Scarab 25.1

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“This is exactly what I was talking about.  She’s a dangerous influence.”

“She’s a sixteen year old girl with strong opinions, Wilkins,” Armstrong answered.  “Nothing more.  She holds onto those opinions and her core worldview, and vulnerable people get caught up in her momentum.  Cult leaders will do the same thing, only it’s purposeful in their case.  Get people tired, get people worn out, scared and hungry, and then give them someone with presence to give them support.”

“You’re saying she’s an accidental cult leader?”

“She’s in a position where it’s very easy to sway others.  A lot of the parahumans out there fit the criteria I’m talking about,” Armstrong said.  He glanced at Glenn, who looked distinctly unhappy.  “So, apparently, does our staff.”

“I think you’re off target,” I said.  “You’re talking about Foil, I get it, and Parian, and now the Chicago Wards and Glenn.  But all of the decisions they made were when I wasn’t anywhere near them.  Unless you’re implying I have some sort of mind control.”

“No,” Armstrong told me.  He didn’t fit his name; he looked more like my dad than anyone, though he had a peculiarly prominent jaw and a forehead that made it look like he was perpetually glaring.  “It doesn’t matter if they’re near you.  The message and the idea stays with them even after they leave your presence.”

“Tecton just wanted someone to call the shots, to replace Raymancer,” I said.  He was defending me, but it wasn’t helping.

“We saw the video,” Director Wilkins said.  “We know what he said.  I think it’s best if you stop talking.”

I bit my lip and turned my eyes to the table.

“Well,” Glenn said.  “What’s done is done.  Can I suggest that perhaps, because it’s been a long day, we should retire?  All of us will still be here in the morning.”

“It sounds like a good idea,” Armstrong said.  One or two heads around the table nodded.

“We’re going to handle this tonight,” Wilkins said.

“While the girl’s so tired she could fall asleep sitting up,” Glenn observed.  “Or is it that you want to resolve this while Chevalier is in the hospital?”

“Chevalier doesn’t matter,” Wilkins said.  “This is PRT business.”

“I agree.  His input would be appreciated, if he was in a state to give it, but it’s ultimately not his decision,” the Washington director said.  He reminded me of Piggot, but he wasn’t fat.    Heavy, but not fat like she’d been.  It was more the way he held himself, his tone and approach.  His graying hair was cropped close, and he had a combination of paler skin and dark circles under his eyes that made me think of a corpse.  Director West.

“We lose nothing by waiting,” Glenn said, calm, unflappable.  I’d seen that confidence before, in people who’d had nothing to lose.  I’d had that confidence before.

“We lose time.  If we’re going to respond to the press and the public, we need to act sooner than later.”

“My concern…” a woman said, drawing out the thought, “Is that her actions go against the spirit of the PRT and the groups under the PRT’s umbrella.  Conspiring with a known terrorist, betraying the truce, even, for a subtle advantage in dealing with that terrorist, returning to her old team against all terms of her probation, rejecting orders, and taking reckless risks with PRT personnel, getting two injured.  A longstanding goal of the PRT has been to reassure the public, and this only paints heroes as something dangerous.”

I already didn’t like her.  I wasn’t even sure what city she was from.

“That doesn’t even include the fact that this leak shows capes going all out.  When the joy at the victory wears off, people are going to look at the footage and wonder if they’re in danger,” West said.

We won, I thought.  We beat him, and you’re quibbling over details.

Why were they doing this?  Why were they so intent on railroading me?  Screwing me over?

These guys, or some of them, were the old guard.  Defenders of the status quo.  Tagg would have fit into this little cadre.

Maybe that was part of the reason.

“-Birdcage.”

The word hung in the air.

I snapped to attention, fully awake in an instant.  I had to take a second to look at the faces of the people around the table before I realized who’d said it.  Armstrong, the man who’d been my advocate an instant ago.

“A little extreme,” West said.

“The next few fights are going to be crucial.  Every time the Endbringers come, there are major losses.  We lose good capes.  Others step in, but they don’t have the experience or the organization, so we lose more.  New Delhi was very nearly the culmination of that.”

“We won New Delhi.”

We lost.  Scion won,” Armstrong responded.  “Participation will be up for the next fight.  Let’s use that.  We bolster the numbers further, by tapping the Birdcage.  There are powerful capes in there, and some are cooperative.”

Oh.  They aren’t talking about me.

“And if they start wreaking havoc afterward?  Or turn on us?”

“We can be select about it.  Dragon’s willing to give us a searchable database of all of the conversation and behavior records within the Birdcage.”

I raised my head at that.  “Dragon’s alive?”

“She got in contact with us a short while ago.”

I nodded.  I felt a little dazed, confused.  Too much in a short time.  I was reaching the point where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take it all in.

“It’s not worth it,” West said.

“A moderate risk for a chance to save hundreds, thousands, even millions of lives,” Armstrong said.

“How many lives do we lose because of the monsters we set free?”  West retorted.  “Those criminals were put there for a reason.”

“At first,” Armstrong said.  “But the rationale for indefinite detention has been getting weaker, and the number of capes going in has been increasing.  I-”

“It’s not going to happen, Armstrong,” West cut him off.

Armstrong deflated a little, settling back in his chair.

“The media is already reaching out to us to ask for interviews with Weaver,” one of the other Directors said.  “They love her or hate her, but this won’t die down anytime soon.”

“Primacy effect,” West said, frowning.  “That video is going to be the first thing people will think about when they think about people in the field during an Endbringer attack.”

“So we drown it,” the woman from before said.  “Release the footage we held back, footage with a more favorable effect on us.  Weaver gets lost in the shuffle, and we quietly address the unbecoming conduct.”

We won, you bastards.  I clenched my fists beneath the table.

“Address how?”

“It’s a violation of her probationary membership.  She’s off the team for the time being, if not permanently.  She fulfills the remainder of her sentence, then remains in our custody as a consult.  “

I noticed that my bugs were acting of their own volition, treating this as a crisis scenario.  They were massing, and they were winding silk threads around the PRT uniforms that guarded the room, around the containment foam sprayers and guns that they held.

I’d missed the Undersiders, hated that I wasn’t there with them as they said goodbye to Regent.  Part of the reason I’d become a hero had been to reconnect with my dad, but the gap seemed too wide.  I’d killed, and he’d seen me kill.  He was afraid of me.

It would be easy to disable the PRT uniforms, attack the directors and simply make my way to Brockton Bay.  I could patch things up with Grue, help Rachel, ensure that Imp didn’t go to a dark place.

But it wouldn’t get me anywhere.

He wanted to play hardball?  I’d play hard in return.  I turned my attention to my swarm for a moment.

“I think you’re underestimating how badly the public would react if Weaver was punished,” Glenn said.

“We’re facing a lose-lose situation, Mr. Chambers,” Chief Director West said.  “We cut our losses, take a hit in PR, but we can continue operating as we need to.  So long as it’s quiet, she goes to prison and doesn’t go out on another big excursion, I don’t think anyone’s about to make a big deal of it.”

…make a big deal of it.  I turned the words around in my head.  Manipulating the media, manipulating the local capes.  Damn.  I’d had high hopes for Chevalier’s new Protectorate, but it didn’t seem to extend to the PRT.

“We can deflect,” the woman from before said.  “Raise another issue, change the focus of the public.”

“Not so easy,” Glenn said.  “It’s been done too often in the past.  They’re watching for it, even anticipating it.”

“But the majority won’t be,” she responded.  She turned to Director West.  “The alert, educated minority will complain, but they won’t achieve anything meaningful.  They never do.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Director West said.  “It’s not pretty, but it’ll suffice.”

Why?” I asked.  “You can’t deny I helped.  I didn’t deliver a serious blow, but I helped to coordinate, I had ideas, I used them.”

“There’s other smart capes out there,” a man said.  He didn’t give me the impression of a PRT director.  Another staff member?

“I did a lot of good, and you’re railroading me.  Is it because you’re losing control of things and I make an easy target?  Because you’re afraid of me?”

“Because you’re consistently unpredictable.  Unreliable.  We set rules and you break them,” West told me.

“Rules don’t generally apply during an Endbringer attack,” I said.  “The only thing that matters is taking the motherfucker down.  We did.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” Armstrong said.  “This is going a step too far.  She did well.”

A few heads nodded around the table, but they didn’t have the majority, and they didn’t have the clout that Chief Director West did.  Glenn had spoken of a fifty-fifty split in the reactions, and he was more or less on target.  But the power held by the people who were standing up for me was nothing compared to the clout the others had.

“This is beyond the Endbringer attack.  It’s overall conduct,” the woman at the far end of the table said.

“When? Can you name incidents?  Beyond the Endbringer attack?”  I challenged her.

“Spiders in the less traveled areas of the prison,” West told me.

Spiders in the prison.  Shit.

I felt myself deflate a little, but I managed to keep my face straight.  “If there are any, they’re eggs that recently hatched.”

“And the costume?  A weave of silk cloth hidden out of sight.”

Damn.

“That predated my discussion with the Warden,” I lied.  “I got rid of the spiders, moved on.”

“You could have reported it.”

“That an abandoned time-killing project was stuck in behind some pipes?  Why?”

“Because this happens.  There’s no reason to believe you.”

I clenched my fists.

“You’re dangerous, Taylor Hebert.  Unpredictable.  You’re deceptive, clever enough to come up with tricks, but not clever enough to stick to the straight and narrow from the beginning.  Armstrong said it himself.  You’re good at manipulating people.”

…Manipulating people, I thought.  Not as good as I wanted to be.

Armstrong spoke up, “You’re twisting my words, West.  I said she was well situated for interacting with vulnerable people, and stalwart enough in her own worldview that others can get swept up in her flow.”

“Regardless.  Ms. Hebert was right about one thing.  It’s late.  It’s been an emotionally exhausting day.”

“Physically exhausting too,” I said, not taking my eyes off the Chief Director.  “You know, running around, fighting Behemoth while you guys sit in your-”

Glenn shifted one leg under the table, pressing it against mine.  A nudge, not overt.

I stopped.

My power crackled at the edge of my attention.  My bugs were moving again, without any direct instructions from me.  I reined them in, and then distributed them through the building.  Was there someone I could contact?  Something I could communicate to the right person, to change what was happening here?

West ignored my comment, turning his attention to Glenn.  “Mr. Chambers, you’re relieved of duty.  You likely knew this already.”

“I understand,” Glenn said.

“We’ll discuss on our own whether we need to press charges.”

…Press charges.  Bastards.

“Okay,” Glenn said.

West met my eyes.  “Taylor Hebert, you violated the terms of your probation.  You’ll return to Gardener tonight, and you’ll carry out the rest of your sentence.  Your test run with the Wards teams is over.  Offer rescinded.  Provided you do not talk to the media, we stop there.  We’ll talk to you when you turn eighteen, to see about plans for the future.”

“This is a mistake,” Glenn said.  “Chevalier had a number of plans, and you’re unraveling them.”

“Naturally, Mr. Chambers.  We’re aware of the thrust of those plans.  Recruiting villains.  A darker, edgier Protectorate.  Provided he keeps to the rules, we’re willing to let that be.  But with the administration, the underlying framework that makes his teams possible, we have to maintain a balance, keep the public and the President happy.  He won’t have our assistance.”

…He won’t have our assistance, I thought.

I heard the words, and my bugs spoke them.  Every bug, within the building, repeated him, verbatim.  The good, the bad, the details that damned me.  It wasn’t a question of finding the right person, or saying the right thing.  It was everyone, saying everything.

In that manner, my bugs repeated it to staff members, to the Chicago Wards, and to the Protectorate members who’d accompanied their Directors here.  It was too late for reporters to be around, but I didn’t deny the possibility.

Tens of thousands of bugs speaking words at a sound barely above a whisper, louder in places where more people congregated.

Dispatch and Exalt were the first to make their way to our floor.  They entered the room without knocking.

I met Dispatch’s eyes.  Not the rescuer I’d hoped for.  We’d worked together, but he’d disliked me from the outset.

“Dispatch?”  West asked.

Dispatch didn’t reply right away.  He glared, and it wasn’t at me.  It was at the Director.

“We’ve been listening,” Exalt said.

Listening?”

“You’ve been bugged,” Dispatch said.  “Only the bugs are the ones outside.  They’ve been talking.  Reciting.”

I could see Chief Director West’s eyes narrow as he looked at me.  He would be replaying the conversation in his head, trying to figure out if he had said anything damning.

“No guarantee she’s telling the truth,” West said.

“Provided he keeps to the rules, we’re willing to let that be,” Dispatch said.  “Spiders in the back areas of the prison.”

“Yes,” Director Armstrong said.  “That’s accurate.  I can’t speak to particulars or the little details, though.”

“I repeated everything verbatim,” I confirmed.

“The goings-on of this meeting are confidential,” Director West said.

“Nobody told me that,” I answered.  “It doesn’t matter.  I violated my probation anyways, apparently.”

“Anything goes against Endbringers,” Tecton said, from the hallway.  He’d just arrived with Grace and Annex beside him.  “We wouldn’t have done half as well if it wasn’t for her.”

“Tell that to Kismet,” one of West’s flunkies commented.  “Or Particulate.  You don’t really want her on your team.  Not when she’s going to stab you in the back for a better margin of victory.”

“I do,” Tecton said.  “All of us do.  We watched the video together.  We talked about it.  Kismet made a mistake.  As far as Particulate, we looked him up.  He’s reckless, dangerous.  Not the best way she could have handled it, but it worked.”

West didn’t take his eyes off me.  “Even if we ignored everything else, this kind of behavior, it’s-”

“It’s exactly what Chevalier wanted,” I said.  My eyes dropped to the table.  I didn’t meet his gaze, didn’t try to engage the visitors.  “Open, honest.  Exposing the rot at the center.”

