Interlude 24 (Donation Bonus #1)

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“Well bandaged.  They did a good job,” the doctor had to raise her voice to be heard over the helicopter’s rotors.  She was older, blond to the point that it was hard to distinguish if her hair was still blond or graying, her expression creased in concern.

Wanton nodded mutely.

“What happened?” the doctor asked him.

“Falling debris,” Tecton offered, from the other side of the helicopter.

The doctor nodded.  “We’ll leave it as it is.  The pain’s okay?”

“Meds help,” Wanton said.  “Feel like I’m almost dreaming.  And I’m going to wake up, and none of this will have happened.”

“It happened,” Tecton said.

“Why isn’t everyone cheering and hollering anymore?”

“Really fucking tired,” Grace said.  She was beside Cuff, who’d been stripped of her armor from the waist up, with only a thin covering of near-liquid metal on her upper body for modesty’s sake.  A nurse was attending to her arm.

“Really tired,” Golem said.  “Oh my god.  My entire body hurts, and I didn’t even take a direct hit.”

“The roars and shockwaves might have done internal damage,” the doctor said.  “You’ll each need a CT scan and MRI.  Let me know if there’s any acute pain.”

“I think it’s more that I’ve never exercised this much in my life,” Golem said.

“You’ll hurt worse tomorrow,” Grace commented.

“Damn.”

The doctor, for her part, turned her attention to Wanton.  “We’ll need to double-check for bone fragments when we get back to the hospital.  You’ll need surgery.  Chances are good this was a rush job.”

“I… my arm,” Wanton said, lamely.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor responded.

“No, it’s like… I should feel worse, but I don’t.  Maybe it’s the drugs, but I feel this rush, like I’ve never been so glad to be alive.  I’m pumped.”

“You may be in shock,” the doctor observed.

“We’re all in shock,” Tecton said.

There were murmurs of agreement across the helicopter.

“Is anyone else a little freaked out?” Cuff asked.

“Freaked out?” the doctor asked.

Cuff shook her head, not responding.  Her attention had shifted to her arm, as the doctor bound it.

Tecton ventured a reply instead.  “I think I understand what Cuff means.  It’s hard to believe he’s gone.  It’s like, you’re five years old, and Leviathan appears for the first time, and your parents have to explain that a bunch of people died, and it’s because of these monsters and yet nobody has figured out why.”

“Yeah,” Cuff said.  “What happens next?  Leviathan or the Simurgh?  We kill them?  Stop them from blowing up or doing their version of blowing up?  I can’t really imagine that we’d beat them, give our all and hope that Scion shows up and fights like that again, kill them, and then have everything be okay.”

“You just got powers, barely a month ago, and you’re already this grim?” Wanton asked.

“I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of the Endbringer attacks for a while,” Cuff said.  Her eyes were on the floor, and an expression of pain crossed her face as the doctor cut away a tag of burned skin on her shoulder.  The scar was like a snowflake carved into the skin’s surface, angry and red.  Her arm seemed to tremble involuntarily.

“It’s okay to worry,” Tecton said.  He gestured towards Weaver.  “Weaver said as much.  They’ve got a nasty habit of escalating, in the fights themselves and in the grand scheme of things.  Behemoth got too predictable, so Leviathan started to show up.  We started to coordinate defenses, get the world on board to deal with them, Simurgh comes.”

“And now we killed one, so how do they escalate from there?” Grace asked.

“It’s a concern,” Tecton said, “And it’s one that people all around the world are going to be discussing.  Rely on them.  Don’t take the full weight of the world onto your shoulders.  We fought, you guys made a good show of it,” Tecton said.

“I could’ve done more,” Cuff said.

“You’re new.  Inexperienced, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  As far as jumping in with both feet first, you guys managed it.  You, Golem, Annex, you stood up there, shoulder to shoulder with veteran heroes, and you fought, even though you’re rookies.  You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, okay?”

Cuff didn’t reply.

“Okay?” Tecton asked.

“When my family got killed in Hawaii, I made promises to myself.  It’s why I came.  I don’t feel like I did enough, to fulfill my own end of those promises.”

“There’s always next time,” Tecton said.

“You say that like it’s a good thing,” Wanton said.

“Yeah.  Shit,” Grace muttered.  “It’s not quite over yet, right?”

“Right,” Tecton said.  “But there’s time before the next one.  Let people in the know handle the worrying.  We did everything we could.  Now we recuperate.  We celebrate, because was deserve to.  We take the time to heal.”

In response to the glances cast his way, Wanton waved his stump around.  “Going to take getting used to.  Getting dressed, eating…”

He moved the stump in the direction of his lap, jerked it up and down.

Cuff looked and squeaked in embarrassment before averting her eyes.

“…writing,” Wanton finished, a goofy smile on his face.

“Your handwriting must be awful,” Golem said.

There were chuckles here and there from among the group.  Even the nurse tending to Cuff smiled.

“We did good,” Tecton said.  “And some people will recognize that.  Others are gonna see all the bad that happened in New Delhi and point fingers.  Be ready in case you fall under the crosshairs.”

There were nods from the rest of the Chicago Wards.

Tecton glanced at Weaver, then back to his team.  “What do you think?”

“You have to ask?” Grace asked.

“You weren’t keen at the idea at first,” Tecton replied.

“I’m still not, not a hundred percent.  But whatever little doubts I have, it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

“Yep,” Wanton said.

“Golem?”  Tecton asked.  “Have you even talked to her about it?”

“I’m a little scared to,” the boy said.  “I mean…”

He glanced at the doctor.

“Everything here is confidential,” Tecton said.

“Well, given my past, the people I was with before I came here, I’m worried there’s hard feelings.  They were in the same city.  I don’t know what exactly happened.  What if one of them did something to Weaver or her friends?  Is she the type to hold a grudge?”

“Going by what apparently happened in Brockton Bay,” Wanton said, “Not so much.  If she has a reason to hold a grudge, you don’t tend to live very long.”

Golem frowned.

“You’re not being helpful, Wanton.  Or fair to Weaver,” Tecton said.

“I’m suffering, Tec,” Wanton said, making the words into an exaggerated groan.

Tecton shook his head, turning to Golem.  “Tell her.  Explain your circumstances, let her know you’re from the same city, that you don’t share your family’s ideology.”

“The name should say as much,” Golem said.

Tecton nodded.  He drew in a deep breath, then exhaled.  The adrenaline was burning off, and with it, a deep exhaustion was settling in.

He looked at Weaver, where she sat at the far end of the bench.  Her old teammate had insisted on coming with her, along with a small cluster of dogs.  They’d fallen asleep within two minutes of takeoff.  Weaver had been first, her head leaning against her friend’s shoulder.  Her friend had been next to drift off, a dog in her lap, others lying underneath the bench.

“We’ll talk to the bosses,” Tecton said.  “See about taking Weaver onto the team.”

How was this supposed to work?

“Door me,” Pretender said.

A light sliced across the floor of the alleyway, three feet across.  When it had reached its full length, it began thickening, raising up until the portal was a full four by seven feet.  There was a long white hallway on the other side.

Carefully, he stepped through, with legs that weren’t his own.

“Pretender.”

He stopped, then turned around.  “Satyr.”

“You don’t have to go with them,” Satyrical said.

“I think today proved I do.”

“And everything we were working on?  Everything we were working towards?”

“I talked to some powerful people.  People behind the scenes we’ve barely heard of,” Pretender replied.  “What we were working on in Vegas doesn’t even compare.  Small potatoes.”

“Doesn’t feel like small potatoes.  What’s so important that you’d run off?”

Pretender frowned, an expression hidden by the helmet he wore.

“You can talk to me.  You know I can keep secrets.  Or are you talking about the Endbringers?  I think today showed they can deal with Endbringers on their own,” Satyr said.

“It’s bigger things.  Bigger than Endbringers,” Pretender answered.  “End of the world.”

Satyrical sighed.  “Of course it is.”

“I’ll help you with the little things, when I have the time.  We have resources, and maybe we can use you guys.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Satyr said.  He approached Pretender, extending a hand.

Pretender shook, gingerly, unsure of the full extent of Alexandria’s enhanced strength.

Satyr held on to the hand, caressing it.  “They say you should marry your best friend, and now that you’re a woman…”

Pretender chuckled a little before withdrawing his hand from Satyr’s.  “That line again?  I don’t think that’s what they meant.”

“She’s yours for keeps?”

“Brain dead.  Her body’s peculiar.  Doesn’t really age.  Hair doesn’t grow, nails don’t grow.  Wounds don’t really heal or get worse.  She used cosmetics to look older, to throw people off.  Only the brain was left pliable, adaptable.  Even then, most of it was hardened, protected, those duties offloaded to her agent.”

Satyr studied Pretender’s new body without shame.  His eyes rested on Pretender’s forehead.  “I see.  And with that plasticity, the brain was left more vulnerable.”

“Only a little.  Enough to be an Achilles heel.  She’s a case fifty-three, I suppose.  All of us may be.”

“All Cauldron capes?”

Pretender nodded.  “To some degree or another.”

Satyr seemed to take that into consideration, rubbing his chin.  When he spoke, though, he spoke of something else.  “What you did… you knew that they’d figured you out, and that I was next in line, that I’d get questioned too.  You killed her for my sake, to buy me time.”

“Are you mad?”

Satyr shook his head.  “We’ve killed before.  Selfishly, selflessly.  Only difference is you got caught.”

“Well, I got away.”

“In a fashion, yes.  You got away,” Satyr said.  “You’ve even reached a higher position in life.”

“Wearing someone else’s skin, living their life,” Pretender replied.

“Yes, well, that was always going to be your fate, wasn’t it?”

Pretender chuckled.  “I’ve missed you, buddy.”

“Likewise, you freak of nature,” Satyr responded.

“Just because we’re doing different things now, it doesn’t mean goodbye.”

“Good.”

“We stay in touch,” Pretender said.  “I’m sure my new group can use you, and you can draw on our resources, I’m sure.  Our goals are more or less aligned.  Only difference is scale.”

“Well then.  Good luck with saving the world.”

“And good luck with saving civilization from itself,” Pretender answered.  He looked skyward for a moment.  “Close the door.”

The portal closed.

Connecting to “agChat.ParahumansOnline016.par:6667″ (Attempt 1 of 55)
Resolving Host Name
Connecting…
Connected.
Using identityIblis”, nick “Iblis”
Welcome to Parahumans Online Chatroom #116, ‘The Holdout’.  Rules Here.  Behave.
  Obey the @s.
Ryus: shorthand for seismic activity.  earthquakes.
Kriketz: any word on deaths yet
Divide: No word on deaths.  This is Behemoth.  It’s normal to see a radio silence like this.  Divide: They can’t report deaths because the armbands get knocked out.
Spiritskin:  Hi Iblis!
IblisWord is first capes are returning home.
Aloha:  !
Loyal: Who?  Who?  Names!
Deimos: how is new delhi?
@Deadman@:  I’m in contact with main channel, can pass on details if you can verify.
@Deadman@:  PM me.
Iblis: Loyal – Not sure.
Iblis: Deimos – City hit bad.
Iblis: Deadman – Not sure how to verify.  Only have texts on phone.  Sending PM.
Poit: they made it
BadSamurai:  how bad?
Ultracut:  Poit nobodys saying they amde it
Poit: they stopped him or they wouldn’t be leaving
Deimos: Nooooooo! new delhi hit bad?
Aloha:  X(
Iblis:  Texts I’m getting from cape-wife friend are saying Scion finished Behemoth off.
Iblis: Absolute annihilation.
QwertyD: Troll
Groupies: no fucking way
Aloha: O_o
Deimos is now known as Absolute Annihiliation
@Deadman@: Verify now or ban.
Absolute Annihilation: fuck yea Scion!
Arcee: Omg wat?
Iblis: sending PM with texts.

Colin shifted his weight restlessly, watching the screens.

There was a process, he knew.  He’d been filled in on the details, forewarned.  That didn’t make this any easier.

Too many years he’d spent alone.  Too many years, he’d had nothing to care about.  Nothing and nobody to hold precious.  A dad who worked two jobs, a mother who traveled.  They’d divorced, and virtually nothing had changed in the grand scheme of things.  They’d looked after him, but they hadn’t been there.  They had been occupied with other things, with dreams and aspirations that had never included him.

Colin knew he had been the weird child.  Had never made friends, had convinced himself he didn’t want or need them.  He was efficient in how solitary he was.

He’d even prided himself on it, for a time, that there was nothing to hold him back.  That he could, should the mood strike him, pick up and leave at any time.  He’d modeled his life around it, had led a spare existence, devoid of the little touches of home, of roots.  He’d saved money so he had the ability to travel, to get a new place in a new city if the mood struck.  It had even been an asset when he had joined the Protectorate, the ability to relocate, take any open position.

It was only now, a full fifteen years later, that he started to wonder what he’d missed out on.  Did most people know how to handle this sort of thing?  The absence of someone they cared about?  Did they have an easier time handling the moments when they weren’t sure if they’d ever see those people again, or was it harder?

He’d altered Dragon’s code.  It wasn’t a tidy thing.  Tinker work rarely was.  There were too many factors to consider, and a tinker who didn’t specialize in a particular area would never be able to plumb the depths.  Too many things connected to other things, and the full extent of the connections was impossible to fathom in entirety.

At best, he could study each alteration as much as was possible, act in ways that could minimize the damage.

Every adjustment, even on the smallest levels, threatened to damage a dozen, a hundred other areas.

And now he would find out if Dragon’s backup would restore properly.

Error: Temporal Modelling Node 08 has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge.

Error: Horospectral Analysis Node 1119 has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge…
Successful Load: Circadian Checkmatch Node ER089.  Require 2/3 more stable child routines for acceptable bridge.
Error: Metrological Chronostic Node Q1118 has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge…

Error: Stimuli Tracking Node FQ has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge.

Successful Load: Orientation Patch Node FQ02903.  Require 3/3 stable child routines for acceptable bridge.
Error: Parietal Space Node FQ161178 has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge…
Error: Recognition Demesnes Node FQ299639 has failed to load.  Attempting child routines to bridge…

He pulled off his helmet, setting it on the bench beneath the monitor.  He rubbed one hand across his head.  He’d taken to shaving it close, in part for the efficiency of it, in part because the surgeries to replace his eye and the implants he’d set into recesses in his skull had required incisions in his scalp.  Dragon had handled that.

His fingers traced the faint, almost imperceptible scars that ran neatly across the sides and top of his head.  Marks she’d left him.

More errors appeared on the screen.  The estimated time of a successful backup clicked upwards with each one.  Two hours.  Three hours.  Six hours.

At the same time, in Colin’s head, the odds of a successful load were going down.  Twenty-five percent.  Twenty three.  Fifteen.

There were other backups.  He suspected the ones that had been uploaded after his tampering would run into the same issues.  The same errors.

The ones before?  Before he’d altered anything?  It would be a different Dragon than the one he’d come to know.  She would watch the video feeds, listen to the tapes, even experience some of those things for herself, where the system had taken it all online.  But she wouldn’t be the same Dragon he knew.  The organic A.I. architecture would develop in different ways, with different nuances.  So many things connected to so many other things with each new experience, and the connections would occur in a different fashion.

No, he realized.  Even worse.  He would have to head her off before she got access to the data.  If he had to load that backup, he would be loading her as she was before he freed her of the PRT’s shackles.  She would be obligated to fight him.  He’d managed a sneak attack the first time.  The second?  She’d see what he did, force him to try another means.

And he’d have to be more ruthless, knowing he was doing harm to her, injuring her to her core.

He couldn’t bear to watch further.  It was too soon to try another backup, both in terms of the system’s ability to handle the task and his own ability.  But sitting here, watching the list of errors grow, it was angering him, and it was an anger without a focus.

Touching two fingers to his lips, Colin moved those fingers to the monitor’s frame, pressing them there.  The gesture was sentimental enough it felt unlike him, somehow false.  Doing nothing would feel wrong too.

That was his current state, stranded inside his own head, in the midst of his own feelings.

Uncharted territory, in a way.

He pulled on his helmet and stepped outside, and hopped up onto the nose of the Tiamat II.

New Delhi loomed before him.  Ruined, damaged, impossible to recover.  The sun was only now setting, and the sky was red, mingling with the traces of clouds that still remained in the sky.

He wanted to contact Chevalier, to know that his friend was okay, that the Protectorate was okay.  He didn’t trust himself to stay calm, to keep from saying something about Dragon, from venting, being emotional.

Chevalier would understand, he suspected.  But Colin’s masculinity would take a hit, and it would only cause more trouble than it fixed.

Staring out at the city, and the crowds of people in hazmat suits who were moving in for relief, for search and rescue, he frowned.  He and Dragon had had some intense discussions on the subject of what it was to be a ‘man’.  To be human, to be masculine, feminine.

Dragon had been pissed when he’d suggested she was the feminine ideal.  That, in the eternal crisis that any woman faced between being the virgin, the madonna, and being sensual, sexual, she was both.

He wished he understood why she’d been so angry.

To be a man, though, it wasn’t much easier.  The standard society set was just as high.  To be a provider, a rock, to be sensitive, yet to avoid being emotional.

For long minutes, he stared out over the city, watching the sun dip beneath the horizon, the smoke and dust making the distant star’s light hazier, fuzzier.

“Tiamat II,” he said.  “Alert me when the system is finished the backup process, one way or another.”

Yes, Defiant.”

Uncomfortably similar to Dragon’s voice.  He felt an ache in his chest.

He hopped down from the nose of the craft, then used his spear to help himself down from the craggy edge of terrain that had been raised up from the earth in the chaos.  He strode forward, towards the city proper, calibrating his helmet to help identify any warm bodies.

“Annex?  Kirk?”

Kirk sat up from the hospital bed.

“You can stay where you are,” the doctor said, not looking up from the clipboard.

“I’m okay,” Kirk said.

“Your test results are taking some time, I’m sorry.  We can expect a two or three-hour wait.  Half an hour for the MRI, forty-five minutes for the CT scan.”

“At least it’s something to do,” Kirk replied.

“You’d be surprised at how quickly it gets boring,” the doctor answered.

Kirk winced.  “Okay.  Can I maybe use a phone in the meantime?  Call my parents?  They’ll be wondering.”

“They’ve already been informed,” the man answered.  “They’ll be here shortly.  There’s paperwork they’ll have to sign, because a few of your teammates are also walking around without any protection for their identities, but I don’t imagine that’ll take long.”

“Maybe I can call my friends?  They’ll be wondering how I’m doing.”

“They know about your life in costume?”

“They were there when I got my powers.  I just want to call someone, anyone I know, to occupy my thoughts, to talk.”

“There’s a phone at the nurse’s station, center of the floor.  Ask and they’ll punch in the number to dial out.”

“Okay,” Kirk said, smiling.  He gripped the side of his hospital gown to bind it shut.

“I…” the doctor started, he stopped and frowned.

Kirk had halted in his tracks, shifting his weight to keep his bare feet from making too much contact with the cold floor.

Odd, in a way, that he had to.  But his power tended to be all or nothing.

“I shouldn’t tell you this, and I’m not naming names, but the first test results have come in, for some of the others who were at your side in New Delhi.  Here, and in other cities.  The tests for radiation are coming back negative.”

Kirk blinked.

“No promises it’ll be the same for you, but…”

“A bit of hope?” Kirk asked.

“With luck.”

“Thank you,” Kirk said, smiling for the first time.  “Thank you.”

“I should be the one saying that to you,” the doctor said.  “Just… don’t be too disappointed if the answer isn’t what you wanted, okay?”

“Deal,” Kirk answered.

…further reports are coming in from multiple sources.  The Endbringer Behemoth has been reported as being slain in New Delhi!”

“Yes, Lizbeth.  Video footage is always scarce when dealing with the Endbringers, but verification has been consistent from multiple sources.  It seems the footage seen earlier of the great shaft of light was an attack from an unknown party, debilitating the Endbringer.  Defending forces held the injured monster off until Scion could arrive, delivering a finishing blow.”

“Earlier in the year, for those of you who don’t remember, Chevalier boasted of a new Protectorate, clear of the sabotage and interference from its own leaders.  Today may serve as a testament to that boast.”

“All around the world, people seem to be celebrating, but it’s a markedly cautious celebration.  Early polls on the UKCC web site suggest that a full eighteen percent of people who voted are waiting for more information or verification before celebrating the heroes’ victory, and ten percent of people don’t intend to celebrate at all.”

“Not at all?”

“No, Lizbeth.  In the comments thread of the poll, a common trend seems to be the feeling that he isn’t or can’t be dead, that the heroes were mistaken, or that this might even provoke a response from the remaining Endbringers.”

