C’mon the poor Endbringer is missing a leg or two, lost a few pounds….sure he’s regenerating but that takes time right?! Just knowing that it can be done would be a permanent morale boost. I think they’d manage to take out Levi, the Smurf’s another matter entirely though. Of course that would probably make them step up their own attacks:)

    4) When I think of the Undersiders Regent would be first on the list. Should’ve kept HIS mouth shut…R.I.P

    5) I may be late to the party but who or what the fuck are the cold capes fighting exactly. What makes the Endbringers seem like clowns at said party?

    6) Citrine – Victorian dress = Sensibility restored…. Thank Wildbow

    • 5) the first set of cold capes? The nightmare they were too scared of to even fight an Endbringer openly?

      We’ve met him. His name is Phir Se. (And his murder-teleporter).

      For extra nightmare fuel, Phir Se talks about going about his day to day life waiting for instructions from ‘those more powerful’ than he. Hopefully he just means hierarchically, instead of outright power.

      He’s also a fantastic character. Here’s hoping he survives, or that Taylor meets his daughter some time – could easily see her going to school in the US to get away from her father’s shadow.

  39. Does anyone else suspect that the Endbringers are completely unbeatable by brute force means? Behmoth and Leviathan would seem to be, and Simurg probably is too. I don’t think anything short of rewriting the laws of physics would kill them.
    Therefore, I propose the creation of a colossal catapult, intended for the purpose of LAUNCHING THE ENDBRINGERS INTO THE SUN! Yes, it’s impractical when one of them can fly, but anyone got any better ideas? If in doubt, INTO THE FIERY ORB WITH YE!

    • Saturn or Jupiter, energy sheningans might work on extreme heat. Otoh, it would do squat against extreme gravity.

      That could possibly take care of the smurf too, which is solar powered. Maybe not the best idea to launch her towards the sun :P

      Leviathan is screwed either way.

      • If you need to launch them into a sun, take Bernard’s Star, a brown dwarf. Hot enough for fusion, small enough to not turn devastating nova, heavy enough to bind them.

    • What if that destroys it?
      Not the Endbringer. Sun.

      Apocalypse scenario: Sun is enough to break down whatever effect is keeping the EB’s NI density(and thus, mass) from having gravitational effects.

      • Hence my comment to shift that whole plan to Bernard’s Star or another Brown Dwarf. I’m terrified what a physics-breaking power could do to our sun.

          • They appear to be few and far between. Brown Dwarfs are a dime a dozen. But yes, the black hole would be preferred. Brown Dwarf is merely a compromise in power and availability and devastation of destruction.

            • I still think that the two giant gravity wells we have in system would work as well. It’s not likely they can attain escape velocity once you throw them in and they could maybe ground slowly away by the storms.

              • Simurgh might possibly be able to fly away. (“ground” level only has 2.5g)

                Leviathan is a macroscale hydrokinetic and Jupiter, being largely made of hydrogen, might conceivable be able to work with that.

                Behemoth is a dynakinetic. If he can use that hydrogen for fusion… well. We’d have another sun, or a fusion flare. Worst case, he can make it a fusion engine, playing skeeball with Jupiter.

    • Weaver appears to be slated to be promoted thanks to dead men’s boots.

      If the Protectorate survives some will end up filling the spots of the recently fallen and other will have to take their place in turn. Taylor might get command of a ward team if not a bit more out of it.

      If the cameras on her survived (they were with her in Phir Sē’s lair while Behemoth devastated everything else electronic). Her account might be the one that gets put into the logs. Between her encounter with the bogeyman, Phir Sē and hatching a plan that hurt the Endbringer as he has never been hurt before (while Exalt was waffling) this might earn her some points.

      On the other hand, her stabbing Particulate in the back won’t really earn her any points and with Alexandria back from the dead there might not be a place for her amongst the heroes after all.

      • On the other other hand she saved Particulate from getting both of them killed and new Dehli even more wiped off the map.

  40. I’m kind of reaching a despair event horizon with Worm, honestly. How long has it been since anyone has accomplished anything really good or hope inspiring? We’ve had Taylor face humiliation and being nerfed into the ground by beauracracy, characters being killed or maimed suddenly by something that’s almost deus ex machina, implacable villains who no-sell EVERYTHING (Contessa is almost a Vilain Sue in this regard) and whatever victories have been earned have been rolled back an arc or two later (oh hi Alexandria). It feels like nothing has been accomplished of any meaningful value, and continues to get worse with not even a glimmer of hope aside from Captain Deus Ex Scion saving the day. Even this chapter, when an incredible plan wallops Behemoth, he just gets right back up with no real consequences. I loved the first arcs of the story, where the Undersiders would get in trouble and claw out desperate victories, but now the former anticipation I would feel for every update has started to turn into a feeling of complete dread as I know something terrible and stressing will happen where nothing gets resolved and things only get worse and worse. It’s just getting to the point of causing needless depressing input in my life.

    • You kidding me with this? They just took multisected BEHEMOTH’s legs and blasted him down to a skeleton. BY COOPERATING. Instead of crazy talented lone gunmen like Armsmaster and Phir Sē trying their solo desperation moves and failing, we have them weaving their plot together with complementary capes and bam, they just did more damage to the strongest Endbringer than anyone has done in 20something years.

      The morale boost, if they survive, is pretty massive. Either BEHEMOTH leaves or is pulled out by whatver is sending them and/or they learn a lot more about the Endbringers than they already do.

      • No, I’m not kidding. They just reduced Behemoth to a biologically nonfunctional form, and he still got up like it was nothing and kept pursuing his objective. He just shrugged off an apocalyptic amount of energy and is already healing from it. Even Taylor expressed despair over this. Working together in a masterstroke of a plan accomplished next to nothing. Knowing this, it is the exact opposite of a morale boost; it is demoralizing as can be.

        • Mh… is it weird that I find this chapter somewhat positive?

          – Weaver has demonstrated she is a capable hero and leader. I mean, alexandria shows up and punches behemoth, Weaver shows up and SKELETONIZES behemoth.

          – There a piece of the “inner” behemoth on the ground. Even if analysis does not provide useful information maybe they can make it into anti-endbringer bullets or something like that.

          – (this is a bit meta) Wildbow is getting really heavy handed, at least by his standards, with the hints about Taylor. It should not be long before she goes all super sayan.

        • They just made Behemoth more vulnerable than he’s ever been in decades. Phir Se has another laser incoming, Eidolon is still around, and Scion could be incoming for all we know. Weaver just got closer to winning that Alexandria ever has. But you didn’t really expect it to be THAT easy, did you?

        • Have them repeat the trick. The cutting of limbs trick, I mean. If he need his arms to enact his power, then without arms and legs he is merely a wildly tossing giant skeleton. He will regenerate, of course, but you keep repeating the cutting trick and at some point you’re dealing with a merely metre-sized head, if that. Perhaps he even runs out of juice.

          • Problem is that they are exausted, and BEHEMOTH isn’t dumb enough to let them try that again. It’ll just make him start targeting Foil. Sadly the endbringers are very much of the it only works once school. It’s demoralizing when you do that much damage with that many losses, and then he just keeps going. At this point nobody is going to believe that BEHEMOTH can be stopped.

            If they want to lose the Endbringers sure do suck at it, don’t they?

            • That’s pretty much what I’m saying. The heroes, villains, and whatever the heck the Yangban are just threw everything they had at Behemoth, and then some, and he just gets right back up and keeps on going. In wrestling, this is what is called a “no-sell”. It’s where someone uses their best move on someone, and the person who is getting hit just doesn’t even seem phased by it. Taylor is no longer allowed in the story to ever have an untainted, clear-cut victory over anything. She enacts justice on Alexandria – nope, turns out she was faking her death and the consequences of such are surely going to crop up, even if Behemoth is driven off. Comes up with a plan to incinerate Behemoth – nope, he is very clearly undeterred. It’s just entirely too depressing to know that week in and week out, I’m going to read more and more about how Taylor cannot get anything accomplished and how her life is going to get worse and worse. It’s like the Book of Job, but with superpowers.