“You’re saying you’re not rotten,” the woman at the end of the table said, almost mocking.

“Maybe I am,” I told her.  “I’m not all good, not all bad.  I’m just… getting by.  Doing what I can, not holding back against enemies who don’t deserve it.  And under Chevalier’s system, Glenn’s system, I guess I’m revealing all of that stuff we usually keep hidden, and it’s up to others to make the call whether they can roll with it or not.  Up to the public, my potential teammates.”

“Honestly,” Tecton said, “If you’re going to lock her up after all this, you can consider me done.  You’re going to undermine Chevalier, when what he’s doing worked?  I’m gone.”

Here and there, there were murmurs of agreement.

There was a very long pause.

“Weaver,” Director West said.

I met his eyes again.  I could see the hate.

“You’ll make your way to Chicago at the end of the week, and provided everything goes well, you will be a member of the team.  If you’re wise, you won’t take interviews, and you won’t take any action that draws attention to you.”

I drew in a deep breath, then nodded.

“You’ll wear a tracking device at all times, and any time you leave the defined area within the Chicago headquarters, you’ll have an escort, a longstanding member of the team in your company at all times.”

“Okay,” I said.

“See to it that you follow these rules.  You’ve got the backing of the heroes here, maybe you’ve got the public’s favor, but we will remove you if you give us an excuse.”

“I understand,” I said, suddenly very weary.

Beside me, Glenn stood from his chair.  I took his cue.

The PRT uniforms stepped out of the doorway, where they’d been barring the small crowd access.  We made our exit, joining the Wards and PRT staff members.

“Weaver,” the Chief Director called out.

I turned around.

“You didn’t make any allies in this room today.”

“I think you were my enemies before we even met,” I said.  “You’d never have given me the chance to be your ally.”

“You’re wrong.”

I shrugged, then turned to walk away.

Tecton gave me a nod as I approached.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Not a problem,” he said.  “You kept us alive, I figure we owe you one.”

“I don’t think you owe me much, but I’m not complaining,” I said.

“We should go.  We were in the middle of something.  See you soon, I hope?”

“Yeah,” I answered.

When they’d broken away, it was Glenn and I, together.

“That was foolish,” Glenn commented.

“They wouldn’t have given us any slack.  Nothing we could have said or done would have changed the outcome, unless we attacked from a different angle.”

“There’s a habit some people have,” Glenn said, “Where they divide people into enemies and allies.  It’s in your records, as a matter of fact, your propensity to define people as enemies and act without mercy, while being gentle and kind to your friends.  The Chief Director is another person who is very similar.  Pairings you two together, you could have been great allies or great enemies, but there’s not much middle ground.  It’s a shame you have a powerful enemy, now.”

“I still don’t see how we would have been friends.”

“I don’t think you would have been.  But humiliating an enemy is a dangerous thing.  Doing it again would be terminal.  You’ll need to be clever about your approach from here on out, so you aren’t threatening them to the same degree.”

“I’m too tired to strategize any more, Glenn.”

Think.  What’s motivating the Directors?  First thought that comes to your mind.”

“Fear.”

“Of?” he asked, without a heartbeat of hesitation.

“Me?”

He shook his head.  “More specific.  If they don’t act now, what happens in the long run?”

“They can’t control me.”

“People would recognize it, that the PRT didn’t have the ability to control all of its heroes.  Some would act on it.  It would be devastating, damaging on a fundamental level.”

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” I asked.  “Your ‘harbinger’?”

“It is.  Can you guess what I’m going to suggest, now?”

“You want me to make a move.  Powerful enough to shake them, break the status quo, not powerful or blatant enough to break my probation or give them an excuse to drop the book on me.”

“You’ll be with the Wards by the week’s end, if someone doesn’t trip you up.  Do you think you can manage it?  A big success?”

“Maybe,” I said.

“The moment you drop out of the public eye, you become vulnerable.  You’ve got a reprieve, but when you do act, you’re going to need to act big.  And you can’t stop once that’s happened.  Once you act, you’ll be giving them an opening, and you have to keep moving after that.  Understand?”

“Yeah.”

“Keep the ramifications and the scale of your actions in mind at all times.  Use that strategic brain of yours.  Above all, be patient.”

“Now hearing case two-seven-two-four, Weaver.”

I stood.  “I’m here.”

“For the matter of committee record, would you affirm that your full name and identity are a matter of public record, and that the committee is free to use it?”

“I will.”

“Will you state your name for the record?”

“Taylor Hebert.”

“Your date of birth?”

“June nineteenth, 1995.”

“You are a minor.”

“Yes.”

“Will you testify that you were not coerced into this arrangement?”

“I’m here of my own free will.”

“You were not offered any bribes or incentives that are not already a matter of record?”

“To the best of my knowledge, it’s all been aboveboard.”

“As a minor, we ask that you have a guardian or respected professional to help guide you through the process, and to help verify what you’re testifying.”

Before I could speak, I heard someone’s chair scraping against the floor somewhere behind me.  Standing up.  “Her father.”

I felt my heart leap.  I hadn’t seen him when I’d peeked through the crowd behind me, but I hadn’t been using my bugs either.  No use disturbing anyone.  I kept my eyes fixed in front of me.

“Would you please approach?”

I could hear him walk, but didn’t turn to look.  Fuck, I was still hurt, still angry, even in the moment I was filled with relief.  He came to stand next to me, and my hand found his.  I squeezed, hard, and he squeezed back.

He was here now, at least.  Not while I was in prison, not when I’d started my forays into the Wards.  But he was here now.

“Your name?”

“Danny Hebert.”

“State again for the committee record, your relation to her?”

“I’m her father.”

“You’re aware of her standing in regards to the law?”

“I am.”

“And you’ve read the documents detailing her probationary status within the Wards?  Document two-seven-two-four-A?”

“I have.”

“You’ve read the statement and accompanying paperwork provided by Taylor Hebert, AKA ‘Weaver’, document two-seven-two-four-B?”

“I have.”

“Do you hereby attest that all statements disclosed in the latter document are the truth, to the best of your knowledge?”

“Yes.”

I watched as the committee members paged through the documents in front of them.

My heart was pounding, and it wasn’t just my dad’s impromptu arrival.  This was it.  The moment my future hinged on.

I’d made enemies in the upper echelons of the PRT.  The question was whether they’d pull a maneuver, do something sneaky to undermine me or screw up the case to leave me stranded without anyplace to go but jail.

“I believe each of us have reviewed the files?” the man at the center of the table finally spoke, looking to the others for confirmation.  “Case two-seven-two-four has met the requirements for probationary admittance to the Wards.  She is to follow the stipulations as outlined in document two-seven-two-four-A.  Failure to comply will result in a return to medium security detention for a span of one and a half years or until such a time as she turns eighteen, whichever is longer.  Further, failing to meet the terms for probation will result in a forfeiture of any earnings or rights granted her by the PRT, which will be held in trust until such a time as she reaches the age of majority.  Do you understand these terms?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Yes,” my dad said.

“With that, you are now a probationary member of the Wards, until such a time as you turn eighteen or violate the terms of your probationary membership.  Congratulations, Taylor Hebert.”

There were cheers from the sidelines.  Tecton and his group were among them.

“Next case,” the committee members said.

My dad and I retreated into the aisle.  We made eye contact for what felt like the first time in an age.

“Thank you for coming.”

“I wasn’t necessary.  You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have someone else lined up.”

“It matters, dad.  More than you know.  Thank you.”

“Is this fixable?  Us?”

I frowned.

“What?” he asked.  He opened the door so we could step out of the committee room and into the hallways of the PRT office.

“I’ve kind of come to hate that word.  ‘Fix’,” I said.

“You don’t think-”

“I don’t,” I interrupted him.  “We can’t fix ‘us’, society can’t be fixed.  It’s impossible.”

He frowned.  “I don’t think it is.”

“Things change.  Destroy them, rebuild them, you’re just causing change.  Can’t we… isn’t it okay if we don’t try to go back to the way things were?”

“You don’t want to be a family?” he asked.

“I do.  But… we tried to go back, after the city started to rebuild.  It didn’t feel right.  It was nice, but we were playing roles, and there was more stuff unsaid than said.  Lies, unasked questions.  Kind of unhappy at the root of it, you know?”

“I know.”

We found an empty bench and sat down.  I could see the Chicago Wards stepping out into the hallway, but they kept their distance.  Revel made her way out the door a few seconds later, and started talking to them as a group, at the opposite end of the hall.

“You’re so far away,” he said.  “Doing things I can’t even imagine, facing serious danger, even on a more mundane level, the way you’re going to be living at the headquarters.  It’s a fourteen hour drive.”

“Can’t we visit, though?”  I asked.  “Send emails every day, videochat?

“We can.  I’ll come see you at the headquarters before I leave for home, see how you’re getting by.  Maybe, if you need me to, I can pick up some essentials.  Things you wouldn’t want to ask them for, or things they wouldn’t know your preferences on.”

I wondered momentarily if my dad even know what my preferences were, nowadays.  I didn’t voice those thoughts.  At the same time, I meant what I said as I told him, “That sounds amazing.  Yes. Please.”

He smiled, but the expression faltered as he glanced a little to one side.  “I think your team wants to talk to you.”

I nodded.  “Talk to you in a bit?”

“Tomorrow,” he said.

“Tomorrow,” I replied, standing from the bench.  The Wards had turned to face me.

When I approached Revel and Tecton and the others, I cast a glance back.  My dad was still sitting on the bench.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a step forward.  It had to count for something.

“This space was for vehicles, but Stardust graduated three years ago, died a year after joining the Protectorate.  We’ve been using it for storing paperwork, and your moving in was a good excuse to get some things sorted out.  Your workshop.”

I nodded, doing my best to maintain eye contact.  Campanile was about eight feet tall.  I’d been given a complete physical and fitness test right off the bat, and I was five feet and nine inches tall.

The height difference put my eye level just a couple of feet above Campanile’s hip level.  He wore a skintight suit, and there was little left to the imagination.  I thought I might have seen a ridge or a vein, in that split-second I’d glanced down to make sure my eyes weren’t fooling me.

If I were more well adjusted, I would have been embarrassed, even offended.  Instead, I almost wanted to laugh.  Neither would have done well in terms of first impressions.

Focus on your bugs, I told myself.  Look interested.

“Talk to Tecton before you grab anything from the build room.  That’s where we keep all the panels, portable walls and furniture for customizing our spaces.  Tools and everything would be down there too, but it’s easiest to let Tecton keep it all in his workshop.  He’s our only tinker, and it’s not any harder to ask him for something than it is to go all the way to the basement.”

“Got it.”

“You’re distributing this stuff to other groups, right?  The silk?”

“After I’m done outfitting my team, and you guys, our Protectorate.”

I’ll give Campanile thicker fabric below the waist, maybe, I thought.

“Well, there’s a budget, so negotiate with Tecton on that front.  We all use the account, but the rest of us usually just dip into it to replace broken pads or lenses, stuff like that.  Tecton pays for materials, which is usually enough to empty the budget, but he makes and maintains knick-knacks and tools that he rents out to other groups.  Earns a bit of money to make up for taking an unfair share.”

“Got it.  I can do the same?  Selling the silk?”

“Yeah.  Might be easier, since your stuff can be mass-produced.”

I stared out at the workshop, glad for the excuse to look away.  Did he know how tightly the costume was clinging to him below the waist?

“It’s good,” I commented on the workshop.  Better than the one in my old lair.

“Your bedroom isn’t with the others at the hub, since there’s not a lot of privacy there, and people are always coming and going.  It’s more a place to kick back and nap if you’ve had a long patrol, keep some books and magazines, maybe some games.  You do have a nook, though.”

I nodded.  Maintain eye contact.

“You’re just down the hall.  Here.”

I checked out the bedroom.  It was better than my cell, but plain.  The fact that I could come and go when I pleased was a plus, even if I was confined to the building when I didn’t have an escort.

“I can buy stuff to make it my own, right?”

“Yeah.  But you should know that they’ve got cleaners to do the PRT supplied laundry, sheets pillows, towels, the generic skintight suits.  You’ll have to do your own laundry, and that includes any sheets you buy or whatever.”

“Got it,” I said.  I very nearly glanced down to make sure the protrusion in his skintight outfit was still there, stopped myself.  Even in my peripheral vision, it stood out.  Seriously, that thing’s as long as my forearm.

“Computer’s here.  PRT issue laptop.  Take some time, remove the crap.  If you don’t know how, or if you’re not sure what’s dead weight on the system, ask Tecton.  Username is your codename, password to start with is your birthday.  Month-day-year, followed by your middle name.  Once you type that in, it’ll set everything up automatically and prompt you for a new password.”

“Okay.”

“You’ve got a small bathroom just down here,” he pointed down a short hallway, “No shower, sorry.  There’s one in the main area, not a lot of privacy, but you’ll figure out the patrol schedules, and figure out when you can go shower without a chance of being bothered, if you’re shy.”

Shy.  I very nearly cracked a smile at that.  He was the one who should be bashful, but he just radiated confidence, instead.

“I’ll manage.”

“Let’s see… there’s the phone and earpiece, they’ll get that to you soon.  Identification, the same.  Can you think of anything you need?”

“A few million Darwin’s bark spiders,” I said.  “I could do with even just a hundred, but it’d mean a slow start.”

He didn’t even flinch.  “We can probably arrange it.”

“Black widows would work too.  Easier to find, but not nearly as good.  Maybe just need an escort so I can go out for walks.”

“We could arrange that.  I’m going out in an hour, meeting some kids at the hospital.  If you don’t mind the detour, we could swing by a park or something.”