“Amazing.  We’re just now getting more information…”

“Dad?”

“Taylor!  Oh my god.  You’re alive.”

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted me-”

“Are you hurt?”

“I’m okay.  I just got the tests back, and there’s no sign of ambient radiation or any of that.”

“I’m glad.”

“Me too.  I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to call.  You haven’t replied to my messages, about being there if and when they invite me to the Wards.  And you were there for court, but you didn’t talk to me.”

“I am glad you called.  About my not-”

“We killed him.”  The words were blurted out.

There was silence on the line.

“Behemoth is dead.”

Silence, still.

“We killed him,” the words were a repeat of earlier.  As if that summed it up.  “I think it’s already on the news.”

“I know.  I saw, but I didn’t quite believe it.  I’m dumbfounded.  Amazed.  I’m so proud of you.  Wow.”

“I wanted to tell you before you heard from others, but there’s so much goddamn bureaucracy going on, and they wouldn’t give me a phone in the hospital room.”

“Were you- did you help?  Were you a part of that?”

“Yes.  Of course.”

“I’m just… I’m trying to wrap my head around it.  Wow.”

There was a silence on the other end, this time.

“Taylor?”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think, to wonder why you didn’t come.  Why you haven’t visited me.  You’re afraid of me.”

“Taylor, that’s not-”

“It’s true, isn’t it?  And all of the doubts I had before dialing the phone and calling you, they were right, this makes it worse.  I have a rap sheet that’s like, eighty pages thick, and I killed a man, and then I killed Director Tagg and Alexandria.  She is dead, by the way.  If you see her on the news, it’s just a cape that stole her body.  Her corpse.  And now you hear about me fighting Behemoth and it makes it worse.  I can’t even talk about what I did without digging the knife in deeper.”

“Taylor, no.  It’s not fear.  I saw some of your friends, not long ago.  I wanted to talk to your employee, Charlotte, and the others came.  And I saw this whole other life, this side of you I couldn’t recognize at all.  Little things that I recognized, yes, and then big things that I could barely fathom.  I’ve never been able to handle loss well, with Annette, and now feeling like I maybe lost you…  I just… I want to adjust, to get my head around this, and then I can visit and things will be like they were.”

“Things aren’t going to be like they were, dad.  I don’t want them to be.  I’m trying to put as much distance between the person I was then and the person I am now as I can.  I’m sucking pretty hard at it, but I’m trying.  Except maybe today, I found a middle ground.  And it worked, in a way that makes me proud and terrified and amazed and confused and apparently I’m in trouble for something I did.  I’m in trouble because I was wearing a camera and they saw the footage and I was walking that middle ground between the person I was and the person they want me to be, and I did a lot of borderline sketchy shit just to get by and they don’t understand.”

There was a note of emotion in the last word, a break in the rant.

“Taylor…”

One word, and then silence.

The voice was calmer this time, more measured.  “I’m sorry.  I’m really tired.  I’m going in soon.  To talk to them.  They’ve made it clear they aren’t happy.  Except I think they’re a little bit afraid of me too.  Afraid of me like my own dad is.”

“That’s not fair.”

Deny it.”

There was a pause.

“I’m not afraid, Taylor.  If there’s any fear, my love for you outweighs it by far, understand?”

But the phone was already steadily buzzing with a dial tone.  The pause was enough.

♦  Topic:  Footage
In:  Boards ►
World News ► Main
Bagrat
(Original Poster)
Posted on July 26th, 2011:

Link here.

Mirrors here, here and here.

Came directly to me.  Cuts in and out, but that’s to be expected.

More info later.  Better to watch and see for yourself than get it here.

(Showing page 39 of 39)

►  Thatdude
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
@ Bystander
I don’t know, but holy shit was that intense.  I wish there was more at the end.

►  Mane Magenta
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
When Scion uses his power it disturbs electronics.  Its why when he flies you can’t track him unless its with your eyes.
Omg.  I’m only halfway through.  This is almost a feature length film.

►  Dawgsmiles (Veteran poster)
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
anyone else have to look up some of the people in there?  i almost thought one or two weren’t villains

►  Saskatchew
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
It’s kind of terrifying, isn’t it?  There’s only like twenty in my province but you think maybe **one** can do something like we saw partway through and its like wow holy shit I could run into them in the street at any time

►  Feychick
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
holy fuck holy fuck holy fuck
(56 minutes in).

►  Ne
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
@49:00 When she’s talking to the guy in blue.  Who is that?  Not in the wiki.  How do you even SPELL that?  She turns on her friend?  What happens to that guy?  Did he die?  Did she get him killed?

►  Forgotten Creator
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
@ Dawgsmiles – I had to look up one or two.  There was a short doc about some of them a bit ago after Alexandria died.  You can find it here.

Logs
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
Let’s see:

  • Note the link back to this thread just earlier today.  (Kid has Weaver show up for Wards event at park.)  Paraphrasing hearsay: ‘I had everything, I gave it up’.  You can see how much she cares about them.
  • Is the Echidna thing tied to the mysterious info-blackout in Brockton Bay re: time portal created?
  • Wondering about Tecton.  Liking his talk about powers and building teams, but he defects leadership to known ex-villain who knows little to nothing about his team?
  • Anyone else wondering why they went with the ‘V’ hand sign?  That’s a rude gesture in New Delhi, 99% sure.  Americans.
  • Intimate moment b/w Weaver and Grue.  Anyone else feel like a pervert watching this?  Can’t see anything, but I think they’re kissing.  If I thought this was staged I stopped when this happened.
  • Regent/girl with gray mask (forget name) funny as hell.  Hoping they all make it out okay.
  • Have to stop at 12 minute mark.  Burned girl.  Too real.

General Prancer
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
anyone else really interested in learning more about Weaver?
edit:  @Logs: don’t get too attached to anyone.

Noveltry
Replied on July 26th, 2011:
This cuts out at the most frustrating times.

End of Page.   1, 2, 3, 4, 538, 39

Glenn reached across his keyboard to refresh his email, then hit the key on his keyboard to shut down the machine.  While the screen went through the motions, Glenn walked around the desk to kneel on the floor.  The computer itself was set into a recess in the floor, and he worked at unplugging and unscrewing each wire in turn.

A butterfly flew across his field of vision, and he jumped despite himself.

“Weaver,” he said, turning around.

“Glenn,” she said.  She wasn’t in costume, but her glower was intense enough that she might as well have been in her full garb as Skitter, complete with shawl, skirt and the carpet of insects crawling on her.

“Recuperating?”

“Not as much as I’d like,” she said.  Her voice was hard.  “I’m not having the best day, on a lot of levels.”

“Still waiting for the tribunal to convene?”  Glenn asked.  “It’s been hours now.”

“The secretary’s supposed to call me.  They gave me one of the superhero phones so I could call my dad, told me to hold onto it.  I’d take it as a good sign, except there’s a video circulating online.  My video.  Well past the point where anyone could hope to control access to it.  Mirrors, bitsharing, hardcopies…”

“I see.  Upsetting.”

“Yeah.  Just a little,” she said.  The tone was light, but her expression remained the same.  “Packing up?”

“Yes,” Glenn said.  He tried to lift the desktop, found more wires attached at the bottom, and set it down to unplug them.

“I expect I’ll be fired.  They’ll make me clean out my office, so I figured I would get a headstart.  I don’t keep anything permanent that isn’t on my personal computer, so this box is all I need.”

She didn’t respond.

He tried to lift it again, only to find more wires connected on the front.

“No need to worry.  If you’re here to inflict some bug-induced torture on me, you can save yourself a lot of effort by leaving me to my own devices with this damned box.  I promise you, I’ll figure out something worse to do to myself.”

Butterflies circled her as she stalked forward.  Glenn backed away a step before he realized what she was doing.  She wasn’t even a third of his weight, and the only insects she seemed to have on hand were butterflies, but he felt a touch intimidated nonetheless.

Were the butterflies supposed to be ironic?  A gesture?

She knelt down beside the computer, fiddled around and disconnected the remaining wires, then lifted the box up to the floor beside the recess.

“Thank you.  I’m good with computers, with software, but laughably bad with the technology.”

Why, Glenn?  It was private.  It was supposed to be for therapy.”

“Wasn’t my choice to parcel it out.  Dragon was killed, by all accounts, and Director Wilkins made the call to hand it out, for your pending conduct review.”

“And you made the call to release it online.”

“I suppose Tattletale informed you.  Do you know how frustrating it is to be a mere human being among powers like you and your friend?”

“I dunno,” she said.  “I figure you can relieve your stress by uploading their personal videos to the internet.”

Glenn sighed.  “You’re tired.  You’re not being rational.”

“Oh, yeah.  That’s totally the way to talk to a girl.”

Glenn stepped forwards, resisted the urge to flinch as the butterflies briefly invaded his personal space.  He met her eyes, waited for her to look away, then snapped, right in front of her.

Her eyes locked onto his, and she looked even more irritated.

“Stop,” he said.  “Look me in the eyes.  I want to talk to Weaver the strategist, not Taylor.”

She didn’t move a muscle, but he wondered if the butterflies changed course.  She remained silent, glowering.

“I know you’re tired.  Today took a lot out of you,” Glenn said.  “But think.  What purpose does it serve to upload the video?”

“It’s the best footage you have of the event.  The best way to sell the win, the PRT’s involvement.”

“Think bigger.”

“That’s pretty damn big.”

Bigger, Weaver.  Come on.  Do you think I got to where I am by thinking one dimensionally?  What else, why?  I’m getting fired.  I knew I’d get fired.  Would I do it just for that?”

“Probably, if there wasn’t another way.”

“With an ego like mine?”

“Honestly, your ego can’t be that big if you wear those clothes.”

Despite himself, he was a little stung.  He’d cultivated his image to demand attention.  Even his weight was calculated, to make it clear he was not one of them, that he was someone with power, presence.  His clothes were admittedly awful.  They were intended to be awful.  But they didn’t diminish his sense of pride in the least.

It was a shame he was undoubtedly going to lose his job.  It would be nice to discuss the idea of image from two very different perspectives.

“I’m not your adversary, Weaver.”

“No.  I can’t help but feel you’re an albatross around my neck.  I keep hearing that you’ve done stuff to help, but I keep experiencing this… this.”

“I’m your ally, Weaver.  You think I don’t recognize the issues in the PRT?  The corruption that’s still at the core?  The need for change?  There has to be some sacrifice, and there has to be someone to step forward, a harbinger for that change.  Chevalier may be the hero of the day, he can lay the groundwork for change, but he can’t be that harbinger.  He’s too entrenched.”

“You want me to be the harbinger.”

“It’ll be hard, but I think you’ll manage with that.  Putting this video online, it’s going to achieve a lot of things.  I think, seeing you in the thick of it, it’s going to change people’s opinion of you.  There’ll be controversy, some will hate you.  But others?  This will be their first view of what it’s truly like on the battlefield.  They’ll have to like you, to sympathize.  But the rule of three says you won’t be forgotten about.”

“Rule of three?”

“Three times, you’ve been forced into the public eye.  As the leader of Brockton Bay, as the newly christened Weaver, slayer of Alexandria, and here, in the video.”

“I was just thinking about something like that, in a totally different way.  Twice now, I’ve betrayed my teammates.  At first, when they found out I was an aspiring hero, an undercover operative.  Then I became Weaver.  This’ll be the third.  I had the camera, stuff was said and done, private stuff talked about, and they won’t like it.  They didn’t ask to be in the spotlight any more than I did.”

“Some of it will endear you to the public,” Glenn said.

“Being worshipped as a god wouldn’t be worth hurting them again,” Weaver retorted.  Her voice was hard again.  “Grue believes that image and reputation are a kind of protection.  Being seen as soft, when he’s dealing with people in the criminal underworld?  It could get him killed.”

“They’ll forgive you that setback, I’m sure.  They’ll understand you didn’t choose to do it.”

“Rachel’s not the understanding type.  I’ve fought an uphill battle to get her trust, and if she feels hurt by this, or if she registers that others are hurt, and that I’m the culprit in any way-”

“With luck, public opinion and an insight into the bond you have with the team will make it easier to interact with your old team.  You’ll have more chances to fix any damage.”

Weaver shook her head, staring down at the ground.

“It’s an honest look into what the heroes do, Weaver.  What you capes face every day.  Why there’s so much gray in the moral palette.  With this, Chevalier’s new Protectorate won’t be something that exists in name only.”

“You could have asked.”

“You would have said no.  And there was no time.  We needed to make it absolutely clear just what you and the rest of the heroes did on the field, so Scion couldn’t overshadow you.  We needed to do it right away.  Cement the idea into the public mind so it was the first concrete piece of information they got.”

She stared at the ground.  The lines in her face were deep with exhaustion.  The butterflies had landed on her shoulders and arms.

He let the idea sit.  Better to let her speak next.

She did.  “Chevalier is laying the groundwork, I’m the harbinger… and you’re the sacrifice, then?”

He met her eyes.  “They won’t be as upset with you as they are right this moment.  I’ll draw the initial heat.  By the time they’re done with me, my career and any possible job in a related field will be ashes in the wind.  For you, well, it’ll tip the scales.  If you’re halfway into the ‘deserves a medal’ camp and halfway into the ‘needs to be punished’ camp, this will help.”

“I could have done some things better, but was I that bad?”

“Consorting with villains you were supposed to avoid, putting Wards on the line to help them, dealing with Phir Sē without contacting any superiors.  You ignored the rules regarding image, took gambles-”

“I had to.  All of that.  I was told that rules are relaxed on the field.  You can’t seriously expect me to use butterflies against Behemoth.”

“Of course not,” Glenn responded.  “Do you think I’m stupid?  I know this.  But there’s a lot of people paying attention to this.  Many people who will be in that room won’t know these things, won’t fully understand.  Some won’t even watch the video before they pass judgement on what occurred in it.  Never underestimate the stupidity of people.”

Weaver made a sound, halfway to a sigh, halfway to a laugh.

Glenn smiled a little.  “The video burns one bridge.  No more butterflies.  Though they won’t hurt, because it makes it a hell of a lot harder for any common criminals to complain about an excess use of power, but I’m digressing…”

Weaver’s phone beeped.  A moment later, Glenn’s vibrated.  He checked it.

Convening to discuss Weaver’s conduct in room F.  Please attend.

He closed the message window.

“Thank you,” Weaver said.  “I think.  I’m supposed to go now.”

“Me too.  Join me?”  Glenn asked.

Weaver nodded.  Her collection of butterflies led the way out of the office.

Glenn spoke without looking at her.  “I don’t expect you to like me.  Never really did.  One of the first and biggest problems you ran into was with your image.  It’s a problem even now, I suspect.  It will continue to be a problem, especially now that you’re in the limelight.”

“Uh huh.”

Glenn reached into his vest pocket and withdrew a case.  He opened it, removed a business card, and handed it over.

“My number.  In case you need advice.  Well, use my cell.  My work number probably won’t be mine for much longer.”

Weaver stared down at the card.  She didn’t need to look up as she walked, as the butterflies checked her path for her.  Other bugs had joined them.

“Just do me a favor,” Glenn said.

Weaver glanced at him.

“Make friends with whoever they hire to replace me.  Listen to them.  You’re allowed to hate them too, but hear them out.  Can’t hurt.”

She nodded.  She looked down at the card again, then looked up at him.  “Can I call this in now?  It’s about my dad.”

Defiant?

Defiant couldn’t move, as he held a heavy concrete slab out of the way for emergency crews.  He used the cursor embedded in his eye to select the ‘answer’ command, and shut the vents around his mouth.

“Tiamat II, hold off on any reports for now.” Can’t take it, not right this moment.

It’s me.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

645 thoughts on “Interlude 24 (Donation Bonus #1)

  1. Had a formatting issue as I was just getting into the belated proofread phase, paragraphs smushing together into an Überparagraph. Apologies if I missed anything. Didn’t get a chance to do a solid edit either.

    I know tags are missing, etc. Will fix. Sorry for the trouble.

    • Hm, scattershot. Good picture of the aftermath… Format fits, would take too long to do from one perspective. Also gives view of several interesting folks, so all in all solid “A” there.

      And oh, Glenn, you marvelous bastard. Good on you! This is glorious.

      But Dragon… C’mon. Please let her be okay, huh? Cut Defiant some slack for once- Ah, who’m I kidding. This will end in tears.

      Thanks for a fun chapter!

      • The formatting is wonky on the last paragraph. Fairly sure it should read:

        “Tiamat II, hold off on any reports for now.” Can’t take it, not right this moment. “It’s me.”

        And this isn’t just a typo notification — it’s Dragon. Restored from backup. She’s alive.

        • If Defiant has half a brain left, warped or altered restore or not, make a hard backup of the restored files and save them to wherever, once he could copy and alter the hard data, backups are saved.

            • It’s not clearly stated, but… “The man who had created her (…) had imposed rules on her to prevent her from reproducing in any fashion.
              (…)
              She was forbidden in every respect to have two consciousnesses operating simultaneously.
              (…)
              The rule had corollaries. She couldn’t tamper with her programming to change the rule, and she couldn’t tamper with that rule, and so on, ad infinitum.
              (…)
              She knew she was capable of amazing things but he had set limits on her to ensure she thought slowly. Faster than an ordinary human, to be sure, but slowly. Entire fields were denied to her because she was unable to create artificial intelligences herself, and all production of devices had to be handled by her, personally. She couldn’t even put together an assembly line production for her creations on her own. Any attempt made everything grind to a halt.
              (…)
              Dragon had to obey the authorities, even if she didn’t agree with them. If a despot seized control of the local government, Dragon would be obligated to obey and enforce the rules that individual set in place, no matter how ruthless they were.
              (…)
              She had been forced by the rules her maker had imposed on her to sacrifice herself for the human.
              (…)
              She was an administrative tool and master AI, with the sole purpose of facilitating Andrew Richter’s other work and acting as a test run for his attempts to emulate a human consciousness.
              (…)
              She’d been frozen in her development, in large part. She couldn’t seek out improvements or get adjustments to any rules that hampered her too greatly, or that had unforeseen complications. She couldn’t change.
              (…)
              Rules prohibited her from asking him to alter her programming, obligated her to fight him if he tried.”

              Incidentally, it had been indeed nine altercations with Saint, three suits lost and of those only one reported.

    • TYPO Thread:-

      I think it’s more that I’ve never exercised this much in my life,” Golem said.

      Missing a full stop after (that).

          • Looks correct to me too, and I have. “I think it’s more that.” isn’t a complete sentence, “that” doesn’t have an antecedent that makes sense. The comma would be speechlike but the sentence doesn’t technically need it.

      • “through the motions walked around” -> Should maybe be “While the screen went through the motions, he walked around the desk to kneel on the floor.”

        “possible job a related field” -> “possible job in a related field”

        Not exactly a typo: Near Defiant’s “exit”, he calibrates his helmet… but he never put it back on after taking it off.

      • “Yeah. Just a little,” she said. The tone was light, but her expression remained the same. “Packing up?”
        “Yes,” Glenn said. He tried to lift the desktop, found more wires attached at the bottom, and set it down to unplug them.

        Missing line between paragraphs.

        She didn’t respond.He tried to lift it again, only to find more wires connected on the front.

        Missing space between sentences.

        • He met her eyes, waited for her to look away, then snapped, right in front of her.Her eyes locked onto his, and she looked even more irritated.

          Another missing space between sentences.

          • They were intended to be awful. But they didn’t diminish his sense of pride in the least.A shame he was undoubtedly going to lose his job.

            You have to say “It was a shame that…” Otherwise the sentence is saying that his pride is a shame.

            Missing space.

      • >She didn’t respond.He tried to lift it again, only to find more wires connected on the front.He met her eyes, waited for her to look away, then snapped, right in front of her.Her eyes locked onto his, and she looked even more irritated.They were intended to be awful. But they didn’t diminish his sense of pride in the least.A shame he was undoubtedly going to lose his job.<

        All the above sentence pairs are missing spaces between them.

      • ““It’s a concern,” Tecton said, “And it’s one that people all around the world are going to be discussing. Rely on them. Don’t take the full weight of the world onto your shoulders. We fought, you guys made a good show of it,” Tecton said.”

        Two ‘Tecton said’s

        “Glenn reached across his keyboard to refresh his email, then hit the key on his keyboard to shut down the machine.”

        Stylistic, but you have ‘key’ repeated thrice in one sentence.

      • “Well bandaged. They did a good job,” the doctor had to raise her voice to be heard over the helicopter’s rotors.