    • I suspect it’d be easier to take in the valleys if Worm were in book format and I could keep reading rather than stew for 2-4 days when something bad happens. But I have a pretty grim take on our world, so when bad shit happens, it’s less like “omg how could this happen” and more disappointment, like “well shit, I guess that’s just how it goes”.

      Still. Consider that in the last major confrontation that Taylor faced against overwhelming odds, she accomplished all goals:

      Become a legitimized hero? Check.
      Under-the-table peace between the Undersiders and the Protectorate? Check.
      Tagg permanently removed from office? Check.
      Parahuman elevated to “human-only” leadership role in PRT? Check.

      The extra opposition she faced didn’t fare so hot either. I feel like even if the story is getting more grim, and the lows have been getting lower, the highs have also been getting higher.

  41. Hmm.
    Behemoth just lost a metric shitton of mass. Maybe he’s now light enough to be affected by some kind of movement power?

    Yeah, I’m hoping for Alexandria grabbing him and throwing him into a solar orbit.

  42. So, Behemoth seems pretty unkillable right now. The heroes have thrown everything they had at him and only managed to flay of his weak parts leaving behind the ultra dense core. They did not even get to make him call it a day like Scion can.

    What can they do now?

    They could try again, but I have the feeling that this density that Tattletale described is somehow exponential and that the same attacks that damaged his outer layers won’t even scratch his denser core. ablating the next five percent of the endbringer will be harder than the first 80% and the following one percent will be harder still.

    Foil’s power seemed to work on Behemoth feet at least, but that might be because his legs are father away from his centre and thus less dense then for example his torso.

    Maybe they can use some of the shaved of bits of endbringer and build something out of it. Between Golem and Annex and the others they might be able to get something that will pin him down…

    There are of course darker alternatives.

    Since Phir Sē seems to have expended his power for now it might be reasonable safe to kill him in the hopes that Behemoth will go home if his target is dead. Taylor could try to have one of the other capes shield her against Phir Sē teleport attack and kill him with the bucks she left in his lair. Not exactly a heroic dead, but that hero thing wasn’t working out for her all that well anyway.

    Or Weaver could unleash her butterflies. That would at least make Glenn happy, also he probably is upset that his carefully crafted image of the new Protectorate is pretty much in ruins at this point.

    I wonder if the cameras on Taylor will come in useful at some point after this. They seem kind of Chekov gunny.

    • WHO is Sleeper? And are you referring to the as yet unseen S-class threat or to something else entirely? (My pop-culture fu is pretty weak sometimes.)

      • I think Sleeper was a S Class threat mentioned in the comments. He mostly stays in Russia. Any of the longer time readers want to help out here?

            • IIRC he also said Sleeper wouldn’t play any role for the foreseeable future, which I take to mean Taylor won’t be dealing with him even tangetially.

            • Sleeper is a more ominous name than “The Somnambulist” and I believe calling a monstrous humanoid with superpowers a “Sleep Walker” would perhaps get you sued by Stephen King.

        • I was asking about Phir Se. He seems rather famous to be one of the names people bring up when considering the disbandment of the PRT. And considering Blasto of all people was a hair from S-Class, it seems people are given the classification more for being dangerous than being pure evil.

          Kind of off-topic, but that line of thinking made me wonder: are there only 6 S-class threats because the classification is rare, or because few survive having the classification for long?

  43. Come to think of it, offing Regent has set up a number of subsequent fuckups to happen. There are probably enemies who’re staying out of town only because he’s controlled them once, and could do it again.

    Possible outcomes I can think of:
    -Choosing to sacrifice himself was drastic enough for a second trigger, which gave him the ability to salvage his persona, if not his body. Seems unlikely because it’d rob his death of the impact, but we’ve already had Tattletale get taken out once by an Endbringer, and she got better.

    -Time fuckery to rollback because the laser didn’t work.

    -Imp gets her second trigger. This was as big a shock as could happen to her at this point, up to and including getting killed. Might do something interesting. Her brother did get his second trigger under similar circumstances. On the other hand the triggering vision is probably gonna kill everyone as they stand numb in the face of an Endbringer.

    -Something interesting gets done with the Chunk Of Herokiller. I doubt it’d be on an immediate sense, because it’s superheated AND radioactive.

    -Heavy hitters recover and catch up to do some more damage, stealing the finish. Giant Laser the second might do it, but from how it was described the second shot is very much weaker, they’d need more blasters.

    • . . .

      “On the other hand the triggering vision is probably gonna kill everyone as they stand numb in the face of an Endbringer.”

      This . . . seems like it would be a serious, recurring problem in Endbringer fights. I wonder if it is and we don’t know about it or why it isn’t. Top two guesses are that it’s a very limited range effect or that Endbringers can’t directly trigger people, people only trigger from third- or fourth-order follow-on effects of their presence.

      • I think it’s mentioned in Kid Win’s chapter that trigger events are common in the aftermath of Endbringer events, but you’re right, you would think that the screaming in your head, the giant tidal wave bearing down, the dying from radiation poison and fire and lightning would trigger a lot of people.

          • (a) I don’t think either of those happened during Leviathan’s attack.
            (b) The aftermath had triggers from lots of people in the Merchants as well, including Scrub.
            (c) I thought Chariot was a Cauldron cape paid for by Coil.

            • Paid for by coil, but Cauldron? I at least didn’t think so. I read it more in the sense of Coil getting to Chariot earlier, making an offer he couldn’t resist, and then going his way.

              • *flips through the chapters, searching for the source of said intuition*

                Monarch 16.10, Calvert’s words:

                “More than you might suspect. Every person in that room who was not in the audience was accounted for. Mr. Grove and Mrs. Padillo were selected and recruited well in advance. Circus and Chariot were hired nearly a year and a half ago, their actions and development in the public eye carefully orchestrated. [emphasis added] Über and Leet were recent acquisitions. I needed a heavy metal suit that could carry a package, and Trainwreck died at an inconvenient time. Most reporters were selected and stationed well in advance, claiming the rear of the room where they would bear the brunt of the attack, so to speak.”

                Either Chariot triggered in 2009 or earlier (and therefore not during Leviathan’s attack) or Trevor Medina was hired with the plan of teaching him espionage and buying him powers. Or Calvert was lying about when he hired Chariot, but I don’t see any reason for that specific lie.

              • No, it was good to ask — I’ve been completely off base before (e.g. at the end of Migration when I mistook Coil’s death for Cody’s fake death). Always good to check your sources.

      • Well, from Brockton Bay, isn’t it only one person was confirmed afterward to have triggered from the Leviathan attack? It’s possible the numbers get artificially inflated because of Cauldron. Maybe they advise their clients to show up after an Endbringer attack so they didn’t stand out as someone who bought a power. It’s an easy enough excuse. Plus, they’d probably get less scrutiny to join up with the Protectorate and Wards right after an Endbringer attack, when capes have just been massacred.

        And messing with the odds even worse, Aisha’s trigger probably had a bit to do with having a close parahuman family member she’d spent time around going out and fighting the thing.

        Cauldron has really thrown a shadow over the numbers we worked with before with its conspiratorial actions.

  44. Worth remembering that we already know Foil’s chain is capable of cutting through the super tough skeleton, and that leg Behemoth lost isn’t hopping back up to be reattached. So they still have one weapon that can do some damage, at least.

    If Alexandria were to wake up, or if any vaguely tough and fast flyer were to become available, then the results of her and Eidolon carrying a section between them in the same way that Bitch’s dogs did, but at torso height…

  45. It’s interesting that both Behemoth and Leviathan appear to have been targeting specific parahumans.

    Arguably Simurgh too.

    (I’m thinking Mannequin, in particular, since I have too many different theories on the point of her Migration appearance.)

    • Postulate Endbringers as extensions of different Passenger-sources, and then figure that they’re either pruning the competition or harvesting their crop.

    • Note that Leviathan let Armsmaster live, and pretty much went out of his way to just knock out Ballistic and Sundancer.

  46. Hmm, I wonder… Foil’s power has a time limit. What would happen if Foil used her powers on Clockblocker’s strings (that he shoots from his glove)?