I tried not to imagine him in the pediatric’s wing of a hospital.  You’d need to change.  Or wrap something around your waist.

I didn’t voice my thoughts.

“The hub is right down here, bottom of the stairs.  Command center, nook-slash-temporary bedrooms, spare costumes, televisions and everything else.”

Tecton, Wanton and Annex were at the bottom of the stairs.  Grace, Golem and Cuff were sitting at the computer bank against the one wall, but they were watching.  Grace had a wicked smile on her face.

I realized why.  The bastards.  They were pulling the same trick Campanile had, stuffing something in the front of their costumes.  Tecton, for his part, wore a mechanical suit, so he’d simply bulked out the crotch portion of his armor with additional armor plating.  Obvious, not even trying to hide what they were doing.  Wanton gave me a cheeky smile as I made eye contact with him.

For my part, I managed to keep my expression straight.

Over the course of seconds, Annex seemed to get more and more uncomfortable.  I made eye contact and maintained it as he squirmed.

“She’s not reacting, and I’m feeling really, really dumb,” he said.

“Aw, Annex, c’mon,” Wanton groaned.  “She would’ve cracked up.”

Grace was laughing, now.  Cuff, by contrast, wasn’t moving her eyes from the computer screen.  She was probably the ideal target for this kind of prank.

“Don’t sue me for sexual harassment,” Annex told me.

I smiled a little.  “I’m not going to sue.  I’ve been around people who did worse.”

“It seemed funnier when we were talking about it before,” Tecton said.  “It’s… kind of awkward, right now.”

“It is funny,” I said, smiling, “You guys did get me, I was so busy trying not to stare at Campanile that I barely heard what he was saying about the tour.”

There were a few chuckles.

“I was thinking it was a bad idea,” Golem said, “With your background, that you might not like being picked on.  They gave me one, but I thought it was a bad idea to test you.”

“It was a terrible idea,” Tecton said.  “Juvenile.  But sometimes you need a cheap laugh.”

“They’re embarrassing themselves worse than they’re embarrassing me,” I told Golem.  “I’m okay with it.  I’m glad to have an initiation into the group.  Could have been far worse.”

“Alright guys, joke’s over,” Tecton said.  He unclasped and removed the metal codpiece from his armor.  “She’s right.  We’re just embarrassing ourselves now.  Get rid of the damn things.  And I don’t want to see them lying around anywhere.”

“I could keep it this way,” Wanton joked.

“No you couldn’t,” Tecton said.  “You’ll forget about it, switch to your other form without absorbing it and wind up bashing someone unconscious with a foot-long silicon club.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Campanile, and saw him standing by the trashcan, no longer endowed.  He didn’t look quite so ludicrous now.  Freakishly tall, yes.  Not freakishly long, so to speak.

“Sorry,” he said.

I shrugged.  “I figure I’ve got blackmail material now.  Just need to get my hands on the security camera footage.”

He smiled and shook his head.  “Welcome.  Be good.”

“I don’t think these guys are setting the bar that high on the ‘good’ scale,” I told him.

He clapped one hand on my shoulder, then turned around to go up the stairs, leaving.

Annex had fled, but Wanton was taking his time in leaving, with Tecton giving him the occasional push to get him to walk faster.  Over by the computer bank, Grace and Golem were wrestling with something.

“Do it,” I heard her.

“No way, no way,” Golem responded

“Do it.  Just a little.”

She said something else I didn’t make out.  It didn’t go much further before Golem gave in.

Wanton doubled over mid-stride, falling to the ground.  Once he realized what had happened, he started thrashing in his effort to get the offending object out of his pants.  I had to avert my gaze before he inadvertently flashed me.

“Geez, guys,” Tecton groaned, “Too far.”

Golem rushed over, apologizing, while Wanton cursed at him, throwing the lump of plastic at his teammate.  Grace had fallen out of her chair laughing, and Cuff had done the opposite, putting her unburned arm on the desk and burying her face in the crook of it.

In the midst of the chaos, I made my way over to the computer bank and leaned over the keyboard, typing in the username and password I’d been given.  The desktop was up and running in heartbeats.  Access to nice computers was apparently a perk of being a hero.

I dug around for the files on the local powers, and began studying.  I tried, anyways.  Grace’s continued laughter was so infectious and unashamed I couldn’t help but join in.

My new home, for better or worse.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

301 thoughts on “Scarab 25.1

  1. In lieu of Wildbow, as was asked by him to do so in IRC earlier today, as he is currently on vacation and cannot request it himself-

    Please vote for Worm on Topwebfiction since the votes are falling off. Thank you!

    • The interaction with the other Chicago Wards was indeed cute, they’re nice kids.

      I think looking after them/hanging out with them will be good for Taylor. Being able to hang out with the Undersiders was good for her too, in the early days, but later on it became more complicated, even though her bond with them became stronger. Not that I’m trying to have a go at the Undersiders or say Taylor shouldn’t try to maintain her bonds with them, you know I’d be against that. More that her relationship with the Wards will be wholesome, pleasant and simple in a way that it can’t quite be with the Undersiders right now, even though her bond with the Undersiders is a lot more profound. Does that vaguely make sense?

      Another kind of therapy for her, basically, and one she definitely deserves.

  2. Nice to see a more calm chapter after the series of whams we’ve had recently. Well… relatively calm. Nearer to calm than a lot of recent chapters anyways.

    No spelling/grammar errors immediately apparent.

    Good writing as a whole. I liked the bits with Taylor and Danny the best out of all this chapter, but the whole thing was pretty good.

    I look forward to her ‘big thing’, whatever it turns out to be.

  3. So a new arc, and a new start. I have to admit the fact that Taylor was mentally saying,”Don’t look at his giant crotch in his skintight pants” throughout the tour was hilarious. As for the hearing, they are making the same exact mistake everyone else has about her. They only call her a manipulator and fail to realize the reason she is so damn dangerous because of her ability to roll with changes and come up with great tactics/strategies. The old guard was a bit full of themselves considering they broke the truce first, and their whole only the educated minority will care and they won’t be able to affect things. Loved the fact that she simply said things word for word to beat/embarrass them. But I don’t mind. Let them underestimate and try to attack her underhandedly. Ask Alexandria, Coil, and Tagg how that worked out.

    • If Taylor ever learns to fight politically, those old men are fucked. As it is, I can just imagine the damage Lisa can do to a presidental campaign.

      What makes Taylor a manipulater isn’t that she shifts people to her agenda. What makes her a manipulator is that she gets shit done. Nothings going right. The Endbringer is tearing the city apart, the S9 are running rampent. Then this girl steps up to bat, takes the lead and they are driven off.

      • And followers are going to follow someone. These twits are arbitrarily deciding that Taylor is the wrong person to follow, in the past, now, and in perpetuity, when the the results of her team leadership are better than just about anything PRT leadership has ever turned out.

        • In their defense, we’ve seen a more complete view of Taylor then pretty much an in-story person, except probably for Tattletale. We see “anti-hero”, they see “barely-reformed villain”.

          For a comparison, Coil did some pretty horrific shit, but all he really wanted to do was make things run more smoothly. Ditto for Accord. And they (the PRT) aren’t wrong when they bring up the stuff that Taylor has either lied about, or be worried about the times she’s snapped and gone all out. We (the readers) tend to side with Taylor in these situations because we have a better grasp of the circumstances, but I think you have to admit that when considering someone for a position of fame or influence, they would (should) be a concern.

          Are the rules stupid, arbitrary, and ineffective? Yes.
          Does that mean to jump straight to a full scale revolution? Well…when you go to answer that, remember that revolutions tend to bloody and destructive. Is that really what we need more of right now?

  4. For a chapter that started feeling pretty grim, it ended on a high note :)

    For a while there, I was thinking something along the lines of..

    West looked up. Angry, defiant in the face of defeat.

    “Why?”

    Trying to get me talking. Monologuing. Hoping the villain might be one of the unstable ones, knowing the villain is one of the unstable ones.

    I suppressed the urge to smile, and raised the gun.

    “Pusillanimous conduct in the face of the enemy.”

  5. Not done reading this series yet, only at 8.1 so far, but I will say this: I love it, and I love the way you write. Keep it up! This series keeps me guessing, its interesting, and probably the only superhero genre stories that I like (Although that might have to do with the fact that this is the first one I have read)

  6. The Chicago Wards seem to be well endowed with equipment and money. It’s a long, hard uphill battle from here with Weaver, and she’s rubbed the idiot directors the wrong way, but I think she’s got this nailed down.

    Now we just have to hope the Directors don’t dump her in the Birdcage once she talks to the press. She’s got so much to say and I’m sure it’ll keep building up until she just lets it spew out in front of the cameras. The Directors will probably look at it like someone spitting in their eye.

    • Considering all the crazy shit they were hiding in Brockton Bay alone: Racist PRT director who was given a job because they fucked up on the nilbog mission, let a sociopath murderer get away with bulling a regular girl, secretly let a known supervillain become a hero, the next director was secretly a supervillain, the one after that was an idiot with a war mindset, and the two? cauldron capes among their ranks, who knows what other kind of crap they have in Chicago. And she just proved in this chapter that is a bitch to keep her from talking to people, so they can’t just screw her over. I wonder what makes chicago different from other cape cities? Maybe there are bunch of villain tinkers, which would really piss Taylor off, giving her the incentive to do something big as Glenn said.

      • I can make a guess on what the villians in Chicago are like. They include such vile sorts as Pocket Monster, One Eyed Willie, Trouser Snake, The Third Leg, and Pocket Rocket.

        • Don’t forget The Human Tripod, Big Cock the Super Rooster, and Richard “Veiny” Head. On the plus side, Chicago is known for their balls. Some are held for charity, some for fancy dress, but balls that are held for pleasure are the balls that they love best. They’ve got the biggest balls of them all.

          • And for their science tinker department. All the various kinky toys, you just gotta catch ‘em all. And if you finally laid your hand on them (sorry Accord), you’re positively infectious with joy :)

    • I… I can’t help but think about whether or not Golem can use ANY part of himself for his power.

      And I can’t help but think that he can make said body parts larger. Now THAT would’ve been an awkward tower to leave in New Delhi.

  7. I was snickering the entire second part. But I almost thought that the jail sentence was going to be the two year timeskip. Which would suck for Taylor. And then, Birdcage bait. Wonder if they might actually follow through on it.

  8. Being in an antagonistic relationship with Weaver/Skitter must be somewhere in the job description for PRT directors, since, with the exception of Miss Militia, who was essentially forced into that position by Weaver, she has no luck with them. On another note somehow Tattletale is going to find out about this prank and the next time she’s able to meet the Undersiders they will all be wearing codpieces.

    • The PRT may just be that bad. It’s a government agency, and arguably one of the only ways for an unpowered human to get power over parahumans, so it’s gonna be staffed by some of the worst people in the country, morally speaking. The ones with the will to win again and again in bureaucratic infighting, to climb the ladder and damn everything else, with the carrot of powers-on-a-leash drawing them forward.

      They’re a good argument for a revolution of ‘meritocracy’, is all I’m saying. If these people are the best the voters can deliver, :? :? :?

      The Birdcage thing, so much potential to go great or terribly. Great if it’s Dragon who has final say on who gets out, terribly if it’s Saint.

      • Well they do have to review at least a few inmates again considering Cauldron and Alexandria. There is the huge human rights violations, the fact that they are outnumbered, Weaver’s proof of concept of a villain becoming a hero etc.

      • > They’re a good argument for a revolution of ‘meritocracy’, is all I’m saying. If these people are the best the voters can deliver, :? :? :?

        … But what you just described *was* a meritocracy. The PRT directors aren’t elected, they’re bureaucrats who got where they are based on their “merits”.

        • Meritocracy isn’t “who’s best at getting the job” it’s “who’s best at doing the job”, the problem being that there’s always humans adjudicating and biasing any attempt at it. But really, I’m mostly using it as a snarky euphemism for parahuman neo-feudalism.

          • So who decides whose best at the job? and how does that judge get their job? who judges who the best judge is? Meritocracy is a style of leadership but it’s not a proper political philosophy, in my opinion.

  9. What’s sad here is that the ones with the fake dongs are thinking more clearly than the ones trying to have a measuring contest in that room without Chevalier present.

    It was to be expected though.

    Now, back to talking about cock. What would have really killed it would be if Grace and Cuff also had them.

    • “Now, back to talking about cock. What would have really killed it would be if Grace and Cuff also had them.”

      If they did, those would be for personal use only. And probably a bit more than their male teammates would have ever wanted to know.

      I inflict this mental image upon all of you to get it out of my head.

      • I like the idea that Golem could be one hell of a pervert if he ever gets his hands on a pair of panties. And gets hands made out of panties as a result. And then there’s the dildoes.

        • Actually, all he should need is a square of the relevant fabric.

          Surprised he didn’t join in with the other guys this chapter, though. Given the source of his cape name, even his fake dick should still have been a cut above the rest.

        • He doesn’t actually need a pair of panties, just a piece of the same type of cloth. He could keep a handkerchief in his pocket and no-one would be the wiser.

  10. Director West…

    Is his first name Adam?

    Even if it isn’t, I think I’ll call him that.

    And no, Taylor was never going to be his ally. Partly because I’m pretty sure he’s the sort of person who thinks “ally” and “stooge” are synonyms, and partly because she murdered his old boss.

    Interesting to see how a less dysfunctional Wards team looks. We never really got quite this sort of look at the Brockton Bay Wards before Leviathan killed Aegis and Gallant and started the downward spiral; their one pre-Leviathan interlude was more of an “on-the-job” sort of thing.

    …come to think of it, was either Vista or Kid Win at the Behemoth fight? We know Clocky was, but if the other two were there you’d think it would have been noticed and mentioned at some point. And Vista at least seems like a no-brainer to have sent; her power is something Behemoth didn’t have a hard counter for.