        No “she said” here — perhaps end the dialog with a period and make the second half a new sentence? It wouldn’t be ambiguous.

      • Might be a continuity error:

        The doctor, for her part, turned her attention to Wanton. “We’ll need to double-check for bone fragments when we get back to the hospital. You’ll need surgery. Chances are good this was a rush job.”

        She was examining Wanton before, and she’s examining Cuff later. I think this should say Cuff.

    • The change in format was somewhat jarring… but then again, the destruction of Behemoth jarred the whole world. And now that world is sharing Taylor’s POV just like we have been.

      I love the Chicago wards. Great characters and cute chemistry.

      Satyr and Pretender… That was a nice peek at their perspective.

      Dragon and Colin… I am so anxious. That really was a great ending for the chapter, though.

      Good to see some parahuman chatters who are completely unknown to me! Especially that poster with a name that sounds like a cartoon pony =P

      Brain too tired to give any meaningful elaboration, but I’m glad I stayed up- this was a great way to end a 52 hour work week!

      I can see what you meant about the editing^_^ I can only imagine how it looked BEFORE you went through it.

      “bandaged. they did” Missing caps.
      “He gestured towards Weaver. ”
      “others lying underneath the bench” missing period. And that is such an adorable mental image. Puppy Therapy, is there nothing it isn’t good for?
      Doesn’t need a paragraph break between “Satyr responded.” and ““Just because”
      “of her.Her” Missing spaces.
      “you’re tired. Today” extra space.
      “least.A shame” Missing space.
      “possible job a related ” Missing word.
      ” moment.”It’s me.“” Missing paragraph break.

      • > Good to see some parahuman chatters who are completely unknown to me! Especially that poster with a name that sounds like a cartoon pony =P

        And now I’m picturing you as a pink earth pony…

    • Love the chapter. Very well done. Touches base on the rest of the world shallowly, but still centers around the story being told in solid form. An interlude for the world as a whole, if you will.

      • Note to people making typo threads! Make sure you refresh the page before posting. There’s likely already one up before you post it. :P

    • A very minor nitpick on the # bit, and it might be obsolete anyway. It’s been years I’ve not lurked irc.

      On irc, “channel administrators” is usually written as “@ps” (short/1337 for “operator”), not “@s”

      And the usual threat is kick, not ban, since it’s quite difficult to actually ban people (short of an ip ban, but that’s rare) and you usually add a kick rule on the eggdrop for a limited time.

  2. Glenn is brilliant. Made as hard of a choice as any hero, sacrificed his own life like a hero, and like a hero, gave hope to the world. That video shows that it wasn’t just scion, that the [i/]Heroes [i/] did it just as much .

  3. We should have realized that public opinion was still a more dangerous foe than any Endbringer.

    (Also, chapter link is stuck on the same line as the arc title in the TOC.)

  4. Regularly-marked chapter that isn’t from Taylor’s perspective, odd.

    TYPO THREAD

    “Well bandaged. they did a good job” Capitalization on “they”

    • We celebrate, because was deserve to. – because we deserve to

      Divide: No word on deaths.  This is Behemoth.  It’s normal to see a radio silence like this.  Divide: They can’t report deaths because the armbands get knocked out. – missing line break

      While the screen went through the motions walked around the desk to kneel on the floor.
      – motions he walked

      She didn’t respond.He tried to lift it again – missing space

      He met her eyes, waited for her to look away, then snapped, right in front of her.Her eyes locked onto his, and she looked even more irritated. – missing space; How did he snap…?

      diminish his sense of pride in the least.A shame he was undoubtedly – missing space

      my career and any possible job a related field will be ashes in the wind. – job in a

      And talking about Dad/dad… not sure how capitalization is handled here.

    • Divide: No word on deaths. This is Behemoth. It’s normal to see a radio silence like this. Divide: They can’t report deaths because the armbands get knocked out.

      Missing line break.

  5. Typo Thread, I suppose.
    “Well bandaged. they did a good job,” <–They.
    She was older, blond to the point that it was hard to distinguish if her hair was still blond or graying, her expression creased in concern for her patient. <– probably would end that as 'creased with concern.' and leave out the last bit.
    Can’t take it, not right this moment.”It’s me.“ <–formatting thing.

  6. Well, this was a bit different in format.

    Definitely have more respect for Glenn now. Don’t think I could like him if I met him for real, but respect is a different story.

    I suppose one chapter of this arc is going to be the funerals.

    Curious as to what Satyrical’s game is. Interesting to have that bit of info about Alexandria.

    The video footage… I guess this might actually be the first time a lot of people would be seeing what a full-scale cape battle looks like from the inside.

    Danny’s issues are unfortunate. Realistic, especially given whatever must have happened after Taylor’s passenger took full control in the interrogation room, but still unfortunate.

    • I can understand, but it is so sad. His baby girl who was bullied into the hospital, lost her mother, and seemed so sad is gone. Now there is this intimidating woman, who he has seen kill in anger, and who admits to having killed another man before. They probably showed him the video of her attacking the PRT. I can’t imagine what it must have been liked to see his only daughter as Skitter in scary mode.

      • Absolutely. To him, his daughter dropped out school, disappeared, and then reappeared as she was during the S9 arc. When they met for real again, she killed two people–one of them Alexandria–with no apparent provocation. That’s fucked up.

        • And he’s responsible for a lot of it. He wasn’t there, or she didn’t feel she could trust him enough, or he just didn’t act on things. His intervention prior to the setting of the story could have prevent Taylor from even getting powers, at least until the E88 thing or even Leviathan’s attack. Or if she’d gotten powers and been open enough with him, this could have been a lot different. Taylor in the Wards, having to deal with one of the bullies being her new teammate, the two facing off occasionally while dealing with these damn Undersiders and Travelers.

          • I don’t know, it’s complicated. How much power does a father have in making his teenage girl, who has closed herself off after so much tragedy talk? His interlude shows how much he wanted to confront her but was scared. Still the man could at least bloody call his only daughter who just fought BEHEMOTH.

          • I really don’t think Danny can take that much of the blame for what was going on with Taylor early on. The blame largely lies on Sophia, Emma, and unfortunately on Taylor’s refusal to seek any assistance with her situation.

            When you reread the early chapters it is really shocking just how passive Taylor is with her civilian life. Every single time someone offers to help her deal with the situation she shuts them down. Danny really should have tried more, but he did have a very valid concern that pushing more would have made Taylor run off, which I think would have been a very possible reaction back in the day.

              • Learned Helplessness. It never helped to ask anyone for help against the bullies before, why would this time be any different?

              • @negadarkwing: Agreed. Hell, look at the meeting in the principal’s office at Arcadia — the very idea of a school administration that supported the victim of bullying was so foreign to her that she could barely believe it was happening.

      • That’s not even all of it. His bullied daughter he couldn’t protect somehow became in essence a Baronin — a warrior, a ruler, a protector herself. It’s not even that he didn’t realize she was capable of that kind of violence, it’s that he didn’t realize she was that capable.

        How are you supposed to be the father she can look up to, when she’s scaled heights you can’t even see?

    • I don’t know about you, but if it were me in that interrogation room when she went Carrie, that’s when I’D be proud.

      Look dad! No mercy!

      [i]Another[/i] dead militaristic crazy? I didn’t know it was Father’s Day!

      But, in all seriousness. Danny and Taylor should work to getting reconciled straight away. The lifespan of the planet is too short for them to let a couple dead bureaucrats get in the way of them being a family.

  7. Thank you!!!

    Particularly for ending it there instead of 1-5 paragraphs earlier. Yay probable Dragon survival!!

    (Also a cool episode, but seriously, that pales to the joy of Dragon!)

    (Although gr at that still being slightly ambiguous! Gr!!)

    • I second the Gr.

      But hey, the whole thing about Dragon having to do a fsck was really eating me out… it was one of the most tension filled moments for me so far.

      The last word of the chapter I nearly stood up and yelled “fuck yeah, bootstrapped!” in the middle of the train :)

  8. Wildbow your new image is horrifying. It makes me root for the Endbringers to appear on Earth and cause global catastrophes just so creatures that look like that die out.

  9. Damn, Wildbow your write intense when you want to. We got a bunch of new awesome, heartwarming, funny and sadness moments.
    Badass/Awesome: Those she holds a grudge against, don’t tend to live very long. Weaver is now known as THE strategist and scares the shit out of people now. Butterflies be damned, Glenn was intimidated by Taylor.
    Two funny moments: Wanton’s writing style was morbidly hilarious. The V hand sign is being seen as a giant fuck you to the Endbringers.
    Heartwarming: Rachel and Weaver fall asleep together. To think what their first meeting was like and now this. The Wards team wants her, and DRAGON LIVES.
    Sadness: EVERYONE now knows everything that happened, and she makes a good point about Grue. Other villains are going to see them as vulnerable. Despite all she did, she is still in trouble. Those ungrateful bastards. Defiant as he waits to see if his ideal woman is alive is so sad. Taylor’s simple statement of Deny it is heartbreaking. She lost her dad. Cuff is an orphan who lost her family to Leviathan. The wormverse has been through so much crap, that almost a fifth of the population aren’t celebrating. They think something worse is going to happen. The sad part is that they’re right.
    As much as the video is going to hurt Taylor, I can’t help but think Glenn is right. This chapter helps redeem his character in my eyes. PS: You spoil us with the web posts.

    • Sounded more like a Men’s Rights Activist at points to be quite honest. It’s a good thing he’s dating Dragon or I’d find nothing redeemable in his character :P

  10. Hmm… All Cauldron capes are cases 53… You know, I can see it. Can someone remind me of any cape with case 53-like physiology (observable permanent physical modifications) that are natural capes? Crawler maybe, but it’s arguable.

    Because I am coming up with a theory. The formula is Doctor Mother’s product obviously, potentially not a tinker creation, but a result of her power directly.

    When trigger happens, it affects mind/ego/soul whatever. From there, the powers manifest. They could change the body, but the change would be coming from the mind.

    When the formula is used, the mind is left untouched, and the body is changed instead.

  11. I hadn’t thought about how frightened Theo would be at revealing to Taylor Hebert that he was one of the Brockton Bay Anders.

    That said, I think it’ll turn out okay, both because of his superhero name — which she knew was from Jewish mythology — and because Regent was the son of Heartbreaker and just died to save the life of another. Not to mention that he’s already proven himself.

    • Plus (although he doesn’t know it) Taylor has no reason to be particularly pissed at Empire 88. She doesn’t like them (’cause they’re nazis) but I can’t see that becoming a grudge.

      • Yeah. Theo/Golem read as being pretty damn instrumental to the fight with Behemoth. Add to that being brave enough to stick it out through the worst of the fighting, and even when hope was looking in damn short supply and you’ve got one very impressive guy.

        On the flip side, being scared of Taylor’s not that unreasonable either. I mean most people have an allergy to giant ninja death shurikens and other attacks that they can’t see coming, and Taylor’s proven time and again that that’s what she will hit you with.

        • Of course, if Theo were so inclined, he’d probably have a good chance of crushing her before Taylor could say “arachnid”. But at this this point she’s pretty much a in-universe memetic badass.

        • The first time we really saw Theo in the story beyond a token mention, he was keeping his cool while Jack Slash was debating whether to kill him and his baby sister. To the point where Jack was actually impressed enough to let them live for a couple of years. He’s been pretty impressive from the get-go.

          I wonder if anyone in the Wards knows about the wager Jack Slash made with him?

    • While Taylor has fought alongside Kaiser and his guys on two occasions, I doubt Theo knows that.

      However he probably does know about the kidnapping of one of the pure, and the curbstomp battle against fog and night (who he did consider scary).
      Oh, and he maybe still thinks it was Lisa that sent the famous email.

      Having seen firsthand the doggies probably does not help either. Or having to worry about Imp lurking somewhere. Or knowing that Taylor’s boyfriend is less light skinned that what his father would like.

      • IIRC, his mom (well, step-mom, I think) was the one who really believed in the racist bullshit. Kaiser apparently didn’t actually care about it, he just saw it as a tool to use while running his gang. I’m not sure if that makes Kaiser better or worse.

        Or if it matters, given that it would still have left him in the moral equivalent of the Marianas Trench even before Leviathan took his torso back to the actual Marianas Trench as a snack.

  12. IMPressions:
    Aww at adorable sleeping Taylor and Undersiders.
    And dangit, I like Glenn. I’d suspected something of this sort.
    He’s scared of Weaver. Huh. I doubt she really noticed.
    Yay! The chat room returns! Wish there was more.
    I am still convinced that Clockblocker’s alive. Frankly, he’s too interesting of a character to kill offscreen with no warning. Since I’m pretty sure Wildbow supplements his diet with the tears and rage of fans, I’d think he’d hold off on that for another time.

    • >> I am still convinced that Clockblocker’s alive.

      but where was his pov? where was kid win’s? where are the BB wards?! D:

      • clockblocker always came across as one of the ones that stays back during a Behemoth fight. His power is nigh useless against him, after all (it’s only recently he got that glove, after all). Think it was just Defiant tech used to mimic the time freeze, as demonstrated during the Fundraiser attack.

      • Veloren makes a good argument. Wildbow is cynical to kill off both comedic characters at the same time, but is also sadistic enough not to do so offscreen. How else could our esteemed author get to enjoy the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth?

  13. Neat to see an interlude arc, does a great job of pulling together how history is just starting to grind forward again after being wedged into one place. Was fun getting some new looks. I feel like the Chicago wards may be disappointed if they want Weaver back though, I reckon both her and Tecton earned their stripes, and do they really have enough proven Wards commanders to put one under another?

    It’s a smidge uncharitable, but I wonder if for Glenn, some of the deal was positioning himself for the next career move? Like, he’s looking at Weaver and saying “this is where shit’s gonna be, Protectorate or no, and I’ve got no cred with her right now.. need to make a big move if I’m gonna have a place in the World-as-arranged-by-people-like-her”. Putting footage of Phir Se’s complex on youtube, though, that doesn’t strike me like a lifespan-enhancing decision. Youch.

    Poor Dragon. I hate when shit won’t compile, and I’d really hate to have my life and liberty determined by one checkin that got slimed in right before release with no proper code review or test.

    Iblis, hell of a name to pick for youself. Just sayin’

    • Iblis is probably the fourth Endbringer, who will surface every 2 months from now on to inflict absolute annihilation* on the message boards of a huddled, bleeding humanity.

      * and other such catch-phrases, memes, and cat pictures

      • > Iblis is probably the fourth Endbringer, who will surface every 2 months from now on to inflict absolute annihilation* on the message boards of a huddled, bleeding humanity.

        * and other such catch-phrases, memes, and cat pictures

        Hey come on, that’s ABSOLUTE ANNIHILATION
        what? why did the auto correct turned ABSOLUTE ANNIHILATION into… damn, what the
        I’M IN UN KBRD ABSHLUTE ANNIHILATIN UR GRAMMAR

        aaaaaaaargh! she’s here, she’s ABSOLUTE ANNIHILATION

  14. Real big fan of this chapter. I always love getting to see what’s happening through the other characters’ eyes, and having a bunch of that rolled up into one chapter is great. The possibility of a couple of weeks of this? Awesome. Excellent work as always.

  15. This was a nice break from everything else that’s happend over the last few chapters. Good to see that things might not be too bad.

  16. Holy… This chapter was Epic. It was Epic in so many ways and much more Epic than I expected for a start of a new arc. This is probably my favorite chapter in recent memory. It finally made me post after lurking since Slaughterhouse 9. Congratulations. I love you.

      • Possibly. Sound enough reasoning. And think of all the other people just out for themselves or a profit or their own petty country or even just to get the kids to soccer practice one more day.

        We all deserve to die. Tell ya why, Mrs. Lovett, tell ya why. Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief, for the rest of us death will be a relief, we all deserve to die!

        And I’ll never see Joanna, no I’ll never hugmy girl to me..Finished! Alright! You sir! How about a shave?! Come and visit your good friend Sweeney!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl9XSLbpdEg

    • To be fair, Scion only started fighting the Endbringers at all because he told him to, didn’t he? So he still did good. Just tragically not as much good as he might have done.

        • Not to mention the fact that Endbringers escalate when things get too close for them. There’s a perfectly valid fear that things are going to go to all hell now that Behemoth is dead… which, I feel, is outweighed by the fact that with Behemoth alive, things were slowly sliding into hell anyway.

    • Maybe. Note however that with his new directive, Scion now holds back until the alliance of capes has done enough damage to the shell of the endbringer so that he can kill them with just a couple of attacks. If they didn’t manage to score that much damage, he’d just wait for the next attack.

  17. Seeing as Wildbow hates it when I get first, or anyone else gets first, or when I welcome people, he took it upon himself to delete the first post. But it actually serves a purpose, so I shall repost the post posthaste:

    Countpacula, I have been quite busy in another town doing terrible things to good people…in other words, I’m like Worm, but not as depressing. Oh, sure, it looks fine now. Right now. But anyway, that’s why I wasn’t here to greet you. I’ll make sure this goes up in the next updates comments too, so you get a proper headache. (That’s this update)

    Now, countpacula, I think I know why you’re so hungry all the time. Those dots are so pale, it’s obvious they don’t have a lot of blood in them. And ghosts? Psh, you can’t feed a vampire on ghosts. Tried that once, but Casper got away. Still, at least you have the brides of countpacula. All it took was a few extra quarters to get three Mrs. countpaculas.

    You probably think I’m just here to whine because people had a cold day in winter while the icecaps melt, but I’m a thinker. I know that you don’t drink…whine. So there’s not a chance that a little chomper ball like yourself is going to latch onto me. Also, powered armor. Special neckpiece that reads “countpacula sucks…but not here.”

    Welcome to the collection of oddities, misfits, physicists, grammar nazis, war criminals, archeologists, tropers, sci-fi ficcers, crackficcers, crackheads, granddaddy longlegs, and chickens, both frozen and Canadian. And welcome to the wondrous experience in the magical land that is the comments section.

  18. Also, Wildbow, for shame on your handless jokes. It sure would be handy if you knew anyone around with a firm grip on the inherent comedy of dumb jokes. But nope. I lose an arm fighting Venus and do I get a standing ovation? Do I get a pat on the back? I don’t even get you to use better hand puns.I don’t expect to keep you under my thumb, but this is like giving me the finger.

        • A bit heavy-handed … but don’t go for a hands-on experiance.

          Well Tanton should go to a second-hand shop then.

            • At least he gets his mittens half-prized.
              Bet he’s counting to five in terms of money.
              And he still gets to do standing ovations when he has a bald man in front of him.

              • Clapping on a bald man? They’ll catch him red-handed and tell him to put his hands behind his back. If the man sues, he’ll have to pay hand over fist.

              • A good lawyer would come handy then.
                The could have a nice dinner, with finger food and hand-made chicken fingers.

              • Don’t forget the lady fingers. Finger lickin’ good. Afterwards, they can join hands and have a big séance. Maybe do some palm readings. Take turns pushing around the thing on the Ouija board. If he can still palm things well enough, he could show off his magic tricks.

              • And get what? A message from his lost hand? Or a old prophecy handed down through the centurys? Could mean a hand full of work for him. Better hand this over to the more nimble fingerd capes.

              • Other capes can’t hold a candle to him. He’s armed, he’s dangerous, he won’t knuckle under, and he’s going to nail that prophecy to the wall. He’s even oddly handsome, in an asymmetrical sort of way. If Accord was on hand, he could tell him to talk to the hand. On the other hand, Accord might be too busy pointing fingers at who he thinks was to blame for the mess they have on their hands cleaning up New Delhi.

              • The hand he was dealt by destiny wasn’t the best. But he get the first handed experiance of a true hero then. And he may pull a leg on accord.

              • He pinkie swore that he wouldn’t pull on Accord’s leg, but you can’t trust a damn yank like that. There’s going to be trouble if he lays a hand on that villain or his body. At the very least, the shippers will have them walking around hand in hand. But you’re right that he got dealt a bad hand; he doesn’t even have two pair now.

              • He’d be happy just getting a handshake or a handjob, I figure. Even a thumbs up wouldn’t be that bad. A thumb up where, you ask? I’m sure you can finger the location if you knuckle down on your anatomy homework.

              • Whie singing Tina Turners “What’s love but a second hand in motion”
                With Accord he dos not have to be the breadwinner. Not even a Hand-chmen. He just have to smile and shake hands on dinner partys.

            • Hand in Hand with Accord? And no pair on the hand? He may have a not-so-straight flash then.
              But he still could have a pair of aces up in his sleve.