    Or on Weaver’s webs that would then be affected by Clockblocker’s powers.

    • Let’s reverse that: What if Behemoth has accelerated time in close proximity to his skeleton?
      This would niftly explain both Foils and Clockblockers strangely reduced consistency of power. Both are time-constrained in the sense of duration. If the time spent is closer at the core, the powers effect wouldn’t last nearly as long as one would expect.

    • These both require Clockblocker to have not died earlier, which is pretty up in the air, I think. Fingers crossed, though.

      • I’m not sure with Clockblocker. Does his power end if he’s knocked out? Because if it keeps going until he’s dead then the fact the wires all came free of the effect at the same time is not a good thing.

        • If he froze them with one command this would be the same result, actually. Make the mesh, then time freeze it. It’ll come out of its freeze simultaneously.
          So we can’t be sure either way, if Clockblocker survived or not.

            • I took that into account. Rereading the scene, though… it makes the survival of him highly doubtful. And as a strategy all wires being frozen at the same time would be … bad, actually. Most sensible would have been a high number of wires each frozen individually, so the median would give some measure of time frame to work with.

      • …tricky.

        I want to say that Foil’s power would win, but Siberian’s projection is super powerful — I don’t know. It’s like asking what would happen if Clockblocker make a frozen barrier and Foil tried to shoot through it.

          • It’s kind of immaterial, though, because Siberian can just flicker and reform as a new projection, like she did when she realised that the Undersiders had worked out the secret. It’s not like it will actually hurt her, unless it hurts Manton.

            I mean, for all we know, Foil’s bolt might go through her like she wasn’t there, without leaving a mark.

      • The bolt passes right through Siberian, inflicting no damage. It just phases through.

        Unstoppable force is not stopped, immovable object is not moved.

        That’s my guess, anyway.

        • I imagined something similar to both the bolt and whatever part of Siberian was being stuck in an endless transfer of energy until a) one of them deactivated their power, or b) either Foil or Manton died. I’m not sure how exactly, but the power drained Manton, so another theory of mine was Manton being sucked dry and falling dead wherever he happened to be.

          • Disregard most of I said. I just remembered that force fields “pop” in this world, and since Siberian is a walking forcefield, that’s probably what would happen to her.

  47. Out of curiosity, has it been said how long the endbringers have been rolling around? I’m trying to make a guess at how many times Behemoth has surfaced. I figure if one of the bastards show up every 6 months or so, and they take turns, and they’ve been around for, say, a decade… that makes 7-8 Behemoth appearances.

    We can presume, safely I think, that 2 or 3 of these appearances were so bad that no thinkers with the capability of getting decent intel off the endbringers lived through the confrontation. But that means 5 or so confrontations should have has SOMEONE with the smarts to get a few good plans on how to deal with them cooking. I’m wondering how much of the apparent “Punch him good till Scion shows up” plan is the fault of fatalism borne of other doomsday-esque attacks that failed to kill the endbringers.

    Yanno, I find it interesting that Behemoth seems to be going after what amounts to an energy bomb. I wonder if the Simurgh targets thinkers who might be working on such plans…

    • Behemoth shows up first on December 13th, 1992. Interlude 15 (donation bonus #3). Attacks number about 1 per 8 months.

      Leviathan shows up mid 90’s. Attacks number about 1 per 5 months.

      Simurgh shows up in 2002. Attacks number about 1 per 3.5 months.

      • If Behemoth and Leviathan were already around, then how the heck did anyone think that the Simurgh showing up over Switzerland might be a good thing?

        • Because when it showed up it didn’t start off murdering everyone. It just started subtly altering them into a slavering horde of monsters that would have to be put down to save humanity.

        • The approach very much mimicked Scion’s, with a very casual, uninvolved interaction at first (see interlude 1 for Scion’s) and lack of aggression. Her appearance, too, was more similar to Scion than to Leviathan or Behemoth -very human, barring the feathers/wings & hollow appearance-, silver/white body & hair.

          • That’s… really interesting, and kind of worrisome. Lends possible credence to the “Scion is connected to the Endbringers” ideas, and if nothing else is yet another example of how scary the Smurf is.

            • If you think about it, they’re getting more human with each Endbringer to show up. Start with Behemoth. Then we make it smaller and more mobile. Did Leviathan have the correct number of eyes, by chance? Anyway, then we use a bird critter and try to make a human thing from that, and we get it pretty close, with a few notable differences.

              If anything shows up that can affect time in terms of sending something back years at a time, then Scion might be a fourth or fifth Endbringer that is just a little too human for its siblings’ tastes.

              And there’s an idea of its own. What if Scion being the start of trigger events makes him more like Simurgh, manipulating humanity to fight its coming brethren?

              Wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

      • holy crap on a crutch, looks like I was WOEFULLY optimistic on how often they get assaulted. No wonder the world is in a bunker down for the end times mentality, sheesh. in a good year, you’ll have a single behemoth attack, 2 leviathan attacks, and 3 simurgh attacks. That’s horrific. And goes a long way to explain why folks have been having trouble coming up with workable tactics. little to no breathing room.

        One wonders, since their schedules seem like they might overlap, and they also seem like they are attracted to the same areas (locations of increased bad emotions), I wonder if anyone has ever been unlucky enough to get a twofer. Nothing like a little endbringer tag team. Incidentally, I’m starting to slide towards the “endbringers as physical extensions of the passenger creatures, empowered by human negativity” school of thought.

        … any chance for a Passenger interlude?

        • I believe the wording was misleading — when Behemoth was alone, he attacked every 8 months or so, but when Leviathan joined him, he scaled back to attacking every 10 months or so as they traded daikaiju duties. Then both of them eased back their average rate of appearance a hair further when the Simurgh joined the rotation. None of them attack more frequently than the others.

    • This would have the potential to go so hilariously wrong or so hilariously right….

      Also, wonder what the odds are on Cody still being alive, and if 32 was either the YB member who shouted “yes” to allying, or the one who got injured and Imp saved.

    • I don’t know if amping his power would help any. He didn’t generate the beam, and a bigger portal with more range doesn’t help much in this case. Or do you mean that he should send through their lasers and loop those? Problem is that BEHEMOTH won’t be getting distracted again. He will be able to use his Dynakinisis.

      • well that or you could incorporate him into the Yangban and have like 30+ energy portal things. Considering the strength of the portal isnt based completely on the strength of his power and more the way he formed it I could see that working.

        This way Behemoth would get hit by 30+ Phir Se portal guns and if one took away 4/5 then I think its safe to assume he would be vaporized.

  48. Now for a cheeful though. Since the fight is still ongoing and I assume that those with Taylor are going to be going into the fray again… Regent might well not be our last death.

    • If Behemoth is smart, I’d imagine he’d be going after Foil with a vengeance next, since she’s demonstrated the ability to help the others to dismember him.

      A perverse part of me thinks this will end up with Parian sacrificing herself to save Foil’s life.

      Possibly futilely.

      • Possibly? Almost certainly. Although I would like Bury Your gays to be averted. Or that Wildbow doesn’t kill off all the cast members not Named Taylor or Dinah with this. I don’t think that Tattletale was entirely right about the endbringers wanting to lose. Rather I think they want to give time for a defense to be set up. The endbringers tend to take down capes that were part of a stratagem that was too effective. Thus preventing it from being used again On the otherhand Leviathan left Armsmaster alive. So if they want to loose it’s only in a very specific way. Or only to Scion.

  49. Honestly, Wildbow, I’m still reeling trying to figure out how you do it — how you keep on, time after time, ramping it up, pouring on the intensity, every single time logically and believably. It is a testament to your sense of pacing that I have not yet become blasé to the events in the story. TEAMS of storywriters with some of the best editors in the business don’t do this good a job, not by a long shot. Seriously… HTF?!?!

    Hg

      • Yeah this, sometimes I feel as if this isn’t said enough. You’re awesome Wildbow, and I’m beyond happy that you’ve chosen to let us read your story for free.