    Dragon sending the PRT Directors the conversation and behavior logs from the Birdcage isn’t necessarily an ominous sign where her backup restoration is concerned; assuming they never stated outright why they wanted them, it’s the sort of thing that would be pretty reasonable for them to request and her to provide just as a standard degree of oversight.

    And oh god, the Chicago Wards’ initiation hazing. I shudder to think of what Psycho Gecko will inevitably do with that. Not the good kind of shudder either, this is more the “a hand just landed on my shoulder and I’m pretty sure it belongs to Freddy Krueger” type of shudder.

      • I suppose I should be flattered you think I’m hot, although you’re a bit male for my taste.

        But I’m pretty sure I’m not hot enough to cook those hot dogs.

        I’d recommend Burnscar instead – no, wait, she’s dead. In that case, Sundancer – oh yeah, she went home. Maybe Lung – never mind, Birdcaged.

        …we seem to be kind of low on active capes whose powers let them set things on fire, don’t we?

        • Taylor walks into the Wards’ kitchen area and pulls open the fridge, looking for something to eat.

          “Ok, guys, you’ve taken it too far, unless you really expect me to believe nobody here eats anything other than sausage!”

          • “Of course not! Just check the freezer!”

            “…it’s full of popsicles. Mostly coconut and vanilla flavored.”

            “Well, we do enjoy sucking and licking long hard things that spatter our faces with creamy white goo.”

            • “Is there anything else in here at all then? I’m not asking for anything expensive, like clams, but even some fish would be nice. You know what? We could send someone out for some tacos.”

              “Good idea. We love to much on tacos around here. Just don’t drop any meat from them on the carpet. I swear, we like the things so much, we’d eat that carpet to get the leftovers.”

              • “Oh, and we also have dates in there from time to time. I mean, we don’t intentionally put them in, but somehow they all end up there sooner or later. It only takes us ten or twenty minutes tops to find them, of course, but for some reason they still usually break up with us afterward.”

              • Might just be thanks to the name.

                Once you’ve gone Jewish, anything else doesn’t make the cut.

    • Great now that you said that, I can only picture him as an evil adam west. Now I can’t take the beginning seriously because I hear all his lines in his voice which makes it funny as hell.

      • Given his character’s physical description, I was seeing him as Paul Bearer. Which made his lines even more ridiculous…

        • Paul Bearer did his best to make the Undertaker break out into laughter whenever he was speaking. For the rest of us, that means some of the funniest promos you’ll ever see. I encourage everyone to go watch one of them. You’ll claim that the Undertaker has the superpower of keeping a straight face.

          • Given the second half of this chapter, I’m starting to think Taylor has a lesser version of that power too. Maybe she had a second trigger event after all…

    • How do we know that Clockblocker was there? We’ve seen Defiant engineer some stuff that duplicates his power before.

    • In his interlude Chevy said that most of Brockton Bay was sitting it out. If you think about it they’ve been through the wringer the last few months. Lots of members dying or transferring. And the portal. And the Undersiders and Ambassadors being out of town. So I imagine they only sent one or two members, and hoped nobody to dangerous made a play for the portal.

      • Expect Clockblocker joined the Proctorate. Taylor’s therapist even mentioned that someone (cough*Vista*cough) was sad that he was leaving wards.

  11. Tecton strapped into powered armour,
    Got the ladies always looking at him,
    They can’t believe the size of his over-engineered codpiece.

  12. And once again, weaver is thrust into a situation where she needs to do something impact full fast……I quiver with anticipation.

  13. Glenn’s not wrong that Taylor has a very us/them mentality.

    Can’t be certain without more data on the Director, but suspect much of the animus is driven by perceived disruptiveness. If Weaver were less chaotic, easier to make deals with… well, they worked with Alexandria. Most of the rest of the tension would be driven by control, or the nigh-total lack of it that normals have over capes.

    Glenn does seem to suggest that the next arc is going to be bureaucratic civil war between Protectorate and PRT, with ‘sunlight disinfects!’ as one battlecry and ‘don’t rock the boat while it’s sinking!’ as the other. Interesting in significant part because the latter was Taylor’s own reason for turning hero, interesting also because the dispute threatens the foundations of the state: the definition of a functioning state includes a monopoly on legitimate violence. The Protectorate, particularly with an Endbringer victory on the books, has considerable legitimacy of its own – they do have a disproportionate and worldwide presence at the Endbringer fights. And capes can muster staggering violence if necessary, as that video release just demonstrated. Perhaps as long as it was not known to be a broken monopoly, things were workable?

    Arguably, the PRT old guard is dedicated to preserving the necessary illusion that the PRT controls the heroes (and they then keep the villains under control, isolated incidents excepted) – without that figleaf fiction, it gets much easier for things to get… messy. Disruption of that illusion was, plausibly, Cauldron and Accord’s hope for Coil and then Taylor in Brockton Bay, which may bring that faction back into play directly.

    If faith is lost that the PRT does control the capes, there are really only two ways to restore the perception of that monopoly: ritual submission (what Legend, Hero, Alexandria, and Eidolon did; what Taylor tried by going Weaver), and public demonstration of superior power. The latter option would be a hair’s breadth from civil war. Currently predicting Protectorate-PRT open conflict for arc 26 or 27; no confidence yet on degree of probable escalation. Nightmare scenario is that the PRT starts pardoning select Birdcage inmates if they’ll fight the heroes.

    Good to see Danny doing what he can. Looks like Campanile is a Ward who didn’t show for Behemoth. Sonic powerset + his height = that name? Likely Case 53. Possible Protectorate, I suppose, but quite easy-going to assist in the initiation prank if so.

    Probably some interesting politics among the various directors; not nearly enough data yet to speculate about factions and schemes. Clearly not unified, though there was a dominant faction on this occasion.

    • Pretty sure he’s a full Protectorate member, not a Ward, from this:

      “You’re distributing this stuff to other groups, right? The silk?”

      “After I’m done outfitting my team, and you guys, our Protectorate.”

          • NYC has specialized teams of Wards, and is in that unique – though Tecton’s efforts have made this team specialized.

            Basically, it comes down to my trying to imagine, say, Armsmaster or Defiant or MM stuffing their underwear to welcome a new Ward… and failing.

            • Clockblocker was set to graduate to the Protectorate before the end of summer. I could certainly see him doing it, at least before the Leviathan attack. Maybe Campy has a similar mindset, or let himself get swayed by Tecton. All in good fun.

    • I’m pretty sure Campanile is their protectorate boss, guardian, or whatever you want to call that person. The one in care of the Wards, leading them strategically if not tactically.

      The ‘ease’ with which Director West gave in to the changed circumstances after Weaver relayed the inferredly confidential discussion is worrisome, though, or can be at least seen that way. He may have had that option in the back hand, in an attempt of a carrot stick negotiation or confrontation with Weaver, after a month or so in juvie, or even during the meeting itself if it had not been going south from the get go.

      In a sense the whole protectorate/PRT thing looks like a masquerade to me, with the public being deceived for the greater good, or at least those upholding the masks think of it that way. They are partly right, I think, but their actions seems to be like they are trying to paint their masks new instead of trying to either rebuild, discard or adapt their masks. To further the simile, they’re trying to paint over the holes, and for the holes big enough not to be filled by mere paint they try to judiciously apply layer upon layer of paint till it sticks.

      • I think the man knew that it would happen at some point regardless of the board due to the wards, Chevalier, and public opinion. I think his plan was to let her sit in a cell for a while, than come in like a friend. Then when “he” helps sway opinion into letting join the Wards she will see him a ally, and perhaps give him a chance to put some kind of control over the potential power she wields as a harbinger as Glenn puts it. While you can’t underestimate human stupidity, you have to have some manipulation, and strategic thinking skills to become a PRT director. There must be at least a few of the old guards who can figure out what way the wind is blowing and try to manipulate things to stay in control.

    • She is indeed quick to write people off as enemies, and when she’s decided who her enemies are, quick to skip straight past bargaining to coercion. That’s pretty much what she did when she turned herself in with the threat of Undersiders staging a destabilizing attack, she never bothered to even get MM in the loop much less offer the PRT a deal without a gun in hand.

      That, and she lies constantly. Stupidly, too, sometimes.

      • Yup. Still, by the time this chapter starts West had stopped having any interest at all in a deal as far as I can tell. Maybe there was a chance during whatever discussion had occurred earlier but we didn’t see that.

      • “That, and she lies constantly. Stupidly, too, sometimes.”
        Nothing new there. Really it’s something that got it’s start back when she was being bullied. Along with her tendency to see authority figures as a hinderence.

    • “If Weaver were less chaotic, easier to make deals with…”

      The problem with this is that the only “deals” the PRT has offered Taylor have been completely one-sided. Hell, even when Taylor tried to surrender, giving them a very fair compromise, the PRT tried to wrench that into another completely unfair situation. No, Taylor has been extremely easy to make deals with. The PRT just has the mentality of a child who doesn’t want to share and throws tantrums when they aren’t given everything they want. The PRT directors simply refuse any sort of compromise with her.

      • Hmm. I wholeheartedly agree that the PRT is acting pretty stupid right now, seeing how instrumental Weaver was to the fight against Behemoth (and i got the vibe that they’re clutching at straws because they know that once Chevalier really starts re-organising the Protectorate some heads are going to roll, regardless of their insistence that PRT and Protectorate are two different entities.

        However, back when Taylor surrendered, she was at best a feudal warlord who had taken the law in her own hands and at worst a terrorist who invaded the house of a lawfully elected representative of the people, almost killed his son and then blackmailed the mayor to do her (or in this case, Coil’s) bidding in exchange for his son’s life. While, considering her support in major crisis and her cooperation, they could have been more lenient, it isn’t surprising if the PRT weren’t accepting her terms. (Of course Alexandria and Tagg, too, I gather, went way overboard but that’s another matter.)

        • Considering the “feudal warlord” did the job that they were supposed to do leaps and bounds better than they were willing to, protecting the civilians and ensuring that they were taken care of financially and resource-wise, people who would have DIED without her assistance just from malnutrition and disease if not the gangs… and the “terrorist” saved the entirety of the city and all the lives ruined by it, that would have been abandoned otherwise… I’m cool with that.

        • Taylor was a feudal warlord… who was actually getting the city rebuilt and back up to operational standing. The PRT could have easily said “hey, let’s help these people out”, but instead said “OH NOES! TEH VILLAINZ! WE MUST FIGHTS!” Say what you want about Taylor being a feudal warlord, at least she was fighting the correct battles. As I recall, Taylor even repeatedly approached them trying to get some sort of truce going so that they could rebuild the city and fight common enemies, but the PRT refused to work with them because they wanted everything their way with no compromise. So no, I don’t really see the PRT as ever having been reasonable in offering any sort of deals in the first place.

          • Incompitence can be a sin. Or at least a betrayal when people are counting on you. The problem with the PRT is that they have been incompitent, and are more concerned with keeping things from getting out of hand when they are already out of hand. Cauldron is batting a thousand. The Endbringers have been walking all over humanity. The Slaughterhouse 9 should have been done, but now will be back stronger than ever. And they focus a huge amount of their time and effort on hampering those that actually got shit done. The Undersiders played a major part in revealing Cauldron, weakening the nine, and slowing BEHEMOTH down long enough for Scion to show up. They actually made a escape route with the portal. Now the question is are they going to be the first ones rushing to that lifeboat when the ship they ran into an iceberg starts sinking?

            The Tribunal sure was quick to say what Taylor did wrong. But they sure didn’t seem able to offer any workable alternatives.

        • You say feudal warlord as if that’s unique to Skitter. but these guys aren’t exactly examples of just and balanced authority either, seen with Alexandria, Piggot and Tagg, that when the chips are down, the PRT has no problem with acting like Walder Frey and Cersei fucking Lannister. These are the people who going to someday end up declaring martial law, putting parahumans into internment camps, and sending the Dragonslayers to “remove” problem capes. They’ve already did some of these things for all we know.

          Shit, I’d take Marquis over these pinheads.

          • Okay, I’ll answer all of the above comments here and please keep in mind that I really like Taylor as a character and I’m sort of playing devil’s advocate here.

            Yes, it’s very true that that Taylor always had the best of intentions but that’s something we, the readers, looking inside her head, can know, not the PRT, muggle law enforcers fighting dangerous super villains. She felt bad when Triumph nearly died, but we know that, certainly not the PRT or the Wards or the Protectorate.

            Sure, Alexandria was a monster and deserved what she got, andTagg was a complete nutjob, but even reasonable people like Miss Militia believed she was asking too much. (And I’m not talking about a reorganisation of the PRT, which is sorely needed, but of the general amnesty regarding her and her friends etc.)

            She helped people the state couldn’t help, good for her. Where I live there are schoolchildren that boo when judges come to talk against the mafia, because their fathers wouldn’t even have (perfectly legal) jobs if it wasn’t for the mafia. Now, the mafia is obviously much worse than Skitter, but the parallelisms are there. And when mafiosi spontaneously decide to cooperate with the authorities they certainly don’t go scot free, they get lighter sentences and protection, but they still have to pay for their crimes.