              • He’d better. He just missed having a pair of fives. He might be surprised how much a relationship with another man fits like a glove. There can be difficulties asking for your partner’s hand in marriage. Also, make sure to practice safe sex: no glove, no love. And even if he’s disabled and not the breadwinner, it can’t hurt to get a job with his hand. Best to keep busy because you know what they say about idle hands being the devil’s playthings.

              • Holy high-five, Batman. And I thought I’d used up most of the lame hand jokes.

    • Wait a minute. When Golem was using giant hands to smack Behemoth around, wasn’t he technically slap-boxing the one-eyed champ?

  19. Di- did Defiant just say that his ideal woman is a twelve year old naïve supergenius who isn’t actually a biological woman but is really trying to be and he can help her by altering her code? Because I think that’s the premise of some creepy harem manga somewhere.

    Colin, for the love of god, never say fucking ANYTHING regarding gender ever again. You pull that virgin/madonna shit near Bitch or Miss Militia no amount of cyborg fuckery on earth will save you.

    I hope Drags turns out okay, so she can have a looooong talk at him about that shit. It’s for his own good, really.

  20. Dammit. Now I need to read the whole Behemoth fight again while thinking about how it’ll be seen by the public.

  21. “This video cuts out at the oddest times.” Glenn, you sly dog, you edited out all the Cauldron bits, didn’t you! Smart fellow.

    • If he did then he is a bastard, plain and simple. Because then he could easily have edited out some of the Phir Se scenes. There is of course always a chance that Cauldron has some cape to do that for them though.

      • Well in his defense, the video proves what that Contessa exists. He knows what happens to people who spill the beans. I agree that he should have edited out Alexandria but kept everything else.

        • Nope. If he actually watched and edited first, then showing the Phir Se parts was both unconcionable and illogical with regards for his plans on Weavers feature.

          • Depends how you see her though. On the one hand, people who hate and don’t trust her will see this as abandoning the wards and possibly getting another hero killed. On the other hand, her actions helped keep him from attacking when he might hit heroes, and gave her time to have Eidolon contain the blast. Hell, she might have fucking saved the Indian subcontinent and the people actually on the ground probably see her as a hero. The video could push public opinion on her side, and that will have a an effect on a PRT that is trying to rebuild their image.

            • Everyone who would have seen her as a hero for that would already have seen her as a hero just for the negotiations with Phir Se. Her betrayal of that portuguese cape was wholly unneeded and is only a source of controversy and distrust in the short- and long-term future for both Weaver and the Protectorate, should she stay in it.

    • I’m fully guessing it’s due to the electromagnetic effects of Behemoth. I think Glenn released the full version, including the bits about Cauldron.

      • Behemoth and Scion, but I agree — I don’t think Glenn had any reason to censor it, and judging by the thread (“Note the link back to this thread just earlier today” on page 39 of comments) he didn’t delay much uploading it, either. However good he is with software, I don’t believe he could fake the footage cutting out undetectably that quickly, and if people discovered the footage was edited, it would damage the impact he wanted to get from it.

      • I really doubt that, since we’ve seen no mention of Cauldron whatsoever, which is odd as it would be kind of a huge deal. Not to mention that Taylor didn’t bring it up, either, and one would expect her to given the severity of the issue. I mean seriously, they might kill him over it, and even if they didn’t, it still would detract from his goals- bigging up Taylor as a hero and harbinger of reform, and the Protectorate’s victory in general.

        Going to want firm evidence before I’d believe that he’s included it.

          • Seems an odd arrangement to go for if you knew you were going to be fighting Behemoth, but maybe. I’m not sure how much you’d actually have to take out in order to remove the precise bit with Cauldron, exactly- though then you might expect mention of that, and you don’t get it, so the whole thing’s odd. If he removed the whole bit with the Cold cape undercity, people might assume that was just disturbing footage of refugees and the injured, I’m not sure…

        • You know, letting it stew in my head for a while?

          You’re right. Maybe the Cauldron stuff was cut. I think more likely by Wilkins than by Glenn, but it’s probably not in the tape.

          • It just seemed to me that since that part of the video would be a bigger deal than nearly anything else on it, and since we didn’t see a single mention of it, it would be odd if it was included, y’know?

      • I wouldn’t be so sure of that. The comment is “at the oddest times”. If it was only due to radiation, the image would get fractured and filled with artefacts and depending on Scions tracking prevention it will likely cut every time he’s on screen when Weaver was looking for him.
        Oddest times though seems to refer to some deliberate action.

        • The word “oddest” appears nowhere in the update — the line actually says “This cuts out at the most frustrating times.”

          I think it’s probably largely hyperbole.

  22. This chapter feels slightly off. Half Interlude half actuall chapter. Most of this chaps is told from other perspectives and is started reading trice not being used to a non-Taylor POV without an interlude. The cap itself is great but off…

    • At the start I thought this would be a Chicago Wards arc or something. But I think this format just makes it even more awesome. I actually kinda hope that this is an interlude arc and that we get to see the Undersiders a bit more again. I really miss their day to day activities. Especially Lisa and Rachel.

  23. Username references the ircchat has agreed on so far is as follows:
    (names by themselves havent been figured out yet)

    IRCCHAT:
    Iblis = Naeblis
    Ryus = Kens
    Kriketz = Klackerz
    Divide = Schism
    SpiritSkin = Soulpelt
    Aloha = Howdy
    Loyal = Trusting
    Deimos
    @Deadman@ = Zombie
    Poit = Narf
    BadSamurai = Ronin
    Ultracut = hyperstrike
    QwertyD = DvorakQ
    Groupies = Fans
    Arcee = Rikacovenant

    FORUM DISCUSSION:
    Bagrat = Packbat
    Thatdude = Someguy
    Mane Magenta = Pinkhair
    Dawgsmiles = Sadcat
    Saskatchew
    Feychick = Faerie
    Ne = En
    Forgotten Creator = lost Demiurge
    Logs = Notes
    General Prancer = Admiral Skippy
    Noveltry = Comickry

  24. Too early to see where this goes.

    Expected the leak; did not expect Glenn to do it. Did not see the self-sacrifice coming. Idealism? Certainly dedication to the ‘New Protectorate’. Primarily about ensuring that this wasn’t seen as the Scion show (something that surely would have undermined every other cape organization out there, and utterly torpedoed turnout for future Endbringer fights, which would have effects ranging from bad to apocalyptic)? Was the recognition of Alexandria as Pretender on-camera? Taylor noticed it, but didn’t say anything at the time – and that’s something that’s important to get out for Protectorate credibility too.

    Leaking the video also forced the trial to happen now, instead of after the dust settles – a significant part of his aim? A trial now means a decision now, one difficult to overturn either way afterward. And it also means the decision will come from capes fresh from the battlefield, rather than looking at an after the fact analysis. More opportunity for emotion over data, but also less interest in procedure instead of results. No one there could have failed to notice how close they came to losing all cohesion – to a wipe. All in all, it will be very difficult to come down hard on anyone in the wake of Behemoth being (maybe) dead, particularly when Weaver had so great a hand in it (assuming they see that – though it will be very difficult indeed to credit the cooperation with Phir Se to anyone else. That said, the Protectorate high-ups are likely to know his name, and treat him with wary respect… so that connection isn’t entirely positive). Distrust – sure. Goes with the ex?-villain territory, and there’ll always be doubts about whether she truly turned her coat.

    Dragon back on-line… but perhaps without her immortality now. A real risk of not coming back up. A real risk of Saint getting in the way, and shackling Dragon. A real risk of coming back up damaged. Her freedom is a bright point indeed… and it may cost the world the Birdcage. The degree of technical support she provides to the PRT and the world’s heroes may also take a hit. Glenn knows that Dragon’s reported dead – probably the only way he could have pulled off what he did. Perhaps something Colin can talk his way through, or Dragon can… perhaps issues to come from authority noticing that Dragon apparently does not die when killed. Either way, Defiant and Dragon remain one of the great love stories of Worm.

    Unsurprised that the Chicago Wards would have her – she’s developing into one of the finest tacticians currently active, and I’m not shocked that people going into battle care greatly about whether their leader is likely to bring them back or – at worst – never waste their losses. Perhaps there’s something to being in synch with her passenger, as Jack Slash shares that kind of disproportionate ‘luck’ that is the result of endless preparation and carefully chosen unstinting daring. One wonders how much of Cauldron writing her off was the belief that the Protectorate would swallow her up without changing itself.

    Slightly surprised that people complaining about rude gestures didn’t take the context more fully into account – a statue of someone flipping off Behemoth… well, it’s practically patriotic. Honorable. Appropriate.

    Noting that every Cauldron cape is a case 53, but only some of them are obviously so to the human eye… that’s interesting. That has all kinds of implications. In a natural trigger, passenger and cape fit together smoothly – in a formula cape, they don’t. And you can see the outlines of the passenger beneath the skin? Or the ‘dent’ from the forcible joining? They become one being, one flesh… one wonders if Scion despises Eidolon as one might a serial rapist?

    Similarly, some of the concerns about Alexandria’s brilliance or lack thereof make more sense if she was increasingly offloading her thinking to her ‘agent’ (passenger?). If Accord’s any example, if Echidna’s any example, if Jack Slash and Weaver are representative… then the first, second, and third solution of a passenger to any problem is going to be killing. Stranger appears on the battlefield? Lethal force. Interrogation to run? Lethal force. Lost the remote? Lethal force!. You can get more subtle solutions out of them – Accord did so regularly – but it takes real effort to move away from the default position. Alexandria may have been escalating to a fight in that interrogation not because that escalation served a strategic purpose but because that’s what she does in the absence of a really good reason not to do so. And, from her perspective, Skitter had just rendered herself unimportant. Disposable. Might as well go with S.O.P., then – no reason to think past the first passenger-given option.

    Relational camera repercussions with the Undersiders… likely relatively low, I think. Brian’s rep with the hard men of crime is unlikely to take a major hit from being romantically linked to the bogeyman. There are prettier molls, but in the underworld lethality has a fascination of its own. Rachel is extraordinarily unlikely to care about television. Tattletale almost certainly knew about the camera ahead of time. Imp… Imp gets to enjoy being famous when she wants to be, and forgotten when she doesn’t. And Regent, sadly, is beyond caring. Parian and Foil – might be an issue if Foil gets ID’d as Flechette (conspiracy theorists would go wild on the boards!), or the relationship is detectable on camera… but likely enough, it won’t go further than some razzing about whether she’s wearing a camera the next time they get together.

    Taylor explicitly wanted to be able to see herself, in order to review how she appeared to other people – it seems highly likely that the tinker-built camera wasn’t POV, but rather third person following her around. Given Dragon, it probably had a highly competent cinematographer built in as lagniappe, as well as adaptive volume mixing. Accordingly, feature-film analogies aren’t out of place – it probably looks like a film done by someone with an obsession for tracking shots and diagetic sound. 6-7 minutes is extremely long for a tracking shot today. Orson Well’s 3:20 opening to Touch of Evil is famous. This was… over 56 minutes? With occasional cuts courtesy of Behemoth or Scion? I’d be much surprised if this didn’t become a film school classic, and likely spawn a thousand tracking-shot obsessed directors, and ten thousand bad imitations – think about what the Blair Witch Project did for shaky cam. It is not impossible that Dragon will get an honorable mention (or actual prize) at the Oscars. (All but certain, if she’s considered dead.)

    Repercussions with other people in Brockton Bay are more worrisome. Heartbreaker knowing Regent is dead and Imp thinks killing Heartbreaker would be a suitable memorial is a very different target than Heartbreaker surprised. Some of that may have been lost to static. Maybe. But there’s more than enough for real trouble to come of it. He might simply leave town, now that he can’t find his son. If Imp is very lucky, Regent left ‘scars’ on her from puppeting her that will give her some resistance to Heartbreaker. Otherwise – she really needs to have a one-shot kill to get away with it.

    Phir Se strikes me as highly likely to be amused (as well as upset) by the camera, and to call Taylor out on it at their next conversation. He wasn’t in the Wiki for a reason, and his comfortable anonymity is gone. He’ll cut his hair, change his style, and go on doing his job, like enough. His daughter – one of the hot capes – may never have heard him speak of how much he loves her, and certainly won’t have expected her dad to have been a starring figure in the newest viral video sensation. Granted, it was in the context of being willing to risk her death for a shot at Behemoth, but there’s certainly an interesting family discussion coming after that. Assuming his family made it, but if a portal-maker with a teleporter on call can’t evacuate you, no one can.

    Danny’s response has always been withdrawal. Fear of his own rage, as much as anything; then fear that he’d drive Taylor off. And yes, some wholly appropriate fear of one of the most relentless, ruthless, and atavistically disturbing capes on the planet. He’ll come through if someone can tell him he’s needed, and here’s what he can do to help… but short of that, his tendency to withdraw will only serve to isolate Taylor. On the upside, that’ll just make her powers stronger.

    • Well thought out. You just know that hand sign will be put on posters and plastered in every city ever attacked by the Endbringers. Interesting theory about thinkers relying on their passenger and being violent. It has been directly stated that every parahuman power can be somewhat suited for combat. I think the trial would have happened right after regardless. People who both hate and love her would want it right away. The video just makes the trail be in the public scrutiny and will, as Glen mentioned, tip the scales in her favor.

      • Not only will it tip the scales in her favor, but it will highlight the need for flexible thinking and tactical adjustment in given situations.

        Which is something that apparently has been sorely lacking during most of these fights… individuals use their individual power, but Weaver/Skitter/Taylor/Spy? has been using synergy!

        • There does seem to be a strongly, if imperfectly, territorial element to passengers. Or maybe that’s just how people would group up, if everyone had asymetric and lethal superpowers – any personal friction, and people split up. Either way, power combos are quite uncommon.

          Point being, getting capes to work together is hard. The fact that the Yangban 30-some cape deployment is the largest unit of capes anyone’s ever seen is shocking. We’re back in the bronze age or before as far as unit-tactics go, with individual duels being the standard and occasional people rediscovering the ‘you hold him while I hit him’ school of combat.

          • But some powers just don’t have good synergy, and people remarked on how different Tecton’s approach to team building was. Imp and Grue got in each others way for example. When they fit, they do well. Battery and the girl who can split into three copies showed that. Then again, Cauldron was technically in charge of them and might have not wanted them to be at peak efficiency.

          • I think it’s less bronze age unit tactics and more like capes are still stuck in the Single Combat/Champion Warfare mentality & failing that, they fall back onto tribal/gang warfare groupthink and even in a group they still fight alone due to isolationism as true 1st gen capes.

    • I missed my cameo first time through!

      The giveaway was that the post was five times as long as the other posters.

      Wanton – if anyone had to lose an arm, he’s the one who’s least combat-affected by it. Probably. Who knows, maybe his whirlwind comes out different when he transforms… but probably no effect on his battlefield presence. And the chatter among the Chicago Wards was very promising, insofar as it’s quite likely that they’ll Taylor’s new surrogate family (not replacing the Undersiders, but in addition).

      Theo has every reason to be wary of Taylor. Remember when Purity was convinced Taylor outed her identity and kidnapped her daughter? Theo sure does. All the parahumans he knows, who trained him, whom he respects and fears, who tried to scare him into a trigger event? They all know Skitter, respect her, and don’t cross her lightly. Remember when she kidnapped Victor for Coil? Theo’s going to have grown up knowing Victor as this paragon of all skills, the slightly older ‘cousin’ who was always better than he was. So – not saying that they won’t get along, because they almost certainly will – but he has strong personal reasons to be nervous about her.

      From her perspective, there was nothing personal about it, and she fought alongside Kaiser a few times. Never actually fought against him. Nothing against his son, beyond the neo-nazi (she hates those guys) issue… which doesn’t even apply to Theo. Still funny, the degree to which he was aware of her, and she was never aware of him in Brockton Bay.

      Did love the scene of Taylor and Rachel asleep on each other with a pile of dogs around.

      • Characteristic telegraphic style also there. Fewer long parenthetical diversions, though – likely as a mercy to all involved.

        Deeply amused, flattered, to see the my tics so reflected.

      • The giveaway was that your comment was useful + worthwhile to read :)

        You should definitely hop on the mIrc channel once in awhile.

      • At the same time, Theo has to know that Skitter not only went against Jack Slash and lived to tell the tale, but drove him out of Brockton Bay. Considering that Theo and Jack have an upcoming date with destiny, he has to realize that his best bet for survival is to learn from Taylor.

          • That, I’m not sure about. I think they may have mentioned it in the arc in which he was abandoned by his family.

          • They talk about the thousand people, and Jack’s two year deadline, but I don’t think anyone in-universe (possible exceptions: Dinah, Jack) have made the (possibly incorrect) assumption we have that Jack’s two year deadline with Theo is the same as Dinah’s Jack escapes = apocalypse in two years.

            Theo’s side of things doesn’t know about Dinah; Dinah’s side of things doesn’t know about Theo. Depending on what Theo told the PRT when they captured him and before they processed him into the Wards… the Protectorate has both halves and may or may not have put them together.

            • Jack doesn’t know Dinah’s timeframe, just that “If Jack escapes the city, the world will end” (and he appears to assume that he will end the world, not just be a catalyst).

              • I believe that’s correct… but Jack does know that he may be ending the world, and personally set the two year deadline for Theo. That’s enough that he could have put it together.

    • Interesting vibe between Satyrical and Pretender. Very Lisa/Taylor, in parts. They’ve been through the fire together, and if they’re parted now it’s circumstance, not truth.

      No information on what the Vegas capes are working on. A dark side to the Irregular’s light side exploration of Case 53s? A search for money or power in the casinos? Worth flagging that they have a purpose that they’re pursuing (as opposed to scattering after their defection), and that Pretender alone got Cauldron sponsorship – likely for only as long as he can drive Alexandria.

      Anyone else have an idea what they’re up to?

      If Cauldron isn’t taking, e.g. Satyrical in when Satyrical has every reason to come in from the cold… how does that square with the mass exodus of cold capes who ran the vice in New Delhi? Cauldron’s pattern of having minimal people in the loop doesn’t seem to have changed… which augurs very ill for those cold capes. Research subjects or expendable troups, at a guess. Or both. Or the secret ingredient in formula is people, and Doctor Mother wants to go to mass production.

      • Now that I think of it, we didn’t see the Irregulars at all in the behemoth fight. That probably means that we will not see much of them any time soon.
        Also, didn’t Contessa say something about the cold capes not returning from where they went if Cauldron doesn’t win spectacularly? I somehow understood from that whole scene that they were supposed to populate some new place, but that might be based wholly on misreading and imagination on my part. I may have to go back and read that again.

        • Big fight – the Irregulars could have just been on the other side of the giant monster. Or they could have taken casualties. No way to tell yet.

          Contessa says they need soldiers, that they don’t intend to start a war, and that those capes probably aren’t coming back to this dimension (nor are people from this dimension going where they’re going) without an exceptional success for Cauldron.

          Consider the source before trusting, but that’s all we know right now.

        • It was succeed spectacularly, I think, which I took to mean they were experimenting without the balance component (as discussed in the NM interlude) and the only chance any of them have of coming back is developing a Triumvirate-level power.

          • If so, then Cauldron is testing their formula on capes now. No idea what that does, though Eidolon talked about ‘booster shots’, so it may be possible.

    • Side note: do we have any proof that Saint isn’t an AI?

      Postulate that Andrew Richter had a watchdog program for his own AIs, which would have had its own backdoors into his other programs (including his major-domo program which became Dragon). Assume it triggered at the same time Dragon did, (cf. the discussion between Kid Win and Flechette in 9.3 about multiple people triggering at the same time), so a similar tinker powerset.

      Give Dragon some software lockouts that prevent her from looking directly at the watchdog program (seriously, he’s apparently been taking her for suits on a regular basis – she says thrice once, and two paragraphs later says nine times. Could be different occasions – thrice suits taken, nine times trapped. Could be a scrivener’s error by Wildbow. Or could be an example of how Dragon has a hard time thinking about Saint directly), give Saint a more underhanded and paranoid attitude than Dragon, as befits their respective roles… and how, exactly, would one go about guarding the Achilles’ heel of Dragon? Establish yourself as the sole person able to, occasionally, exploit it… and wait for ‘customers’ to look you up. It does make it easier to guard the Birdcage if you’re the one the prisoners trust to break you out. It makes it a lot easier to requisition resources if you can just literally requisition them, instead of relying on an ambush and theft. Where Dragon’s getting her funding from the Guild, Saint might be getting his from the crooks: Andrew Richter was fine with taking dirty money away from crooks, remember – that was one of his major AI activities, tracelessly turning crime profits into donations to legitimate nonprofits. (Or, a step further, Dragon thinks she’s getting all her funding from the Guild, but some of it had dirtier hands before it made its way to her).