      • Yeah, I’m with Hydrargentium on this one. Thank you, Wildbow. Thank you for the quality. Thank you for the quantity. Thank you for the length. Thank you for the girth. Thank you for the cool powers. Thank you for the emotional rollercoasters. Thank you for the pleasure. Thank you for the pain. Thank you for the need. Thank you for the speed.

        Thank you, Wildbow.

        • Hearing this stuff matters. It’s appreciated, guys (And not just the one person I’m replying to – responding to Hg, Razor, Negadarkwing, Admiral Skippy, acediamonds, three rights).

          Not always fun, but I’m glad I’m getting to tell the story I want to tell, and I’m glad people are enjoying it (or getting something out of it, whatever feelings it provokes).

  50. Prediction

    Original #1 BEHEMOTH continues to rampage taking out the remaining heroes and killing Phir Se before he can get a blast off to kill him. Weaver survives because of plot armor and intelligence and gets away with a few others. BEHEMOTH shows an uncharacteristic level of determination and refuses to leave.
    Variation #1- Zion doesnt show up BEHEMOTH kills Foil (Flechette) and many more capes until Zion shows up and appears to take it easy on the Endbringer driving him off without killing him.
    Variation #2- BEHEMOTH rampages Zion refuses to show up showing that he doesnt wish to kill the endbringers and now has to avoid them because he’s been ordered to kill them. Jack drops the Apocalypse bomb and the slaughterhouse 9 re-emerge. Also Saint breaks everyone out of the birdcage and they begin to wreak havoc. While this is happening Simurgh decides to attack again slightly earlier than she’s supposed to, she takes control of Brockton Bay using the portal for nefarious purposes that only she understands. Hmmm, this has the feeling of Community’s darkest timeline
    Variation #3- Zion shows up and kills BEHEMOTH and we proceed with an awesome story.

  51. Sure Regent lies. Like the time he said he’d walk Sophia out of town but actually took her through a humiliation conga.

    • I thought for a moment that it might briefly throw Behemoth off his game, buying everyone a little time, then Regent would go into a seizure from the effort, and then Behemoth would kill him.

    • That was actually my initial interpretation – Behemoth reacting to a sudden fluke in his power done by Regent instead of the insult hurled his way. I can see no other reason Behemoth would bother to kill Regent other than “easy target”.

  52. If only this were the DC Universe.

    The Justice League would have Doctor Fate cast a shield of order on its members so no mental influence by the Simurgh and then Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, all three Kryptonians, all three Green Lanterns and the Martian Manhunter would attack her – basically everyone who can follow her to space and flies faster than her (no retreating for her) and can also take a cruise missile in the face without serious trouble. They grab her all together, bundle her up in Green Lantern constructs and go throw her to the nearest black hole.

    In the meantime, Aquaman and Mera will lead every Atlantean warrior and water-sorcerer and their mothers against Leviathan. The combined power of a couple hundred water-controllers cancels out Leviathan’s hydrokinesis and then the atlantean warriors hit Leviathan with every sonic disruptor warhead in the Atlantean arsenal, reducing him to a skeleton. They then use the Trident of Poseidon to separate the bones, put them in cryoboxes and give them to Wonder Woman to throw through the gate to Tartarus so Leviathan can keep the Titans company once he regenerates.

    Behemoth has it even rougher because he attacked a nuclear power plant. Built by Luthor. So Luthor calls in the Injustice League; Killer Frost, Bizarro, The Parasite, The Shadow, The Atomic Skull, Sinestro and Luthor himself. Luthor builds a powersuit for everyone with the same kind of armor and shields as his own (those that can stand up to Superman for a time) but no weapons since those guys already have powers. Sinestro also covers everyone in forcefields for additional protection and remembers to bring in his portable power battery so his ring doesn’t run out. With the Shadow blinding Behemoth, Bizarro beating him up in melee and using arctic vision, Killer Frost freezing and entrapping him, the Atomic Skull blasting him with radiation and The Parasite draining his powers, the Big B falls rather quickly – each of those guys is on Alexandria’s weight class and there’s several of them. They whittle him down to a skeleton and separate his bones (Luthor doesn’t care about the collateral damage) then Luthor comes in and puts every bone separately into the reactors he designed that burn up Behemoth’s mass for fuel. Endless fuel since they regenerate means Lexcorp becomes even more ludicrously rich by selling the energy while Luthor is hailed as the savior of the world like he always wanted.

    • And the Endbringers kill them all because Doomsday is less powerful than the Endbringers, and Superman is less powerful than Doomsday, and there actuqlly are things in DC like the Anti-Monitor and Nekron that have seriously fucked up everyone’s shit.

      • Huh?

        Behemoth’s biggest lightning bolt can vaporize a house and his shockwave can knock down a couple civilian buildings.

        Superman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, Doctor Fate and the Martian Manhunter have consistently performed feats equivalent to leveling a major city in a single blow; pushing multimegaton weights around, knocking large meteors threatening the world off trajectory, stopping extinction-level threats singlehandedly, fighting off world-eating gods and demons or entire armies of one alien empire or another. Less frequently and with great effort they have performed feats at planetary levels, like affecting a moon or planet’s orbit to various extents. And the enemies the strongest DC heroes fight? They have beaten beings that can literally eat entire worlds when they cooperate.

        I’d say an Endbringer is equal to one top-tier DC hero or villain power-wise and there are a lot more DC superhumans than there are Endbringers.

        • And lets not forget a few of the things they’ve done to the otherwise unstoppable Doomsday. Stick him at the end of the Universe. Have him flickering between dimensions. And of course just shoot them with a phantom zone projector. Yeah go be invulnerable in a universe where you can’t affect anything.

          Keep in mind that the Green Lantern rings can put out enough energy to destroy planets. Yeah it drains the whole charge but they can do it.
          And if it’s silver age DC then the Endbringers are really fucked. Silver Age Superman once blew a solar system away with a sneeze. Barry Allen could accomplish anything by putting in in a sentence with “molucules” and “Vibration”.

          • > Barry Allen could accomplish anything by putting in in a sentence with “molucules” and “Vibration”.

            Barry Allen’s superpower is “be so awesome he looks manly and awesome even with a chromed washbasin on his head”, of course he can accomplish anything.

            Besides in the silver age DCU:
            1- heroes DO cooperate effectively and without bitching
            2- there’s silver-age ambush bug :D

  53. Things I don’t think commenters haven’t said (or maybe not in detail):
    1. Annex is as tough as the stuff he annexes. If he can annex the cut-off Behemoth limb, he could perhaps slug it out with Behemoth, or create an actually effective restraint.
    2. Regent isn’t the only one to step up to the hero plate – Imp has apparently (context) been rescuing people from the line of fire. Even if Behemoth cannot see Imp, he uses area of affect attacks, and she is as vulnerable to those as any normal person.
    3. Phir Sē said “waiting until I have a task from those more powerful than I.” That implies that Phir Sē might not even be Behemoth’s primary target. And there are reserves who are “more powerful” than a man who can repeatedly craft the equivalent of an atomic weapon (or time travel)! Until we know more, little more can be guessed, but really, more powerful than him?
    4. Behemoth’s actions towards Imp make little sense based on what we know. She cannot hurt him, yet he spends several attacks on her. So, perhaps he was trying to finish off a really dangerous opponent, i.e. the Yàngbǎn woman she was protecting. Of course, there was no indication of who she was, but we do know of one Yàngbǎn woman – 32, who had the nullification waves. It seems unlikely they were on par with Behemoth’s power, but perhaps they were a danger to him. Another interesting possibility.

    • I took “more powerful” to mean “my superiors”, i.e. people above him in an organization but not necessarily in firepower.

    • This should have been with the post about things commenters haven’t said:
      5. Phir Sē’s attack lasted way too long. Once released, it should have acted at light speed, with only the residual effects creating visual cues. Also, contrary to previous predictions by myself and others, the results don’t seem to have been nuclear, i.e. strong enough for fusion, fission, or quark-gluon plasma. One explanation that is consistent with both of these is that Phir Sē released the effect slowly instead of instantaneously. However, that brings up the problem that his powers have not been described that way. Still, since he is a time-portal creator, being able to stretch out an effect may be a secondary power.