            • The more I come to think about it, the more I realize that the PRT isn’t honestly concerned with Taylor’s criminal past. This is about pride, pure and simple. The PRT has zero qualms about bringing in criminals, even known multiple murderers, into their fold. They have even worked with previous criminals and have cut deals with them that are just as unreasonable as Taylor’s seem at first glance. Remember Madcap? Here’s a guy who brazenly perverted justice by bailing out known criminals who were known to be incredible threats to society, yet he proposed a deal upon his capture to become one of the heroes. They barely batted an eye at accepting that deal. They captured Shadow Stalker after her murders and rather quickly snatched her up into the Wards program without issue. The big difference here is that Taylor surrendered under her own terms. The PRT didn’t have the ego boost involved in breaking her like they did the others. That’s so much of why Tagg and Alexandria made a point of trying to publicly humiliate Taylor after she willingly surrendered. The PRT didn’t get their ego stroked, so they are throwing a tantrum. When it comes to Class S threats, pride has no place. Taylor knows this, as she demonstrated during the Behemoth fight by allowing Annex to hide in her costume at the expense of her own dignity and modesty, just because she knew it was their best chance. She’s given up all of her pride for this, and it’s about damn time the PRT pull their heads out of their asses too.

              • A more charitable version is that they care about the appearance of propriety – the appearance of control. Madcap’s deal was that Madcap vanished… and ‘Assault’ appeared. The powerset was generic enough no one could connect them. It was deniable.

                Skitter – and Weaver – are ever undeniable.

                Taylor – good intentions and good results included – is shredding the legitimacy of the existing system at every turn. The system as it is is certainly corrupt, and often produces bad results… but there’s an excellent argument for legitimacy even at considerable cost.

              • In short it’s about saving face. Like Scolopendra mentioned they Let Madcap join, and name a major term (always on the same team as Battery). Because no one would be the wiser. (though that one sort of worked out) Shadow Stalker’s violent actions were something they could cover up. But they didn’t keep any watch on her to make sure she actually changed her ways. Hence Taylor going in the locker. The difference is that Taylor isn’t going quietly. She’s going on her terms, and she’s using her fame to extort changes. Plus she’s really a lot more valuable than Assualt and Shadow Stalker combined.

                It reminds me a bit of Ching Shih (Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ching_Shih). Only the Chinese Emperor realized he could either keep embarressing himself or give her what she wanted, and get a very capable navel force. He did the smart thing, swallowed his pride, and ended saving what face he had left.

                If the PRT had kept in conflict against the Undersiders and Skitter, maybe they’d win eventually. But not without more humiliating defeats, and not without diverting resources that they needed for worse threats.

              • @notes: Your point about legitimacy is a strong one — but if you look at it from the perspective of the data available to the public, I don’t think Taylor’s actions do that much harm. In the press conference announcing Alexandria’s death and Taylor’s defection from the Undersiders, Taylor was presented as one fighting against corrupting forces within the Protectorate. In accepting a jail sentence rather than seeking any kind of jury trial, Taylor emphasized the idea that parahumans are ultimately responsible for their actions under the law. Her speeches to the middle schoolers, and the capes game with the dice she ran for them was, in spite of her I’m-saying-what-they-don’t-want-me-to pretense, about the Wards and Protectorate being the forces for good, forces that deserve support.

                Even in the video from Drone 23.5 and the Crushed arc, her actions reflect the assumption that the Protectorate leadership is and should be in charge of the fight against the Endbringer. The order to stay away from the Undersiders came before the record started (and her decision to unite the Chicago Wards with them was exactly the kind of move that Chevalier’s “form teams with people you know” directive demanded), and her failure to obey Exalt’s orders regarding the time bomb reflect Exalt’s ignorance of the circumstances, not Weaver’s lack of respect for the chain of command. That’s not even accounting for Glenn’s point about the PR effect of what is apparently the first footage publicly released of an Endbringer fight — that video being released when the public was desperate for verification of Behemoth’s death spoke louder about the heroism of the Protectorate and Wards than any number of press conferences could have.

                (Aside: it’s amazing reading the Behemoth chapters while trying to imagine what will be on the tape. Bits like when Grue blankets the team in darkness, for example, or all the times Weaver is waiting in cover and assessing the situation with her bugs. And the occasional moments when she mutters words to herself when using her swarmvoice. And all the smoke and noise after Phir Se’s teleporter jumps her to the Endbringer fight front lines.)

                Now, I agree that Taylor Hebert is a source of stress within the organization — she’s been that since the night on the rooftop when she decided to let Armsmaster take full credit for Lung and it left Armsmaster with full credit for Lung nearly dying of massive necrosis — and that stress could, in the worst case, contribute to the collapse of the system. But when it comes to public perception of the Protectorate, she might even be a net positive.

  14. I finally catch a chapter the moment it’s released.
    This chapter is unusual. It’s an alright chapter, it just feels like a different author wrote it compared to every previous chapter.

  15. Tecton, Wanton and Annex were at the bottom of the stairs. Grace, Golem and Cuff were sitting at the computer bank against the one wall, but they were watching. Grace had a wicked smile on her face, and something long and snakelike in her tights. There was also something that looked like steel wool where it met between her legs. Maybe I could talk to Foil about helping her shave.

    Oh, I realized why she was smiling. The bastards. They were pulling the same trick Campanile had, stuffing something in the front of their costumes. Tecton, for his part, wore a mechanical suit, so he’d simply bulked out the crotch portion of his armor with additional armor plating. Obvious, not even trying to hide what they were doing. Wanton gave me a cheeky smile as I made eye contact with him. The one in his pants was wrapped around his leg a few times and had a knot tied in it.

    For my part, I managed to keep my expression straight while I concentrated on my bugs.

    Over the course of seconds, Annex seemed to get more and more uncomfortable. I made eye contact and maintained it as he squirmed.

    “She’s not reacting, and I’m feeling really, really dumb,” he said.

    “Aw, Annex, c’mon,” Wanton groaned. “She would’ve cracked up.”

    Grace was laughing, now. Cuff, by contrast, wasn’t moving her eyes from the computer screen. She was probably the ideal target for this kind of prank.

    “Don’t sue me for sexual harassment,” Annex told me.

    I smiled a little. “I’m not going to sue. I’ve been around people who did worse.”

    “It seemed funnier when we were talking about it before,” Tecton said. “It’s… kind of awkward, right now.”

    “It is funny,” I said, smiling, “You guys did get me, I was so busy trying not to stare at Campanile that I barely heard what he was saying about the tour. I half expected it to slither out and try to eat me.”

    There were a few chuckles.

    “I was thinking it was a bad idea,” Golem said, “With your background, that you might not like being picked on. They gave me one, but I thought it was a bad idea to test you.”

    “It was a terrible idea,” Tecton said. “Juvenile. But sometimes you need a cheap laugh.”

    “They’re embarrassing themselves worse than they’re embarrassing me,” I told Golem. “I’m okay with it. I’m glad to have an initiation into the group. Could have been far worse.”

    “Alright guys, joke’s over,” Tecton said. He unclasped and removed the metal codpiece from his armor. “She’s right. We’re just embarrassing ourselves now. Get rid of the damn things. And I don’t want to see them lying around anywhere.”

    “I could keep it this way,” Wanton joked.

    While they weren’t paying attention, I made my move. They caught on to the swift movement of bugs as they raced along the floor toward me. The Wards all turned to look to see what I was up to. Then, they burst out laughing.

    The shape my bugs made was easily longer than even Campanile’s stopping just above my ankle. I walked over to a computer station like it wasn’t even a thing as everyone else burst into laughter.

    I dug around for the files on the local powers, and began studying. I tried, anyways. Grace’s continued laughter was so infectious and unashamed I couldn’t help but join in.

    My new home, for better or worse

  16. Hahahaha! In this chapter we are reminded that Taylor is a 16 year old girl.

    As for all the PRT guys, Fuck them. They’re stupid. And I mean actually stupid.
    “Hey let’s piss off the former supervillain by acting like jackasses, nevermind that she took over one city and is still in good standing with her former teammates, made one of the strongest capes a braindead zombie, and happened to remove THREE directors from office. She definitely won’t send some impossible to detect message to Tattletale to get the Undersiders to come by and kill us off!”

    Whatevs. I loved this chapter. Not the first part, though it was well written. I liked the capes coming to bat for Taylor. I was surprised that she thought Dispatch didn’t like her. I didn’t get that impression during the last arc, but it might be either me misreading or Taylor getting the wrong impression because iirc Dispatch was fairly short and tense – obviously stressed out about being among the last 50 capes among hundreds to stand against Behemoth.

    The second part though. Geez, I think this chapter deserves an entry in Tvtropes as a moment of humor. Completely unexpected, but in character.

    I’m hoping we get to see the conversation between Golem and Weaver about his past. I don’t think we will, seeing as it’s probably not plot relevant, but it’s interesting. It might also reveal his trigger event. I’m half suspecting Golem is a Cauldron cape. He got captured, told his story, someone put two and two together, and dosed him, just so he might be able to fight Jack Slash. It would also be keeping in Worm’s general mood that because he got dosed that he gained the power to eventually end the world.

    Oh and lastly, I also urge everyone to vote for Worm at TopWebFiction. Personally I do it for two reasons. One: I love Worm and it deserves the support. Two: It seems like every other highly rated story there is a Zombie story, and I despise zombie apocalypses.

    • Dispatch was fairly hostile to her when they first met, in the meeting with all the Protectorate leaders to decide whose team she should go to.

      • I would imagine that he had doubts about her. He may have felt she wouldn’t really reform, or that she’d take off when the going got tough. Now think about what he saw in New Dehli. She did an amazing job keeping her team alive. She was integeral to a plan that did a lot of damage to BEHEMOTH. And she stood there and joined the last line of defense for the wounded dispite having powers that were next to useless against BEHEMOTH, planning to buy as much time for the wounded as she could. I think she earned his respect.

  17. “One million spiders, please.” “Sure thing.” Taylor’s workshop will soon be known as the most terrifying room on the planet, short of Bonesaw’s digs or anywhere in Nilbogs town. I’m looking forward to the Chicago Wards’ reactions to her little bug-convenience habits (fetching her toothbrush, tying her hair, etc) – maybe that can be her revenge for the hazing.

      • “Hey guys, let’s hit the Wards base. I’ve found a room they barely ever go into. Must be an empty store room or something.”

        Later…

        “Ahhhhh! Spiders! Spiders with codpieces! Why, God, why?!!”

        • Hey that could be how they intiaite a future member of the Chicago team.
          “We just need you to go in here so Weaver can get you fitted for a outfit.”
          “Hold still this is easier if you don’t squirm.”
          “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Weaver needs new spiders. The good news is that our newest recriut had a second trigger event.”

            • Assuming that he hasn’t been toasted….actually, the PRT would put their foot down HARD. He probably has it on his file that he has had moderately extensive contact with Taylor, as both Skitter and Weaver, that he has cooperated with her on multiple operations and seems to be on friendly terms with her, despite having been covered in thpiderth on multiple occasions.

              In other words, he’s been corrupted and turned by Taylor FUCKING Hebert. Promotion is not indicated. Because PRT.

              Silly Dennis.

      • I’m curious. Is the actual chemical composition of the Darwin’s Bark Spider’s web actually stronger, or does it just weave thicker strands? If it’s the latter, Taylor could make her products more quickly with them, but she might actually get more effective material by using other spider web because she could make denser weaves with them.

          • Yeah. DBs are amazing little critters. Going into mass production, civilian-side could make her one of the richest law enforcement/military contractors extant.

            The fact that she’s going to be making suits for the various Protectorate members is going to give them that much more of an edge.

            Ten times the strength of kevlar.

            • Individually a spider makes too little silk too slowly. You need a lot, a lot of spiders for mass production.

              Which means that Weaver brand spider silk is going to be expensive as fuck.

              • Except for the fact that once she has the spiders and the setup going, her passenger will have them spinning and weaving in shifts 24/7, probably even in her sleep, and fed, maintained, and replaced, all with no monetary labor costs. The only breaks will be when she is actually off the premises. Quite frankly, they should put her in a warehouse complex filled with spiders to the full radius of her range, excepting perhaps enough un-spidered territory to supply bugs for food if enough wouldn’t wander through on their own.

              • I have a suspicion that Taylor’s spiders are more productive than naturally inclined to be; she was rearranging their living/breeding habits at the very beginning of the story. I think she has more control over creatures than “arthropodokinesis” would suggest.

              • Spiders are rather funny with their lifespans and metabolism. Generally speaking, they don’t need to eat nearly as much as most creatures and have a slower metabolism. However, something that is done in the hobby circles with arachnoculture is something called “power feeding”. You basically feed the spiders at an accelerated rate, and they end up growing at a much faster rate. However, this generally results in a shorter lifespan. I imagine Taylor could do something similar here, by providing a much larger, more consistent meal source, she could have her spiders producing a colossal amount of silk and offspring. Regarding the offspring as well, each eggsac will almost certainly produce about 3-4 times more surviving offspring than normal, as she can prevent one of the largest sources of spider infant mortality: cannibalism. Having raised a few broods of spiderlings myself, I can tell you that they would give Hannibal Lecter pause with their appetites.

  18. It surprised me at first, the PRT top brass couldn’t be that shitheaded right? I mean, they’d just take the win and not quibble over it yeah?

    But then I start thinking; what if Scion went for the hat trick tomorrow Jack Slash and Bonesaw became born again Christians and the world suddenly found itself with a longer expiration date? I figure that if that happened, and alot of capes looked around and realized that things were still shit the jokers in that boardroom would be the first against the wall when the next Skitter comes around.

    Not to say they have an active interest in mass slaughter by Endbringer, but their careers depend on the situation looking grim enough that people would give a shit about what they bring to the table, otherwise they’d be a state level wing of law enforcement and not a big bloated boil coming out of the governments face.

    So yeah, heroic or no, an Endbringer victory that doesn’t clearly demonstrate how useful they are? Of course guys like West are going to be frothing over it. It helps that they get first dibs on evac choppers when Simurgh comes knocking.