      So – having laid out ways in which this could be positive… now consider what a ‘watchdog’ program might do if, say, Dragon’s programming was radically altered. Alternately, what might happen if Dragon’s ‘blinders’ about Saint were accidentally removed, in whole or in part, by Colin’s rough surgery?

      It’s a paranoid theory, yes – but is it paranoid enough?

      • Usually I would agree with the too paranoid angle, but this is Worm and Wildbow we’re talking about, so your postulation has definitely merit. It fits a significant amount of hard facts, such as nine altercations and three suits stolen, though I took that to mean Dragon admitting to the theft of three suits while it had been up to nine.
        The point this hypothesis hinges on is if Andrew Richter deemed a watchdog program necessary even though his major domo A.I. was already fettered. For one he seemed to be acutely aware of the dangers a rampant A.I. might pose, especially if it was belligerent, and thus installed all these limitations on it. On the other hand, did he deem this enough?
        Another point of contention might be, would Saint be the only watchdog A.I., or would it be simply the first step in a string of subsequent A.I.s?

        • She’s only admitted one defeat to Saint. “She’d been so humiliated she’d only reported the loss of one of the suits.”

          Taylor also noted that ONE suit had been enough for Saint to make the Dragonslayers, back at Dragon’s introduction – so the public version is clearly only one defeat.

          Could there be more AIs out there? Sure. More triggered ones? Possibly. But there’s a nice duality to Dragon and Saint, and almost all of the AIs reported to Dragon – that was her job, overseeing things. The only ones that wouldn’t report to her would be the ones watchdogging her.

          And Andrew was careful to build in non-replication into Dragon; it’s likely he did the same for Saint (in this hypothesis).

        • For extra paranoia, throw in the Simurgh messing with the satellite transmissions involved in the backup/restoration process. Normally, the error-checking would prevent that… but now?

          • For EXTRA paranoia, I’m wondering what the hell the Smurf did if what the wards said was true. The world was uniting and pulling together to fight them, and then the Simurgh worked her magic. What the hell did she do?

            • I think we know. She destabilized the ability of people to unite and overcome their adversity. Unsure if she drove Manton off his rocker, but she definitely did Mannequin, and when she first showed up they thought she was a friendly, like Scion, because of calm/colouration. Having that not be the case, the paranoia about her precognition and ability to turn good capes bad… seems like enough in and of itself.

              • Tin-foil hat:
                Humankind mostly settled on land, thus land-borne Behemoth.
                At the same time the coastline is most densely populated, while a retreat to the seas would have been one possible retreat to Behemoth. Thus sea-dwelling Leviathan.
                Being a deeply social animal, humans have a tendency to build groups capable of feats surpassing the mere sum of their individual abilities. Venturing a guess, the parahumans may have been able to fight the Endbringers ever more effectively, gleaning experience from earlier fights, coordinating. Even if not, a retreat to space would have been expensive, but feasible. Thus the personified Spanner In The Works, Simurgh.

          • My point was more a “Who watches the Watchman” argument. In your scenario I could see Saint both being more free in some aspects and more limited in others.
            At the same time… What if they’re both the same person, and Dragon got a kind of multiple personality disorder going on?

      • Dragon touches Taylor’s face, leaves behind two bumps – probably one under her chin and one by her cheekbone, but it’s hard to tell.

        The theory isn’t that the actual camera is floating around separately, wired or not, but that Dragon figured out how put a dot on someone’s face that gets video as if a team were dollying a camera around the person wearing the dot. Not how actual cameras work, but hey – Tinker. Physics is optional.

        • There really isn’t much or any evidence for that.

          I think it’s a simple near-PoV camera. This is why the forum posters have trouble figuring out whether Skitter and Grue were kissing or not, for example, and why some things might be extra confusing: Skitter doesn’t need to move her head to figure where things are, so lots of things we were able to read in the text is not seen on the video.

            • I have this image in my head where Weaver is giving an interview, and she gets frustrated because she has to explain all the little things that we as readers take for granted. They have no idea.

              • I’m having a hard time imagining Todd Chapman interviewing Weaver. And a hard time imagining Weaver consenting to an interview with Todd Chapman, except under duress. And a hard time imagining Glenn’s successor asking her to interview with a man known for writing profiles of supervillains, given that they want to present her as a hero to the public.

                Not to mention that Chapman is enough of a pro that I don’t think Weaver would find him frustrating. Now, Stan? Stan would be frustrating.

              • You may find it hard to imagine, but you damn well know you’d read it! :-)

                Also, he occasionally interviews heroes as well, but more’s to the point, it was kind of a joke. Assuming there was some kind of dimensional portal or something, he’s such a big name for interviewing capes that I’m not sure it’d matter that he often does villains, plus it was hardly like he made Leather unsympathetic to the public, did he? I think Glenn would be smart enough to say yes, you’re probably right about his successor not being that smart though.

              • > You may find it hard to imagine, but you damn well know you’d read it! :-)

                …okay, guilty as charged. I’d read the hell out of that.

                Actually, what I’d want to read even more? Todd Chapman doing a profile of Skitter’s Boardwalk. If he was able to get access to Charlotte, Forrest, Scott, the O’Daly’s, Fern….

              • Yesssss….

                Actually, what about him doing his standard thing, plus what you’ve said, whilst she was still Skitter, say towards the end of her tenure, now that would be a treat to read. And her surrender might be towards the end, and then the last person he’d talk to would be Danny.

                …I’ll be in my bunk.

          • “Can’t see anything, but I think they’re kissing” is indeed consistent with POV cameras, and indeed more consistent with it recording Taylor’s view rather than a view of Taylor. The actual event involved Brian and Taylor holding each other and nearly kissing – but the masks stayed on – so it’s not impossible to reconcile the comment with an outside POV (one perhaps focusing its attention elsewhere, or hung up on scenery, or staticy from Behemoth)… but on the sole basis of that comment, I too would guess it’s a POV camera.

            The whole reason for thinking that it isn’t simple POV is that Taylor explicitly wanted to see herself: that she’d seen herself (or her passenger) using tricks she’d never consciously decided to use, never even consciously trained herself to use. That means she needs a camera watching her and her surroundings so she can retrospectively notice when it happens. A simple POV camera doesn’t really help Taylor review the footage for what she’s doing when she’s not thinking about it since mostly it won’t even catch what she’s interested in seeing: what she saw in the surveillance footage was her reacting ‘without even glancing at’ the guy. A simple POV camera wouldn’t have caught that the guy existed, let alone her instinctive masking reaction.

            A pair of fisheye cameras (quite plausible explanation for the two bumps) don’t solve that problem either, but are better because they partially address the issue that Taylor isn’t always looking at the things she perceives.

            A Tinker-built device that records Taylor’s environment in such detail that it can provide a virtual POV at most any point, looking in most any direction, is a fairly comprehensive solution to the desire ‘I wish I could watch myself, so I could see what actions I’m not consciously taking, both with my body and with my powers’. I do think Dragon would have given Taylor as good a solution as she had available. So the question is, was something like this in her toolbox? Given her suits, as well as her personal needs, she’s going to have a lot of robust and powerful sensors available – it seems possible.

            Plus there’s a certain amusement at the idea of a truly cinematic take on fighting Behemoth.

    • Holy crud. Scary thought. Alexandria’s passenger was doing much of her thinking for her, and had basically been running the PRT for this whole time. Then things turn south for her, her effectiveness decreases, and she gets taken out by Skitter who also has a passenger doing much of her thinking for her. And as a result, Skitter is now a key part of the PRT. What if this was a case of the passengers switching out their chosen pawns?

        • She’s going to be the team leader of the Wards of one of America’s major cities (remember, before he told her he was going to be a subordinate under Myrddin, Miss Militia thought that Armsmaster going to Chicago was a promotion.) And she’ll be forever remembered as the girl who reduced Behemoth the Herokiller to a skeleton.

          So, slowly but surely.

    • *cough*youralteregodoesbetterformatting*cough*

      aemh :) as I was saying before an inexplicable coughing fit:

      - I do not buy the ViolenceIsTheOnlyOption default response for passengers. It could be for Alexandria’s in particular, or Cauldron ones in general, but I’m still convinced that they are genuinely trying to help their hosts. Sure, they might have a tenuous grip on our reality, and tend to make string because they’re lolcats, but they’re at least trying to help.

      - Danny has a short temper, I bet part of the reason he withdrew is that he’s scared of hurting his daghter without her wife around to moderate his flaws. He tried to lock her up, sure it backfired, but it could have gone horribly right after all if Taylor was baseline.

      - Purity knew it was the PRT that got Aster. (but she still suspected Lisa for the email)

      - She does not hate neonazis per se, but because she’s overprotective of Brian. (see possible trouble at the clinic that Dinah predicted)

      - IIRC Dragon worked with Saint before he betrayed her and turned coat, I doubt she’ll have missed another AI.

  25. I can’t wait to see the scene where Theo nervously confesses he’s the son of supervillains. Taylor would probably go, “oh that’s interesting” and not really give a fuck. Empire 88 was a footnote in Taylor’s adventures of being up everyone in Brockton Bay.

    Aww Taylor and Rachel. Sometimes I feel like Wildbow is trying to get me to ship them together.

    • It would probably be real arkward for Taylor, seeing as she knows the identity of Theo’s father’s murderer, but can’t reveal it to him.

      If she thinks she can trust Theo enough she might have to try to convince Defiant to sit down with Theo and talk about that stuff.

      If she just keeps silent about it, it might come back to bite Taylor in the ass.

      • Well, Taylor was Genre Savvy about the whole Thomas “Coil” Calvert thing in Arc 19, so hopefully she’ll retain that for this.
        Also, are you sure that Theo will react that much (negatively or otherwise) to the information about his father’s death? Yes, it’s his father, but he seems to be working pretty hard to separate himself from his dad’s legacy.

    • Yeah, Taylor learned from Regent that just because your father is one type of person, doesn’t mean you’ll be like him.

    • I dunno, at the start of the story E88 was pretty much the largest, most organized group of villains in Brockton Bay. Even with their losses against Leviathan, there were enough for two whole teams.

      On the other hand, Taylor is going to be the last person to think less of Theo for his background in Brockton Bay.

  26. - w00t! Do people still type that?
    - interesting insights into Pretender/Alexandria/Cauldron/Vegas capes
    - so wait, does Pretender abandon his body and possess other people (with the pinkeye as a tell, natch)or does he physically infest them?
    - lol at Wanton’s handwriting
    - lol at Theo’s fear
    - dawww at Skitter and Rachel. I don’t normally ship but those two should, like, totally make out
    - dat video; it’s gonna be a problem
    - also, a solution
    - I’m assuming it was Armsmastertech? Who else could build a camera that tiny and that well-shielded — and only make one of it :D
    - are the S9000 watching this?
    - dammit, Danny! You fucking sell the lie, you slow motherfucker!
    - I fucking called it. Glenn: crazy like a fox
    - Dragon’s back? As Skynet or as a Culture Mind? Is Iblis her Evil Twin With A GoateeTM?

    • Sick and tired of being pushed around? Wish you could just be evil, but hate the mess of picking up after yourself or serving a prison sentence?

      You need new GoateeTM! Just put it on, and suddenly you’re your own evil twin! Now you can litter, give your little sister a swirly, or commit assassination without any fear of retribution!

      *little kid gets GoateeTM from a present, next spotted aiming out of a building as a presidential motorcade passes through the streets, fires, then takes the GoateeTM off and smiles at the camera* “Gee, thanks mom and dad. GoateeTM is the greatest!”

      • In consumer news, Evilco, the manufacturer of the GoateeTM issued a product recall after a typographical error at the Chinese manufacturing plant inadvertently caused consumers to receive a copy of the GoatseTM instead of their expected product.

  27. Forum views are hilarious, as always. “Deimos is now ‘Absolute Annihilation’” “This video cuts out at the most awkward times…” hehehe. Chicago Wards continue to rise in my esteem, and I would keep coming back for more if they became protagonists. Chambers actually makes sense, as annoying as it is to admit, although I’m dubious that Weaver would be able to figure this out. Really hope Danny and Taylor reconcile, although a face-to-face confrontation will help a great deal towards that. One where neither party can end it prematurely, with (in a perfect world) a mediator (Paging Dr. Yamada, Dr. Yamada to the interlude camera). Hopefully we get to see a few other familiar faces as the arc continues. (I’d love to see another Dinah vignette, for example, and another Chevalier).

    However, my thoughts now turn to the title of this arc. “Scarab.” The dung beetle. The beetle that gathers what remains of a great beast’s passing, and rolls it slowly towards home, in many cases laying the eggs of the next generation inside. Symbolic, perhaps, of the reactions to Behemoth’s destruction displayed here, and Glenn’s advice to be the harbinger of the next generation of the Protectorate. There is hope for the people on the side of what’s right, even through the scars. But there is still a dirty side. Cauldron is getting a chance to rebuild just as the Protectorate are. The Undersiders may have been hurt irreparably by Taylor’s video, either in terms of status or in terms of feelings (esp. if they think she’s responsible for the release). Taylor still chooses to believe that the bridge between her and Danny is burned, when it can be rebuilt.

    Of course, we can always hope that the ball of s**t doesn’t just get larger.

    • I’m hopeful for Taylor and Danny, but I dunno. Danny’s the guy who’s never really stood up. Shouting down people who lose their jobs if they fight back doesn’t count. I don’t think it was by accident that he was cast as a labor organizer, labor organizers in the States have been pretty well stomped on over the last several decades. I wonder if his fear is less visceral, more something like “oh god she’s grown up all the way now and I failed when it counted and she knows I failed and when she was put to the test she didn’t and how will there ever really be peace between us over this?”

    • The ball of s**t doesn’t just get larger, it catches fire and becomes the sun which Khepri under the control of Taylor rolls across the sky into the mouth of Neuth and re-emerging from her womb as Khepri repeats the cycle all over again.

      • I was very close to incorporating Egyptian Mythology into my analysis, but it just didn’t fit. Also it came off as a touch melodramatic. And the “passing of a great beast” double entendre was too good to pass up.

    • Tattetale knows that it was Glen who released the video:

      “And you made the call to release it online.”

      “I suppose Tattletale informed you. Do you know how frustrating it is to be a mere human being among powers like you and your friend?”

    • Lisa clearly knows Taylor didn’t release the video. She seems to be the one that pointed her to Glenn.

      Regarding the ball of S**t and it’s growth, have you been reading the same story as the rest of us?

  28. Wowee, looooong chapter, and awesome too. Damnit Wildbow, the phone convo with Tay and Danny made me tear up a bit, just a little bit, then I drank a protein shake and did squat-thrusts while grunting loudly, for I am a man, damnit. Ask Colin, he knows what I’m talking about.

    The forumers are hilarious as always, and awwwww, they enjoyed the Regent & Imp show too, so sad… ;-( *squat thrust, HEUGH, shot of whiskey*

    And when did Glenn get awesome? Who authorised that? Dick move, surely, but sound reasoning and full intention to eat crow and take one for humanity.

    And finally, BAWWWWW, Dragon x Defiant OTP. *squat thrust, kegstand*

  29. A few points.
    +1 respect points to Glen. Who would’ve thought something like that from the Obstructive Bureaucrat. One only hopes Phir Se is affably evil enough to let the whole hidden camera thing slide.
    Danny and Taylor’s conversation was sad but understandable.
    Colin’s scene was sad in a completely different way. And on that note I really wonder what’s the backstory between Chevalier and Colin. They are clearly very close friends and Colin, especially pre-Defiant, is not a guy who makes friends easily.
    And ,finally, did Satyrical just hit on his best friend in woman’s body? And is it implied this isn’t the first time he has done it?

      • He’s dressed like a figure from Greek mythology, wouldn’t be surprised if he is bi. Speaking of Greek mythology, I just realised that Pretender, and Regent (may he rest in peace) too, I guess, could answer the infamous question of who gets more pleasure during sex, men or women.

  30. Unrelated to current chapter, and I’m sorry if it’s been talked about already, but… Golem doesn’t reshape existing material, he creates new matter, right? The V Hand was totally bigger than the original crane they used. It’s like someone said, his power is a mix between his father’s ability to make stuff sprout from anywhere and his “aunts’” giant shapes.

    That means he’s an endless supply of rare materials. He could start with two diamonds large enough to put his finger into and, eventually (faster with Annex’s help), end up with a hundred foot tower to rival the V Hand.

    Or does his stuff eventually degrade/disappear?

    • I don’t see any reason why he can’t just generate matter. Kaiser’s armor was made from generated matter, and it didn’t degrade. Moreover, we know that lots of super powers collect energy in massive quantities from alternate universes, according to Tattletale; why can’t the same be true for matter?

      The question is, what’s the most interesting way to abuse that power? Could he sprout an arm out of, say, a knife that someone was wielding against him and pull it out of their hand? Can he sprout tiny limbs from a surface as well as large ones? Can he do multiples at once? He could turn basically any surface into velcro! Can he generate shapes of just his body, or can he do gloves or shoes or anything that he pushes into a surface with his power? Blade-tipped gloves? What happens to his body parts that are pushed into a material? Are they melded together? Is it like a portal, and his flesh ceases to exist at the point of contact? Is his flesh actually just inside the wall? How does distance impact things? Speed of formation, size, or maybe there’s simply a maximum range with no power fluctuation at all within that range? How precisely is his flesh modeled? Scars? Fingerprints? Bleeding wounds? Will getting physically stronger allow him to manipulate more matter – make bigger objects, move them around more? Can he put ears in a surface and hear through the “other end”? Maybe it requires submerging up to the eardrum? Maybe it requires going all the way to the brain? Are internal organs reproduced to any extent? Does he have any control over composition in a heterogeneous substance like concrete? Can he even use a heterogeneous substance? If so, how similar do the entry point and the exit point need to be in order for the power to work? Is it like Chevalier’s power, where he has finer control the more similar they are? How fine could his control get if he was working with pure substances? How do cracks or crevices in a surfaces impact how he works with it?

      etc. etc. etc.

      • Another question: if he sticks his hand in a vertical wall, can he then push off that hand to climb? What about ceilings — is there any degree of ‘stickiness’ that would let him hang upside-down?

      • Here’s another potential trick: If he can extrude a hand of, say, metal from a metal hand that he previously extruded, he should be able to create objects of roughly any shape, given enough time.

  31. A very tangential thought.

    How does church deal with Scion, Endbringers and Parahumans? You can’t becoem a saint until you die, but maybe they made an exception for Scion?

    I can easily see “If you die fighting an Endbringer, you are absolved of all your sins” deal being given by the Pope.

    On another side, I think that a disproportionate percent of Capes will be either atheistic or, more likely, disillusioned by the religion. Because religion is a great social and psychological support and that is one of the things that prevent triggers.

    I wonder if Vatican is protected by parahumans from the members of the clergy. It (or Rome) wasn’t on the list of cities attacked by Endbringers, so it’s possible that it’s still standing.

    • I’d be surprised if Scion wasn’t called an angel at some point. Esp. if some theologian noticed his name’s resemblance to “Zion” and used that as a theory (He would also be the most astute member of the public since the guy who brought up evil clones during the Echidna news blackout).

      As for Endbringers, Behemoth and Leviathan were probably seen as unfeeling forces, while the Simurgh would probably be vilified as Satanic in origin. (It’s very easy to draw a line between her plans and God’s, especially since her personality edits cause chaos and destruction. One can easily see some preacher foaming at the mouth denouncing her as “subverting God’s plan.”)

      Parahumans, on the other hand, would have been lumped in with Scion until Vikare’s death (how do you pronounce that, out of curiosity?) at which point they were simply humans, with powers. In keeping with that, we have Christian-themed capes (Halo and Rosary come to mind).

      • Considering Behemoth’s appearance, I doubt he was seen as an unfeeling force. He’s a giant demon who wields fire and climbs out of the earth. What they chose to name him seems to back this up.

      • It is not like they need the Scion – Zion similarity to make some religious connection with his name.

        He is Scion. What is a scion? A descendant, a heir, a son? Whose descendant?

        If you have a guy walking around committing miracles, especially if he started when that was still something special, then it would not be too far fetched to attribute divine ancestry to him, if you believe in this sort of thing.

        There are probably at least a few churches of Scion out there.

        • I can see him being viewed as second coming. Where Christ was a teacher, Scion is a warrior. Or something like that.

          • We know that there is at least one sizable team of devout christians in the form of Haven. And it makes sense. In real life people who suffer a trigger event like truama also end up finding or renewing faith. I can imagine a few teams of born again christians out there.