  54. (multiple different posts, one per general topic)
    Weaver has been developing parallels with Jack Slash:
    1. Both have comparatively modest powers but command the respect and attention of some of the most powerful parahumans on the planet.
    2. Both make very effective leaders and improvise quite well.
    3. Both may be heavily influenced by their Passenger (Weaver by admission; Number Man speculated Jack was).
    4. Both are ruthless – Weaver when needed, Jack basically all the time.
    I am not implying any more connection than the obvious, but I am saying they are powerful and dangerous for similar reasons.

    • 5. Both have now a “higher” opinion of the other (Jack mused he should have taken her instead of Oni Lee, Taylor uses him as a behavioural model in the cafeteria).
      6. Both have cuddled with the other in a destroyed city full of Bonesaw’s plague.
      7. Both are liked by Bonesaw, albeit for different reasons.
      9. When do we start shipping them?

  55. (multiple different posts, one per general topic)
    So, in one day, the following power blocks showed respect to Weaver:
    1. Cauldron. Contessa gave Weaver vital information. It is possible that giving Weaver the information was the only way for her to win in the confrontation, but that implies Weaver had a chance of beating a woman who scares the piss out of powerful capes. That wouldn’t be respect, but certainly an acknowledgement of power.
    2. Yàngbǎn. They followed her lead in the fight. Given how much they hate Westerners, that is a serious concession.
    3. PRT. She is essentially the PRT cape’s field officer right now.
    4. Dragon and Defiant. Their respect was more from earlier, but they have acknowledged her power and abilities.
    5. Thanda (India’s cold capes). She talked Phir Sē into several compromises.
    Now, add those who showed at least a modicum of respect or acknowledgement of power earlier:
    6. Jack Slash. OK, I might be stretching the point, but he at least found her interesting.
    7. Multiple normal human and parahuman members of the PRT.
    8. Coil. He spent considerable effort on her, either helping or attempting to kill her.
    9. Accord. Again, there is little to show direct respect, but he definitely acknowledged both her and her group’s power. How his group reacts without him is unknown.
    10. Dinah. Arguably one of the best precogs on the planet stood up for Taylor when the PRT were bullying Taylor using Dinah. Dinah says her actions then were primarily to preserve as many people as possible when the coming catastrophe strikes, but she at least likes Taylor.
    11. Newter and the other members of Faultline’s crew she interacted with when taking down Lung. Again, this may be stretching a point, but Newter in particular was rescued by her and acted well towards her later.
    12. All of the Undersiders.
    Two points:
    After today, the respect from any of those groups is only likely to go up.
    Is there anyone else in the entire Wormverse who all of these disparate and dangerous power blocks would be willing to listen to?
    One prediction:
    Contessa said it “should be obvious” why Contessa was telling Weaver about the collapse of the Endbringer pact and the actions of multiple power blocks, but Weaver didn’t immediately understand. I think what Contessa was saying is “you are a power block, make moves of your own, starting now.”

  56. (multiple different posts, one per general topic)
    Two different fictional universes, with little in common except I love them both, and one similar concept:
    When this happens, the opponents should be very afraid:
    Wormverse: Taylor with a plan.
    Erfworld: Parson with an idea.

    However, start at the beginning or this will make little sense.

  57. A couple of different things.

    First, the various DC Universe comparisons are off base, I think. If the Endbringers showed up in the DC Universe there would certainly be fighting, but the fighting would not be the end of the matter. Instead, the situation would be resolved when *the source of the Endbringers* was figured out and confronted. The Endbringers are a symptom or agent of something specific that we don’t — yet — understand. And dealing with that other factor would end up being the resolution. Not simply throwing Leviathan into the sun, or whatever.

    Similarly, I fully expect the Simurgh to attack somewhere next. Taylor has already fought two out of three. There’s no good reason to not complete the trifecta, especially since it’s pretty obvious the Endbringers are one of the central mysteries of the story.

    Personally, what I can’t wait for is The moment Tattletale meets Scion.

    • Hot damn!

      I wonder if that’s really what the EB’s have been trying to prevent by targeting her early in every fight- not that they’re worried about her looking at them, but looking at him!

      That also makes me think… Is it possible they’ve been pulling their punches on Tattletale, because she has a part to play in the future? I mean she’s survived a direct attack from Leviathan, are we sure he couldn’t have ended her if he’s wanted to? And whilst at the time i wanted to believe in the triumph of love and humanity being why Cody spared her, and on one level I still think’s it’s still true… Is it also possible that the Smurf only wanted her out of the way, but not dead?

    • The problem is that when the Smurf shows up, is the Protectorate going to be in any shape to fight her? They are in complete dissarray, I imagine losses from New Dehli are going to be huge, and quite frankly those that do survive BEHEMOTH are not going to be in shape to fight for a while. Hell I’d definitly keep Grue away from her. Unless it turns out that what Scion was flying north to do was kill the Smurf.

      We got 6 arcs left. I don’t know for sure what’s going to be wrapped up here and whats going to be left for the sequel. They’ve got two years before Jack kicks off the apocalypse, and I figure that’s when the Slaughterhouse 9k are going to wake up. I can see a aftermath arc following this one, and maybe a breather arc before the Smurf shows up.

      Has “The Juggernaut” been added to BEHEMOTH on the TVTropes page? Because the trope namer is one of the few others I can remember who doesn’t let being skelotonized bother him.

  58. ”One in three. That is… perhaps unfair. No matter. If I’m wrong, we lose this city. If I’m right, we kill Behemoth. I would take those odds, Weaver. I would take them, I would watch this city be wiped from the earth, knowing that people I am fond of would die. I live in a civilian guise most days, waiting until I have a task from those more powerful than I. I would perhaps be killing the butcher I talk to every day when I walk to the store for food. I would kill the widow who lives next door to me, her child, if they have not evacuated. I have mentioned my daughter, much like you in her abundance of faith in people. I will take this gamble and perhaps kill those people in the process. I will kill those people who can make me smile and feel more human than I am, I will grieve their deaths, and then I will take that gamble again. Because one city, however grand, is worth that chance.”

    Excellent example of the Godzilla Threshold. And probably a ton of other things.

  59. Incidentally, for those who were wondering: unless Ligeia miraculously survived being struck by Behemoth-lightning, we have a confirmed Cauldron cape killed by an Endbringer. On camera, no less.

          • Only different in how they propagate and the degree of payload. It’s still electricity, but he could dump as much wattage into it as he likes rather than being limited by the required potential for arcing.

        • That said, you’re right — the Internet says that fatalities only occur in 9-10% of cases. For a number of reasons, including that the duration of the bolt is often extremely short and that the count includes a lot of people not directly struck.

          • Welllll….”Even killing her hadn’t forced the portal closed. Damn” combined with that 9-10% chance…

            The hypothesis, like Ligeia, isn’t quite confirmed dead YET.

    • Personally I took that for granted, but it’s nice to see some hard evidence.

      Of curious note: The sucking portal remained open. We now have ostensibly a planetary waste bucket, if it remains open. All the radioactive residue and garbage produced by nuclear power plants that needs to be kept safe for a hundred thousand years? We can dispose if it this way.

        • Huh… Or did it remain open because his core has a no-sell?
          But I’d actually not be surprised if the portal remained. Would this be the first proof of a power persisting past the death of its wielder?

            • Unless she’s dead. I know lightning strikes aren’t absolutely lethal but close enough in application to be counted as such. Ligeia might have survived initially, might continue to live for the foreseeable future as well, but keep in mind there’s been enough cases of delayed death by lightning strikes, bodily short circuiting and forking a socket to warrant an observation period after the fact. Since the current and amperage of this magnitude have the nice side effect of breaking a lot of chemical bonds or providing the energy for unusual ones. For instance the entry and exit wounds of lightning strike victims are usually burned, if not carbonized/charred. Have enough of that and the kidneys won’t be able to keep up in cleaning your blood, leading to death.
              Fortunately electrolytic reactions take some time, so there oughtn’t be much of a threat on that toxicological front.
              Unfortunately, unless she was instantly fried, it is likely her muscles cramped and contorted, including her heart and diaphragm. If those weren’t able to reset… well, she might live for the amount of time her brain is oxygenated without controlled blood flow.