    • They don’t have anything to worry about. Alexandria mentions in her interlude that by trigger events very nature, villains will probably always outnumber the heroes even without the Endbringers killing huge numbers of them. It’s more about the things they could justify because of the Endbringers and now they don’t have that justification because Chevaliers new ways of doing things proved it’s strategic and moral superiority. Heroes have to be under normals. Chevalier, Miss Militia, and the three! “normal” PRT directors disprove that. Hey, lets spend a huge amount of resources at trying to beat/embarrass underage villains who never kill, instead of Nazis, and a drug addled gang who violently attacks everyone around them. Logic, whats that?

      • Well they completely ignored The Undersiders and the Travelers until they moved on the city. Even then, they tolerated them so that they could do all the work of thinning out the rival gangs. Dragon didn’t even attack until the gang wars were almost over.

      • Alexandria was probably right about first and second generation capes, but 3rd+ generation capes trigger very easily. Glory Girl triggered from being faulted in basketball. And that means that, as time goes on, more and more ordinary, comparatively well-adjusted citizens will trigger and the balance will shift the other way.

  19. The fundamental weakness of the PRT position is that in the end it boils down to, “There are no good capes.” They treat them like they can only be trusted if they are under the control of norms, yet the only way the norms can keep them under control is by using the good ones, and not letting the rest of the norms know what they are really capable of besides. Sooner or later they have to admit that some capes are good or there is no hope for controlling them, or the natural conclusion is that all of them are eventually going to go out of control and the situation goes to hell. And if capes are capable of being good and trusted without PRT-norm oversight, there is no use for the PRT. If there is no hope for controlling them, there is no point for the PRT.

    It’s all a house of cards, and one “good” cape out of their control brings it all tumbling down. Taylor was right, she had to act. They would never have let her come out from under the rug once she was swept there.

    Backtracking, maybe the Chicago Wards or other heroes would have come to her rescue whenever they found out what had happened to her. I don’t believe the PRT could have kept the truth from them indefinitely if they tried to make for a convincing reason for her probation to be revoked and her prison term made more conventional. If she had waited for it, maybe the resulting relationship would have been less adversarial. However, expecting Taylor not to act when she feels she is being, in effect, bullied is only going to leave you doomed to disappointment.

      • Yes, I think it would have all come out — in fact, it might have come out more completely to the public — but it would have been someone besides Taylor who actually put it out. They would have still resented that she was the focal point, but at least she wouldn’t have been the person that forced their hand.

  20. Lives are meaningless, so a few million people die every now and again. Woop-de-do. People have babies every day. Small potatoes compared to what’s really at stake. If we were to lose the [i]status quo[/i]… Dear Christ all mighty. I shudder to think of the implications.

  21. But did Clockblocker survive?

    *coughs* Seriously though, depending on the grace period, this is my first chapter since I’ve caught up on the archive. I’ve made more thorough (for some definitions of the word) comments on the rpg.net thread, and I might post some later, when I’m fully awake. For now, only two:

    Did the first part of this chapter feel a bit “talking head”-y to anyone else?
    Weaver seriously needs to talk to Yamada if she doesn’t want to lose control of her passenger. I’m intrigued to see what comes of it.

    • I pictured it as a dramatic courtroom scene where talking heads can be good if they are done right. I don’t know if her passenger going out of control is necessarily that bad since it “chose” her. While all passengers seem to be violent since all parahumans can be used for combat, Noelle’s passenger seemed to actively despise and fight against her. This could be because she wasn’t chosen by it. In comparison, Taylor’s passenger comes across as a sort of loyal dog who wants to please it’s master and can be taught tricks so it can do things on it’s own.

        • I’ve thought of it as bieng like a loyal dumb dog. That also fit what happened to Tagg and Alexandria pretty well. Even the friendliest of mutts is going to try and kill someone attacking its master.

  22. Well in honor of the PRT having to face change, I just wanted to ask if anyone had any helpful tips for the new PRT. For example, every ward is required to see a therapist and the same fucking therapist. The same for every parahuman in juvenile detention. Sophia should be in therapy fucking ten hours a day for her multiple personalities, anger issues, and who the hell knows what else. Their amazing plan of locking them up with no help till they are 18 and hoping they become heroes is so stupid I want the PRT to give every employee a psych test to see if they are delusional. Which I suspect they don’t do despite it being the norm for every other police department.
    I would get every thinker they have and just have them go over the wards similar to fantasy baseball. That means picking theoretical teams and testing their effectiveness. Is it better to be flexible to handle many different threats or be built around synergy?
    Have an actual Scion damned training program that pits the wards against a variety of opponents and situations. Vista was nearly killed several fucking times and if you insist on putting her in the field instead of waiting after a few years of intensive training with her power, the least you could do is get a bunch of thinkers together and just work with her to see the full limits of her power/weaknesses. Then work to erase those weaknesses.
    Give Skitter a million fucking darwin spiders. Her power allows her to potentially give EVERY hero with a costume that is amazing tough and light.
    Finally I would have a dragon suit, depending upon cost/availability, in every cape city for backup. Give Dragon some of that bloated US defense budget. At the very least have a transport for every team so the Chicago wards can get around faster.

    • Skitter already asked for the Darwin spiders at the end of Campanile’s tour. Agreed on the therapists, the thinker team optimization, and the Dragon suits. I’m not entirely sure on the training, mainly because they might not have that in the budget, but I suppose if the US defense budget can cover a dragon in every city, they can cover some good power training.

      • The thing with power training is that every individual is going to be unique. Even if you have two people who shoot heat rays, they will have different underlying mechanisms and different ways of using them.

        What I want to know is how the hell they missed Taylor. by that I mean how no one figured she might have had a trigger event when she was instatutionalized after the locker incident. By now they should know what to look for. Have a program that flags when certain conditions are met. Head them off before they do something stupid and get labeled villians.

        And yes, they need Therapy. Considering how truamatic trigger events are, all capes need therapy, unless they are a Cauldron cape. And how many Endbringer fights do you think it takes before PSTD sets in?

        • I don’t think it is that easy to predict trigger events based on what the TA who was held hostage by the Pure said. They should be taking a proactive approach and the little talk with the kids Weaver had seems to be at least a step in the right direction. The irony if one of those kids triggered would be a little funny. As for the unique training, that is the point. The heroes have the advantage of resources and support personnel which they should use. Get a team of thinkers together and just have them work with each Ward individually to see where they are weak and the possibilities of their powers. Taylor remarked on how different she would do things if she had genesis or Panacea’s power, and Tattletale admits in her interlude that Taylor could probably use her power better than she could. The heroes having much/better training then the villains could help even the odds.

          • Not predict. Identify. They can’t predict trigger events, but you can identify what kinds of events might cause someone to trigger and go from there.

            • Or at least go with this logic:

              Individual undergoes something horrifically traumatic? Get them therapy!

              • The fact that they don’t have a program aimed at identifying new parhahumans and giving them support and therapy run by Dragon and ten top thinkers is really terrible. As is the fact that the criminal justice system for new villains isn’t based off of the Norwegian one. I mean, it’s terrible that the entire US prison system isn’t like the Norwegian one, but it’s especially egregious when it scuppers your chances of rehabilitating someone who can shoot fire from their hands.

                A cash bursary that any new parahuman can claim, no strings attached other than that they don’t become a villain, would also be a good idea. It will most likely save you a lot of money in the long run. You’d have to work out a way to protect anonymity, but that’s doable.

    • Remember Dragon only gained the ability to have multiple Dragon suits active recently. Before that, it seems likely she had a few suits stashed around the place for quick-response, but it wasn’t as useful because she couldn’t run them simultaneously.

      I agree on the training program. Not sure if they’ll shuffle around Wards teams (they’re minors, probably staying with their families, in school, etc. and the original idea was for Wards to stay kids, as much as possible) but it should certainly be offered as an option, and perhaps provide the odd weekend or week of training exercises with different groups. I remember Weld wanted the BB Wards to train with other groups, and Piggot was very unenthusiastic about the idea. Maybe the non-powered PRT doesn’t want the Protectorate being any better than it already is, for fear.

      The lack of mandatory therapy is pretty inexcusable, though I wonder if there’s a dearth of therapists willing to handle supers – Mrs Yamada mentions being continually aware of Eidolon’s power to extinguish her in a heartbeat, and her schedule is certainly overwhelming. Still, the PRT could certainly negotiate increased wages, etc. etc. for people who work with people with powers.

      The whole “shuffle around therapists to stop them forming an emotional bond with their patients” thing makes me think of it more as the PRT being stupid, though. Especially as they didn’t immediately bring in a therapist to deal with the Brockton Bay Wards, who had just had two team members die against Leviathan. But I think everyone’s hashed over this a lot.

      • There’s also the fact that the PRT is starting to cut ties with Dragon and Piggot has apparently warned them on the risk of being so dependent on her (seriously Piggot is the only one with half a brain i the entire PRt, had Dragon been less scrupulous she could have gone all Skynet on their asses in like 5 seconds) , which means that the dragonsuits thing is unlikely. Or they ask for Saint’s services and that would be…bad.

        • But Piggot recognized the power and usefulness of the Dragon suits herself. She was the one who controlled them and used them after all. I think that if they were under the Director’s direct control they would be fine with it. Especially if the villains outnumber them and the director personally looks bad when the villains win.

          • Yeah but that was before Defiant smugly implied that if they sent him to the Birdcage Dragon would bust him out and Dragon herself threatened to stop helping the PRT and the Protectorate if things didn’t change and Cauldron was weeded out. Hence the PRT playing the Dragonslayers card. Without help, at least from Saint, I doubt any Director could manage to make the suits function.

            • But then they would depend completely on Saint which is completely stupid. Saint from his mercenary status would be much less “loyal” then Dragon. At this point they have to face facts they are over dependent on Dragon for the birdcage, her foam projectors, and who knows what else. With a Dragon suit they have the equivalent of a powerful cape that they completely personally control, the advantages of which might outweigh the negatives considering they envision a time where heroes aren’t so controllable.

    • Suggestions? Other than locking the PRT brass in a room with an angry bear?

      They need to rework how they execute the “norms must command parahumans” nonsense. The way things are the capes are only foot soldiers in command of normal people and as far as I’m concerned the only difference between a superhero that can crush cities and the guy who tells him what to do is that the superhero will be held accountable for his actions.

      Instead of a power-fantasy stroking top down command structure with desk jockeys at the top there needs to be dialogue between norms and capes. The triumvirate needs to be privy to the PRT functions that we’ve seen here. People like Miss Militia who actually understand what it’s like to be a super hero need to have a direct say in policy. There need to be easier avenues for capes to lobby for better treatment, and they need to be transparent so they can be exposed to public scrutiny.

      The PRT needs to realize that despite their mundane-supremacist agenda, they are nothing without superheroes. A grunt like Tagg can be replaced, an incredibly useful power like Amy’s cannot. The PRT should have been a support and regulation body, instead it’s a private fucking military force that’s a hair’s breadth away from using supers as weapons.

      • A parahuman lobby in washington maybe? Or have a bunch of heroes go on strike and leak to the media the stupidity of the brass could work.

          • Just going to the media would do it, I think.

            I mean seriously, imagine Chevalier going on the Daily Show, and being honest about the damage the PRT have done via their incompetence and obsession with their precious authoritah. He’d rip them a new arsehole in a way their PR people wouldn’t be able to spin nearly quick enough. Just the threat of him doing that is enough to force them not to overtly block his reform efforts.

          • No, but they can go “Work to Order”, I beleive it’s called. It’s where you do it by the book, or exactly as ordered. For example, “Plant these carrots in rows ” becomes”Oh you mean you didn’t want the rows to have 20 feet between each carrot”. Or you do it exactly by the book… Because by the book is actually not the best way to do it and everyone knows that. “According to this I must file report with the Davisville constable first.” “Davisville hasen’t had a constable for 50 years since it was merged with Shelbytown!” “Then this might take a while sir.”

              • 1. Dildoes are not a suitable super weapon. 1A. Not even if I claim they’re the only thing my power works on. 1B. Not even against an Endbringer.

                2. I will not claim to have amazing flame powers and then demonstrate them in any way that involves a lighter and pulling my pants down.

                3. Not allowed to take any superhero codename that doubles as a sexual innuendo.

                4. Not allowed to start promoting a superhero codename as a new sexual innuendo.

                5. I am not allowed to misinterpret the order to “Do the diligence” in any way involving the heroine named Diligence.

                6. When ordered to create a flashflood, I am supposed to remember to use weather powers, not the ability to create copies of myself.

                7. Whenever the PRT Directors do not appear to get a joke, I am not supposed to say, “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!…”

                8. No matter how funny it is, I am not allowed to coat the interior of anyone’s costumes with Bengay anymore.

                9. Tanks are for driving, not for hand-to-hand combat.

                10. Similar to rule #9, airplanes are not to be used for enemas, except when dealing with the Slaughterhouse 9. Even then, it’s on a case-by-case basis.

                11. When dealing with Tinker tech, I am no longer allowed to suggest “Cross the streams!’

                12. When in the bathroom, I am no longer allowed to suggest “Cross the streams!”

                13. When thrown into the past and across to Italy, I am no longer allowed to suggest to any military commanders “Cross the streams!”

                14. Strangers DO NOT have the superpower of running around and throwing open their coats in front of little old ladies.

                15. I am no longer allowed to replace the team Thinker’s chair with a pedestal.

                16. Even if I can throw lightning, I am not allowed to wear a black cloak and threaten people with my fully operational Death Star.

                17. While electricity can keep people from feeling things, I am never allowed to say that lightning bolts are analgesic.

                18. I do not have the power of perfect spelling and I did not fight Grammar Nazis in World War 2.

                19. Helping little old ladies cross the street should never involve throwing them. No, not even if I claim the Stranger teammate was there to catch them.