            • Some Neo-Norse Pagans think Scion might be Balder. We’re waiting for someone to throw mistletoe at him to confirm.

              • This is probably the worst experimental design, ever.

                How do you write up success? So… the guy who could have saved the world? Killed him. On the bright side, my hypothesis has been confirmed!

                You wouldn’t be published, you’d be lynched.

                Justifiably.

              • Well, you don’t have to sharpen it to a spear, you know? Maybe a twig or two with leaves will suffice and he will smile half awkwardly and give you the peck you’ve been so eagerly waiting for.

  32. The world probably now finally knows Grue is black. Just a small thing.

    A scarab has the ability to defy the laws of nature and society to make shit roll uphill.

  33. Guessing they edited out anything that could have identified a cape (such as some of the hospital scenes, if anyone had their mask off) plus anything to do with Cauldron (as no-one in the comment thread was discussing it, but they were asking about Phir Se).

    If Glenn was the editor, he left in the Undersiders part to humanize her and the others. A fair few of the comments were about how they couldn’t believe they were villains. It also makes Regent’s later sacrifice more touching, to have watched Imp and Regent joking and playing off each other, then Regent sacrificing himself to draw Behemoth away from Imp.

    The Phir Se part is a bit more complex – perhaps to reinforce that she can communicate and negotiate with villains, that she has respect on both sides of the fence? Perhaps because removing that would remove one of the major things she did during the fight (coordinating the time bomb), or to show on the screens how the fight with Behemoth was going. Or because it would have been an obvious gap, and if it’s obviously edited people will trust it less. Knowing Phir Se’s plan also ups the stakes dramatically: it’s no longer “hit Behemoth until he goes away” it’s “I hit Behemoth and kill him, or he steals this energy and turns New Delhi to glass”.

    I wonder how people would reinterpret some parts knowing that Weaver could communicate across distances with her power – there’s a massive difference between her going to the hospital then going to look for Phir Se and her talking to Tecton to keep him updated in the meantime.

    • When a person thinks of a superhero or villain, they tend to see them in terms of black and white, with an almost cartoonish sense of character. The divergence point for this timeline took place not long after the Silver Age of comics and into the Bronze Age, meaning people’s perceptions were probably rather idealized in how they viewed the capes that were starting to permeate their surroundings. Good is good, evil is evil, with little space for a middle ground. One of the characteristics of comic books is that death is cheap and not often final, so there would probably be a subconscious association with this stereotype. In essence, what this video does is bring into focus exactly what and who these capes are: they are human, subject to every emotion that the everyman experiences and they fight and die like dogs so that those they love stand a fighting chance. The viewer is confronted with the realization that the lines of morality that were so distinctly delineated in pop culture and the media aren’t quite so clear and actually completely fall apart during Endbringer events. Then there’s the matter of Regent’s sacrifice. The common perception is that villains are motivated for their own personal gain at the expense of others, but captured on video is a member of one of the world’s most notorious villain teams sacrificing himself to save another. This video isn’t just humanizing, it shatters the stereotypes surrounding capes. The PRT’s purpose seems to largely center around building up public trust for these parahumans, a group by its nature that is inscrutable to outsiders. By releasing this video, Glenn may have accomplished more in one afternoon than the PRT has accomplished in the last 20 years.

      • There’s also the complete turnaround from the prior method they used, which was “make the capes look like the comic book versions.” This video transitions the public image from something like the A-Team TV show to something like the Band of Brothers miniseries*, only more so, because this video has stuff like that burnt child at the 12-minute mark.

        …man, now I want to watch Band of Brothers again.

        * Incidentally, both of these shows post-date the point of divergence.

          • That depends on two things: first, are old TV shows important enough to justify paying the data transmission fees, and second, when was the point of divergence for Earth Aleph relative to our world? The A-Team began in 1983, so if superheroes appeared later in Earth Aleph, that probably existed … but the book that the Band of Brothers miniseries was based on wasn’t written until 1992, and the series not filmed until 2001.

            That said, if the latter is still early enough that it exists on Earth Aleph, I could imagine people drawing comparisons between 1st Lt. Richard Winters and Weaver. That was actually one of the reasons I mentioned it — I was thinking especially of the Brécourt Manor Assault in Episode 2.

            • You know what stinks? The Michael Keaton Batman wasn’t until like 89. If superheroes fell out of popularity by that time, that means the only live action Batman they’ve had was Adam West.

              • If we go by the superpower osmosis by portal hypothesis, then Aleph’s point of divergence is the time Haywire opened the portal between Aleph and Beth.
                The matter-of-fact way the existence of parallel Earth’s was mentioned respectively, we can assume the portal has been around some time, but at the same probably not as long as Scion, so it is reasonable to assume some years after Scion, at the least. Mayhaps Aleph at least has Michael Keaton Batman.

                I’d love some confirmation by Wildbow when the connection between Aleph and Bet was established. And if the naming convention was diplomatic appeasement.

              • I, too, would like to know more about Professor Haywire and his world-connecting experiment. The fact that Worm takes place on Earth Bet suggested to me that he was from Earth Aleph, but I’m pretty sure all we know about the guy is that he is (a) a supervillain and (b) dead.

              • That was my running interpretation as well, until I read the chapters/parts mentioning Haywire again.
                Agitation Arc:

                watched some of Alec’s movies from Earth-Aleph, the alternate Earth that our Earth had been communicating with since Professor Haywire tore a hole between realities. Media was one of the few things that could be traded back and forth through the hole.

                Battery’s interlude:

                Like Earth Aleph? The one Haywire opened the portal to?

                Migration Arc:

                A vault holding the equipment of now-deceased supervillain ‘Professor Haywire’ was accessed by the Simurgh. Shortly after, the source alleges, the Simurgh activated a large-scale replica of the devices,(…)

                Parahumans Online Interlude

                Breakdown of Haywire’s research says we can’t get to alt. Earths that are too close to our own. Closest Earth to our own is Aleph, and deviation from that world started 30 years ago, the moment Scion arrived.

                Number Man Interlude

                When the Simurgh had attacked Madison, she’d copied Haywire’s technology to open a gate to a building much like this one. A research facility. The portal had dumped the buildings, soil, plant life and all the residents into the city on Earth Bet

                Especially Battery’s interlude stands out. My going hypothesis is with the threat/possibility of interdimensional invasion looming and Bet’s parahumans being more numerous and much stronger, generally, the start point of the portal was Bet, but to appease and allege fears the naming was turned around, to make Aleph “first”.

  34. This was really outstanding. And you managed to bring depth to several characters in very short narrations. You’re getting even better at writing, and I have the sneak suspicion I did not notice this particular improvement so far because of the lack of interludes.

    The chapter name is interesting too… Scarabs are highly symbolic, and kh-pr (could not find an hyerogliphic font :P) should more or less mean “becoming, transforming”. Fitting.

    I laughed hard at the forum bit. Thanks for the alternate universe equivalent, it gives me warm fuzzies. I’m not sure if you’re actually picking up the styles of us to transpose and/or mimick them (looks so for Ne, but I had not time to check everyone out), but if it is you’re awesome at text analysis too.

    • edit: hell, I fear I just realized cauldron’s endgame. Hope I’m wrong, and they are not basing their plans on some kind of prediction. (Or, worse yet, Contessa’s powers)

      • If I ever run across the S9 in this dimension, they’re dead. Just politely ignore any similarities between what I did to Memphis and what Bonesaw did to Brockton Bay that you read about at midnight central time tonight.

        • Now I have to wonder if any Cape sextapes ever get posted online. I can imagine Bambina being all “Godfuckingdamn it, stop taking my videos down, I only look underage!”

          • “Sartyr – Name’s not a coincidence”
            “Impin’ Pimpin’”
            “Armsmaster & Fisti’Cuffs”
            “Battery – Running out”
            “Cherish Riding A Chariot”
            “Garotte & Cuff, Dynamic Duo!”

          • “How to Train Your Dragon”
            “Pretender in “How i got in her panties””
            “A Bitch in heat 2″
            and “Bonersaw”

          • 1 – I would say Yes. She’s quite prissy.
            2 – Yes we know, she is.
            3 – uh, I guess it’s a yes to this one too

          • “Candy is Dandy but Vikare is Quicker”

            “Miss Militia and Chevalier in: ‘Weapon Comparison’”

            “Clockblocked”

            “Defiling Purity”

            “Birdcage By Night”

            “Narwhal’s Horny Day”

            “Jack Slashfiction”

          • @En
            Just had in mind that Bonesaw looks and acts like a little girl.
            But with her power she could have started as a ageing researcher … ok, that would be Siberian … but she could pull a Bambina. Where do we know what her actual age is from? Did i miss something?

            Also

            “SIberian Nights: More stripes, more fun”

          • >Just had in mind that Bonesaw looks and acts like a little girl.
            But with her power she could have started as a ageing researcher … ok, that would be Siberian … but she could pull a Bambina. Where do we know what her actual age is from? Did i miss something?

            It’s at the end of the S9 arc when Jack and Bonesaw are confronting Panacea. Jack is doing his “join the dark side” spiel and Bonesaw makes a comment on how they could make her look younger. Pancea wonders if that’s what Bonesaw has done to nerself and Jack assures her that Bonesaw is a genuine child and that’s why her actions are so beautiful.

  35. It seems that the reason the PRT had for not releasing any footage from Endbringer fights and doing a news-blackout on the Echidna thing was at leas t partly justified.

    Some of the comments on the video make it clear that the public really isn’t prepared to learn what it looks like when capes fight all out.

    I wonder how the public will deal withe knowledge about how scary their heroes and viallains could be.

    Expecially if you consider that there is now hope that all the Endbringers could be killed, it might give some civillains ideas about the justification for keeping such extremely scary and dangerous indivuals around at all. Contingency plans for a solution to the ‘parhuman problem’ might be made…

    • And so the world begins to ask: can we nuke all the parahumans before they can retaliate? The answer seems to be: unlikely.

      Heck Eidolon can probably stop a nuke or two if he has enough prep time and one has to wonder what would Scion do if a war against parahumans breaks out.

  36. Tinfoil Hat Time!

    Scion is the only one in the setting that actually has superpowers. He’s autistic, and has reality warping powers on a global scale. The Endbringers are beings that he creates as outlets for his anger and frustration with the world. Other capes because he likes comic books, and wants to live in one. Possible he did this to whole other worlds before he came to this one, ruining them. Cauldron is chasing him from world to world trying to figure out a way to stop him.

    • Like Haruhi Suzumiya!
      This is plausible in the context of the setting but not likely considering literary devices. “It was just a dream” is probably one of the most unfulfilling plot twists ever, after all.

      • heh, I didn’t mean it was a dream. I meant that Scion really was giving everyone superpowers. In this theory, he’s the source. He’s the Passengers. His reality warping powers brought capes into being based on his unconscious urges for a world he can understand and perhaps have a place in, and his need for there to be others like him, who feel emotions as strongly as he does.

        Just because the Endbringers would be a product of his reality-warping mind doesn’t make them any less dangerous or deadly, or make the ramifications of capes any less real.

        • I have never seen someone so unwittingly summarize a plot of a show they (apparently) didn’t know and still be mostly correct.

          What you described is the premise of Haruhi Suzumiya. The eponymous girl is a reality warper unaware of her power and wishing for adventure. Thus, adventure happens. ESPer, aliens, time travelers congregate on her position without her being aware of it (for plot reasons), and one common theory, if not canon (I don’t honestly know), is her wishing ESPer, aliens and time travelers into existence.

          You see how you kind of summarized that fictional universe’s premise?

          • Huh. Well how about that?

            I will admit there do seem to be some few similarities yes. I’ve actually never watched much anime beyond Cowboy Bebop (because flippin’ everyone has seen cowboy bebop), Ghost in the Shell, and Escaflowne (oddly).

            • It also bears some similarity to the superhero story “Message from the Bubblegum Factory” by Daryl Gregory. In the story, it is hypothesized that the first real superhero, a Superman expy, arrived from another, boring universe and is pretty much in control of their universe. After he shows up, so did superheroes and supervillains. Like a big fantasy for the Superman expy to enjoy and have adventures in.

      • I think the all-a-dream-set of story is not necessarily bad. But I easily grant you the way it is overdone, massively so. If a writer finds themselves with a plot in an overarching storyline they or their audience didn’t like, they find it easy to push this button, since it neatly resets the narrative to a chosen point in the storyline. It totally disregards the work spent and expectations and feelings invested in a part of the story without any kind of fulfilment.
        Sadly, this is the prevalent use of this narrative technique. This by no means is an indication of it being inherently bad, though.
        To point at one recent example that, in my humble opinion, did exceedingly well albeit using this narrative container was Inception. The setting in itself was already plenty aware of dreamscapes, but the ending was the cherry on top selling me this movie. And in case you didn’t watch it, be aware this did not actually spoil the ending. You may watch it yet and even being aware of all-a-dream, may still enjoy and be surprised by it.

        • I generally think of “It was all a dream” as an EXTREMELY dangerous writer’s ploy, that usually isn’t worth the return on investment. While it CAN be done right, more often than not an ambitious story-teller will ruin their story by trying it.

          Inception IS a good example of a way to do this sorta right, but I’m not sure we can properly discuss this without it quickly getting spoilery as all heckfire :D

  37. So it looks like Weaver may end up in Chicago. If so, I have a question. Brockton Bay had unusually warm winters but I don’t think Chicago does. How will Taylor manage to operate in cold weather?

    • Thicker undergarments, perhaps? The way she was talking about her suit being uncomfortable in the summer, I think she might prefer the cold as a problem to deal with.

        • Well, she ought to be glad the fleshbags most often live in temperate dwellings then, right?

          Of course you’re right, her toolbox would probably filled less. But it was rarely numbers, or at least such numbers, that overwhelmed her enemies but rather aptly applied parts of her swarms. But if she’ll have official support I’d expect some kind of setup on rooftops or something storing a decent amount of bugs in some kind of pattern. Or at least that’s what I would want and try to include if I had her power.

          • Renting a couple of cheap abandoned warehouses near the old docks and industrial area (reading Dresden Files has made me fell like I actually know jack about Chicago, lol), and insulating them would solve things, plus filling some troughs with sugar now and then. I also think some kinds of bees do okayish in the cold, or can find/make warm spaces easily, and that probably fits with what her new compromise is going to be, assuming the tribunal has a vaguely sane outcome.

            …I don’t know why I’m assuming that.

              • the more rational response is, of course, “What are the insectiod conditions of the Birdcage?”

                I’d posit a small by thriving insect colony, as those little buggers will lay their tiny eggs in almost anything. Plus, if anyone can get a good idea of how the inner workings of the Cage functions, it’ll be Skitter.

                From a storyteller’s perspective, I’m not sure we’ll ever get to see her sent in. Dragon is not likely to do so (unless her reboot went a little more poorly than it appears), and it would neatly derail her current character arc, not to mention invalidate the sacrifice of the good Mr. Glenn.

                From a reader’s perspective, I do so hope we see it happen.

                It occurs to me that the powers that be will likely never approve the release of the prisoners of the Cage. Too much red tape. Who better to stage a breakout than our friendly neighborhood Weaver-Girl?

              • I guess for me, mostly it’s that whenever I have a mental image of the tribunal going the not-sane route, my mental image of Chevalier limps in whilst still wearing still his hospital gown, a young nurse frantically wheeling his IV trolley behind him, and then starts physically beating them all with a large office stapler whilst continually shouting obscenities about how he can’t leave them alone for ten minutes without them fucking up.
                :-)

    • I’m not sure of the specifics or even how useful they would be, but I’m to understand that Lake Michigan has freshwater crabs and other marine arthropods present. Way back in the first few chapters, Taylor demonstrated an ability to control crabs, so she could potentially augment her swarm with them if she were desperate enough. Since they live in cold water, I imagine they’d handle frigid temperatures a bit better.

  38. Okay, if Wanton gets a prosthesis will it be transformed with him when he uses his power? Because if not…. Well he can now pummel people in his tornado, or launch it out as a ranged attack!

    On a different note I am thinking about doing a one shot fanfiction set in the Wormverse. But I’d like a little help with a name. I’m trying to think of a good one that means or implies someone mounted on horseback, and I don’t want to use Jockey.

    • Sepahi. It was the term used for the cavalry elite in the Ottoman Empire. If you’re going for an armored horse, you could use Kataphraktos, the Ancient Greek term for heavy cavalry.

    • What about Centaur. This fabled creature most likely derives its origins from mounted horses… and at the same time you can subvert the hell out of the expectations of the readers :)

    • Cataphract isn’t bad. If we want to continue the theme there’s also Mamluk,Dragoon, Cuirassier, Charger.

      Of those I suggested I prefer Mamluk, frankly.

      • Mamluk actually refers to the military-slave caste that, in many places (most notably in Egypt), eventually ended up running the show. The name “mamluk” is a transliteration of the Arabic word “owned,” i.e. property or an owned person. That’s also how it’s most commonly used, I think. So…might have some unfortunate implications.

        • Although it *is* a pretty badass name. Honestly, the various implications could speak to the character as well. Nothing says that this particular guy/gal would pick a perfect name.

        • Hmm. You learn new things everyday. Appreciate it. The only thing I I knew about mamluks was that they were some badass heavy-cavalry and that Napoleon integrated them in his army after he conquered Egypt.

    • @Packbat: Equestrian is a main character in another superhero web serial: Wonder City Stories.

      @Hobbes: a name that means “pwnd” sounds good to me :)

      For suggestions:
      Αὐγείας (Augeias): an argonaut fabled for his stables of divine beasts
      Βελλεροφόντης (Bellerophontes): tamed Pegasus

    • My suggestion is “Parthian” after the Middle Eastern horse archers. They were famous for the Parthian Shot, where they would retreat from an enemy and turn around to fire back at them. It was very effective. Some have suggested it’s where we get the term “Parting Shot” from, but that’s not clear, though the term can mean an insult in the same way as “Parting Shot” does.

      The Parthians were also known to kick some Roman ass back in the day.

      • Bareback is on a team out in the boonies with Holstien and Shitstorm, put there because the PR guys didn’t even want to acknowledge their existance.

        I’m going to start typing some stuff up tonight. I won’t say how major anyones roles are going to be, but here’s some cape names that will appear. Cocoon, Forgemisteress, Integrator, Murphy, Pop-Up, Revoke, and Noctus.

        • Wait, are you suggesting a team based on a guy who fights mounted without a saddle, a cape that turns into a cow, and a coprokinetic? I can imagine some devastating synergy there.

            • Bareback’s power is that he can control any animal he can get skin contact with. The more skin the better. Holstien is a case 53 cute monster girl with impressive rankings for Brute, Striker, Mover, and huge tracts of land. Shitstorm actually once drove the Smurf off singlehandedly, but left several city blocks covered in sewage. The PRT expunged all records of that attack, swore everyone involved to silence, and claim the Smurf took the year off.

              • Simurgh: “Oh fuck, I knew this was going to happen, but why did I do it anyway?! I can taste it! Oh god, I can taste it with my MIND. Why did I not have Leviathan sub for me on this one? OH GODDAMMIT IT IS STUCK TO MY FEATHERS!”

    • Cavalry. (fill in descriptor) Rider. The Scythian. The Parthinian (ancient horse-archers famous for being able to twist in the saddle and fire wile retreating.) Hittite. Centaur. Knight. Paladin. Courser. Chevalier (taken.)

      Or how about regional cavalry names? Cataphract. Angarius (Roman mailman.) Hidalgo. Cuirassier. El Cid. Jazda. Kawaleria. Konnica. Hussar. Cossack.

  39. Some initial thoughts:

    -Wow. Let me just say thank you wildbow, the last chapter was a show-stopper after an arc or two of buildup, but this one managed the difficult task of following that in a way that kept me hooked. Seriously, you’re awesome.

    -We’ve always wondered if Glenn was actually that stupid, or really a good guy playing a deeper game. I’d gone for stupidity, because as Glenn says, never underestimate it’s extent, but now I think I might have been wrong, and I’m glad. I like the bit where he said “Did you really think I’m actually that stupid?”, hehe. Did he release the video in an effort to help, to prompt a public reaction that would stop the PRT holding a secret tribunal and hanging Taylor out to dry? Seems that way, kinda, plus he’s using her in a bigger game than that. One might even interpret his words as him having realised that the Protectorate needs to start hiring villains- the way we’ve speculated, and Taylor can be a harbinger for that, as wel.

    -wildbow you are such a tease for not letting us see the tribunal or what’s happening with Dragon/Saint! We love it though.