              TL;DR
              Ligeia is probably alive, if burned. She might not’ve been alive for longer after the strike.

  60. So, anyone else think that scion might have seen that massive pillar of light that just pierced the clouds?

    Or that Rachel now has a monster-dog sized chew toy, from behemoth ‘s leg?

  61. Great bit of writing here:
    “Dust continued to fill the area, plumes of it.

    Behemoth lurched forward.”

    The reaction is basically ‘Hah, the attack hit!
    ….Damn, it didn’t work! Wait, yes, it reduced him to a skeleton! Awesome!

    ….Hey, wait, it reduced him to a skeleton and he’s still fine. These things are freakin’ unbreakable!”

    Also, narratively, I’m cautiously (but still wildly and unrealistically) optimistic about Regent. The plot arc with his dad is unfinished, I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten an interlude from his point of view, and his power lends itself to the faint possibility of some unexpected form of survival. I’m holding out hope for an asspull. If Alexandria got one, Alec should too, right?

    Anyone else note that the passenger’s manipulation here forced Weaver into her current actions? There seems to be a general assumption that the passengers are barely even sentient, if that, but I personally suspect that they could be a force unto themselves. This says that all capes are pawns of the passengers, with the Cauldron capes less so, and Weaver far more (since she has a stronger parasite). Perhaps Cauldron aren’t the bad guys, and Weaver is simply being biased against them. Perhaps the fact that her power grants her mental strength allows the passengers a partial avatar into the world, to bring their plans into fruition-and this is why Taylor always seems to be at the heart of big events. It seems obvious that the passengers and Endbringers are at odds, but given the new information we’ve gained about the Endbringers, perhaps they’re not the ultimate threat they’re put out to be.

    Furthermore, the question arises of what the passengers _are_?
    -Tiny shards of the power-granters? (Or as I call them, the ‘dancing gods’)
    -People/intelligences from another dimension, trying to bring about certain events in order to achieve a specific end?
    -Nascent gods, who gain power from their presence here? Perhaps Skitter’s strength could be seen as indicative of their purpose, as her’s is definitely strong? Since it seems that passengers/powers can be shared out, perhaps passengers become stronger the more minds become connected to them?
    -Terminals of a larger whole, so that they are all one entity manipulating things. Perhaps this entity is actually a 4th Endbringer? Since the power-granting has been portrayed as a collaboration between two mentally incomprehensible beings, that analyses a myriad of future options, perhaps one of the two entities we’ve observed is actually the Simurgh? This would explain why nobody remembers them, and why there is so much headscrewery involved in gaining powers. This is also why the Endbringers hold back against capes-because they really have no need to kill capes, other than to keep up the pretense and eliminate any humans that might go against their actions and stop their favourite pawns.

    And on that cheerful note, I think I’ll leave it at that.

    • It’s been said that power granting isn’t deliberate and they weren’t supposed to go to the people they go to. Bonesaw confirms natural triggers are an “accident” and Echidna confirms the same with Cauldron capes.

        • That could count as a Shadow Stalker interlude too :P

          Cmon, you all know that Kid Win will show up with a resurrection machine that can only work once, in the hope of doing something nice for Weaver so he can get a date out of it.

          On the passenger bus whales crystal slug things: there’s simply not enough information to guess at anything, you might as well either enjoy the mistery or make up the wildest possible scenario.
          Mine is “the passengers are not actually granting superpowers”.

  62. I continue to wonder. Do the Endbringers start off center from their objectives and fight at less power than they have because they play with their food, or they do not want to win at the task set them or for another reason?

    It is interesting that Behemoth continues on, even after the weapon has been fired — and that Se continues to fire up round two of the weapon for a second strike.

    Scion after getting the command to kill has headed a different direction. Is he going to kill Leviathan while the others are fighting Behemoth? Is he foreclosed from killing endbringers for some reason? Is he seeking additional power or tools?

    So much to wonder about. No answers, and no channel for the wondering, but curious.

    Will there be another super sharp chain striking Behemoth? Will Clockblocker rise again? Was Accord really killed or did his suit have some armor and seals (like many space suits do, so that if you lose a limb or two you won’t bleed out — won’t even lose all the atmosphere — as the seals clamp down).

    What has Tattletale deduced?

    “waiting until I have a task from those more powerful than I.” — is that part of the secret war? How many levels more powerful than Se?

    And the passengers, end time and endbringers.

    Obviously some of these speculations are really off base. Most are really just questions. None are required. Knowing that Wildbow is tying this novel up by the end of this year means that everything is on track for tight targets.

    • I’m thinking that the Endbringers are playing dumb. Make the heroes think they’re violent brutes who want to trash shit and never clue them into their real objectives, which homing straight towards Phir Se and Noelle would certainly do. This way the heroes will only focus on physically opposing them, with sneaking tactics falling under their radar. Giving the Endbringers more chances to kill capes and making it easier to outsmart the idiots. The heroes never actually clued into the fact that Simurgh is making humans kill eachother, and this is one of her ways of keeping them in the dark.

      And why they hold back? Maybe they have something of self-preservation and know that making the humans know they’re not fucking around will make them panic and start nuking the shit out of them. Destroy the world at the cost of their own lives might not be acceptable to them.

      Or maybe they’re just wanting to crush our morale, a slow death, a mockery towards the Cauldron fucks who may or may not have pissed them off so much.

  63. On a potential future Smurf fight, I wonder if Weaver’s Thinker rating would help resist the manipulation. Thinkers(and pretty much all the predictive stuff) interfere with each other right?

    • I think the interference works like this:

      When a precog sees the future, it changes how they act. That change in their actions changes the future.

      Each future-seeing power has a way of solving for that—a way of bringing that to a point of convergence.

      For instance, the basic human power of imagining what a possible future would be like avoids interfering with itself because it’s imperfect and also because humans _tend_ to hypothesize about the future starting from a baseline of “what I might do differently than baseline.”

      But when you get two different modes of prediction interacting, then there’s a feedback effect. Let’s say that Simurgh and Contessa are fighting over the Precog Prize, a marvelous blue ribbon that goes to the precog of the year. (Next year, to be precise.) Simurgh considers how to arrange things so that the prize committee delivers the prize to her. She sees a way to do this by threatening the family of Judge #1, who is from France, but that doesn’t work because Contessa is about to take a portal to France and kidnap Judge #1’s family. She sees a way to do this by threatening the family of Judge #2, who is from Russia, but that doesn’t work because Contessa is about to take a portal to Russia and kidnap Judge #2’s family. She sees a way to do this by telling Judge #3 about Contessa’s shameful kidnapping behavior, but that doesn’t work because Contessa is about to take a portal to Judge #3’s living room to hang out and play Mario Kart, bringing Judge #1 and Judge #2’s families with her. The Simurgh sees a way to do this by subverting one guy who’ll subvert his sister who’ll subvert her teacher who’ll subvert her greyhound who’ll subvert another greyhound who’ll subvert its owner who’ll subvert Judge #4, except that Contessa is about to take a portal to the two greyhounds and steal one of them. Only, Contessa isn’t actually going to do all of these things: it’s just that she’ll do those things _in the world where the Simurgh is doing that plan._ So her power becomes a shape, a shadow, over the set of futures that the Simurgh can build. And normally vice versa, except that Contessa’s power apparently wins.

      Taylor’s swarm sense wouldn’t natively have that kind of effect, because while Taylor would act differently based on what Simurgh does, Taylor can’t act differently based on what the Simurgh *sees.*

      I think a Thinker power only interferes with a precog if the Thinker power is able to select for a given future in some fashion. Like, if you’re Lightbulb, with the power that you can always come up with a good idea and strobe a momentary light from above your head when you do so, then you don’t have to be a precog to interfere with precogs: you’ll have different good ideas depending on which future you’re heading towards, and that’s enough to create interference. But if you’re Snap Judgment, with the power that you can instantly and simultaneously consider all the options available to you as if you’d taken an hour to think about each one individually, you don’t interfere with precogs at all.