                20. I am not allowed to voice the suspicion that Canada is the cause of all our supercrime, especially at a press conference.

                21. No one is buying the excuse that I can’t visit children at schools or hospitals because I’m afraid I’ll find one that looks familiar.

  23. Breather episode! We needed it.

    It’s pretty sad to see the PRT already trying to undermine Chevalier and get behind his back. Then again they have to act fast because the moment he’s out of the hospital he’s going to stop their politicking. Also “we lost, Scion won”? What? Maybe it’s not really accurate but the footage they have shows rather “we beat the crap out of him, Scion gave the final blow”.

    On the other hand, Weaver’s initiation was hilarious. I’d love to make some sort of joke but my comedic vis is pretty weak.

  24. Random Tinfoil Hat Activation: The Smurf’s disaster domino with Trickster is still not yet over, not just because he is now a puppet for one of Cauldron’s pawns and will screw up their plans in the worst possible way but because the real target in the Birdcage is Canary whose power may be the only viable cure for those twisted by the Smurf’s song.

  25. Oh no…
    Is the end of the world Dec 21 2012?

    (Weaver born June 19, 1995. Just turned 16 = current date is Summer, 2011. Possibly fall, not sure. World ends in ~1.5 yrs. Nearest significant date = Dec 21 2012)
    ((not sure about how long until world ends, couldn’t find last precise mention))

    • Supposedly, the end of the world is not one giant act, where everyone is dead on December 22nd, 2012, but instead a bunch of variable events that kill anyhere from…2/5ths was it…of the world’s population, all the way up to ‘pretty much everyone in the world.’ So, hmm, not sure!

  26. As I read this I was imagining a masochistic cape who could hurt himself and transfer the pain. In costume he would look like the Gimp from Pulp Fiction.

      • Was imagining it to be slightly different. Long range, possibly affecting multiple people, no healing reverse effect sort of thing. Since you brought up Echidna I guess you could think of the difference being the same as that of an original cape and an Echidna clone.

    • There was a character like this called ‘Cutter’ in the comic ‘Irredeemable’ – the one with the premise ‘what if one day the golden age Superman snapped and went postal?’. Answer: It’s not pretty.

  27. I said it during Drone, and this chapter illustrates it very well.

    In her guise as Skitter, overall Taylor saved lives and did a great deal of good, and there are those in the higher echelons of the PRT who will never forgive her for it.

    • Well c’mon she only shows how damn pathetic and useless they are at their jobs.

      If your going to pass judgement on the actions someone took in the field, you better damn well understand what the field was like. Glenn said that some of the tribunal wouldn’t even have watched the recording. They went in to pass judgement while willfully ignorent. It’s like a Jury casting their votes without even bothering to see if their were extenuating circumstances. “You shot this man, to the gas chamber with you!” Well yeah the guy he shot was raping his wife. Don’t pass judgement without getting the facts. And if you rush to pass judgement while being ignororant because you’re afraid of seeming incompitent… You are incompiteant.

  28. Danny, Taylor I think the word your looking for is “Rebuild”. It’s not fixable. As Taylor says it’s way past that. Things won’t go back to what they used to be. They can’t. So you have to take the existing foundation, and start anew.

  29. so did anyone else pick up the fact that the only half-openminded director in the room was Director Armstrong?

    aka, Weld’s father-figure?

    totally irrational, but i now have high hopes for that guy.

    • Wow, that was a good catch. I presume it was in Weld’s chapter during Arc 9: that was like ages ago. Piggot didn’t like him, I believe?

      And, yeah, he was already the only salvageable guy in the room so knowing he was a good influence for Weld (and pushing for his promotion despite Weld being a Case 53, I recall), is a bonus.

    • Well, I can definitely see why Weld sees him as a father figure. Unlike basically every other director we’ve seen so far, Armstrong doesn’t have massive control issues.

      His idea to set a choice few criminals in the Birdcage is a disaster waiting to happen though since we know Saint/Teacher are prepping for a breakout.

    • He comes across as an academic in a room full of politicians. Well-meaning, but I wouldn’t expect much material aid from him, the way West shut him up suggests he’s a safe target for abuse in this circle.

      • West is the Washington director, so he’ll presumably be the one trusted to guard the President from villains and foreign parahuman agents. In fact that that may be his only real job, if DC doesn’t have an indigenous villain population, which I would not be surprised to learn it doesn’t. Hence it’s likely that he’s very close to the main centres of political power and oversight, perhaps even closer than the Chief Director, in real terms. A power behind the throne, if you will.

        So the fact that Armstrong will take it as read when West says “It’s not going to happen.” doesn’t suggest to me that he’s necessarily weak or a safe target. Just that he realizes West is closer to the centres of power than he is, and is a reliable barometer of what will and won’t happen. Their relationship might even be relatively amiable, for all we know.

        • “In fact that that may be his only real job, if DC doesn’t have an indigenous villain population, which I would not be surprised to learn it doesn’t.”

          Oh Washington DC sure has a villain group. Their known as Congress. Sorry but that was too easy to pass up.

        • If I remember correctly, Director Costa-Brown aka Alexandria was the previous director of Washington and she did select West as her replacement. Alexandria also picked Tagg as the director of the Brockton Bay PRT so maybe most if not all of the PRT directors were picked for if not groomed with such similar mentality &/or psychological profiles since day one as part of Cauldrons’ plan to have the PRT fail?

          • Ah, this makes it almost seem like he’s trying to get back at Taylor for what she did to Alexandria. If Alexandria selected West as her replacement, it most likely means they had at least some personal relationship. The vibe I got from West at the start was one of revenge, and that connection just cements it.

        • perhaps even closer than the Chief Director, in real terms.

          He is the Chief Director. He’s just not consistently referred to by that title (but no-one else ever is).

      • That would explain why Piggot didn’t like him. She may have been one of the better PRT Directors from a not-having-shit-for-brains perspective, but she was still coming from a military perspective.

  30. One of the things that really GETS me about Worm is that it’s just so truthful. I cried when Taylor was in the meeting with the principal and the bullies and everything was awful and the opposite of helpful, because it was just SO TRUE. And here we are again with the “alert, educated minority”. Augh.

  31. Am I the only one that was a bit sympathetic to the directors? If I was one of them I probably would be pushing for Taylor to receive some punishment; not because of any of the actions during in the Endbringer fight, but because she was essentially making deadly weapons in a prison.

    I think that Taylor should have been burned worse for that spider incident. Her spider breeding was very short sighted and I honestly don’t understand what she thought she was going to accomplish with them.

    If the directors had focused on that issue I think they would have had a lot more success and been more understandable, but that issue mostly got pushed to the side because of everything else and overshadowed by the other things that were going on in that meeting.

  32. My respect for Glenn has further increased with this chapter. Even though it surprised Taylor, I imagine he probably knew he was going to face charges, which was brave of him. The strategy itself is also well thought out, with a clear next step that he’s given to Taylor right when she needed to hear it. I wonder if he and Chevalier worked on this game-plan together, and Glenn insisted on taking the fall for releasing the video so that Chevalier wouldn’t be compromised for pushing forward with his reform strategy.

    I wonder what Taylor will go with for her big move that will rattle the PRT old guard. Perhaps bringing in a really nasty and powerful villain via novel tactics? Or what about recruiting several young villains to the Protectorate, and underlining in the process how broken and counter-productive the PRT way of dealing with young villains is? Add a couple of interviews with the right kind of journalist onto either of those and you’d be sorted.

    Also, now I have the most amusing mental image of Taylor on the Daily Show. I imagine Jon Stewart would like her.

    Hmmm, does the Daily Show exist in the Wormverse? Is Jon Stewart the host, and is he as big a deal in the Wormverse as he is here? Is he supportive of Chevalier’s new Protectorate? You’d kinda think that he would be. If he’d found out half the bullshit Tagg had pulled at the time, he’d definitely make a segment on it.

    Important questions to answer once you’re back from your holiday wildbow, haha. :-)

    • Damn it, I am liking Glenn more and more as a gloriously manipulative bastard. Your commentary about Glenn and Chevalier working together on reform looks like a distinct possibility. At a minimum they are both pulling in the same direction.

  33. Wildbow has finally given us information on where Brockton Bay is in relation to something else:
    “It’s a fourteen hour drive.”
    Assume mostly interstate, so call it 65 miles per hour or 910 miles.
    Probably less, because there is no such thing as a perfectly straight road between two places, so call it 700-800 miles.
    Pull up Google maps, center on Chicago, zoom out until the view encompasses that distance, and eyeball it.
    Assume USA. Take one point on the coast of each likely state and use Google maps again.
    Somewhere near Myrtle Beach, SC: potential match
    Somewhere near Virginia Beach, VA: potential match
    Somewhere near New York, NY: less likely (too short)
    Somewhere near New Haven, CT: potential match
    Somewhere near Atlantic City, NJ: less likely (too short) (but the mention of an unofficially policed boardwalk as a main attraction sounds like this)
    Somewhere near Providence, RI: less likely (too long)
    Somewhere near Jacksonville, NC: possible (a little long)
    Somewhere near Brunswick, GA: less likely (too long)
    Somewhere near Tallahassee, FL: possible (a little long)
    Somewhere near Mobile, AL: potential match
    Somewhere near Gulfport, MS: potential match
    Somewhere near New Iberia, LA: possible (a little long)
    The legend shows Brockton Bay facing slightly north of east, so the Gulf states seem unlikely (bad orientation). But that could be hand-waved as “the top of the map isn’t always north.”

    So … still a heck of a lot of territory to cover. Wildbow, would you care to let us know? I realize that ambiguity is your friend here, because as soon as you place the town, readers living near there will be saying how some detail doesn’t match what they know. To which, I say “fictional universe.”

    • Wasn’t it somewhere in the Cape Cod area? I heard that somewhere and it made sense. It takes around that amount of time to get to Chicago anyway.

    • Has there been any Endbringer activity which might throw the travel times out? Or Nilbog, whatever. Straight line travel might be impossible if there’s a few interstates out or a huge exclusion zone.

    • For quite a while, I had had the impression that Brockton Bay was located where Boston is in our world. I certainly could have missed something much earlier, but the first mention of Boston that I remember was in just the last few arcs, a mention-in-passing of the Boston Wards.

    • Somewhere near New Haven, CT: potential match

      Pretty sure it’s this one, Hartford was either the next or 2nd next Nine target after Brockton Bay, and the BB wards are referred to as the Wards ENE, suggesting they’re between the wards E (NY) and Wards NE (Boston). It fits for the feel, too.. CT is a land of inequality, massive wealth in the southwest and in the cluster of suburbs around Hartford, with poor cities and poor rural edges.

      • Thanks for pointing that list that included Hartford out (http://parahumans.wordpress.com/category/stories-arcs-21/arc-21-imago/21-07/) – that is much more solid information than what I was going on and I feel like an idiot for forgetting it. The towns mentioned are in a rough oblong that points toward the CT coast, so that looks like the clear winner. Now we just need some hand-waving on the map orientation.
        I don’t read that those towns were S9 targets, though. That arc says that Hartford is on the other side of the board from the S9 tracking part. TT was attempting to identify areas where procognition was blocked. It wasn’t in Hartford, and the paragraph below the town list seems to say they were ruling those towns out.

        • Sigh. I should get my map-reading skills looked at – the oblong points at Boston more than at the CT coast. Cape Cod area is a good bet based on that. Perhaps Brockton Bay replaces Kingston/Plymouth. Still, certainly that general area.

    • Should point out to you that Tallahassee isn’t on the water and no way in hell would she be running around in a black and grey costume during the day in the summer there. Otherwise she’d be complaining about having to wring the thing out every 5 minutes.

  34. “We cut our losses, take a hit in PR, but we can continue operating as we need to. So long as it’s quiet, she goes to prison and doesn’t go out on another big excursion, I don’t think anyone’s about to make a big deal of it.”

    …make a big deal of it. I turned the words around in my head. Manipulating the media, manipulating the local capes. Damn. I’d had high hopes for Chevalier’s new Protectorate, but it didn’t seem to extend to the PRT.

    “We can deflect,” the woman from before said. “Raise another issue, change the focus of the public.”

    “Not so easy,” Glenn said. “It’s been done too often in the past. They’re watching for it, even anticipating it.”

    “But the majority won’t be,” she responded. She turned to Director West. “The alert, educated minority will complain, but they won’t achieve anything meaningful. They never do.”

    “I’m inclined to agree,” Director West said. “It’s not pretty, but it’ll suffice.”

    I keep imagining a similar reunion in Brasilia with the president and a few governors discussing the world cup:
    __________________________________________________________________
    President:
    “Look, this amount of modern arenas with this wide geographical disposition will cost a lot of tax money. And FIFA is making demands that pratically amount to giving a part of our territory to them (three blocks from the arenas in each direction). The press will certainly notice and call attention to this.”

    One governor or a mayor of one of the cities where the arenas will be built:

    “But the majority won’t care.” “The alert, educated minority will complain, but they won’t achieve anything meaningful. They never do.”
    Besides, we can use the opportunity. When the building is not going fat enough because the laws that we created make it almost impossible for anything to be built on time we can call this a national emergency and do it all fast with no public bid, choosing our friendly companies to finish the job. And the majority of the population will only see the nice spectacle, the games and fun.”
    ___________________________________________________________________
    Well, this resulted in one million people in the streets last week protesting against a lot of things, including the excessive cost of the world cup and a drop in presidential popularity from 60 to 30%.
    You know, sometimes the majority does care.

    In the wornverse it is not different, send Taylor to jail and perhaps nothing will happen, perhaps the cape community will revolt.
    IF the cape community doesn`t rebel, the feeling of injustice will start to circulate in the educated medium, spreading slowly and at the next opportunity (like a disaster the next time that the endbringers attack and the protetorade is more worried about “going by the book” then fighting) this will erupt in the streets.