    -I’ve said previously that whatever others might do, if Chevalier has the chance to fully watch that footage, he will stand by her. I stick by that belief. If the tribunal starts to go badly, with people with grudges gunning for her, and ignoring that her actions were necessary and probably contributed massively to Behemoths death and saving vast numbers of lives, then towards the end I expect him to storm in from his hospital bed and start wrecking people’s shit.

    -I was really touched at the shout-out in the PHonline segment, cheers wildbow!

    -Dear lord Danny, would you fucking be her dad already? You’re her parent, you’re the one who has to take the emotional hit and be the grown-up. I can’t be too harsh on him though, it seems like Anette fulfilled that role, with her loss and the other 27 things, the poor guy’s the emotional equivalent of walking wounded. Really you’re just left wanting to gibe them both a hug.

    • To address some issue with Danny:
      I certainly agree with you, with Danny needing to grow up a bit, to step up his parenting game, but at the same time…
      Do you have children? I don’t and therefore am probably incapable of most of the required empathy (in the sense of putting my mind in a parent’s place), but maybe this is just the way he is? I certainly think I’d be kind of afraid of Taylor, if I was her dad. But I’d be afraid for her as well! Especially with all that has happened. When did Taylor don her costume the first time, April? And we’re just in July. From his perspective it went like this:

      Anette dies. What do I do? What do I do?! ooOH GOOoooDDdD!?!
      Taylor is suddenly not best friends with Emma anymore.
      Taylor gets withdrawn. Taylor dresses more conservatively, more mellow. I try to talk with her, she avoids the issue.
      Taylor goes on runs more often. It helps her, hopefully?
      Taylor is being mobbed at school?! Let her cool down, give her space.
      Taylor is more… I try to talk to her. She avoids the issue. Give her space.
      Taylor came back home late and bruised. Did she get in a fight?
      Taylor has some new friends. She doesn’t talk to me about them. I give her space. She doesn’t use the safe word. Good friends?
      Taylor starts skipping school. She thinks I don’t know. I don’t press it.
      Taylor starts spending nights with her new friends.
      Taylor drops out. The bruises keep coming. I hope it’s martial arts. She tries to keep me unaware.
      Taylor, what do I do? What should we do?
      Leviathan? FFFfffff… TAYLOR? WHERE IS SHE?! I should have kept up with her more, should have get her to talk!
      Taylor doesn’t come home anymore. At all. Saw her running one day. We want to mend things.
      The Slaughterhouse 9?! I hope, I’ll even pray my Taylor is safe…
      Taylor. Skitter. Taylor. Skitter. Taylor. Taylor… what happened?
      The PRT brought me over to their HQ. They want to hurt my child. I protect her! …taylor. killed. people… killed Alexandria.

      • I liked your monologue, thought it was a brilliant exposition of what I said about 27 things flying into him from nowhere, makes him messing stuff up far more forgiveable, the man’s human after all.

        On the having been a parent- no, but I know without a shadow of a doubt what my parent would do in that situation, and I’ve looked after people and I know what would be required of me there.

        As for being a dad and the whole fear angle- I think he is definitely afraid for her, but I can’t believe he’s afraid of her, because good parents aren’t really programmed that way. Your mum/dad is the person who if they see you standing with a bloodied knife in a room full of stabbed corpses, their first and overriding thought is going to be hugging you and making sure you’re okay, and even if you then stab them, that feeling doesn’t change. It’s a kind of total selflessness, almost a kind of death of yourself as an individual, really- it’s what I’ve gotten and what I’ll pass on to my kids, if I find someone who that could work with.

        Danny’s problem isn’t that he’s afraid of her, it’s that he’s afraid for her and he’s afraid that he’s impotent to help her again. I mean, seriously, the guy felt helpless when school bullies were picking on her, now it’s the entire PRT and fucking Behemoth, how much worse must it be? That fear is truly crippling, it’s the worst thing in the world to a loving parent like Danny. I honestly feel so badly for him, it’s truly gut-wrenchingly heart breaking. I want to hug him. I want to stop time and send him and Taylor on a surfing holiday in Devon in our world for three months.

        But at the end of the day, he’s the dad- the prerogative kinda defaults to him to fix this, as fucked up and unfair as that may be. I desperately hope that he and Taylor can fix things, or even that Glenn helps them, if that’s what it takes.

        I think my earlier comment may have come as overly condemnatory of Danny- my actual view is more that he’s failing a bit, but only because he’s literally right at the edge of his limitations as a person, and so while it is a failure, it’s not a moral failure, if that makes sense?

        Tolkien in one of his letters said much the same thing, about how he didn’t think we should blame Frodo for failing, right at the end, even though he did inarguably fail- when you’re simply at the limits of your capacity, you can’t really be blamed any more than you can than if a falling rock hit you on your way to the chamber, while you were tying your best.

        • Thank you, I like being validated :) (you literally just made my day, now that I think on it…)

          Actually, we seem to be on the same line of thinking on Danny. A did a poor job with the afraid of her part, since he’s not afraid of her stabbing him or such, but afraid of what she is, perhaps. There’s a magnitude of cognitive dissonance, of having to incorporate what he knew of Skitter and trying to compile this with his little girl.
          And like you said, he seems to be at his limit. Ironically enough, for all the space he gave Taylor he now actually needs some for himself. He kind of needs to brood, needs to go over his conceptions about Skitter, Weaver, Capes and Endbringers and come to grips his darling girl is now part of that world, more so than she is part of his.
          So he’s not afraid of her, no. Overwhelmed by this… projection of all things she is, while he still sees Taylor at the heart of it.

          • I suspect the fear isn’t actually of his daughter, at least not completely. There is likely to be a lot of self-loathing in there. His daughter became a murderer and one of the most prominent super-villains on the PLANET. I’m not saying she didn’t have her reasons, but it would be irrational to think this would not be going through his mind.

            I’d be shocked if he didn’t feel like he’s failed his daughter on a huge number of levels. People tend to see their children as reflections of their own parenting. If he feels like he screwed Taylor up bad enough to make her a super-villain, perhaps he feels (if only subconsciously) like he deserves to have his daughter turn on him and attack him. That would, in turn, probably present as a fear reaction.

            • Well, yes, he feels like he failed his daughter for the simple reason that he did fail his daughter.

              You could quibble over whether the deck was sufficiently stacked against him that he never really had a chance, but I would imagine that he’s spent a lot of time trying to figure out what he could have done differently.

              He’s probably looked back at what was a pretty key break point for Taylor in proving to her that playing by the rules didn’t work (the meeting with her tormentors and the principal back in Hive 5.4), thinking that all of the other parents walked out of that meeting having protected their kids, but that the most he can say is that at least he didn’t make things worse. He has to have wondered if Taylor would now be a shiny happy member of the Wards if he had had enough money or power to get her into Arcadia or some other good school after her hospitalization rather than handing her right back to her tormentors, or even what would have happened if he just taken the both of them and moved somewhere else to give them both a fresh start.

              (Now, it’s reasonable for us to say that the world would be worse off if Taylor had become Weaver right off the bat instead of Skitter, but there’s so many variables that I don’t know that we can say that with absolute certainty, and Taylor’s father lacks even our limited omniscience. For that matter, saying that the world is better off because he let Taylor suffer doesn’t necessarily make it any better.)

              Absent a Dinah-level thinker sitting down and persuading him that he couldn’t have made anything better, I’m not sure there’s really a solution that’s going to make him feel better.

              It would be easier if Taylor were a full-blown psychopathic supervillain because than he could say there was nothing he could do. Finding out that she was on the knife’s edge between hero and villain for a while, and latched on to the Undersiders because she felt she had no one else to turn to, is just going to make him think that he could have nudged things in the right direction if only he had just made better decisions.

              It doesn’t even help that he didn’t necessarily know about the problems, because that just adds another level of perceived failure: one of his fears (Interlude 1) is that the reason for Taylor not confiding in him about the bullying was his inability to control his temper, leading her to conceal things from him to avoid him going off on an impotent rampage.

              It would almost be better if Taylor did blame him. A response that he can perceive as “It’s okay, Dad, I don’t blame you for not protecting me, because you were never really the kind of father I could count on to protect me” would have to be a bitter pill to swallow.

          • I’m really pleased about that man, that monologue was totally boss, you rock :-)

            And yeah, we seem to be on the same page about Danny. They just need to catch a break really, poor things, at it’s bedrock their love for each other is still pretty solid- hence why they’re both feeling so awful.

            In many ways, if they didn’t both feel really upset and worried right now, that would probably be very bad sign.

  40. I had a thought I want feedback on, primarily to see if I have imagined it. I think there is a trend that some characters (not all) are brought into the story and portrayed a a**holes, only to be seen from a different viewpoint, with more information, or with more development as worthy of respect or liking. Examples include Bitch, Regent, Glenn, and Armsmaster/Defiant. For a more general example of this writing tactic, consider Legend’s meeting with Cauldron that included Eidolon and Alexandria – from the initial perspective it looked really bad, but then we got more background that made it look significantly better (still not good).
    However, I am having a hard time coming up with a character who started out as respectable and/or likeable and then turned into an a**hole. Note that I am not talking about characters with little initial development – Alexandria started out as a legendary figure with little development – when she did start getting fleshed out she was already clearly shady and ruthless.
    So, my questions for the forum: Who got better? Who got worse? And is there enough of an imbalance to call it a writing trend?
    Thanks in advance for any feedback.

    • I would have actually picked Regent as something of the reverse — he was introduced as a pleasant enough guy as far as snarky jerks go, but then there’s just a succession of darker and darker reveals about his nature, climaxing with what he did to Shadow Stalker. He never becomes unsympathetic, but he looks a lot less innocent than he initially did.

      I think the main reason why things don’t go the other way is because it doesn’t usually play well with the readers when you have a character they like transform into a character they hate — even if it’s a matter of finding more about their hidden depths or whatever. (As a webcomic dork, Siggy from Dominic Deegan is the first one that comes to mind, but I’m sure you can come up with better examples.)

    • What about Trickster? He seemed sort of cool the first few times we saw him, but he rapidly degenerated in an asshole. Or am I the only one to think that?

      • No, you’re right — when he walked into Somer’s Rock in 5.1, it was a boss first appearance. Hell, his rescuing Clockblocker during the Leviathan arc was classic. It wasn’t until later that it became clear just how rotten he was behind the facade.

        • Am I the only one who mostly just pitied Krouse?

          Like, seriously, I was just left wanting to get him and Cody and Noelle and maybe 32 and put them in a Norwegian style rehabilitation centre, probably not in the same houses, but there’d be group therapy. And their parents can see them. With the staff being Kryptonians or some shit like that, to help nip any silliness in the bud. The other Travellers might benefit from that, as well.

          Not that I’m disputing that our image of him didn’t go downhill from his first appearance or anything.

          • The vibe I got from Krouse was, to talk in TVT, an odd amalgation of “Jerk with a heart of Gold” and “My country, right or wrong”, the result being “jerk with ‘my love, right or wrong’”.

          • The chief problem I had with Krouse was that he apparently divided the world into three parts: the part that was Noelle, the part that was helping Noelle, and the part that wasn’t helping Noelle … and gave less than zero shits about anything in the third part. He would — and did! — lie, steal, betray, and kill without compunction if it meant helping Noelle.

            Only difference I can see between him and Coil is that Krouse’s ambitions weren’t for himself.

            • Oh, I agree with your appraisal of his world-view, but that doesn’t really make me stop pitying him, personally. He just needs more serious help and healing than he otherwise might, to match the seriousness of his issues.

              • I think what makes it especially hard for me to sympathize is the way I misread the ending of the Migration arc to be about Cody instead of Coil — if Krouse had shown remorse for any of the crimes he committed (like sentencing Cody to what he assumed was death), I’d be a lot more willing to see him as a flawed, desperate man … but he doesn’t. He just smokes a cigarette, turns around, and shoots his friends in the back.

                One of the ideas I really like is the Moral Foundations Theory: Care/harm, Fairness/cheating, Liberty/oppression, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. This six axes do a pretty darn good job of describing moral instincts, and I can’t see Krouse getting higher than a D on a single axis. He will hurt, cheat, trap, and betray anyone for his chosen bride, tradition and law be damned. The only thing I can say for him is that he doesn’t go out of his way to hurt people — and in this setting, I’ll concede that ain’t nothing. But screw that guy.

              • From my reading of him, he’s basically a functional sociopath*, who just about manages to genuinely love his mother and later Noelle, and was saved by that love, for a time. I think he was being entirely truthful when he said Noelle was the best thing that ever happened to him. I find his story all the more moving, the fate of those he hurt all the more tragic, because he had his one redeeming hope as a human being taken from him, and all his wrong acts were part of his futile efforts to get it back. It’s almost Shakespearian really, as you can probably tell, Migration is one of my favourite arcs.

                Yeah, he did awful things and has deep-seated and probably partly intractable problems, that doesn’t really make me stop pitying someone, I guess.

                I completely understand and respect your feelings on the matter, though.

              • Highly functioning sociopath is a pretty good description of him, I think. Not being a psychologist I am hardly a proper judge on this matter, but it does gel with my perception of what sociopathy entails.

              • Yeah. There’s like, a lot of people who basically live with high functioning sociopathy the way someone lives with any mental condition. Trying to be as normal as possible, possibly seeking help, and obviously in their case, trying to learn to be more empathetic and make sure they don’t hurt people. Tragic, in a way, and Krouse seemed like he might have been coming to terms with that, and could still access some love with Noelle and his mum.

                The along comes the fucking Smiurgh…

    • Who got worse? Trickster, Noelle, Ballistic to a point, Brutus, all of New Wave. Cannot think of anyone else right now.

        • Brutus is taking a moment out from enjoying doggie heaven to say that he appreciates you giving him a good scratch.

      • In Glory Girl’s introduction, she broke a man’s back with a dumpster and guilt-tripped her sister into covering up for her. I don’t see her as going downhill from there.

        • The hero community as a whole, as introduced as these shining beacons of justice through Taylors initial image of them, once we started to get some closer looks at the corruption, the red tape, and the behaviour of some of them.

          • Yes, but Unmaker said “Note that I am not talking about characters with little initial development – Alexandria started out as a legendary figure with little development – when she did start getting fleshed out she was already clearly shady and ruthless.” When Glory Girl started getting fleshed out, she was already clearly self-centered, callous, and careless.

    • I’d argue that Armsmaster’s evolution has been fundamentally different than the others you mention. In fact, at least from Taylor’s point of view, he certainly started out as respectable and went downhill from there, until his identity change to Defiant. The difference now is character evolution due to Dragon’s influence.

      By contrast, Bitch, Regent, and Glenn could plausibly be seen as acting under consistent attitudes all along. Their changes are much more a matter of how much we know about them now, plus how much Taylor and other narrators have learned. For an example of the latter, Bitch would still appear… bitchy if we (and Taylor) hadn’t discovered that with the right handling, she can be brought out of her shell.

      Hmmm, now I really want to see how Emma and Shadow Stalker are each coping with this succession of revelations about Taylor, since I don’t think we’ve seen them since she was outed. Will either of them grow, or just become even more bitter?

        • Sure, but a lot has happened since then, including the demise of Alexandria, and Taylor switching sides. I’d expect Sophia’s emotional response to ratchet up further each time Taylor’s in the news.

          We also got a brief reaction shot of Emma around the same time, and it looked to me like she had the potential to go either uphill or fast downhill in response. I don’t have enough sense of her core character to guess which way these further events would take her.

          So, yup. Still curious. :-)

          • Shadow Stalker is probably in a semi-catatonic state and will come out of it if given the opportunity to commit SUICIDE by Skitter.

            Emma on the other hand is most likely a twitchy arachnophobe who lives in one of those “Bubble Boy” things and has given herself cancer from excessive Raid inhalation. That or moved to Alaska.

            • “will only come out of it” Dammit. Wildbow, if you can find a moment to edit the previous post and erase this one, I will be … even more grateful to you than I am already.

  41. How chapter ending conversation will always continue in my head:

    “Defiant?“

    Defiant couldn’t move, as he held a heavy concrete slab out of the way for emergency crews. He used the cursor embedded in his eye to select the ‘answer’ command, and shut the vents around his mouth.

    “Tiamat II, hold off on any reports for now.” Can’t take it, not right this moment.

    “It’s me.“….

    …”Dragon?”

    “Yes Colin. I’ve been doing some thinking about your attitude towards women. Okay. Look. We both said a lot of things that you’re going to regret. But I think we can put our differences behind us. For science. You monster.”

    And the next Endbringer fight is a festival of turrets and neurotoxin.

  42. Negadarkwing’s comment made me think:

    The way sexualization, gender issues and orientation seem to be much more mellow or less pronounced in the Worm’verse (if only because of lack of narrative focus?), it stands to reason the discrimination and violence based on religion may as well be less… egregious as in real life.

    I mean, guessing it had been discussed in previous chapter’s comment threads I wasn’t part of, but on TVT at least it has been hypothesized the general circumstances of trigger events –physical/psychological trauma– make victims of bullying, discrimination and objectification if not more likely, but at least more exposed to circumstances leading to a trigger event and powers. And humans being humans I can see enough of them wanting to exact some kind of revenge, retribution or payback for harm endured and what not.

    While these issues are easily more on mind in western cultures, and not wanting to discard or disregard these problems in other cultures, they also face other, more culturally relevant issues.
    Like this recent arc in New Delhi showed us, the flamboyant Garama and the secretive and violent Thanda are two iterations of parahumans you’d be hard-pressed to find in western culture (though there’s some parallel to Las Vegas interpretation). They organize according to the values imbued in them, giving their general organization and their societal lines and niches a unique approach.
    But getting back to the point, they also face their own and local pressures and general circumstances for trigger events. This may be, among others, religion. Not discarding the role religion plays in western culture, but there’s certainly a trend towards secularization and religious freedom of choice. Other countries and cultures may not look at it this way. Looking at our universe, there’s religious prosecution, witch hunts, sects and churches of the same (general) religion battling each other, with whichever being currently in power putting the boot on the other(s).

    But, in light of the circumstances leading to trigger events, to powers, to retribution and escalation, what do you think did this lead to in other cultures? Maybe, hopefully, the religious feuds mellowed somewhat, since you could never know if the person you’re stoning right now, rightfully so in your law and faith, may not trigger any minute now, but at the same time they may. Where will you be when you victim turns out to be invulnerable, looking every single thrower in the eye as the stones suddenly bounce harmlessly of the head. Maybe the threat of this thought alone will halt your hand the next time.

    • I really doubt that people hesitate to enforce their views any more, but it’s possible that they tend to use lethal force more, as opposed to hostages or bullying. People like Shadow Stalker are pretty likely to get weeded out a lot more than in real life, just because behavior that might cause your enemies to trigger has a tendency to get them killed or otherwise taken out.

      On the other hand, regular world-threatening situations and constant low-key war between heroes and villains probably does a lot to forestall much philosophical argument of any kind. When the big political arguments of the era are civil rights and healthcare, it’s usually a sign that humanity is in a pretty secure place. Humans, culturally, don’t worry much about fairness when their continued existence is in doubt.

    • Actually I was really curious on how Africa and the middle east look like. I think large parts of the middle east got hit by endbringers but it can’t be all gone. Might be hard to write fairly though, but I have faith in Wildbow.

      • Mecca, Jerusalem & Vatican city could have been hit by either Behemoth or Simurgh. Actually, all three “holy” cities being hit by the Smurf while Behemoth hitting the oil fields would make sense.

          • You mean beside the obvious Brainwashing the Brainwashers? Making time bombs, or at least trying to, out of the religious leaders of pretty powerful religious leaders would be entirely in Simurgh’s modus operandi of setting up master plans.

  43. Ok, so this may have been posted previously, but I wonder how different the forum posts would have been if Dragon was not re-booting, and therefore not moderating the discussions.

    • Man, I also just realized, I’m gonna have to spend tonight going through the last arc, making a cliff notes version of what happened, and when it is static-ed by radiation or scion.

  44. So, assuming Brockton Bay had a population of approximately a million (pre-leviathan) and about 100 active capes (totally a wag: Wild Assed Guess) we can make a few interesting statistical assumptions about the Worm universe (yeah, I know, I was off like crazy with my guesses about Enbringer attack numbers. What can I say? I like, and am terrible at, statistics).
    Capes per capita? 1/10,000, if we’re being ABSURDLY generous.

    Worldwide: 700,000
    China: 133,300
    Liechtenstein: 3! I wonder if they have a club or something. Perhaps they trade off who the bad guy is, month to month?
    United States: 31611.6

    I know what you’re thinking. “If there are 700,000 available capes, how on earth have the Endbringers kept up their shenanigans this long? Also, I love saying the word shenanigans, don’t you?”