      This could be wrong, though. It could be that Thinkers interfere with precogs by complexity alone—that the precog’s ability to predict the future is slowed down or compromised by the effort of _having_ to predict the Thinker’s choice, in which case Taylor would in fact be partially immune. That doesn’t _seem_ like the Simurgh—you’d think she could trivially account for the added brainpower of however many millions of insects getting involved—but it depends on how her power works, exactly. It’s possible that she only actually manipulates a very small number of fates at once, for some smurfing reason or other, and Taylor counts as many.

    • Taylor isn’t actually a thinker, the PRT just treats her like one because her ability to sense through arthropods is almost a crude form of short-range Clairvoyance. That kind of power couldn’t possibly interfere with the Simurgh.

      A technically, but not virtually possible way to beat the Simurgh is to have a plan so flawless that no amount of second guessing, strategy, or luck could defeat it. Good luck finding THAT thinker though.

      • One persistent theory is that Taylor manages her multitasking ability and gets her tactical genius (TM) from using distributed computing and offloading parts of her consciousness / self / thoughts into the bug swarm she control (thus also resulting in more bugs = more intelligence / more parallel threads of thought).

        if this is true, than she is a thinker for sure.

        • The real question is does having a distributed mind make her more or less vulnerable to the Simurgh’s mind bending?

          • I believe wildbow already answered this. Thinker powers have either to be precognitive in nature or being able to alter fixed events (like Coil’s power) to affect other precogs like Simurgh.

            • Precogs, yes, but the Simurgh’s scream is a mind warper too: her thumb on the scales, to bring out the futures she wants by influencing her victims’ actions. We don’t know how different Thinker powers might interact with this.

              That doesn’t mean she’d be able to hit the Simurgh, just that she (or another Thinker) might have a lessened effect from her scream. Not that we’re likely to ever find out, because they shuffle people around to keep her effect down and execute anyone who gets stuck for too long.

      • “A technically, but not virtually possible way to beat the Simurgh is to have a plan so flawless that no amount of second guessing, strategy, or luck could defeat it. Good luck finding THAT thinker though.” — keyonte0

        Actually, we had him already. He just had a couple of limbs sliced off by Cody.

        Hg

  64. You know, they may get a win out of this yet. As in “Behemoth dies” win.

    This depends on whether they can find an atmosphere scrubber / rebreather and on how long can Dispatch maintain her field.

    Because you could send Dispatch to Phir Se. Equip both of them with breathing apparatus. Activate Dispatch’s power. Let Phir Se sleep for some subjective ten hours. Then have him charge his laser for another three days.

    On another note, if they do manage the win (and I think they can, especially given that this seems to be the start of the finale of the series, so they are due to get one), then the victory party / wake for the lost will be epic.

    • Depends on how neatly Wildbow wants to wrap this up. If he’s planning on a sequel he might take the Empire Strikes Back route and end it on a downer cliffhanger. And if Worm is horror inspired enough, well one kind of horror is the hopeless kind, where in the end all you did was futile and just made you and others suffer more and you should have just let the monster eat you in the first place.

      • I get the feeling the sequel wont be about Taylor. Or at least I hope it wont be, not many places left to take her.

          • Won’t involve her at all, or just won’t involve her in a major way. Cause I can’t think of all that many ways for her to be totally absent if it takes place in the same setting that don’t involve her being dead somehow.

              • None expected. Just speculating here. After all we know even less about what you plan for the sequel than we do about Doctor Mother’s hypothetical childhood imaginary friends. It could take place a hundred years later. The sequel, not the imaginary friend.

              • There are a million cool stories you could write in the universe you created. Brockton Bay in the 90’s with all father, the Marquis, and New Wave when is was brand new and full of hope for the future. A horror story told from a resident of the doomed town Nilbog ate. Maybe a revenge fic where someone triggers and turns into the monster of a monster movie. There is a reason that commenters think that torture is much more dangerous to try in the wormverse after all. The takeover attempt in alaska mentioned by Tagg. A prequel explaining the past history of fan favorites could be cool. Just to see the past exploits of Vista, Defiant, Blasto, would be cool. Maybe a look at the Undersiders before Taylor joined or Rachel surviving on the streets. A sort of spy thriller focusing on the various villains of Las Vegas. A comedy focusing on the Uber and Leet barely managing to not kill themselves and winning a Darwin award. A post apocalyptic story where you tell the tale of some survivors trapped in a city condemned by the Smurf’s attack. Is it like Arkham city where they give food drops? Give a glimpse at other parts of the world. What is life like for parahumans in Africa, Japan, the deathworld aka Austrailia, the middle east etc.?

              • What happened to the world-order once parahumans started to pop up. Did the Soviet Union collapse faster or did it last longer (I am assuming it’s gone but really I have no proof) ? Did the European Union get formed or did the single states decide to keep their capes for themselves (an idea I was toying with for a fan fiction)? Why does China’s parahuman military have a North korean name? Has it expanded throughout Asia? What does Sleeper do?

                Worm’s world is immense and I’d love to explore it all, Whatever further story wildbow decides to follow, I am sure it will be great.

            • Just like the second Metal Gear solid didn’t involve Snake right?

              I’ll be keeping an eye out for Cherokee Spinner.

            • Umh, I’m thinking of several ways to pull that off… the simplest one would be for her to retire, marry Lisa or/and Rachel and go live off somewhere quiet.

              Besides her being dead does not mean she’ll be absent either :)

            • I’m guessing the sequel’s plot might be treated like recent historical events. An Undersider or two may have a few brief conversations, Browbeat might be a more major recurring character, Taylor might show up for an arc and the protagonist wont pay much attention to it, something like that.

          • I wouldn’t mind seeing someone do something with the Vegas teams.

            I was going to do more on the Asian teams for Lung’s interlude, but space/time constraints bound my hands.

            • Of course that “No comment” doesn’t make things sound great for Taylor. But it wasn’t a total no. So I guess she can be a myth shrouded figure you never actually see. Or she will be dead or otherwise gone, and we will miss her and swear vengence and that the wormverse is dead to us. That is the appropriate fan response right? Serously though this arc sure is making you wonder a bit about the rest of the named casts odds of making it though.

              Though did anyone ever serously think that there was chance of a happily ever after in this story?

              Vegas would be interesting, but tricky. Since it was said they deal with a different sort of supercrime, and it’s all about the thinkers. Crimes so subtle they can barely be said to have been commited. And trying to get the worlds worst lounge act off the stage.

              As for the Asian teams, I’ve been meaning to ask were the Sentai elite color coded? And did they change lineup every year? And was their a combining giant robot?

              • They were color coded, and also had stylized elements to their costumes. There was a giant robot, but it didn’t combine. Seiunsho’s latest version appeared earlier in this arc.

              • Don’t read too much into Wildbow’s “No comment”s.

                At this point either a yes OR a no would constitute a spoiler for the end of Worm. In those situations, Wildbow has consistently gone “No comment” so it means literally nothing beyond “we don’t know yet”.

    • …right, Dispatch is usually engaged in the kind of CQC which would lead to equipment being damaged, so carrying around oxygen would be pointless and unhelpful. That explains why he doesn’t have that on hand all the time.

  65. Not sure if Phir Se’s second shot would work. The first shot caught BEHEMOTH off guard, if he was paying attention, the beam would have been under HIS control(being a dynakinetic) and then used to melt India into a puddle.

    • It might work better if he used a different form of ammunition. Maybe something with more omph than regular light. What happened to that gun Particulate was going to shoot Phir Se with?

  66. Clockblocker’s grid of wires dropped out of the sky, blinking white lights falling like sparks from a large firework. I suspected that I knew what it meant.

    Clockblocker’s power stayed active when he was unconscious after freezing Leviathan. After the way Kid Win’s position got lit up, odds are Vista is the last of the Brockton Bay Wards. She hasn’t been tagged yet, so I wouldn’t surprised if she were forced to sit this one out, being thirteen and having had a couple hard months. Which would be a hell of a thing. :(

  67. Does anyone else think Behemoth might be blind and nearly insensate at this point? No mention was specifically made of the condition of his eye, but I think it’s fairly safe to say it is nonexistent at this point. I think that’s part of why Eidolon was able to get Rachel out there without an issue. Taylor even made note that he was either ignoring or ignorant of them, but I think he may not even be able to perceive them. He doesn’t seem to be really targeting anything and is lashing out indiscriminately with lightning and radiation.