    But, they were thinking that Taylor would not accept their terms, escalate and turn vilain again. Than the “heroes” would have to hunt her and a lot of resources would be used to take her and her allies but, in the end, with Taylor as a fugitive or killed, the status quo would be restored.
    Chevalier and other would feel sorry because they would understand what happened, but they would not do anything and the majority of the public would conclude that Taylor was actually evil since she escaped prison and maimed so many good cops.

    In other words, these guys like to escalate a fight. They would send her to prision and once there do all that was needed for he to snap so that they could justify harsher punishments.

    Unfortunately for them, Taylor had a few options.
    She could do what she did, that is, start a rebellion among the good capes. And she could do this in a lot of ways.
    She could kill everybody in that room and turn really, really evil. This would validate their point of view and the PRT would get a moral victory, but those directors would still be dead.
    She could go to jail and wait, in about two months or by the time of the next endbringer attack someone would come begging for her help. This might lead to a cape rebellion anyway.

    • Hell a bunch of the capes were pissed at the way she was being treated. Did they really think that they could spin this to the capes that were with her in New Dehli? They know what happened. As they returned home they would tell their teammates what happened. Skitter led an assualt that caused more damage then anything else has to an Endbringer. She was standing there at the end to buy time for them to evacuate the wounded. That’s the sort of thing that earns the troops on the battlefields respect.

      Now lets say they succed in sending her back to jail. Well all those capes are not going to be happy. Tecton and the Chicago wards were about ready to defect. The PRT brass doing this would ring as bullshit to them. They already lost all the Case 53′s. (I wonder do you have to be a Case 53 to be an Irregular?). Another wave of desertions is not something they can just spin away especially after a bunch of them were so prominent in a certain video.

  35. The chapters since Taylor turned herself in hinge on mutual (and well earned) distrust. Granted some, perhaps most, of the PRT leadership is either incompetent, corrupt, or self serving but Taylor is not endearing herself to anyone in power either.

    That mutual distrust and failure of vision might be what results in extinction of the human race. Unless one or both sides, or a third party becomes involved the groups will continue to fragment spending energy and time maneuvering against each other not preparing for the Endbringers.

  36. Armstrong the word you are looking for is charismatic. Taylor is charismatic, because she engages those she talks to on a level, discussing her very strong beliefs. Then she goes and lives up to those beliefs, the best that she is able. She also strives to understand who she is talking to. Also she’s in the field for all of these fights on the frontline. She takes risks alongside everyone and is constantly doing her best to save everyone, to the point of fighting while being blind, having injured lungs, and cracked/broken ribs. She’s a natural leader who puts her troops well-being first.

    Besides that West has no idea how popular Taylor is. I’m betting he didn’t watch the video. A villain from another continent knew who she was and by dint of her reputation was willing to talk to her and even trust her. Do you not think that the Undersiders are constantly watching her story? Do you not think that the media, who have watched the video, would not kill to interview her? Do you not think that villains around the world aren’t keeping tabs on her, if only to know if they are her next target? Do you think Dragon and Defiant who have a pretty close relationship with her will stand by and do nothing? They are already chafing under the secrecy.

    Oddly enough it occurs to me that Tagg would make a good field commander, but he got promoted far past his point of competence. In the field a lot of those hardline choices are a lot more reasonable, and as someone who thinks in terms of immediate objectives can be useful. But he needs someone higher up to call him back and give him clear lines on what he can’t do. With as much power as he had, he abused it and got himself killed.

    • Taylor for a while has been reminding me of figures like Julius Ceasar, Ghengis Khan, and Napoleon. They had many traits of greatness, and they drastically affected history.

      There are places for tenacious bastards who would fight to their dying breath just to make an enemy bleed. But you have to know what enemies to take that stance with. Other times diplomancy is the better option, so you don’t make all you potential allies enemies. Ironically enough Taylor needs to work on that too.

  37. I wonder if the PRT taking a swing at Taylor was really a swing at Chevalier, attempting to derail his plans and put him on the defensive so there’ll be less pressure for reform from that direction. Institutional revenge for Tagg could play a role too, but I feel like Taylor is getting attention from a higher level than I’d expect. I would have thought her conduct review would be a Chicago PRT Director + Revel + Tecton affair.

    • Almost certainly.

      Suppose the plans of the anti-Taylor/anti-Chevalier faction went off without a hitch. Then when Chevalier gets out of prison, he has to rescue Taylor from Gardener, because she’s a vital part of his new strategy as a test case/harbinger, depending on how closely he’s comparing notes with Glenn. (He’s also not going to leave her to rot in there because he’s a good guy, she helped a great deal and he knows it’s not morally correct.) So now he’s in an unenviable position- he has to spend capital right out of the gate, and this weakens his position for everything else he wants to do, when he’s trying to push through reform.

      Maybe they get him to delay his plans for recruiting other villains, maybe something else, but it weakens him from day one regardless.

      • Yeah, Glenn pretty much accuses the board of doing this. They’re trying to create burned ground around Chevalier, so when he recuperates he’s no longer in the position of strength he was immediately after Behemoth’s defeat. My view is that the PRT knows that Chevalier isn’t going to tolerate this “Protectorate and PRT are separate organizations and the former is subordinate to the latter” schtick.

        • Ultimately, at the moment he can hurt them worse than they can hurt him if he simply calls their bluff, whilst they have a million subtle ways to obstruct and take little bites at him, and slowly change the media situation. Organizations like the PRT don’t take down great men in a fair fight- they try to wear them down, like jackals against a lone bison or lion.

          This is why Glenn sees Taylor’s role as so crucial. She can break through the burned ground, shaking the whole thing up, throw the PRT old guard who aren’t on their side into disarray, and thus give Chevalier the opportunity he needs to move.

    • Also, speaking of taking a swing at Chevelier, I’ve now got a number of theories for why his armor failed, and I’m not sure if I can really say if any of them is more likely than the other.

      Someone sabotaged the massive armor Chevalier synced his personal suit with.
      The Yangban got Legend right then.
      Mr. Keene has some sort of power nullification ability (ideal for a diplomat you don’t want to be influenced) and used it on Chevalier’s armor.
      The ‘Cutting Laser’ power was derived from industrial lasers rather than a more generic laser concept, and there was a power interaction where it was especially good at cutting “industrial grade steel”.

      Cracked out? Make sense?

      • Could be but frankly, no matter how the PRT is against thise reform and the new Protectorate, I think it would be against their interests if Chevalier dies. It would have been a huge blow to morale, just after record numbers showed up at the Behemoth fight.

        Also what do you mean with Legend and the Yangban? That Legend was one of the capes the Yangban kidnapped? That would have been a…foolish move on their part,methinks.

  38. Just putting a comment out there that Taylor seems to be really tall – 5′ 9″ is fashion model height – not exactly consistent with the image of a high-school student who was bullied. Maybe 5′ 5″ or somewhere abouts?

    • I don’t see any inconsistency between being tall and being bullied (especially since she’s not attractive and her tormentors were), but I never went to high school.

    • Also, if that was your concern, girls are generally within an inch or two of their adult height by the time they turn 16. So assuming she would be tall as an adult, she would already be tall as a teen.

  39. hi, thanks for the new chapter

    and dud/dudett you are mean:
    uploading 2 chapters on the same day,
    in a way that we see that there is a second chapter
    (link is there)
    and letting us wait 3 days for it
    “TORTURE”

  40. So, I have a conversation with a friend about how super heroes sometimes have more power than they realise. I mention how Marvel’s Ant- Man could do sooooo much with bug powers if he would bother thinking. Then I mention how interesting noble minded antivillain can be…

    Shortly after, I hit Worm at archive binge speed as Light speed was insufficient. I kept pressing the next chapter and ran out of ‘next’ just after skitter went and said ‘I surrender’. Owch.

    After I’d moved house I came back to reading Worm and onsidered a bunch of possibilities the story threw up but decided I did not want to duplicate ideas mentioned, thereby coming to the decision to reread it as I realised that I would have missed things anyway.

    i found things I’d missed during my second complete read through.. (such as sleep) and noticed most points I could think of had been mentioned.

    The few things I do’t see addressed ( forgive me if I’m wrong), are. Regent’s death would free Shadow stalker to return to Brockton Bay, or go after ‘Skitweave’ ( which how I often find myself.thinking of our… hero.. no wait… anti… no wait… got it! ‘Narrator’.

    Now about Regent. He and Tattletale had a secret plan to use on Leviathan way back but Regent was unconscious before he could use it. It never seemed to be mentioned again versus Against Behemoth, during the Undersider’s retreat, Imp touched Regent’s throat and face with info of his death Tattletale simply frowned and a Chekov’s Gun used by our amazing author ( no one else has gotten me to double read over a million words), is one that was probably loaded by Walter Koenig.

    Other things. Skitter, receiving a lunchbox full of money from Tattletale that had Alexandria on the front said ‘Alexandria was my favourite growing up.’ Long distance foreshadowing of the great betrayal there.

    Passengers: somebody noted that there are sometimes more than two entities working.. and funny then tat Cauldron’s formulas worked better after introducing a third factor called ‘Balance’

    The Travellers: Krauss, Cody and Noelle already know about but I Think The Smurf has sent a time bomb back to Earth Aleph. Like an open wound transmitting a virus.

    Also:

    Packbat: Amazing work here and on tvtropes. Thank you for all the info.

    Rika Covenan: Thank you fore engaging analyses here ad for looking after wildbow

    Psycho Gecko : With comments numbering over 29,000 and my having read any I could actually understand, including Notes’ posts, I needed relief, so thank you for keeping me sane.

    FINALLY. Keeping it simple: Thank you Wildbow for a damned fine story and for being generous enough with your time to engage your reader base, all your time constraints considering. I’s wonderful to be here.

    • > Now about Regent. He and Tattletale had a secret plan to use on Leviathan way back but Regent was unconscious before he could use it.

      I remember Tattletale asking Regent if his “secret weapon” would work on Leviathan — but that’s referring to his body-snatching power, and Regent had already mentioned how his regular twitchy-limb trick wouldn’t work right. Is that the bit you’re referring to?

      > Other things. Skitter, receiving a lunchbox full of money from Tattletale that had Alexandria on the front said ‘Alexandria was my favourite growing up.’ Long distance foreshadowing of the great betrayal there.

      I don’t know that I’d call it foreshadowing, but it’s definitely amusing to see on the reread — as is her comment that controlling bugs was “not going to stop Alexandria, Glory Girl or Aegis.”

      (I think Alexandria also contributed to Taylor’s decision to make her costume dark-grey and black — yes, it was for camouflage, but the big A was a precedent for heroes not wearing the bright colors.)

      • Thanks for the reply Packbat. Also. this will teach me to put my first post up when tired. I’d meant to put it On at the end of 25-2. Nonetheless, Having my first comment commented on my you helps to make me feel like a real fan.

        • Glad that I could help you line up your feelings with reality!

          Don’t worry about commenting on an old update, either — as long as you try to avoid spoilers for anything that comes later, feel free to reply to any chapter, however belatedly. I had some lovely conversations with Admiral Skippy just last month in the comments to Gestation 1.5 and in the comments to Insinuation 2.9.

          And if you want to repost to the next chapter, or to tonight/tomorrow’s chapter, that’s fine, too — I did that when Eric Burns-White posted the first update of Interviewing Trey* on a Friday. Like Ms. Hebert, we as a commenting community don’t really mind rules being broken if it’s for a good reason. Just remember to refresh the page before you post typo corrections, just in case it’s already been fixed by Wildbow and/or caught by another commenter. :)

          * The sequel to Interviewing Leather, a short work of serial supervillain fiction I and others have recommended to Worm readers in the past.

          …and it occurs to me that I should probably recommend Lovelace 1/2, as well — not a superhero story, but the central macguffin is (a) pretty superpowerlike and (b) handled with Wormish levels of thoughtfulness. I’ll post a note on the new chapter tonight. :D

          • I already had Taylor down as *Chaotic Good* and that’s in 4th edition D@D. And with those initials I should mention Dragon as an example of Lawful Good and Defiant as Lawful Anal but trying. Glad to see D@D make their saving throw. I can’t believe I haven’t seen that bad joke here yet, unless I simply missed it?

            I saw the recommendations for Interviewing Leather and marked it for reading once I was back up to date and had also finished the Last skull.

            I See what you mean about spoilers. when someone mentioned the PRT would have to be mind numbingly dumb, incompetent and PR suicidal to do anything about Taylor in the school, I just thought *but, but, you’ve MET the PRT.’

  41. It’s interesting…
    Armsmaster, a hero in good standing got imprisoned for putting the lives of villains at risk so he got a good shot at Leviathan. What Taylor did was against a hero in a far more explicit way for far more dubious ends but she does not get punished…
    Her Mary Sue reality warping seems to be working well. I wonder if that power would count as Breaker or Shaker?

    • I think Armsmaster was partly a victim of bad timing – he made his faux pas before the PRT started deliberately moving towards ‘edgier’. And that’s partly because he was an early pioneer of the current trend towards Cape realpolitik. Once someone breaks the rules it becomes easier for those who follow – but it’s still hard on that first someone.

      Taylor also got cut more slack because:
      * Her actions were arguably vital step in bringing about the death of an endbringers (if Particle had stopped Phir Se, Phir Se wouldn’t have been able to shoot Behemoth)
      * the rest of her conduct on the day (except for fraternising with the Undersiders) was exemplary – in addition to organising the coordination with Phir Se, she largely led the remaining heroes to victory.
      * the world saw points 1 and 2

      By comparison, Colin’ actions were more blatantly lone wolf crap of questionable merit.

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