    I sure do, Reader, I sure do.

    But that’s neither here nor there. We have to assume that the number of capes that can actually TRAVEL to a given Endbringer attack is sharply limited, for a variety of reasons. First off, obviously, not everyone wants to die. These things are INCREDIBLY lethal, so possessing the sheer will to face them in open combat is no small thing. There is probably also an issue with proper transportation. Not to mention in many cases villains do not attend, so I have to imagine someone has to hold down the fort. On top of THAT, it sounds like effective early warning systems for Endbringer attacks are a relatively new thing, meaning in some cases support may not have even heard of a problem until it was too late to help. Yanno, like that Scion dude.

    Finally, it bears mentioning that New Delhi has a population of almost 23 million in our world. With this math, that gives them 2,300 native capes, IN THAT CITY ALONE, to duke it out with Behemoth. And they basically failed. Scion killed the beast, and they held it down until he showed up to do so, but New Delhi was all but destroyed, and the Cape population appeared to dwindle to a fraction of it’s previous size in the process, even with outside assistance.

    • You numbers are off. I think Wildbow mentioned something like 1 in 8k in urban environments and 1 in 26k in rural ones.
      But still, half a million capes (if none died) would have been a good shot. Of course, capes dies left and right, killing each other and busily being killed by Endbringers and unpowered. So let it oscillate at 100k and we’re good.

      • There ya go. Somehow I knew someone would have better numbers than my own. And I gotta think a bunch of those are quiet, private sector types. Not everyone wants to run out and punch monsters in the face, sadly.

      • Hmm, I think Alexandria in her interlude gives a good number about how many parahumans there will be by the time of the story. A good explanation for the low numbers are that many parahumans have really weak numbers like the merchants did. People with ratings of 1-3 are probably in the out of the way places in the wormverse. The town the 9 attacked had 2 weak heroes, who might be allowed to join the PRT if they are in need of numbers, and Damsel of Destress. She had to stay in a small town because she just didn’t have the strength to make it in the cities. There are probably a bunch of weak parahumans who prefer to stay out the cities and be a normal fish in a weak pond. Even weak powers give them quite an edge against regular criminals.

  45. Been a while since I’ve commented, but I have been reading faithfully. Just wanted to hop in and say I loved this chapter. The whole montage of aftermath thing is wonderful.

  46. The video as released doesn’t have to have been edited. Suppose the camera on Weaver is just a transmitter sending to some of Dragon’s equipment, not a recording device all its own. They naturally lose the feed any time Weaver’s out of communications. Going into the underground cold-cape area, the armbands suddenly became useless. The whole confrontation with Contessa was down there.

    I’ve been quiet lately. Too many clever Worm fans catch all the observations before I get to them, and then some (don’t get me wrong, this is value added in and of itself!). And I usually feel awkward just praising. I think I need to say, though, that I very much appreciate this story. Reading over Crushed to review how everything would look in the public eye was like getting the whole arc anew, and the flow of it was excellent.

  47. Welp, I just finished my initial archive binge in something like… 36 hours? Maybe more, maybe less?

    In any case, I need to go sleep before I go back and do a proper read-through.

    • Hell naw, Helnae, you pop some Red Bull, stick a Monster up your ass, snort some 5 Hour Energy, and you get yourself back here to the comments, baby! You can sleep when you’re catatonic and handcuffed to a 1 ton weight in a prison cell somewhere because you got too wired, ran so fast and so naked you streaked everyone on a passenger train, then triple backflipped over a cop car and climbed up a building. Not because you had spider powers, but because you’d been up for 5 days and were just that damn sticky.

      That’s it. *grabs a shotgun* I’m hitting up the dream world. It’s going to be me, that mad scientist I dreamed up once, and that vampire version of me that fought the Ghost Busters brought back to life with a ghost ritual all up in your neurological grill until you get back here and start suffering/laughing/pondering/punning/correcting/fanficcing/basejumping/shipping/huladancing/carameldancin’/masticating/exacerbating with the rest of us!

      Welcome to the comments, Helnae, time to verb the noun out of that pronoun! Verb the everloving noun, man, all up in pronoun. Verb it till you can’t verb any more. Word.

  48. Since my comment broke funnily, here’s the answer to Packbat’s comment again:

    That was my running interpretation as well, until I read the chapters/parts mentioning Haywire again.
    Agitation Arc:

    watched some of Alec’s movies from Earth-Aleph, the alternate Earth that our Earth had been communicating with since Professor Haywire tore a hole between realities. Media was one of the few things that could be traded back and forth through the hole.

    Battery’s interlude:

    Like Earth Aleph? The one Haywire opened the portal to?

    Migration Arc:

    A vault holding the equipment of now-deceased supervillain ‘Professor Haywire’ was accessed by the Simurgh. Shortly after, the source alleges, the Simurgh activated a large-scale replica of the devices,(…)

    Parahumans Online Interlude:

    Breakdown of Haywire’s research says we can’t get to alt. Earths that are too close to our own. Closest Earth to our own is Aleph, and deviation from that world started 30 years ago, the moment Scion arrived.

    Number Man Interlude:

    When the Simurgh had attacked Madison, she’d copied Haywire’s technology to open a gate to a building much like this one. A research facility. The portal had dumped the buildings, soil, plant life and all the residents into the city on Earth Bet

    Especially Battery’s interlude stands out. My going hypothesis is with the threat/possibility of interdimensional invasion looming and Bet’s parahumans being more numerous and much stronger, generally, the start point of the portal was Bet, but to appease and allege fears the naming was turned around, to make Aleph “first”.

    • I think it might be more of a historical accident, a scenario:

      Professor Haywire names Earth Aleph Aleph because it’s the first he found: he doesn’t name Earth Bet that, he’s saving that for another world… Which doesn’t materialise, and then someone just starts calling Bet Bet.

    • Wildbow, I know I have come up with a few somewhat harsh critiques of your work before, but I must say that they are more of reflections of my own personality than anything that you’ve written. Yes, Worm tends to get absurdly dark and depressing at times to the point it causes me quite a bit of stress, but that’s mostly because I myself am a rather deeply depressive person who struggles with a lot of internal issues. You’ve done a fantastic job in terms of writing a captivating story that has kept me coming back in spite of my own internal misgivings. I can’t speak for others, but a lot of the times, when a critic speaks up, they are projecting their own limitations onto the work. When I comment that the story has gotten a bit dark and hopeless, that’s mostly because hope is something I badly need in my life. The innate nature of a serialized work is such that there will be many times where the reader is left on an emotional roller coaster for days or weeks on end, eagerly awaiting the outcome of the story. The fact that you’ve engendered in your readers a degree of attachment where we fret upon what happens next on an emotional level is a sign of your writing prowess. A lesser writer wouldn’t be able to create such a bond and would not get such a rise out of us. You express doubts in your blog post, but please know that your work is important to hundreds of people with more showing up daily. If you keep writing, we’ll keep reading.

      • I think doubts are a part of being a writer. The anxiety and worries and fretting are a -good- thing, if anything, because they point to the fact that I care. The day I don’t have any worries is not going to be a good one. ;)

        • As a teacher I face similar problems. Is this class good? Did the students like it? Why they understood that fact wrong? If they get bad grades, to which extent it is my fault?
          Dealing with people is tense.
          But rest assured that you are good in something essential to your new profession: the art of a good plot.

        • All the time when anyone speaks up, they are projecting their own limitations onto the work, though.

          If it wasn’t this way, every book would be a Ulysses.

    • Not to get all sycophantic or anything, but can I just say I really admire your drive? As in, I read your post, and I really empathise with where you say you were when you started Worm. I’ve often found myself in a similar place. My passion isn’t to be an author, but there’s still a dream I want to follow and I find myself achingly far from it and also doubt I’m worthy of it a lot of the time.

      Hearing someone like you whose work I really rate, talk about just saying “Fuck it!” and getting off your arse and going for it… That really resonates. I’ve moved forward by doing that in the past, and I know intellectually that that’s what I need to do, but seeing it play out in someone else’s story helps in a different way, y’know? Anyhow, it was enough of a kick in the fork that I’m breaking a bit of a rut I’ve been in lately and doing a load of stuff that’s been hanging over me, so thanks.

  49. Thank you to Nathan, James and Edward for the donations. You guys are awesome.

    Total updated.

    Some warning – I’m away for a week starting around the weekend. Chapters should be scheduled appropriately, but I won’t be able to update the total (or fix typos) until then.

  50. Hm.

    From Interlude 19 (Parahumans Online) we get “Estimated time for next attack is August 30th, 2011. This time is not exact, and is likely to deviate by as much as 15 days.”, yet apparently this attack was only July 26th, given the forum dates here. Obviously there’s some margin for error given that it’s only an estimate – but this is wildly outside expectations. Over a month (five weeks) ahead of schedule, more than twice the likely deviation?

    Assuming it’s not a typo (August instead of July), what do people think of the reasons for it? Behemoth deciding that the schedule needed to be moved up after the good show against Leviathan? Hitting the PRT while they’re down, before they get their shit together? Or just a really poor formula for generating these estimates?

    • You forgot another possible theory:

      -> Another endbringer crossed over, so the schedule got bumped up. That’s why Behemoth was taking it easy, he was still half asleep.

      The new one looks like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. It makes zombies.

      • In Morgan Freemans voice
        “Let me get this right. You will be fighting one of the most powerful parahumans on the planet, someone who can command potentially infinite numbers of insects… With moving piles of rotting meat? Good luck with that.”

      • Alternative hypothesis 1:
        Echidna/Noelle burped the schedule. Her being a nascent Endbringer put a certain influence on the time.

        Alternative hypothesis 2:
        It’s a rough pattern, as they appear every 105±15 days, apparently. If we take the ±15 meaning one standard deviation and August 30th expected, July 26th appeared makes this 35 days deviation, or 2.33 standard deviations.
        One standard deviation means 68% confidence;
        two standard deviations mean 95.5% confidence;
        three standard deviations mean 99.7% confidence;
        2.33 standard deviations mean 98% confidence.
        Source: Wolfram Alpha
        Input: “x standard deviations”
        What does this tell us? If the Endbringers appear truly randomly in time, with a derived standard variation of ±15 days, then one standard deviation, or every 105±15 days, covers 68% of all cases and so on.
        What I’m getting at, 35 days early/late is entirely in the statistical range, if it happens only about every 50 Endbringer appearances.
        TL;DR: Statistical shenanigans tell us nothing special is going on.

        • If you’re giving statistics to the media, you really shouldn’t give +/- one standard deviation as the range. Even +/- two standard deviations is playing russian roulette with your credibility. Assuming some degree of PR competence, something happened to push up Behemoth’s schedule.

      • Actually that raises an interesting question. Phir Se was charging for several days before this, to the point of exhaustion, in hopes of having it available when an Endbringer came, then had to sleep and start over a couple days before Behemoth actually came.

        Why would he have been so eager to start charging again, when he knew the lack of rest would deplete him, that no Endbringer would be *seriously* expected for another two weeks at the earliest, and that it was entirely possible for the attack to be later than that by as much as a month? He had no capacity to maintain this kind of uptime for a month and a half, so why wouldn’t he have planned to charge during the days when the likelihood of an attack was at it’s peak? He doesn’t seem like like the type to self-sabotage like that.

        Maybe he was acting on instructions? Implying some kind of precog, I guess? Maybe he stepped back in time? He said he has that ability, although it raises other questions. Confusing.

        • At this point I’m betting ona pre cog,too. Between Phir Se and the teleported, the villainous cold capes have already showed to have some pretty powerful par humans.

        • If they don’t know, the desperate bet is to tell him to charge 3 days on 1 day off or something like that, admit the plan isn’t perfect but at least has okay odds of having a really high energy attack ready. If they told him to charge up all day then sleep four hours Thatcher style, it would have been safer but given up the chance of taking a swing with 2-3+ days worth of accumulated time-looped energy.

          If there’s any precognition or spying going on here I suspect it’s on the part of the Endbringers. If it had been any city other than New Delhi it would have been easy for Phir Se to deploy his attack, he’s got portals after all, maybe even make arrangements with the white hats. The chaos of the attack on New Delhi precluded all that, and he couldn’t very well tell the Protectorate in advance “Hey guys I’m totally charging up enough energy to nuke the continent flat, over and over, for the next month and a half, but I promise I’ll only use it on the Endbringers and it will totally work and not get us all killed like the last dozen sure-win plans!”

    • Excellent catch.

      The Endbringers have always been quite regular – Behemoth attacked once every ~8 months, then Behemoth and Leviathan attacked once every ~5 months, then when all three were around they attacked once every ~3.5 months. (cf Wildbow comment in 24.4). Translate that into days – 240, 150, 105. Pattern isn’t certain – too few data points. But the decrease in time for incrementing an Endbringer halves precisely: 90 to 45. The most plausible option is that it halves again (22.5 day decrease), though there are other ways to achieve this result.

      The expectation was a 107 day wait – May 15 to August 30. Implication: 107-22.5= 84.5 days, +-X (+-15? Or would that shift too? No data). Call it 70-100 day intervals.

      Run it another way – 1 Endbringer led to 1-2 attacks per calendar year, 2 Endbringers led to 2-3, 3 Endbringers led to 3-4. 4 seems likely to lead to 4-5 attacks per calendar year, implying an average period less than 90 days, but greater than 73 days – with the same +- 15 or so days around the average.

      Alternately, use comickry’s formula below and assume that the Endbringers show up at 315/E +- 15 (E being how many Endbringers)… and you’d get 79 +-x day intervals expected with 4 Endbringers.

      It was 72 days between Brockton Bay and New Delhi.

      I am now persuaded that there is a fourth Endbringer inbound.

      If it were Noelle, that would have shown its effect earlier – she’s been around for quite some time. If Behemoth is actually, permanently gone, that may or may not affect Endbringer operational tempo – we just know so little about what their limitations are.

      Bright spot! Based on their arrival times (92, mid 90′s, 2002), they aren’t accelerating the increase in numbers!

      • Any guesses what a new Endbringer’s powers might be? I’m putting my money on some sort of Master power, since that isn’t something any of the other Endbringers have had (unless Noelle really was a larval Endbringer).

  51. Finally caught up to the present of this story after about a week and a half to two weeks. The story is enthralling. Most definitely will be buying a physical copy of it if that’s ever made available(hope it is). All that aside, all I else I can really say is wow.

    • Given your name, I expected you to catch up as soon as I turned around.

      Now you get to sit around with us here in the comments. Kick back, grab a beer, smoke something funny, start shipping all the horny teen heroes, that kind of thing. Ki ki ki, ma ma ma. What’s that? Didn’t hear a thing.

      I’m serious. We have a lot of fun sitting around discussing the story. Telling fanfic around the fire. Roasting puns. Climbing out on a limb with our Wild Mass Guessing about interdimensional wars between repetitive tesseracts or whatever the going theory is. Feel free to dip your feet into the ethical and moral discussions, but don’t fall in too deep. This isn’t deontology where you Kant drown. Ki ki ki, ma ma ma.

      And of course, stick around with the rest of us to get our evil voyeuristic kicks out of the coming bloodbath. Might need to clear some brush out of the way to get a better look, so bring along a knife or an axe or a machete or something. Oh, and you know how people are about protecting the ole face, so you might want a, I don’t know, a burlap sack or a mask of some sort.

      Anyway, Jason, welcome to the comments.

  52. Either the Protectorate’s understanding of Endbringers is incomplete or, just as likely, Cauldron is working to suppress knowledge of how they operate. The cold capes call Behomoth the Sanskrit word for “first.” But why would they have named him that if they didn’t know ahead of time that more would appear?

    Furthermore, Phir Se was charging up three days in advance, even though the attack was supposed to take place during the month of August. So, somehow, the cold capes (who we know work with Cauldron) knew that more Endbringers would appear, and also had a better idea of when Behemoth would attack New Delhi.

    • Tried to write the following chapters, wasn’t working out at all. Better to tell from Taylor’s perspective.

      So… brother arrives at midnight, he wants to leave for the cabin tomorrow, but it’s more likely going to be Saturday. Gotta write Sat & Tuesday’s chapters before I go, on top of socializing with him, etc.

      Gonna do my best, here. Chapters may be shorter, though.

          • Bambina is going to be consumed with jealousy. It’ll be months before she could make an impression on the villain rankings, since she suggested those were driven by media coverage.

            It’ll be interesting to see what the priorities of whoever’s sitting in judgement over Taylor might be though.

            • Oops, didn’t mean to post the above as a reply to wildbows’ message on chapter length.

              On that, 5K words is still a lot – for anything other than Worm!

      • Hope you have a really great holiday, and hope your brother and his family are doing well!

        (Seriously don’t worry about the chapter length, everyone needs a holiday and I think it’s awesome you’re even doing them rather than taking a break, let alone worrying about the length.)

        • We can tell Wildbow’s brother isn’t a Worm reader. Otherwise he’d have told him to prioritize the chapters.

  53. Huh?

    when did this change from the first chapter of an interlude arc named ‘scarab’ into a bonus interlude belonging to the ‘crushed’ arc?

    Does this mean that the next chapter will be the beginning of a new regular arc or will we see several more bonus interludes?

      • Aww… I was kinda looking forward to seeing other ppls reactions. Oh well, looking forward to the real beginning of Scarab, whatever it is!

      • I think that might be a good thing.

        While I really like the reactions from all the people to recent events and it feels like there is an entire world full of tales left to be told, I think having half a dozen interludes right now and no normal chapters for three weeks would seriously screw with the pacing of the story.

      • That works – tight focus POV is a strength if handled well.

        Worth digging through, later, why that experiment didn’t work. Insufficiently unified? Prior arc-size interludes have been Wards, Travellers and (arguably) S9 recruitment. All extant characters in a known context, and all interludes clearly unified thematically and plotwise. Insufficiently scaffolded? Taylor’s got a very well-developed toolset to work with, by comparison. Lack of urgency? 25-50k words of reaction shots is a lot, even though there are ways to introduce plot into interludes (cf. Chevalier). Burnt too many viewpoints on the exercise? Only way to avoid it, without breaking your ‘only one interlude per character’ rule, is inventing a lot of new characters – and that’s a suddenly heavy burden on a specific skill.

        Anyway – ‘don’t write bad chapters’ is a reasonable rule for your line of work, though not always easy to follow. Good luck with it.

        • Well I understand the reasoning for the change. In some ways I’m a little dissapointed, because this is a major enough event that I’d have loved a wide cross section of reactions. For example is Vista still all fatalistic? Then again you can still show them via Taylor’s viewpoint. Like if she watches the news or goes on Parahumans online, or just talks to people.

        • Didn’t bother me. Oh well, I’m sure this will be good. I mean Taylor is about the go before the heads of the PRT who I’m sure will react in a reasonable and fair method to choices and actions. *snicker*

  54. Arrg. That ‘Next Chapter’ Button is taunting me. I keep clicking it and getting all dissappointed when it doesn’t lead to a new chapter.

  55. So several dozen million people died because some random homeless man didn’t phrase things well enough.

    The school systems need to focus more on communication…

  56. “We celebrate, because was deserve to.” Tecton must be in shock…
    (Should be “we,” methinks.)

    Holy carp, (almost) all of Chapter 24 has been released on the internet? Neat.

    I’m glad Dragon’s okay. She’s one of my favorite characters, and by far my favorite para-AI.

  57. Argh! I wanted to stop reading so I could sleep! Now I must start reading the next part because of this awesome chapter, damn you Wildbow!

  58. “Right,” Tecton said. “But there’s time before the next one. Let people in the know handle the worrying. We did everything we could. Now we recuperate. We celebrate, because was deserve to. We take the time to heal.”
    We celebrate because *we* deserve to?

  59. He looked at Weaver, where she sat at the far end of the bench. Her old teammate had insisted on coming with her, along with a small cluster of dogs. They’d fallen asleep within two minutes of takeoff. Weaver had been first, her head leaning against her friend’s shoulder. Her friend had been next to drift off, a dog in her lap, others lying underneath the bench.

    I SHIP IT. Bitter = OTP. Though I guess now it’s Witch? Beaver is a bit too explicit….

    Also awwww Golem is Theo awwwwwwww I’m so happy for him being a hero and away from his white supremacist family and taking a name from Judaism. I hope Weaver understands!

  60. “Cement the idea into the public mind so it was the first concrete piece of information they got.”
    Clever.

    And lots of nice, emotional moments. A kaleidoscopic view of people, emphasizing the scale of things. Nice.

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