    • Maybe. The downside is that those things are still pretty lethal. But doesn’t it seem like Foil would be aiming for his eye as much as possible?

      • Yes, he is still incredibly lethal, but no more so than when he was fully intact. Now he’s probably blind and with a missing leg to hinder his forward movement and reflexes. If this is true, then they *might* have a chance of actually mounting a defense against him, seeing as he wouldn’t be able to do that crap where he blocks Yangban death rays and the like. I still doubt it though.

        • The problem is they don’t have much to mount a defense with. Taylor used pretty much everything that was left this chapter. Even blind and limping BEHEMOTH can play keep away by pouring out the lightning and radiation.

          • I’m very pessimistic about this chapter as well. I really believe this is going to end in another crushing defeat filled with ultimately futile sacrifices, everything getting worse, and things getting far too depressing for me to continue reading (until perhaps the end of the series, but I would want to see if it actually ends on a not soul-crushing note before picking up again). However, I’ve noticed Behemoth has a few limits to his powers. His radiation aura seems to only be useable for limited times, else he would have absolutely no reason to ever turn it off. His shockwaves don’t seem to be able to be produced without intact limbs, limbs that he now must use for locomotion. I’m also curious as to whether he would even be able to do that scream of his without having flesh. If I’m correct, he may be down to only about 3-4 of his known powers: dynakinesis, lightning, fire, and radiation.

            • I’m currently hoping that the Death Ray at least acted like the world’s biggest flare gun, and Scion finally notices that something is going on.

            • I generally try really hard to avoid meta-analysis, I feel like it robs me of joy, but.. I can’t deny this is about the right position in a story (judging by how much Wildbow said was left a few months back) for a crushing defeat. So, yeah, while Taylor has won big in most arcs, this could be the time she throws everything at the wall and nothing sticks. Not dissimilar from the Leviathan arc, really.

              There could still be reinforcements yet to arrive, whether from teams that were slow to scramble, just not as fast as Dragon’s kit, or perhaps ad-hoc teams assembled from the healed. But if it were my boots on the ground, I wouldn’t be counting on it.

              • The Irregulars finally obtained enough transportation to arrive late but extremely welcome into the battle.

  68. So Interlude chapter tommorow? I wonder who it’s going to be? Phir Se? The female Yangban? A complete surprise and something that has nothing to do with the current events?

          • I doubt Wildbow even remembers me but for close to 6 months ever since I read the very first Interlude that talked about Scion I became intrigued and engrosses with Zion the character.

            The reason for this being that Zion starkly contrasts the rest of heroes and villians in the series he has for 30+ years been a constant force for good. This is weird to see in a story like worm and is super interesting for me. Consequently I’ve been waiting for an interlude from Zion’s PoV for close to half a year now.

            I asked Wildbow about it a while ago (Check Donations page) and he said that its coming up eventually. I’m really hoping that Zion’s interlude is about to come out on Saturday and I think its actually a reasonable guess.

            If Scion’s interview does come out on Saturday, Im going to flip shit.

              • uggh i said interview how dumb can you get TT

                Well whenever it does happen you’ll know you have at least one very excited reader.

              • It’s coming sooner rather than later?! This could be really really interesting, as I expect a whole lot of big reveals with Scion/Zion’s interlude.

      • Also, I thought Chevalier was the end of this chapter. there’s usually 9 or 10 mainstory updates before it switches chapters, with the exception of Drone because that got cut off by Behemoth’s arrival. I hope it’s teleporter guy, actually. That way we get a sympathetic portrayal of Phir Se, without betraying any of Phir Se’s inner thoughts.

  69. Regent, you will forever remain my favorite Undersider. You died the way you lived; Rebelling against those who perceive themselves as your betters, and defending only the things that matter most to you. I find it fitting that the first Undersider to die in a heroic sacrifice wasn’t Skitter, nor Grue, but Regent. Nothing else need be said. He died a hero.

  70. Is this one of the most intense-action packed Worm could be delivering?

    well, I’m not sure if i could handle ‘the gritting of my teeth’ if things keep going this way, i virtually had to hold breath, exhaling slowly, to calm my nerve, hell to give mental image translation of what was happening there

    and, there goes Regent, the most vivacious character (in terms of how he could pull up sick jokes even on untimely moments), i felt quite a loss there, well if he’s technically dead unable to somehow get back to life by any excuse

  71. No! Regent! :(
    Though given his power he might be inhabiting another body now.

    Phir Sē seems to be a utilitarian.

    “Maybe big enough that it makes an atom bomb look like a hand grenade.”
    Phir Sē implied it would destroy the city, not the entirety of India, Taylor.
    And given the results (the air at the mouth of the tube did not detonate like a nuke), it probably didn’t even have more energy than a Tsar Bomb.

    • One thing that’s been bugging me is how the heat hasn’t killed all the bugs.
      Another thing is the lack of firestorm. I guess Behemoth isn’t that destructive…?

  72. Okay this is getting fucking absurd this story was alright but now it’s just Skitter/Weaver being Mary Sue, smarter than precogs, smarter than people with powers designed to be smart, smarter than people who spent their entire lives fighting and researching the Endbringers.

    Also if fucking random fucking lasers deal damage to Behemoth why wouldn’t fucking nukes, or big lasers? And how the hell does she know that the laser would wipe India off the map, WHEN THE FUCK DID SHE BECOME AN ENERGY WEAPONS EXPERT THIS IS SO FUCKING STUPID.

    “I met Particulate’s eyes and nodded once, curt.”

    I hate her so much, she’s such a pathetic arrogant character, I hate her more than Emma originally. Oh Mr Light Portal guy, I know so much more than you I am way smarter than you, also Particulate is going to suddenly start obeying me for some reason.

    • Also even more proof that fighting Endbringer’s is completely pointless, they don’t weaken they don’t get damaged hurting them makes no difference.

      But what does it matter because the Endbringer’s will go out of their way to act like retards as long as the story calls for it. Instead of spam clapping, lightning and screaming all at once they limit themselves in a way that doesn’t make any sense since they’re still doing tons of damage so they’re not really limiting themselves at all, they’re just doing the same damage just slower.

      • Why tell him to fucking leave and recover anyway? I swear Taylor is evil, she wants the Behemoth to go leave, come back next month do it all again and repeat ad nasueum. Why would anyone want that?

  73. As I understand it, Foils power allows an object to penetrate almost any material with virtually no resistance. If I am understanding her power correctly, then Weaver could send bugs imbued with Foils power straight through Behemoth, or cut him in two with silk. Or for that matter, drop a silk net over him, and then use Clock Blockers power on a strand connected to it before Behemoth can destroy it.
    In the past, I have never noticed a more optimal way for Skitter use her power that what she does use it for, and so I would consider it more likely that I am misunderstanding something, than that Skitter has over looked this.

  74. I couldn’t help but find Regent’s death slightly dumb. I can understand him attempting to sacrifice himself for Imp, or succeeding by a different method but it seemed bizarre that an insult actually made Behemoth target him instead. Apparently you can blast it all you want without causing a distraction but calling it a name works. It just doesn’t fit with everything else we’ve seen from it so far.

  75. Well Wildbow you’ve done it again. The Yangban are a very realistic of a controlling government team. Also poor Regent, he had some pretty amazing powers when dealing with non-super threats, and gotta love the devil may care attitude, but in the end it was a heart breaker that ended him after all. Also I think it is safe to say that I am only person to have read Worm on the floor of the Florida Senate.

  76. The portal closed, and Behemoth managed to claw his way back, simultaneously fending off Eidolon, the lighting growing stronger with every passing second.

    “lightning”, not “lighting”

  77. In amongst all the chaos, did anyone else notice how cleverly Wildbow used Dispatch to enable the classic comics/roleplaying trope “talking is a free action” in a way that actually made *sense*? Mad props on that.

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